From rich histories to beaches, national parks and bustling cities, the top ten visited countries in the world have much to boast about. On the public side of it, tourists explore magnificent castles, soak up the sun on pristine beaches, and check out famous landmarks. The capital cities of each country also provide plenty of opportunities for sightseeing and entertainment. But tourism and international tourist arrivals also play crucial roles in boosting economies.
They are recognised as significant economic growth, employment, and development contributors. Tourism can promote development in rural and less-developed areas, drawing attention to lesser-known destinations and spreading economic benefits beyond significant cities. For those investing in real estate with an aim of profiting from rental income, tourism is also important. With that in mind, we look at the top visited countries in the world and also the reasons why they are drawing in millions of tourists every year.
Top Ten Visited Countries in the World
1: France – 89.4 million International Tourist Arrivals
France, which has long been among the world’s most iconic destinations, beats all other countries to grab the number one spot. From the iconic Eiffel Tower in the romantic city of Paris to the stunning Palace of Versailles, the medieval town of Carcassonne, and ancient Roman amphitheatres in Nîmes, the country boasts architectural marvels and historical landmarks that fascinate travellers.
The Louvre Museum, housing the iconic Mona Lisa, attracts art lovers. France’s vibrant contemporary art scene also features numerous galleries and exhibitions in major cities like Paris, Lyon, and Marseille. While the picturesque lavender fields of Provence, the stunning French Riviera beaches and the majestic Alps attract those, who want to spend time in the great outdoors.
French cuisine is celebrated worldwide, and tourists flock to France to savour culinary delights. From buttery croissants and baguettes to delectable cheeses, fine wines, and exquisite Michelin-starred restaurants, food plays a central role in travel experiences. France’s famous wine regions include Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and Loire Valley.
Often regarded as the world’s fashion capital, Paris attracts fashion enthusiasts and shoppers. The city’s upscale boutiques, designer stores, and fashion shows attract tourists interested in haute couture and luxury brands. While Cannes Film Festival, Bastille Day celebrations, and various regional festivals showcase the country’s cultural diversity.
France also scores well for UNESCO world heritage sites like Mont-Saint-Michel, the Palace of the Popes in Avignon, and prehistoric cave paintings in Lascaux, and the country has various accommodations, from luxurious hotels to charming bed-and-breakfasts and rustic countryside chateaux’s so every tourist has somewhere to relax after a day sightseeing. (Why is France so popular?)
2: Coasts of Spain – 83 million international Arrivals
With over 5,000 miles of coastline, Spain offers many sun-drenched beaches and is also a popular expat haven. The Mediterranean coast attracts sun-seekers and water sports enthusiasts, including the Costa del Sol and Costa Brava. In contrast, the Atlantic coast offers dramatic cliffs and scenic beaches, particularly in regions like Galicia and Asturias.
The country’s numerous UNESCO Sites include the Alhambra in Granada, the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, and the historic city of Toledo, showcasing rich architectural and artistic legacy. But Spain’s cities are also vibrant and dynamic, each with unique charm. Barcelona captivates tourists with modernist architecture and rich street life, while Madrid impresses with museums, cultural events, and lively nightlife. Seville, Valencia, Bilbao, and Granada are popular destinations for their rich cultural offerings. While places like Park Guell stand out among urban landscapes.
The Running of the Bulls during the San Fermín festival in Pamplona and the La Tomatina tomato-throwing festival in Buñol are examples of the country’s celebrations. The cultural heritage also shines through in the food. Tapas, paella, jamón ibérico, and seafood are some national dishes tourists savour while exploring the country. The country’s wine regions, like Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Priorat, also offer wine tours and tastings, allowing tourists to discover Spain’s rich winemaking traditions.
To experience the great outdoors, the Pyrenees Mountains are perfect for hiking and skiing. At the same time, the Canary Islands offer unique volcanic terrain and excellent conditions for water sports. Spain also hosts numerous cultural events, including flamenco performances, traditional music festivals, and bullfights, which offer tourist experiences of vibrant cultures and ancient empires. (Beautiful places to visit in Spain.)
