We’re lucky to live in a world that is full of important monuments, historical homes, and awe-inspiring works of art. However, looking at a picture of something on the internet and seeing it in real life can be two totally different things. Yep, locations can catfish you.
Famous attractions sound great but be warned – all that glitters is not always gold. While these places are all undeniably beautiful, they can have their off days. Some are overcrowded, while others are falling apart from all the wear and tear over the years.
There’s Often Work Being Done Around The Eiffel Tower
Ah, is there anything more romantic than a trip to Paris to take in the sights? The Eiffel Tower is one of the most famous monuments in the world. Originally built to last just a few years, the ingenious design is now over 130 years old.
Tourists can look at the tower from afar, but it might not seem so glamorous up close. The lawns surrounding it are often subject to maintenance. While that might be needed, it’s not pretty! The good thing is you can get a view of the Eiffel Tower anytime, and it lights up beautifully at night.
The Great Wall Of China Can Be Very Crowded
Beautifully long and incredibly built, the Great Wall of China was originally intended to protect the northern borders. Allegedly, over one million people died throughout the building process. These days, it sees over 10 million people visit each year.
It’s recommended that visitors venture to the wall from April through May and from September to November. While it is open in the summer, the popular sections get extremely overcrowded with eager tourists. In the winter, it’s cold and hazardous as ice forms on the stone – but at least it’s quiet! It’s widely believed that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from space, but this is just a myth.
The Sistine Chapel
When in Rome you can’t miss out on visiting the Sistine Chapel. Not only is it steeped in history, but it’s covered in paintings by the incredible artist Michelangelo. There are droves of people who flock there to see the celestial beings.
It’s estimated that five million people a year visit the chapel, equaling to 25,000 people a day. If you decide to put this particular tourist hot-spot on your itinerary, try and go early in the morning, or after 4 pm to avoid the masses. Entry costs just 16 euros (around $18) and is totally worth it – if you don’t mind getting a sore neck.
The Leaning Tower Of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a freestanding bell tower of the Italian city. Thanks to its unstable foundation, the building appears tilted at a four-degree angle. Despite the odds, the tower has managed to stay on its feet for centuries.
As far as monuments go, this one doesn’t usually get too overcrowded. However, if you’re looking for an uninterrupted view, then you may want to go elsewhere. Expect to see visitors like the one pictured, happily snapping away for those cheesy “I’m holding up a tower, ma!” snaps. Insider tip: pay the 18 euro fee to climb to the top for extraordinary views of Pisa.
Queen Elizabeth II might call it home, but to the rest of us, it’s one of the most-visited places in the world. From afar, Buckingham Palace looks visually stunning, set across from a fountain and a plush walkway.
In reality, it’s something a little different. Peddlers often try and push their wares onto easily duped tourists, while the black iron gates severely limit an up-close view. Don’t forget this is also situated in London, the capital of the UK. If you’re into crowds and don’t mind traffic, then go for it – just don’t expect to get a close look at it.
Palace Of Versailles
What better way to get into the French spirit than to take a train ride from Paris to Versailles? It takes roughly an hour to get to the former home of Marie Antoinette, where you can glide through the Hall of Mirrors like a true queen.
While the palace is undeniably stunning and drenched in culture, nothing is ever as good as it is in the pictures. Visitors will never get a true feel for the grandeur of the palace as there are simply too many people there at one time. EU citizens under the age of 25 can gain entry for free by showing their passport.
Niagara Falls is a true jewel in the Canadian crown. Sitting on the border between Ontario and New York, the three glorious waterfalls make for a brilliant Instagram backdrop. The only trouble is, decent shots are usually ruined by hundreds of people wearing brightly-colored disposable ponchos.
Lighting makes a big difference here, too. A bright, glorious day makes the setting feel alive, while in winter, it has a different vibe altogether. June to August is the best time to visit, but this is also the peak season. As the falls are in a public location, they are totally free to view.
For any shopper worth their salt, Galeries LaFayette is a must-visit when in Paris. Even those who don’t get charmed by the sight of Louboutins will appreciate the ornate stained-glass ceiling in the center.
However, at its core, Galeries LaFayette is a shopping mall – and those always come with their drawbacks. Look past the dazzlingly designed interior and you’ll find 40% off sales and even a McDonald’s. Things get a little crazy during fashion week here as there are often events being held, so if you’re keen to visit, maybe skip that particular time for the sake of your sanity.
The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid statue is based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. Although it’s small and unassuming, the statue sits on the waterside at Copenhagen, Denmark, as a tribute to the Danish writer. It’s a great piece of art and many people stop to look at its beauty.
Like many statues in large cities, it’s also a frequent victim of vandalism. Over the course of its life (it was erected in 1909) the statue has been targeted several times. Pictured on the right is a worker trying to scrape the latest bout of red emulsion from the monument.
The Great Pyramid Of Giza
When the Ancient Egyptians erected the pyramids, they had no idea they would become a tourist destination one day. Then again, they probably didn’t predict the fall of their empire, either. Many tourists venture to Giza to bask in their glory, only to find it mildly disappointing.
