You can’t go to China and not walk the Great Wall or visit Rome and miss the Colosseum. But some “must-see” attractions are bound to leave you disappointed. Why? Maybe you paid an arm and a leg to take in a skyline view you could’ve seen for free. Or you couldn’t even get a glimpse in the first place thanks to a horde of selfie stick-wielding tourists. Sure, if you want to waste your precious PTO at these 50 overcrowded, overpriced, and frankly, overrated landmarks, be our guest. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.
If you’re traveling to Paris, chances are you’ll get plenty of recommendations to visit the Champs Elysées, the city’s most iconic—if not clichéd—shopping avenue. The Champs Élysées extends from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, and as you walk the 1.2-mile stretch, you’ll pass just about every name brand store you could imagine, from Zara and Adidas to Cartier and Louis Vuitton. You’ll also see chain restaurants like McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Subway. In other words, it contains the same things you’d find in literally any other major city on the planet.
Pro tip: For great shopping, spend your time wandering around the streets of the Marais or Saint-Germain-des-Près.
Blame it on Miley Cyrus, but our expectations were seriously let down the first time we actually laid eyes on the Hollywood Sign. On any given day, you’ll find throngs of people hiking from Griffith Park on Mt. Hollywood or Brush Canyon Trail, intent on snapping a photo of the big, bold aluminum letters. There are endless ways to spend your time in Los Angeles, so do yourself a favor and google a photo of the Hollywood Sign, then spend your vacation actually seeing the city.
The Tower of Pisa is one of Italy’s most visited sites, up there with Rome’s Colosseum, Florence’s Duomo, and The Vatican. But let’s be honest, it’s probably not worth driving an hour and a half from Florence just to take a cheesy photo of you pretending to hold up the leaning bell tower. Instead, explore the far more interesting medieval towns that make up the Tuscan countryside, such as Siena, San Gimignano, and Lucca, which are filled with amazing architecture and history.
The Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud is one of the much-talked-about sites you can (and should) absolutely skip. It’s crowded with tourists trying to feed the monkeys and snap the perfect selfie. Plus, since the monkeys in the park are so used to people, they can get extremely aggressive. Wild monkeys can be found all over Bali—from the top of Mount Batur to Uluwatu Temple—so there’s no need to visit this zoo-like attraction.
Copenhagen has many impressive sights, but Edvard Eriksen’s bronze Little Mermaid Statue isn’t one of them. The statue is small and unimpressive, and it’s a good walk from the city center. Spend your time strolling along the colorful harbor, Nyhavn; eating your way through the covered marketplace, Torvehallerne; and unleashing your inner child at Tivoli Gardens amusement park (the inspiration behind Disney).
Ask any self-respecting New Yorker, and they will tell you that Times Square is a neighborhood to be avoided at all costs. Unless, of course, you’re headed to a Broadway show and are forced to pass the neon billboards and creepy costumed characters. Every single one of the restaurants in the vicinity are disappointing tourist traps, the crowds are overwhelming, and the shopping is not worth your time. For beautiful boutiques and one of the best dining scenes, head to the West Village.
The London Eye offers some pretty spectacular views, but ultimately it’s just a glorified ferris wheel that will cost you a pretty penny. Standard tickets alone are £27 ($35), but without the express ticket £37 ($48), you’ll probably find yourself waiting in a substantial line. If what you’re seeking is a great view of the city skyline, skip the London Eye and climb to the summit of One Tree Hill, head to the rooftop bar at One New Change shopping center, or walk to the top of Primrose Hill.
Most Tokyo travel itineraries include the Robot Restaurant Show as a can’t-miss activity. It usually comes along with some caveat like “this is the weirdest show you’ll ever see it, but go see for yourself to find out!” But actually, you probably shouldn’t. Tokyo is full of incredible culture and nightlife, from closet-sized whiskey bars to kabuki performances. You won’t miss spending upwards of $70 on a show revolving around obnoxious robots and headache-inducing neon lights.
Here’s a brief refresher in case you’ve forgotten high school U.S history: The Alamo was the first of many missions to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. Later, during the Texas Revolution, a small group of Texans defended The Alamo Mission against the Mexican army, thereby inspiring the movement for the independence of Texas. It’s a great story and a source of much pride for Texas, but you can get a glimpse of Texan pride pretty much anywhere you look in the state or any time you catch a glimpse of an “everything is bigger in Texas” T-shirt. In conclusion: Skip the Alamo and spend your time eating barbecue, listening to bluegrass music, or visiting Big Bend National Park.
