The Getaway
The Best Times to Visit the Most Popular Cities

The world's most-visited cities have an enduring charm that makes them magnets for tourism. Although there are exceptions, a destination's summer is usually its peak season with balmy weather and lots of fun to be had outdoors. The crowd-averse may prefer the shoulder seasons, spring and autumn, or the cold low season when accommodation costs are lower, and other expenses benefit from seasonal adjustments.


01 Cape Town

Beach and Twelve Apostles mountain in Camps Bay near Cape Town in South Africa. spooh / Getty Images

Cape Town is one of the most visited cities in Africa, and for good reason. South Africa's Mother City is among the world's most beautiful, sandwiched as it is between Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean. A frequent stand-in for California in movies such as The Kissing Booth, Cape Town offers beaches, the Winelands, a top-notch food scene, and much more.

The city has a Mediterranean climate, so you can expect cold, wet, and occasionally gusty days during the winter period between May and August. Visiting during spring, summer and winter is a safer bet.


02 Kuala Lumpur zorazhuang / Getty Images

Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur is a real gem in Southeast Asia. Bustling districts like Bukit Bintang offer plenty of opportunities for dining and retail therapy. And the diversity in this cosmopolitan country means that cultural events like Chinese New Year and Ramadan liven up the calendar.

Away from the memorable Petronas Towers, venturing to Genting Highlands for a day trip provides lovely views of the hill station's greenery when visibility is good.

Like many other cities in the region, KL is always humid. Visit between May and August, and you'll likely avoid the monsoon rains.


03 Mecca

Kaaba in Mecca, Muslim people praying together at holy place Zurijeta / Getty Images

The holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia saw about 9.5 million arrivals in 2018. A sacred site in Islam, only Muslims can enter, and they do so throughout the year. Practitioners of the faith from around the globe converge at the Great Mosque during Ramadan and the hajj pilgrimage.

When these periods of religious significance fall during the cooler months between November and March, it's a boon for travelers unused to the harsh sun and desert temperatures.


04 Tokyo

Crowded streets of Shinjuku shopping district with blurred commuters at dusk Nikada / Getty Images

Tokyo conjures up many evocative images. Mt Fuji, cherry blossoms, sushi, Shibuya Crossing, Harajuku Girls, karaoke bars, and speedy trains are just some of these puzzle pieces.

Japan's capital is a feast for the senses marrying the centuries-old with the determinedly futuristic. From the towering skyscrapers to the elegant wooden architecture, and from robots to manga and sumo wrestling, there are lots of things to see and do in this magnificent city.

The busy period is between March and May when the flora puts on a stunning display, and this spills over into autumn.


05 Rome Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty Images

All roads should indeed lead to Rome. The city was at the head of an empire that forged world history. Together with the outsized presence of the Catholic church and a singularly bountiful artistic heritage, the Italian capital is any history and culture buff's dream to take in.

The modern Italian capital offers an equally impressive food scene, with Michelin star restaurants a stone's throw from one of the many divine gelato spots in the city. Enjoy Vespa rides and pizza on the piazza during the European spring between April and June and when autumn is in full swing in September.


06 Istanbul

Istanbul cityscape at dusk exterior view of Yeni Camii and Galata Bridge. LeoPatrizi / Getty Images

Coupled with undulating topography, Istanbul's waterways form breathtaking vistas both from the sky as you descend into this former seat of Ottoman power and from the myriad bridges that span the Golden Horn.

The whirling dervishes and the palaces and mosques ensure that the city is teeming with history and culture.

In between sips of salep and spoonfuls of sütlaç, take some time to see the extensive tulip displays during spring in April. Fall is also an excellent time for exploring. And winter can be rainy, cold, and miserable.


07 Dubai

Dubai skyline reflection at amazing night, Dubai, United Arab Emirates MarekKijevsky / Getty Images

Dubai is a stunningly successful experiment. It continues to defy boundaries and expectations as it carves out a future for itself in the middle of the Arabian desert. A world-class city, there's no shortage of nightlife, beaches, family-friendly amusements, adrenaline-pumping activities, and multicultural foods to reflect its residents' many origins.

Dubai is best experienced between November and April when the sweltering heat becomes manageable and the evenings are cool enough for cardigans. The Dubai Shopping Festival also happens to be a wintertime highlight in the emirate.


08 Paris

Pretty night time illuminations of the Impressive Arc de Triomphe (1833) along the famous tree lined Avenue des Champs-Elysees in Paris. ProPhoto profile for precise color reproduction. matthewleesdixon / Getty Images

Visitors flock to the City of Love for more than an Eiffel Tower encounter. A trip on the Paris Metro affirms why the French capital is a leader in the fashion world. Parisians are effortlessly stylish. The city's cuisine exudes sophistication too.

Paris is home to exceptional museums, the most iconic of which is the Louvre, but the Pompidou Center is another contemporary arts and culture hub. Roland Garros offers tennis fans a chance to see the world's best players every summer.

Paris is a great all-year destination depending on your preferences regarding crowds and weather. So go on and cue that accordion.


09 New York

The Famous Brooklyn Bridge at Sunrise, New York City, USA. The sun is rising over Brooklyn on this beautiful day of Autumn Onfokus / Getty Images

Whether you're looking up at its characteristic skyscrapers or absorbing Time Square's colorful buzz, the Big Apple is a sensory overload that will have you longing to return.

One of the most culturally diverse places on the planet, New York City truly is the concrete jungle dreams are made of. Whatever your interests, NYC can satisfy. For starters, department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue accommodate your urge to splurge, and Broadway musicals delight theatre aficionados and newbies alike.

Spring and fall are great times to visit New York, so schedule a trip between April to June or September to November. Winter is magical, too, with Christmas lights and the New Year's Eve Times Square Ball Drop.


10 London

Sunset in Houses Of Parliament - London xavierarnau / Getty Images

London is simultaneously ancient and cutting edge. If the old walls in this city could talk, they would have centuries of secrets to unleash.

England's beloved capital is a foodie and design hub, home to unrivaled museum collections, a sporting mecca, and a music and fashion melting pot.

London is pleasant any time of year, but spring and autumn can be a bit wet so if you're not keen on rain, avoid the city around Feb or September. London's proximity to European cities is also a considerable drawcard. You won't go wrong with beginning or ending any journey in the Queen's backyard.


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