What is it that attracts so many of us to travelling? Is it the sense of adventure? The idea of diving in and experiencing new cultures and traditions? The allure of a relaxing vacation, sunning yourself on the deck of a cruise ship as some of the world’s most beautiful cities pass you by?
It’s all these things, and so many more. The tourism industry is a force to be reckoned with all around the world, and many nations are reliant on it for their income. This is why there are trips and vacations worldwide that cater to a whole range of tastes, from non-stop adventurous trips to leisurely breaks, where all that’s on the agenda is accidentally achieving the most hilarious tan lines possible.
After deciding where you’re going, you’ve got to know what you’re going to see once you get there. Are you one of those touristy types that has to see the big-ticket sights? Maybe you’ve got a dedicated bucket list of attractions to tick off, or maybe you’ve had your fill of those sorts of things. You might even have a more off-the-beaten-track list of sights to see.
All of this is completely down to personal preference, of course. That’s part of the joy of traveling: you can tailor the experience to yourself and your companions (as far as budget allows).
One thing to remember, though, is to try not to build things up too much in your head beforehand. Some of the world’s greatest sights, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Great Sphinx, and Mount Rushmore, may not quite deliver the experience you imagined. As we’re about to see.
25 The Little Mermaid Statue, Copenhagen- It’s Definitely Little
Of all the iconic world attractions in this rundown, the Little Mermaid statue is probably the smallest. It’s situated on the Langelinie promenade in Copenhagen, Denmark, a 4.1ft bronze statue made by Edvard Eriksen in the early 1900s.
Inspired by the fairytale (from fellow Dane Hans Christian Andersen), the statue is a less-than-imposing sight, there’s no denying. It’s come to define the city in the same way as the Merlion of Singapore, but for me, the fact remains that to see it in the bronzey flesh is to be just a little underwhelmed.
It’s a popular target for vandals, too, and has had its head sawn through on more than one occasion.
24 Empire State Building, New York City- Maybe Not The Experience You Were Hoping For
In contrast to Copenhagen’s famous statue, the Empire State Building is an attraction that will absolutely awe you with its size and reputation. It’s nothing short of an obligatory stop for all first-time visitors to New York.
Which is perfectly fine, of course. As a sight, it’s totally worthy of its worldwide fame. However, the experience itself may not be. As Reader’s Digest reports, tickets to climb the tower can be darn expensive, and you won’t be able to move for the crowd of enthusiastic tourists. That’s to be expected in NYC, but there are better places to get stunning views of the city (without those big ugly safety rails, too).
23 The Trevi Fountain, Rome: Beautiful, If You Can Get To It
Rome, of course, is world-renowned as a treasure trove of ancient sights and essential tourist stops. Quite right, too; it’s the home of the Colosseum, the Forum, the Circus Maximus, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and many others.
The trouble is, there’s a fine line between essential tourist stop and tourist trap. Where there are huge gatherings, there are those keen to prey on naïve visitors. It’s possible to just be too popular for your own good.
As Countries and Cultures reports of the fountain, “If you are visiting during peak months in the summer you will find yourself smashed in a hoard of people, desperately trying to push through people to get a coveted spot in front of the fountain. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.”
22 The Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles: Maybe Not As Glamorous As You’d Think
Crossing back over to the United States, now, there’s a particular Los Angeles experience that nobody wants to miss out on: a shot of the Hollywood sign. There’s a common belief among new visitors that Hollywood will be a glamorous, magical place, with cavorting celebrities shooting movies every couple of yards down the street.
It’s another of those expectation versus reality memes, I guess. That extends to visiting the iconic sign itself, Reader’s Digest reports: “After battling two to four hours of traffic, you’ll have to hike from a park and due to restrictions, the closest you can get is a half-mile away.”
21 Four Corners Monument, United States: Is That It?
Now, I can see what they were going for here. After all, this is a pretty darn neat concept. The Four Corners Monument is the famed point where you can stand in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah all at once. It’s the only place in the whole of the U.S where such a quadripoint exists, and people come from all around the country (and beyond) to say that they’ve been there.
What else do they say? Well, one Redditor said this: “Four Corners. I remember reading about it as a kid and convincing my family to drive way out of the way to go see it on a road trip- it is literally a concrete slab in the middle of nowhere. My dad and I still use this as a reference about how disappointing things are ("as bad as 4 corners??") 25 years later.”
