You’re bags are packed, and you are ready to go. But where should you go? Do you try one of those exotic and secluded spots in some faraway land? Or should you go for the tried and tested tourist favorites? I mean, there must be a reason why visitors keep going to these places despite warnings of being tourist traps.
Here are the top ten most popular travel destinations in the world.
1. London – 16.9 million tourists
The Summer Olympic Games must have bloated that number recently, but London is still a wonderful tourist destination. Go and see its historic buildings, like the Houses of Parliament and the famous clock tower of Big Ben. See the famed London Bridge and the Tower of London with its Beefeaters. Ride the London Eye and see the city from a different angle. Schedule a trip to Buckingham Palace and time it during the Changing of the Guards and the Horse Guards Parade. The Palace itself is open to tourists during the months of August and September.
2. Paris – 16 million tourists
Oh, where do you start when you’re in the City of Lights? Of course, the old favorites should be on the list, like the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Eiffel Tower, Musee d’Orsay, Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees. Take a boat tour on the Seine River. Visit Sorbonne, the historic soul of the Latin Quarter, and feel the ambiance while roaming the same streets where great thinkers like Descartes and Sartre walked on. Don’t forget the cultural pulse of the city in the Beaubourg neighborhood. The highest point of the city is the Montmartre knoll, where Sacre Coeur stands. For a different experience, go to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where artists like Moliere, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried.
3. Bangkok – 12.2 million tourists
You’ll be visiting a temple whether you like it or not, as the city has hundreds of them. See the River Kwai, and you might find yourself whistling along to the Colonel Bogey March popularized in the movie. Take a Sun River cruise to Ayutthaya, which has a lot of attractions in itself. A must-try is the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, where items are bought and sold while the vendors paddle around in boats. And just in case it’s your thing, transvestites have a regular show at the Calypso Cabaret. Be careful, though, as they really look like women.
4. Singapore – 11.8 million tourists
This is a world-class city with world-class attractions. The Singapore Zoo has rare animals and a night Safari. They have a Botanical Garden that is free of charge. Visit some of its ethnic spots, like Chinatown and Little India. The National Museum of Singapore has a diverse collection of arts and exhibits. If you’re with your kids, they’ll surely love Universal Studios and the Singapore Flyer. You can then wind down with dinner and drinks at the Boat Quay or Clarke Quay, or maybe you can do some shopping along Orchard Road and the Marina Bay Sands.
5. Istanbul – 11.6 million tourists
The Basilica Cistern is both romantic and historic, with its ancient, yet sophisticated, network that allowed drinking water into Istanbul from the southeast Balkans. It has been restored and is now brightened up by lights and music. Visit the Aya Sofya and Chora Church, churches that became mosques before being transformed into museums. See the Topkapi Palace where sultans kept their harem. You should also try one of the famous Ottoman bathhouses. The Blue Mosque is a nice piece of architecture work, with its six minarets. Istanbul is also filled with archaeological and arts museums. The Galata Tower provides a great view of the entire city.
6. Hong Kong – 11.1 million tourists
Hong Kong has the most skyscrapers of any city in the world, so head out to the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui to get a breathtaking view of the buildings. Visit the theme parks, like Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland. For more earthy pleasures, go to the Happy Valley Racecourse to watch some horses racing. See Lantau Island and the South China Sea from above by riding the Ngong Ping Cable Car. Shopping is a must when in Hong Kong, and the best bets are Temple Street and the Mongkok markets.
7. Madrid – 9.7 million tourists
One of the popular attractions is the El Rastro, a massive outdoor market that sells everything from clothes to kitchen tools. Visit the city’s Golden Triangle of famous museums. Or relax at Retiro Park in Plaza de Independencia. The Royal Family of Spain has its official residence at the Palacio Real, though they don’t really live there and they only use the place for official functions. Attend a football match at the Santiago Bernabeu and watch Real Madrid showcase its talents. That is, if you can get hold of a ticket.
8. Dubai – 8.8 million tourists
You will be able to see the Burj Khalifa from practically anywhere, as it is the tallest building in the world. Ride up to its observation deck and see the entire city from above. For jewel lovers, go to Dubai Gold Souk, the center of jewelry of the entire region. Or you can check out the Global Village, where all the leisure and entertainment from various parts of the world congregate. Shock your senses by going on an action-packed trip on the Desert Safari one day, and then riding down the slope in Ski Dubai the next. You can also try visiting Dubai’s many theme parks, like Aquaventure, Wild Wadi Water Theme Park and Wonderland Theme Park.
9. Frankfurt – 8.1 million tourists
The Cathedral, St. Paul’s Church and the Romer are all must-sees. Frankfurt has a lot of open parks and spaces, and its botanical garden includes plants from all over the globe. Take a relaxing walk along the city’s river and visit the Garden of Nice. Visit the zoo as well.
10. Kuala Lumpur – 8.1 million tourists
Scale dizzying heights by climbing Petronas Twin Towers and the Menara KL Tower. Visit Batu Caves and their 400-million-year-old limestone formations. Thean Hou Temple is one of the oldest temples in the region. In the center of the city, you will find the Sri Maha Sakthi Mohambigai Amman Temple, a 100-year-old Buddhist temple. The city is also home to one of the largest bird parks in the world. If you’re daring enough, you can also go to Chow Kit Wet Market, which is a red light district.