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Okay, I’m sure you’ve heard this many times by people you know, on blogs, and in YouTube videos — it’s a tourist trap, too many people go there, everyone has seen it — and my response to that usually is…. there’s a reason everyone has seen it, it’s worth seeing! Before you agree with those folks, here me out on my perspective first — and you be the judge at the end of this blog if it’s worth going to see these popular tourist attractions or at least some of them. You can even let me know what you think in the comments.
One example comes to mind for me immediately when thinking about this scenario. I once had a co-worker try to convince me before going to London not to visit the famous London Eye (also called Millennium Wheel). The London Eye is a cantilevered observation wheel (Ferris wheel) located on the South Bank of the River Thames very close to the Big Ben clock tower in London. My coworker in his exact words said,
It’s not worth the money and didn’t live up to the hype. Don’t even waste your time going to it.Nameless Coworker
I’ll admit, this advice may be sound for some people. If you don’t do well in crowds, care for city views or you’re on a tight budget, you may agree and that’s totally fine. The London Eye was not cheap (£37 or $45 US via advance online booking) and a lot of people are there to see it. However, you have to take into account a few things about me and how I like to travel. First, It was my very first time visiting London, so I was extra excited to delve into the city and visit attractions I’ve heard of for years. Second, I absolutely love anything that offers a great view — especially if it has a view of a skyline, ocean or other major monuments. Lastly, when I travel, I am all about experiences and going places where you can potentially meet other like-minded travelers. I usually travel solo (not always, but more often than not) and focus more on doing/seeing than buying things. This typically involves going places where there are crowds. Plus, I’ve budgeted for a few big ticket experiences before ever landing in a country. Don’t get me wrong, I highly enjoy going to the local places, where it’s a slower pace, more authentic vibe of the city and cheaper — it’s important for me to mix them both in on trips. By the way, I had a great time on the London Eye and would recommend it — at least on your first trip to London. The queue moves quite quickly and the views as the wheel rotates are pretty amazing — especially considering you have a birds eye view of Big Ben and the House of Parliament. It was the most unique ferris wheel I’ve ever been on (been on ferris wheels in 5 countries) and had the energy you look for as a solo traveler. Everyone was friendly, enjoying the scenery and taking pictures that will last a lifetime.
In my mind, this is a no-brainer considering we’re talking about the City of Love — Paris, France. There are so many popular tourist attractions here and if you’re one of those travelers (not judging, I promise) who are completely against going to such attractions — then you could be potentially missing out on such attractions as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre and Palace of Versailles just to name a few. I don’t know about you, but I’m just not willing to give those experiences up. Every time I’m in Paris (I’ve been twice) I’m completely memorized by the Eiffel Tower. It has magical powers or something because I’ve taken at least 50 pictures of the same monument. You don’t even have to pay and go up to the top to enjoy its beauty — you can pick up a bottle of wine, some picnic snacks, a blanket and just admire its artistry from Champs de Mars a large pubic park surrounding the Eiffel Tower. This is true Parisian life. However, I do recommend going to the very top like I did for the breathtaking views — tickets online range from €10,40-€25,90 ($11.40-$28.40 US) for adults depending on if you want to go to the second level or the very top and if you decide to use the stairs (cheaper) versus the lift.
I totally understand it may not be feasible to pay to visit all these attractions in one trip. I personally have not gone inside the Notre Dame Cathedral or to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, but each time I go to Paris, I love visiting them to take a few pictures and watch others excitedly see them for the first time. Soaking up the energy around the monuments is fun for me. The last time I was in Paris, a mother and daughter were standing in the middle of the street on Champs Élysées (this is rather normal – see photo below) having what looked like a photo shoot. I offered my photography skills (not a pro, but can take a decent picture) and took photos of the two of them together in front of the Arc de Triomphe, which is at the western end of the Champs Élysées at the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle. It turned out to be a fantastic time as they returned the favor and we both ended up with some great photos all because we wanted to see this beautiful monument.
The Palace of Versailles was the principal royal residence of France under Louis XIV dating back to 1682, so imagine going to see how the royals lived back in that time. It’s a beautiful palace with stunning golden gates and an interior kept in tack from that time frame that is just splendid. I felt there was plenty to see and the backyard area is like something I’ve never seen at a home. For more information click the link above. You don’t exactly have to be a fan of art to appreciate The Louvre, but of course it helps to have some interest like I’ve developed from my travels. The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris partially due to its exquisite design — and the fact that it has over 38,000 art objects from prehistory to the 21st century. Tickets go for about €15 ($16.50 US) at the museum. You can’t go wrong with seeing major tourist attractions in Paris. I’ve met people from all over the world there excited to experience these attractions for the first time or maybe for the 5th time — either way, it’s a good time.
