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Best Cities in the World for Tourist Attractions

1.5 billion. That’s how many more people are expected to fly away on vacation in 2022 compared to 2021. This is what the American Society of Travel Advisors calls ‘revenge travel’, and in 2022, it is in full swing [1].  This made us want to find out which cities around the world have the best tourist attraction offering. 

To do this, we analyzed over 22.9 million TripAdvisor reviews [2] across almost 146,000 free and paid tourist attractions, including historic sites and monuments, walking/bike tours, museums, art galleries, hiking trails, and parks that can be visited in or from 70 of the most-visited cities in the world [3] [4]. 

Key findings

  • Overall, New York, USA is ranked the best city in the world for its combination of paid and free tourist attractions, followed by London, UK, and Tokyo, Japan, based on 28 separate attraction data points.
  • For those on a budget, London, UK, is the best city for free tourist attractions having the highest number of no-fee attractions (1,389), rated on average 4.43 stars out of five, closely followed by Italy’s capital, Rome (322).
  • Niagara, Canada, offers the highest-rated free tourist attractions, rated on average 4.75 stars out of five, but only offers 48 free things to do
  • Tokyo, Japan scored highest for paid tourist attractions in the world, with 11,463 things to do, rated an average of 4.2 out of 5, although New Orleans, has the highest average rating (4.67) for its paid attractions.
  • New Orleans, USA, is also the best city for museums and galleries, with an average rating of 4.81/5 across 232 museums, galleries, and art exhibits.  
  • Rome, Italy, is the world’s best city for historical tourist attractions, with an average rating of 4.49/5 across 247 free, and 570 paid historical attractions. 

Best cities for tourist attractions 

The best city when accounting for the quality and quantity of both free and paid tourist attractions was found to be New York, USA, followed by London, UK

In the index, New York had the 6th highest total number of tourist attractions, the 4th highest number of free attractions, the 4th highest number of paid museums and art galleries, and the 3rd highest number of free parks. 

London had the highest total number of free tourist attractions, including the most free museums, as well as parks, as well as the third-highest number of paid museums, and the second-highest number of walking/bike tours (beaten by Rome). 

Both cities consistently performed well across many categories offering tourists a huge range of attractions, especially those who don’t want to pay admission fees. London may have more to offer in terms of the number of attractions, but New York’s activities had a consistently higher average tourist review rating. 

The top 20 cities ranked by their tourist attraction offering can be seen in the map below:

RankDestinationCountryTourist Attraction Score*Number of Free AttractionsRating of Free AttractionsNumber of Paid AttractionsRating of Paid Attractions
1New YorkUnited States1,8846264.484,9804.52
2LondonUnited Kingdom1,8241,3894.416,9874.42
3TokyoJapan1,7115934.1211,4634.20
4RomeItaly1,6159434.415,0194.54
5Denpasar (Bali)Indonesia1,5834494.029,3384.60
6ParisFrance1,5416804.407,4154.44
7IstanbulEurope1,4393274.424,0074.54
8SingaporeRepublic of Singapore1,2814264.222,7094.44
9ChicagoUnited States1,2372194.442,1844.60
10DublinIreland1,1783594.431,5054.56
11San DiegoUnited States1,1771764.461,5264.61
12New OrleansUnited States1,1652414.431,2004.67
13FlorenceItaly1,1643424.501,8924.58
14BerlinGermany1,1524184.472,9214.47
15BarcelonaSpain1,1454324.454,2814.44
16San FranciscoUnited States1,0893114.332,0164.50
17TorontoCanada1,0611914.321,8924.44
18MilanItaly1,0605984.372,3214.33
19VeniceItaly1,0562844.481,6554.44
20EdinburghUnited Kingdom1,054317.004.531,357.004.58

Best cities for free tourist attractions

A city could have hundreds of tourist attractions but if you have to pay an entry fee each time, your trip total will get expensive quickly. As part of our study, we reviewed the cities that offered the most, and the highest-rated, free tourist attractions. 

Based on this, London came out as the top destination to visit for tourists looking for the best combination of highly-rated free attractions and the total number of these attractions available to tourists. 

RankFree Attractions ScoreDestinationCountryNumber of All Free AttractionsAverage Rating of All Free Attractions
11,049LondonUnited Kingdom1,3894.41
2973New YorkUnited States6264.48
3840ParisFrance6804.40
4745Washington DCUnited States2064.48
5744RomeItaly9434.41

Cities with the highest number of free tourist attractions

London in the United Kingdom comes out on top for the sheer number of free attractions available (1,389), with The British Museum coming in pole position with an average rating of 4.5/5. Rome, Italy comes in second offering tourists 943 attractions to choose from that require no entry fee. See the top five cities for the number of free tourist attractions below:

RankCityCountryNumber of Free AttractionsAverage Rating of Free Attractions
1LondonUK1,3894.41
2RomeItaly9434.41
3ParisFrance6804.40
4New YorkUSA6264.48
5MilanItaly5984.37

Cities with the highest rated free tourist attractions

While having a lot of free tourist attractions on offer is important, so is the quality of where you will be spending precious vacation days. 

