On my first trip to Paris, I stood in more lines than I care to remember. My friends and I queued up to enter museums and hung around restaurant doors waiting for a table. The longest lines we encountered snaked from the entrances to the Eiffel Tower, and we actually split into two groups to see who could get up to the front first. Often, a few of my buddies would ditch us rather than wait in single file and pay an inflated price to see a nice view from atop a world-famous tourist trap.
Sadly, the most famous attractions in Europe often have the most infamous crowds and most overpriced entrance fees. Go at the wrong time and you could suffer the worst extremes of heat, get trampled by hordes of tour-bus travelers, or even miss the best sights due to closures. Kinda makes you wonder why people say these places are so great in the first place?
Don’t give up hope. A little know-how and advance planning can drastically improve your visit. I’ve picked the Seven Wonders of Europe—those special sights that every armchair traveler has heard of—and researched how you can have the best experience and save money when you visit them. Armed with these tips, you never have to let crowds and tight budgets prevent you from seeing the Continent’s best ever again.
The origins of Stonehenge may be a mystery, but the best way to visit England’s famous stone circle doesn’t have to be. There’s actually very little strategy involved—just show up, pay the entrance fee, look for a space by the railing, and gaze to your heart’s content. Tickets cost £5.90 per person (about $12 US dollars; see xe.com for current exchange rates), but families can save by paying just £14.80 for two adults with up to three kids. Visitors should note that regular admission does not let you get up close to Stonehenge and walk between its huge stones. You’ll only be able to gaze upon it from afar.
Not sure what you’re seeing? Complimentary audio tours are available, or just address your questions to one of the English Heritage park rangers (called custodians). Alternately, you can book a tour or guide in advance. When you’ve seen the stone circle from every angle, you might want to head down one of the walking paths that crisscross the 1,500 acres of land surrounding this historic site.
If a distant picture of Stonehenge is not enough for you, consider arranging a Stone Circle Access visit by contacting English Heritage, the organization that cares for the historic site. You’ll be able to enter the circle and touch the ancient stones. These special visits are only available before or after regular opening hours. Some bus tours of the area include circle access—look for itineraries that include early morning visits or private viewings.