World Capital Cities, Ranked From Worst to First
A nation's capital is not just a place where laws and decisions are made. It's a global representation of a country, luring travelers to see and learn about how other cultures and nations operate.
Using visitor arrival statistics from Euromonitor's 2019 travel review — when there weren't any travel restrictions — combined with social media numbers, we ranked 30 of the world's most visited capital cities from worst to first.
How does your country's capital city rank?
30. Stockholm, Sweden
Population: 1.63 million
Stockholm's tourism has been slow compared to other capitals around the world, with just over 2.7 million annual visitors in 2019. Euromonitor saw its arrival numbers slipping, but that doesn't mean this lovely and very clean city on the water should be ignored.
Visit the Vasa Museum to discover Swedish maritime history, even the harbor of Djurgarden, and explore the Drottningholm and Royal palaces — 13 million Instagram tags are filled with beautiful imagery.
*All population stats came from World Population Review's 2020 numbers of greater metropolitan areas.
29. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Population: 15 million
Euromonitor saw tourism and business travel to Buenos Aires drop significantly between 2013 and 2018, where it slipped 31 spots in the annual ranking. Last year, it fell another four spots. Blame the city's debt and recession.
Hopefully, the city pulls out because this stylish capital should be on more travel must-sees. The city has a European look with decidedly Argentinian flair.
28. Warsaw, Poland
Population: 1.77 million
Warsaw was nearly obliterated during World War II, with up to 90 percent of its buildings destroyed. Seventy-five years later, the city's rebuilt neighborhoods, Soviet landmarks and even some historic places that made it through the bombings provide things to see.
However, just 3.5 percent growth in arrivals has caused the city to lose steam on the Euromonitor list, falling four places in the 2019 ranking.
27. Tel Aviv, Israel
Population: 4.18 million
When people think of Israel, they typically think of Jerusalem. But Tel Aviv is a place to see and be seen, with its beautiful Mediterranean beaches that attracted nearly 3 million visitors in 2019.
Unfortunately, those numbers are dropping and have been for some time, according to Euromonitor. That just means more people are missing out on the cultural seaside Jaffa and the Museum of Art.
26. Copenhagen, Denmark
Population: 1.35 million
It's not the biggest capital in Europe, nor goes it climb into the top 50 cities visited in the world, but Copenhagen's charm did warrant more than 3 million arrivals in 2019.
Visitors flock to the oldest amusement park in the world, Tivoli Gardens, and the colorful and historic Nyhavn (pictured). And don't forget to check the city out on social — there are close to 1 billion tags for Copenhagen for a reason!
25. Lisbon, Portugal
Population: 2.96 million
Lisbon was on a roll for a while there, moving up nine spots on Euromonitor's ranking for its arrival numbers. But it lost its mojo and dropped two places, experiencing slower growth than the other capitals on this list — just a 2.8 percent increase in arrivals (even before COVID caused a lockdown).
This just means fewer crowds when visiting sites like the Castelo de Sao Jorge, the National Museum of Ancient Art, the Jeronimos Monastery and Belem Tower.
24. Budapest, Hungary
Population: 1.76 million
Euromonitor reports more than 4 million visitors to Budapest and Instagram touts 13 million pictures of the Hungarian capital. And why not? This city along the Danube River is absolutely gorgeous.
Visitors can take in the majestic Buda Castle, the Hungarian Parliament and the Fisherman's Bastion from a river cruise, and then enjoy the thermally heated waters of a traditional Hungarian bath.
23. Brussels, Belgium
Population: 2.08 million
The home of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since 1966, Brussels welcomes the world to its Boulevard Leopold and its Grand Place or Grote Markt.
It was losing steam between 2013 and 2018, but Euromonitor saw a two-point bump in 2019 with arrival growth at 8.5 percent.
22. Beijing, China
Population: 20.46 million
There are many Chinese cities on Euromonitor's list, including three others that receive more annual visitors than its capital, as Beijing continues to get less attention from travelers. Maybe it's because a lot of them have already visited Beijing?
