Overrated and underwhelming: The tourist sites that aren't worth the effort

Have you ever had the experience where you visit somewhere famous, only to spend the whole time wondering what all the fuss is about? It seems that some tourist sites have become popular just for being popular - or, in other cases, a site's popularity has ruined the reason people started visiting it in the first place.

A lot of the time, I think sane people probably know that a tourist attraction is going to be underwhelming. Yet there's something in our psychology that makes us visit anyway, just because everyone else is. How can you come back from a trip to Paris and tell your friends you didn't see the Eiffel Tower?

I've certainly made the mistake many times of visiting overrated tourist attractions that have led to nothing but disappointment, and I've heard similar stories from countless other travellers. To help you avoid wasting your time and money, I've put together a list of some places worth avoiding.

VIEWPOINTS

Is the view from the London Eye worth it? Picture: Shutterstock

Is the view from the London Eye worth it? Picture: Shutterstock

One of the common types of attractions that almost always disappoints is viewpoints. You pay a crazy amount of money to go to the top of a tall tower, just to spend a few minutes looking at the roofs of the buildings below.

A good example of this is the Tokyo Skytree, which costs about $30 for the main observation deck - and the view isn't much better than from the free viewpoint at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

It's also about $30 to go up the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur just to look at one of Asia's least scenic cities. Even the Empire State Building in New York is overrated, I think, and you'll have a better time in the Big Apple if you don't spend it waiting in that queue (and you'll save about $55).

The same goes for the ridiculous London Eye, which can have a huge wait and costs at least $50, in a city so full of amazing sights that you need all the time you can to see them.

STATUES

I also don't understand the fascination with statues and the effort people make to see them. If we're talking about Michelangelo's David in Florence then fair enough, I get it. But why would people go out of their way in Copenhagen to see the rather uninspiring Little Mermaid statue?

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. Not pictured: a crowd of people gathered around to photograph the statue. Picture: Shutterstock

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. Not pictured: a crowd of people gathered around to photograph the statue. Picture: Shutterstock

Even worse are the huge groups that crowd around the Manneken Pis in Brussels, just to gape at a tiny brass toddler urinating into a fountain. I doubt that you would even notice it if it wasn't famous - and that's a good sign that something is overrated.

Even huge monumental statues can be disappointing. I wasn't particularly impressed with Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer, particularly with the difficulty to get to it. And even the Statue of Liberty in New York, a wonderful symbol, is not really worth the effort to actually visit (it's better admired from the free ferry to Staten Island).

FAKE SITES

Checkpoint Charlie was the crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Now it's a recreation for tourists. Picture: Shutterstock

Checkpoint Charlie was the crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Now it's a recreation for tourists. Picture: Shutterstock

What I find the most disappointing are the attractions that are essentially fake and have just been created for tourists. Take Juliet's Balcony in Verona, for instance. The house has nothing to do with Shakespeare except that it's in the same city where he set Romeo and Juliet, yet there are long lines to take a photo on it.

The same goes for the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London that is at least on Baker Street, but not even at the right number (and is just a small dusty collection).

I also think Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin is overrated because, even though it represents some very important history, everything you see was recreated purely for tourists.

Tourists in Thailand who visit the Bridge over the River Kwai are often also disappointed when they realise it's not actually over the River Kwai and has nothing to do with the movie - but at least it's part of the historic Burma Railway.

TOO TOURISTY

Often sites can become overrated because they change when they start to get a lot of tourists. There's no denying the historic beauty of Dubrovnik in Croatia, but if you've visited it recently you'll realise it's just become the backdrop for locals to try to sell Game of Thrones tours since a lot of the show was filmed there.

Tourism in Dubrovnik in Croatia has surged after it was used in the filming of Game of Thrones. Picture: Shutterstock

Tourism in Dubrovnik in Croatia has surged after it was used in the filming of Game of Thrones. Picture: Shutterstock

Even places that are supposed to be full of vendors can be disappointing, like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul that is really only visited by foreigners because it's become so inauthentic.

Places with natural beauty like the Blue Lagoon in Iceland have lost their charm because they are crowded and have been covered in infrastructure to support the large numbers.

And one of the most unsatisfying places I've visited is South Africa's Robben Island, which has so many important stories to tell but visitors don't get a chance to hear them as they're shuffled along in large groups.

The good news is that there are always alternatives and it often doesn't take much effort to avoid these tourist traps and see more interesting and authentic sites. You just need a little courage sometimes to go against the tide of tourism.

  • Michael Turtle is a journalist who has been travelling the world full-time for eight years. Check out his travel adventures at timetravelturtle.com
This story Overrated tourist sites that aren't worth the effort first appeared on The Canberra Times.