Explore Asia: Places to Visit for History and Culture
Asia/ Nomads/ Explore

Best of Asia: 7 Cities to Visit for Historical and Cultural Tours

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From vibrant and bustling cities to remote and paradise-like islands, Asia is a traveler’s hotspot, offering a dose of adventure and relaxation depending on your chosen destination. As the largest continent, Asia also highlights a cultural diversity you can’t see anywhere else, making it appealing to those who want to take a deep dive into history and culture.

Asia is not only the home of some of the world’s oldest civilizations; it’s also where you can see different architectural wonders, historical landmarks, and significant museums, among others. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in Asia’s rich heritage, we’ve listed seven cities that need to be on top of your list for historical and cultural explorations. From Kyoto and Siem Reap to Hanoi and Chiang Mai, you’re in for an enriching experience at every stop.

Malacca, Malaysia

Also spelled as Melaka, Malacca is a city in Malaysia known for its culture and history that’s influenced by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial periods. It was one of the most important cities in the world for trade in the 15th century, serving as a port where merchants from Asia and Europe converged.

If you’re visiting, make sure you drop by A Famosa, one of the oldest European structures in Asia that can be found in Malacca. Just nearby is the Stadthuys, a red Dutch colonial building that houses the History and Ethnography Museum where you can view exhibits showcasing Malacca’s cultural heritage; and St. Paul’s Hill where the ruins of St. Paul’s Church are found and where you can enjoy a view of the Malacca Strait.

Bandung, Indonesia

Often referred to as the “Paris of Java,” Bandung is the capital of West Java province and is known for its colonial and Art Deco architecture. In addition to the historical and cultural attractions in the city, it also has natural sites that make a visit worth it.

Some of the must-see historical and cultural landmarks in Bandung include the Gedung Sate, a building that showcases neoclassical and native Indonesian elements. Be on the lookout for its central pinnacle that resembles a satay skewer. You also can’t miss wandering Braga Street where you can find colonial-era buildings, boutiques, and cafes. Make sure you allot time checking out markets like the Floating Market Lembang where you can buy food and other items from boats.

Bataan, Philippines

Accessible from Manila by ferry, bus, or car, Bataan is a province in Central Luzon that played a role in World War II. Its landmarks and natural wonders reflect its storied past, and if you’re a history buff, you’ll surely enjoy a trip to this province.

Located in the Bataan is the Mount Samat National Shrine or Dambana ng Kagitingan, a memorial dedicated to Filipino and American soldiers who fought during the Battle of Bataan. You also can’t miss the Balanga Cathedral with its preserved façade, the Bataan World War II Museum, and the Zero Kilometer Marker, which served as the starting point of the Bataan Death March.

Kyoto, Japan

As the cultural heart of Japan, Kyoto is a quaint city where traditions and modern life blend seamlessly. Here, you can visit The Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), a beautiful Buddhist temple covered in gold leaf; the Fushimi Inari Taisha, a famous Shinto shrine seen in many tourist photographs that highlight the red torii gates that lead up to Mount Inari; and the Gion District, Kyoto’s famous geisha district where you can spot geishas, maikos, and teahouses.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

History and culture enthusiasts will enjoy wandering Siem Reap, a gateway to the ancient temples of Angkor, including the world-renowned Angkor Wat. A tourist-favorite, Siem Reap lets you travel back in time by bringing you closer to Angkot Wat, the largest religious monument in the world; Angkor Thom where you can see The Bayon Temple; Ta Prohm, a famous temple featuring trees and roots that have covered its structure; and the Old Market (Psar Chaa), where you can buy crafts and produce.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Famous for its temples and festivals, Chiang Mai is often called the “Rose of the North.” If you’re visiting for the historical and cultural attractions, you can’t miss stopping by the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of Thailand’s most important temples; the Wat Phra Singh, a temple housing the Phra Singh Buddha image; and the historic center of Chiang Mai, the Old City. Chiang Mai Old City features museums, temples, traditional buildings, and ancient walls that bring you back to the past.

Hanoi, Vietnam

The capital city of Vietnam boasts over a thousand years of history, making it a must-visit destination if you’re looking to immerse yourself in heritage, colonial architecture, and more. Plan your trip around making stops at the Old Quarter, where you can find markets and traditional shops; the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the final resting place of the leader who led Vietnam to independence; and the Hoa Lo Prison, where you can see exhibits depicting the history of the prison.

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