The site opens every day, from 8am-5am from October to March. Most tour buses arrive between 9.30am and 10am, so consider going early to get the best view. The sites around the pyramid are quite run down but do include a Pizza Hut, so if you get peckish along the way at least you can stop for a slice.
Statue Of Liberty
When immigrants traveled to the United States by boat, the Statue of Liberty was there to greet them. It became a beacon of hope. For many, it still is. Around 3.5 million people visit the statue each year. While it’s not one of the most visited monuments by a long shot, it’s still a cultural icon.
The National Park Service only allows 240 people to climb to the crown per day, while 1,000 tickets are released daily for the pedestal. For those who can’t score entry, there’s a cruise that gives you great views but expect to be packed in like sardines.
The Taj Mahal is one of the most awe-inspiring places in the world. Countless leaders have taken their picture on the grounds, including the late Princess Diana of Wales. Built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 to house the tomb of his favorite wife, it is set in stunning formal gardens.
Millions flock to the building each year, but pollution in the nearby town can obstruct the views dramatically. Traffic is not allowed within close proximity to the complex. Tourists are required to park their cars in a parking lot and walk or catch an electric bus. The top right photo shows one tourist battling his way through the smog to get to his destination.
For history buffs, Rome is an ideal destination. The Colosseum sits at the very center of the famous Italian city. Built around 70-80 AD, the structure has seen better days. Frankly, it’s a miracle it’s still standing. This crumbling amphitheater is the world’s 39th most popular tourist destination, bringing a lot of capital into Italy.
However, due to its central location, tourists may find it a little difficult to get to on some days. Protesters have blocked the road on many occasions, but if you can get there, it’s quite a sight to behold. Entry is reasonable too, at just 12 euros for adults.
Sydney Opera House
Most of the world sees the famous Sydney Opera House lit up in photographs. The unusual structure is home to the New Year’s Eve firework display, as well as touring musicians. During the daytime, it looks the polar opposite. In fact, it’s more akin to a futuristic office building.
While event tickets are sold at varying prices, visitors can stop by for a tour. Different guides speaking multiple languages operate at 30-minute intervals, with the tour lasting for 90 minutes. It’s not cheap though – expect to shell out $165 per adult, and children under 12 aren’t permitted.
Notre Dame is so beloved that Victor Hugo made it the centerpiece of one of his novels. Later on, Disney pinched the idea to make one of their animated masterpieces. Sadly, the cathedral was badly damaged when a fire broke out in 2019.
The parvis, towers, treasures, and crypt are currently closed to visitors until further notice, but Paris’ mayor wants the restoration complete within five years. Admission to the cathedral is usually free, and visitors often gather on the steps opposite the facade to eat a crepe from the many sellers surrounding it. Let’s hope it’s a speedy recovery for Notre Dame.
The Roman Baths
Bath is a gorgeous city in Somerset, England. Nestled in rolling hills, it’s one of the UK’s most-visited places. The vibrant heart of the metropolis boasts a cathedral, plenty of stores, and of course, the famous Roman Baths.
The well-preserved site was once used by Romans for bathing. While visitors can tour the baths and the museum, they can’t enter the water. It’s probably a good thing, seeing as it’s not all that clean. Pictured top right are a group of workmen as they rinse out the baths. It takes a long time to clear out all the muck, but the final result is worth it.
Home to some of the world’s finest art, the Louvre is one of Paris’ top destinations. (Insider tip: the cafe also serves great wine at an even better price. What’s not to love?) With such infamy comes large queues though, so be prepared to wait a little to get inside.
Entry is 9 euros, but if you visit after 6 pm on a Wednesday or a Friday, that’s reduced to just 6 euros. If you’re lucky enough to be under 26, then you can get in for free on Friday nights. Even better, the first Sunday in each month is free for everyone.
La Sagrada Familia
Anyone who knows anything about architecture knows Guadi was a pretty big deal. Barcelona is littered with his work, but the shining example is La Sagrada Familia. Construction began in 1882, however, it was never finished. When Gaudi passed away in 1926, he was buried in the crypt.
The general consensus is that the outside of the building is a must-see, while the inside is more crowded and less interesting. Any fees taken from the church goes towards its up-keep and continued construction. Many of those who want to go in do so to visit Gaudi’s final resting place.
Hollywood Walk Of Fame
For aspiring actors and entertainers, landing a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is the ultimate dream. Stars can work their behinds off for decades before landing one of those slabs. Running along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street, the attraction has become a mecca for film lovers.
It’s also a busy thoroughfare for those that live in the city. Like all sidewalks, the Walk of Fame is prone to damage and often doesn’t look as glittery as it does in the photos. Donald Trump’s star often gets vandalized, as do others who have fallen from grace since their star was fitted.
People Totally Trash Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square has been an important site for hundreds of years, even before it looked anything like its current state. Home to the National Gallery, major roads run around the square, making it a perfect site for protesters. With 10 million visitors coming through annually, it’s a popular place for street peddlers.
Football fans and other groups also use the square to gather, sometimes leaving behind a catastrophic mess. The picture on the right shows debris and litter left behind from hoards of Sunderland football fans in May of 2019. If you’re planning a visit, keep your eye on the news for any scheduled events.