Top 20 tourist cities in the world: when is it better to go there?

Every year, MasterCard makes a report with data on the most visited cities in the world. Top 20 tourist cities in the world in 2018 are determined! However, we decided to go further so that we learned the best season for traveling to these cities and offer ideas for your remarkable trip.

20. Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia – 8.43 million international visitors

Bali is a very beautiful island. Many people associate it with spiritual practices, yoga, and meditation. Air and water temperatures stay high all year round, and that’s why this destination is popular every season. However, there’s a dry season that lasts from May to October, when the weather is dry and hot. It’s perfect for a beach holiday. The rainy season lasts from November to April, when it rains heavily, especially at night. Nevertheless, it stops raining fast so that your vacation won’t be spoilt. There are fewer tourists and prices are cheaper during this season.

The island is big enough, and that’s you may not have enough time to try everything in only one trip. Choose the most interesting ideas:

  • Beach holidays. The most beautiful beaches are Balangan, Padang-Padang, Bingin and White Sand Beach.
  • Go to Balinese temples. There are small local temples and 9 major and big temples on the island. They protect it from demons. Pura Oolong Danu Bratan is one of the most interesting temples.
  • Diving and snorkeling. There are several shipwrecks, beautiful coral reefs, and underwater caves near the island.
  • Enjoy rice terraces and try local cuisine in Ubud. You can also go to museums and buy handmade souvenirs from local artisans.
  • Go surfing because many people go to Bali only to do that.
  • Practice yoga. Bali is considered a place for enlightenment and meditation.
  • Enjoy nature. Volcanoes, beautiful forests, and exotic animals – all that awaits you in Bali.
Bali

19. Osaka, Japan – 8.78 million international visitors

Your trip to Osaka will be comfortable at any time of the year. However, spring is the best choice because everything starts blossoming. It’s the third largest city in Japan, with many attractions, restaurants, and parks.

What to do in Osaka?

  • Go to Kaiyukan – one of the  largest aquariums in the world, acquainting visitors with the Pacific Ocean;
  • Go up the Umeda Sky Building with the help of a glazed elevator to enjoy an incredible view of the city from the observation deck;
  • Take a walk and go on rides in the Universal Studios Japan theme park;
  • Go to the unusual puppet theater Bunraku with 1-meter dolls. Visitors can use headphones with English translation;
  • Get acquainted with the city by riding MariCAR, sailing a boat, or taking an amphibious bus with Osaka Duck Tours;
  • Try a local cuisine. Try ramen, udon, soba, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, tayaki, dando, and ice cream with unusual tastes in addition to traditional sushi(always fresh and high-quality);
  • Most importantly, Osaka is a city known for its nightlife. Go to local bars and clubs.
Osaka castle
Osaka castle – @wes.coast.photo

18. Barcelona, ​​Spain – 9.06 million international visitors

The best time to travel to Barcelona dependent on your goals directly. If you want to enjoy both a cultural program and a beach holiday, the best season to go there lasts from June to September. Moreover, the festival La Merce is held in late September. It will immerse you in the incredible atmosphere of folk festivals.

However, if your goal is to see the city, go to museums, and take a walk, it’s better to go there in the middle of autumn or spring. This is when the city isn’t so crowded with tourists, hotel prices and flights are cheaper than in the summer, and the weather is perfect for walking.

Things to do in Barcelona at any time of the year:

  • Climb Tibidabo and Montjuic to view the city from above;
  • See La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, Magic Fountain, La Rambla, Plaza Catalunya, Arc de Triomf;
  • Take a walk in the Gothic Quarter, Park Güell, Park de la Ciutadella;
  • Book a tour to museums (most museums are free to visit on Sundays);
  • Take a boat trip – it can be a quick cruise on a sea tram or a fashionable party on a luxury yacht;
  • Try paella, different kinds of tapas, crema catalana, zarzuela, churros, Spanish wines, jamon, feut, and olives.

17. Hong Kong, China – 9.11 million international visitors

Thanks to its subtropical location, your trip Hong Kong will be comfortable at any time of the year. However, the best months are October and November because of dry weather in the city. The temperature is 26 degrees Celsius during the day.

What to do in Hong Kong?

