Travel

In defence of London’s ‘tourist-traps’

When reading and writing about travel a phrase that is pushed around a lot is ‘hidden treasure’. Of course there is always going to be desire to uncover the unknown and find a barely known secret location that encompasses all the wonders and awes you had hoped travel would provoke for you. But there exists amongst travel enthusiasts a kind of snobbery and competition over who has visited the most obscure, most unheard of ‘secret’ location. Rather than relentlessly bragging and scouring out places that no-one has heard of, maybe it is time to think about maybe why no-one has heard of them. More importantly, perhaps it is time to celebrate popular destinations and realise that there may be a reason everyone loves and visits them.
Many people will choose to actively avoid places that they consider a tourist trap but perhaps we have simply forgotten why they are a tourist trap in the first place. A typical tourist’s itinerary to London will include a stroll around the infamous Oxford Street, and a slow ride on the London Eye. In 2013 London attracted approximately 16.8 million visitors and how can that many people be wrong?
Oxford Street is relentless. It is a street that is indeed crammed full of people all rushing from shop to shop, clutching and defending their bags of purchases with their dear life. The street is home to the biggest names and brands, both high-street and up-market, all of whom don impressive window displays and interior design to lure the Oxford Street shopper in. It cannot be doubted that this street is full of people and some will call this ‘crowded’ but maybe a better word is ‘thriving’. Oxford Street is simply full of life. It is busy, just like it should be. Tourists do not go to Oxford Street expecting a quiet shopping experience that has lots of vintage and unheard of brands and market stalls. The street is big, bold and brassy. It is home to the biggest shops of the biggest brands in the UK and surely that is something to shout about? The hustle and bustle of one of London’s most popular streets is a travel experience in itself and surviving it should be celebrated.
The London Eye is a contraption that allows visitors to slowly admire the city of London from all angles. It is the only way to fully see London from a birds-eye view and to see the vastness and concrete beauty of England’s capital. It may be an odd spectacle, but it has become iconic of London’s skyline. It does not pretend to be anything it is not. Given its size and central location it is impossible to miss and therefore far from ‘secret’ and a ‘hidden treasure’ of London. People from all around the globe pay to see London from an aerial view and there is something truly remarkable, about viewing one of the world’s biggest cities from a distance. You are both right in the middle of busy, metropolitan London but also far away.
There are plenty of people ready to criticise the tourist spots of cities around the world, but whether they are really tourist ‘traps’ is disputable. If a location is vibrant, cultural and enjoyable to visit then it is rewarded with travellers and tourists alike who all want to see and experience it. Instead of criticising popular places and tourist attractions maybe it is time to fully embrace a popular location instead of reluctantly and cynically following the crowd. If a location is popular, there may indeed be a good reason for it.

27/01/2015

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jodiesnow Jodie is a second year English Literature student who appears to be the only section editor without a strong liking for tea. When she is literally not drinking tea, you will find Jodie making the most of her season pass to the LCR and trying her luck at writing editorial bios.