3: United States of America – 79 million Tourist Arrivals
With bustling cities, vibrant culture, and pristine beaches, it’s no wonder why so many people travel to the United States of America annually. The US delights everyone, from New York City’s iconic skyline to the unique landscape of Utah’s national parks and monuments. The country’s booming tourism industry sees international tourist arrivals increasing year after year. And if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience, explore UNESCO Heritage Sites like the Statue of Liberty or Mesa Verde National Park.
The United States’s natural wonders draw tourists from all over the globe. National parks like Yellowstone national park, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains offer breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and wildlife watching.
The USA is also dotted with landmarks that are recognised worldwide. These landmarks, from the Statue of Liberty in New York City and Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the White House in Washington D.C. and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, symbolise American history, culture, and ideals.
Cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston have colonial-era architecture and landmarks that reflect the country’s early history. Additionally, destinations like New Orleans, Nashville, and Chicago are renowned for their unique contributions to music and arts. The country’s famous cities are major tourism hubs. New York City attracts tourists and earns theatre, fashion, and museums recognition. Los Angeles offers entertainment industries, while San Francisco’s unique charm and iconic cable cars are popular attractions.
The USA features world-famous theme parks, like Disneyland and Disney World, Universal Studios, and Six Flags. But sports play significant roles in American culture, and many tourists attend sporting events like NFL games, NBA matches, or baseball games. Additionally, the country hosts numerous events and festivals, including Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the famous Coachella Music Festival in California.
4: Travel in China – 65 million Foreign Tourists
China’s tourism industry experienced significant growth and transformation over the past few decades, becoming one of the world’s most popular countries. China’s vast landscapes, ancient heritage, and modern urban centres attract millions of domestic and international tourists annually.
Tourists are drawn to the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, the Forbidden City, and the picturesque landscapes of Guilin and the Three Gorges. China’s major cities, like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, are modern metropolises with impressive skylines, contemporary architecture, and thriving urban culture. These cities attract business travellers, tech enthusiasts, and tourists interested in exploring the cutting-edge developments in China.
China boasts numerous UNESCO World Sites, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Mogao Caves, and the Potala Palace, adding to the culturally rich destination. Then from the towering Himalayas mountains to picturesque landscapes in Yangshuo, China offers diverse and stunning natural scenery that appeals to nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Cities like Shanghai and Beijing are major shopping destinations, offering high-end brands and luxury shopping malls. But the Chinese government has invested heavily in tourism infrastructure, including airports, high-speed rail networks, and tourist facilities. This has improved accessibility to various destinations and enhanced the overall travel experience for tourists.
Lastly, China is becoming an increasingly popular destination for meetings, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) tourism. The country’s modern convention centres and exhibition venues attract global business travellers and event organisers.
5: Italy – 64 million Tourists
Cities like Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan are home to various UNESCO Heritage Sites, ancient ruins, majestic cathedrals, and renowned art galleries, including the Vatican Museums and the Uffizi Gallery. Additionally, Italy’s contribution to art and architecture is unparalleled. The country gave birth to the Renaissance, and its art and architectural marvels are celebrated worldwide. Tourists flock to see Michelangelo’s David, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, and the intricate architecture of the Colosseum and St. Peter’s Basilica.
From art to food, Italian cuisine is beloved around the globe. From authentic pasta dishes, pizza, and gelato to regional specialities like risotto and seafood on the Amalfi Coast, the country’s culinary offerings are significant aspects of tourism. Italy also excels in wine production, with wine tours and tastings in regions like Tuscany, Piedmont, and Veneto.
After eating, Italy’s landscapes include stunning coastlines, picturesque countryside, and majestic mountains. The Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Tuscany, and the Dolomites attract tourists seeking outdoor activities. Italy also attracts millions of pilgrims and believers. The Vatican City, home to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, attracts Catholic travellers.
Italy offers immense luxury experiences, from high-end hotels and resorts to private yacht charters along the Amalfi Coast and exclusive tours of historic landmarks. The Italian government and tourism authorities are committed to preserving Italy’s culture while promoting sustainable tourism practices. With timeless charm and unparalleled beauty, Italy continues to captivate the hearts of travellers, making the country timeless in the global travel landscape.
