Some iconic sites just don’t live up to the hype. Skip these 10 tourist traps and visit our alternatives instead.
This group of mystery stones has been described as mystical and magical. But what you rarely see in the postcards is that Stonehenge is wedged between two very busy roads—and that you’re not even allowed to get close to the stones. You’ll pay an admission fee, of course, but you’ll only be able to view the site from afar. (Tourists used to chip off pieces of the ancient rocks as souvenirs. This is why we can’t have nice things, people.)
Instead: Check out Avebury, about 25 miles away from Stonehenge, where an entire town is set inside a stone circle.
Blarney Stone, Ireland
Legend has it that kissing this rock will give you the gift of gab, but judging by how many people smooch the stone every day, we think you’re more likely to come away with a communicable disease. You’ll also have to brave long lines and a vertigo-inducing climb, and you’ll be unceremoniously tipped backwards and headfirst over a ledge by a worker in order to get your peck.
Instead: Skip the long lines and spend your saved time exploring the Blarney Castle grounds, which are definitely worth the visit … and (probably) won’t infect you with anything.
Mona Lisa, France
Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa painting is quite possibly the most recognizable piece of art in the world. So upon seeing it in person, you might be surprised that your first impression is… “wow, it’s small.” Measuring just 2′ 6″ x 1′ 9″, the Mona Lisa seems even tinier when it’s surrounded by the usual hordes of tourists, all fighting for a glimpse.
Instead: The Mona Lisa may be overrated, but the museum that houses it, the Louvre, is definitely not. Spend your time admiring the other lesser-known art rather than fighting the crowds at the Mona Lisa.
Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
After you’ve taken the obligatory photos “pushing over” the tower (and accidentally photo-bombed the background of many strangers’ photos), there’s not much to do here except be hounded by the many hawkers who patrol the area. It’s a long journey, especially if you’re coming all the way from Rome, just to see that the tower does, in fact, live up to its name.
Instead: The Duomo di Pisa, a Romanesque cathedral full of artwork, will give you something else to do besides stare at the tower, waiting for it to tip over.
Prague Astronomical Clock, Czech Republic
Sure, it’s the oldest working astronomical clock in the world. But unless your idea of a good time is staring at a giant glorified cuckoo clock while being jostled by fellow tourists, there’s not much else to recommend it. If you must see it, be sure to time it so that you arrive right as the show is starting (every hour on the hour), so you don’t have to waste 50 minutes standing around staring at the clock, waiting for it to perform.
Instead: Catch the time at Paris’ Musée d’Orsay, which houses multiple beautiful clocks inside a beaux-arts railway station that’s been converted into a museum.
Times Square, New York
Flashing advertisements, obnoxious peddlers selling knockoff DVDs, chain restaurants, and hordes of lost tourists looking at maps await you in the five famed blocks of Times Square. Residents of the city go out of their way to avoid this area where personal space goes to die. We’ll never understand why visitors travel all the way to New York City to buy grocery-store candy at the M&M’s World store, dine at an Olive Garden, and gawk at billboards.
Instead: Check out New York’s Museum Mile, a stretch of eight museums along Fifth Avenue. Less crowds, more unique things to gawk at—and there will still be hot-dog carts for you to buy from.
Hollywood Walk of Fame, California
If you’re reading this, you clearly have access to the Internet. So why not just Google famous people’s names instead of traveling to see those names etched into a sidewalk?
Instead: Visit Madame Tussauds Wax Museum‘s Hollywood location. There, at least you’ll be able to take pictures with inanimate celebrities and briefly fool people on Facebook with your star-studded vacation.
Manneken Pis, Belgium
Yes, the name of this statue in Brussels pretty much translates to “Little Man Pee.” No, we don’t know why tourists flock to look at a statue of a naked child peeing. If you insist on going, time your visit for when the statue has been dressed up by a city employee—you’ll feel a little less like a creep. (Or come during one of the occasions when the fountain’s water is replaced with a keg of beer, so you can at least get a free drink out of it.)
Instead: Visit the Zinneke Pis, a lesser-known sculpture in Brussels of a dog doing the same thing as the Manneken Pis. At least that one is cuter.
Don’t bother visiting this house of lies. Tourists snap photos at the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World City), a park featuring a monument and a painted line that claims to be the middle of the world—0 degrees latitude. Too bad it’s all a deception, and the actual equator is hundreds of feet away in a pretty inaccessible spot. In the park’s defense, it was built before the advent of GPS.
Instead: If you enjoy posing for pictures while straddling lines, head to England and stand on the Greenwich Meridian Line, which is at least in the right place. (You’ll be marking a longitude, not latitude, of 0 degrees, however.)
The Little Mermaid, Denmark
This famous sculpture in Copenhagen, based on The Little Mermaid fairy tale, is actually a copy. The real statue is kept at an undisclosed location, which is probably for the best since the replica has been defaced, vandalized, decapitated, and blasted with explosives. You may feel the same destructive urges if you seek out this site, as visitors on TripAdvisor call it “hard to see, given it’s so small,” “a discredit to Hans Christian Andersen,” and “not a must-see” and say it is “in the middle of nowhere.”
Instead: Pay a better tribute to the author by visiting the Hans Christian Andersen statue in New York’s Central Park, where you can climb on the sculpture for photos.
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