Go Here, Not There: 11 Worthwhile Tourist Attractions
The tourist trap: a cautionary tale of travel whose history is fascinating—how is it that some sites and attractions, wholly overhyped, overcrowded, or anticlimactic, manage to draw thousands and thousands of foreign visitors year after year? Doesn’t anyone get the memo? Mystifying origins aside, there are plenty of tourist attractions that deserve every bit of popularity and praise heaped upon them—and some of them are, in our book, totally underrated. Read on for 11 tourist attractions worth seeing.
Nothing—we repeat—nothing is anticlimactic about the Cliffs of Moher. While these soaring green cliffs above the Atlantic actually count as Ireland’s most visited tourist attraction, their sheer scale and breathtaking views are worth the trip to County Clare in every way. Pictures can’t possibly do this majestic bit of nature justice.
Add this famously overrated Hollywood mainstay to the list of “just don’t do it.” Located in the most perennially hectic part of Hollywood, the sidewalk stars are, when all is said and done, quite lackluster. What isn’t lackluster are the expansive views of Los Angeles on offer at Griffith Observatory and the very likely chance you may spot a real, live celeb going for an afternoon hike through the park. Go around sunset for a beautiful sky show.
Skirt the countless tourists attempting to perfect their alignment of the cliché Leaning Tower of Pisa pose by heading around the corner to the Camposanto Monument. Located on the same bit of historical land known as Cathedral Square, this monument—actually an ancient cemetery—boasts gorgeous Gothic architecture, stunning chapels, and intricate frescoes dating to 1360, as well as ancient Roman and Etruscan sculptures.
Believe us when we say there is simply no reason, no good reason, that you should spend time in Times Square unless you really need to. Jam-packed with crowds and a cacophony of blaring horns and flashing lights, it’s simply not the place to take in what Manhattan has to offer. Instead, try the beautiful High Line, an elevated linear park that stretches more than a mile above the hustle and bustle of the city, offering great views, people watching, and even art installations. If you’re looking for a more “in the mix” New York experience, spend an afternoon making your way through Museum Mile, one of the densest displays of art and culture (10 museums in one mile!) in the world.
Avoid the swelling crowds of Mona Lisa onlookers at the Louvre. There—we said it. The line to enter the Louvre can literally stretch on for miles, and though the museum is undeniably spectacular, it is severely overcrowded, which makes actually seeing and enjoying the art a difficult task. The beautiful Musée d’Orsay offers a viable alternative—the museum’s impressive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works, the largest in the world, are housed in one of the most stunning buildings (a Beaux-Arts railway station from the late 19th century) in all of Paris.
Visited at the right time, Stonehenge is actually quite special. But more often than not, this attraction is overcrowded and polluted by the sounds of the nearby roadway (plus, you can’t get too close). The nearby Avebury Stones offer a similar sight. However, they are almost always free of crowds and free to view, and you’re allowed to weave through the land and explore the stones up close.
Both the Spanish Steps and Capitoline Hill offer great history and people watching. But, if you’re looking to get away from the crowds, Capitoline is a wonderful alternative for exploring the political and religious epicenter of ancient Rome. Not to mention that the on-site museums include some of Italy’s finest classical sculptures and paintings.
The popularity of this diminutive Little Mermaid is something a mystery. Certainly interesting for its history of politically oriented vandalism, the Little Mermaid statue is a bit of letdown if it’s grandiosity and impact you’re after. Instead, opt for the Gefion Fountain, the largest monument in Copenhagen, which depicts the legendary Norse goddess, Gefjon.
When asking people how the ruins of Pompeii in Rome were, lots of people tend to reply “hot.” Pompeii—though an impressive and vast site of ancient history—is packed with tourists and a very long way from Rome for a mere day trip. Ostia Antica, a comparatively swift trip and smaller in scale, is similarly well preserved and wonderfully atmospheric, and it’s fascinating to imagine what daily life might have been like in an ancient Roman town. For a day trip, it’s simply more manageable.
Hear us out: We’re in no way denying the iconic beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge. Rather, we’re simply suggesting you widen your tourist activity to include these oft-overlooked ruins at the north end of Ocean Beach. The Sutro Baths—remnants of a large, privately owned swimming pool—meet the crashing waves of the ocean in a truly picturesque manner. Explore cliffs and caves, and scramble over to the side where you can still catch a glimpse of the bridge.
Skip this staid attempt at creating a city monument the likes of Paris’s Eiffel Tower, and soak up some real history at one of London’s many incredible museums. The Victoria and Albert Museum, the foremost museum of decorative arts and design in the world; the Tate Modern; and its nearby Millennium Bridge are stellar options.