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Top trending cities in 2022 and where to travel instead in 2023 – Insider

In 2022, there was a resurgence in travel. As reported by Forbes, borders reopened; travel agents became overwhelmed with new clients, according to Insider; and American baby boomers led a wave of vacations to destinations like Italy and the UK, according to The Colombian.
Additionally, news outlets around the globe reported on “revenge travel,” or the urgency to travel and make up for lost vacations during the pandemic. 
Even before this surge in travel demand, destinations across the globe experienced over-tourism. As Insider previously reported, an influx of tourists in select cities can be detrimental to the destination. Places like Amsterdam, Venice, Bali, and Barcelona have struggled with too many tourists, Condé Nast Traveler reports, and Insider found over-tourism often has a negative impact on the environment, a place’s cultural landmarks, and the people living in those destinations. 
However, many of those cities were also the top-searched-for destinations by would-be travelers in 2022, according to Google’s Destination Insights. Google’s report revealed the most-searched-for destinations based on search volume between January and December of 2022, and the results include many cities that can be crowded and over-visited.
Here are the 10 most-searched-for destinations based on Google’s findings, and where travelers may visit instead for a more under-the-radar, crowd-free vacation in 2023.
As the capital of England, London is home to history, royalty, and world-class museums.
And according to Google, it was the most-searched-for destination in 2022.
Each year, London entices millions of tourists to ride on the city’s cherry red, double-decker buses and step inside famous attractions like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, The British Museum, and Tower Bridge.
According to the City of London, more than 21 million people visited London from overseas in 2019, with nearly 7.5 million of those people visiting the city’s top tourist destinations mentioned above.
Plus, Travel and Leisure named the United Kingdom as the top destination of 2023, which means interest — and crowds — in London will likely continue to grow. 
For a less-touristy trip to England, step back in time to the medieval city of York, which is about a two-hour train ride north of London.
With only 8.4 million annual visitors, according to Make It York, visitors will find emptier cobblestone streets and less-frequented attractions than in London, like the medieval cathedral York Minster, Clifford’s Tower, and the National Railway Museum.
The town has also earned a reputation for its beautiful streets, according to sites like The Guardian and Travel Triangle. As Insider previously reported, these streets are said to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley in “Harry Potter.”
Plus, York is less than half the size of London. This means visitors can likely explore the entire town on foot, if they wish.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, draws visitors looking for everything from luxury shopping to record-breaking architecture.
The modern city is filled with attractions like Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, greenery like the Dubai Miracle Garden, high-end shopping centers, water parks, and luxe restaurants. 
According to Global Media Insight, Dubai welcomed 10 million tourists between January and September of 2022. In 2019, that number was even higher with nearly 17 million international visitors, according to the same source.
Abu Dhabi has much of Dubai’s luxury appeal, just without as many tourists. In 2019, the city welcomed 11.4 million people — about 6 million fewer people than Dubai, according to Global Media Insight.
Like Dubai, Abu Dhabi is also home to five-star hotels, with high-end properties like the Emirates Palace, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, and Rosewood Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi has many sites and museums that give tourists a look into the city and the country’s culture, too. According to Google, the city’s top attractions include the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the Qasr al-Hosn, a historical landmark on the city’s coast.
The city of love placed third in the year’s top-searched destination, according to Google. 
Paris, France, expects to welcome 33 million visitors in 2022, according to Le Monde; in 2019, 38 million people traveled to Paris.
Tourists in Paris often visit attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Sacré-Cœur Basilica, and as Insider previously reported, some of the most popular places to dine include Michelin-starred Bellefeuille, and Andia, a Parisian restaurant set in a former train station. 
Paris is an iconic destination, which means visitors will likely encounter lines and crowds when they head to places like the Luxembourg Gardens, or attempt to snap a photo under the Arc de Triomphe.
Trade the crowds of Paris to discover French culture in Lyon. 
The city welcomes 6 million visitors every year — a much smaller number when compared to Paris’ 33 million, according to Lyon’s tourism website.
Instead of visiting Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, visitors can step inside the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière, a church built to honor the Virgin Mary and demonstrate the city’s wealth, according to Frommers. Or, explore the Grand Theatre, which is the oldest Roman theatre in France, Frommers reports.
Lyon is placed at the intersection of the Rhône and Saône Rivers, which means bridges and promenades fill the city, and it’s known for lively neighborhoods, Frommers reports. There’s a medieval district with impressive architecture, and the Croix-Rousse region is home to Lyon’s silk industry, according to the same source.
