20 Best Cities In Asia

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A wise person once said, “Asia is not just a place, it’s a feeling, an experience, and a journey of the soul.” This quote by an anonymous author beautifully captures the essence of Asia. Asia is not just the largest and oldest inhabited landmass on earth but also a land of diversity and contrasts. Every region in this ancient and mystical land has a story to tell about its unique history, traditions, customs and cuisines passed over thousands of years.

Asia has one of the most varied geographical features of any continent, with snow-capped mountains and plateaus and Tundras, deserts, to tropical jungles, river plains, islands and beaches all within the same continent. With a mesmerising range of landscapes, cultures and experiences, you’ll never have the same experience twice. The cities in Asia are vibrant and exciting too. From bustling and dynamic China to innovative and sophisticated Japan, the diverse and culturally rich India, exotic and hospitable Thailand and the multicultural melting pot of Malaysia, the list of Asian cities to visit will captivate and inspire. 

Cities In Asia

20 Asian Cities To Visit

1- Dubai, UAE

aerial view of Dubai
For a glimpse into the future, Dubai is one of the best cities to visit in Asia and Africa.

Anyone visiting Dubai cannot stop talking about its incredibly fast growth of stunning skyscrapers, modern architecture and attractions. 

Dubai has risen high on the list of modern cities in Asia and is a global hub for business and leisure, with world-class infrastructure.

It has record-breaking engineering feats, such as the tallest man-made structure Burj Khalifa and the largest malls, the largest aquariums, artificial beaches and islands.

With theme parks, top-tier luxury hotels and Michelin-star restaurants, there’s plenty to see and do here. 

Dubai’s closeness to the desert makes it hot in summer but the temperature is more pleasant in winter. 

November to April is the perfect time to visit this desert gem and enjoy all its outdoor activities and beaches.

If you visit Dubai in summer, most places are air-conditioned, and if you miss being in the cold, you can go skiing at Ski Dubai all year.

2- Singapore 

Singapore City At Sunset
Singapore is one of the coolest cities in Asia.

If there is one city that rivals Dubai for being the most popular city in Asia, it has to be Singapore.

This small, densely populated city is known for its modern infrastructure, skyscrapers, and greenery and is a multi-cultural hotspot of the region.

Singapore’s location right at the southern end of Malacca Strait made it one of the most important trading, shipping and air transportation hubs in the region and deserves the moniker “Gateway to Asia”.

Despite its tiny size, Singapore attracts businesspeople and tourists from all over the world.

The city offers a well-rounded experience of Asian cultures, cuisine, world-class shopping, an efficient public transportation system, and many other modern attractions to explore in a safe and clean environment.

Gardens By the Bay, the iconic Marina Bay Sands, bustling Chinatown and Little India, Sentosa Island theme parks, museums and nature trails are just some of the many places experiences in Singapore.

Being close to the equator, be prepared for tropical weather with unpredictable rainy days throughout the year in Singapore.

3- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur is a short flight away from India, China, Thailand and every other major tourist destination in Asia and also the headquarters of Air Asia.

This popular low-cost airline connects it to every part of Asia.

The city has a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures that reflects in its traditions, culture and its must-try cuisine.

The city (and Malaysia in general) has all the modern infrastructure of a mega city, including skyscrapers, shopping malls, parks, a well-connected metro train system, colonial architecture and a treasure trove of attractions.

The city’s Chinese and Indian influence is visible in its temples that dot the city and the famous Chinatown and Little India areas where you can get everything Chinese and Indian, including shopping and restaurants.

Kuala Lumpur’s main visitor hub is the Golden Triangle which includes Bukit Bintang, Chinatown and KLCC.

Kuala Lumpur is well-connected to Penang, Langkawi, Kota Kinabalu and other cities in Malaysia and serves as a hub for exploring the region.

4- Hong Kong

Hong Kong City At Aerial View In The Sky
Hong Kong may not be one of the biggest cities in Asia but it’s a city that never sleeps.

Hong Kong will amaze you with its concentration of skyscrapers, one of the highest in the world.

It has a world-class art scene and there isn’t much you will miss here. Think of any experience you want, and you’ll find it in Hong Kong.

While watching the glittering skyscrapers in “A Symphony of Lights” and walking along the Avenue of Stars in the busy Victoria Harbourfront are favourite activities for visitors, several other things attract an international crowd.  