It's difficult to tell, but skipping this capital city would mean missing the 15th century Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven and access to the Great Wall of China.
21. Hanoi, Vietnam
Population: 4.68 million
Vietnam's tourism, pre-COVID, was climbing like a rocket. Between 2013 and 2018, its capital rose 21 spots on Euromonitor's most-visit rankings, and its growth held steady at 9 percent.
Visitors can enjoy the Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Thang Long Imperial Citadel and the historic Old Quarter's train street (pictured). And speaking of pictures, this destination has been tagged some 6.8 million times on Instagram.
20. Dublin, Ireland
Population: 1.2 million
Dublin's lockdown in 2020 has meant its bars and pubs have been closed for months, but the Irish capital has always been about more than a silly stereotype.
Nearly 5 million people visit the city every year, and that number has remained steady for three consecutive years on Euromonitor's review. Sure, the Guinness Storehouse is one of the top attractions, but so are Dublin's shopping, parks, churches and castles.
19. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Population: 7.23 million
To Americans, Saudi Arabia may not be on the radar. It only allowed tourist visas to be granted to U.S. citizens for the first time in 2018.
But Riyadh is one of the richest cities of the Middle East and a business center, receiving more than 5 million people every year and landing in Euromonitor's top 50 most visited cities, let alone capitals.
18. Madrid, Spain
Population: 6.5 million
The ever-lively Spanish capital averages around 5 million visitors every year, pacing 2 million behind Barcelona. The capital may not have beaches and Gaudi, but it does feature grand museums, parks and palaces.
From its cosmopolitan boulevards and bustling squares to its late-night restaurants and fanciful Flamenco dancing, the love on Insta can be seen in more than 40 million posts.
17. Moscow, Russia
Population: 12.41 million
Euromonitor may have seen Moscow fall 10 spots between 2013 and 2018, but nearly 6 million arrivals in 2019 illustrate just how popular the Russian capital is among travelers.
Of the more than 55 million photos posted on Instagram, the majority of them highlight the Red Square, St. Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin.
16. Athens, Greece
Population: 3.15 million
The birthplace of modern civilization experienced an economic crash that, although not good for business, brought tourists looking for a cheaper European getaway. What they got was a bang for their buck, considering Athens is home to the ancient Acropolis, where the Parthenon stands tall and overlooks the city.
Whether it's a launching pad to get to the Greek isles or not, nearly a million photos of the city are tagged on Instagram, and the city saw a 10 percent increase in arrivals in 2019.
15. Cairo, Egypt
Population: 20 million
Cairo saw some strife in the early 2000s but has cleaned up its act to welcome back the 4 to 6 million visitors that descend into the desert annually. Experiencing over 31 percent growth in arrivals between 2013 and 2018, it jumped another 18 percent in 2019.
This is the home of the Great Pyramid of Giza, after all. This ancient wonder of the world has stood here for 4,500 years.
14. Berlin, Germany
Population: 3.65 million
Once a city divided by the Berlin Wall, a daily reminder of its horrific past, Berlin built itself back up for good and has become a major business center of Europe.
More than 45 million Instagram posts feature the rebuilt city that welcomed more than 6 million visitors in 2019, many of whom passed through Brandenburg Gate (pictured).
13. Vienna, Austria
Population: 1.9 million
Once the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and the Austrian Empire, and one of the largest cities in Europe, it was the assassination of its Archduke in 1914 that set off the first World War.
The city's grandeur never faded and can be seen via its palaces like Schonbrunn, Belvedere and the Hofburg.
12. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Population: 1.15 million
It's difficult not to fall head over heels for Amsterdam when seeing the canals wind through cobbled streets, flower boxes spilling over bridges and basketed cruisers serving as the main form of transportation.
More than 33 million pictures of this fairytale setting are tagged on Instagram, with loads of love for its charming architecture and multitude of museums.