If you visit, arrive hungry. Lyon is the gastronomical capital of France, according to Expatica. It’s home to 15 Michelin-starred restaurants and notable French dishes like quenelle de brochet, which are fluffy fish dumplings, the same source reports. 
Between bustling Central Park and crowded Times Square, it can be challenging to avoid crowds in America’s most-populated city, New York City. 
The city enticed 66.6 million visitors in 2019, according to the Office of the New York.
Tourists often arrive hoping to explore New York City’s diverse food scene, impressive museums, multiple parks, and varied neighborhoods. Places like the Statue of Liberty, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grand Central Terminal, and The High Line are some of the city’s top attractions, according to Google, and are among the many places where you’re likely to encounter those crowds. 
Roughly two hours from New York, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, visitors can discover deep US history, a rich food scene, and atmospheric neighborhoods — all with fewer people than in New York City.
The city attracted 20 million fewer tourists than New York City in 2019, according to The City of Philadelphia.
Across Philadelphia, tourists will find 56 skyscrapers, according to Kiddle, and can wander into historic sites like Independence Hall, where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, and dive into history at museums like the Museum of the American Revolution, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Barnes Foundation, which all often fill Philadelphia itineraries, according to Google.
Philly also has its own food scene. The city is famous for its Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, which visitors can find at Pat’s King of Steaks or Geno’s Steaks. The city is also home to tomato pie, which is Philadelphia-style pizza, and can be found at Sarcone’s Bakery.
Well known for its biking infrastructure and canals, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, is a popular — and sometimes crowded — city. 
In fact, it’s one of Europe’s most visited capital cities, according to Forbes. Over 21 million tourists visit each year, according to Amsterdam’s City Council, via Forbes. So, it’s perhaps not a huge surprise to see it rank so highly in search on Google.
Beyond a cruise down its canals, the city’s most popular attractions where you’ll likely encounter these crowds include the Anne Frank Museum, Royal Palace Amsterdam, and art museums like the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, according to Google.
Visitors can hop on a bike or boat to explore the car-free city of Utrecht, The Netherlands, with likely fewer tourists than they’ll find in the capital. Located in the center of the country, Utrecht is a centuries-old university town with castles, cathedrals, and museums. 
In the heart of Utrecht, visitors will discover the Dom Tower Church, which is the north star of Utrecht as it’s visible from every point in the town, according to The Netherlands’ tourism website. Many Utrecht itineraries also include a stop at the medieval-style De Haar Castle, which is the largest castle in the country, according to Holland’s tourism page
And visitors are more likely to find pockets of solitude in Utrecht than in Amsterdam, since the city has only about 450,000 annual tourists, according to the NL Times.
The capital of Portugal, Lisbon, caters to millions of tourists every year. The hilly, coastal city experienced 16.4 million tourists in 2019, and 5.9 million in 2021, according to Reuters.
Visitors arrive to explore the famous São Jorge Castle, admire the city’s pastel buildings, and head to sunny beaches on the edge of Portugal.
And while all these destinations are worth a visit, don’t expect to explore them alone. According to Skift, Lisbon experienced over-tourism after a boom in travel interest.
Enjoy a similar coastal vibe to the one found in Lisbon in Porto, Portugal. Located on the Douro River, Porto won’t be completely empty — it’s Portugal’s second-largest city — but it attracted only 2.5 million tourists in 2019, according to World Data.
Porto is also the gateway to Portugal’s Douro wine region, according to The Planet, and a handful of quiet towns are accessible from the city, like Amarante and Braga, according to Lonely Planet.
As seen on Google, some of Porto’s top attractions include churches like the Clerigos Church and Tower and the Porto Cathedral, as well as the Livraria Lello bookshop, and green spaces like the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal
Porto also has a standout food scene, according to Culinary Backstreets. Along the Douro River, tourists can find plenty of restaurants and Port houses, which are wine cellars that offer Port wine tastings, which is a specialty of the region, according to Taste Porto
The Mediterranean city of Barcelona, Spain, stands out for its beaches, art, sports, food — and crowds.
An average of 20 million people visit Barcelona each year, according to EuroNews. And the city’s top attractions usher in millions of people annually. In 2020, for instance, the Sagrada Família church and Park Güell, one of the largest green spaces in the city, had a combined 1.4 million visitors, according to Statistica
Beyond museums and parks, Barcelona’s tourists often head to its cathedrals, markets, and architectural marvels across the city, or sunbathe at popular beaches like Barceloneta Beach.
Visitors can keep their bikinis, beach towels, and sunscreen packed for a trip to San Sebastian, Spain. The city, located in Spain’s Basque country, and about a five-and-a-half-hour train ride from Barcelona, according to Rail Europe, has three beaches to explore, Barceló reports. 
