I was recently asked by a Chiang Mai friend to give a comparison of two Asian cities she was thinking of visiting, my friend has visited many Asian countries so it was easy to give her the advice.
This got me thinking, what if you wanted to visit Asia, and have never been, how would you choose which city to go to? So I decided to compile a list of 10 Must Visit Cities in Asia.
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What are the 10 Must Visit Cities in Asia?
To me, Asia is fascinating, a never ending source of wonder, but for the first time visitor to Asia, it may feel overwhelming and unfamiliar.
Choosing your first Asian city will depend on what you are looking for, do you want sleek modern cities, or do you want to jump head first into the culture and sometimes chaotic character that makes Asia so captivating?
The choice is yours, here are our 10 must visit cities in Asia.
Singapore is ultra-modern and one of the must visit cities in Asia. Singapore’s skyline is instantly recognised by the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Sands Sky Park. Perched on top of the three towers the Sands Sky Park is the perfect place to take in the stunning views of this remarkable city. Close by are the Gardens by the Bay, which come alive at night as the Super tree Grove puts on a performance you will never forget.
Singapore has a colonial past that can be seen in many of the older buildings, the most famous being the Raffles Hotel. Raffles Hotel is famous for the Singapore Sling a drink that they are still serving today. Drop in and try one, but just remember to keep an eye on the tab.
Singapore is a multi-cultural city with Chinese, Indian and Malay making up the main population. Exploring the neighbourhoods of Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street is a great way to learn more about these cultures, all can be reached by the MRT system.
Singapore is a foodies’ paradise from fine dining to Hawker centre, the array of cuisines is endless.
Other Attractions in Singapore
Sentosa is fun for all the family, with attractions such as Waterpark, indoor skydiving and Dolphin island it will take more than a day to discover all that Sentosa has to offer. Singapore Zoo is an attraction that is for visitors young and old.
Getting Around Singapore
Getting around Singapore is super easy! Changi Airport is one of the best airports in the world and is connected to Singapore’s MRT system, which makes getting from the airport and the city centre hassle free. You will find the trains of the MRT system to be very clean and frequent.
Hong Kong is a sophisticated city whose modern buildings frame its magnificent harbour. For an even better view of the Harbour take a tram or bus up to “The Peak” and be prepared to be dazzled by the spectacular panorama.
The lights of Hong Kong Harbour are world famous and it is an absolute must to watch the Symphony of Lights, a light show that takes place every night at 8pm.
Hong Kong has a reputation for shopping, here you will find massive shopping malls filled with designer brands or for a bargain you can shop at one of the many Hong Kong markets.
Hong Kong night life and dining options are limitless. Hong Kong takes pride in their reputation for fine dining and you will find not only Chinese but International cuisines represented. For a more informal night out visit the small restaurants or grab a bite at one of the markets.
The Big Buddha on Lantau Island is one of the top destinations in Hong Kong. If you are travelling with children, Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland are a must.
When planning your Hong Kong trip itinerary, check out the 10 Uniquely Hong Kong Experiences to Try by Mum on the Move which has a detailed list of must visit attractions for anyone visiting this amazing city.
Getting Around Hong Kong
Hong Kong has an outstanding airport with links to the city via the Airport Express. The Hong Kong MTR system is quick, clean and efficient, and a great way to see many of attractions the city has to offer.
Macau is a former Portuguese colony, that is located 60 km west of Hong Kong. Many choose to do a trip to Macau from Hong Kong, but if you have the time, Macau is well worth at least 3 days visit to discover more of its charms.
A trip to Macau Historical Centre is like being transported back to Portugal, this UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts visitors from all over the world and a great way to discover the blend of Chinese and Portuguese culture.
Casinos are also a big drawcard to Macau and although I am not much of a gambler, the casinos are unbelievably grand and strikingly beautiful. You can visit the casinos, be entertained and dined without setting foot into the gaming lounges.
Macau streets fill with excitement every November when Macau hosts the Macau Grand Prix, a race that is unique, including motorbike races as well as car racing events.
Getting to Macau
Macau can be reached by air or by ferry. We took the Macau Ferry from Hong Kong International Airport but you can also get the Macau Ferry from the Macau Ferry Terminal on Hong Kong Island.
We visited Manila for a house sit and was impressed by the wealth of historical buildings that survived Manilas turbulent history. From the days of Spanish colonisation to the battles of WWII you can’t help but admire the strength of the Filipino people.
Because our time in Manila was limited and we were responsible for pets during our house sit, we took day tours of Manila, we found them informative and we enjoyed the Museums and Monuments that gave us a glimpse into the Filipino culture.
There are many shopping options in Manila, including the Mall of Asia, a massive mall that is one of the largest malls in the World.
