World's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions

  • The Louvre: World's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions

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    Embrace the wisdom of crowds by adding the world’s most-visited tourist attractions to your bucket list.

    From October 2011 By , , , , ,

    Ever heard of Everland or Lotte World? Most Americans have never planned a trip to these South Korean theme parks, yet they rank among the world’s 50 most-visited tourist attractions—beating out the Great Pyramids (4 million), the Taj Mahal (3 million), and Stonehenge (1 million). And there are more surprises.

    Where we choose to spend our vacation time says a lot about what we value, and despite—or perhaps because of—the lingering global economic crisis, we are traveling more than ever. International tourist arrivals were up 6.6 percent in 2010, according to the World Tourism Organization. China ousted Spain as the third most-visited country with 55.7 million foreign arrivals, while France and the U.S. held tight to their first and second place rankings.

    Like it or not, theme parks are just as appealing in these countries as they are in South Korea. Disneyland Paris drew the same number of visitors (10.5 million) as Sacré-Coeur, and two of the world’s 10 most-visited tourist attractions are Disney parks. America also dominates our list. Some credit goes to the weak U.S. dollar, which drew 8.7 percent more foreign tourists in 2010 than the previous year—and likely persuaded many Americans to explore within our vast borders.

    China and India are even bigger than the U.S., but their lack of dependable visitor statistics and limited domestic tourism markets help account for their few attractions on our list. Expect to see more of them over time; already attendance at Beijing’s Forbidden City has surged from 7 million visitors in 2007 to 12.83 million visitors in 2010.

    So what is the most-visited tourist attraction in the world? And can 39.2 million people be wrong? Read on to see the results—and an explanation of our methods for calculating it all.

    The Methodology: To tally up the world’s most-visited attractions, we gathered the most recent data supplied by the attractions themselves or from government agencies, industry reports, and reputable media outlets. Whenever available we used 2010 data; however, in the case of theme parks and a few other attractions, the most recent attendance numbers were from 2009.

    Attractions that don’t sell tickets gave us estimates as best they could. The Times Square Alliance was able to estimate that 80 percent of the 49 million tourists who visited New York in 2010 passed through Times Square. But Berlin’s East Side Gallery and London’s Trafalgar Square were excluded because their tourism bureaus couldn’t provide estimates that distinguished between visitors and locals.

    We defined “tourist attractions” as cultural and historical sites, natural landmarks, and officially designated spaces. So Boston’s shop-filled Faneuil Hall Marketplace (est. 1742) made the cut, but not Minnesota’s Mall of America—with 40 million annual visitors it would otherwise have been number one. Short walkways and waterfront promenades also fit our definition of tourist attractions; that disqualified the Blue Ridge Parkway. We also excluded sights that draw almost exclusively religious pilgrims.

    New attractions like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter lifted attendance at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Park in Orlando by more than 1.7 million visitors. Admission ticket sales beat out next-door neighbor Universal Studios, but since they’re all part of Universal Orlando Resort, we counted Universal only once. (We counted Orlando’s Disney parks separately since they are further apart than the other theme park resorts included.) —Lyndsey Matthews

  • Times Square: most-visited tourist attraction

    Photo: Andie Diemer

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    No. 1 Times Square, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 39,200,000

    Tourists flock to New York’s neon heart for the flashing lights, Broadway shows, megastores, and sheer spectacle. Pedestrian-only areas with café tables introduced in 2009 have only made it easier and more appealing to hang out here. Times Square can even be a convenient, if chaotic, base, thanks to hotels at every price point and easy access to public transportation: subways, rails, buses, and more yellow taxis than you can count. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: The Times Square Alliance

  • Central Park: most-visited tourist attraction

    Photo: Darcy Strobel

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    No. 2 Central Park, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 38,000,000

    New York has larger green spaces, but none is more famous than Central Park, which stretches across nearly 850 acres of prime Manhattan real estate—an oasis for both tourists and locals. You can ride in one of the famous horse-drawn carriages; check out the modest-size zoo; climb to the top of 19th-century Belvedere Castle; or take a break from pounding the pavement to sprawl on the Great Lawn, gazing at the skyscrapers above. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Central Park Conservancy

  • Union Station: most-visited tourist attractions

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    No. 3 Union Station, Washington, D.C.

    Annual Visitors: 37,000,000

    Opened in 1907, this busy station shuttles some 12,500 passengers daily in and out of the city. But it also handles serious tourist traffic: 37 million who pass through to take in the impeccably mixed architectural styles throughout the colossal building: from Classical to Beaux-Arts to Baroque. More than 70 retail outlets make Union Station a shopping destination, and it’s also a jumping-off point for many D.C. tours. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Union Station

  • Las Vegas Strip: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy

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    No. 4 Las Vegas Strip

    Annual Visitors: 29,467,000

    Sin City was hit hard by the recession, but don’t bet against this legendary destination, which got a boost from the summer 2009 blockbuster The Hangover. Last year, 79 percent of tourists (29,467,000 people) chose to stay at hotels right on the Strip like Caesar’s Palace—the choice of the movie’s zany four-pack. And why not? Roll out of bed and onto the Strip to catch the Bellagio fountains in action, shop, gamble, and, of course, people-watch (which can get especially fun later at night). —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

  • Niagara Falls: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: David Ball / Alamy

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    No. 5 Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario

    Annual Visitors: 22,500,000

    Straddling the borders of the U.S. and Canada, this massive waterfall spills about six million cubic feet of water—from a height ranging from 70 to 188 feet—every single minute. While there are about 500 taller waterfalls in the world, Niagara Falls is spectacular for its sheer power. It’s also more accessible than many major falls, a short flight or drive for millions of regional tourists. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp./Canadian Tourism Commission

  • Grand Central Terminal: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: Lyndsey Matthews

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    No. 6 Grand Central Terminal, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 21,600,000

    Unlike harried commuters, visitors take their time in the main concourse of this Beaux-Arts landmark, pausing to view its glittering ceiling painted with a map of the constellations from the night sky. There are shops and events to distract your attention, and, a level below, the historic Oyster Bar—featured on an episode of AMC’s Mad Men—serves two million fresh bivalves a year. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Grand Central Terminal

  • Faneuil Hall, Boston: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: Philip Scalia / Alamy

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    No. 7 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston

    Annual Visitors: 18,000,000

    Dating back to 1742, Faneuil Hall (“the Cradle of Liberty”) once hosted speeches by such greats as Samuel Adams and George Washington. Today, the downtown marketplace has more than 100 specialty shops and eateries and occupies a pedestrian-only, cobblestone area that swarms with tourists and street performers.  —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Faneuil Hall Marketplace

  • Disney World's Magic Kingdom: most-visited tourist attractions

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    No. 8 Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando

    Annual Visitors: 16,972,000

    The Most Magical Place on Earth is high on virtually every family’s to-do list and remains the most-visited theme park on the earth. The Kingdom’s most notable feature, naturally, is Cinderella’s castle—complete with a moat and built at special angles to appear even grander than its actual height of 189 feet. Paths branch out to classic rides (Dumbo, the Mad Tea Party) and newer additions like the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club . —Joshua Pramis

    Source: TEA/AECOM Global Attractions Attendance Report

    See more Disney travel tips

  • Disneyland Park: most-visited tourist attractions

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    No. 9 Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA

    Annual Visitors: 15,980,000

    Though not as massive as its Orlando counterpart, the original Disney park—which occupies about 85 acres of land—welcomes enough thrill-seekers to qualify as the second most-visited* theme park in the world. One of its coolest rides is still Indiana Jones Adventure, careening over lava, past swarms of beetles, and under that 16-foot rolling boulder.  —Joshua Pramis

    * Admission ticket sales beat out Disney’s California Adventure next door (which had 6,278,000 visitors); since it’s all part of the Disneyland Resort, we’re counting it only once.

