Asia is one of the most beautiful continents in the world. If you’re going to explore countries in this part of the world then you need to explore the developed areas as well as admiring the natural beauty. Some travelers like to avoid big cities because they’re full of people and they don’t want to seem like a typical tourist but there’s often a good reason as to why those places are so popular. In this article, we’ll focus on the most visited cities in Asia that you should visit at least once in your life.
For this purpose, we rank the major cities in Asia by the number of official international arrivals the cities get in a year (on average).
Bangkok (22.78 Million)
Bangkok is not only the most visited city in Southeast Asia, it’s also the most visited one in the whole continent, and actually, the world too (just briefly surpassing Paris and London in the last few years). It’s easy to see why Thailand’s capital ranks so highly on many lists of the best Asian cities to visit in the world. Bangkok is a city with many different sides. It’s one of those cities that has something in store for everyone, including partying travelers, adventurists, history geeks, and even people traveling with kids. This is why Bangkok is a central point of any well-planned Thailand itinerary.
You’ll find captivating golden palaces and charming floating markets that make up this utterly unique place. If you’re trying to choose which of the many magnificent buildings to see on your trip then the Grand Palace is a good place to start. In the heart of this ancient collection of stunning temples, you’ll find the Emerald Buddha. This is an iconic relic sculpture made of jade from the fifteenth century. The material from which it’s made contributes to its worth, but it’s the significance and age of this sculpture that makes it truly mesmerizing.
Dubai (15. 93 Million)
Next on this list of the most visited cities in Asia, we have Dubai, a city synonymous with luxury and fine things. The city is home to the tallest building in the world (the Burj Khalifa) and some of the most impressive structures of modern architecture, including dreamy man-made islands, futuristic towers, modern train stations and malls, and even fancy-looking mosques. There’s a reason why with 15.93 million visitors per year, it’s constantly one of the most visited cities in the whole world.
If you’re planning of visiting Dubai anytime soon, you may also like our guide to visiting Dubai on a budget.
Singapore (14.67 Million)
Unlike the other cities on this list, Singapore is more than a city; it’s an independent country. Singapore is one of the most cosmopolitan, multicultural, and romantic cities in the world, as we’ve discussed in this post before. It’s a city that can make anyone in the world feel welcome because…
well, it welcomes anyone in the world. The cultural influence in Singapore is incredibly diverse, and that’s because the population is incredibly diverse. Residents hail from many different regions: China, Malaysia, India, and so on. This has led to the creation of an incredibly intriguing culture in the city of Singapore.
There are also plenty of fantastic pieces of architecture to admire. For starters, the Marina Bay skyscrapers are absolutely insane. Three skyscrapers with a ship perched on top forms a casino. Where else in the world would you see something like that? You also need to see the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay. You’ve probably seen pictures of this iconic elevated garden walk before, but experiencing it in person is something else. In fact, there’s plenty of natural beauty in Singapore.
The entire island might be one big “megacity”, but you’re never far from nature. They call it the “city in a garden” for a reason. The Gardens by the Bay are just the beginning of the natural beauty this fantastic city has to offer.
Kuala Lumpur (13.79 Million)
Malaysia is a beautiful country, and this city is the perfect summary of everything that makes it so great. Kuala Lumpur is a home to some beautiful, iconic buildings, such as the Sultan Abdul Samad Jamek Mosque, the National Palace, and the Petronas Twin Towers. Even if you get tired of old architecture then there’s a modern side to the city too with plenty of great clubs, bars, and shopping malls.
Of course, cities such as Kuala Lumpur are so large and dense that it’s hard to cram everything into one short trip. If you like to travel for extended periods of time then you should definitely consider stretching out your stay in this city so that you can properly explore everything it has to offer. You might want to find a studio for rent in Kuala Lumpur so that you can spend a month or two exploring the city.
Taking the time to really experience a place such as this will help you to truly appreciate the culture and gain knowledge that you can take with you on your future journeys. This city has a lot of ancient heritage but also a thriving modern culture. There are two sides to the coin, and it’s worth experiencing both if you’re going to make the trip to this fascinating Asian city.
Tokyo (12.93 Million)
Next on our whirlwind tour of Asia’s most visited cities, we have Tokyo, a city famous for its bright lights and vibrant blend of the ultra-modern and the traditional, where you can find ancient temples standing in the shadow of soaring skyscrapers.