Taste all kinds of cuisine, take a sip in the sky on a rooftop bar, attend an event, visit a museum or join a cooking class. 

Children will love Hongkong Disneyland and the views from the Ngong Ping 360 cable car ride and Victoria Peak.

Hong Kong’s location on the southern coast of China makes it an entry point into mainland China and Macau.

5- Kyoto, Japan

aerial view of Kyoto and the surrounding mountains
Kyoto is one of the loveliest cities in Asia for culture and nature.

Kyoto is one of the top-visited cities in Asia and it is easy to see why.

Centuries of unspoilt traditional architecture and cultural heritage in a setting of beautiful natural scenery will give you the most authentic Japanese experience you can get.

While most other cities in the Land of the Rising Sun have been urbanised to the most extent, Kyoto retains its old-world charm, where traditional architecture is preserved in many areas.

A stroll through the Gion district to experience Geisha culture is a must-do in Kyoto at night

Visit Shinto shrines, traditional zen gardens, palaces, tea houses and hot water springs that dot this city, especially the iconic Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion) and the highly photographed Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine.

Kyoto in spring is stunning, with its famous cherry blossoms and in fall, you’ll love the colourful autumn foliage.

6- Taipei, Taiwan

Skyline And Taipei 101 Skyscraper In Night Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei is one of the cities in Asia with a glittering cityscape of skyscrapers and lights.

Taipei is Taiwan’s welcoming capital city and offers a blend of Chinese, Japanese and South Asian cultures.

A visit to the food-loving capital of Taiwan will surely immerse you in its complex history, creative arts, traditional Taoist temples, lip-smacking cuisine and street food in its night markets.

Unwind amidst nature by visiting one of Taipei’s mountains or hot springs to rejuvenate thoroughly.

A stroll through any of the city’s popular areas will make you see how the traditional and modern combine, with sleek modern buildings and high-tech infrastructure contrasting with the traditional markets, temples and museums.

Visit the National Palace, which houses artefacts dating back thousands of years, and the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Complex to better understand Taiwan’s culture.

Combine your visit to Taipei with a trip to Tainan, the southernmost city of the island, which has many well-preserved temples and is excellent for traditional food.

Jiufen, Yilan, Penghu islands are other worthy places you can visit in Taiwan

7- Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

A relaxing vacation in a tropical paradise that offers forests, fascinating culture, beaches, mountains and various entertainment options is Bali in a nutshell.

While Indonesia has thousands of islands, Bali is the most visited island in Asia.

Bali has several stay options, including many beaches and beach resorts in Denpasar City and Badung Regency in the southern parts of the island.

Bali’s most tourist-friendly beaches are in the south, with the famous Kuta and Seminyak beaches on the west coast, Jimbaran in the southern peninsula and the calmer Tanjung Benoa and Nusa Dua on the east coast.

If you are looking for a more rustic vacation amidst vast rice fields or want to spend a few days completely immersed in the island’s lush greenery and rich cultural heritage, Bali’s Ubud in the Central region and Buleleng northern region offers a unique and mesmerising experience.

8- Jaipur, India

aerial view of buildings in jaipur
Jaipur in India is one of the major cities in Asia’s south.

Many visitors start their trip to India by visiting the Golden Triangle of New Delhi, Jaipur and Agra; it is easy to see why.

While New Delhi is the capital of India, Agra is famous for the Taj Mahal.

Jaipur is the gateway to Rajasthan and one of the best places to experience the royalty, hospitality and luxuriousness of the city’s past.

Aptly named the “Pink City”, Jaipur has forts, palaces, havelis (mansion houses) and centuries-old buildings. 

A trip to Jaipur isn’t complete without visiting the magnificent Amber Fort, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, Jaigarh Fort and a camel ride in the Thar desert.

Rajasthani cuisine has rich flavours using spices and herbs.

You can indulge in delicious Rajasthani cuisine in modern restaurants or taste the local street food.

A fun activity in Jaipur is souvenir shopping at one of the markets at Johari Bazar, Bapu Bazar and MI Road.

Not far from Jaipur, the city of Jaisalmer is perfect for experiencing the thrills of the desert.

In contrast, further south, the city of Udaipur will give you a completely different taste of royalty with its numerous lakes and palaces.