    Source: TEA/AECOM Global Attractions Attendance Report

    See more Disney travel tips

  • Grand Bazaar: most-visited tourist attractions

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    No. 10 Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

    Annual Visitors: 15,000,000

    Hand-painted ceramics, lanterns, intricately patterned carpets, copperware, gold Byzantine-style jewelry, and more eye-catching products vie for your attention within this 15th-century bazaar’s vaulted walkways. It has since expanded and become increasingly touristy, but locals, too, were among 2010’s 15 million bargain-hunters. If it all gets overwhelming, break for a succulent doner kebab or strong cup of Turkish coffee. —Kate Appleton

    Source: Turkish Ministry of Tourism

  • Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo: most-visited tourist attraction

    Photo: Photo Japan / Alamy

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    No. 11 Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo

    Annual Visitors: 14,452,000

    At the heels of its sister properties, this family-centric park takes the position of third most-visited theme park in the world. Following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, both Tokyo Disneyland and next-door DisneySea* closed, but reopened within a month, comforting park-goers with scary rides like the Tower of Terror and Indiana Jones Temple of the Crystal Skull. —Joshua Pramis and Ann Shields

    * Admission ticket sales beat out Tokyo DisneySea next door (which had 12,663,000 visitors); since it’s all part of the Tokyo Disney Resort, we’re counting it only once.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECO

  • PIER 39: most-visited tourist attraction

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 12 PIER 39, San Francisco

    Annual Visitors: 14,000,000

    Of course it’s corny (think candy shops, T-shirt emporiums, stuffed animals, and fried food), but this tourist magnet at the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf also offers great views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the pier’s biggest attractions: the noisy community of sea lions that bark and bask on the docks. —Ann Shields

    Source: PIER 39

  • Notre Dame Cathedral: most-visited tourist attraction

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    No. 13 Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

    Annual Visitors: 13,650,000

    A masterpiece of Gothic architecture—all soaring buttresses, crouching gargoyles, and magnificent rose windows—Notre Dame de Paris has survived attacks of Huguenots, sans-culottes, occupying armies, and questionable renovations since its completion in 1345. In spite of its often violent past, visitors flock to the cathedral for the hushed peace and reflection it provides, even in the midst of Paris. —Ann Shields

    Source: Office of Tourism and Congress in Paris

  • Golden Gate Park: most-visited tourist attraction

    Photo: Courtesy of Golden Gate Park

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    No. 14 Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

    Annual Visitors: 13,000,000

    Cascading three miles from the Panhandle down to the Pacific, Golden Gate Park serves as playground and haven for this diverse city. The park’s offerings include museums (the de Young Museum and the Academy of Sciences), botanical wonders (the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden, a rhododendron forest, and more than 75,000 trees, among other), sporting fields and courts, playgrounds, and even a small herd of buffalo. —Ann Shields

    Source: Golden Gate Park

  • Forbidden City: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 15 Forbidden City, Beijing

    Annual Visitors: 12,830,000

    For nearly 500 years, the emperors living within this 178-acre walled compound of opulent halls, gardens, and winged pavilions dictated who could enter and leave. Well, the gates have opened, and tourists are pouring through Tiananmen Square to see it all for themselves. Attendance is up by almost 6 million since 2007, during which time China’s economy boomed and the Olympics put Beijing in the prime-time spotlight. —Kate Appleton

    Source: Forbidden City Palace Museum

  • Epcot: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: Ian Dagnall / Alamy

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    No. 16 Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 10,825,000

    Built to honor the late Walt Disney’s utopian ideal of the innovative future (the name is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), Epcot attracts guests who skew a little older than those of its neighbor, the Magic Kingdom. Restaurants aimed at more sophisticated palates and annual celebrations—including a flower and garden show and an international food and wine festival—bring out the adults while perennial favorite rides like Soarin’, Mission: SPACE, and Nemo and Friends keep the kids happy. —Ann Shields

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • Disneyland Park: most-visited tourist attractions

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    No. 17 Disneyland Park, Marne-la-Vallée, France

    Annual Visitors: 10,500,000

    When Disney’s first European park opened in 1992, many French protested the “cultural imperialism” of such an American symbol opening 40 minutes outside of Paris. Today it is the second most-visited attraction* in Europe. —Lyndsey Matthews

    * Admission ticket sales beat out Walt Disney Studios next door (which had 4,500,000 visitors); since it’s all part of the Disneyland Paris Resort, we’re counting it only once.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • Sacre Coeur Basilica: most-visited tourist attraction

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    No. 17 Sacré Coeur Basilica, Paris

    Annual Visitors: 10,500,000

    Sacré Coeur lures visitors to the summit of Montmartre for a litany of reasons—while some come to pray and meditate, most come for the remarkable 360-degree views of the City of Light from its highest vantage point. The construction of the Basilica, which started in 1871, was intended to restore peace to a site stained by violence during the Revolution and Paris Commune. —Ann Shields

    Source: Office of Tourism and Congress in Paris

  • Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront: most-visited tourist attraction

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    No. 19 Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront, Hong Kong

    Annual Visitors: 10,088,493

    The Avenue of the Stars—Hong Kong’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame (No. 42)—runs along part of the Tsim Tsa Tsui waterfront and commemorates Hong Kong stars from silent film all the way up to modern film giants like Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and John Woo. Visitors often pose with a life-size statue of Bruce Lee. Many likely also stop at the waterfront Clock Tower (which saw 7,206,066 visitors) and walk the entire length of the promenade. It’s the best vantage point for the nightly Symphony of Lights multimedia show over Victoria Harbour. —Ann Shields

    Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board

  • Victoria Peak: most-visited tourist attraction

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    No. 19 Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

    Annual Visitors: 10,088,493

    There are 7,650 skyscrapers crowding Hong Kong’s skyline right to the harbor’s edge. So tourists in this very vertical city often search out a little sky and a little nature by taking the funicular up to the top of Victoria Peak. The tram carries 10-plus million to the peak to enjoy the 360-degree views of the city and the outlying islands from its observation deck and to shop at the boutiques of Peak Tower. —Ann Shields

    Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board

  • Pike Place Market: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 21 Pike Place Market, Seattle

    Annual Visitors: 10,000,000

    One of the oldest continually operating farmers’ markets in the U.S. (est. 1907), this nine-acre National Historic District is perhaps better known today for kitschy Seattle souvenirs, seafood restaurants, salmon-throwing fishmongers, and its “gum wall” installation art. Don’t miss a chance to stop into one of the original Starbucks—complete with an early-edition logo featuring a more, er, risqué mermaid—next door. —Adrien Glover

    Source: Pike Place Market

  • The Zocalo: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy

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    No. 21 The Zócalo, Mexico City

    Annual Visitors: 10,000,000

    This main plaza in Mexico City’s historic center receives 10 million national and international tourists each year. But they only make up a fraction of the crowds. Some 35 million Mexico City residents also annually pass through the Zócalo, which hosts military parades and public art installations and is flanked by the Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace. —Lyndsey Matthews

    Source: Mexico Tourism Board

  • Disney's Animal Kingdom: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: D. Trozzo / Alamy

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    No. 23 Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 9,686,000

    Since 1998, this animal-themed park has successfully marketed Mickey Mouse and silverback gorillas under one all-inclusive “roof.” If it has four legs or wings or a tail, chances are you’ll find it at this zoo/museum school theme park. Don’t miss the Kilimanjaro safaris or the 14-story Tree of Life sculpture carved with some 325 animals. Fun fact: At one point park creators also wanted to include a section for mythological creatures called “Beastly Kingdom.” —Adrien Glover

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • Disney's Hollywood Studios: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: Ron Buskirk / Alamy

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    No. 24 Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 9,603,000

    Disney describes this park (est. 1989) as “the Hollywood that never was and always will be.” Laid out much like a real-life motion picture studio, with a 154-acre network of streets and buildings and miniature replicas of famous landmarks, it highlights the Golden Age of film, but most kids make a beeline to Toy Story Midway Mania! at Pixar Place and the American Idol Experience. —Adrien Glover

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 25 Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Annual Visitors: 9,463,538

    Originally Cherokee homeland, America’s most visited national park first opened in 1940 and covers some 520,000 acres of protected Tennessee and North Carolina forestland that’s bisected by the Appalachian Trail. Whether hiking Chimney Tops (or any of the 800 miles of trails) or driving the super-scenic U.S. Highway 441, visitors are sure to get an eyeful of the mystical haze that inspired the park’s name. —Adrien Glover

    Source: National Park Service

  • Great Wall of China, most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 26 Great Wall of China, China

    Annual Visitors: 9,000,000

    The 2,000-plus-year-old structure—once used as a wartime defense—is rumored to be the only man-made landmark visible from space. Made from stone, wood, rammed earth, and bricks, the wall winds “like a dragon tail” from eastern China to western, spanning some 5,500 miles. The Badaling section is the closest to Beijing—and the most beautiful. —Adrien Glover

    Source: National Tourism Administration of the People’s Republic of China

  • South Street Seaport: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 26 South Street Seaport, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 9,000,000

    This historic East River site in lower Manhattan dates back to the 1600s and spans some 11 blocks packed with shops, restaurants, and piers, including the popular Pier 17, a barge-turned-mall. Commercialism aside, the history runs deep here and is perhaps best experienced on one of the two 1800s tall-masted schooners the South Street Seaport Maritime Museum maintains. Go for a sunset sail with Gotham as a backdrop. —Adrien Glover

    Source: South Street Seaport

  • Navy Pier: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 28 Navy Pier, Chicago

    Annual Visitors: 8,690,000

    While the USS Chicago—docked at the end of the pier—is a reminder of its World War I military past, this bustling Lake Michigan promenade now caters to civilians with a mix of carnival rides, dancing fountains, trinket stalls, an IMAX theater, local food favorites Garrett Popcorn and Billy Goat Tavern, and an exceptional stained-glass museum featuring colorful works by Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Future plans for the pier include a monorail and a spokeless Ferris wheel. —Adrien Glover

    Source: Crain’s Chicago Business

  • Musee du Louvre: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 29 Musée du Louvre, Paris

    Annual Visitors: 8,500,000

    The world’s largest museum is both the subject of ongoing architectural controversy—not everyone agrees with the 1989 addition of I. M. Pei’s 69-foot-high glass pyramid entrance—and an art-lover’s wonderland of some 35,000 masterworks. Throngs parade through the former 12th-century palace annually to see such famous highlights as Leonardo da Vinci’s smiling La Gioconda, a.k.a. Mona Lisa—a painting that was originally commissioned by François I to hang above his bathtub. —Adrien Glover

    Source: The Art Newspaper

  • National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian): most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: David Coleman / Alamy

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    No. 30 National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian), Washington, D.C.

    Annual Visitors: 8,300,000

    The largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world (50,000 original artifacts) has aviation buffs flying through the doors in record numbers to learn about flight in all its forms. Opened in 1976 on the National Mall, this family-friendly museum wins extra points with kids for its cool “How Things Fly” exhibit, flight simulators, and 3-D blasts into the cosmos at the Albert Einstein Planetarium. —Adrien Glover

    Source: Smithsonian Institution

  • Universal Studios Japan: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: Chris Willson / Alamy

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    No. 31 Universal Studios Japan, Osaka, Japan

    Annual Visitors: 8,160,000

    Opened in 2001 and a near twin to its Orlando sibling—albeit one with more sushi—this popular American movie theme park is one of four operated by Universal in Japan. Highlights include a Jaws-like shark encounter, Jurassic Park roller-coaster ride, and Sesame Street in 4-D. Interesting fact: investment bank Goldman Sachs is the park’s largest shareholder. —Adrien Glover

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • Sydney Opera House: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 32 Sydney Opera House, Sydney

    Annual Visitors: 7,400,000

    With its dramatic cantilevered roof and harbor setting, Sydney’s Opera House is easily Australia’s most recognizable landmark—and its most visited. Few tourists leave Sydney without at least stopping here for a photo-op. But you can do much more: go backstage for a tour; attend one of the 40-plus weekly performances; and watch the sun set over the city and Sydney Harbour Bridge from the alfresco Opera Bar. Make your grand exit on the Manly Ferry, which passes right by. —Kate Appleton

    Source: Sydney Opera House

  • Everland: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: Bare Essence Photography / Alamy

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    No. 33 Everland, Gyeonggi-Do, South Korea

    Annual Visitors: 6,884,000

    Everland amusement park has been thrilling kids since 1973 and knows how to keep them coming; visitorship is up 11.6 percent year-over-year. The park is divided into themed sections that range from American Adventure (a rodeo experience, a wildly swinging Columbus ship) to Zoo-topia (Amazon River ride, wildlife safari). It holds the record for the world’s steepest wooden roller coaster. —Kate Appleton

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 34 Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