6: Turkey – 51 Million Tourists
Tourists in Turkey experience rich historical legacies with stunning natural landscapes, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality. Its numerous cultural attractions showcase Turkey’s historical significance. The country’s largest city, Istanbul, features historical sites and Byzantine architecture like the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and ancient Hippodrome. While the ruins of ancient cities like Ephesus, Troy, and Hierapolis attract history enthusiasts.
Turkey’s geographical diversity offers tourists several landscapes to explore. Turkey’s natural landscapes captivate everyone, from the surreal terraces of Pamukkale to Patara Beach, the otherworldly Cappadocia, the pristine Mediterranean and Aegean beaches, to towering Black Sea mountains.
Tourists in Turkey can indulge in mouthwatering dishes like kebabs, mezes, baklava, and Turkish delight, while also savouring the rich flavours of traditional tea and coffee. Turkey’s bazaars and markets also offer vibrant shopping experiences. Tourists can explore the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, the spice markets, and local crafts markets, where they can find unique souvenirs, textiles, ceramics, and other traditional Turkish handicrafts.
Turkey has numerous thermal springs and wellness centres known for their therapeutic properties. Tourists seeking relaxation and rejuvenation often visit thermal resorts like Pamukkale and Bursa. But Turkey also provides ample adventure and outdoor enthusiasts opportunities. Activities like hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, hiking the Lycian Way, paragliding in Oludeniz, and exploring underwater life in the Mediterranean are popular.
Cruising and sailing are big business in Turkey, which is no surprise given that there are 7200 kilometres of coastline. Blue Voyage cruises of the Turkish Riviera are popular, as is cruise tourism, where cruise ships dock in places like Istanbul or Ephesus. Lastly, Turkey’s significant religious importance revolves around destinations like the Virgin Mary’s House, Seven Churches of Revelation, and the Sufi spiritual centre of Konya, attracting spiritual tourists. More about tourism in Turkey.
7: Mexico – 45 million International Tourists
Ancient civilisations like the Mayans and Aztecs have left behind impressive archaeological sites in Mexico, including Chichen Itza, Teotihuacan, and Palenque. While Mexico’s colonial history is evident in the beautifully preserved architecture of cities like Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Guanajuato.
It isn’t all about history because Mexico’s picturesque beaches sit along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos attract beach lovers, water sports enthusiasts, and sun-seekers.UNESCO recognises Mexican cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, so taste around the country.
For urban tourism, Mexico’s cities offer history, modernity, and cultural experiences. Mexico City, with museums, art galleries, and historic landmarks, attracts thousands, as does Guadalajara and Monterrey. Mexico is also home to numerous sacred sites and pilgrimage destinations. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City attracts millions of pilgrims yearly.
8: Thailand – 39 Million Tourists
As the most popular destination in Southeast Asia, Thailand’s stunning beaches, ancient history, warm hospitality, and delectable cuisine attract millions of tourists. Thailand’s coastal regions boast picturesque beaches and islands. Destinations like Phuket, Koh Samui, Krabi, and Phi Phi Islands offer turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and water activities, making them ideal for beach lovers and water sports enthusiasts.
Thailand is steeped in history and culture, evident in numerous temples, ancient ruins, and royal palaces. The Grand Palace and Wat Pho in Bangkok and the historic city of Ayutthaya attract tourists seeking to immerse themselves in Thailand’s heritage.
Thai cuisine features bold flavours and aromatic spices in dishes like Pad Thai, Tom Yum Goong, Green Curry, and Mango Sticky Rice while exploring the vibrant street food scene thriving in the bustling markets and night bazaars.
For adventure, Thailand’s landscapes offer numerous experiences and nature tourism opportunities. Activities like trekking in the northern mountains, exploring lush national parks, and visiting wildlife sanctuaries are popular among outdoor enthusiasts. But Thailand’s vibrant festivals, like Songkran (Thai New Year’s water festival) and Loy Krathong (Festival of Lights), offer unique cultural experiences for tourists, providing insights into Thai traditions and customs.
Thailand’s floating markets are iconic and fascinating attractions, particularly Damnoen Saduak and Amphawa in Bangkok. Tourists can experience the charm of buying fresh produce and handicrafts from boats along the canals. Otherwise, bustling Bangkok offers modernity, history, and cultural experiences. Shopping malls, night markets, street food vendors, and temples coexist harmoniously, creating unique urban atmospheres.