This Belgian statue translates to “little man [urinating]” and depicts a bronze boy going to the bathroom into a fountain in Brussels city center. Hilarious and sort of endearing? Yes. Worth going out of your way for? Probably not. The statue is tiny, and because it’s usually surrounded by a group of tourists, you’ll hardly be able to see it at all. If you happen to walk by the statue in passing, go ahead and take a funny photo with it, but otherwise, it’s not worth the effort. In a continent full of awe-inspiring, historical sculptures, this might be Europe’s most forgettable one.
As a general rule, when a city advertises an observatory, it’s almost always going to be overpriced and underwhelming. Seattle’s Space Needle is no exception. Admission costs a minimum of $32.50, which would be much better spent buying a cup of chowder at Pike Place Market, grabbing coffee at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, checking out an exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, or riding the ferry to nearby Whidbey Island. In a city surrounded by nature and the great outdoors, there’s no point in paying for a view.
Think twice before driving to Keystone, South Dakota, to see Mount Rushmore. Sure, the granite sculptures of George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt are pretty remarkable works of art, but there are dozens of more incredible national parks like Arches, Grand Teton, and Zion, to name a few. In fact, you’ll probably find that the Badlands—located just 90 minutes away—are far more interesting.
If you’ve ever seen a postcard of Kyoto, it’s probably a picture of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, a thickly settled bamboo garden. What you don’t see, however, is that anyone who snapped a clean photo of the forest probably arrived at 5 a.m., well before the throngs of crowds. If you’re up for a very early morning, walking through Arashiyama when it’s quiet is spectacular, but wait until 8 a.m. and you’ll find yourself in a sea of tourists. Consider visiting one of Kyoto’s smaller, underrated bamboo-clad pathways like Kodaiji Temple.
When you think of San Francisco, Lombard Street—a steep stretch of road with eight hairpin turns—is one of the most iconic images. It is very unique and makes for a great photo op… if you can find a way to frame your photo so it doesn’t include the hundreds of tourists making their way down the zig-zagging road. San Francisco boasts so many beautiful, inclined streets lined with mansions, landscaped gardens, and shimmering bay views. Instead of trekking to Lombard Street, just wander around the picture-perfect streets of Pacific Heights or Russian Hill.
Located steps from Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement, this famous cabaret attracts tourists for its recognizable red façade and its can-can dancing shows. Basic tickets for one of the féerie shows will cost you over $100, and dinner and a show will be almost double. If you’re looking for a fun night out in Paris, there are endless options for live jazz, theater, or performances. Aux Trois Mailletz, for example, is a cozy piano bar and cabaret in the Latin Quarter that is affordable and feels authentic.
Caminito, which translates to little path in Spanish, is the main walkway in Buenos Aires’ La Boca neighborhood. The street—which is an open-air museum dedicated to Argentinian immigrant culture—is lined with cobblestone streets, brightly painted tenement houses, and street peddlers. Those in the know, however, will tell you to spend as little time there as possible or skip it entirely. The tourist trap looks less like an authentic museum and more like a stale movie set. There are vendors who will bother you to buy their overpriced crafts, and restaurateurs who will harass you to have a meal at their overpriced eateries.
Ok, yes, it’s a nice symbol of the pillars the U.S. was built on, but let’s be real: It’s a cracked bell. And to dispel any confusion, it doesn’t even ring anymore. Philadelphia is a great city teeming with history, art, and food, but you won’t regret foregoing a trip to see the boring Liberty Bell.
Golden Gai is comprised of a bunch of narrow passageways lined by hundreds of tiny, ramshackle bars just a stone’s throw from Shinjuku’s skyscrapers. While Golden Gai is cool to see and probably unlike anywhere you’ve bar-hopped before, it’s really a rip off. Bartenders are aware that most of the customers are foreigners, and many of the closet-sized bars will even have a cover charge to enter on top of the expensive drinks.
Niagara Falls, which sits at the U.S.-Canada border, is one of the most visited attractions in the world. The waterfall itself is breathtaking—for about a minute, until you notice all the run-down casinos and tacky tourist shops around it. Not a pretty sight. If you’re intent on seeing the falls, at least make the trip to the Canadian side, which offers much better views and way less kitsch.
With its narrow canals, flower stalls filled with colorful tulips, and Dutch-style row houses, Amsterdam is one of the most picturesque cities in Europe. But the Red Light District is something else entirely: It’s seedy, dirty, stinky, and completely charmless. While you might feel the need to see it, don’t plan on spending too much time there. You’re much better off exploring the hip Jordaan district, admiring art at the Van Gogh Museum, or picnicking in Vondelpark.
