What are the most visited tourist attractions in cities around the world?. Image 1.

Dena Levitz

Author

Cover: Visitors at DisneySea afternoon show, Tokyo Disney Resort. Photo by Reiner Riedler / Anzenberger / Redux

 

With more holidays approaching, families won't all celebrate at home, like a Norman Rockwell painting. Hordes are hopping onto planes, trains and buses to play tourist all over the world, using breaks from daily obligations to relax on a beach or check out some ancient ruins.

Where to, though? Hopes&Fears compiled a list of the top tourist attractions to visit in cities around the world or, if you hate tourists, to avoid.

Note: Statista conveniently keeps track of the most visited attractions worldwide via Love Home Swap. We drew from the most recent rankings, which are based on data from April 2014. This isn't a list of the most visited sites in the world - we chose cities and found their most visited site, though these were all near the top. Some metropolises, like New York, have multiple tourist attractions which fared well in this list, but we went with only the top site for each city as a benchmark to put the cities in order from least visitors to most. 

 

 

Sydney Opera House

Sydney, Australia

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8,200,000

Visitors per year

Year established: 1973

The soaring white sails protruding from the Sydney Opera House's base make for a familiar landmark. It’s safe to say that the Sydney Opera House is the focal point of the harbor and it's an iconic building that’s won acclaim for its architectural design. But that’s after a fair share of drama over the opera house’s construction, which ended up taking 16 years and was hotly debated. The big challenge became how to make those roof sails work. In the end, it took a specially developed process; one million tiles were ceramically fired at a factory to achieve a glass-like finish and then bonded to the superstructure beneath.

The result is that the opera house is one of the busiest music venues of its kind anywhere, staging up to 2,500 performances annually. Its other claim to fame is that renowned black film actor Paul Robeson is said to have climbed onto the scaffolding during construction to sing to the workers.

 

 

 The Zocalo

Mexico City, Mexico

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10,000,000

Visitors per year

Year established: 1813

(when Mexico’s first constitution was proclaimed)

Once the main center of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, the Zocalo’s official name is the Plaza de la Constitucion and it remains the main square of Mexico City. In each direction, it’s 240 meters, which is why it takes up an entire city block and is among the largest squares in the world. Bullfighting used to go on in the area. Now, people gather there for civic and cultural events, parades, festivals, and rallies. The huge Mexican flag that flies smack in the middle of the Zocalo is ceremonially raised at eight in the morning by soldiers of the Mexican army, and then lowered each evening at six.

Famous performers also have been a part of the square. Paul McCartney, in 2012, gave a free concert here to 250,000 anxious fans, and Justin Bieber, that same year, performed to 200,000 Beliebers. Five years prior, photo artist Spencer Tunick did something more unusual, when he filled the Zocalo with 18,000 nude Mexicans.

 

 

 Pike Place Market

Seattle, US

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10,000,000

Visitors per year

Year established: 1907

Seattle's Pike Place Market began with eight farmers total. Tired of dealing with price-gouging middlemen, the small crew of farmers decided to sell their goods directly to consumers and the market was born. Fishmongers were not playfully throwing salmon around at that point, but the market kept growing and expanding until 1922 when it started to take its present-day shape: 11 buildings along the Washington city’s waterfront housing 500 shops, vendor stalls and restaurants.

The flagship Starbucks opened as part of the market back in 1971. More recently, Rachel the Pig, a 550-pound bronze piggy bank, has become a go-to photo opp. And last month the hot story was that Pike Place’s famed gum wall, which is exactly like how it sounds, was finally—after 20 years—deep cleaned, removing about 1 million wads of gum.

 

 

 Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade

Hong Kong, China

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10,009,000

Visitors per year

Year established: 1978

(When the old Kowloon Station was torn down.)

Extending from the Clock Tower to Hung Hom in the thick of Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui is an urban area in southern Kowloon, with the highest concentration of hotels in all of the city. High-end shops, restaurants, and museums also make the waterfront region a big draw.

The Avenue of Stars, a beloved component of the waterfront, is a sidewalk on the shore of Hong Kong's Victoria Bay modeled after the Hollywood Walk of Fame and showcasing the handprints and signatures of famous Hong Kong actors like Jackie Chan. It stretches for about 440 meters along the shoreline.

 

 

Golden Gate Park

San Francisco, US

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13,000,000

Visitors per year

Year established: 1870

Central Park was the inspiration for Golden Gate Park, only the West Coast version is actually 20 percent larger, stretching more than three miles long and a half mile wide—over 1,000 acres. Dating back to the 1860s, the reasoning was that as San Francisco became more built-up, residents needed an open space to stretch their legs.

The result isn’t so much one park as a collection of gardens and buildings that showcase the culture of the Bay Area. In one portion, a small herd of American bison, who are cared for by San Francisco Zoo staff, roam freely. The National AIDS Memorial Grove has been an official memorial since 1996, with dedicated space where visitors can reflect on those who have fallen victim to HIV and AIDS. And the park's Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest one in the United States. A Japanese immigrant named Makoto Hagiwara was the driving force behind the garden and its official caretaker for 30 years. A plaque and the street on which the garden sits are named in his honor.