9- Phuket, Thailand

Landscape Twilight City View With Sunset In Phuket, Thailand
Phuket is one of the most popular beach cities in Asia.

While Bangkok is a famous mega city with its shopping and attractions, many travellers use it as a stopover to Thailand’s islands.

If you dream of spending your holidays laying on powdery white sand under the sun, put Phuket on your list.

Surrounded by the shallow Andaman Sea and about an hour by plane south of Bangkok, this island is a little piece of paradise.

Visitors from all over the world come here to enjoy the luxurious beach resorts and seaside activities. 

Go island hopping through the limestone cliffs of Koh Phi Phi, canoeing, scuba diving, parasailing or jet skiing. Or just sipping a cold drink on a private beach. 

For a taste of Thailand’s cuisine, many restaurants (in Patong and Phuket Old Town area) will satisfy your tastebuds.

Children will love the child-friendly cultural shows, like Fantasea and Dolphins Bay, Phuket aquarium, animal shows, museums (like Trick-eye Museum) and waterparks.

For those travelling without kids, visit Wat Chalong temple, Big Buddha or shop in a night market. 

10- Tokyo, Japan

Aerial View Of Tokyo with sun's rays shining through the clouds
One of the busiest cities in Asia is Tokyo.

Look down at Tokyo from Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Skytree and you’ll see a concrete jungle. 

The neon-lit city’s streets are filled with exciting experiences around every corner, ranging from high-end designer stores to small independent boutiques, quirky cafes, love hotels and shopping centres.

This is one city in Asia that can feel very busy and sometimes overwhelming (in a good way).

The city’s most striking feature is the unique culture that permeates through the mega city after sunset when brightly lit storefronts and colourful signage attract attention from passers-by.

Calmer attractions are temples, museums, gardens, origami classes, river cruises and parks.

Being the largest city in Japan, Tokyo has so many things to do that a short trip wouldn’t do it justice.

Hit the highlights by visiting the iconic Shibuya Crossing (featured in many movies), Tokyo Imperial Palace and the trendy Harajuku area.

Go club-hopping at Roppongi or shopping at Ginza for a quintessential Japanese shopping and dining experience.

Children will love the views from the observation decks on Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Disney Resort, a ride on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train), and will love a visit to one of the cat, dog or owl cafes that dot the city.

If you want to experience cherry blossoms, visit the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden or Ueno Park during spring for an experience you’ll never forget.

11- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Aerial View Over Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is one of the cities in Asia that has a French influence.

One of the fastest-growing cities in Asia is Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, to those who remember the times before the Vietnam War in the 70s.

The city is chaotic, the crowds can sometimes be overwhelming and the centre is filled with high-rise buildings, shopping centres, restaurants, café shops and bars.

For a more authentic Vietnamese experience, visit one of the many popular markets like the Ben Thanh Market, Binh Tay Market and China Town, where you can taste delicious local food like Banh Xeo Nam Bo, Bun Bo Hue, snails and seafood.

Escape the crowds for e a calmer and more upscale shopping experience on Dong Khoi Street after visiting the nearby Opera House, the Saigon Central Post Office and the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Don’t miss the War Remnants Museum and the slightly farther Cu Chi Tunnels to get a more rounded perspective on Vietnam War.

Ho Chi Minh City also serves as an entry point into Vietnam from where you can explore the stunning Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Mekong Delta and all the nearby places.

12- Colombo, Sri Lanka

Sri Lankans are known for their welcoming and warm hospitality.

And when you are in Colombo, you’ll be rewarded with the best hospitality Sri Lankans can offer.

The warm tropical climate combined with lots of rain makes Colombo an ideal destination to spend your holidays.

Whether you want to travel onward to the seaside resort towns of Galle, Batticaloa or Trincomalee for the beach or or stay in the cosmopolitan getaway and experience the blend of beaches, adventure, luxury, culture and history, Colombo has you covered.

The city’s colonial past has left many remnants and buildings, most of which have now been converted into museums and government buildings like the National Museum of Colombo, Dutch Period Museum and Independence Memorial Hall.

You can explore your spiritual side by visiting Hindu and Buddhist temples, be among nature at one of the many parks like the Viharamahadevi Park, or try your luck at one of the many casinos in the city.