Tolkien fans often flock to Hobbiton, a major filming location for The Lord of the Rings, on New Zealand’s North Island. But you might want to think twice before you travel across the world to see it. Those hobbit houses are completely man-made, and there’s nothing behind the doors. The tours are fast-paced and jam-packed, so you’ll hardly even have time to snap a photo before the next group pulls up behind you (not to mention a ticket will set you back a minimum of $84.)
Stonehenge is not a particularly easy place to get to. You’ll have to devote a whole day from London to Wiltshire in order to see this prehistoric monument, which was first built in the Stone Age. Once you arrive, you have to follow a designated pathway, and you can’t actually get close to the rocks. If you are going to make the trip to Stonehenge, pair it with a visit to Bath, Salisbury, or the Cotswolds to make it worth your while.
Travel guides will tell you that La Rambla, the busy pedestrian boulevard that runs from Plaça Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus monument at Port Vell, is a must-see in Barcelona. But you won’t want to spend much time there. Don’t be lured into one of the over-priced, incredibly mediocre restaurants, and whatever you do, watch out for pickpockets. La Rambla is known for them.
Harbour Bridge is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Sydney, right up there with Bondi Beach and the Opera House. Although the bridge climb looks fun, it’s seriously expensive (we’re talking $260 or more), which is tough to justify given that there are so many better ways to spend your dollars. Instead of shelling out serious dough to climb the bridge, opt for a scenic ferry ride and take in the vistas from the water.
Guinness beer is basically synonymous with Dublin, so naturally the Guinness Storehouse is one of the city’s top attractions. For a three-hour tour and tasting, you’ll have to shell out €95 (roughly $100), and when push comes to shove, it’s just like any other brewery. Here’s a much better idea: Choose from one of Dublin’s billion pubs and order a pint of Guinness there. It’ll be far cheaper and a much more enjoyable atmosphere.
Tian Tian Buddha (also known as Big Buddha) is Hong Kong’s most visited site. While the Big Buddha is cool to see for a minute or two, many travelers climb the 268 steps just for the views of Lantau Island and the Po Lin Monastery. Plus, tickets for the Ngong Ping 360 cable car from Hong Kong to Lantau—the easiest way to travel—will cost you about $40. Hong Kong is surrounded by dozens of stunning islands with jaw-dropping views, tropical beaches, and hiking paths. So, before you travel all the way to busy Lantau to escape the city, consider instead a day trip to Lamma Island, Peng Chau, or Stanley.
The Louvre is the most-visited museum in the world—in fact, it welcomes around 10 million tourists each year! So, if you think you’re going to get an up-close-and-personal look at its most coveted painting—Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa—think again. Plus, the painting is much smaller in real life than you probably imagined, and you’ll have to fight the crowds to get a good glance at it. That being said, the Louvre has plenty of other incredible artworks that are worth seeing, as long as you plan your visit and go in with realistic expectations.
Ha Long Bay looks like something out of a fairytale. Thousands of tiny islands jut up from the jade blue water of the Gulf of Tonkin, forming a landscape of stunning limestone pillars. In the photos, the sun is always shining, the sky is always blue, and there isn’t a tourist in sight. The reality is drastically different. Ha Long Bay is the most visited place in northern Vietnam, and millions of people travel to it each year by cruise boat. As a result, the bay has witnessed extreme overpopulation, pollution, and noise. Many days are grey, and the limestone formations may be completely hidden by a layer of fog. You’ll be lucky to catch it on a picture-perfect day, but the odds are not in your favor.
For something to be called the Mall of America, you might expect it to be pretty grand—like the Taj Mahal of malls. Unfortunately, that’s not really the case with this shopping center in Bloomington, Minnesota. Sure, it’s huge, but inside you’ll find the same stores you’d see at any other shopping plaza: Buffalo Wild Wings, American Eagle, Claire’s, Foot Locker… you know the drill.
Ko Phi Phi has the potential to be a truly idyllic setting: Cerulean blue water, limestone cliffs, and lush, swaying palms. But this location, made famous by the movie The Beach, starring a young Leonardo DiCaprio, has been all but destroyed by mass tourism. The land, once pristine and serene, has become overdeveloped by hotels and guesthouses and the water, once crystal clear, is now polluted with motor boat fuel and trash. Thailand still has its fair share of dreamy, unspoiled islands if you know where to look, so skip Ko Phi Phi and, seek out somewhere like Koh Phayam, Koh Mak, or Koh Kradan.
