Ever wondered which city receives the most visitors globally? Well, it’s not London, Paris, or even New York City! The ever-changing global marketplace means more people than ever travel for business and for leisure. With the enormous recent growth of developing economies (and their populations), you may find some surprising cities on this list. Did yours make it? Check out our list of the top 25 most visited cities in the world.
Data comes from Euromonitor’s ranking of the world’s top visited cities in 2013.
A major Spanish party city, Barcelona brought in almost 6 million visitors in 2013. Besides the beaches and clubs, the city brought in plenty of business visitors as it is the fourth most economically powerful city in the European Union (as measured by GDP).
A global fashion centre, Milan brought in 5.9 million visitors in 2013. Beyond its high couture, Milan is also Italy’s centre of finance and commerce, bringing in loads of business people in addition to tourists.
The first city to creep above the 6 million visitor mark, Las Vegas may attract visitors looking for “Sin City”, but it also is the third most popular convention city in the United States.
The financial centre of mainland China, Shanghai brought in 6.5% less visitors in 2013, likely due to China’s economic slowdown. Regardless, 6.1 million visitors is still a hefty number to visit Shanghai and its port: the busiest container port in the world.
The fifth most visited European city, Prague brought in 6.2 million visitors in 2013. Many were likely to tour its historic city centre which is listed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
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The playground for wealthy Americans and Latin Americans, Miami is not just about the party. A major banking centre of Latin America, Miami brought in almost 6.3 million tourists in 2013, an increase of 4.1% from the previous year.
Nearly 6.7 million people visited Taipei in 2013. Forming part of a major high-tech industrial zone, Taipei receives heaps of business visitors but is also known for its tourist sites such as the National Palace Museum.
A favourite of Russian tourists for its warm weather and sandy beaches, Pattaya increased its visitor count to almost 7 million in 2013. Only 62 miles (100 km) from Bangkok, it’s a popular weekend trip for locals and tourists alike.
Islam’s holiest city, Mecca is only home to about 2 million people. The annual hajj (pilgrimage for all able Muslims) draws in most of Mecca’s visitors, bringing annual visitation numbers over 7.5 million.
Just 75 miles (120 km) away from #1 on our list and 90 miles (145 km) away from #6, Guangzhou is one of China’s most important transportation hubs. Due to China’s economic slowdown, visitors dropped by 3% in 2013 to 7.6 million.
The second of three Thai cities on the list of the world’s most visited cities, Phuket is also Thailand’s largest island. A major stopping point on the India-China trade route, Phuket’s visitors are now mostly tourists at just over 8 million.
The “eternal city”, Rome boasts a history going back over 2,500 years. Focused on by nearly every pope since the Renaissance to make it into a centre of culture and art, Rome continues to charm, bringing in over 8.5 million visitors in 2013.
Making up almost a quarter of South Korea’s GDP despite occupying less than 1% of its land, Seoul is a major destination for business travellers. One of only two South Korean cities on the larger most visited cities list, Seoul attracted over 8.6 million visitors in 2013.
A small fishing village no more than 100 years ago, Dubai has transformed itself into a regional and global powerhouse. Home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, Dubai has done well encouraging its tourism industry which sees over 10 million visitors annually.
Straddling Europe and Asia, Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey (and the largest urban area in Europe and the Middle East) with over 14.4 million residents. Its position as an important hub was further reinforced in 2013 as its visitor numbers grew by almost 12% to over 10.4 million.
It may be strange to see a city other than Istanbul as Turkey’s most visited city, but Antalya did indeed bring in almost 700,000 more visitors. A major reason for this Mediterranean city’s popularity is its proximity for Russian tourists. To further boost its global notoriety, it will also hold the 2015 G-20 summit in November.
Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur was once home to the country’s executive and judicial branches. Though they moved to Putrajaya in 1999, Kuala Lumpur (or KL) has established itself as a major economic zone for Southeast Asia, bringing in 11.2 million visitors.
China’s first Special Economic Zone, Shenzhen brought in 11.7 million visitors in 2013. These visitors were mostly business-related to this tech mega-city, nicknamed China’s Silicon Valley.
New York City
Besides being the world’s most financially powerful city, New York City doesn’t break the top five – though it is the top American city on our list, growing by 2% in 2013 to bring in almost 12 million travellers.
Asia’s equivalent (and then much more) to Las Vegas, Macau is a major gambling city, attracting over 14 million visitors in 2013. It was also the last European colony in Asia (given up by the Portuguese in 1999) and is the most densely populated region in the world.
The city of love, Paris also boasts the largest business district in Europe, La Défense. Over 15 million visitors travelled to Paris in 2013 for business and tourism with many likely stopping by the world’s most visited art museum, the Louvre.
The largest economic powerhouse in Europe, London has more overseas banks (480) than any other global city. Combine that with the proliferation of British culture around the world and this mega-city brought in 16.8 million visitors in 2013, making it the most visited city in Europe. (Sorry, Paris.)
Experiencing the third highest growth in visitors year over year (after Istanbul and Phuket) at 10.4%, Bangkok is forty times larger than Thailand’s next largest city. Its nearly 17.5 million visitors were a healthy mix between tourists (largely backpackers) and business people as Bangkok is the headquarters of many multinational corporations in Southeast Asia.
With a trade-to-GDP ratio of 408%, trade and business are central to Singapore’s existence. The tiny city/country beats out Bangkok by nearly a third, clocking in 22.5 million visitors.
The most visited city in the world should come as no surprise to those plugged into the business world. One of the world’s most vertical cities and the city whose transit network covers 90% of its residents – the most in the world – Hong Kong beat out other cities by far, drawing in 25.6 million visitors in 2013.