When looking at free attractions ranked by average rating, it’s actually Niagara, Canada that comes out on top, with its free attractions having an average rating of 4.75/5. Most tourists visit the area to see the magnificent Niagara Falls which are actually free to go and see provided you don’t want to go on a boat, as that becomes a paid attraction. 

After Niagara, Spain’s Seville claims the second spot, with its free attractions rated an average of 4.69/5 by visitors. See the best cities for the highest rated free tourist attractions below: 

RankCityCountryNumber of Free AttractionsAverage Rating of Free Attractions
1NiagaraCanada484.75
2SevilleSpain2024.69
3Quebec CityCanada1004.64
4EdinburghUnited Kingdom3174.53
5FlorenceItaly3424.50

Best cities for paid tourist attractions 

For those who don’t mind paying for admission, there are a lot of cities that have engaging museums, and stunning sites of history. Tokyo, Japan, comes out on top with paid attractions such as the Tokyo National Museum (costing around $6/ticket), rated 4.5/5 from over 2,000 reviews, as well the Instagram hotspot that is teamLab Borderless (costing around $30/ticket), a spectacle of light shows and artwork. 

Here are the best cities for paid tourist attractions (scored by both quantity and quality of paid attractions): 

RankPaid Tourist Attraction ScoreDestinationCountryNumber of Paid AttractionsAverage Rating of Paid Attractions (/5)
1797TokyoJapan11,4634.2
2795Denpasar (Bali)Indonesia9,3384.6
3756IstanbulTurkey4,0074.54
4682New YorkUnited States4,9804.52
5674LondonUnited Kingdom6,9874.42

Cities with the highest number of paid tourist attractions 

As mentioned, Tokyo has the highest number of paid attractions, followed by Bali, Indonesia. While Bali is not technically a city, due to the island’s small size, tourist attractions are always a short drive or boat ride away from the center of Denpasar, with many tourists choosing to stay in towns around the island. 

Paris claims the third spot offering the third-most paid attractions in the study (7,415), as well as a strong 4.44 out of 5 average rating from happy tourists. 

RankDestinationCountryNumber of All Paid AttractionsAverage Rating of All Paid Attractions
1TokyoJapan11,4634.20
2BaliIndonesia9,3384.60
3ParisFrance7,4154.44
4LondonUnited Kingdom6,9874.42
5RomeItaly5,0194.54

Cities with the highest-rated paid tourist attractions

As for the destinations that have the highest-rates paid tourist attractions, the story changes quite a lot with a huge focus on the United States. New Orleans, Key West, Buffalo, and West Palm Beach, all have the joint-highest average rating of their paid attractions at 4.67 out of 5. 

Although tourists will not get anywhere near the amount of paid attractions in the likes of Tokyo, reviews here do typically average a higher score, providing some indication that the experience is worth the price of admission. 

RankDestinationCountryNumber of All Paid AttractionsAverage Rating of All Paid Attractions
1=New OrleansUnited States1,2004.67
1=Key WestUnited States7344.67
1=BuffaloUnited States2574.67
1=West Palm BeachUnited States2164.67
5=Playa del CarmenMexico1,1634.66
5=NaplesUnited States5254.66

Best cities for museums and art galleries

The tourists who visit destinations for a little bit of culture, rather than an itinerary of partying and nightlife, will likely be finding their way to as many museums, galleries, and art exhibits as they possibly can. Our study found that New Orleans, USA, is the best city for these types of tourists, especially with The National WWII Museum there, averaging 5/5 from over 30,000 visitor reviews. 

London, UK returns again to claim the second spot for museums and art galleries led by The British Museum which has a solid 4.5/5 rating from over 73,000 tourist reviews. While London has far more museums and galleries than New Orleans, the Birthplace of Jazz has much higher average ratings for these attractions. 

RankMuseum/Gallery/Exhibit ScoreDestinationCountryAverage Rating of All MuseumsNumber of All MuseumsAverage Rating of All Art Galleries/ExhibitsNumber of All Art Exhibits/Galleries
1586New OrleansUnited States4.811424.890
2501LondonUnited Kingdom4.384574.24244
3468VeniceItaly4.411954.36134
4422Key WestUnited States4.49614.7842
5411New YorkUnited States4.573604.24218

Best cities for historical attractions

For the history buffs,  our study reviewed historical attractions that each city has to offer. To do this, we analyzed the review data from historic sites, historic walks, as well as religious and sacred sites of interest, a true collection of what might interest historians outside of the museums. 

With those categories in mind, the best city for historical tourist attractions was Rome, Italy, scoring the highest based on both free and paid historical attractions. Overall Italian cities dominate the top five ranking for historical tourist attractions, with Venice and Milan ranking highly, meaning history enthusiasts need to head to Italy for the highest quality and number of attractions. 

