Times Square. Taj Mahal. The Eiffel Tower. The Leaning Tower of Pisa. We all know them. Many of us have probably visited them. Famous tourist hot spots like these are famous for a reason, because of their unique architecture, cultural significance, uniqueness or beauty. But over the years, these attractions have lost some of their appeal. Crowds, costs, pollution or high expectations have meant these once must-see sights are no longer live up to the hype.
So are they worth visiting?
Some of them are, and some of them are not. Like any tourist attraction, it depends on when you go, as well as personal preference. If you have your heart set on seeing the Pyramids of Giza, then planning, researching and not setting your expectations too high will mean your experience is all the better.
Here are a few of those so-called ‘tourist traps’, whether or not they’re worth it, and some better alternatives:
- The Mona Lisa
Considered to be the jewel of Renaissance art, Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting is not worth your time. It’s tiny, and you have to fight the crowds to get even remotely close to it, and no one is allowed within fifteen feet of the painting. It’s also heavily protected in bullet proof glass. The theft of 1911 will not be repeated.
Instead, visit literally any other piece of art in the Louvre; it is filled with some absolute gems. You should also take a trip to Musée d’Orsay, a train station converted to a museum, holding mainly beautiful French art from 1848 to 1914.
- The Eiffel Tower
Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower is a must for most travellers, and for me, it is worth the hype because it is an experience of a lifetime. The view is breathtaking. Having a picnic in the Champ de Mars below is possibly even better. Visit during off-peak, autumn months for significantly less crowds. But, if you fancy a viewpoint that’s just as beautiful, and less crowded, visit the Arc de Triomphe.
- The Palace of Versailles
Few palaces come close to the grandness of Versailles. It allows you the chance to see how French royalty lived, and the Hall of Mirrors reflects this glory. For anyone who loves history and culture, this opulent palace should be on your list. Again, consider visiting on a weekday in off-peak times to avoid extensive queues and crowds.
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa
It’s a tower. It’s in Pisa. It leans. It’s surrounded by crowds trying to take a cheesy photo of themselves pretending to hold the tower. It is not worth it. Instead, visit the Medieval towers in the town of San Gimignano, or drive 25 minutes to another Tuscan city, Lucca, to see the Volto Santo.
- Taj Mahal
There is nothing else quite like Taj Mahal. Dreamed up in 1632, this striking white marble mausoleum is worth the hype. If you don’t mind the hoards of people, Taj Mahal is truly special, offering peace and amazement.
Personally, I dislike the word ‘overrated’, because it suggests that these attractions are not worth a visit. While some of them probably aren’t, the majority of them are famous for a reason, and are special in their own way. With popular attractions, it is best to do your research, find the best time to go, and decide for yourself whether they are worth your time or not.