Most Popular Tourist Attractions
Our analysis of the top tourist destinations and tourist attractions around the world found several commonalities to help pinpoint the most popular types of attractions across generations. Theme parks, iconic and historical structures, and museums lead the list. Despite the region, these types of attractions came out on top by number of visitors. Below is a review of the top destinations and attractions, as well as our conclusions leveraged from the available data.
According to Euromonitor, the top 10 destinations for travel in 2019 were Hong Kong, Bangkok, London, Macau, Singapore, Paris, Dubai, New York City, and Kuala Lumpur. The destinations were chosen based off of the number of overnight visitors in 2019.
Hong Kong, China
- In 2019, over 26 million foreign travelers visited Hong Kong.
- The most popular attractions in Hong Kong, based off of the number of visitors, are Victoria Peak, Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Ocean Park.
- Victoria Peak is the highest mountain on Hong Kong island and offers beautiful views of the city and the harbour. Two shopping malls and several restaurants are at the mountain with one of the malls connected to the Peak Tram which carriers passengers to the top. Around 7 million people visit the Peak yearly.
- Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade is the museum and restaurant district of Hong Kong as home to over half of the major museums and hundreds of restaurants. There are over 10 million visitors yearly.
- Hong Kong Disneyland ranked #16 in the most visited theme parks in 2018 with 6.7 million visitors.
- Ocean Park is an oceanarium and amusement park featuring rides and animal exhibits. It has about 7.4 million visitors a year.
- Bangkok had almost 26 million visitors in 2019.
- Popular tourist attractions in Bangkok include the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun.
- Built in 1792, The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings that make up the royal residence, government offices, and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The complex gets about 8 million visitors per year.
- Wat Pho was named the #1 attraction in Bangkok by Trip Advisor in 2018. Also known as the Reclining Buddha, the monument has over 3.6 million visitors yearly.
- Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of the Dawn, is one of the most visited attractions in Thailand. The temple dates back to the 1700s with additions made throughout the 1800s.
London, United Kingdom
- London had 19.5 million visitors in 2019.
- Some of the most popular attractions in London include the British Museum, Tate Museum, National Gallery, and the Natural History Museum.
- The British Museum, the first national public museum in the world, had 5.9 million visitors in 2018. Along with the British Museum, the Tate Museum, the National Gallery, and the Natural History Museum are in the top 10 most visited museums in the world. In addition, these four museums made up the top four most visited of all attractions in the United Kingdom.
- Macau had almost 21 million visitors in 2019.
- Popular tourist attractions in Macau include the Ruins of St. Paul's Church, Macau Tower, and Venetian Macau.
- The Ruins of St. Paul's Church is one of the most famous structures in Macau. The church and adjacent college were built in 1602 by Italian Jesuits. In 1835, the structures were destroyed by a fire during a typhoon. The church, college, and its other historic structures are part of a World Heritage site.
- MaCau Tower attracts over 1 million visitors per year with its observation deck and variety of activities such as bungee jumping, sky jumping, tower climbing and sky walk.
- The Venetian Macau is one of the world's largest casinos. In 2018, it had over 36 million visitors.
- Singapore had 19.7 million visitors in 2019.
- Popular attractions in Singapore include Gardens by the Bay, Resorts World Sentosa, and the Singapore Botanical Gardens.
- Gardens by the Bay is a 101-hectacre nature park and conservatory. It has 10.2 million visitors a year.
- Resorts World Sentosa is a family-friendly resort complex housing six hotels, a convention center, Universal Studios, S.E.A. Aquarium the Maritime Experiential Museum, Dolphin Island and Adventure Cove Waterpark, and a casino. It sees over 20 million visitors per year. Universal Studios in Singapore attracts over 4 million visitors annually alone.
- The Botanical Gardens is Singapore's first UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the National Orchid Gardens. It has over 4.4 million visitors a year.
- Paris had 19 million visitors in 2019.
- Some of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris include the Palace of Versailles, Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Disneyland Paris.
- The Palace of Versailles has approximately 5.9 million visitors annually. Boasting beautiful architecture and grand furnishings, the castle served as the royal residence of France from 1682 until 1789 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The Eiffel Tower is the most iconic landmark in Paris. It has over 7 million visitors annually. In 2019, it ranked #5 on Trip Advisor's most popular destination list.
- The Louvre museum was the most visited museum in the world in 2018 with over 10 million visitors. In 2019, it ranked #2 on Trip Advisor's most popular destination list.
- Disneyland Paris has over 9 million visitors annually, while its sister park, Disney Studios, has 5.3 million visitors a year. Disneyland Paris is the most visited park in the EMEA region and the 13th most visited in the world.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Dubai had over 16 million visitors in 2019.
- The top tourist attractions in Dubai include Global Village, Burj Khalifa, and Ski Dubai.
- Global Village is the region's first and largest "multi-cultural festival park" featuring over 60 carnival rides and games, entertainment and cultural shows, shopping kiosks, and over 170 multi-cultural food kiosks. In 2018, Global Village had 7 million visitors with 20% being tourists.