Tokyo is like the New York of Asia- a city that never truly sleeps and offers an endless array of experiences, including vibrant areas like Shibuya Crossing but also serene tranquility via its many gardens and shrines, modern towers that will sweep you off with their views, like the Tokyo Skytree but also places where a more traditional way of life is preserved like the Tsukiji Fish Market (but by all means, do go beyond this, Tokyo will always find new ways to surprise you even if you have visited multiple times).
Enjoying this post? Then you may also like our list of things you can only find in Japan.
Abu Dhabi (11.35 Million)
Abu Dhabi, often overshadowed by the glitz of Dubai, emerges as a destination that blends opulent luxury with serene beauty. I’m talking sipping on a gold-infused cappuccino at the Emirates Palace, exploring the Louvre Abu Dhabi- to some a pale attempt of a copy but to others, a beacon of futurism, culture and art, and modern structures like the Ferrari World and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque that encompass the city’s luxurious being. But then there are also serene places like Saadiyat Beach, Yas Island, Al Wathba Wetland Reserve (yes they have a wetland reserve in the desert), and Jubail Mangrove Park…
Seoul, South Korea (11.25 Million)
The list of the most visited cities in Asia couldn’t be complete without the Korean capital city of Seoul. If you’re a history buff or just appreciate natural beauty and architecture, the Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace is an absolute must-see and a great place to start to get to know the great city of Seoul.
And for a slice of tranquility in the midst of the city’s hustle and bustle, Jogyesa Temple is where it’s at. Trust me, in a city that never seems to slow down, you’ll appreciate these moments of peace.
But Seoul isn’t just about palaces and temples. If you’re looking to see the city from a different perspective, Namsan and the N Seoul Tower offer views that’ll make your Instagram followers green with envy. And for a bit of night-time magic, Deoksugung Palace is a great place to visit after dark.
Hungry? Head to Myeong-dong for some street food that’ll knock your socks off. It’s a place where every alleyway is packed with vendors serving up dishes that are as delicious as they are cheap. And let’s not forget about Itaewon & Yongsan-gu, the expat hangout where you can find a little bit of everything from all over the world. Bars, restaurants, museums—you name it.
Osaka, Japan (10.14 Million)
Osaka’s got this vibe that’s hard to pin down—part traditional, part ultra-modern, and all about the food. Seriously, if you’re into munching your way through a city, Osaka’s your paradise. Ever fed a deer? Make a beeline for Nara Park, just a hop away from Osaka. It’s surreal, trust me. And Kyoto, with its serene temples and the only train in the world that sports a zen garden, is just a short ride away.
If you’re about capturing that Insta-worthy shot, hit up Osaka Castle. It’s got all the trappings of a fairytale fortress, minus the dragons. The gardens are a chill spot for a breather, too. Then there’s the Shinsaibashi Shopping District for your retail therapy and Amerikamura for a slice of American culture, Japanese style.
Enjoying this post? Then you may also like our list of the world’s least visited countries.
Phuket, Thailand (9.89 Million)
The real magic of Phuket, though, isn’t just in its postcard-perfect beaches or luxurious resorts. It’s in the moments that catch you off guard – like that first taste of spicy Tom Yum Goong that makes your taste buds dance or the serene natural beauty (and I’m not talking just about beaches- there’s the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, Sirinat National Park, and Ao Phang Nga National Park but we also shouldn’t forget about the Big Buddha Statue, a 45-meters tall white marble statue perched on top of a hill that offers some of the most amazing panoramic views of the island.
And when the sun goes down? Phuket transforms; Bangla Road’s neon lights promise a night of fun, laughter, and maybe a little bit of mischief.
Pattaya, Thailand (9.44 Million)
I’ll go on a limb here and say that Pattaya (alongside Mecca) is probably the least attractive city on this list and it doesn’t come close to what some of the other cities have to offer. The reason why it receives so many tourists? Probably sex tourism. Pattaya is known as the sex capital of the world and many people go here for that particular reason. Don’t get me wrong, the city is still pretty nice, there are some beautiful beaches, pristine parks, serene temples, and even a few cultural landmarks but all these things fade in comparison to what other cities on this list have to offer.