    Annual Visitors: 6,800,000

    Dinosaur fossils, a huge stuffed elephant, and an insect zoo have been wowing kids for generations (and for free). The 126-million-item collection even includes the notorious Hope Diamond. But this National Mall favorite continues to innovate, opening the Ocean Hall in late 2008 and, in 2010, the ambitious Hall of Human Origins, where visitors come literally face-to-face with specimens and models of their ancestors. —Kate Appleton

    Source: Smithsonian Institution

  • Eiffel Tower: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 35 Eiffel Tower, Paris

    Annual Visitors: 6,700,000

    This iron-lattice structure looms large in the collective imagination—and literally towers over Paris’s historic heart, never out of sight for long. Last year, 6.7 million paid to ascend the Eiffel Tower, and the savviest beat the crowds by purchasing tickets online in advance. Admire the Champs de Mars and surrounding streets spreading out below as you ride a glass elevator to the highest viewing level at 540 feet. —Kate Appleton

    Source: Office of Tourism and Congress in Paris

  • Lincoln Memorial: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 36 Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

    Annual Visitors: 6,042,315

    Getting advice from Honest Abe has been a popular pastime since this memorial’s dedication in 1922. These days, the Civil War president competes for visitors with FDR and Martin Luther King, Jr. (as well as Jefferson and Washington). But the appeal of standing beside Abraham Lincoln and gazing out at the National Mall across the reflecting pool remains as popular as ever. —Rich Beattie

    Source: National Park Service

  • Bourbon Street: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 37 Bourbon Street, New Orleans

    Annual Visitors: 6,017,500

    You’d have to be a pretty big curmudgeon for Bourbon Street not to put you in a good mood. Free-flowing music and booze might have something to do with it. Of course, if you really like crowds, grab your mask and join the Mardi Gras circus. —Rich Beattie

    Source: New Orleans CVB

  • Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando: most-visisted tourist attractions

    Photo: Stephen Searle / Alamy

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    No. 38 Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando

    Annual Visitors: 5,949,000

    Hogwarts went hog wild when this park opened “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” in 2010, and the attendance numbers* reflect Harry’s magic touch. Shops, restaurants (The Three Broomsticks), and rides are all branded with the boy wizard; nonbelievers can find rides themed with other trademarked characters including Marvel superheroes. —Rich Beattie

    * Admission ticket sales for Islands of Adventure beat out next-door-neighbor Universal Studios (which had 5,925,000 visitors); since it’s all part of Universal Orlando Resort, we’re counting it only once.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • Palace of Versailles: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: CuboImages srl / Alamy

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    No. 39 Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France

    Number of Visitors: 5,900,000

    King Louis XIV did a pretty nice job redoing a place that started out as a mere hunting lodge. So nice, in fact, that people trade Paris cafés just for the experience of wandering its hallways, like the gilded Hall of Mirrors—the best place to channel your inner Sun King. —Rich Beattie

    Source: Palace of Versailles

  • British Museum: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: David Pearson / Alamy

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    No. 40 British Museum, London

    Annual Visitors: 5,842,138

    With its 2.5 miles of galleries and 7 million objects, it would be understated to call this must-see museum overwhelming. And the crush of visitors won’t let you easily breeze through the ambitious collections. Still, considering the admission fee—nothing—it’s surprising the attendance isn’t higher. —Rich Beattie

    Source: The Art Newspaper

  • Lotte World: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: JTB Photo Communications, Inc. / Alamy

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    No. 41 Lotte World, Seoul

    Number of Visitors: 5,551,000

    The world’s largest indoor theme park is just the beginning of a complex that seems as big as Seoul itself. An outdoor amusement park, a folk museum, theaters, malls, and other venues round it out, along with—of course—plenty of karaoke machines. —Rich Beattie

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • Grauman's Chinese Theatre: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: Tom Mareschal / Alamy

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    No. 42 Grauman’s Chinese Theatre/Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood

    Annual Visitors: 5,475,000

    Nothing says Hollywood like the (literally) star-studded Walk of Fame, each with the name of a celebrity with enough cachet to be immortalized on the street. That means early stars from James Dean and Marilyn Monroe to, more recently, Tina Fey and Neil Patrick Harris. On that same street, the palatial Grauman’s Chinese Theatre attracts both architecture and film fans—and hosts movie premieres. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

  • French Market New Orleans: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: Ian Dagnall / Alamy

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    No. 43 French Market, New Orleans

    Annual Visitors: 5,370,100

    America’s oldest public market—parts of it have been around for more than 200 years—has something for everyone. So you’ll see visitors poking around the stands, listening to the inevitable jazz musicians, taking in the views along the banks of the Mississippi, and indulging in a hot, fried beignet at nearby famed Café du Monde. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: New Orleans CVB

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art: most-visited tourist attractions

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    No. 44 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 5,216,988

    With a permanent collection of more than 2 million pieces—plus works on loan from renowned museums worldwide—and a rooftop bar with a new installation each summer, it’s no wonder the Met is a huge tourist magnet. Expect even higher visitation numbers in 2011 thanks to the buzzed-about Alexander McQueen fashion exhibit. —Joshua Pramis

    Source:The Art Newspaper

  • Hong Kong Disneyland: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: Lyndon Giffard Images / Alamy

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    No. 45 Hong Kong Disneyland

    Annual Visitors: 5,200,000

    Disney’s newest outpost has tried-and-true crowd-pleasing features like Sleeping Beauty’s castle and Space Mountain. What sets this park apart from the others? It was designed according to the Chinese rules of feng shui in a nod to local culture. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • Rome Colosseum: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 46 The Colosseum, Rome

    Annual Visitors: 5,113,920

    The Colosseum has been synonymous with Rome since it was completed in A.D. 80. In partial ruins today, the amphitheater has recently been getting spruced up. In 2010, the below-ground tunnels, where gladiators once prepared for combat, were opened to the public for the first time in modern history. Descending into the deep, visitors can imagine the days when some 50,000 rowdy spectators would fill the stadium, just waiting for the competitors to be unleashed from below. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage

  • Ocean Park: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: Robert Harding Picture Library Ltd / Alamy

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    No. 47 Ocean Park, Hong Kong

    Annual Visitors: 5,100,000

    Sure, there are roller coasters, but this 40-acre theme park stands out for its attractions that are more down to earth. There’s Panda Village, where, despite the name, visitors actually come to see playful otters; Pacific Pier, where you can feed seals and sea lions; or the Sea Jelly Spectacular, where you can marvel at some 1,000 jellyfish, including many phosphorescent species. A large mountain divides the park, which you can navigate by bus, train, even cable car. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • SeaWorld: most-visited tourist attraction

    Photo: Iconotec / Alamy

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    No. 47 SeaWorld, Orlando

    Annual Visitors: 5,100,000

    People—especially children—love animals. And they love seeing animals performing stunts, circus-style. The rides (such as the high-speed Kraken roller coaster), up-close exhibits (like the Penguin Encounter), and great dining made this a no-brainer for 5.1 million visitors last year. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  •  Tate Modern: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: Jack Sullivan / Alamy

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    No. 49 Tate Modern, London

    Annual Visitors: 5,061,172

    Four wings and three floors make up the world’s most popular modern art museum, which consists solely of works of art created from 1900 until today. Tate also offers an array of hands-on games and interactive features, including allowing visitors to sketch any of the works on display. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: The Art Newspaper

  • Universal Studios Hollywood: most-visited tourist attractions

    Photo: iStock

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    No. 50 Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City, CA

    Annual Visitors: 5,040,000

    Not only is this a theme park, but it’s also a fully functioning movie studio—and just so happens to be the oldest Hollywood studio that is still actively filming new releases. Here, you can learn how special effects are created; take backstage studio tours; and hop aboard one of the many rides. (The Simpsons virtual roller coaster, anyone?) —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

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  • The Louvre: World's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions

    Ever heard of Everland or Lotte World? Most Americans have never planned a trip to these South Korean theme parks, yet they rank among the world’s 50 most-visited tourist attractions—beating out the Great Pyramids (4 million), the Taj Mahal (3 million), and Stonehenge (1 million). And there are more surprises.