Other forms of transport for exploring Manila are, metro, Jeepney and motorised tricycles the choice is yours.
Be aware of pickpockets, we had locals telling us to put our phones away so they wouldn’t be stolen.
Hanoi in Vietnam is another favourite city and although it has its modern area, most tourists like to stay in the Hanoi Old Quarter. This vibrant and chaotic area is full of small shops, restaurants, bars and of course motorbikes, lots and lots of motorbikes!
The streets and small alleys of the Old Quarter are so much fun to explore and you won’t be alone, Hanoi is full of tourists of every nationality.
Vietnam War buffs can visit Hoa Lo Prison better known as the “Hanoi Hilton” and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. From Hanoi you can take a tour to the very beautiful Ha Long Bay.
Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
We have visited Kuala Lumpur a few times now and nothing will prepare you for the sight of the Petronas Towers by night, they are stunningly beautiful.
Kuala Lumpur has two sides, one is a modern city full of skyscrapers, a place where shoppers will fall in love with the many malls, the other a city with a rich colonial history that is reflected in many of the charming old buildings, such as the striking Kuala Lumpur Train Station a structure right out of the Arabian Nights.
Kuala Lumpur has many interesting neighbourhoods to explore, Chinatown and Little India are the place to pick up a bargain and get a bite to eat at one of the markets.
Malaysia is a Muslim country, and you will find many beautiful Mosques in Kuala Lumpur, the most prestigious being the National Mosque. Visitors are welcome but please remember to dress appropriately.
A day trip to the Batu Caves is well worth the journey. Climb the 272 steps leading to the Temple Cave that houses the Hindu shrine.
Shanghai is another city where the old stands side by side with the new. Here the Colonial structures of the Bund gaze across the Huangpu River to the iconic Oriental Pearl TV Tower and skyscrapers of Pudong.
For shopping you can visit bustling Nanjing Road, a modern shopping precinct of designer brand shops or visit the Yuyuan Bazaar (Old Town) for something more traditional.
For a moment of peace and tranquillity you can explore the pagodas and bridges of the Yuyuan Gardens or visit the Old French Concession and relax in the sidewalk cafes of this beautiful area.
Shanghai is a great city for walking and also has an efficient Metro system that will take you to many tourist attractions.
Beijing is a wonderful city in China and gateway to the Great Wall of China. There is so much to see in Beijing, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Gate of Heavenly Peace, Temple of Heaven and so much more.
We walked this city and were impressed with its character and discovered so many hidden treasures, from early morning Tai Chi and dancing in Beihai Park, to antique hunting in the Panjiayuan Flea Market, colourful memories.
Not only is Beijing is a good city for walking, it has an excellent Metro system that will take you to many attractions.
There is so much to see in Bangkok Thailand, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), The Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) to name a few.
Exploring the Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of my favourite pass times, it is a huge market full of arts, crafts and food stalls. Bangkok is also home to many luxurious shopping malls, a shoppers paradise.
Bangkok has an exciting nightlife with a huge range of fine dining and entertainment options making it a firm favourite with International Tourists.
Other interesting attractions include the Snake Farm and Safari World.
Getting Around Bangkok
Bangkok is a very fast paced city and there are many ways to get around. Bangkok has a very good MRT system with several stations connecting to Sky Train Stations (BTS). Saphan Taksin BTS Station is close to Sathorn Pier where you can catch a boat to many tourist attractions.
Chiang Mai Thailand
Chiang Mai is a large modern city but it doesn’t feel like one, the locals are friendly and there is a laid back quality that makes you feel instantly at home.
Chiang Mai is a city of exquisitely decorated Buddhist Wat’s (Temples), one of the most beautiful is Wat Phra That on Doi Suthep (Mount Suthep).
From modern malls to one of Chiang Mai’s many markets, you will be astounded by the range of goods and bargains on sale here. Chiang Mai’s has a great nightlife with some of the best dining and entertainment in Thailand.
Chiang Mai celebrates many Festivals, Loi Krathong and the Yi Peng Lantern Festival, festivals of flowers and floating lanterns which is held in November. Songkran a fun festival where getting wet is a necessity, and held in April.
There is so much to see in and around Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai Zoo, the Tiger Kingdom, Elephant tours and Zipline tours.
Getting Around Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a great city for walking, Tuk Tuks and red buses called Songtauws make it easy to get around this extraordinary city.
Summary of Must Visit Cities in Asia
We love the cities of Asia and hope that you too will soon discover the diversity of culture and the richness of colour that will charm and astound you with every turn you take.
I hope you have found my list of 10 Must Visit Cities in Asia helpful. If you have a favourite Asian city that we have missed feel free to leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.