Wikipedia is often people's first stop when looking up something online - and the same could apply to tourists seeking a new destination.
An analysis of Wikipedia page views found that "Paris - Banks of the Seine" and "Historic Centre of Rome" were the most popular out of more than 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites being consulted on the free online encyclopedia.
They were followed by the historic areas of Istanbul, Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Statue of Liberty.
Half of the 20 most popular UNESCO sites were located in the European Union.
When only considering Wikipedia in English, the Taj Mahal was the second most popular in terms of page views, followed by the Statue of Liberty, the Great Wall of China and Rome's historic centre.
Eurostat released the statistics on Monday (Jan. 8), calling them "experimental". They come from a pilot big data project that aims to use people's use of Wikipedia and other online tools as a source of insight into their behaviours.
Why use Wikipedia page views to gauge popularity?
Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia has grown to hold more than 40 million articles in more than 200 languages. A 2015 survey showed close to half of individuals aged 16 to 74 and two-thirds of 16-24 year-olds used Wikipedia in their hunt for knowledge.
Such widespread usage means that information about people's use of Wikipedia could potentially be a relevant source of big data for official statistics.
Eurostat says Wikipedia page views could help with cultural and regional statistics - for example, to compare the popularity of a specific site across Wikipedia's different language services, and how it evolves over time.
How were the rankings done?
Wikipedia articles were selected for each of the 1,031 World Heritage Sites included on UNESCO’s list in 2015. Around 50,000 articles were selected across 31 languages. The total number of page views was taken as a measure of the popularity of the sites.
The data analysis showed the Wikipedia articles relating to "Paris, Banks of the Seine" topped the chart with nearly 7 million views in 2015, followed by pages relating to the historic centre of Rome, with nearly 6 million views.
This pilot was run as part of the Big Data Sandbox, an international collaboration project sponsored by the High-Level Group for the Modernisation of Official Statistics, set up by the Conference of European Statisticians. It involved, besides Eurostat, several national statistical institutes and other international statistical bodies.