Dubai & Abu Dhabi
Raise your hand if you know where the world’s tallest building is located and the name of it. No worries, this the type of pop quiz where I actually give you the answer — everyone is getting an A in my class. The answer is the Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates most populous city, Dubai. The Burj Khalifa is a skyscraper of epic proportions standing 828 meters tall (2,717 ft) and has been the tallest building in the world since 2008 (Shanghai Tower #2). The Burj Khalifa’s design embodies the lyrical and well-proportioned structure of the Hymenocallis or Spider Lily, a regional desert flower that inspired the architect Adrian Smith’s vision of the iconic tower. My cousin, friend and I decided we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the inside of the world’s tallest and beautifully designed building. I personally paid AED 149 ($40 US) to go to levels 124 and 125 and take in the incredible views of the city and dazzling craftsmanship of the interior. You can pay additional to go to the very top level 148. I’ll admit, this is one of the more expensive attractions and I totally understand you wanting to admire this beautiful structure from outside where you can still take superb photos, but if you have enough in the budget, be sure to witness the interior of this magnificent building.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen with my own eyes and I’m not sure it’s even close. It is the largest mosque in the country and a key place for daily worship — Islam is the official religion of the UAE, and is widely practiced (I was there during ramadan). Many tourists come to see this phenomenal structure. The mosque is free to enter (check available tourist times) and my friends and I didn’t need tickets. A few small things I want to point out from my experience at the mosque — you should wear conservative, loose fitting clothing when you visit. Men are not allowed to wear shorts. Women need to wear long sleeved shirts and long pants or a long, loose fitting skirt. Also, shoes will be removed before entering the mosque. Additionally, prepare for it to be well over a 100° (it was 115° on our late May visit) when you visit, so boiling hot. But once I mentally adjusted to the heat, I was blown away by the fact that someone built something with such detail, beauty and extravagance. And I also enjoyed the spiritual vibes I felt. This place is a one of one and a must see.
Venice, Florence & Rome
If I were forced to pick one country to go non-stop exploring through for an extended period of time, I think Italy would be my choice. It’s truly a beautiful country from the north to the south and all around. When I visited in May of 2017, I started up in the Northeastern part of Italy in Venice, took the train south to Florence and flew further south into Rome. I had my mind blown the moment I exited the Venice Marco Polo Airport. It’s quite an experience because we’re all accustomed to getting into a taxi or a lyft to take us to our hotel, but have you ever been picked up by a water taxi?
Venice is situated on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals. No roads, just canals, so this is why the water taxi is necessary in such a good way. After I reached my hotel, freshened up, my friend and I hit the town to explore this angelic city. Of course the attraction everyone has heard about is the gondola ride on the grand canal. This is an experience if with the right person I feel you won’t ever forget and that’s what traveling is all about. One thing to note, gondola rides are fairly expensive €80 ($87 US) for 40 minutes, so a great backup option which I took advantage of is a traghetto. A traghetto is an empty gondola used to ferry passengers back and forth across the canal for €2 ($2 US). The most important piece of advice I can share about Venice is to get on the canals and enjoy the beautiful scenery — the memories will last a lifetime.
In Florence, there were many historic attractions I was looking forward to visiting, but I sort of stumbled upon my favorite tourist attraction — the Piazzale Michelangelo. Piazzale Michelangelo is on a hill on the south bank of the Arno River, just east of the center of Florence, and offers the most incredible views of the city along with a bronze cast of the David statue — created by Michelangelo of course. I could have stayed here for hours as you can see from the pictures below, some people may have. However, I did ride my scooter here everyday just to take in the views and the energy of the city.
The last stop of my Italian holiday was the most popular — the city of Rome. Are you not entertained??? I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get that in there. I could write a full blog on my experience in Rome (hope to at some point) and all the exciting tourist attractions I visited in my short time there (2 full days). However, this time around, I’ll call out two very popular attractions. I can not stress this first attraction enough. I booked a skip-the-line tour of the Colosseum (also spelled Coliseum) through the mobile app GetYourGuide, which also has a website you can book through. I’ll always cherish this experience — it was magical due to all the history, the anticipation of making it to Rome and the Colosseum, the great photos I took and my awesome tour guide. My tour was about 3-hours and I was highly impressed with Sara N and her knowledge of the Colosseum and surrounding area. You don’t have to book a tour to visit the Colosseum, but I recommend you do for the history — and it can be a quicker way to enter the Colosseum. My tour was roughly about $48 US.