RankHistorical Attraction ScoreDestinationCountryAverage Rating of All Historical AttractionsNumber of Free Historical AttractionsNumber of Paid Historical Attractions
1332RomeItaly4.49247570
2319IstanbulTurkey4.5279321
3268VeniceItaly4.4771260
4267MilanItaly4.49131167
5243TokyoJapan3.891352,690

Best cities for walking attractions 

To work out which cities offered the best offering for walkers, we analyzed the attraction total and review data for both free and paid parks, hiking trails, walking tours, bike tours, and the price per person for said tours. Using those attraction categories, the best city for those looking to get their 10,000 steps in while on vacation was found to be Las Vegas, USA

Long walks are likely not the first things that come to mind when thinking about Vegas, but near the ‘Entertainment Capital of the World’ are some extraordinary hikes and views, such as those found in the Valley of Fire State National Park, which is around 40 minutes driving directly from the Vegas Strip.

Houston sneaks into second gaining points due to its affordable average cost of walking and bike tours in the city at just under $60 pp. Tourists are encouraged to visit the city’s underground tunnels, various food tours, or even hunt for the ghosts that haunt the city at night. 

Here are the top five cities ranked by their walking and hiking offerings: 

RankWalking Attraction ScoreDestinationCountryAverage Rating of All Walking AttractionsNumber of Free Walking AttractionsNumber of Paid Walking AttractionsAverage Price of Walking/Bike Tour pp
11,256Las VegasUnited States4.679173$203.09
21,056HoustonUnited States4.481943$59.99
3998TorontoCanada4.640150$71.86
4977San FranciscoUnited States4.5035197$100.94
5950New YorkUnited States4.5148795$74.36

America’s top cities for tourist attractions

For those Americans on vacation who don’t want to leave the country, and are choosing a staycation instead, we also reviewed America’s top cities based on tourist attractions. New York comes out on top with the best combination of free and paid tourist attraction quantity and quality. Not only is it the city with the highest number of free tourist attractions in America (626), but these free attractions are also the joint-second highest rated in the country at 4.48, paired with state neighbor Buffalo. 

Chicago comes in second, having the third-most overall tourist attractions (2,403), and the joint-second highest-rated paid historical landmarks (4.51/5) alongside Honolulu, Hawaii

Here are the best cities in America ranked by their tourist attraction offering:

Tourist Attraction Rank in the U.S.Tourist Attraction ScoreCityStateNumber of Free AttractionsRating of Free AttractionsNumber of Paid AttractionsRating of Paid Attractions
11,884New YorkNew York6264.484,9804.52
21,237ChicagoIllinois2194.442,1844.60
31,177San DiegoCalifornia1764.461,5264.61
41,165New OrleansLouisiana2414.431,2004.67
51,089San FranciscoCalifornia3114.332,0164.50
61,049Los AngelesCalifornia1874.222,4864.46
71,027Washington DCDistrict of Columbia2064.481,0574.4
81,016Key WestFlorida1234.387344.67
9993Las VegasNevada2214.342,1554.49
10954NaplesFlorida544.445254.66

The Best Cities for Tourist Attractions Index

If you want to see how each city performed in each category we analyzed in this study, see the full Tourist Attraction Index below:

Sources

Methodology

The data for this study (145,996 attractions and 22,920,408 reviews) was collected from TripAdvisor on the 20th June 2022.  A relative percentage threshold of reviews per category was implemented to ensure attractions with very few visitors were not affecting the overall average. Cities that had less than 30 reviews per attraction category TripAdvisor were discounted from the study. 

Data was taken from TripAdvisor’s categories of attractions per city. The ‘Historical landmarks’ rating in our study accounts for the following categories of attractions: historic sites, historic walking areas, churches and cathedrals, sacred and religious sites. 

Cities were ranked on 28 separate data points related to free and paid tourist attractions that can be visited in or from the city. 

The ranking favors free attractions slightly more than paid attractions to highlight the cities that offer more to do for better value. Here is the full weighting in the ranking:

Triple weighting

  • Total number of all attractions

Double weighting:

  • Number of free attractions 
  • Number of paid attractions
  • Total average rating of all attractions

One and a half weighting: 

  • Total average rating of free attractions 
  • Number of free museums 
  • Total average rating of free museums 
  • Number of free art galleries and exhibits
  • Total average rating of free art galleries and exhibits
  • Number of free historical landmarks
  • Total average rating of free art galleries and exhibits
  • Number of free hikes
  • Total average rating of free hikes
  • Number of free parks
  • Total average rating of free parks

Full/one weighting:

  • Total average rating of paid attractions 
  • Number of paid museums 
  • Total average rating of paid museums
  • Number of paid art galleries and exhibits
  • Total average rating of paid art galleries and exhibits 
  • Number of paid historical landmarks
  • Total average rating of paid art galleries and exhibits
  • Number of paid hikes 
  • Total average rating of paid hikes
  • Number of paid parks
  • Total average rating of paid parks
  • Number of paid walking/bike tours
  • Total average rating of paid walking/bike tours 
  • Price of an average walking/bike tour

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