20 The Leaning Tower Of Pisa, Pisa: Yep, It’s Still Leaning
As with a lot of European cities, Pisa, Italy is quiet, traditional, steeped in history, and just beyond beautiful. The big tourist draw, as you no doubt know, is the much-ballyhooed leaning tower, which is actually the bell tower of Pisa Cathedral.
You’ve read about it, you know how highly acclaimed it is, you may well have built part of a trip to Italy around it. For many visitors, though, it’s a bit of a disappointment. It’s not as big as you might imagine, and you were fully prepared for its big USP (“Yep, Marge, it’s still leaning”) before you even got there.
I fell in love with the town when I visited, but it’s really not about the wow factor.
19 Stonehenge, England: Pretty Darn Stone-y, If I’m Honest
As I say, there are all different kinds of tourists. Some, like myself, prefer the subtler, historically-significant sights. Others are in it for the spectacle. To see the tallest building, the widest canyon, all of these sorts of things.
If you’re out to be wowed, England’s mysterious and prehistoric Stonehenge probably isn’t for you. In 2016, The Express reports, TripAdvisor reviewers rated it one of the most overrated attractions in the world.
It’s been described as “overpriced and in the middle of nowhere… one person said that, as people can’t actually walk up and touch the stones, they may as well just enjoy the view for a few seconds whilst driving by rather than paying to go in.”
18 Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin: Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be
We’ve all heard the name. Checkpoint Charlie was the nickname given by the Western Allies to one of the crossing points of the Berlin Wall, during the Cold War. Of course, the wall itself is long gone today, but Checkpoint Charlie remains as an important piece of world history.
Today, it’s often seen as a place to tick off of your world travel list, but not something that will inspire or change your life. The ‘attraction’ itself is now part of the Allied Museum in Berlin, and a known tourist trap. A couple of guys will put on a bit of a show for you, but you may come away underwhelmed.
17 The Eiffel Tower, Paris: One To Admire From A Distance
As is the case with Rome, Paris is a world-renowned city of culture, beauty and fine cuisine. It’s also chock-full of tourist attractions, from the Louvre to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Arc de Triomphe. Not forgetting, of course, the magnificent Eiffel Tower.
The tower’s reputation precedes it. It’s one of the most-visited and iconic buildings in the world. To visit and get a shot of it is completely worth your time, but to climb the tower itself? That’s a different proposition entirely. The tower lives up to its reputation, but the experience may not. There’s so much to see in Paris that the queues to climb are just an impossibility.
16 Bondi Beach, Sydney: Can I Squeeze In?
Australia is a country known for being among the most naturally beautiful in the world. The beaches, the coastal drives… it’s just magnificent. Bondi beach is right up there among the most famous, and tourists flock from far and wide to sun themselves amid the Sydney surf.
And that’s the trouble. With that popularity comes overcrowding, superficiality, higher prices and lots and lots of waste. According to the Time Out City Life Index, Bondi has been considered one of the most overrated suburbs of Australia, and this is partly due to that ‘once everybody found out about it’ culture. Nothing new there.
15 The Blarney Stone, Ireland: Why Are We Kissing It, Again?
Of all of Ireland’s tourist attractions, the Blarney Stone is surely the most unusual. There’s nothing too intriguing about a hunk of limestone, you might think, but there’s much more to the story than that.
The Blarney Stone forms part of the battlements of Blarney Castle, near Cork. As pretty as the castle and its grounds are, the stone is the real centrepiece here. According to legend, anybody who kisses it will be granted the gift of the gab (eloquence and witty speech).
This is all well and good, but the romance of the story aside, you’ll soon realise that you’ve queued for a long darn time to kiss a hunk of stone.
14 The Great Sphinx, Giza: Maybe Not As Great As It Used To Be
Some attractions around the world are historically significant, but just so darn popular and iconic that they transcend this. History buffs might want to trawl around dusty museums and libraries that a lot of us would never dream of entering, but the pyramids? The Sphinx? You don’t need to have an interest in Ancient Egyptian history to know that these wonders of the ancient world are always worth your time.
