During our regular read around the internet, we came across a great article on Far and Wide talking about the various ‘overhyped’ tourist spots you should skip during your holiday. The article (which you can read here) is very well written and poses the idea that there are some ‘must-see’ sights that really aren’t worth the effort.
Whilst we agree that some of the world’s most popular attractions can be devalued slightly by new additions to their surroundings and by large groups of visitors, but we still feel their beauty and historic importance make it all worthwhile. Likewise, some top sights just don’t live up to expectations, but the ones below certainly do not fall into this category.
By no means do we wish to ridicule the original article (you should definitely give it a read), but we do want to present the other side of the argument and tell you why these attractions are rightly considered to be some of the world’s best.
The Mona Lisa
Nestled away in the maze of corridors that is the Louvre, the Mona Lisa sits on her own dedicated wall behind a pane of bulletproof glass. Many people often say that she is smaller than they expected but this does nothing to dull her beauty. One of the most famous paintings in the world seems to emit a tangible feeling of wonder and tends to have a lasting effect on most people, especially art lovers.
If you are worried about the hundreds of other people jostling to catch a glimpse, choose the time you visit wisely. We went on a Friday evening (when entry is free for anyone under the age of 26) and effectively had Lisa all to ourselves. Even if you don’t fall into this age bracket, an evening visit may be your best chance of avoiding the crowds. One thing that is for sure, though, is that the Louvre has plenty more exciting treasures waiting to be unearthed.
The article refers to the Clifton Hill area of Niagara rather than the falls themselves, stating that it creates a tacky environment in which to find one of our planet’s most breathtaking natural sights. However, we feel this all adds to the experience – especially if you’re travelling with kids.
Directly off Niagara Parkway, you’ll find a host of things to do that range from glow in the dark mini-golf to a Ferris wheel and from go-karts to a haunted house. Anyone who has ever been to Blackpool will know exactly what to expect. Walking around, never quite knowing what you’ll come across next is a great way to spend an afternoon and the perfect way to relax after you’ve seen the falls from every angle possible.
Empire State Building
Once the tallest building in the world, the Empire State Building is one of the best ways to look down on New York. Yes, there will be a queue, but you can mitigate this somewhat by booking online and in advance. What’s more, the observation deck is open until 2am, presenting plenty of chance to find a time that suits you and that doesn’t coincide with the rest of Manhattan’s visit.
Whilst the 86th-floor open-air viewing area (the highest of its kind in the world) offers great vistas of the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge towards the south, climbing a few more floors to the Top Deck will bring Central Park into view. The experience is so magical that many people choose to do it twice – once in the day and once when darkness has fallen and New York’s landmarks are lit up.
If, however, you want a view that includes the Empire State Building itself, the Top of the Rock will be a better choice.
Having recently been to Rome, we can honestly say that a visit to the Colosseum was one of the best things we did in the Italian capital. It may be cliché but it’s such an important historic site that you really shouldn’t miss it. Whilst stories of queues snaking around the block are definitely true, this is not always the case. Plus, if you book your tickets in advance from a website like this, you’ll be able to stroll past the lines (smug grin optional) and start your visit straight away.
Something that endlessly enhanced our visit (and an extra we’d urge you to add) is a guided tour. The knowledge of these local experts brings everything to life and you can really imagine the crowds, gladiators and mock naval battles (yes, they did this) that filled this space in the past. We learnt much more on the tour than we would have done without it, but this Roman Amphitheatre is worth the visit for its sheer majesty alone.
The original article confirms the beauty of this mesmerising cathedral but warns that the hordes of hawkers around the area should put you off. Well, we’re here to say that you shouldn’t let this stop you from seeing such a wonderful piece of architecture up close. The views from the top of the dome are great, the stained glass windows create a magical light and the ceiling frescos are wonderfully intricate.
We were witness to the people trying to sell their various wares during our visit but found that a simple “no, thank you” was enough to make them pass us by. Plus, the later in the day (or evening) you go, the fewer of these sellers you’ll have to deal with. And you have the added bonus of seeing Sacre Coeur gloriously illuminated.
Statue of Liberty
Sure, you can sail past Lady Liberty on board the Staten Island Ferry for free, but this really doesn’t do this iconic structure justice. The boats which take you to Liberty Island will allow you to get a much closer look and therefore better photos. There will also be fewer people on board for you to jostle with in order to get the perfect view.
Once on the island, you can spend as much time as you like admiring the statue and enjoying the views back towards Manhattan. You can also climb to various observation decks within the statue, giving you the chance to look out from her pedestal or crown. Personally, we found the pedestal to be just as good as going higher and opting for this will save you a bit of money too. There’s a small but interesting museum inside, detailing how the Statue of Liberty was created and why she is a symbol of freedom.
Lastly, your ticket also includes a stop at nearby Ellis Island, the first place 12 million immigrants coming to America saw when they arrived. Their story is told in the onsite museum and is a very moving exhibition.
Venice? The entire city? How can anyone advise people not to visit this historical and architectural wonderland?
As one of the most Romantic and artistically brilliant places you’ll ever visit, there’s no surprise this canal-filled destination features on many bucket lists. The article talks about getting lost in the maze of confusing side streets, but this is all part of the fun. Many of the charming churches and unexpected sights can be found away from the main tourist areas, so it’s best to explore and see where the waterways take you. Plus, no amount of ‘pigeon poop’ can taint the beauty of Piazza San Marco.
Sadly, Venice’s desirability could also be its downfall, as increasing numbers of tourists are one of the reasons it continues to sink into the lagoon.
Prague Old Town
Some people might look at Prague and just see it as a venue for hen and stag dos, but those people will miss everything else the Czech capital has to offer. It’s amazing how much astonishing architecture is crammed into a relatively small area, how many interesting museums can be found in one Old Town and how many iconic sights are waiting amongst the historic cobbles.
Peak season may bring plenty of other tourists to town, but this by no means detracts from Prague’s allure, especially as it’s never busy enough to make you feel uncomfortable. However, it goes without saying that there are lesser-known places in the country that offer the same medieval charm without the great number of visitors (Kutná Hora, for example).
The Great Wall Of China
It’s no surprise that one of the most popular attractions on the planet can sometimes leave you fighting off other visitors in order to enjoy it. And, as the article says, a high percentage of these visitors end up at Mutianyu due to its proximity to Beijing. However, if you make the effort to head further out from the city and explore one of the other access points, the Great Wall shows itself for the incredible spectacle it is.
You’ll marvel at how such a structure was created without modern tools or techniques, before imagining the gruesome stories these stones could tell.
If you would like experience any of these world-renowned sights, the TravelQuest team can help you plan your trip. Call us on 0800 021 3237 or visit our travel agents in Ipswich and Woodbridge.