We’ve all been there. You excitedly prepare for one of the heavily promoted highlights of your trip, only to have that anticipation dashed on arrival by overcrowding, or worse, a distinct lack of anything remotely worth looking at. That’s not to say some tourist hotspots don’t live up to the hype, but many more are so grossly misrepresented, they should come with a “time waster” warning. Here are just a few of the world’s tourist traps that for us just don’t deliver. Enjoy! Or maybe not…
Times Square, New York
The popularity of Times Square is one of those enduring mysteries that will continue for as long as tourists fill the coffers of its big department stores. From believe-it-or-not museum shops housing the world’s most bizarre and never seen before curios, to overpriced electronics stores selling laptops that are actually ten years out of date, Times Square thrives on the naïvety of tourists. The biggest problem, other than the overpriced fast food outlets and uppity restaurants selling poor quality fusion cuisine, is the fact once you’re in Times Square, it’s inherently difficult to get back out. Ticket holders waiting for shows are herded into pens by community police officers, while the queues for department stores and fast food joints zigzag every available pedestrian space. If you’re planning on an entire day of sightseeing, you might want to give Times Square a wide berth!
The Pyramids of Giza, Cairo
Every day, approximately 4,000 tourists descend on the Pyramids of Giza hoping for a glimpse inside one of the world’s most famous royal tombs – the Pyramid of Khufu. What most people are unaware of is that the tombs were constructed to restrict unauthorised access, and as such, the labyrinthine passages leading to the King’s Chamber are narrow, low and extremely difficult to navigate even with the wooden steps and banisters now in place. Couple this with the fact that only 20-30 people are permitted to enter the attraction at any one time, and it spells an obvious problem.
Those patient enough to endure the 6-hour wait in sweltering temperatures are also likely to be disappointed, because there’s actually nothing worth seeing once you’re inside. It’s just a walled room, an empty tomb and a claustrophobic scramble to get back out!
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Bangkok
There are many accessible markets within the urban sprawl of Bangkok, yet few hold quite the same appeal as Damnoen Saduak. Once a respected backwater trading market for local merchants and craftsmen, the historic floating market is today, little more than a giant car boot sale where you’ll find exactly the same tat peddled by stallholders on the Khao San Road. Most tourists naively hop into a boat at the pier without first agreeing a fare with the driver, and this is where many find they are browbeaten into paying over the odds for a five minute punt along the canal. You should also be mindful that some drivers are paid a fee by unscrupulous stallholders to steer boatloads of visitors to their stalls. Not only could this make you a target for pickpockets, there’s a strong likelihood the goods on offer are either counterfeit or stolen!
The Astronomical Clock, Prague
With its winding cobblestone lanes, bijou cafe-restaurants and fairytale buildings, the historic “City of Spires” bears all the right ingredients for a romantic weekend getaway. Unfortunately this atmosphere is blighted by the coach loads of tourists who seem to descend upon Prague daily, whether or not it’s peak season. Mounted upon the Southern wall of the old town hall, the medieval Astronomical Clock is one of the most overrated attractions in the city. Yes, it’s pretty ornate, and the tiny figurines popping out on the hour are a source of brief entertainment for kids, but once the chiming is over, there’s really nothing to hang about for. If you really must visit just to satisfy your ‘been there done that’ itinerary, be sure to avoid the area at midday when upwards of 5,000 people flock to watch this creaking mechanical time-keeper spring into action!
St. Mark’s Square, Venice
For those considering Venice for a romantic weekender, think again. Not only is the city smelly, polluted and on constant flood alert, the few pedestrianised areas with attractions worth seeing are also incredibly crowded. With its Renaissance palaces and cherubic statues, Piazza San Marco (commonly known as St. Mark’s Square) seems like the ideal place after a gondola ride to stop off and enjoy a spot of lunch – if you don’t mind the company of 3,000 or so sightseers. Home to the Basilica, Campanille and Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Square is often the first port of call for visitors after the obligatory gondola ride, and most generally stay to make a full day of it!
If Stone Age man had known the touristic potential of his wacky circular creations, there would probably be hundreds more dotted throughout the UK. As it goes, Stonehenge is one of the few purpose-built formations that remains intact. This, coupled with the age-old mystery surrounding its intended use has lent to its appeal as one of the most popular attractions in England. But for anyone hoping that a wander around these stones might reveal some clue as to their purpose, you’re going to be disappointed. Following years of littering, graffiti and general disrespect shown by summer Solstice revellers, the barbed wire perimeter fence is as close as you’re going to get!
Image 1: Times Square: Francisco Diez
Image 2: Pyramids of Giza: Hamish2k
Image 3: Astronomical Clock: Everything and Robots
Image 4: Stonehenge: Simon Wakefield