May 4th, 2016 | Updated on August 26th, 2020
Tourist attractions are “cultural and historical sites, natural landmarks, and officially designated spaces,” says Travel+ Leisure. We’ve curated 45 most visited tourist attractions, based on figures compiled from data supplied by government agencies and industry reports including the Global Attractions Attendance Report.
Count on the wisdom of crowds by adding the world’s most-visited tourist attractions to your bucket list.
1. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Annual Visitors: 91,250,000. Hand-painted ceramics, lanterns, intricately patterned carpets, copper ware, gold Byzantine-style jewelry, and more eye-catching products vie for your attention within this 15th-century bazaar’s vaulted walkways.
2. The Zócalo, Mexico City
Annual Visitors: 85,000,000. Formally known as the Plaza de la Constitución, the enormous Zócalo thrums with activity. It hosts military parades, cultural and political events, concerts, exhibitions, fairs, and public art installations.
3. Times Square, New York City
Annual Visitors: 50,000,000. Tourists flock to New York’s neon heart for the flashing lights, Broadway shows, megastores, and sheer spectacle—including costumed characters eager to pose for photo ops. Pedestrian-only areas with café tables introduced a few years ago have made it easier and more appealing to hang out here. Times Square can even be a convenient, if chaotic, base, thanks to hotels at every price point and easy access to public transportation: subways, rails, buses, and more yellow taxis than you can count.
4. Central Park, New York City
Annual Visitors: 40,000,000. New York has larger green spaces, but none is more famous than Central Park, which stretches across nearly 850 acres of prime Manhattan real estate—an oasis for both tourists and locals.
5. Union Station, Washington, D.C.
Annual Visitors: 40,000,000. Opened in 1907, this busy station shuttles some 12,500 passengers daily in and out of the city. But it also handles millions of tourists who pass through to take in the impeccably mixed architectural styles throughout the colossal building: from Classical to Beaux-Arts to Baroque.
6. Las Vegas Strip
Annual Visitors: 30,500,000. In 2013, 77 percent of Vegas tourists—30.5 million—chose to stay at hotels right on the four-mile-long Strip. And why not? Roll out of bed and onto the Strip to catch the Bellagio fountains in action, shop, gamble, and, of course, people-watch. For a cool new vantage point, hop aboard the High Roller, a 550-foot-tall Ferris wheel that debuted in March 2014.
7. Meiji Jingu Shrine, Tokyo
Annual Visitors: 30,000,000. Built more than 100 years ago to honor the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, this Shinto shrine in bustling Tokyo is a peaceful haven surrounded by a holy forest of more than 100,000 trees.
8. Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
Annual Visitors: 30,000,000. Tokyo’s oldest temple was dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon, the most compassionate Buddha, in 628. Dramatic nighttime illumination highlights vermilion and crimson detailing in the Five-Storied Pagoda.
9. Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario
Annual Visitors: 22,000,000. Straddling the border of the U.S. and Canada, three massive waterfalls, together called Niagara Falls, spill about 6 million cubic feet of water—from a maximum vertical drop of 165 feet—every minute. While there are about 500 taller waterfalls in the world, Niagara Falls is spectacular for its sheer power.
10. Grand Central Terminal, New York City
Annual Visitors: 21,600,00. Unlike harried commuters, visitors take their time in the main concourse of this Beaux-Arts landmark, pausing to view its glittering ceiling painted with a map of the constellations from the night sky. Shops, an annual holiday market, special events, and restaurants also attract attention.
11. Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City
Annual Visitors: 20,000,000. The Old Basilica, begun in the 16th century and completed in 1709, stands in stark contrast to the massive new basilica, designed by the Mexican architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, which was built in the mid-1970s and looks like a sports arena.
12. Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando, FL
Annual Visitors: 18,588,000. The Most Magical Place on Earth is high on virtually every family’s to-do list and remains the most-visited theme park on the earth. Expanded Fantasyland now includes the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train family-style roller coaster and a chance to meet Anna and Elsa from the smash-hit Frozen in the Princess Fairytale Hall near Cinderella Castle.
13. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston
Annual Visitors: 18,000,000. Dating back to 1742, Faneuil Hall (“the Cradle of Liberty”) once hosted speeches by such greats as Samuel Adams and George Washington. Today, the downtown marketplace has more than 100 specialty shops and eateries and occupies a pedestrian-only, cobblestoned area that swarms with tourists and street performers.
14. Tokyo Disneyland
Annual Visitors: 17,214,000. Disney’s Tokyo outpost has become the second most-visited theme park in the world (beating out Anaheim, CA’s Disneyland, which held that title in 2010). It shares the sweetness of the original parks’ Fantasyland with Peter Pan’s Flight and Dumbo the Flying Elephant as well as Tomorrowland’s Space Mountain and Star Tours—The Adventures Continue.
15. Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA
Annual Visitors: 16,202,000. Though not as massive as its Orlando counterpart, the original Disney park, which occupies about 85 acres of land, has retro charm and some better features. Here the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction lasts almost twice as long and ends in a humid southern bayou with fireflies (instead of a gift shop).
16. Forbidden City, Beijin
Annual Visitors: 15,340,000. It doesn’t have a street address—which is only fitting for a place that was once considered the center of the universe. Nowadays, tourists swarm this 178-acre walled compound of opulent halls, gardens, and winged pavilions. Attendance is up by 2.5 million since 2010.
17. Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Annual Visitors: 14,289,121. Beaches, cliffs, hills, forts, and towering redwood trees make up the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, easily accessible from San Francisco. Many visitors come to embrace the outdoors, whether hiking, biking, swimming, birding, riding horses, or whale-watching.
18. Tokyo DisneySea
Annual Visitors: 14,084,000. DisneySea, the companion park to Tokyo Disneyland overlooking Tokyo Bay, took inspiration from aquatic myths, legends and the lore of the sea. Divided into seven “ports of call,” the park emphasizes water attractions with Venetian gondolas, a Mermaid Lagoon, a journey to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and an Aquatopia with quirky boats in a sea of rocks, whirlpools and water spouts.
19. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Annual Visitors: 14,000,000. A masterpiece of Gothic architecture—all soaring buttresses, crouching gargoyles, and magnificent rose windows—Notre Dame has survived attacks of Huguenots, sansculottes, occupying armies, and questionable renovations since its completion in 1345.
20. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
Annual Visitors: 13,000,000. Cascading three miles from the Panhandle down to the Pacific, Golden Gate Park serves as playground and haven for this diverse city. The park’s offerings include museums, botanical wonders (the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden, a rhododendron forest, and more than 75,000 trees, among others), sporting fields and courts, playgrounds, and even a small herd of buffalo.
21. Balboa Park, San Diego
Annual Visitors: 12,000,000 to 14,000,000. Balboa Park’s 1,200 acres form a mini-city with 15 accredited museums, 19 gardens, nine performing arts groups, a miniature railroad, a golf course, tennis courts, lawn bowling, a gymnasium, a historic carousel, and a Super Sonic Samba School.
22. South Street Seaport, New York City
Annual Visitors: 12,000,000. This 12-block historic East River site in lower Manhattan dates back to the 1600s, and its cobblestoned streets are packed with shops and restaurants. Pier 17 will reopen in 2016 after undergoing extensive renovation.
23. San Antonio River Walk, San Antonio, TX
Annual Visitors: 11,500,000. Cypress-lined cobble-and-flagstone paths meander for four miles along both sides of the narrow San Antonio River. Locals and visitors come to the River Walk’s horseshoe-shaped loop downtown to browse shops and hang out at restaurants like Boudro’s for a prickly-pear margarita and guacamole prepared table side.
24. Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL
Annual Visitors: 11,229,000. Built to honor the late Walt Disney’s utopian ideal of the innovative future (the name is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), Epcot attracts guests who skew a little older than those of its neighbor, the Magic Kingdom. Restaurants are aimed at more sophisticated palates, and annual celebrations include a flower and garden show and an international food and wine festival.
25. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Italy
Annual Visitors: 11,000,000. One of the holiest Catholic sites, St. Peter’s teems with ornate gold, marble columns, paintings of angels, iconic statues, and works created by a who’s who of Renaissance artists, including Raphael, Brunelleschi, Bernini, and Michelangelo, who sculpted the marble Pietà and designed the massive dome.
26. Great Wall of China
Annual Visitors: 10,720,000. Once used as a wartime defense, the Great Wall winds “like a dragon tail” from eastern China to western, spanning some 5,500 miles. While much of what is visible today was built during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), construction began on various sections as far back as 770 B.C. Credit goes to the million slaves and prisoners of war who carried blocks of granite, bricks, stones, and dirt on their backs up to the top of the ridge lines.
27. Sacré Coeur Basilica, Paris
Annual Visitors: 10,500,000. Sacré Coeur lures visitors to the summit of Montmartre for a litany of reasons—while some come to pray and meditate, most come for the remarkable 360-degree views of the City of Light from its highest vantage point.
28. Disneyland Park, Marne-la-Vallée, France
Annual Visitors: 10,430,000. When Disney’s first European theme park opened in 1992, many French protested the “cultural imperialism” of such an American symbol opening 40 minutes outside of Paris. Today it’s one of the most-visited locations in Europe.
29. Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort
Annual Visitors: 10,198,000. Since 1998, this animal-themed park has successfully marketed Mickey Mouse and silverback gorillas under one all-inclusive “roof.” If it has four legs or wings or a tail, chances are you’ll find it at this zoo/museum/school theme park. Don’t miss the Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, or the 14-story Tree of Life sculpture carved with some 325 animals.
30. Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort
Annual Visitors: 10,110,000. Disney describes this park (est. 1989) as “the Hollywood that never was and always will be.” Laid out much like a real-life motion picture studio, with a 154-acre network of streets and buildings and miniature replicas of famous landmarks, it showcases the golden age of film.
31. Universal Studios Japan, Osaka, Japan
Annual Visitors: 10,100,000. Opened in 2001 and a near twin to its Orlando sibling—albeit one with more sushi—this popular movie theme park is one of four operated by Universal in Japan. Highlights include a Jaws-like shark encounter, Jurassic Park roller-coaster ride, Sesame Street in 4-D, and now the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
32. Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood, CA
Annual Visitors: 10,000,000 to 12,000,000. Nothing says Hollywood like the (literally) star-studded Walk of Fame, with each star bearing the name of a celebrity with enough cachet to be immortalized on the street.
33. Pike Place Market, Seattle
Annual Visitors: 10,000,000. One of the oldest continually operating farmers’ markets in the U.S. (est. 1907), this nine-acre National Historic District is famous for kitschy Seattle souvenirs, salmon-throwing fishmongers, and its “gum wall” installation art.
34. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Annual Visitors: 9,345,695. Originally Cherokee homeland, America’s most-visited national park first opened in 1940 and covers some 520,000 acres of protected Tennessee and North Carolina forestland that’s bisected by the Appalachian Trail.
35. Musée du Louvre, Paris
Annual Visitors: 9,334,000. The world’s largest museum is both the subject of ongoing architectural controversy—not everyone agrees with the 1989 addition of I. M. Pei’s 69-foot-high glass pyramid entrance—and an art-lover’s wonderland of some 35,000 masterworks.
36. Navy Pier, Chicago
Annual Visitors: 8,900,000. While the USS Chicago—docked at the end of the pier—is a reminder of its World War I military past, this bustling Lake Michigan promenade now caters to civilians with a mix of carnival rides, dancing fountains, trinket stalls, an IMAX theater, and local food favorites Garrett Popcorn and Billy Goat Tavern.
37. Disney’s California Adventure, Anaheim
Annual Visitors: 8,514,000. Cars Land, a 12-acre real-life rendition of Radiator Springs from the films that pay homage to Route 66 and retro-cars culture, remains a big draw at Disney’s California Adventure. Guests “racing” in the Radiator Springs Racers attraction never know which car will get the checkered flag.
38. Sydney Opera House, Sydney
Annual Visitors: 8,200,000. With its dramatic cantilevered roof and harbor setting, the Sydney Opera House is easily Australia’s most recognizable landmark—and its most visited. Few tourists leave Sydney without at least stopping here for a photo.
39. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Annual Visitors: 8,000,000. Dinosaur fossils, a huge stuffed elephant, and an insect zoo have been wowing kids for generations (and for free). The 126-million-item collection even includes the notorious Hope Diamond.
40. Grand Palace, Bangkok
Number of Visitors: 8,000,000. The gold-spired Grand Palace is one of Thailand’s most important sacred sites. The riverfront complex, built in 1782, housed Thai kings for 150 years. The Outer Court serves as the visitor entrance today; the Center Court was the king’s residence; and the Inner Court, the quarters of his consorts and daughters.
41. Palace of Versailles, France
Annual Visitors: 7,527,122. King Louis XIV did a pretty nice job redoing a place that started out as a mere hunting lodge and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s so nice, in fact, that people willingly trade a day in Paris cafés for the experience of wandering Versailles’ hallways, like the gilded Hall of Mirrors—the best place to channel your inner Sun King.
42. Ocean Park, Hong Kong
Annual Visitors: 7,475,000. Sure, there are roller coasters, but this 40-acre theme park stands out for attractions that are more down to earth. There’s Panda Village, where, despite the name, visitors come to see playful otters; Pacific Pier, where you can feed seals and sea lions; and the Sea Jelly Spectacular, where you can marvel at some 1,000 jellyfish, including many phosphorescent species.
43. National Museum of China, Beijing
Annual Visitors: 7,450,000. This museum on Tiananmen Square measures 2.07 million square feet—surpassing New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2 million square feet—and reopened in 2011 after a decade-long renovation. It presents 5,000 years of Chinese history, as approved by the Ministry of Culture.
44. Lotte World, Seoul
Annual Visitors: 7,400,000. The world’s largest indoor theme park is just the beginning of a complex that seems as big as Seoul itself. An outdoor amusement park, a folk museum, theaters, malls, an aquarium, and other venues round it out, along with—of course—plenty of karaoke machines.
45. Everland, Gyeonggi-Do, South Korea
Annual Visitors: 7,303,000. Everland amusement park has been thrilling kids since 1973 and knows how to keep them coming. The park is divided into themed sections that range from American Adventure (a rodeo experience, a wildly swinging Columbus ship) to Zoo-Topia (Amazon River ride, Safari World).