Top 10 Most Visited Cities in the World
It wasn't hard to determine which cities Americans travel to most outside of the U.S. The challenge? Narrowing down the must-see sights for first-timers—and veterans.
3 MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS FOR RETURN VISITORS
Tate Modern Converted from a riverside power station on the Thames, the Tate Modern is a marvel of contemporary architecture and one of the most impressive art museums in the world, famous for its enormous (and often interactive) art installations and a collection of modern art from the early 1900s to today (entrance is free).
East End Nightlife The once-gritty East End has been gentrified into the new epicenter of London nightlife—a haven of hip pubs, edgy art galleries, and nouveau restaurants, especially in the neighborhoods of Shoreditch and Hoxton.
The London Eye Who wouldn't want to get into a Ferris wheel that soars up over 400 feet in the air? Don't worry, the wheel moves at a turtle speed and the bird's-eye views over London from the enclosed-glass observatories are absolutely spectacular ($24 per person).
OUR FAVORITE HOTEL: Umi Hotel is a simple and fashionable hotel comprised of adjoining 150-year-old townhouses in London's Notting Hill neighborhood (umihotellondon.co.uk; doubles from $99).
#1 Cancun, Mexico
Cancun remains the No. 1 top destination for U.S. travel abroad, thanks to cheap flights from the States, 14 miles of beaches, and carnival-style nightlife that transforms the Z-shaped islet off the Yucatan Peninsula into a 24-hour party scene for college students every Spring Break. But if you think this former Mayan trading city is just a sloppy boozefest on the beach, you haven't experienced the real Cancun.
3 MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS FOR FIRST-TIMERS
Sun, Sand, and Waves at Playa Tortugas and Playa Delfines The beaches of Playa Tortugas and Playa Delfines offer the full-spectrum of the Cancun beach scene: Playa Tortugas is a festive party beach with calm, tranquil water and bungalow restaurants/bars under the palms; Playa Delfines is an escapist beach with white sand for travelers looking to get away from the crowds (and perhaps catch a few waves).
Day Trip to the Mayan Ruins Integrated into the downtown area, the plaza ruins of El Ray remind travelers of the city's ancient history as a Mayan trading port and give the urban layout a uniquely mythic look (and a kitschy cache to bankroll tourist dollars). But for a more immersive experience, take a day trip drive down Riviera Maya to the beachfront ruins of Tulum and the jungle temples of Coba (they're far less crowded and closer than Chichen Itza).
Coco Bongo It would be a shame to leave Cancun without a glimpse of the most explosive, extravagant club the party city has to offer. Coco Bongo is a temple of excess to ridiculous proportions—a massive 1,800-person nightclub with nightly trapeze acts, rock-star impersonators, a rainbow blitz of roving spotlights, and hundreds of partiers dancing to DJ-spun hits on any platform they can climb onto.
3 MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS FOR RETURN VISITORS
Isla Mujeres This tiny island off the coast of Cancun is a quiet escape from the madness of the mainland. The palm-shaded beaches are perfect for laying out in the sun after an intimate lunch at one of the island's restaurants, and the azure water seems made for an afternoon swim.
Dipping Into the Cenotes The rain forest of the Yucatan peninsula creates a unique experience for travelers looking for adventure in the form of sunken cenotes—subterranean rivers and lakes that you can access via rappelling into caverns.
Underwater Museum of Art Sure, Cancun and the Riviera Maya have plenty of offshore dive sites. But if your tank skills are up to par, one of the coolest spots to scuba dive is the Underwater Museum of Art, designed by British artist Jason de Caires Taylor, which, true to its name, is an underwater museum of sculptures laid out at the bottom of the sea. New to scuba? No problem. Scuba Cancun can set you up with a beginner's diving lesson and then a museum dive for $80.
OUR FAVORITE HOTEL: The Royal Islander is a beachfront resort with humdrum décor but a great location (and a seaside pool) in the Zona Hotelera of Cancun (royalresorts.com; Doubles from $120).