    Where we choose to spend our vacation time says a lot about what we value, and despite—or perhaps because of—the lingering global economic crisis, we are traveling more than ever. International tourist arrivals were up 6.6 percent in 2010, according to the World Tourism Organization. China ousted Spain as the third most-visited country with 55.7 million foreign arrivals, while France and the U.S. held tight to their first and second place rankings.

    Like it or not, theme parks are just as appealing in these countries as they are in South Korea. Disneyland Paris drew the same number of visitors (10.5 million) as Sacré-Coeur, and two of the world’s 10 most-visited tourist attractions are Disney parks. America also dominates our list. Some credit goes to the weak U.S. dollar, which drew 8.7 percent more foreign tourists in 2010 than the previous year—and likely persuaded many Americans to explore within our vast borders.

    China and India are even bigger than the U.S., but their lack of dependable visitor statistics and limited domestic tourism markets help account for their few attractions on our list. Expect to see more of them over time; already attendance at Beijing’s Forbidden City has surged from 7 million visitors in 2007 to 12.83 million visitors in 2010.

    So what is the most-visited tourist attraction in the world? And can 39.2 million people be wrong? Read on to see the results—and an explanation of our methods for calculating it all.

    The Methodology: To tally up the world’s most-visited attractions, we gathered the most recent data supplied by the attractions themselves or from government agencies, industry reports, and reputable media outlets. Whenever available we used 2010 data; however, in the case of theme parks and a few other attractions, the most recent attendance numbers were from 2009.

    Attractions that don’t sell tickets gave us estimates as best they could. The Times Square Alliance was able to estimate that 80 percent of the 49 million tourists who visited New York in 2010 passed through Times Square. But Berlin’s East Side Gallery and London’s Trafalgar Square were excluded because their tourism bureaus couldn’t provide estimates that distinguished between visitors and locals.

    We defined “tourist attractions” as cultural and historical sites, natural landmarks, and officially designated spaces. So Boston’s shop-filled Faneuil Hall Marketplace (est. 1742) made the cut, but not Minnesota’s Mall of America—with 40 million annual visitors it would otherwise have been number one. Short walkways and waterfront promenades also fit our definition of tourist attractions; that disqualified the Blue Ridge Parkway. We also excluded sights that draw almost exclusively religious pilgrims.

    New attractions like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter lifted attendance at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Park in Orlando by more than 1.7 million visitors. Admission ticket sales beat out next-door neighbor Universal Studios, but since they’re all part of Universal Orlando Resort, we counted Universal only once. (We counted Orlando’s Disney parks separately since they are further apart than the other theme park resorts included.) —Lyndsey Matthews

  • Times Square: most-visited tourist attraction

    No. 1 Times Square, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 39,200,000

    Tourists flock to New York’s neon heart for the flashing lights, Broadway shows, megastores, and sheer spectacle. Pedestrian-only areas with café tables introduced in 2009 have only made it easier and more appealing to hang out here. Times Square can even be a convenient, if chaotic, base, thanks to hotels at every price point and easy access to public transportation: subways, rails, buses, and more yellow taxis than you can count. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: The Times Square Alliance

  • Central Park: most-visited tourist attraction

    No. 2 Central Park, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 38,000,000

    New York has larger green spaces, but none is more famous than Central Park, which stretches across nearly 850 acres of prime Manhattan real estate—an oasis for both tourists and locals. You can ride in one of the famous horse-drawn carriages; check out the modest-size zoo; climb to the top of 19th-century Belvedere Castle; or take a break from pounding the pavement to sprawl on the Great Lawn, gazing at the skyscrapers above. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Central Park Conservancy

  • Union Station: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 3 Union Station, Washington, D.C.

    Annual Visitors: 37,000,000

    Opened in 1907, this busy station shuttles some 12,500 passengers daily in and out of the city. But it also handles serious tourist traffic: 37 million who pass through to take in the impeccably mixed architectural styles throughout the colossal building: from Classical to Beaux-Arts to Baroque. More than 70 retail outlets make Union Station a shopping destination, and it’s also a jumping-off point for many D.C. tours. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Union Station

  • Las Vegas Strip: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 4 Las Vegas Strip

    Annual Visitors: 29,467,000

    Sin City was hit hard by the recession, but don’t bet against this legendary destination, which got a boost from the summer 2009 blockbuster The Hangover. Last year, 79 percent of tourists (29,467,000 people) chose to stay at hotels right on the Strip like Caesar’s Palace—the choice of the movie’s zany four-pack. And why not? Roll out of bed and onto the Strip to catch the Bellagio fountains in action, shop, gamble, and, of course, people-watch (which can get especially fun later at night). —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

  • Niagara Falls: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 5 Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario

    Annual Visitors: 22,500,000

    Straddling the borders of the U.S. and Canada, this massive waterfall spills about six million cubic feet of water—from a height ranging from 70 to 188 feet—every single minute. While there are about 500 taller waterfalls in the world, Niagara Falls is spectacular for its sheer power. It’s also more accessible than many major falls, a short flight or drive for millions of regional tourists. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp./Canadian Tourism Commission

  • Grand Central Terminal: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 6 Grand Central Terminal, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 21,600,000

    Unlike harried commuters, visitors take their time in the main concourse of this Beaux-Arts landmark, pausing to view its glittering ceiling painted with a map of the constellations from the night sky. There are shops and events to distract your attention, and, a level below, the historic Oyster Bar—featured on an episode of AMC’s Mad Men—serves two million fresh bivalves a year. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Grand Central Terminal

  • Faneuil Hall, Boston: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 7 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston

    Annual Visitors: 18,000,000

    Dating back to 1742, Faneuil Hall (“the Cradle of Liberty”) once hosted speeches by such greats as Samuel Adams and George Washington. Today, the downtown marketplace has more than 100 specialty shops and eateries and occupies a pedestrian-only, cobblestone area that swarms with tourists and street performers.  —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Faneuil Hall Marketplace

  • Disney World's Magic Kingdom: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 8 Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando

    Annual Visitors: 16,972,000

    The Most Magical Place on Earth is high on virtually every family’s to-do list and remains the most-visited theme park on the earth. The Kingdom’s most notable feature, naturally, is Cinderella’s castle—complete with a moat and built at special angles to appear even grander than its actual height of 189 feet. Paths branch out to classic rides (Dumbo, the Mad Tea Party) and newer additions like the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club . —Joshua Pramis

    Source: TEA/AECOM Global Attractions Attendance Report

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  • Disneyland Park: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 9 Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA

    Annual Visitors: 15,980,000

    Though not as massive as its Orlando counterpart, the original Disney park—which occupies about 85 acres of land—welcomes enough thrill-seekers to qualify as the second most-visited* theme park in the world. One of its coolest rides is still Indiana Jones Adventure, careening over lava, past swarms of beetles, and under that 16-foot rolling boulder.  —Joshua Pramis

    * Admission ticket sales beat out Disney’s California Adventure next door (which had 6,278,000 visitors); since it’s all part of the Disneyland Resort, we’re counting it only once.

    Source: TEA/AECOM Global Attractions Attendance Report

    See more Disney travel tips

  • Grand Bazaar: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 10 Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

    Annual Visitors: 15,000,000

    Hand-painted ceramics, lanterns, intricately patterned carpets, copperware, gold Byzantine-style jewelry, and more eye-catching products vie for your attention within this 15th-century bazaar’s vaulted walkways. It has since expanded and become increasingly touristy, but locals, too, were among 2010’s 15 million bargain-hunters. If it all gets overwhelming, break for a succulent doner kebab or strong cup of Turkish coffee. —Kate Appleton

    Source: Turkish Ministry of Tourism

  • Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo: most-visited tourist attraction

    No. 11 Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo

    Annual Visitors: 14,452,000

    At the heels of its sister properties, this family-centric park takes the position of third most-visited theme park in the world. Following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, both Tokyo Disneyland and next-door DisneySea* closed, but reopened within a month, comforting park-goers with scary rides like the Tower of Terror and Indiana Jones Temple of the Crystal Skull. —Joshua Pramis and Ann Shields

    * Admission ticket sales beat out Tokyo DisneySea next door (which had 12,663,000 visitors); since it’s all part of the Tokyo Disney Resort, we’re counting it only once.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECO

  • PIER 39: most-visited tourist attraction

    No. 12 PIER 39, San Francisco

    Annual Visitors: 14,000,000

    Of course it’s corny (think candy shops, T-shirt emporiums, stuffed animals, and fried food), but this tourist magnet at the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf also offers great views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the pier’s biggest attractions: the noisy community of sea lions that bark and bask on the docks. —Ann Shields

    Source: PIER 39

  • Notre Dame Cathedral: most-visited tourist attraction

    No. 13 Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

    Annual Visitors: 13,650,000

    A masterpiece of Gothic architecture—all soaring buttresses, crouching gargoyles, and magnificent rose windows—Notre Dame de Paris has survived attacks of Huguenots, sans-culottes, occupying armies, and questionable renovations since its completion in 1345. In spite of its often violent past, visitors flock to the cathedral for the hushed peace and reflection it provides, even in the midst of Paris. —Ann Shields

    Source: Office of Tourism and Congress in Paris

  • Golden Gate Park: most-visited tourist attraction

    No. 14 Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

    Annual Visitors: 13,000,000

    Cascading three miles from the Panhandle down to the Pacific, Golden Gate Park serves as playground and haven for this diverse city. The park’s offerings include museums (the de Young Museum and the Academy of Sciences), botanical wonders (the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden, a rhododendron forest, and more than 75,000 trees, among other), sporting fields and courts, playgrounds, and even a small herd of buffalo. —Ann Shields

    Source: Golden Gate Park

  • Forbidden City: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 15 Forbidden City, Beijing

    Annual Visitors: 12,830,000

    For nearly 500 years, the emperors living within this 178-acre walled compound of opulent halls, gardens, and winged pavilions dictated who could enter and leave. Well, the gates have opened, and tourists are pouring through Tiananmen Square to see it all for themselves. Attendance is up by almost 6 million since 2007, during which time China’s economy boomed and the Olympics put Beijing in the prime-time spotlight. —Kate Appleton

    Source: Forbidden City Palace Museum

  • Epcot: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 16 Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 10,825,000

    Built to honor the late Walt Disney’s utopian ideal of the innovative future (the name is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), Epcot attracts guests who skew a little older than those of its neighbor, the Magic Kingdom. Restaurants aimed at more sophisticated palates and annual celebrations—including a flower and garden show and an international food and wine festival—bring out the adults while perennial favorite rides like Soarin’, Mission: SPACE, and Nemo and Friends keep the kids happy. —Ann Shields

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • Disneyland Park: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 17 Disneyland Park, Marne-la-Vallée, France

    Annual Visitors: 10,500,000

    When Disney’s first European park opened in 1992, many French protested the “cultural imperialism” of such an American symbol opening 40 minutes outside of Paris. Today it is the second most-visited attraction* in Europe. —Lyndsey Matthews

    * Admission ticket sales beat out Walt Disney Studios next door (which had 4,500,000 visitors); since it’s all part of the Disneyland Paris Resort, we’re counting it only once.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • Sacre Coeur Basilica: most-visited tourist attraction

    No. 17 Sacré Coeur Basilica, Paris

    Annual Visitors: 10,500,000

    Sacré Coeur lures visitors to the summit of Montmartre for a litany of reasons—while some come to pray and meditate, most come for the remarkable 360-degree views of the City of Light from its highest vantage point. The construction of the Basilica, which started in 1871, was intended to restore peace to a site stained by violence during the Revolution and Paris Commune. —Ann Shields

    Source: Office of Tourism and Congress in Paris

  • Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront: most-visited tourist attraction

    No. 19 Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront, Hong Kong

    Annual Visitors: 10,088,493

    The Avenue of the Stars—Hong Kong’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame (No. 42)—runs along part of the Tsim Tsa Tsui waterfront and commemorates Hong Kong stars from silent film all the way up to modern film giants like Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and John Woo. Visitors often pose with a life-size statue of Bruce Lee. Many likely also stop at the waterfront Clock Tower (which saw 7,206,066 visitors) and walk the entire length of the promenade. It’s the best vantage point for the nightly Symphony of Lights multimedia show over Victoria Harbour. —Ann Shields

    Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board

  • Victoria Peak: most-visited tourist attraction

    No. 19 Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

    Annual Visitors: 10,088,493

    There are 7,650 skyscrapers crowding Hong Kong’s skyline right to the harbor’s edge. So tourists in this very vertical city often search out a little sky and a little nature by taking the funicular up to the top of Victoria Peak. The tram carries 10-plus million to the peak to enjoy the 360-degree views of the city and the outlying islands from its observation deck and to shop at the boutiques of Peak Tower. —Ann Shields

    Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board

  • Pike Place Market: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 21 Pike Place Market, Seattle