Bali, Indonesia (8.26 Million)
Although technically not a city, this list couldn’t be complete without Bali. From the iconic Pura Tanah Lot, standing majestically against the crashing waves, to the sacred tranquility of Uluwatu Temple high above the ocean cliffs, Bali is home to some of the most famous attractions in Southeast Asia (but Bali also has some hidden gems most tourists don’t know about).
Imagine hiking up Mount Batur in the cool early morning air, reaching the summit just in time to witness a sunrise that paints the sky in hues of gold and pink. Or picture witnessing the mesmerizing Kecak Dance, meandering through the lush greenery of the Tegalalang Rice Terraces, or getting lost in the jungles and hidden canyons of Ubud. Now, do you start to understand why Bali is always one of the most visited places in Asia and a preferred choice of expats in the region?
Planning to visit Bali soon? Make sure to check out our guide to what to pack for Bali before your trip.
Hong Kong (8.23 Million)
Hong Kong is a unique autonomous city that has served as a bridget between China and the West for years, and as such, it’s a unique city with some even more unique attractions like picturesque Tien Tan Buddha, the quirky Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, the famous Chi Lin Nunnery, a gondola lift named Ngong Ping 360 (a quite suitable name if you ask me), Victoria Peak offering some breathtaking views of the metropolis, and the quaint Tai O Fishing Village that gives you a glimpse of life in pre-colonial Hong Kong.
And if that’s not a reason enough to visit this great city, you can also check out our list of our favorite hidden places in Hong Kong to get away from the tourist crowds.
Mecca, Saudi Arabia (7.5 Million)
You might be surprised to see not one but two Arabic cities on this list but let’s not forget that Mecca and Medina are the two holiest cities in Islam. It was in Mecca where the Prophet Muhammad was born and the city is considered by most Muslims in the world as the holiest place on Earth. In fact, so much, that you can not visit this city as a Non-Muslim. However, millions of people go to Mecca and Medina on hajj (an annual Islamic pilgrimage) and that’s enough to put Mecca on the list of the most visited cities in Asia.
Medina, Saudi Arabia (7.3 Million)
Medina is the second holiest city in Islam, celebrated for being the place where the Prophet established the Muslim community (ummah) after leaving Mecca in 622. Medina is also home to the Prophet’s Mosque, a mosque supposedly founded by Muhammad; it’s one of the world’s largest mosques and is known for being the eternal resting place of the Prophet Muhammad.
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam (6 Million)
Once known as Saigon and renamed after the great Vietnamese communist leader, Ho Chi Minh is one of Asia’s most vibrant capitals. Starting off, you can’t miss the Cu Chi Tunnels which are a stark reminder of the Vietnam War, one of the most painful but also proudest moments in modern Vietnamese history. In the heart of the city, you’ll find the Notre Dame Cathedral, a symbol of the city’s not-so-distant French colonial past, and the Ben Thanh Market right across the road serves as a reminder of life during pre-colonial times.
As evening falls, the city transforms in a modern metropolis with the Avenue of Stars lighting up and offering stunning views of the city’s skyline, a perfect spot for shots that will make your Instagram envious.
Enjoying this post? Then you may also like our list of hidden places in Vietnam.
Chiang Mai, Thailand (4 Million)
Chiang Mai is the ultimate hub for exploring the often-forgotten northern part of Thailand. Here, you won’t find beaches and island vibes but you’ll find mountains, rolling hills, picturesque rice fields, and a more archaic way of life. Chiang Mai is a growing metropolis and Thailand’s more recent expat hub. The city is home to beautiful parks, peaceful temples, charming night markets, and elephant sanctuaries just to name a few.
If you’re curious to learn about why more expats choose Chiang Mai as their new home, also check out this comparison between Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
Hanoi, Vietnam (3.2 Million)
One of the first cities you need to see in Vietnam is Hanoi. This unusual city is one of the must-visit destinations in Vietnam and a great place to kick off this list mainly because it’s different than any other city in Asia. Its architectural influence derives from France and China, but there’s still a clear identity that’s independent to Vietnam. You’ll see this for yourself when you stroll through the streets.
The Old Quarter is a maze of stunning architecture that dates back an entire century dotted with modern infrastructure and authentic local shops. Whilst you’re in this part of the city, make sure you take some time to admire the famous Hoan Kiem Lake, the Red River, and some remnants of the ancient Hanoi Citadel. There’s something beautiful about seeing ancient monuments sitting alongside modern buildings. It reminds you that this city holds proudly to its heritage, but it isn’t afraid to move with the times. There are plenty of beautiful parks and hundreds of stunning temples in the city to be seen too.