  • Walk down the Avenue of Stars, where you can take pictures with sculptures and see over 100 stars with the prints of famous actors. If you take a walk in the evening, you can enjoy Symphony of Light (a light and sound show) at 8 pm;
  • View the city from above on the Sky Terrace 428 observation deck on Victoria Peak;
  • Spend your day at Ocean Park – a place with incredible attractions, a dolphinarium, an aquarium, and a zoo with pandas;
  • See the Big Buddha statue. It’s the largest 34-meter sitting statue of Buddha in the world. Another peculiarity is that it looks to the north towards China, not to the south, unlike the rest of Buddha statues. The Ngong Ping 360 cable car is one of the options to get to the statue. The trip will be really impressive because cabins have a glass bottom. You’ll enjoy many beautiful views during your 5.7 km route;
  • Go to the flea market on Yu Hing Lane to get souvenirs. This is where you can find cheap knickknacks and really exclusive things. Going to the night market where you can find everything is a good idea if you want to find souvenirs and enjoy a local charm;
  • Take a walk to see local beaches. Spend the whole night on the beach in a tent that you can rent if you want;
  • Try a local cuisine: Char Siu pork, mooncakes, wonton, egg waffles, milk tea, pineapple bread, Dim Sum, and different types of noodles.
North Point Chun Yeung Street - Hong Kong
North Point Chun Yeung Street – @zachary_lcm

16. Milan, Italy – 9.19 million international visitors

The weather is cool in winter and hot in the summer in Milan, thanks to its continental climate. Therefore, if the main purpose of your trip is to see the city, you should do that in the spring or autumn. If you travel to Milan for shopping, the season discounts or saldi lasts from early January to early March and from the middle of July to the middle of August. Moreover, the closer the season of discounts to its end, the greater the savings.

Duomo Milan
Duomo Milan

How to spend your time in Milan?

  • Go to the Milan Cathedral to view the city from its roof, Sforza Castle (it’s free to visit after 2 pm on Fridays), Basilica of St. Ambrose, church of San Maurizio, the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Piazza Mercanti;
  • Walk along the Naviglio Grande canal and have a snack in one of the cafes, using the aperitivo principle (when you pay only for a drink, and the food is served as a buffet);
  • Watch ducks and swans on the lake in Parco Sempione;
  • Go shopping to Station ​​Ingrosso and Golden Square with many fashionable shops;
  • Take a tour to museums and galleries in Milan;
  • Take a ride on the old tram and dine in the cabin of the vintage ATMosfera tram;
  • Enjoy the Milan opera at the Teatro alla Scala;
  • Try minestrone, pacerotti, local ice cream, ossobuco with risotto, gorgonzola, panettone, mondegili, barbagia, canoncino.
Awesome street music and performance in Milan (song “Non vivo più senza te”)

15. Palma de Mallorca, Spain – 9.3 million international visitors

The perfect season to travel to Palma de Mallorca lasts from June to September. The sea water has the optimum temperature for swimming during this season, despite quite hot weather. If a beach holiday is not your main goal, you can travel to this city at any time of the year.

What to do in Palma de Mallorca in addition to beach holidays?

  • Go to the Cathedral of La Seo. It’s one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. After that, walk through the Parc de la Mar and down the city streets;
  • Take a walk along the Paseo Maritimo to view moored yachts;
  • Go to the Aquarium to see the reservoir with Big Blue sharks, where thrill-seekers can do shark diving. Lovers of marine fauna will spend a good time in the Marineland Dolphinarium;
  • Try a local cuisine in Majorca: pica pica, suckling pig, vegetable pie, trampot, frit.
Cabo De Formentor Mallorca
Cabo De Formentor – @tripadviceme

14. Pattaya, Thailand – 9.56 million international visitors

The tourist season in Pattaya lasts all year round, even in the rainy season. It’s raining from May to October, and temperature and humidity levels are very high. The climate is more comfortable for holidays from November to March. Air and water temperatures are optimal during this season.

What is worth doing in Pattaya?