By far, though, island hopping is popular in Thailand. Thailand’s numerous islands are perfect for island-hopping adventures. Travellers can explore the scenic beauty, snorkel in crystal-clear waters, and experience the laid-back island lifestyle.
9: International Tourism in Germany – 39 million
The travel industries in the beautiful country of Germany are thriving, making the country one of Europe’s top destinations. Germany’s history, famous destinations, and excellent infrastructure contribute to its popularity among tourists.
Germany earns fame for its ancient history, historical landmarks and cultural treasures. Cities like Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, and Cologne are home to impressive historical sites, including iconic castles like Neuschwanstein and historical landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate and Cologne Cathedral. Cities like Berlin also boast museums like the Pergamon Museum, Altes Museum, and Museum Island, housing valuable art collections and archaeological artefacts.
Germany’s landscapes offer travellers various experiences. The picturesque Rhine Valley, Black Forest, Bavarian Alps, and the Baltic and North Sea coasts are breathtaking natural settings that attract tourists. While German cuisine, with delicious sausages, pretzels, schnitzels, and beer festivals, promotes unique culinary experiences, including traditional beer gardens in Bavaria and the Rhine and Moselle wine regions.
Germany hosts various festivals throughout the year. The world-famous Oktoberfest in Munich, the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale), and Christmas markets across the country are significant attractions for locals and tourists. Whereas for urban tourism, German cities feature historical charm and modernity. Berlin screams of culture as the capital, while Munich and Frankfurt are major financial centres. Hamburg has maritime heritage, and Cologne boasts vibrant art scenes.
Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, is famous, as are other historic castles like Hohenzollern Castle and Linderhof Palace. Germany also has well-established wellness and spa tourism sectors, offering tourists relaxation and rejuvenation through thermal baths, health resorts, and wellness retreats.
Germany places a strong emphasis on sustainable tourism practices. The country promotes eco-friendly initiatives, encourages responsible travel, and supports efforts to protect natural resources. But don’t forget about Germany’s Christmas markets, or “Weihnachtsmärkte” The festive atmosphere, traditional crafts, and holiday treats make them a must-visit during Advent.
10: The Tourism Industry in the United Kingdom – 39 million
Last in our list of top ten visited countries, the United Kingdom’s historical landmarks, cultural gems, and modern wonders make this country captivating for international tourists. The favourite UK city, London, features history, culture, and modernity. Landmarks like the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament (including Big Ben), and the London Eye are must-visit attractions. The city also boasts the British Museum, National Gallery, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Do visit Stonehenge. This prehistoric stone circle and enigmatic UNESCO Heritage Site symbolises British heritage. Located in Wiltshire, Stonehenge’s mysterious origins fascinate tourists and history enthusiasts. The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, charms tourists with stunning architecture, historic Edinburgh Castle, and the famous Royal Mile.
For the great outdoors, the Lake District in northwest England features beautiful scenery, tranquil lakes, and charming villages. It offers outdoor activities like hiking, boating, and admiring the natural countryside beauty. Scotland’s rugged and dramatic landscapes in the Scottish Highlands attract nature lovers and adventure seekers. The region is famous for historic castles, lochs, and the mythical Loch Ness.
As the world’s oldest and largest inhabited castle, Windsor Castle, the official residence of the British Royal Family, showcases British royalty and history. The birthplace of William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon, offers glimpses into the life of a world-renowned playwright. Tourists can visit Shakespeare’s home, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.
The city of Bath features well-preserved Roman Baths, stunning Georgian architecture, and natural hot springs. The Roman Baths UNESCO Site, are a significant attraction. In Northern Ireland, the UNESCO-listed Giant’s Causeway is a geological wonder with hexagonal basalt columns formed by volcanic activity.
Lastly, Oxford and Cambridge are renowned for their prestigious universities and beautiful college campuses. Whether seeking history, culture, or modern entertainment, the UK provides enriching travel experiences that leave tourists with lasting memories.
Also of Interest
Best Cities in the World: From the top visited countries in the world to the best cities. Major cities, also known as Alpha cities are hubs of tourism, business, finance, education and expat living. Naturally, they gain iconic status, but some cities stand out on the world stage.