11. Seoul, South Korea
Population: 9.96 million
Seoul dropped 10 points on Euromonitor's rankings between 2013 and 2018 but climbed back up to more than 9 million visitors in 2019.
The city's heart can be found in its eclectic neighborhoods that tout modern South Korean cuisine and goods as well as in its beautiful palaces, gardens and temples featuring history on display. Bukchon Hanok Village is a heritage village that allows you to step back 600 years into the past.
10. Prague, Czechia
Population: 1.31 million
There are more than 17 million tags on Instagram showcasing exactly why Prague ranks in the top 10 most visited capital cities. It holds steady on Euromonitor's list with more than 9 million arriving in this fairytale destination.
Its spires and towers are straight out of a fantasy, earning it the nickname the "City of 100 Towers" as well as the "Rooftop of Europe."
9. Tokyo, Japan
Population: 37.49 million
Japan's capital jumped 15 spots on Euromonitor's rankings by 2018, another last year and was expected to rise even further with the 2020 Olympic Games.
While the games didn't happen this year, they have been rescheduled for 2021, and more people from around the world will descend upon this city known for being both a business and tourist center.
8. Rome, Italy
Population: 4.26 million
Although Rome has been slowly falling on Euromonitor's list, the Italian capital city still lands in the top 10 and has more than 26.5 million posts on Instagram from lovers of the city.
Rome's history changed the course of Europe and the world, and left standing are remnants of its ancient past: the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum and oh so much more.
7. Delhi, India
Population: 30.29 million
India's cities are notoriously filled with people, but the one that lures travelers the most is its capital city, which jumped 30 places in the Euromonitor ranking in 2018 and three more spaces in 2019.
With arrivals pouring into Delhi at more than 20 percent growth, it took a pandemic to slow it down.
6. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Population: 7.56 million
Malaysia's capital received between 12.8 and 14 million annual arrivals during the last three years and is one of the major business centers of not only the country but all of Southeast Asia.
Its sky-high twin Petronas towers are the world's tallest, and from the skyscrapers of downtown to the 400-million-year-old Batu Caves, this is a city that has it all.
5. Paris, France
Population: 10.9 million
The City of Love keeps its top Euromonitor spot, witnessing 10 percent year-over-growth in visitors. It's no surprise that everyone loves Paris, and it has 123 million Instagram tags to prove it.
From iconic structures like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre to the priceless works of art found in 130 different museums within its tree-lined city limits, "Paris is always a good idea."
Population: 5.79 million
Maybe it was "Crazy Rich Asians" showcasing the beauty and splendor of Singapore that made even more Westerners take notice of this city-state, which has more than 39 million Instagram tags and lands in Euromonitor's top five with more than 19 million visitors.
The Gardens by the Bay look just as stunning in person as they do in the film, and who hasn't dreamed of visiting the rooftop infinity pool atop the Marina Bay Sands hotel (pictured in background)?
3. London, England
Population: 9.05 million
London may have dropped from its No. 1 spot on Euromonitor's rankings in recent years, but more than 19 million people visited the always-bustling British capital more than three straight years. Hashtag London on Instagram, and you'll find more than 143 million tags!
There are so many reasons to visit London, as it's the English-speaking capital of Europe. Home to the British monarchy, travelers can witness the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, visit the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London and marvel at the architecture of Westminister.
2. Bangkok, Thailand
Population: 10.16 million
Euromonitor found Thailand's capital to be the second greatest in terms of arrivals for three consecutive years. In 2019, nearly 26 million people descended up Bangkok.
Its top attractions are the structurally and culturally stunning Wat Arun Ratchawararam (pictured), the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew temple, royal residence and temple, respectively.
1. Hong Kong
Population: 7.5 million
Euromonitor's most visited city in the world for three consecutive years saw the arrival of nearly 27 million people in 2019. And there were more than 37 million Instagram hashtags for the once-again Chinese city (although it's still allowed to operate as an independent country).
Not only is the city a leader in business travel, but tourism is high from catching the city views atop Victoria Peak or from visiting top attractions like Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Disneyland.