  • Immerse yourself in the nightlife on Walking Street;
  • Have a romantic dinner at the Horizon Sky Bar, on the Hilton roof with a stunning view of the city;
  • Watch animals in the Khao Kheow Open Zoo in the suburbs of Pattaya;
  • Walk through the Nong Nooch Park divided into thematic zones with entertaining shows and mini-zoos in addition to nature;
  • Buy exotic fruits and crocodile skewers in the floating market of Pattaya;
  • Make a wish in the Sanctuary of Truth;
  • Try a local cuisine: Tom Yum soup, fried rice, curry, Som Tam salad, one of the Pad Thai noodle types, Thai tea and coffee, and local fruits.
Sanctuary of Truth_florentina263
Sanctuary of Truth – @florentina263

13. Mecca, Saudi Arabia – 9.73 million international visitors

The city is on the list of the most visited tourist destinations because of the huge number of pilgrims performing the Hajj. If your goals are very different from a religious pilgrimage, you shouldn’t include Mecca on your travel list. The temperature rises up to 50 degrees Celsius in the summer. The climate is more comfortable for traveling in spring and in autumn.

12. Phuket, Thailand – 10.08 million international visitors

Although the temperature in Phuket is comfortable enough for traveling all year round, we don’t recommend planning a trip during the rainy season because of high waves and heavy rainfalls. Your vacation can be spoiled by short-term and very heavy rainfalls, high waves, and strong undercurrents from the middle of May to November. Therefore, it’s best to spend your vacation in Phuket in winter and spring.

What to do in Phuket, except for beach holidays?

  • Rent a boat and sail to Phang Nga Bay;
  • Take a walk in Phuket Town and go to one of the local bars. Most likely you’d like to take pictures of beautiful streets with bright buildings. You can go to a jazz concert from November to April;
  • Climb to the Big Buddha statue and enjoy stunning views from the observation deck;
  • Immerse yourself in the nightlife on Bangla Road, a place full  of clubs, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues;
  • If you want to see something really spectacular, choose the Phuket Fantasy Show or one of the cabaret shows;
  • Visit local temples. Wat Chalong is the most noteworthy one.
Phuket
@m1schler

11. Seoul, South Korea – 10.13 million international visitors

The air temperature in South Korea is rarely below 35 degrees Celsius in the summer. This weather is hard to tolerate due to increased humidity. Therefore, the best season for traveling is the spring or the autumn. Cherry blossoms in the spring will add even more impressions to your trip.

What must be done in Seoul?

  • Walk through Gyeongbokgung Palace complexes to watch the changing of the guard, Gyeonghuigung to go to the museum, Changdeokgung to see the Secret Garden, Changgyeonggung to see the Botanical Garden. The Deoksugung Palace in Seoul also belongs to the group of the so-called Five Grand Palaces, but it’s less interesting;
  • View the city from the observation deck of one of the skyscrapers and dine in the panoramic restaurant, such as Walking on the Cloud;
  • Spend the night in a traditional Korean house “hanok” in the open-air museum Bukchon Hanok;
  • Buy red ginseng in the market. It’s not only one of the symbols of the country but also the source of eternal youth;
  • Walk near the Banpo Fountain and throw a coin into the “moonlight rainbow”;
  • Go to Buddhist temples. Take advantage of Temple Life, an opportunity to live in the temple, if you really want to experience a local culture;
  • Buy handmade souvenirs in Insadong;
  • Try a local cuisine: bibimbap, tteok, shikha, soja, kimchi, and ice cream.
Seoul
Seoul streets @vickymkyl

10. Antalya, Turkey – 11.27 million international visitors

A beach holiday is the main reason for traveling to Antalya. It’s an inexpensive option with quite a high service level. The water temperature is suitable for swimming from May to October. The resort is visited by the largest number of tourists from July to September. If you prefer a more private vacation, you should plan your trip in other months. The weather is warm all year round, but it’s cold for swimming in the winter.

What to do in Antalya in addition to relaxing on the beach?

