When you think of the world’s most popular attractions, what do you think of? I picture the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Colosseum in Rome and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Cairo.
But, if you’re anything like me, you’re in for a big surprise.
Using data gathered from the attractions themselves, industry reports and government agencies, Travel and Leisure have ranked the world’s most visited tourist attractions. These include historical sites, officially designated spaces and natural landmarks.
Starting at number 10, and working our way up to number one, these are the world’s most popular attractions.
10. Grand Central Terminal, New York City
As if the bustle of busy commuters wasn’t enough, Grand Central Station receives an additional 21.6 million visitors each year. Some come to enjoy a drink at the historic Oyster Bar or the Campbell Apartment, while others come to gaze up at the iconic ceiling, painted with the constellations of the night sky. You can also enjoy the annual holiday market, restaurants, special events and shops.
9. Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario
These three monstrous waterfalls hug the border of Canada and the United States and spill around 28 million litres of water down the 50-metre drop every second. The falls are also highly accessible to the 22 million tourists that visit each year.
8–7 tie. Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
Built in 628 in honour of Bodhisattva Kannon, the most compassionate Buddha, Sensoji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo. The five-storey pagoda is illuminated at night, and stalls along the temple’s Nakamise Street sell goods and food to visitors. This is the continuation of an ancient tradition when the stalls catered to pilgrims. The temple sees around 30 million visitors each year.
8–7 tie. Meiji Jingu Shrine, Tokyo
This Shinto shrine was built more than 100 years ago to honour the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Surrounded by a peaceful, holy forest of more than 100,000 trees, and putting on seasonal garden displays, this shrine welcomes around 30 million visitors each year.
6. Las Vegas Strip
Shops, bars, casinos and colourful characters decorate the 6.4km-long Las Vegas Strip. The main strip is so enticing, in fact, that 77 per cent of the 30.5 million tourists who visit each year choose to stay in hotels fronting the strip. Did you know that Vegas has a shark aquarium, offers gondola rides and is packed with hidden museums and other little-known gems?
5–4 tie. Union Station, Washington, D.C.
Every day 12,500 commuters are shuttled in and out of the busy station built in 1907. Additionally, some 40 million tourists visit the station each year to admire the diverse architectural styles and shop in the 70 retail outlets. Many of the city’s tours start or end at the iconic station.
5–4 tie. Central Park, New York City
This beloved park, sitting in the heart of New York City, stretches nearly 3.5 square kilometres. Tourists and locals alike find reprieve in the open green spaces from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It contains a 19th century castle and even a little zoo. Each year some 40 million tourists visit the park.
3. Times Square, New York City
The infamous lights and chaos of New York can be seen at Times Square. Broadway shows, shopping, excited crowds, pedestrian-only areas and easy public transport options draw around 50 million tourists to Times Square every year.
2. The Zócalo, Mexico City
The enormous Plaza de la Constitución hosts everything from concerts, art installations, fairs, exhibitions, cultural and political events to military parades. The National Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral border the historic square that sees some 85 million visitors each year.
1. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
The 15th century bazaar is a nest of winding walkways and treasure troves. While it has become more touristy over the years, as the market has expanded, is it well worth a visit. Just be prepared to haggle for the lanterns, ceramics, carpets, copperware and jewellery you’ll undoubtedly fall in love with.
How many of these top attractions have you visited? Were you surprised by which attractions did or didn’t make the cut?
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