But San Sebastian is known for more than just sand. The city is famous for a specific style of tapas called pintxos, according to Culture Trip. They are small snacks served on bread that can be found in the bars filling the city’s Old Town neighborhood, according to the same source.
There’s also plenty of history and culture in San Sebastian. According to Google, the town’s top attractions include a Baroque church completed in 1774, a coastal aquarium, and Haizearen orrazia, a set of contemporary statues on San Sebastian’s waterfront. 
And at all of these places, crowds are likely to be manageable as San Sebastian attracts 620,000 visitors per year, which is far fewer than in Barcelona, according to Lonely Planet.  
In 2020, Turkey welcomed 16 million tourists, according to World Data. More than 14.7 million of those tourists visited Istanbul, according to the same source, which sits on the waterways of the Bosphorus Strait.
Across Istanbul, tourists will find reminders of the city’s history. For example, visitors can go to the Sultanahmet district, where signs of the country’s Roman past are visible in buildings like an open-air Hippodrome. In another part of Istanbul, Egyptian obelisks may be explored.
There are also dozens of mosques to visit, with Hagia Sophia and Sultan Ahmed Mosque being two of the most popular ones, according to Google, as well as bazaars and markets. According to The Travel, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s largest, and attracts an estimated 90 million people annually.
Istanbul has plenty of impressive sites, so visitors shouldn’t arrive expecting solitude, deserted streets, or empty museums. 
As an alternative to Istanbul, tourists might consider Alanya, Turkey, which welcomes fewer people than Istanbul. According to Hurriyet Daily News, Alanya had 3.5 million visitors in 2018.
But that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t have a lot to do. Alanya sits on the Turkish Riviera and has a handful of beautiful beaches to explore. According to Turkey Homes, these beaches are the town’s largest allure with opportunities for snorkeling, swimming, and relaxation.
Alanya is also known for its medieval Alanya Castle and the Damlataş Cave, which is a 15,000-year-old natural formation filled with stalactites and stalagmites, according to Antalya Tourist Information
And, the town has many delicious restaurants, lively bars, and welcoming cafes, according to Wanderlog.
Denpasar, Bali, is where most visitors arrive for yoga retreats, tropical villa vacations, or surfing trips across greater Bali.
But beyond being home to Bali’s international airport, it’s also known for popular Sanur beach, the Bajra Sandhi Monument, and the Badung outdoor market, according to Google.
As reported by the Bali Hotels Association, Bali saw more than 6 million international tourists in 2018. This year, that number was closer to 2 million, according to Statista. There are also more than 100,000 foreigners permanently living in Bali, according to Bali’s Ministry of Justice and Human Rights via Bali Discovery.
Lombok, an island in Indonesia, draws visitors on the hunt for a tropical destination.
The island welcomes about 3 million tourists annually, according to the Ministry of Villas.
Once on land, you’ll find much of the same draws as Bali, with pristine beaches, impressive waterfalls, and challenging mountain hikes, according to Google.
Outside of nature, travelers may also explore Hindu temples like Pura Batu Bolong; Mandala Suci Wenara Wana, which is known as Ubud’s Monkey Forest; and nearby islands, according to Google.
Whether visitors arrive with the hope of tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain or dining on plates of pasta, Rome, Italy, attracts millions of people each year. More specifically, according to World Data, Rome is Italy’s most popular tourist destination, and saw 10.3 million visitors in 2019.
The city is famous for its cuisine and history, as well as its crowds. As listed on the Colosseum’s ticket website, the average wait is between one and two hours to enter the historic site. Other famous spots, like the Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica, have similar lengthy lines and crowds, according to Miss Tourist
Pula, a seafront city in Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, was once a stronghold of the Roman Empire and part of Italy until 1947, according to CNN.
Today, Pula’s Italian influence remains, which can make for a worthy alternate to Rome with fewer crowds. Only about 465,000 tourists visited in 2019, according to Total Croatia News
Across the city you’ll find Roman ruins, but most notably, the Pula Arena, a medieval amphitheater with a similar, but smaller, design to Rome’s Colosseum. According to The New York Times, most of the region’s population speaks Italian and Croatian, so tourists can expect to hear both languages as they wander through the city. 
Visitors will also find a variety of restaurants. According to the Culture Trip, there are plenty of places serving traditional Istrian cuisine, which features steak, smoked ham, cheeses, and pasta, as well as Italian restaurants for pizza. 
Surrounding Pula are quieter towns like Rovinj, which Rick Steves called “a little Venice on a hill,” and beaches.  
 
 
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