  • Walk through the miniature park Mini-City, where you’ll see the miniatures of Turkish architectural structures from different epochs;
  • Spend your day at the water and amusement park Aqualand with many water attractions and slides, waterfalls, and wave pools;
  • Walk through Karaalioglu Park and enjoy beautiful views from the mountains;
  • Get acquainted with the marine fauna in the Aquarium. You can go to the terrarium and ride a sled or an inflatable circle on the hill of artificial snow in addition to watching the underwater world;
  • Enjoy the beauty of Duden waterfalls;
  • History lovers will appreciate such local sights as the Yivli minaret, Hadrian’s Gate, and Hidirlik Tower;
  • Attend the musical show Dancing Fountains in the Republic Square;
  • Immerse yourself in the nightlife by going to one of the many clubs on Kaleici Street.
Antalya
Antalya – @aleks.s1im

9. Tokyo, Japan – 12.12 million international visitors

Your trip to Tokyo will be comfortable at any time of the year. If you want to walk a lot, plan your trip in late spring or early autumn. After all, the winter is quite cold for long walks, and the temperature rises up to 30 degrees Celsius in the summer, thus making a living in this megacity uncomfortable.

Tokyo is a very big city. That’s why you should plan each day on a geographical basis in advance, choosing nearby neighborhoods.

What to do in Tokyo?

  • Go to the Meiji Shrine, walk through Yoyogi Park and Harajuku Street, where you can see cosplayers (teenagers dressed in anime costumes);
  • Go shopping and buy souvenirs in the Ginza district. The traditional Japanese paper is an excellent souvenir;
  • Enjoy artworks in the Wako Works of Art and the Mori Museum of Art;
  • Buy seafood in the Tsukiji market. You can watch the tuna auction if you aren’t too lazy to come here at 5 am. Eat in one of the local cafes;
  • Walk through Ueno Park and go to local museums;
  • Go to the Tokyo Imperial Palace and walk through the adjacent park;
  • Cherry blossoms are in late March and early April, and it’s a good time to take a boat ride and admire them by going to the Chidorigafuchi Moat;
  • Go to the Tokyo Zoo to see pandas;
  • Enjoy the night view of the city from the observation deck of the Skytree television tower;
  • Watch Shibuya Crossing, the most crowded intersection of in the world, from the window of the Starbucks cafe or Tsutaya store;
  • Go to the entertainment complex Tokyo Dome City and sing karaoke in the Ferris wheel stall.
Tokyo Shibuya crossing
Shibuya crossing, Tokyo – @rauljuanphotography

8. Istanbul, Turkey – 12.8 million international visitors

It’s quite hot in Istanbul in the summer.  If you don’t want to continue your vacation at one of the Turkish resorts, you should plan your trip in other seasons. The climate is mild and warm in spring and autumn. Go to this city in April when the tulip festival is held. The winter is quite cold, so your long walk down the street won’t be comfortable. However, there are many other things to do in Istanbul besides walks.

What is definitely worth doing in Istanbul?

  • Walk down Istiklal Street and take a ride on the tram;
  • Go to the famous Turkish hammam. Some of them were built in the 16th century, including Cemberlitas and Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan;
  • Book a cruise on the Bosphorus and view many mosques and palaces from the deck. A public ferry from one bank to another is a more affordable alternative;
  • Go to the Rumeli Hisar fortress and enjoy great views of the strait;
  • Watch the evening city from the windows of cafes in the Sapphire skyscraper;
  • Go sightseeing: Ayasofya Mosque, Galata Tower, Dolmabahche Palace, Suleymaniye Mosque, Blue Mosque;
  • Go shopping in the Grand Bazaar if you don’t mind high prices;
  • Walk through Gulhane Park and the miniature park;
  • Try a local cuisine: balikekmek, chorba, different types of kebabs, dondurma, baklava, and Turkish coffee and tea.
Istanbul Grand Bazaar
Grand Bazaar, Istanbul – @iamtravelr

7. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 13.53 million international visitors

The air temperature in Kuala Lumpur is rarely lower than 28 degrees Celsius during the day all year around. There is no marked rainy season, but there are more rainy days from March to May and from October to December. It rains very rarely in June and July.

What to do in Kuala Lumpur?