For the pure beauty, visit the Trevi Fountain in the Trevi district in Rome. It is the largest baroque fountain in the entire city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. That was enough to sell me — I guess you could say I’m easy to please, haha. It was a decent crowd of people on the night I arrived. Many people were standing in awe of this magnificent fountain and everyone was trying to take their best photos — I loved it. I only wish I would have visited it during the day as well. I love my pictures (all photos in my blog are taken by me unless noted). Until next time…
For me, no trip to Barcelona is complete without a visit to the Basílica de la Sagrada Família (also known as the Sagrada Família). The Sagrada Família was designed by the famous Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi. Prior to his death in 1926, Gaudi was convinced the city would someday be known for “his” church and I have to say, it’s the first thing I think of when hear Barcelona. I couldn’t believe how detailed the exterior was. It almost seemed impossible people could build such a marvelous structure. The interior creative use of color, space, and detailed stone work leaves you in awe. I highly recommend heading up to the towers for awesome views of the city. Entrance will cost you about €20 ($22 US)
The first image that came to my mind before I booked my trip to Dublin, Ireland was a pint of Guinness. People that I’ve spoken with always said the Guinness tastes different in Dublin — so I set out to see if this was true and brought a friend who lived in the city with me. Of course, one of the 751 pubs located in Dublin would have did just fine, but I decided to head to the Guinness Storehouse first to learn what goes into making each and every pint. Along with the incredible brand history stretching over 250 years, which wasn’t well known to me prior. Oh, did I mention, the Storehouse offers an incredible view of Dublin from the top floor of the tour (see picture below). Standard tickets are about €25 ($27 US) — and yes, the Guinness tasted different in Dublin — absolutely delicious.
Tokyo & Kyoto
I believe one of the more underrated, major tourist attractions happens to be in Tokyo, Japan. Roppongi Hills Mori Tower is a 54-story mixed-use skyscraper in Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo. It is the centerpiece of the Roppongi Hills urban development and offers the best skyline view I’ve ever seen in my life — I was speechless for the first 5 minutes. The Mori Tower is Tokyo’s 6th tallest building, so imagine how many large, beautiful buildings make up Tokyo’s skyline. The incredible part about the observation deck on floor 54, is it’s totally open — so your view is completely unobstructed. Many observation decks are enclosed, which doesn’t allow the full effect of the space. Tickets to Mori Towers observation deck go for 1,500 yen ($14 US). I stayed up there for well over an hour taking in the epic views and taking pictures that just won’t do the view justice.
Kyoto is considered the cultural capital of Japan and is a major tourist destination in large part to the Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, palaces and gardens, many are listed collectively by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Compared to Tokyo — Kyoto has a much slower pace, small town feel to it. Kyoto is very serene and a great place to recharge and visually be stimulated. I really enjoyed the experience and felt blessed to see the spectatular Kinkaku-ji golden Zen Buddhist Temple. It is one of the most popular buildings in all of Japan. Admission is 400 yen ($4 US) which is a very small fee to see a golden temple — go for it, I did.
Two words… Great Wall. Universally, people will know exactly what you are talking about when you say the Great Wall, as in the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall of China is the collective name of a series of fortification systems built across the historical northern borders of China to protect and consolidate territories of Chinese states and empires against various nomadic groups. It was on my “Bucket List” (I really have a bucket list written down) of places I had to experience. I’m a huge NBA basketball fan. Every year for years, the NBA sends a few teams over to Beijing for marketing and promotional preseason games. They would always show the teams visiting the Great Wall of China, so it just kind of stuck in my head. I was able to make it happen on a 12-hour layover from Thailand. I was going to be somewhat short on time, so I decided to book a tour through Beijing Jenny Tour — Jenny was awesome! There are multiple options offered, but I went with option 1 for $150 US. I had an english speaking driver (Jenny herself) pick me up from airport in a nice, heated van (November) with plenty of space for my belongings. Jenny drove me to Mutianyu Great Wall section (roughly 1.5-2 hour drive from airport), Tiananmen square and the Forbidden city. My Great Wall entrance fee was covered, as well as my Forbidden city entrance fee. After years of imaging being at the Great Wall, it was incredibly cool to physically be there. Wear comfortable shoes because it is a workout, but well worth it.
New York City
The final tourist attraction for this blog that I loved and believe you should visit is home to scenic hills, playgrounds, meadows, strawberry fields, skating rinks, multiple ball fields, Belvedere Castle and astoundingly a Zoo. I’m sure you’ve figured out by now I’m talking about Central Park. Central Park is an urban park in Manhattan, New York City, located between the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side. It is the 5th largest park in New York, but number 1 in my heart. It is absolutely my favorite park in the world. I loved it from the first moment I laid eyes on it back in 2012 — It’s vast lush surroundings, incredibly well maintained, offers scenic views of the city and is a great gathering place for exercise, picnics, reading, talking with friends and people watching. Great place to get away from the busy New York City life.
It’s been great re-living all of these incredible experiences from each of these trips. I can honestly say, 10 years ago, I couldn’t even have dreamt of going to all of these places and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Now, I can’t imagine not doing this the rest of my life. Sure these are popular attractions that get fairly busy and some are not cheap, but if you’re going to spend your money on something in life — spend it on experiences! Find which of these tourist attractions interests you most and make it happen on one of your next trips. I hope I’ve given you something to think about and some places to dream about.
In closing… More Travel, More Life!