Hanoi wonderfully encapsulates everything that is so intriguing about Vietnam’s culture and history. If you’re going to visit this gorgeous country then the capital should be at the top of your list. Again, you’ll understand why tourists love this city so much when you see it for yourself. And finally, Hanoi is also very close to Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay, two of the most spectacular natural attractions in the region.
Related: Things I wish I knew before visiting Vietnam.
Macau (2.94 Million)
This list of the most visited cities in Asia couldn’t be complete without Macau, also known as Las Vegas of the east. The city used to be synonymous with being a playground for the rich and still is to an extent. Before the pandemic, the city used to receive a lot more visitors and even though international arrivals dropped sharply after 2020, things are slowly starting to bounce back. Gambling here is completely legal, unlike most places in Asia and this is a driving force of local tourism. So, if gambling tourism is your thing, this is one place you shouldn’t miss.
Siem Reap, Cambodia (2.6 Million)
This list of the most populated cities in Asia couldn’t be complete without Siem Reap. Today nothing more than a small town, it was once home to the seat of one of the greatest empires in Southeast Asia. Yes, I’m talking about the Angkor Wat, one of the largest and most spectacular religious sites in the world. All of these 2.6 million visitors come here to see the Angkor Wat because honestly, there’s not much other things to see around and this is enough to make Siem Reap even more visited than Phnom Penh (Cambodia’s capital).
Are you planning a trip to Cambodia? Then you may also want to check out our guide to spending 2 weeks in Cambodia.
Manila, Philippines (1.7 Million)
This list of the most visited cities in Asia couldn’t be complete without the Philippines capital, Manila. It’s true that most people who go to the Philippines to visit its beautiful island but often the cheapest way to get there is to fly to Manila first. But don’t get me wrong; this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to see in Manila, on the contrary. The city is home to an array of historical landmarks like Fort Santiago, the Manila Cathedral, and San Augustine Church, beautiful museums like Casa Manila and the National Museum of Fine arts, and unusual attractions like the Manila Ocean Park, the Greenbel and the Manila Baywalk, to name a few.
Beijing, China (1 Million)
You were probably wondering why isn’t any Chinese city mentioned on this list of the most visited cities in Asia and you’re right, the Chinese cities did used to rank a lot higher on this list before the pandemic but after it, the numbers of international arrivals have dropped by 70-80%. In the last couple of years, only one million foreigners visited the Chinese capital. As a comparison, in 2019, Beijing was visited by more than 4 million international visitors.
If you decide to be one of these million visitors, you’ll really have a hard time choosing which places to visit because the city’s tourist offering is so rich. There’s the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, The Summer Palace, The Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, the Lama Temple, and the Palace Museum just to name a few.
Shanghai, China (1 Million)
Last but not least, we also shouldn’t forget about Shanghai, another Chinese city that used to rank a lot higher on the list of the most visited cities in Asia but the pandemic changed everything for local tourism. Today, the city receives only a portion of the visitors it used to get but things are slowly improving.
Shang Hai is a sprawling metropolis and home to some of the most important buildings in China, interesting museums, and modern avenues. Some of the city’s most notable lanmarks feature The Bund, the Oriental Pearl Tower, the picturesque Yu Gardens, the great Shanghai Museum ,the Great Shanghai Tower, the World Financial Center, and Nanjinglu Street, just to name a few.
Helpful Tips For Exploring The Most Visited Cities In Asia
For the cheapest flights to different cities in the region, Qatar Airways is always a good choice. To save even more, this Qatar Airways offer can get you 25% off on your flights to Asia. I use it too.
When it comes to travel insurance in Asia, I always choose and recommend SafetyWing.
If you want travel around the region with bus, train or ferry, book with 12GoAsia and save big on all transportation bookings in Asia.
If you want to rent a car in any of the above-mentioned cities, this AutoEurope special offer can get you up to 20% off .
Finally, to save on accommodation, use this Booking.com discount to save up to 15% on all bookings. If you’re looking for some luxury, this offer gets you 10% off on all Radisson Hotels in Asia.
How did you like this list of the most visited cities in Asia? What are some other exciting cities in Asia that you visited? Let me know in the comments below.
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