Colombo has many great beaches a short distance away, like Mount Lavinia, Hikkaduwa Beach, Negombo Beach, Kalpitiya Beach, Unawatuna Beach and Bentota Beach. 

13- Shanghai, China

Sunrise Over Lujiazui Skyline And Huangpu River, Shanghai, China
China has seven out of the top 10 largest cities in Asia by population and Shanghai is the largest.

It’s easy to get confused by the vastness and diversity of China as the country has a variety of regions, cuisines, attractions and experiences on offer.

If you’re looking for one place to get everything, the answer is Shanghai.

A stroll along Shanghai’s Promenade: The Bund is an experience in itself, with views of glittering skyscrapers on one side and one of Shanghai’s oldest markets and best night scene on the other.

For a picture-perfect Chinese experience, visit the Yu Garden, the famous Longhua Temple, or the beautiful Jade Buddha Temple.

Children love the views from the observation decks on Shanghai Tower and Shanghai World Finance Center, a river cruise on Huangpu, or a trip to the Shanghai Disneyland Resort or an ancient water town.

The best way to experience Shanghai is to spend more than a few days exploring the city and all the nearby areas and tasting the authentic and different types of regional street food which will leave you longing for more.                

14- Bengaluru, India

Rotunda And Watchtower Of Bengaluru Palace.
Bengaluru is one of the growing tech cities in Asia.

India is a large country, and experiencing the diverse range of experiences India has to offer will take more than a few trips.

While each region has its unique traditions, cuisines and things to do, Bengaluru in Southern India is one such region with its own charm, all while being one of the most diverse cities in the country.

It’s like a melting pot of cultures, with Indians from various regions living and working together.

Aptly named “The Silicon Valley of India”, the city has the best start-up culture in India and is the best place to meet and learn about Indian culture in one place.

The city has all you can expect of an urbanised mega city, like huge shopping malls, world-class pubs and restaurants, and a range of activity and amusement parks (like Film City, Wonderla) and museums (like NIMHANS Brain Museum, HAL Heritage Centre & Aerospace Museum). 

The Bangalore Palace, ISKCON temple, Tipu-Sultan Palace, and National Gallery of Modern Art are some places s to visit within Bengaluru.

Taste the delicious local cuisine at one of the restaurants along MG Road, Brigade Road, Commercial Street or walk along the winding lanes of Chickpet.

Bengaluru also serves as the perfect stage to explore the nearby mountains in the western ghats.

They deserve more than a few days’ stay for their incredible natural beauty, tea and coffee plantations, and cool mountain weather. 

15- Seoul, South Korea

View Of Downtown Cityscape And Seoul Tower at night
Seoul is one of the largest cities in Asia.

Seoul is a city that never sleeps.

This ultra-modern city in Asia is rich with history, culture and technology.

Many of the city’s attractions come alive after sunset, and if you love trying something new, Seoul has just the things for you.

You can experience the famous K-pop culture here by visiting a K-pop-themed café, shop or museum.

Socialising happens in pubs, karaoke bars (norebang), traditional bathhouses (Jimjilbang) (traditional bathhouse), rooftop gardens and animal-themed cafes! 

Shopping is at its best in Seoul.

Many shopping malls and markets are intertwined to offer more options to discover Korean street food, buy a hanbok (traditional Korean dress) or shop for unique electronics.

This Asian city is also very welcoming and safe for travellers. 

The Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace give you a taste of Korean royalty, while Namsan Tower gives you a panoramic view of this incredible city.

16- Manila, Philippines

City Of Manila, The Capital Of The Philippines With Modern Buildings
Manila is one of the most interesting cities in Asia to visit for history.

Did you know the Philippines has over 7,000 smaller islands in the Western Pacific Ocean?

For a first-time traveller to the Philippines, you can visit several island destinations, fun activities and tourist sites.

Manila is the entry point into this island paradise and an Asian city that pleasantly surprises visitors with its variety of experiences.

Explore the city’s history of Spanish colonial rule by visiting the Intramuros, an area within Manila filled with Spanish-era landmarks, forts, churches and mansions.

If you like museums, The National Museum of the Philippines has a fantastic collection of artefacts on art, anthropology, natural history and even a planetarium.

A trip to Manila isn’t complete without taking a food trip through the Binondo or experiencing the shopping culture through one of the many malls and shopping markets like Divisoria, Quiapo, Tiendesitas and Baclaran.