There was a time, not too long ago, when Iceland felt like the last frontier: A wild and rugged place untouched by tourism. Today, that isn’t the case. For good and for bad, low cost airlines and short travel times have made Iceland—and Reykjavík in particular—a hugely popular vacation spot from both the U.S. and Europe. Gullfoss, one of the most famous waterfalls along the Golden Circle, has certainly lost some of its appeal and beauty due to the crowds. While it’s difficult to escape the tour busses entirely, there are other falls like Glymur, Dettifos, and Svartifoss that are less overrun.
The Trevi Fountain sits in a grand piazza in downtown Rome. The giant baroque statue is impressive, for sure, but be prepared to fight the crowd of coin-tossers for a good view. In fact, it was just recently announced that the city plans to build barriers surrounding the fountain to keep tourists back.
This popular Honolulu beach, quite possibly the most well known stretch of sand in all of Hawaii, is framed by high-rise hotels, name-brand stores, and buzzy cocktail bars, not so unlike South Beach in Miami. If you’re seeking tropical, pristine beaches, ditch the crowded shores of Waikiki in search of Oahu’s more secluded spots. Look for Laniakea Beach, home to adorable nesting turtles; Yokohama Bay, an unspoiled cove where crystalline water meets lush mountains; or Hālona, a pocket of sand at the foot of a crater.
Even if you don’t know much about Elvis Presley, you’ve probably heard of Graceland, the Memphis mansion that the King of Rock and Roll once called home. Unless you’re a diehard Elvis fan, skip this attraction, which many visitors call gaudy and overpriced. You’ll probably find that the tours of the mansion are unorganized, rushed, and relatively uninteresting.
Most travelers visit Bali in search of Buddhist temples, lush jungles, beautiful beaches, and spiritual heading. You won’t find any of those allures in Kuta, a popular resort town on the southern tip of the Island. If Bali has become too touristy in the past decade, Kuta is the prime example: It is packed with tourists—many of them inebriated from a few too many mai tais at the boisterous beach clubs. The restaurant options are tacky and disappointing, and instead of cute boutiques, you’ll find cheesy souvenir shops. Save your Bali adventure for Ubud or Nusa Lembongan, and skip Kuta altogether.
The Temple Bar is both the name of a neighborhood, Dublin’s nightlife capital, and also one particular, frequently-photographed pub with iconic red walls. You will want to spend some time in the Temple Bar area, where people stroll (and sometimes stumble) along the pedestrian-only cobblestone streets, drinking pints of Irish stout and listening to live music. Make a point to avoid the eponymous bar, however, which is an overpriced and overcrowded tourist trap.
Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine, a series of orange torii gates that wind for miles along a hillside, is one of the city’s most frequented attractions. Unlike many of Kyoto’s shrines and temples, Fushimi Inari is completely free to enter. That has become both a blessing and a curse as the shrine is always bombarded with tourists. Although it has the potential to be incredibly peaceful and thought-provoking, the crowds make any sense of solitude or introspection almost impossible. If you’re set on seeing Fushimi Inari, go before 8 a.m. or at night (it’s open 24 hours). Otherwise, skip it all together and visit some of Kyoto’s off-the-beaten-path cultural sites like Honen-in or Entoku-in.
Marrakesh’s main square, Jemaa el-Fna, serves as an entryway into the narrow and serpentine streets of the Medina. Jemaa el-Fna comes alive around sundown as food vendors grill lamb skewers, snake charmers lurk around the square, and monkeys crawl around on leashes. It’s a sight to be seen, for sure, one that you wouldn’t want to miss while visiting Morocco, but you won’t want to spend more than a few minutes there. It’s chaotic, and you’ll want to keep a close watch on your belongings as you pass through. For better food, shopping, and entertainment, get out of the main square and explore the colorful souks that line the old city.
Even if you know nothing about Rio de Janeiro, you’d probably recognize the Christ the Redeemer statue. But don’t expect a life-changing experience when you see it for yourself. It takes a bit of effort to reach the famous landmark, perched on top of Sugarloaf Mountain. The most popular way up is to ride the Trem do Corcovado, but that requires waiting in line (sometimes for hours) and paying $20. Once you get to the top, the weather is often abrasively hot, and cloudy skies can often obliterate the city views.
For those looking for designer knock-offs in Beijing, you’ll undoubtedly be pointed to the Silk Market on Xiushui Street. This five-story shopping complex carries everything from counterfeit Dior sunglasses to Gucci handbags. Because the vendors know their audience (a.k.a. international tourists), they jack up the prices. If you’re great at haggling, you could make out like a bandit here, but if your bargaining skills aren’t up to speed, you’ll pay far more than what the items are worth, and you’ll leave feeling incredibly ripped off.