 

 

 Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris, France

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13,650,000

Visitors per year

Year established: 1345

It'd be fair to assume that the Eiffel Tower would be the Michael Jordan of tourist attractions in the City of Lights, but Notre Dame, one of the very first Gothic cathedrals, holds that honor. Construction of the 420-foot long structure began in the 12th century and didn’t end until a staggering 300 years later. The sheer amount of time is why so many architectural styles—from French Gothic to Naturalism to Renaissance—are incorporated into the building.

Over the years, and especially during the French Revolution, the cathedral sustained damage. A makeover didn’t come until the release of the most famous byproduct of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo’s book centered on a lonely hunchback. When the work was published, it’s said that Parisians came to realize that the cathedral was worth sprucing up.

Paris, by the way, is also home to three other monumental tourist attractions that don’t receive quite as many visitors, albeit still a healthy number. The Sacre Coeur gets 10.5 million a year, the Louvre 9.2 million and the Eiffel Tower 7 million annual guests.

 

 

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo, Japan

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14,850,000

Visitors per year

Year established: 1983

The most recently opened attraction to make the list, Japan’s Disney theme park is not terribly different from its sister parks in the United States and elsewhere in the world, except for cries from Trip Advisor and other travel sites proclaiming how crowded it gets. Tokyo Disneyland was the first Disney park to open outside of the U.S. and, among its rides and themed areas, it has four classic Disney lands to its name: Adventureland, Westernland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. It also possesses the distinction of being the most profitable park of the Disney bunch. It’s believed that the park's success is due to opening at the exact right time, in the height of an economic boom, and in the exact right place, in the middle of a 30 million-person metro area.

 

 

Grand Bazaar

Istanbul, Turkey

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15,000,000

Visitors per year

Year established: 1461

It’s been called the oldest covered market across the globe. The Grand Bazaar is also an economic engine in Istanbul, employing a reported 30,000 people who work in what some say amounts to 4,000 shops. The bazaar was commissioned by Mehmet II immediately after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453 and is entirely built of stone and brick. At one point there were five mosques amidst the shops, now there’s only one. Countless blogs give tips on how to conquer the market or to get through it without being robbed or overcharged—it’s that daunting and overwhelming.

 

 

Forbidden City

Beijing, China

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15,300,000

Visitors per year

Year established: 1420

(when the grand palace construction finished)

Altogether 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties lived in Beijing's Forbidden City, so for most of its history it was inaccessible to the likes of average citizens. A 10-meter high wall encircles the city, along with watchtowers and a moat. In other words, what’s inside is precious and impossibly unique. The grand palace inside these 115-acre grounds is a replica of the Purple Palace where God was thought to live in Heaven. And inside there are precisely 9,999 rooms.

 

 

 Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Boston, US

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18,000,000

Visitors per year

Year established: 1742

If it’s good enough for Samuel Adams and other influential early Americans to give inspirational speeches, it can’t be a wasted stop. When Boston became a full-fledged city, the marketplace at Faneuil Hall stopped being used as a government meeting place and transformed into what it is now—a place to buy edible goods from 49 shops, 18 pubs and restaurants and 44 pushcarts. The fourth floor, still, is maintained by the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company and every July 4, the Declaration of Independence is read from the balcony. There’s simply no escaping the marketplace’s historical roots. There, George Washington toasted the new nation on its first birthday, and the doctrine of “no taxation without representation” was established.

 

 

Times Square

New York, US

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39,200,000

Visitors per year

Year established: 1907

New Year’s is when all eyes are on Times Square for the ball drop, which has been going strong as a tradition for more than a century. All year round, though, this commercial intersection is bustling with eye-popping ads, lights, and wall-to-wall tourists. Formerly called Longacre Square, the name change happened when the New York Times moved into the neighborhood. As Longacre Square, the area was a site for a horse exchange, drab apartments and carriages. Then, following the Great Depression, seedier times prevailed as grinder houses, showing sexually explicit films, took over the area around the square.

After mayor Rudy Giuliani cleaned up the city and Broadway moved in, the square now has more in common with a theme park than a representation of the city's past.

 

 

Vegas Strip

Las Vegas, US

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39,670,000

Visitors per year

Year established: 1941

(Establishment of El Rancho Vegas, the first casino on the strip.)

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, they say. But clearly Nevada’s flashiest, most gambling-friendly city is not keeping to itself. From Swingers to The Hangover, Sin City is the backdrop for dozens of movies, and the Strip is usually the specific playground for the characters’ antics.

It was the 1930s when the three-mile stretch of hotels, casinos, and nightspots, first became a concept, just after Nevada became the first state to legalize casino-style gambling. By the 1950s—given the influence of pop culture phenomenon like Elvis—the area exploded to 1,800 hotel rooms. At that point, a decent room ran for $7.50 a day. Now, it’s not uncommon to shell out $300 a night. The most surprising fact about the Vegas Strip, though, just might be what it’s not: within the Las Vegas city limits. Technically, it falls under Clark County jurisdiction.