The more you explore Manila, the more you will discover off-beat cafes, bars, artisan shops, and handicraft stores.

It’ll become clear that Manila is not just one of Asia’s most underrated megacities but also one of the coolest. 

17- Bangkok, Thailand

Beautiful Sunset in Bangkok
Bangkok is one of the best cities in Asia to explore if you’re on a budget.

Whatever type of holiday you can think of – single, couple, family, solo or even business-related, Bangkok has it all.

While the city serves as a base to explore the tropical islands in the south and the mountainous forest retreats in the north, Bangkok has many things to do.

There are so many unique things you can do in Bangkok – from getting a quick Thai massage, trying exotic street food, going on a firefly boat tour, watching a Thai boxing show, shopping in a night market, partying on a beach, or sipping a drink from a rooftop bar, the list of activities you can do in Bangkok is endless.

Families will love the trip to the spotless Grand Palace and Dusit Palace, or the famous Jade Buddha temple, Wat Suthat, take the river cruise, visit Terminal 21, Siam Paragon or Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World.

For the more adventurous, the nightlife in Bangkok isn’t complete without visiting a cabaret show. 

18- Istanbul, Turkey

Panoramic View Of The City Of Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey, is a city that straddles Asia and Europe.

Technically part of Europe and Asia, Istanbul easily earns its spot on this list by being a modern city with an incredible past and historical heritage dating back to the Byzantine era.

The city’s pivotal location on Bosphorus Strait made it the most important and prosperous city in Spice Trade between Asia and Europe and keeps itself rooted in its customs and food traditions.

Everyone starts their tour of Istanbul by visiting the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque to get a dose of Istanbul’s history and culture.

If you like the Middle Eastern bazaars, Istanbul has many interesting markets like the Grand Bazaar, Egyptian Bazaar and the Galatta Bridge (a two-level bridge with one level lined with street vendors and cafes) that are a treat for the senses.

Historic landmarks include Taksim Square, Hippodrome, Suleymaniye Mosque and the beautiful Dolmabahce Palace Museum.

The Istanbul Archaeological Museum is a trip to the past, where you can find the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great.

For a more relaxed vibe, visit the neighbourhood of Fener and Balat.

19- Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh Skyline
Phnom Penh may not be one of the largest cities in Asia but it continues to attract expats looking for a low-cost base.

The Cambodian capital has had a chequered history.

Known for its beautiful French colonial architecture, the city suffered during the Vietnam War losing many of its buildings to bombings and coming under the short-lived but brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge regime.

The city is now the heartbeat of Cambodia and has a captivating charm visible in its unique architecture, cuisine and traditions while not being overwhelmed by rapid urbanisation.

Highlights in Phnom Penh are the Royal Palace, the Independence Monument and the temples of Wat Phnom and Wat Ounalom.

A unique and fun way to learn about Cambodia is to watch a traditional Cambodian Living Arts Performance, their version of a Broadway-like theatrical performance.

20- Male, Maldives

aerial view of marina and buildings in Male
Male is a city in Asia that is a portal to the islands of the Maldives.

The island archipelago of Maldives is one of the hottest beach destinations in the world, and deservedly so.

There are more than a thousand islands and 26 beach atolls in the Maldives.

If your ideal beach vacation includes vacationing on beaches with crystal-clear waters, pristine white sand, and abundant marine life and staying at an incredible beach resort, pack your bags now.

A beach vacation to the Maldives starts in Male, the capital city.

You will find world-class dining, shopping and entertainment experiences in Male, including historic landmarks and cultural sites like the Hulhumale Grand Mosque, the Presidential Palace and the National Museum.

There are several world-class resorts with private beaches to choose from and Male is a perfect city getaway for a beach vacation. 

For more incredible cities in Asia and Africa, read:

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Vamsee Chandra lives in Hyderabad in India and is a financial markets trader by profession. An engineer with an MBA, he is a free-spirited traveller at heart. He has visited 17 countries on three different continents (Asia, Europe and North America) and has a personal target of visiting 50 countries before he retires. His favourite city is Paris, for its amazing museums and people. His favourite building is Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, and his favourite countryside is the Bavarian region in Germany, where the Neuschwanstein Castle is located.