As I say, though, there’s a danger of hyping them way, way out of proportion beforehand. Picky travellers have remarked that the sphinx was smaller than they imagined, and sometimes obscured by scaffolding (you can’t blame it for needing some work done, it still looks great for its age). Not to mention the heavy-handed vendors and the like.
13 Iowa’s Largest Frying Pan, Iowa: How Large Are We Talking?
There’s another interesting point to make here: you don’t have to travel internationally to find essential tourist sights. If you live in a country like the United States (which is, scientifically and geographically speaking, really darn huge), you don’t have to leave the country to see all sorts of wonders.
If you’re visiting Iowa, you’ll definitely want to get a load of Iowa’s Biggest Frying Pan. Right?
Well, apparently not, because some people are never satisfied. In the words of another Redditor, “I mean, if you are already in Iowa, go right ahead. However, don't go there just to see this. It wasn't nearly as large as I thought it would be and about 15 minutes off the freeway. I guess I have standards for large frying pans.”
Does a 14.3 ft-long frying pan mean nothing to anybody anymore?
12 Temple Bar, Dublin: Where’s That Irish Charm?
If you’re new to a country, city or region, you’ll probably want to get in on a little of that place’s culture. Experience whatever it is they’re famous for, try something a little different.
If you find yourself in Ireland’s capital city, Dublin, that only means one thing: pubs. The Irish are famous for their jovial love of drinking, and the Temple Bar in Dublin has a reputation as the centre of all of that. Sadly, though, everybody knows it, and it’s made a big push to catering for tourists. This means hiked prices, overcrowding and a lack of that authentic spirit.
11 Piccadilly Circus, London: Nothing To Shout About
If you’ve ever walked around a big city, you’ll know that… well, you can’t, really. The crowds are immense. I live in London, and it’s darn difficult to fight your way through the crowds at times. If pedestrians think they have it bad, though, just try driving anywhere.
These vast, crowded areas always make for an experience that seems like a great idea… until you’re there. London’s Piccadilly Circus is a famous cultural and shopping hub, but is also known as a big cheesy slice of commercialism. Times Square-lite, I guess you could say. Come to see the Criterion Theatre and London Pavilion, but know what you’ve let yourself in for.
10 Mount Rushmore, South Dakota: It Looked Much Bigger In The Pictures
Now, nobody’s saying that Mount Rushmore isn’t an incredible feat and one heckola of a sight to behold. After all, if you’ve got a hankering to see 60ft sculptures of United States Presidents Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson, where are you going to come? Right here, that’s where.
The trouble is, yet again, visiting it isn’t the experience it should be. For one thing, it’s a darn pain to get to, out in the sticks in South Dakota. For another, the viewing platforms are further away than you’d think, leaving you with a view that hardly does the site’s grandeur justice.
9 Capri’s Blue Grotto, Capri: When In Rome…
Ah, Capri. This beautiful island has been a favourite resort since the time of the Romans. The amount of ruined Imperial Roman villas dotted around shows just how beloved this island of Campania has always been.
The idyllic setting and gorgeous waters have always attracted holidaymakers. One of their favourite destinations is the Blue Grotto, a flawless sea cave on the Capri coast. Swimming in this magnificent cave is forbidden, which leaves visitors at the mercy of tour-givers. Naturally, they see tourists coming from a mile away, and prices for a trip inside are much too expensive for what you get.
8 Times Square, New York City: Man, That’s A Lot Of Neon
We’ve already seen Piccadilly Circus in this rundown, that hive of crowds, shops and commercials. As busy and bustling as the place is, it can’t quite top NYC’s Times Square.
If you’ve ever been, you’ll have witnessed first-hand the swirling chaos that is an evening in Times Square. It’s so busy with stores, entertainment and attractions that Her Campus has dubbed it 'the centre of the universe.' All of which sounds fantastic, but first-timers who don’t know the best times to visit are likely to be taken aback by the great mass of human traffic. Times Square delivers on its promise, sure, but it delivers a whole host of extras on top too.
7 The Mona Lisa, Paris: Is She As Beautiful As You Thought?
Once again, we have more evidence that some people simply will not be happy. They’ll exercise their right to complain on the internet, because they can.
Who could possibly gaze on the sublime Mona Lisa and be disappointed? This is the most valuable and famous artwork on the planet, right here. It’s a priceless wonder, there’s no arguing that point.
