This City Was the World’s Most Visited in 2023

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There’s something distinctly magical about the soft light of Istanbul. The sun seems to hover in a totally different way there, casting what appears to be a forever golden hour glow. Perhaps that’s part of the reason more than 20 million people flew to the ancient Turkish city in 2023. 


Or, maybe it’s for sights like the Hagia Sophia. Or perhaps it’s to shop in the Grand Bazaar or stay in the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, voted the number one hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure readers in the 2023 World’s Best Awards. And I mean, come on, of course, people also go for the baklava.  


Whatever the reason, people truly seem to be flocking to Istanbul. And those more than 20 million arrivals made it the number one city for international arrivals on earth in 2023, according to Euromonitor International’s World’s Top 100 City Destinations report. 


“International travel has continued to make a strong recovery in 2023, with 38 percent growth in terms of the number of trips, projected to reach 1.3 billion by the end of the year,” the report’s findings stated. “Istanbul tops the list for the number of International arrivals in 2023 with 26 percent growth year-on-year.” 


Istanbul was followed by London in second place for most international arrivals (up 17 percent) and Dubai in third (up 18 percent). Rounding out the top five is the beachside Turkish city of Antalya, followed by Paris in fifth. 


The report noted that a good deal of international travel’s recovery in 2023 can be credited to the return of Chinese international travel after that nation lifted its quarantine. In return, Hong Kong saw a massive resurgence in international arrivals too, marking a 2,495 percent increase in 2023. 


And 2024 may be a bigger year than ever for travel to Istanbul and the entire nation. In January, Turkey relaxed its visa requirements for North Americans (Canadians and Americans included), allowing them to travel visa-free for up to 90 days.

“Americans vacationing in Türkiye no longer require a visa to visit what has become one of America’s favorite overseas travel destinations,” Go Türkiye previously shared with T+L. “2023 was the best year ever for American tourism to Türkiye, and with the cancellation of the visa requirement, 2024 is expected to be even bigger.”


The only downside is you’ll likely have to make reservations to all the must-see spots even earlier or wait in longer lines. But again, that’s OK. You can just pop into a cafe for a second helping of baklava. 

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