Should it be a surprise that Asia is home to many of the world’s most Instagrammable cities? While it may be true that the U.S. continues to lead with 116 million active users, Asian countries represent a significant portion of the 1 billion members overall worldwide. In fact three of the World’s Top 10 countries with the most Instagram users are in Asia, with India, Indonesia and Japan leading the way. Here’s a quick look at 10 of Asia’s most Instagrammable cities, based upon number of users and number of hashtags, along with some suggested spots for photo opportunities.
The capital and largest city of Thailand is clearly one of Asia’s most Instagrammable cities, filled with insta-worthy photo opportunities. But with so many attractions to choose from, where should Instagrammers head first? For starters, there’s the enormous Grand Palace, with several exceptional points of interest including the famous Temple of the Golden Buddha. However, visitors are advised to take off their shoes and be respectful of one’s surroundings. Adjacent to the Grand Palace complex is the must-see Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), extending 46 meters or approximately 150 feet long. Other can’t miss photo opportunities in Bangkok are the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), one of the iconic floating markets and the ubiquitous tuk tuk motorized rickshaws. If time permits, visitors are also urged to explore away from one of Thailand’s and Asia’s most Instagrammable cities to see the ancient capital of Ayutthaya and the Insta-famous Maeklong Railway Market, where vendors sell goods right along the railroad tracks.
It come as a surprise to many visitors that of all the major cities in Asia, Dubai is the city that receives the most hashtags. In fact, the most populous city of the United Arab Emirates in western Asia more than doubles the number of hashtags than its closer competitor – Tokyo, Japan. Located in the southeastern section of the Arabian Peninsula, Dubai is an extraordinary city perhaps best known as the home of Burj Khalifa (Khalifa Tower), the world’s tallest skyscraper, which nudges passing clouds at a height of 828 meters or 2,717 feet tall. Tickets to the observation decks start at 149 AED (about $40) but can be as high as 618 AED (about $168) to access the world’s highest lounge. However, all visitors will be able to marvel at the panoramic views, in addition to staking the claim that they were at the top of the world’s tallest building. Of course, there are some other exceptional spots for unforgettable photo opportunities. This includes the upscale Dubai Mall and Palm Jumeirah, one of the world’s largest artificial islands with five star hotels like Atlantis, The Palm, One&Only The Palm and the ultra-expensive Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. Among other hot spots for photo opportunities are the incomparable Dubai skyline, Dubai Fountain and the Mall of the Emirates, featuring Ski Dubai, twice named the world’s best indoor ski park.
With more skyscrapers than another other city on Earth, Hong Kong is often referred to as the World’s Most Vertical City. But there’s so much more than just a panoramic photo taken from the city’s highest point at Victoria Peak. One of the most notable Asian cities awash in neon lights, Hong Kong is home to countless number of Instagrammers and insta-friendly attractions. Among the most visited are Hong Kong Disneyland, Giant Buddha on Lantau Island, a ride on the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour and Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade for its spectacular views of the harbor. A 8 p.m. nightly, Tsim Sha Tsui is the place to be to watch the dazzling Symphony of Lights, which lights up several prominent buildings in central Hong Kong. Many more fascinating places for Instagram posts and selfies can be found all over the city, including Temple Street Night Market and Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street, the bustling Causeway Bay, Montane Mansion and the Central Mid-Levels Escalators, longest outdoor escalator system in the world.
Related: 7 Top Attractions In Hong Kong
Situated in both Europe and Asia, Istanbul is the only city in the world that holds this distinction. It’s also one of the largest, most visited and most hashtagged cities in the world, making it a hotspot for Instagrammers. What’s more, this historic Turkish megalopolis is among Asia’s most affordable major cities to visit. The most prominent attractions in Istanbul are also its most hashtagged, even though many are in the European side of the city. This includes Galata Tower, Hagia Sophia Museum, Basilica Cistern and the iconic Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also famously known as the Blue Mosque. But perhaps the most accessible and most photographed attraction is the extraordinary Grand Bazaar, among the oldest and largest covered markets on Earth. Dating back to the mid-15th century, the Grand Bazaar is known by its residents as Kapali Carsi and has an estimated 4,000 shops across 60 covered streets, while attracting 250,000 visitors daily. Of course, it’s also home to the world’s oldest food halls, with all sorts of Insta-foods to photograph and sample. While the choice is up to the individual traveler, top Turkish dishes to try include kofte (meatballs), kumpir (baked potato), pide (thin crusted pastry with meat and cheese) and baklava (pastry with nuts and syrup).
Although not nearly visited as other major destination, Jakarta ranks near the top among Asia’s most Instagrammable cities. The capital and most populous city of Indonesia, Jakarta is home to over 10 million residents who represent multiple cultures, languages and religions. It’s also home to a significant percentage of people who regularly use social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and of course, Instagram. Local influencers have several favorite spots for Instagram Stories like Museum MACAN (Modern and Contemporary Art in Nantara), the seaport Sunda Kelapa, the rooftop SKYE Bar & Restaurant and Kanpai Pik restaurant. But visitors will discover all sorts of hidden and not-so-hidden treasures, whether it’s the neon lights of the city, a street scene or friendly residents dressed in traditional garb, Taman Mini Indonesia Indah and a sunset pic of Ancol Beach. Visitors should also take photos of some of Indonesia’s most famous dishes, like bakpao (meat buns) and nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice).