You’ll have all of this running through your head as you visit the Paris Louvre and approach the place where she hangs. Then you’ll notice that everyone else in the world is also in here, and you can barely catch a glimpse of it.
It’s quite small, too.
6 The Great Wall Of China: My, Grandma, What A Big Wall You Have
Do you know what isn’t quite small, though? The Great Wall of China, that’s what. Where do you think all that talk of it being visible from space came from? That theory may have been debunked, but whichever way you slice it, this is one darn big wall.
With the sheer size and age of the Great Wall, your experience is going to vastly differ depending on which section you’re visiting. Certain parts are terrible tourist traps (that’s what popularity does to you), while others are a little further off the beaten track. The Simatai section, near Beijing, is a little less touristic and offers a sight of some of the original wall.
5 Giant’s Causeway, Ireland: You Might Have Been Expecting A Bit More ‘Giant’
Let’s cross back over to Ireland again, for a look at the natural wonder known as the Giant’s Causeway. It’s situated on the north coast of Northern Ireland and consists of 40,000 basalt columns in curious hexagonal formations. It was formed by an ancient volcanic eruption.
It’s a stunning sight, considered by some to be a miracle of nature. As The Belfast Telegraph reports, though, many visitors were not impressed. It topped a poll conducted by the Irish Times, which named it “most overrated and underwhelming tourist attraction.” I suppose it’s something else you can build up in your head from images online.
4 La Tomatina, Spain: Tomatoes Away!
So, yes. There are many different kinds of travellers. Some prefer to stay in the safety and familiarity of their lavish resorts, while others want to dive right in at street level and enjoy the locals’ rich culture and way of life right along with them. If you’re one of the latter, Buñol, Spain’s La Tomatina festival might be for you. It’s just a huge traditional tomato fight in the streets.
On the other hand, it may not be nearly as much fun as it sounds. Travel fanatic Kelly Kresin writes, “You are squished so tightly into a narrow street that you can’t move, tomatoes are flying from all angles hitting you so hard you bruise, and 30 minutes in, you start feeling the burn of the tomato juice in every crevice, even ones you didn’t know you had.”
3 Manneken Pis, Brussels: Come On, Guys, This Is Serious Business
So here we are, arriving right at the same issue again. Earlier in this rundown, we saw Copenhagen’s famous Little Mermaid statue. As a symbol of the city, it holds a huge cache for visitors, which its slight nature can hardly live up to.
It’s just the same with Manneken Pis, a bronze statue found in the Belgian capital of Brussels. It’s a cheeky little piece depicting a boy urinating into a fountain, which has admirers worldwide and has inspired all sorts of imitators.
It’s just a shame that it’s such an insignificant piece in the flesh (or rather, the bronze). It’s also a copy of the original, which was created by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy and installed in the early 1600s. the original is kept in the Museum of the City of Brussels.
2 The Equator, Ecuador: Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?
As we saw with the Four Corners monument, it can be super neat to get that feeling of being right in the spot of something amazing. The only spot in the whole United States where four states intersect? Sure, that sounds cool. Being right there on the Equator? That’d be pretty sweet too, in theory.
The fact is, as MSN reports, the exact place is right out there in the middle of nowhere. By a ravine, actually, which is why the monument that marks the Equator is actually almost 800 feet north of the true line. I can’t help but feel a little cheated.
1 Loch Ness, Scotland: Dude, Where’s My Monster?
You’ve surely heard of the Loch Ness Monster, a mythical creature that supposedly lives in the depths of Scotland’s Loch Ness. There’s precisely zero evidence of such a creature (if we don’t count the various questionable photographs that have surfaced over the years… which we don’t), but a whole industry has built up around it.
If you visit the area, you’ll have driven around four hours from Edinburgh to see… well, tacky Nessie-related souvenirs and questionable ‘Nessie tours’ which, surprisingly enough, result in absolutely zero monster viewings.
It’s a beautiful place, there’s no denying. It’s home to some of the prettiest countryside anywhere on Earth, come to that. If that’s not what you’re in the market for, though, you’re going to be disappointed.
Resources: BBC News, Reader’s Digest, Countries And Cultures, The Telegraph, The Express, Time Out, MSN.