Hello fellow travel data geeks and welcome to the very first travel world data analysis by the Travel Lab. For today, I dug deep into Europe’s metropoles’ data!
For this post, I set the goal to find out which of Europe’s top 5 most visited cities is most worth visiting according to data. A data clash of the Europe top 5 cities according to numbers of tourists: London, Paris, Istanbul, Barcelona and Amsterdam.
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Did you ever ask yourself which city to go next? What you mostly do is asking your friends and family, they all tell you the last trip to [put random city here] was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G (except for Düsseldorf, nobody likes Düsseldorf. Nobody). Well, thanks. But how about a more objective view on things? I analyzed different aspects that add up to the attractiveness of a city break destination, such as sightseeing richness, security, shopping and more.
Depending on your preferences, you can decide which one is your favorite. But since life is not all guns and roses – and we’re here for competition baby! – we end up with a ranking, stating the overall winner of the top 5 European cities.
So let’s dive into it, starting with…
We travel for many reasons: To find ourselves, to get away from it all, to get a tan. But many of us travel to see the world. To turn to the next page of the book we call earth. We want to get to know other cultures and see new places. For all those wanderers, sightseeing, whether in a guided group or on one’s own, is a crucial part of a journey. No way I could let that out of the ranking.
Based on the reviews of millions of travelers, Tripadvisor distributes the “Travellers’ Choice Award” and the “Certificate of Excellence”. First named is only given to the constantly top rated travel items, it’s the gold medal of Trip Advisor, so to say. Second named is given to way more attractions, hotels, restaurants, etc., and can therefore be seen as the silver medal.
I counted, how many of both certificates were given to the top 200 sightseeing attractions of each city. In this way, we count the really outstanding sights, constantly rated the best, as well as those that are very popular among tourists. Additionally, I counted the number of sights in 4 different travel guides and put the average into consideration:
- Travellers’ Choice Awards
- Certificates of Excellence
- Number of Sights
London takes the lead! We all know lots of sights like Westminster Abbey, the London Bridge, the Tower of London and so on and so forth. With attractions like the Hagia Sophia, the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Blue Mosque and more, Istanbul offers by far the most sights honored with the Travellers’ Choice Award.
With 133 Certificates of Excellence, London is by far number 1 in this category – which shows a broad range of popular sights. Paris and Istanbul are quite equal in this aspect, leaving Barcelona an Amsterdam far behind.
London also has by far the most sights in general (almost 500 on average), followed by Paris with 350. Istanbul (220) doesn’t have so many more than Barcelona (195), but the Turkish metropole got way better ratings on average.
- London: 86%
- Paris: 67,9%
- Istanbul: 67,5%
- Barcelona: 33%
- Amsterdam: 24%
|Travellers’ Choice||Certificate of Excellence||Number of Sights|
|London||7 = 58,3%||133 = 100%||495 = 98,9%|
|Paris||8 = 66,6%||89 = 66,9%||351 = 70,1%|
|Istanbul||12 = 100%||78 = 58,6%||220 = 44,0%|
|Barcelona||3 = 25%||47 = 35,3%||195 = 39,0%|
|Amsterdam||2 = 16,6%||27 = 20,3%||176 = 35,1%|
For the shopping analysis, I got some help from the guys over at Globe Shopper Index, who did a brilliant job analyzing European and Asian cities for their attractiveness for shoppers. So if you’re heading for a city especially for shopping, I recommend you take a look at what they have to say about it.
They analyzed a lot of different factors that make up a shopping city. Many of those are already covered by other parts of this blog post. Thus, I filtered the data points that are interesting for our ranking:
- Number of shops and boutiques
- Number and variety of leading local and international brands
- Duration of sales seasons
- Share of genuine (i.e. no counterfeit) goods
- Affordability of typical consumer products
- Convenience of shopping hours
London is Europe’s shopping city #1, according to Globeshopperindex. But the other cities of this list aren’t bad either. Barcelona ranks #3, Paris #4, Amsterdam #8 and Istanbul #13. Except for Istanbul, which falls a bit short, all cities are a very good choice for a shopping trip.
London offers the best variety of global and local brands. It scores a full 100 points in this section. If you want some good value for your money, Barcelona is your choice! It has the most sales seasons and the highest affordability rating, followed closely by Amsterdam. The highest variety and quality of shops and boutiques is found in both London and Paris.
- London: 77%
- Paris: 69%
- Amsterdam: 66%
- Barcelona: 63%
- Istanbul: 56%
Weather plays an important role on how we experience a scene, a place, a city. You can surely remember a sunny day during one of your trip that was absolutely fantastic, a taste of paradise. And the next day, when those dark clouds covered the sky, everything seemed a bit dull, grey and somehow sad, as if the city’s pet bunny just died and is being burried in the garden. Who doesn’t want to comment on one’s holiday pictures like: “Yes, this is me, in pouring rain in front of the Eiffel Tower, soaking wet. Loved it!”
