My favorite T-Shirt reads “London, Paris, New York, Iqaluit.” In case you’re not familiar with the Canadian north, Iqaluit has a population of under 8,000 people who enjoy a polar climate in a town whose roads lead to absolutely nowhere. The point is, cities like London and Paris have become caricatures, places people automatically think they have to visit even though they’re not too sure why. The Mona Lisa looks like an over sized postage stamp and Buckingham Palace isn’t much more attractive than any other extravagant English pile. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about alternatives to the over-hyped traditional standbys…
Here are some fabulously overrated cities – and some great alternatives if you happen to be in the neighborhood.
1. Niagara Falls, USA
If you just can’t get enough of tacky souvenirs, overpriced hotel rooms, and crowds of stunned tourists, you’re in the right place. The Canadian side isn’t much better when it comes to good taste, but the view of the three drops that make up Niagara Falls is far more spectacular from the northern side. If you want to see one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, cross the border and take in Horseshoe Falls from the Canadian side. Ditch the city altogether and stay in one of the picturesque villages along the nearby Niagara Peninsula.
2. Dublin, Ireland
Yes, the pilgrimage to the Guinness Museum is certainly worth taking, but there is so much more to the Emerald Isle than its capital. A drive through any of the 32 counties will take you to cliffs, castles and Celtic artifacts that make the pleasures of trudging through a big city pale in comparison.
3. Paris, France
Paris is a perennial favorite among European destinations, and it’s certainly a beautiful city that’s filled with gorgeous architecture and cultural icons. On the other hand, it’s super expensive, crowded, and can smell pretty ripe in summer. Head to the south of France and explore the Med from your base in Toulouse or Marseille. Take a wine tour through the Loire Valley from Nantes or explore the vast national parklands near Bordeaux. Paris is pretty, but the French countryside is spectacular.
4. Rome, Italy
Rome would be perfect if you could ever actually see anything through the crowds of hot, impatient, and frustrated tourists. Instead of trying to elbow your way into St. Peter’s Square to wait in line for 5 hours to see the Basilica, try spending a few days in the Italian Lake District in the north of the country, or head down to Sicily. Tuscany will also give you your art-and-history fix, with far fewer people and much more fresh air.
5. Sydney, Australia
Once you’ve seen the Opera House and the big metal bridge, it’s probably time to leave town. Sydney always seems to make the list of top international destinations, but it’s just another huge metropolis with its fair share of big city problems. Head for the Great Barrier Reef, the Gold Coast or the Outback if you want to see the sights you won’t find anywhere else on the planet.
Overrated doesn’t mean a city isn’t worth visiting – it just suggests that you might be disappointed once you finally arrive. If you’re headed to a much-hyped location, try to make it a stop along the way rather than your extended destination. If you find that the city is all it’s cracked up to be, you can always change your plans and extend your stay. Some of the most memorable adventures happen off the beaten track, however, and leaving yourself a little time to explore the unknown tends bring its own rewards.