In addition to being the largest continent on Earth and the most populous, Asia is home to some of the most amazing and attractive cities in the world. Its great variety and diversity means that each city has its own look, feel and identity, with something new to discover wherever you go.
While some are famous for their fantastic culinary scenes and lively nightlife, others boast impressive historical monuments and cultural attractions. Their settings also vary: some are located in beautiful bays, while others are perched between mountains or nestled in arid deserts.
Home to millions of people who speak unique languages and display rich cultures and religious beliefs, Asia’s many cities are delightfully different from one another. Therefore, there is a place for every type of traveler to enjoy.
Colorful and chaotic, Bangkok is the cultural, commercial and spiritual heart of Thailand. The country’s capital is also home to some of the friendliest and most welcoming people in the world; This is, in part, what makes her so attractive.
Situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the vast city has many different faces. You can find ancient temples and palaces alongside lively street markets and a pulsing nightlife. In addition, it has one of the best culinary scenes on the planet.
Rapidly modernizing, but still full of ancient traditions and customs, Bangkok is the best that the “land of smiles” has to offer.
Situated at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, the city-state of Singapore is a very compact, comfortable and cool place to visit.
It is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and is home to plenty of skyscrapers, modern shopping malls, and bustling neighborhoods. However, there is a surprising amount of nature, with the beautiful Botanical Gardens being particularly lovely to relax in.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Singapore
As it is very multicultural, the city’s Chinese, Malaysian and Indian influences can be seen wherever you go. Singaporeans are obsessed with food, and the many restaurants and street food stalls serve up loads of local delicacies.
3. Hong Kong
Hong Kong, which calls itself “the world city of Asia”, is certainly very different and distinct from mainland China. This is because the port city was a former British colony and was not returned to China until 1997.
Attractive for both business and tourists, it has many excellent restaurants, bars and shops, and also offers places of historical and cultural interest. In addition, the city is home to Disneyland and Ocean Park, both very popular with families.
Notably, much of Hong Kong is made up of mountains and parks, with Victoria Park enjoying incredible views of both the iconic city skyline and Victoria Harbor. Hong Kong is one of the best cities in the world, a perfect mix of culture, nature and entertainment.
India’s bustling capital Delhi is home to endless different sights, sounds, and smells that sometimes threaten to overwhelm the senses.
Exploring its hectic streets is an exasperating yet intoxicating experience as you pass through colorful markets and tempting street food stalls. With impressive shrines, temples, tombs and mosques everywhere you look, history, culture and tradition surround you. Of its many sights, the imposing Red Fort is the most prominent.
Despite being a noisy, chaotic and polluted place, Delhi is one of the undisputed jewels of the country. Visiting it is simply a must when in India.
Beijing, one of the oldest and largest cities on Earth, is packed with astonishing historical monuments and cultural sights that date back centuries, if not millennia. Although the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace are among its most famous landmarks, the city has much, much more to offer.
As it was the capital of three imperial dynasties, the city is dotted with splendid temples and parks. Theaters, museums, and art galleries also abound, while the Great Wall of China – one of the country’s must-see sights – is nearby.
Beijing, the capital of modern-day China, is a fascinating place with a wealth of fine art, culture, and cuisine for you to delve into.
6. Luang Prabang
Located in northern Laos, at the point where the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet, Luang Prabang is in a picturesque location. Surrounded by mountains, rainforest, and waterfalls, it has tons of incredible kayak tours, river cruises, and hikes to enjoy.
Although its natural wonders are a delight to explore, the small town also boasts a rich cultural and religious heritage. Home to a large number of Buddhist temples and monasteries, its Laotian name means “real image of Buddha.” The city, long ruled by France, also has some charming old villas dating back to colonial times.
Luang Prabang is a charming mix of history, nature and culture that is worth visiting if you get the chance.
Seoul, a sprawling metropolis, is home to almost half of South Korea’s population. As such, it bustles with life as people flock to its huge shopping malls and lively night markets.
Although at first glance it seems very modern, there are pockets of historical places here and there. Chandeok-gung Palace, for example, is worth a visit, as are its many temples and glittering museums. Nature is not far either, as there are many magnificent mountains in the Namsan and Bukhansan national parks.
Famous for its gastronomy, Seoul also has excellent restaurants and street markets for you to try. The South Korean capital has it all: culture, gastronomy, history and nature.
The commercial capital of India, the port city of Mumbai is one of the most populous metropolises in the world. As such, everyone and everything can be found within its sprawling confines.
Situated on the west coast, Mumbai, as it was formerly known, is fast, hectic, and fun to explore. In many ways, the city defies definition: not only is it home to the dazzling world of Bollywood, but also widespread poverty in its endless slums.
