This Is the World’s Most Visited City

A new report from global market research company Euromonitor International highlights the most visited cities in the world based on international arrivals.

Boats along the banks of the Golden Horn in Istanbul with Turkish Flags

Istanbul welcomed the arrival of 20.2 million international visitors in 2023.

Photo by Maxim Klimashin on Unsplash

Paris and London may have jambon-beurre and double-decker buses, respectively, but Istanbul has more tourists: Türkiye’s cultural and economic capital tops global market research company Euromonitor International’s list of Top 10 Cities in International Arrivals in 2023, within its Top 100 City Destinations Index.

In 2023, Istanbul was the most visited city in the world, with the arrival of 20.2 million international visitors. This number is likely to grow even larger in 2024, considering that on January 1 Türkiye dropped its visa requirement for travelers from the United States and Canada.

That Istanbul is a top draw is hardly surprising: Its famous attractions include the Grand Bazaar, mosques like the Hagia Sophia, and the dazzling tile-and-mosaic–lined corridors of Topkapı Palace. As Anya von Bremzen wrote for AFAR in 2019, spending time on the ferries that traverse the strait between Istanbul’s European and Asian shores is also a must:

“I have taken this ride countless times, but it never gets old. The world’s most magical public transport experience carries us along a route that Jason and the Argonauts sailed in search of the Golden Fleece; today it costs under a buck. The Bosphorus was the reason why in 2007 I bought an apartment here in Istanbul. My boyfriend, Barry, and I will still sit for hours at our big windows looking out on the strait, spellbound by the shifting parade of water traffic in the changing light and seasons, by the moo of foghorns, by the fogbanks that sometimes roll up like cotton-wool glaciers.”

London took second place on the list of most visited cities, with 18.8 million visitors, and Dubai (16.8 million), Antalya in Türkiye (16.5 million), and Paris (15.5 million) round out the top five. Only one U.S. city, New York, made the list of the top 10 most visited cities by international arrivals, ringing in at number eight, with 11.7 million visitors.

The index also shows how much international travel has recovered following the coronavirus pandemic: There has been a 38 percent growth in international arrivals worldwide from 2022 to 2023. Though Istanbul saw a 26 percent lift in visitors from 2022 to 2023, Hong Kong (+2,495 percent) and Bangkok (+142 percent) saw the most growth in the past year since they were some of the last destinations to reopen post-pandemic, at the end of 2022.

Here is a list of the world’s most visited cities by international arrivals:

  1. Istanbul, Türkiye: 20.2 million
  2. London, U.K: 18.8 million
  3. Dubai, U.A.E.: 16.8 million
  4. Antalya, Türkiye: 16.5 million
  5. Paris, France: 15.5 million
  6. Hong Kong: 14.7 million
  7. Bangkok, Thailand: 12.2 million
  8. New York City: 11.7 million
  9. Cancún, Mexico: 10.8 million
  10. Mecca, Saudi Arabia: 10.8 million

This article was originally published in 2019; it was updated on January 30, 2024, with current information.

Katherine LaGrave is a deputy editor at Afar focused on features and essays.
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