- According to Trip Advisor, Burj Khalifa is one of the most visited places in Dubai. Data from Uber puts Burj Khalifa as the seventh most visited landmark in the world. It is the world's tallest building and has about 2 million visitors annually.
- Ski Dubai is the areas first indoor ski park and has over 1 million visitors a year. The indoor park offers ski slopes, bob sledding, bumper cars, and tubing activities.
New York City, United States
- New York City had just over 14 million visitors in 2019.
- Some of the top tourist attractions in New York include Times Square, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty.
- Times Square, sometimes dubbed the center of the universe, has over 39 million visitors a year and is the most visited tourist site in the world.
- The Empire State Building has over 3 million visitors annually. The building's Observatory sits at 1,454 feet over Manhattan and offers stunning views of the New York City skyline.
- The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island has about 4 million visitors per year.
- New York is also home to two of the most visited museums in the world. The Metropolitan Museum of Art had 7.4 million visitors and the American Museum of Natural history had 5 million visitors in 2018.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Kuala Lumpur had 14 million visitors in 2019.
- Popular tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur include the Petronas Twin Towers, KL Tower, and the Batu Caves.
- Petronas Twin Towers is an iconic landmark in Kuala Lumpur and the tallest twin towers in the world. Tickets to enter the building and sky bridge are limited to 1,000 per day and are difficult to obtain.
- With its birds-eye view of the city and surrounding forest reserve, KL Tower attracts over 3,000 visitors per day.
- Batu Caves attract over 5,000 visitors a day. The caves are one of the most important Hindu religious sites outside of India and consists of three cave systems: Temple Cave, Dark Cave, and Art Gallery Cave.
Types of Attractions
- There are four main types of attractions in the travel industry. Natural attractions include national or state parks, mountains, waterfalls, caves, lakes, rivers, beaches, and similar attractions. Man-made attractions include theme parks, museums, game reserves, the Eiffel Tower, and casinos that are deliberately made to attract visitors. Heritage or cultural attractions are typically ancient or historical in nature and include monuments, shrines, forts, castles, battlefields, etc. Events include festivals, sports, fairs, concerts, conventions, and similar occasions that attract visitors for typically shorter periods of time.
- Theme parks top the list of popular attractions around the world. More than 500 million people visited theme parks, globally, in 2018. Disney theme parks led the list of most visited with 153 million visitors across its parks in the United States, France, Japan, China, and Hong Kong. Similar to theme parks, the top 20 water parks had almost 31 million visitors.
- Museums are also on the top of the list of popular attractions around the world. The top 20 museums by attendance had over 108 million visitors in 2018. In the United States, more people visited a museum or historical site than attended sporting events in 2018.
- The top 10 most visited monuments in the world have over 57 million visitors yearly. It should be noted that this data includes iconic, man-made structures that have become part of the culture and history of its area such as the Eiffel Tower and Sydney Opera House.
- Each year, Trip Advisor publishes a list of the 10 most-booked travel destinations. Though there are other tourist attractions that have larger annual attendance, the Trip Advisor list is derived from travelers that booked through the company as part of an overnight trip package. This data more accurately reflects tourism numbers by removing local attendees. The top 10 were the Colosseum in Rome, the Louvre in Paris, the Vatican Museums in Rome, the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the French Quarter in New Orleans, Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the Sky Deck Tower in Chicago, and Piazza San Marco in Venice.
- While the current list of top destination cities includes traditional locations like Paris, London, and New York, more exotic locations like Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, and Macau, dominate the list. This seems to indicate that travelers are looking for new and adventurous travel options. In fact, according to the U.S. Travel Association, 73% of people travel to see or do something new and 72% of travelers want to see more of the world.
- Regardless of the destination, the most popular types of attractions are museums and historical/cultural sites. Each of the top 10 most visited attractions published by Trip Advisor fall into these two categories. Over 55% of travelers say that they want to learn more about the culture and history of their travel destination, 65% visit art and history museums, and 49% visit historical sites. The historical sites on the list are iconic and considered must sees on many travel lists. In addition, museums and historical/cultural sites often work together to offer combination packages, attracting travelers on a budget.
- Attractions in urban locations are very popular. This allows travelers to get more bang for their buck by reducing travel times between attractions and having a variety of dining and shopping choices for all budget sizes and ages. About 85% of family travelers report wanting to be near major attractions or theme parks and 77% say that “best value/price for our budget” was an important factor when making travel decisions.
- Theme parks make the list of most popular attractions in four of the top destination cities. In addition, over 500 million visited theme parks around the world in 2018. Many theme parks are focusing on integrative experiences for families of all ages by offering hotel accommodations, a multitude of dining options, immersive experiences, and all-inclusive options. Millennials, with and without children, are the largest group of travelers to theme parks due to the nostalgia they create. This age group grew up going to theme parks and want to share these experiences and memories with their children.