There are hundreds of cities to consider for a trip to Asia. However, there are a few that stand out among the rest as excellent places to get a full dose of culture.
Shanghai is a huge metropolis that has everything China has to offer and more. If your time is limited, but you want to get the best experience of Chinese culture, then Shanghai is surely the way to do it. Book into a Shanghai hostel to save money as there is plenty to do and see. Perhaps you’re after the hustle and bustle of everyday life, then get down to the markets, where the smell of deep-fried soy is unmistakable. As for architecture, you’ll find old buildings like the Jing’an Temple nestled among shining modern towers, and Western-style buildings speak to its eclectic influences. The city is old, and it has held its cultural and political importance since the 1930s. It is the place to get to know China.
Image: Jing’an Temple. Credit: by kanegen
Go across the Sea of Japan to spend some time in the planet’s largest city, Tokyo. The Japanese capital is also its cultural and architectural flagship. All the sushi you can hope for, while staying in capsule hotels, is waiting for you. There’s the Imperial Palace Gardens to enjoy, along with dozens of other cultural sites, including several Shinto shrines. The skyline is beautiful, and finding top points for taking some amazing pictures is a worthwhile activity. Nearby nature sites and parks are plentiful, and distant snow-capped mountains make for a soothing backdrop to an energetic city.
Image: Sushi. Credit: by Francisco Antunes
In Southeast Asia travelers have the opportunity to visit Singapore, a small and country that offers a stark contrast to its neighbors. The city’s main attraction is its level-headed diversity, from Malay to Chinese and Tamil. Different districts will surprise you, especially when you find a mosque beside a temple. It is also a wonderful place to experiment in diverse cuisines. One night you might be enjoying chili crab, and the next you’ll be delving into the tastiness of Laksa or satay. Culturally, Singapore is set apart with so much diversity and travellers will find the city packed with contemporary and stylish hostels to choose from
Image: Singapore. Credit: by jjcb.
Nearby Kuala Lumpur presents an entirely different cultural exhibition. It shares some traits with its neighbor, such as the apt combination of shiny high rises and shack-like market streets. Kuala Lumpur is remarkable also for its newness, as only 150 years previous it was no more than a village. The real delight is in wandering aimlessly and observing the daily goings-on of a new capital. The best cultural experience to be had is gastronomic. Head to the Golden Triangle to find restaurants, or otherwise hang out beside the street Mamuk stalls—the pickings are incredible.
Image: Street food. Credit: by j.o.h.n. walker
Finally, a list of Asia’s best cultural cities would not be complete without mention of Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. Although it shares the attributes of other grand metropolises, it boasts some of the greatest architectural and cultural diversity in the region. You’ll find palaces mixed with modern structures, prime among them the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. You’ll also find plenty of museums and cultural centers throughout the city. One of the most attractive things about Bangkok is its canals, and a boat ride through them is a sure way to get that feeling of immersion.
Image: Grand Palace. Credit: by MadeByMark
There are so many more Asian cities to visit, but keep in mind that these listed here are among the best, and are well-serviced by buses or trains to surrounding villages and towns.