Although its crowded streets can be somewhat suffocating, Mumbai boasts absolutely stunning colonial-era architecture, centuries-old temples, and marvelous monuments. With a fantastic culinary scene and fast-paced nightlife to explore, Mumbai is worth persevering.
Steeped in history, Bukhara is a magical place to visit, with mausoleums, madrassas, mosques and minarets everywhere you look. Situated on the ancient Silk Road, the city has long welcomed travelers and merchants, scholars and scientists in its ancient streets.
Situated in the arid confines of the Kyzyl Kum desert, the “City of Museums” is home to an astonishing array of historic buildings dating back centuries. The architecture is magnificent, and getting lost in the atmospheric Old Town is the best way to see its many sights.
However, the ancient city is still buzzing with life and as you stroll through it, you will come across plenty of market stalls selling some amazing local handicrafts. With so many things to see and do, Bukhara is the highlight of any trip to Uzbekistan.
Fought, destroyed, and rebuilt numerous times over the millennia, Jerusalem is like no other place on Earth. This is because it is home to some of the holiest places in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
Inside the walls of the Old City are not only the Western Wall, but also the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. History is present wherever you look, and its ancient streets are full of pilgrims who come to pay their respects. Each of its neighborhoods has its own identity, and getting lost in its warlike streets is part of what makes Jerusalem so magical.
Although its many archaeological sites are captivating, the city also has brilliant art galleries and museums for you to enjoy. Divided between Israel and Palestine, Jerusalem has many different and equally charming facets.
Although famous for hosting the world-renowned Terracotta Warriors Army, Xi’an in northern China has much, much more. With over 3,000 years of history, the city has an astonishing array of archaeological and cultural sights for you to delve into.
In addition to being the capital of 13 different Chinese dynasties, it was once the end point of the Silk Road. As such, commerce, wealth, and people from all walks of life came to the city, and each era and generation left its mark on Xi’an.
With incredible tombs and pagodas along the walls of the Ming era and the magical Muslim Quarter, this wonderful city is a delight to explore.
Located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Agra is known for only one thing: the Taj Mahal.
Built by the Mughal emperor in 1658, the mausoleum is undoubtedly a majestic sight and one of the most popular tourist attractions in India.
Besides its magnificent white marble elements, Agra is home to many temples, gardens and tombs, and its fantastic fort is another of its main attractions. Additionally, many combine their visit to Agra with a stop at Fatehpur Sikri, a walled city and imperial palace located nearby.
Situated in the center of the world’s most populous metropolitan area, Japan’s futuristic capital is an exhilarating place to explore.
Known for its skyscrapers and cutting-edge technology, the neon-lit city stretches infinitely before you. Among its towering blocks are impressive temples and museums that proudly display Japan’s rich heritage and history.
Whether you’re into cooking and calligraphy, cherry blossoms and consumer products, there’s no doubt that Tokyo has something for everyone. Creative, innovative and quirky in equal measure, this massive metropolis is not to be missed when in Japan.
14. Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur is a fascinating melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences. It is these diverse communities that have so profoundly influenced the look, feel and identity of the city.
Consequently, visitors will find majestic minarets and mosques, alongside ancient temples and the massive Petronas Towers, which define the city. Huge shopping malls are also on offer, as well as a thriving arts and culture scene.
Its multicultural makeup has also endowed Kuala Lumpur with a host of delicious cuisines, so no visit can be complete without trying some of its brilliant street food.
Located in the north of Taiwan, the capital of the island country is a fascinating place to visit. And it is that the city has a rich and unique cultural heritage, with American, Japanese and Southeast Asian influences.
Thus, you will find Taoist temples alongside mansions from the Japanese era, bustling markets and huge skyscrapers. Among its many museums, the National Palace Museum is worth visiting for the information it offers on the history and culture of the island.
In addition to its many attractions and thriving arts and culture scene, Taipei also has plenty of fabulous shops, restaurants, and bars for you to try. The Taiwanese capital has it all, as it has many entertainment options.
16. Chiang Mai
Situated in northern Thailand on the banks of the Ping River, Chiang Mai has long drawn traders and travelers to its banks.
Once the capital of the Lan Na kingdom, its historic center is protected and surrounded by ancient walls. Enclosed among them, you can find incredible temples, pagodas, stupas and museums, with Wat Phra Singh being its most famous attraction. While the city has a lovely laid-back vibe, its wonderful night bazaar is buzzing with life and is not to be missed.
Surrounded by lush tropical forests and picturesque countryside, with beautiful mountains not far away, Chiang Mai is a great alternative or complement to the busy streets of Bangkok.
The epic skyline of Dubai, rising out of the desert, is a testament to human creativity and engineering. Transformed by oil money, this once sleepy coastal settlement is not only one of the commercial and cultural capitals of the United Arab Emirates, but also of the Middle East.
Very cosmopolitan, Dubai constantly pushes the limits of what is possible. Thus, it is home to the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) and the man-made Palm Islands.
