Capital cities are often our first ports of call when traveling to new destinations. Often the economic and political centers of a country, capitals are also places home to a wealth of cultural, culinary, entertainment, nightlife, and sporting attractions. Some have been around for centuries while others are modern, planned cities. Here’s our list of the most visited capitals according to the results of MasterCard’s annual Global Destinations Cities Index.
Once the beating heart of British colonial life in Malaysia, today Kuala Lumpur is a fast-paced metropolis with a diverse and multicultural population. Over 12 million international visitors chose the city as a destination in 2017. With consistently hot temperatures, the city is great to visit at anytime of the year. A plethora of attractions range from the colonial Merdeka Square to the modernist National Mosque, Lake Gardens, and Petronas Twin Towers. Head to Petaling Street for some of the best street food on the planet, which blends influences from Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Portuguese cuisine.
Singapore city is the capital, and only city, of the island city-state of Singapore, but also among the most advanced places in Southeast Asia. Famous as an important global financial center, it is also an exciting place for a vacation, boasting attractions that celebrate both the old and new. Experience bona fide Asian customs in Chinatown and colonial traditions around the Padang sports fields. Enjoy superb shopping and dining at Orchard Road, discover glorious gardens such as Singapore Botanic Gardens, and find family-friendly adventures on Sentosa Island. It’s little wonder that 13.91 million people came here in 2017.
The City of Lights has long been associated as one of the world’s most romantic cities, and 17.44 million international visitors arrived in 2017 to see for themselves if it lived up to its reputation. Paris can trace its roots back to a 3rd-century B.C. tribe called the Parisii, and the city has witnessed major historical events such as the French Revolution and coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte. Today, few travelers can resist the lure of walking from the Arc de Triomphe to Tuileries Garden via the Champs-Élysées. Then there’s the iconic Eiffel Tower, the cafes and markets of Montmartre, the Louvre art museum, and boat rides on the Seine.
There aren’t many cities that can rival London when it comes to historical landmarks, museums, shopping, and entertainment, which is why 19.83 million people traveled here in 2017. England’s capital has been a hotbed for culture since Roman times, and in 1837 became the official residence of British monarchs. Dozens of galleries and museums are free to visit, including the British Museum, Natural History Museum, National Gallery, and Tate Modern. Each neighborhood, from Camden Town to Notting Hill and Westminster, has its own individual charm. Get here on a sunny summer’s day and you’ll see the city spring to life at its Royal Parks.
Bangkok welcomed 20.05 million international visitors in 2017 and thus became the world’s most visited city for the third consecutive year. The starting point for many travelers’ adventures in Southeast Asia, Bangkok presents a beguiling contrast of old and new coupled with a sensory overload. Tuk-tuks drive at breakneck speeds along streets, where the intoxicating aromas of street food stands permeate the air. There’s a cityscape that changes effortlessly from contemporary glass skyscrapers to neon-lit nightlife zones and ancient Buddhist temples. The Grand Palace, Wat Arun temple, floating markets, and Chinatown are but a few of hundreds of attractions.