I divided the weather rating into four parts, spring, summer, fall and winter each worth 25%. Taking the overall average weather of the year seemed a bit idiotic, for a 50°C in summer and a -20°C would add up to a perfectly enjoyable 30°C overall. You get the point. To measure the weather, I considered:
- average temperature
- sun hours
- amount of rain
Adding up all season ratings, we get a clear winner: Surprise! It’s Barcelona. While its beach weather in summer with more than 10 sun hours a day and an average of 23°C is perfect for a sunny city break, spring and fall still qualify for a super nice trip.
Although runner-up behind Barcelona in summer, with high temperature and lots of sun (11 hours a day!), Istanbul offers the worst weather in winter, with the highest amount of rainfall.
London is well-known as the rain capital of Europe. But did you know that Amsterdam is way rainier than London? The amount of rain over the year is 30% higher in Amsterdam than in London
Amsterdam is a rather surprising loser for me, being by far the last spot in spring, summer and fall, only beaten by Istanbul in winter. Overall, the Dutch metropole has by far the worst weather of all tested cities. It’s still enjoyable though, especially in summer. Paris offers a nice summer and can be visited in spring and fall as well, due to a mild climate.
- Barcelona: 72%
- Istanbul: 56%
- Paris: 55%
- London: 52%
- Amsterdam: 44%
|Rain / mm||Sun / h||Temp / °C||Result|
|London||43 = 57%||5,1 = 51%||9,6 = 62%||57%|
|Paris||41 = 59%||6,2 = 62%||11,2 = 66%||62%|
|Istanbul||47 = 53%||6,5 = 65%||12,4 = 41%||51%|
|Barcelona||31 = 69%||7,5 = 75%||13,4 = 71%||72%|
|Amsterdam||59 = 41%||4,7 = 47%||9,8 = 62%||50%|
|Rain / mm||Sun / h||Temp / °C||Result|
|London||53 = 47%||6,4 = 64%||17 = 80%||64%|
|Paris||59 = 41%||7,7 = 77%||18,8 = 85%||68%|
|Istanbul||22 = 78%||11,1 = 100%||22,6 = 94%||91%|
|Barcelona||21 = 79%||10,5 = 100%||23,3 = 96%||92%|
|Amsterdam||71 = 29%||5 = 50%||15,3 = 76%||52%|
|Rain / mm||Sun / h||Temp / °C||Result|
|London||57 = 43%||3,2 = 32%||11,2 = 66%||47%|
|Paris||52 = 48%||5 = 50%||11,8 = 67%||55%|
|Istanbul||67 = 33%||6 = 60%||11,9 = 67%||53%|
|Barcelona||31 = 69%||6,3 = 63%||15,3 = 76%||69%|
|Amsterdam||72 = 28%||2,7 = 27%||10,9 = 65%||40%|
|Rain / mm||Sun / h||Temp / °C||Result|
|London||47 = 53%||1,7 = 17%||5,3 = 51%||40%|
|Paris||51 = 49%||2,1 = 21%||4,0 = 48%||36%|
|Istanbul||96 = 4%||2,9 = 29%||6,8 = 55%||29%|
|Barcelona||22 = 78%||4,6 = 46%||7,1 = 55%||60%|
|Amsterdam||67 = 33%||1,7 = 17%||4,5 = 49%||33%|
We’re all tourists somewhere. But we all know, we love not to be reminded of it. We love feeling like a local, eating in a restaurant where everybody speaks some language we don’t understand, partying in the middle of a local party hotspot and sitting in a park, relaxing, with none of “those” disturbing tourists in sight.
The bigger a city, the easier it is not to meet other tourists. So I put the population of a city in relationship to the annual visitors – and coined this relationship “touristicity”. It answers the question: How many tourists visit a city per inhabitant annually. Hence, the two data points I took into considerations were:
- Inhabitants of the city
- Tourists per year
This is a quite an interesting statistic, in which we have a more than clear winner: Istanbul. Through its sheer size, you can have a hard time finding other tourists here (unless you go to the tourist hotspots like Hagia Sophia of course), there’s only around one tourist per year per inhabitant.
In Amsterdam on the other hand, you can have a hard time finding a local, with 10 tourists per inhabitants. You’ve been to Amsterdam’s old town? Then you know what I’m talking about. Paris, we all know that, is an absolutes tourist magnet, with a three times higher touristicity factor than London.
