5. Germany with 28,374,000 foreign visitors each year
[Also see our travel article “Modern Art in Berlin and Historic Sights in Munich“]
Oktoberfest tends to spring to mind first when thinking about reasons to visit Germany, and there are plenty more. The Bachfest Leipzig and Wagner Festival are a veritable heaven for classical music lovers, while Berlin’s underground culture, alternative art scene and famed nightlife draw in all walks of life. The countryside is not to be missed, either. The country’s well-marked hiking trails allow for spectacular views of village houses and castles. And certainly not least, Germany borders nine countries, which provides the perfect excuse to rent a car and zoom down the speed-limit-free stretches of Autobahn to the next destination.
4. United Kingdom with 29,306,000 foreign visitors each year
[Also see our travel articles on the United Kingdom]
The British reliance on tradition is working in their favor: since Prince William’s marriage in 2011 and the arrival of Prince George last July, interest in the Royal Family and all things British has skyrocketed. England remains expensive, but the plethora of things to do for free, including the vast British Museum and National Gallery, help balance budgets. London is the main draw for many, as history is literally at one’s fingertips, but Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland all have their own fascinating history, culinary delights and enough castles to seriously consider investing in one.
3. Italy with 46,119,000 foreign visitors each year
[Also see our travel articles on Italy]
Where do we even begin with Italy? The fashion, the food, the art, the architecture, the history? Italy is a paradise for lovers, foodies, wine snobs and history buffs — and everyone else, too. A late-night stroll through Roman ruins, hopping from one local butcher to the next to find the perfect prosciutto, browsing the boutiques once all that gelato takes its toll: all these experiences are heightened by simply being in a beautiful country that takes its epic history very seriously.
2. Spain with 56,694,000 foreign visitors each year
[Also see our travel articles on Spain]
It’s no secret that Spain is still trying to claw its way out of an unprecedented recession. But Spain is rolling in the riches of its history and the artists and writers it has fostered. It’s hard not to spend an entire holiday exploring the well-preserved Moorish architecture and history in the Andalucia region or zooming around the twisting streets of Toledo, which was once the epicenter of Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups living in harmony. Spain’s endless culture also includes Museo del Prado and two museums dedicated to Pablo Picasso. Those who are lost can find themselves on the Santiago de Compostela trail or with a few too many on a Barcelona beach.
1. France with 81,411,000 foreign visitors each year
[Also see our travel articles on France]
France also tops the list of most visited countries in the world. With a reputation for impeccably dressed women, sexy accents and an overwhelming emphasis on love and food, is there really any surprise that France bests the rest by a large margin? Everyone knows that Paris boasts the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, but there’s so much more to France. Lyon is renowned for having the most Michelin-starred restaurants after London, Paris and Brussels, and of course the shimmering waters of the French Riviera, the picturesque villages and Alps to the southeast beckon. Even better, hitchhiking is legal, giving the whole deal a more adventurous-yet-safe feel. Although no matter where you go, an award-winning bottle of wine or Champagne is just an order away.