    Annual Visitors: 10,000,000

    One of the oldest continually operating farmers’ markets in the U.S. (est. 1907), this nine-acre National Historic District is perhaps better known today for kitschy Seattle souvenirs, seafood restaurants, salmon-throwing fishmongers, and its “gum wall” installation art. Don’t miss a chance to stop into one of the original Starbucks—complete with an early-edition logo featuring a more, er, risqué mermaid—next door. —Adrien Glover

    Source: Pike Place Market

  • The Zocalo: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 21 The Zócalo, Mexico City

    Annual Visitors: 10,000,000

    This main plaza in Mexico City’s historic center receives 10 million national and international tourists each year. But they only make up a fraction of the crowds. Some 35 million Mexico City residents also annually pass through the Zócalo, which hosts military parades and public art installations and is flanked by the Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace. —Lyndsey Matthews

    Source: Mexico Tourism Board

  • Disney's Animal Kingdom: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 23 Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 9,686,000

    Since 1998, this animal-themed park has successfully marketed Mickey Mouse and silverback gorillas under one all-inclusive “roof.” If it has four legs or wings or a tail, chances are you’ll find it at this zoo/museum school theme park. Don’t miss the Kilimanjaro safaris or the 14-story Tree of Life sculpture carved with some 325 animals. Fun fact: At one point park creators also wanted to include a section for mythological creatures called “Beastly Kingdom.” —Adrien Glover

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • Disney's Hollywood Studios: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 24 Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL

    Annual Visitors: 9,603,000

    Disney describes this park (est. 1989) as “the Hollywood that never was and always will be.” Laid out much like a real-life motion picture studio, with a 154-acre network of streets and buildings and miniature replicas of famous landmarks, it highlights the Golden Age of film, but most kids make a beeline to Toy Story Midway Mania! at Pixar Place and the American Idol Experience. —Adrien Glover

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

    See more Disney travel tips

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 25 Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Annual Visitors: 9,463,538

    Originally Cherokee homeland, America’s most visited national park first opened in 1940 and covers some 520,000 acres of protected Tennessee and North Carolina forestland that’s bisected by the Appalachian Trail. Whether hiking Chimney Tops (or any of the 800 miles of trails) or driving the super-scenic U.S. Highway 441, visitors are sure to get an eyeful of the mystical haze that inspired the park’s name. —Adrien Glover

    Source: National Park Service

  • Great Wall of China, most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 26 Great Wall of China, China

    Annual Visitors: 9,000,000

    The 2,000-plus-year-old structure—once used as a wartime defense—is rumored to be the only man-made landmark visible from space. Made from stone, wood, rammed earth, and bricks, the wall winds “like a dragon tail” from eastern China to western, spanning some 5,500 miles. The Badaling section is the closest to Beijing—and the most beautiful. —Adrien Glover

    Source: National Tourism Administration of the People’s Republic of China

  • South Street Seaport: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 26 South Street Seaport, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 9,000,000

    This historic East River site in lower Manhattan dates back to the 1600s and spans some 11 blocks packed with shops, restaurants, and piers, including the popular Pier 17, a barge-turned-mall. Commercialism aside, the history runs deep here and is perhaps best experienced on one of the two 1800s tall-masted schooners the South Street Seaport Maritime Museum maintains. Go for a sunset sail with Gotham as a backdrop. —Adrien Glover

    Source: South Street Seaport

  • Navy Pier: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 28 Navy Pier, Chicago

    Annual Visitors: 8,690,000

    While the USS Chicago—docked at the end of the pier—is a reminder of its World War I military past, this bustling Lake Michigan promenade now caters to civilians with a mix of carnival rides, dancing fountains, trinket stalls, an IMAX theater, local food favorites Garrett Popcorn and Billy Goat Tavern, and an exceptional stained-glass museum featuring colorful works by Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Future plans for the pier include a monorail and a spokeless Ferris wheel. —Adrien Glover

    Source: Crain’s Chicago Business

  • Musee du Louvre: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 29 Musée du Louvre, Paris

    Annual Visitors: 8,500,000

    The world’s largest museum is both the subject of ongoing architectural controversy—not everyone agrees with the 1989 addition of I. M. Pei’s 69-foot-high glass pyramid entrance—and an art-lover’s wonderland of some 35,000 masterworks. Throngs parade through the former 12th-century palace annually to see such famous highlights as Leonardo da Vinci’s smiling La Gioconda, a.k.a. Mona Lisa—a painting that was originally commissioned by François I to hang above his bathtub. —Adrien Glover

    Source: The Art Newspaper

  • National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian): most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 30 National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian), Washington, D.C.

    Annual Visitors: 8,300,000

    The largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world (50,000 original artifacts) has aviation buffs flying through the doors in record numbers to learn about flight in all its forms. Opened in 1976 on the National Mall, this family-friendly museum wins extra points with kids for its cool “How Things Fly” exhibit, flight simulators, and 3-D blasts into the cosmos at the Albert Einstein Planetarium. —Adrien Glover

    Source: Smithsonian Institution

  • Universal Studios Japan: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 31 Universal Studios Japan, Osaka, Japan

    Annual Visitors: 8,160,000

    Opened in 2001 and a near twin to its Orlando sibling—albeit one with more sushi—this popular American movie theme park is one of four operated by Universal in Japan. Highlights include a Jaws-like shark encounter, Jurassic Park roller-coaster ride, and Sesame Street in 4-D. Interesting fact: investment bank Goldman Sachs is the park’s largest shareholder. —Adrien Glover

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • Sydney Opera House: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 32 Sydney Opera House, Sydney

    Annual Visitors: 7,400,000

    With its dramatic cantilevered roof and harbor setting, Sydney’s Opera House is easily Australia’s most recognizable landmark—and its most visited. Few tourists leave Sydney without at least stopping here for a photo-op. But you can do much more: go backstage for a tour; attend one of the 40-plus weekly performances; and watch the sun set over the city and Sydney Harbour Bridge from the alfresco Opera Bar. Make your grand exit on the Manly Ferry, which passes right by. —Kate Appleton

    Source: Sydney Opera House

  • Everland: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 33 Everland, Gyeonggi-Do, South Korea

    Annual Visitors: 6,884,000

    Everland amusement park has been thrilling kids since 1973 and knows how to keep them coming; visitorship is up 11.6 percent year-over-year. The park is divided into themed sections that range from American Adventure (a rodeo experience, a wildly swinging Columbus ship) to Zoo-topia (Amazon River ride, wildlife safari). It holds the record for the world’s steepest wooden roller coaster. —Kate Appleton

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 34 Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

    Annual Visitors: 6,800,000

    Dinosaur fossils, a huge stuffed elephant, and an insect zoo have been wowing kids for generations (and for free). The 126-million-item collection even includes the notorious Hope Diamond. But this National Mall favorite continues to innovate, opening the Ocean Hall in late 2008 and, in 2010, the ambitious Hall of Human Origins, where visitors come literally face-to-face with specimens and models of their ancestors. —Kate Appleton

