In 2018, Asian Correspondent reported that six of the ten most visited cities in the world were in Asia. This statistic makes the largest continent the most popular when it comes to holiday destinations.
Can you guess which Asian cities are the most visited?
Asia’s final frontier ends with Istanbul — one of the only cities in the world to bridge two continents. With an epic history and rich culture, the number of visitors coming to Turkey’s best-known city increases every year. In 2017, roughly 10 million visitors enjoyed what Istanbul has to offer. While Iranian, Russian, Bulgarian and Georgian were the main tourist demographic, more and more westerners are starting to take notice of Istanbul’s enthralling attractions. From the spacious grounds of Topkapi Palace to the iconic Blue Mosque to the ancient Hagia Sophia, it’s impossible for Istanbul to let tourists down.
Futuristic attractions, hip neighborhoods, impressive museums and serene temples made Tokyo a top choice for travelers. With close to 10 million estimated visitors last year, the modern, quirky and lovable Japanese capital had no problem making this list. And it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Japanese officials expect record numbers of tourists in the months leading up to the much-anticipated Summer Olympics set for 2020.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
This UAE's most popular city is known for luxury shopping and ultra-modern skyscrapers. Shocking to some, it also boasts several white sand beaches. We imagine the 17 million travelers that visited in 2018 got their shopping fix in Dubai’s outrageously cool malls (one of them even has an 85-meter high indoor ski slope) and snagged some more authentic garb in the more down-to-earth souks.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
In 2017, Kuala Lumpur welcomed over 12 million people. What’s so special about Kuala Lumpur? The Malaysian capital is a delightful mash-up of Chinese and Malay culture with its temples, mosques, famous Batu Caves, markets and lively Chinatown. Kuala Lumpur (or simply KL, as many locals call it) is easy and cheap to explore, but it’s definitely possible to spend money at any one of the city’s world-class shopping malls.
The glitzy, glamorous gambling capital of the world (yep, Macau surpassed Vegas in 2007 as the world leader in gambling revenue) attracted millions of tourists last year and expects even more in 2019. Even if you’re not into counting cards and winning big on the Baccarat tables, Macau still has plenty to offer. With its Portuguese–Chinese architectural fusion, cobblestone streets and colonial mansions, this southern Chinese city is captivating. In 2005, it gained World Heritage status, a title often overshadowed by its famous gambling name. Whatever your reasons for visiting Macau, it’s more than likely it won’t be your last time there. GGRAsia reported that roughly two-thirds of tourists entering Macau between 2017 and 2018 were coming back for their second or third time within a 12-month period. Talk about repeat business.
Swirling in sophistication and style, Singapore is one of the classiest cities in the world. And the word is definitely out. Singapore attracted a record number of travelers last year from China, India, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. Channel News Asia reported the number of tourists hit 18.5 million in 2018 and they collectively spent an insane $27.1 billion Singapore dollars. What has people going crazy for Singapore? Other than being an uber-clean cosmopolitan center with world-class bars, restaurants and hotels, Singapore also stole some of the international spotlight in 2018 with several events. Singapore hosted the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, served as one of the main filming locations for Crazy Rich Asians and received the honor of being named the Chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It seems like everyone is talking about Singapore in 2019.
Flavor, flair and a whole lot of quirkiness— Bangkok is a fun-loving city. Over 32 million visitors experienced the Thai capital in 2018, making it one of Asia’s most desirable destinations. Cheap street food, a lively entertainment industry, the largest market in Thailand and some awe-inspiring architecture combine to make Bangkok a hot-spot for international travelers. The Bangkok Post projects that 2019 will see over 41 million tourists, raising last year’s number by 8%. That’s more than the population of Canada — just to put it into perspective.
The South China Morning Post estimated that the island welcomed roughly 60 million visitors last year. Hong Kong has been labeled — for the eighth consecutive year in a row — the most visited city in Asia. So, what’s the draw? Victoria Harbor and the downtown skyscrapers provide a unique cityscape, the delectable food scene easily holds its own against any other international cuisine and deserted beaches and stunning hikes await the intrepid.