Whenever I’m on vacation or visiting a city on a short break, I try and soak up as much of the real, local culture that I can – I find it the best way to really explore a new place.
I’m not a huge fan of crowded tourist sites where people aren’t people anymore, they mutate into clumsy beings with cameras attached to their faces – the best way to enjoy a vacation is not through a camera lens.
There are of course some exceptions to this rule, there’s a list of what I would regard as ‘stereotypical’ tourist spots that I’ve loved and would visit again (The Eiffel Tower, Ground Zero, Vatican City etc), but the majority of the ‘must-see’ tourist traps out there are overpriced, oversubscribed and ultimately overrated.
Want to know the ones to avoid? Or are they overrated, still iconic and definitely a must see?
The Louvre Museum – Paris, France
Let’s face it; the only reason you are inside The Louvre Museum in Paris is to see Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ painting, right? Well save yourself the considerable entrance fee because the thing is just tiny. I mean like miniscule, barely bigger than a postage stamp. If you want a preview of the kind of view you’ll be getting, this second image in the gallery illustrates it well!
As that image accurately demonstrates, not only is the painting small there are also a ton of other tourists blocking your view, who are desperate for their picture of probably the most disappointing piece of art in history. Be warned.
Stonehenge – Amesbury, UK
What is essentially a bunch of big stones in a field, Stonehenge is yet another ancient monument completely mugging off unsuspecting tourists. Don’t expect to get near let alone touch the stones (you can’t), don’t expect to see anything interesting in the immediate vicinity (there is no accompanying museum or tourist centre), and certainly don’t expect good weather (it’s England).
The Colosseum – Rome, Italy
We continue our stay in Europe by ‘visiting’ the impressive Colosseum in Rome. Unlike visiting Stonehenge the weather will most likely be good as it tends to be, all year round in Rome, but you’ll have to consider queue times and predict what the climate will be like when you actually get inside – average queuing times can be 6 to 8 months (okay not quite that long, but it’s a seriously long time to wait just to get into a building site). Plenty of time for the notorious local pickpockets to strike, then.
Do you like queuing? We do not! Read here how to avoid long queues for sights in Rome.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa – Pisa, Italy
What’s that? You have a genius idea that you’d like to go to Pisa and take a picture of yourself leaning against the tower? Nice. No-one’s ever thought of that before.
The Statue of Liberty – New York City, USA
The Statue of Liberty in New York is an iconic and symbolic monument, but yet another massive disappointment. You’re better off spending your time looking around the infinitely more interesting neighbouring Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of immigrants to the US during the early 1900’s.
Still want your classic tourist photograph of Lady Liberty? Take the (free) Staten Island Ferry from Manhattan to (you guessed it) Staten Island to see fantastic views of the New York Bay as well as your beloved Statue of Liberty.
Mannekin Pis – Brussels, Belgium
One of the most photographed statues in Europe, featured on practically every postcard in Belgium, the Mannekin Pis really ought to be a lot more impressive that it is. It’s just a little boy taking a leak into a fountain, right? Or am I missing something?!
The Astronomical Clock – Prague, Czech Republic
The Astronomical Clock located in beautiful Old Town Prague, is apparently the third oldest astronomical clock in the world – very interesting. What is not so interesting and is in fact incredibly irritating are the huge crowds that swell at the base of the clock every hour in preparation for the bell to chime. Seriously, that’s it. Anything that boring that results in such needlessly big crowds has to earn a place on this list.
The Great Wall of China – Badaling, China
Wherever on this planet you happen to call home, you’ll probably be familiar with the concept of walls. If walls interest you, then perhaps the Great Wall of China is an advisable vacation destination. If, like me, you don’t regard walls as all that impressive and certainly not visit worthy, I’d give this particular excursion a miss.
The section of the Great Wall at Badaling is especially well known for being a tourist nightmare – merchants harass you non-stop to buy their overpriced tat. It’s probably more interesting to look at from space than up close and personal.
Find here the best place to see the Great Wall.
Las Vegas – Nevada, USA
Las Vegas seems to be a popular destination amongst tourists, for absolutely no logical reason at all. Want to lose your savings gambling? Want a place to have a cheesy, shotgun wedding? Want to visit a place that is wall-to-wall soulless casinos and tasteless hotels? A city that is no more than a tacky theme park with neon lights? Las Vegas is the ticket.
The Grand Canyon – Arizona, USA
While you’re in Nevada not visiting Las Vegas you can also take a 6 hour drive east and not visit the Grand Canyon, too (this guide is helpful if nothing else). I presume that the recent opening of the ‘Skywalk’ attraction (pictured here) can only be to tempt the paying customers into ending the sheer boredom forced upon them whilst visiting the Grand Canyon.
Better have some more time and do the Rim to Rim hike.
Little Mermaid – Copenhagen, Denmark
Mention to anyone that you’re planning on visiting Copenhagen, and you’ll probably be advised to check out The Little Mermaid statue located on the coast of the city. My advice would be, don’t. What’s so special about it? Perhaps the mermaid is in some way related to the Mannekin Pis?
The Hollywood Walk of Fame – Los Angeles, USA
Don't expect any glamour on this famous street in the heart of the City of Angels. It's an otherwise ordinary street with huge crowds taking pictures of the sidewalk. Around them are celebrity impersonators and tacky souvenir shops - no, you won't spot any real celebrities, just other clueless tourists as confused as you are as to what they’re doing there.
Okay, so maybe it’s just me having lived in London for a time and also having frequented it many times in my life, but seemingly everywhere I go, there are tourists EVERYWHERE. What’s the deal?
Seriously tourists, London’s not all that special; it’s crowded (no thanks to you), it’s stuffy in the summer, freezing in the winter, its transport system is notoriously slow and unreliable, people are not friendly, traffic is a nightmare, things are expensive and the traditional tourist sites are frankly boring. Buckingham Palace? Really? I wouldn’t bother if I were you, but I hear that Paris is beautiful this time of year…
But maybe these travel tips are worth visiting London.