    Source: Smithsonian Institution

  • Eiffel Tower: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 35 Eiffel Tower, Paris

    Annual Visitors: 6,700,000

    This iron-lattice structure looms large in the collective imagination—and literally towers over Paris’s historic heart, never out of sight for long. Last year, 6.7 million paid to ascend the Eiffel Tower, and the savviest beat the crowds by purchasing tickets online in advance. Admire the Champs de Mars and surrounding streets spreading out below as you ride a glass elevator to the highest viewing level at 540 feet. —Kate Appleton

    Source: Office of Tourism and Congress in Paris

  • Lincoln Memorial: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 36 Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

    Annual Visitors: 6,042,315

    Getting advice from Honest Abe has been a popular pastime since this memorial’s dedication in 1922. These days, the Civil War president competes for visitors with FDR and Martin Luther King, Jr. (as well as Jefferson and Washington). But the appeal of standing beside Abraham Lincoln and gazing out at the National Mall across the reflecting pool remains as popular as ever. —Rich Beattie

    Source: National Park Service

  • Bourbon Street: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 37 Bourbon Street, New Orleans

    Annual Visitors: 6,017,500

    You’d have to be a pretty big curmudgeon for Bourbon Street not to put you in a good mood. Free-flowing music and booze might have something to do with it. Of course, if you really like crowds, grab your mask and join the Mardi Gras circus. —Rich Beattie

    Source: New Orleans CVB

  • Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando: most-visisted tourist attractions

    No. 38 Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando

    Annual Visitors: 5,949,000

    Hogwarts went hog wild when this park opened “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” in 2010, and the attendance numbers* reflect Harry’s magic touch. Shops, restaurants (The Three Broomsticks), and rides are all branded with the boy wizard; nonbelievers can find rides themed with other trademarked characters including Marvel superheroes. —Rich Beattie

    * Admission ticket sales for Islands of Adventure beat out next-door-neighbor Universal Studios (which had 5,925,000 visitors); since it’s all part of Universal Orlando Resort, we’re counting it only once.

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • Palace of Versailles: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 39 Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France

    Number of Visitors: 5,900,000

    King Louis XIV did a pretty nice job redoing a place that started out as a mere hunting lodge. So nice, in fact, that people trade Paris cafés just for the experience of wandering its hallways, like the gilded Hall of Mirrors—the best place to channel your inner Sun King. —Rich Beattie

    Source: Palace of Versailles

  • British Museum: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 40 British Museum, London

    Annual Visitors: 5,842,138

    With its 2.5 miles of galleries and 7 million objects, it would be understated to call this must-see museum overwhelming. And the crush of visitors won’t let you easily breeze through the ambitious collections. Still, considering the admission fee—nothing—it’s surprising the attendance isn’t higher. —Rich Beattie

    Source: The Art Newspaper

  • Lotte World: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 41 Lotte World, Seoul

    Number of Visitors: 5,551,000

    The world’s largest indoor theme park is just the beginning of a complex that seems as big as Seoul itself. An outdoor amusement park, a folk museum, theaters, malls, and other venues round it out, along with—of course—plenty of karaoke machines. —Rich Beattie

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • Grauman's Chinese Theatre: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 42 Grauman’s Chinese Theatre/Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood

    Annual Visitors: 5,475,000

    Nothing says Hollywood like the (literally) star-studded Walk of Fame, each with the name of a celebrity with enough cachet to be immortalized on the street. That means early stars from James Dean and Marilyn Monroe to, more recently, Tina Fey and Neil Patrick Harris. On that same street, the palatial Grauman’s Chinese Theatre attracts both architecture and film fans—and hosts movie premieres. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

  • French Market New Orleans: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 43 French Market, New Orleans

    Annual Visitors: 5,370,100

    America’s oldest public market—parts of it have been around for more than 200 years—has something for everyone. So you’ll see visitors poking around the stands, listening to the inevitable jazz musicians, taking in the views along the banks of the Mississippi, and indulging in a hot, fried beignet at nearby famed Café du Monde. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: New Orleans CVB

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 44 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

    Annual Visitors: 5,216,988

    With a permanent collection of more than 2 million pieces—plus works on loan from renowned museums worldwide—and a rooftop bar with a new installation each summer, it’s no wonder the Met is a huge tourist magnet. Expect even higher visitation numbers in 2011 thanks to the buzzed-about Alexander McQueen fashion exhibit. —Joshua Pramis

    Source:The Art Newspaper

  • Hong Kong Disneyland: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 45 Hong Kong Disneyland

    Annual Visitors: 5,200,000

    Disney’s newest outpost has tried-and-true crowd-pleasing features like Sleeping Beauty’s castle and Space Mountain. What sets this park apart from the others? It was designed according to the Chinese rules of feng shui in a nod to local culture. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • Rome Colosseum: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 46 The Colosseum, Rome

    Annual Visitors: 5,113,920

    The Colosseum has been synonymous with Rome since it was completed in A.D. 80. In partial ruins today, the amphitheater has recently been getting spruced up. In 2010, the below-ground tunnels, where gladiators once prepared for combat, were opened to the public for the first time in modern history. Descending into the deep, visitors can imagine the days when some 50,000 rowdy spectators would fill the stadium, just waiting for the competitors to be unleashed from below. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage

  • Ocean Park: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 47 Ocean Park, Hong Kong

    Annual Visitors: 5,100,000

    Sure, there are roller coasters, but this 40-acre theme park stands out for its attractions that are more down to earth. There’s Panda Village, where, despite the name, visitors actually come to see playful otters; Pacific Pier, where you can feed seals and sea lions; or the Sea Jelly Spectacular, where you can marvel at some 1,000 jellyfish, including many phosphorescent species. A large mountain divides the park, which you can navigate by bus, train, even cable car. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  • SeaWorld: most-visited tourist attraction

    No. 47 SeaWorld, Orlando

    Annual Visitors: 5,100,000

    People—especially children—love animals. And they love seeing animals performing stunts, circus-style. The rides (such as the high-speed Kraken roller coaster), up-close exhibits (like the Penguin Encounter), and great dining made this a no-brainer for 5.1 million visitors last year. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

  •  Tate Modern: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 49 Tate Modern, London

    Annual Visitors: 5,061,172

    Four wings and three floors make up the world’s most popular modern art museum, which consists solely of works of art created from 1900 until today. Tate also offers an array of hands-on games and interactive features, including allowing visitors to sketch any of the works on display. —Joshua Pramis

    Source: The Art Newspaper

  • Universal Studios Hollywood: most-visited tourist attractions

    No. 50 Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City, CA

    Annual Visitors: 5,040,000

    Not only is this a theme park, but it’s also a fully functioning movie studio—and just so happens to be the oldest Hollywood studio that is still actively filming new releases. Here, you can learn how special effects are created; take backstage studio tours; and hop aboard one of the many rides. (The Simpsons virtual roller coaster, anyone?) —Joshua Pramis

    Source: Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM

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