With its white fishing houses and bright blue balconies overlooking the Aegean, Little Venice is one of the most photographed places on the Greek island of Mykonos. Bars and restaurants set up outdoor seating on the harbor, and visitors flock to watch the sunset. While beautiful to visit during the day, this isn’t the place if you’re looking for a quiet or romantic spot. A better idea: Head to a beach on the west side of the island, like Platys Gialos Beach, Psarou Beach, or Megali Ammos Beach.
Pig Beach is a notorious swimming hole on the island of Exuma in the Bahamas. Here, visitors can swim with adorable piglets in the ocean. However, you’ll have to drop some serious cash for the boat tour that brings you to Pig Beach, and once you’re there, you’ll see that the beach is rather small and filled to the brim with tourists. And the piglets? They’re not very little. In fact, they’re huge pigs that are so used to being fed by visitors, they can get rather aggressive and some even bite.
Boracay, a tiny island in the Philippines, was once synonymous with a tropical paradise (think: velvety, white sand and tranquil water). Today, however, overtourism and a big party culture has turned this once relaxing and serene island into what feels like a trashy college spring break locale. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, you won’t find it on White Beach, which is crowded with drunk tourists from noon through night. And if you’re looking to experience Fillipino culture, Boracay isn’t the place. Just about everything from the pizza parlors to the tiki bars is designed for tourists.
A visit to Checkpoint Charlie—a former Cold War border control point—is considered a must for anyone traveling in Berlin. But many who actually make the trip will tell you it’s a historical site-turned-tourist-trap that can easily be overlooked. Everything about Checkpoint Charlie is fake, from the army checkpoint to the soldiers holding American flags. So skip this spot entirely, unless you want to pay to take a selfie and walk around an area full of cheap food and souvenirs.
The Taj Mahal has a pretty big reputation. It’s one of the seven man-made wonders of the world, up there with Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China. But if we’re being honest, a trip to this giant white marble mausoleum may not be worth your time. The Taj Mahal isn’t in a major tourist area (it’s over 100 miles from Delhi), so getting there requires a trip. And you’ll want to stay in Agra overnight, given that the best time to see the Taj Mahal before it becomes unbearably crowded is in the very early morning, around sunrise. People make pilgrimages around the world just to see the Taj Mahal in person, but you might very well find more beauty and magic just walking around Delhi, Jaipur, and Udaipur.
Boulder Beach is essentially a glorified zoo on the Cape Peninsula. You’ll have to pay to enter, watch the penguins from a distance on a paved boardwalk, and deal with crowds who are all vying to take the same photo as you. The pro move is to skip Boulder Beach and make your way to Seaforth, just 10 minutes away, where penguins roam on the sandy shore, and there’s no entrance fee.
One of the main draws to Tulum and the Riviera Maya are the various cenotes or natural sinkholes scattered throughout the region. These picturesque freshwater pools are great for snorkeling, swimming, or just cooling off. Gran Cenote is one of the biggest attractions in the Yucatan Peninsula, but there are dozens of more under-the-radar swimming holes where you can escape the crowds. We recommend Yokdzonot, Ponderosa, or Grottoes Loltún.
The Portuguese coastal town of Cascais has all the potential to be an adorable getaway: Narrow, serpentine streets that lead to a quaint downtown area, Atlantic coastline protected by sandy coves, and colorful buildings surrounded by pink bougainvilleas. But due to its proximity to Lisbon (just half an hour west of the city), Caiscais has become far too popular, especially among day-trippers. Playing to its touristy crowd, many restaurants and shops have become overly expensive and have all but lost their charm. And good luck trying to find a spot to sunbathe among the rows of towels on Praia da Conceição. For a more secluded beach town close to Lisbon, head to Comporta on the Tróia Peninsula.
Bangkok is one of those cities where it’s not possible to do it all. So if you have a tight schedule, you might want to forego a trip to the Grand Palace. Sure, it’s absolutely beautiful and impressive from the outside, but it’s hard to enjoy when you’re being pushed and shoved by so many other tourists. Instead, prioritize visiting the dazzling temples like Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun and eating your way through the incredible street food scene, including the vibrant floating marketplaces.
Over the past decade, the coastal Colombian city of Cartagena has become hugely popular with people seeking a tropical and cultural getaway. So it’s no surprise that the Islas de rosario, a chain of islands nearby in the Caribbean Sea, have also borne the brunt of tourism. Companies offer boozy and rowdy boat day trips to the islands because of their close proximity to the city. Whereas two more remote and romantic Caribbean island alternatives are Providencia and San Bernardo. For more travel in the country, check out the 100 Destinations So Magical You Won’t Believe They’re in the U.S.