- Istanbul: 91%
- London: 78%
- Barcelona: 52%
- Paris: 28%
- Amsterdam: 6%
|Locals / Mio||Tourists / Mio||Ratio|
Just as in your everyday life, you want to feel save on a trip. We examined the security of each city in two aspects. How save are you as a person? Nothing is more annoying than getting shot in the knee while strolling around the old town. Who wouldn’t hate that?
The second aspect is the security of your stuff. A frighteningly high number of tourists would sacrifice both of their knees, their grandma and ten years of their life for the safety of their smartphone. So we looked at how high the pickpockets’ activity is in each city.
A study of 2015 by The Economist analyzed the crime statistics of many European cities, including our top 5. The personal safety was, among other topics, one of their analyzed key figures. In order to determine personal safety they analyzed the following aspects: Engagement of police and prevalence of violent crime.Want to know why? Click here.
Secondly, cities have a great interest in low pickpocket numbers, because high crime rates keep tourists away and make the police look bad. So, according to Vincent in a second blog entry about pickpocket statistics, a minor theft is often downgraded to an item loss by the police. This, of course, makes the outcome of those statistics as interesting and realistic as press releases by Sepp Blatter on bribery inside FIFA.
Nevertheless, there is some information about pickpocketing. In a study conducted by Tripadvisor, analyzing forum entries by its users, they found that three of our five top European cities are pickpocket hotspots of the world, and one even made it to the top of this inglorious list.
So these are the factors considered in the security rating:
- engagement of police
- prevalence of violent crime
- User response on pickpocketing on Tripadvisor
In terms of general security, all the top European cities perform quite well. Not a big surprise: A metropole with a disturbingly high crime rate would have a hard time attracting tourists and make it to the top 5 of Europe’s most visited cities.
However, several sources confirm that Barcelona, the Catalan metropole, is THE worst city in the world in terms of pickpocketing. Paris made it to rank 5 on the list, while Amsterdam finds itself on rank 8. So you are allowed to be a bit paranoid when walking through those cities.
While all of the named cities are relatively save, they are still metropoles, which always bear a bit of a risk. Nevertheless, the results are very close, none of the analyzed cities shows an alarming lack of security.
- London: 73,6%
- Amsterdam: 71,7%
- Istanbul: 71,2%
- Barcelona: 64,4%
- Paris: 60,8%
Security of Belongings
Talkin’ money! Of course, I would love to stay some nights in the Ritz-Carlton, eat truffles and empty some bottles of Dom Perignon. But that would be connected to working some extra hours for let’s say.. 5 years. Money is always a factor for a trip, unless you have SO much of it that you really don’t care (if this is the case for you, please call me, I think we could be BFFs).
A report from this year, conducted by UBS, broke down the several cost effective factors of the biggest cities on earth. Among other things, they analyzed what a typical city break for two people would cost in every city (lucky me!), consisting of:
- overnight stay in a first-class hotel
- two dinners at a restaurant with a bottle of wine
- a taxi ride
- public transport tickets
- a rental car (100 km)
- a paperback book
- a phone call
- postage for a letter
A big surprise: London, being one of the most expensive cities in the world, is NOT number one in this list. Instead, Paris takes that not so glorious lead, with total costs of $890 for a trip (London: $750). If you ever tried to buy a coffee near the Louvre, you might consider this a logical result.
A Paris city break will cost you over 30% more than a trip to Istanbul. Istanbul, with $440 is by far the cheapest of the five cities. Barcelona and Amsterdam are almost equally expensive, with only 30$ difference (Barcelona: $600, Amsterdam: $570)
- Istanbul: 57%
- Amsterdam: 45%
- Barcelona: 42%
- London: 28%
- Paris: 14%
|Price per Trip||Rating|
Phew, that was a ride! Now, we come to the last act: the final ranking! Of course, finding your perfect trip destination is a very personal and subjective thing. Maybe (if you are like me) shopping is not at all interesting for you. Depending on when you go, the ranking changes due to the weather. There are so many variables. However, I promised a supercool ranking, settling which of the cities is the best for a city break. Counting all ratings together, we get a rather surprising result.
- Istanbul: 66,5%
- London: 66,3%
- Barcelona: 54%
- Paris: 49%
- Amsterdam: 43%
Did you expect that? Well, I didn’t, for my party. It was a real photo finish between London, which can be seen as a favorite in this ranking, and Istanbul, rather an underdog.
See the full infographic to this post
Just click on the image
Did you like the methodology? Would you have done something different? And what’s your opinion of the results? Use the comment section, I’d really like to know! And if you want more travel data content in the future, feel free to sign up for the newsletter below!
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Few tourists compared to city size
Not always the best weather
Not the best shopping city