According to the latest statistics from Statista.com, the country with the second most Instagram users (behind the U.S. and just ahead of Brazil) is India. In terms of the largest number of hashtags, Mumbai ranks in the Top 25, with several Asian cities ahead, like Dubai, Jakarta, Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong. But Mumbai is ranks higher in terms of Instagram engagement than any other city in India. What’s more Mumbai is home to a wealth of high profile influencers, including singer Neha Kakkar with 30 million followers, actor Kartik Aaryan with 13 million and film actress Jannat Zubair Rahmani with 12 million+ followers. While selfies of leading Mumbai influencers and visitors reigns supreme, travelers may find themselves posting as many images of prominent landmarks and attractions. Among the top photo spots in Mumbai are the historic Gateway of India, Global Vipassana Pagoda, Kanheri Caves, Nariman Point, any photo of Lord Ganesha and Shree Siddhivinayak. Additional spots includes luxury hotels like the InterContinental Marine Drive-Mumbai, St. Regis Mumbai and the Taj Mahal Palace. Visitors to other parts of India may wish to visit the capital city of New Delhi, as it’s much closer to India’s most famous landmark, the Taj Mahal in Agra.
As possibly the world’s most connected city, Seoul is a veritable hotbed of Instagram activity. As the capital and largest city, Seoul has scores of famous landmarks and attractions. For history buffs, there are places like Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Heunginjimun Gate and the War Memorial of Korea. But hipsters may prefer to go to contemporary attractions like N Seoul Tower, Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Myeongdong shopping area and even the highly publicized Gangnam District, home to K-Pop stars, Starfield COEX Mall, Asia’s largest underground shopping mall and of course, the setting for Psy’s famous Gangnam Style video. Still with a population larger than Hong Kong and New York City, Seoul has dozens of other locales to take that one special selfie and maybe attract more Instagram followers. Additional recommendations include Lotte Tower, tallest in Seoul, a street scene and street markets like Gwangjang and Namdaemun, Stylenanda (the pink hotel), Bukchon Hanok Village, Jogyesa Buddhist temple, Olympic Park and Common Ground, a hip shopping area built from shipping containers.
Featuring one of the world’s most photographed hotels, Singapore is clearly one of Asia’s most Instagrammable cities. Now instantly recognizable, Marina Bay Sands is a dazzling luxury hotel with three distinctive towers and an incomparable rooftop infinity pool with mind-boggling vistas. But with a unique blend of historical sites and 21st century technology, there are endless selfie and social media opportunities whether visiting during the holidays or into the New Year. Singapore’s second-most hashtagged attraction, Gardens by the Bay, is just a short walk from Marina Bay Sands. Practically universally recognized, Gardens of the Bay is home to Flower Dome, the world’s largest glass greenhouse. But it’s the enormous supertrees that attract large number of social media influencers and photo hobbyists. Now one of the world’s most Instagram-friendly cities, Singapore has more than enough places during a stay. Additional spots worthy visiting include the Helix near Marina Bay Waterfront, Chijmes historic building complex, Jurong Bird Park, Sentosa Skyline Luge and Skyride and Universal Studios Singapore.
Recently named the world’s best city for expats to live and work abroad, Taipei is a mix of Chinese culture and urban chic. The capital and a special municipality of Taiwan offers one of the best top 10 attraction lists in all of Asia. Perhaps leading the list is Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building between 2004-2010 and once the world’s green building. Designed in a post-modernist architectural style, Taipei 101 features indoor and outdoor observation decks and general admission tickets start at NT$ 600 or about $20. Much smaller in population compared to other neighboring metropolises, Taipei still is one of Asia’s most Instagrammable cities and makes for an unforgettable visit, bustling with Instagram-friendly moments at every corner. While Taipei 101 is easily the most visible, additional hotspots include Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, National Palace Museum, Longshan Temple, 228 Peace Park and for the best views of the city, Elephant Mountain.
World renowned for its natural beauty and ancient temples, Japan has several notable landmarks all over the island nation. Take for instance the mystical pathway of 5,000 tori gates of Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, the lone Tori in Hakone and naturally, the majestic Mount Fuji. But for the sheer number of Instagram opportunities, it’s Tokyo, the capital, most populous and most hashtagged city. Among the world’s largest cities and the largest urban area with more than 40 million people, Tokyo has so many attractions to cover, it might require a lifetime of visits to see everything. Several sources offer multiple Instagrammable spots in Tokyo, such as Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, the fascinating Golden Gai, the neon in the Shinjuku District, the Ginza District and Shibuya Crossing, the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing. If that’s not enough, there’s also the lively Akihabara district, the hip Harajuku neighborhood, particularly on Takeshita Street and Omotesando, Team Lab Borderless and the tori gates of Hie Shrine. Foodies have several Michelin star restaurants to explore although some like Sukiyabashi Jiro and Sushi Saito are nearly impossible to book. If time permits, Instagrammers must not miss the Great Buddha (Daibutsu) in Kamakura, an 80-minute train ride from central Tokyo.
Related: Backpackers Guide To Asia
About the Author & Founder of TrendingTravel.org
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who has covered national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University and a member of the Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).
Randy is also a veteran of the United States Army, having served stateside and in Germany. He is a lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, California.