In addition, it is a shopper’s dream, while its culinary and night scenes are just as fun and fresh in terms of offering. History and heritage are not far off either, and the endless sands of the Arabian desert are begging to be explored.
Shanghai is one of the largest, most populated and most important cities, not only in China, but in the world, and it has something that everyone will like.
Situated at the point where the Yangtze Estuary meets the East China Sea, the city’s skyline is dominated by a myriad of skyscrapers. However, hidden among them is an astonishing variety of architectural styles, with Buddhist temples and Art Deco buildings.
Known for its fabulous culinary scene and pulsating nightlife, it is also one of the best places in the world to shop. With a thriving arts and culture scene, Shanghai, with its endless possibilities, is one of Asia’s must-see cities.
19. Phnom Penh
Known in its day as the “Paris of the East”, Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, is slowly resurfacing and awakening after decades of colonialism, war and revolution.
Situated on the banks of the Bassac, Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, the bustling city boasts the impressive Royal Palace, as well as a series of grand boulevards and French colonial buildings. However, many of its historical monuments are sadly related to the tragic events that took place in the country in the 70s.
With plenty of cozy cafes, atmospheric bars and great restaurants, Phnom Penh is slowly leaving its past behind and becoming a popular tourist destination again.
Kathmandu, stretching as far as the eye can see, fills the valley it is in with its colorful and chaotic sprawl. Known as the ‘City of Temples’, the capital of Nepal boasts a wide variety of centuries-old historical and cultural sights.
Durbar Square, for example, has more than 50 beautiful temples, while Hanuman Dhoka has plenty of magnificent palaces and courtyards to enjoy. As history surrounds you, the country’s rich cultural heritage lives on in vibrant religious festivals that are held regularly.
Nepal’s largest city, Kathmandu, is an exhilarating but equally exhausting place. However, it must be visited before heading to the majestic mountains and towering peaks of the Himalayas.
Located in the northeast of the country, “the Pink City” – as it is known – is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India, and with good reason.
Although it is mainly known for the huge and majestic Amber Fort, the city has a whole series of beautiful palaces, temples and monuments. Of them, Jantar Mantar and the City Palace are the most prominent.
The capital of the state of Rajasthan, Jaipur, is colorful and chaotic in equal measure; this is what makes it so much fun to explore. With rickshaws speeding by and magnificent pink buildings everywhere you look, Jaipur serves as a wonderful introduction to the many riches of India.
Kyoto, which is reputed to be the most beautiful city in Japan, is a delight. Capital of the nation for more than a thousand years, it has a lot of incredible historical monuments and cultural attractions.
In its ancient streets you will find wonderful palaces and idyllic gardens, as well as 2,000 Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Of these, the Imperial Palace, Kinkakuji Temple, and Ryoanji Temple are the most impressive.
Furthermore, its historic district of Gion is also worth exploring. It is here that many traditional geishas and inns can be found. Although Kyoto is a lovely place to visit at any time of the year, it is especially magical when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
One of the most densely populated cities in the world, the chaotic capital of the Philippines can be a bit difficult to fall in love with at first sight. However, it is worth persevering, as its towering skyscrapers and traffic-filled streets hide a lot of wonderful and unique places.
Founded by the Spanish in 1571, the city is located on the shores of Manila Bay, crossed by the Pasig River. Old and new blend seamlessly in Manila, as modern shopping malls coexist with colonial-era churches and cathedrals.
Filled with trendy bars, artisan markets and avant-garde art galleries, and with a great nightlife, the “Pearl of the Orient” is undoubtedly one of the largest megacities in Asia.
24. Ho Chi Minh City
Cultural and commercial capital of the country, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam. Formerly known as Saigon, it is very different from Hanoi in terms of identity and perspective.
Bustling with life, the city is a fun yet frenetic place to explore, with something happening every hour of the day. With so many different facets, Ho Chi Minh City caters to all budgets and preferences, be it in terms of dining and accommodation, shopping or entertainment.
Historic and religious sites also abound, as colonial-era buildings sit alongside magnificent museums, ancient pagodas, and modern shopping malls.
The capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, is the second largest city in the country and features a fascinating mix of Chinese, French and Vietnamese influences. Thus, splendid buildings from the colonial era can be seen alongside ancient temples and pagodas, some of which date back a thousand years or more.
The impressive historical monuments are never far away in Hanoi. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the One Pillar Pagoda are among its most popular attractions. The city is also home to a number of excellent museums that offer an interesting insight into the history, heritage, and culture of the country.
Although the streets of Hanoi, full of motorcycles, can be quite noisy and chaotic, peace and quiet can be found in any of its cute and charming cafes and restaurants. The Vietnamese capital, with its lively street markets, is an ideal place to pick up local handicrafts and souvenirs.