  • View Petronas Twin Towers from a park nearby, visit skyscrapers, and enjoy good views from the observation deck;
  • Walk down Petaling Street and go to one of the open-air cafes;
  • Try a local cuisine and street food on Jalan Alor Street. Pay attention to Laksa fish soup, rice in banana leaves Nasi Lemak, and Apam Balik pancakes:
  • Watch birds in Kuala Lumpur Bird Park and take a boat ride in Central Park;
  • Go to local temples: large Sri Maha Mariamman Temple and Thian Hou Temple, and the small ones – Sin Sze Si Ya Temple and Guan Di Temple;
  • Buy batik – hand-painted scarves, tunics, and tablecloths will be your excellent souvenir;
  • Arrange a shopping tour on Bukit Bintang Street;
  • Dine in the revolving restaurant in the Menara TV Tower and take pictures from the observation deck;
  • Walk around Independence Square and go to museums;
  • Watch sharks and turtles at Aquaria KLCC.
Thean Hou Temple, Kuala Lumpur
Thean Hou Temple, Kuala Lumpur – @jennaoclock

6. New York, USA – 13.67 million international visitors

It’s hot in New York in the summer. That’s why locals usually leave the city at that time. It can be cold for walking in the winter. There was a lot of snow in the last few years. The late spring and the early autumn are the best seasons for your trip. There are many festivals and cultural events in New York almost all year around. You’d like to visit one of them during the trip.

What to do in New York?

  • To be pictured near the Statue of Liberty, the main symbol of the USA;
  • Visit the Empire State Building to enjoy the view on the city from observation decks;
  • Watch the sunset from the observation deck of the Rockefeller Center;
  • Go to the Metropolitan Museum (you can pay any entrance fee you want or don’t pay anything at all). The Guggenheim Museum is another place you must see;
  • Have a picnic in the famous Central Park;
  • Get immersed into the bustle of the city on Times Square;
  • Walk along the Brooklyn Bridge and enjoy the view of Manhattan;
  • Go to one of the theaters on Broadway;
  • Visit the Central Station;
  • Walk through High Line Park and sit on a bench along the abandoned railway;
  • Take a ride on the yellow taxi – one of the city symbols;
  • Immerse yourself into the nightlife of New York. Listen to jazz, go to one of the trendy clubs, or eat oysters in a restaurant. Make your own choice.
Central Park, Manhattan, New York
Central Park, Manhattan, New York

5. Singapore – 14.47 million international visitors

The climate in Singapore is warm all year round. However, it often rains from the middle of autumn to the late winter, and it can keep raining for a few days. It’s very hot in the summer, so the best season for your trip is the spring.

What should be done in Singapore?

  • Go to the Sands SkyPark observation deck on the roof of the Marina Bay Sands hotel to view the harbor and skyscrapers. If you decide to stay in this luxury hotel, you can swim in the famous infinity pool;
  • Book a safari in 4 wildlife parks where animals are kept in their natural conditions;
  • Spend a day or even a few days on Sentosa, the island of entertainment;
  • Go shopping on the famous Orchard Road;
  • See Wonder Full – the light and sound show at Marina Bay Harbor available at 8 pm and 9.30 pm every day;
  • China Town and Little India are districts with their unique charm. Go for a walk there and don’t forget to buy souvenirs;
  • Go to Gardens by the Bay Park that consists of 3 parts. It’s famous for its impressive size, diversity, and incredible constructions;
  • Spend your evening in the Clarke Quay area.
Gardens by the Bay, Singapure
Gardens by the Bay, Singapure – @jamestown.lp

4. Dubai, UAE – 16.66 million international visitors

It’s very hot in Dubai in the summer, and even the sea doesn’t help much. Therefore, you should plan your trip to this city from October to April after considering air temperatures. The water temperature is cold in the winter. That’s why beach lovers should go to Dubai in late autumn or early spring.

But as Dubai is not about the beaches, the best time to go there is in December and January. Read here what to do in Dubai in January.

Dubai Burj khalifa
Burj Khalifa, Dubai

What to do in Dubai?

  • Arrange a shopping tour in local markets or popular malls: Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Marina Mall, Wafi City Mall, Ibn Battuta Shopping Mall, Deira City Center;
  • Enjoy an oasis in the middle of the desert in the Miracle Garden and the Butterfly Garden, Zabeel Park and the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary;
  • Spend your time in amusement parks: Bollywood Parks, Garden Glow, IMG Worlds of Adventure, Dubailand, Wild Wadi Water Park;
  • Watch the fish in one of the aquariums;
  • See the Dubai fountains show, the Burj Khalifa tower, and Jumeirah islands;
  • Book a safari in the desert to ride on jeeps, buggies, quad bikes, and even a sand board;
  • Buy a traditional coffee pot dallah as a souvenir;
  • Try camel burger and camel milk ice cream.

3. Paris, France – 17.95 million international visitors

The tourist season in Paris lasts all year round. Choose the best time for your trip based on your goals. If you want to walk a lot, come here in the warm season that lasts from April to October. Go to museums and enjoy the art in the winter.

What should you do in Paris?

  • Climb the Eiffel Tower to enjoy the panoramic view of the city, and then have a picnic on the Champ de Mars;
  • If you like the movie “Amelie” – you can hardly resist drinking a coffee in “Two Mills” and put pancakes on the Canal Saint-Martin;
  • Go to the Louvre. It won’t be enough to spend even a few days here so that you should immediately choose the halls you want to see in advance;
  • Ride on the amphibian bus on the Seine, and then walk along the embankment and night streets;
  • See the cancan in the famous Moulin Rouge;
  • Play petanque with locals;
  • Buy a painting of a street artist;
  • Try famous French pastries, roasted chestnuts, oysters, chocolate, onion soup, snails, different types of cheese and wines.
Paris Musée du Louvre
Musée du Louvre, Paris

2. London, United Kingdom – 20.42 million international visitors

You can go to London at any time of the year. The most comfortable season for walking lasts from April to October. Although many people think that the city is rainy and gray, there many sunny days.

What to do in London?

  • View the city from the Ferris wheel and ride a boat on the Thames;
  • Ride a double-decker bus and the famous black cab;
  • Watch the changing of the royal guard, take a walk near Buckingham Palace, and have a picnic in St. James’s Park or Hyde Park;
  • Go to the observation deck at St. Paul’s Cathedral and listen to its organ;
  • Walk along the most beautiful bridges in London – Tower, Westminster, and Millennium Bridges;
  • Take a picture near Big Ben and book an excursion in Westminster Abbey;
  • Relax near the fountain on Trafalgar Square;
  • Go to museums and galleries. There are many of them in the city, so choose the most interesting ones.
Famous London busses
Famous London Double-decker bus – @naypenrai

1. Bangkok, Thailand – 21.98 million international visitors

The weather in Bangkok stays hot all year round. April and May are the hottest months. On the one hand, it’s a good reason to plan your trip in other months. On the other hand, there are spectacular festivals in Bangkok in April and you simply can’t miss them. It rains heavily in September and October.

What should your trip to Bangkok include?

  • Take a river taxi;
  • Watch the sunset and drink a cocktail in one of the bars on the roof of skyscrapers – Roof Top Bar, Moon Bar or Sky Bar;
  • Walk around Khao San Road – a landmark for independent travelers from around the world;
  • Visit all temples in the Golden Triangle of Bangkok in one day;
  • Go to the Royal Palace;
  • Take a picture of a goanna in the Lumpini park;
  • Ride a car in the Safari World park;
  • Take a walk and eat in Chinatown to get immersed into the city life.
Bangkok River taxi on Chao Phraya River
Bangkok River taxi on Chao Phraya River – @sonatalitravel

Which of these 20 cities caught your attention the most? Share your impressions in comments.

10 thoughts on “Top 20 tourist cities in the world: when is it better to go there?”

  1. Japan is definitely on top of my list, so is Milan. Love how you’ve detailed out everything! How did you shortlist these cities by the way?

  2. Truly, the cities of Thailand will never miss any tourism related rankings! Thanks for including my favorite destination.

  3. I have been planning my Singapore trip for sometime now and I know it’s a busy touristy city. This comprehensive guide is impressive!

  4. A visit to any city in Spain would be fine with us. The Philippines was a Spanish colony centuries ago, so it would be great to visit the place of our conquerors as part of a history lesson.

    You should also add our very own Cebu City in the Philippines. It’s a tropical paradise sans the horrible traffic.

  5. Wow these tourism numbers are daunting. I’m planning a trip to Osaka and now I’m not so sure. Even though I know those millions of people don’t go all at the same time. Loved reading the stats here.

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