Quick Tip + 3 Tourist Spots That Might Not Live Up To The Hype
Sometimes you build something up in your head for so long, and when you finally get to experience it in real life, it is not as amazing as you thought it would be. This often happens when traveling. You plan your vacation for months, sometimes years. You read about all the famous, "once in a lifetime" attractions, and you plan your travels accordingly. Then you go, and for one reason or another, you leave feeling underwhelmed. This could be for a number of reasons; long lines, pricey admission, bad weather, horrible company, or it just didn't live up to the dream you had imagined. Believe me, after you've spent the money, time, and effort planning the trip of a lifetime, the last thing you want to feel is disappointment.
So to help you avoid future let downs, here are our top 3 tourist spots that didn't really live up to the hype for us. Now don't get me wrong, if I had each trip to do over I would still go see all 3 of these again. They are most definitely not to be missed. But I would keep some perspective and understand that not everything is going to live up to the fantasy, especially with my lofty, "why can't life be like it is in the movies" expectations.
1. The Sistine Chapel - The Vatican Museum, Vatican City.
What it Was Like: This was probably the biggest let down for me personally, because I love art, and I used to have a painting of The Creation of Adam, one of the frescoes from the chapel ceiling. First, you have to go through the Vatican Museum to see the chapel, and it takes forever to get there. Besides the fact that it's a large museum, there are hundreds of people who (like you) really came to see the chapel. Not that the other pieces aren't great, it's just not why we were there. As you get closer to the chapel it gets more and more crowded until you are literally elbow to elbow, shuffling slowly down narrow hallways with very little fresh air. Photography is not allowed in the Sistine Chapel, so you are briskly led into the chapel by men constantly reminding everyone not to take pictures. It was similar to the lines in the airport where TSA agents are repeatedly telling everyone to pull their liquids out. When you do finally get there, the ceilings are much higher than you might think so the frescos are farther away and thus harder to see. You can't stand there for too long, because the mass of people will move you toward the exit like a wave pool. And once you are done viewing the chapel, you still have to make your way back through the museum.
What I Recommend: Get there right when it opens and head straight to the Sistine Chapel. If you also came for the rest of the museum, do that part after, so when you are tired and hungry and ready to leave you can easily make your way to the exit. Keep in mind that people come from all over the world to visit the Vatican for both art and religion, so crowds are pretty much unavoidable. We went in the middle of the week in October, and it was just as crowded (and almost as hot) as a Saturday afternoon in the summer. And don't forget to cover up; many people were turned away for wearing tank tops and short shorts. If you have no major desire to visit the Vatican Museum for whatever reason, I would recommend nearby St. Peter's Basilica as a substitute. The line moves quickly, and the architecture is both beautiful and impressive.
2. The Mona Lisa - The Louvre, Paris.
What it Was Like: Nothing can prepare you for the sheer size of the Louvre. The museum is actually a palace dating back to the 12th century, with unending hallways and side rooms and stairs and multiple levels, and more art than you could ever see in one day. Even though there are signs leading you to the Mona Lisa, it is still quite a hike to get there, especially if (like us) you get turned around 5 or 6 times. This letdown was partially our fault; we went on a Saturday afternoon on our last day in Paris and we were rushing to see our favorite pieces. The crowds are not too bad, until you get to the Mona Lisa. The painting is protected by a glass case, 20ft of space, and a wooden partition. And it is smaller than I thought it would be, so again, harder to see. Plus there were at least 50 people huddled against the partition. I shimmied in, quickly took my photos, and then moved aside for the next person. Then we ran to catch our flight. When we make it back to Paris we will definitely return to the Louvre to see the other collections.
What I Recommend: Just like with the Sistine Chapel, go on a weekday and get there right when the Louvre opens. Go to the Mona Lisa first, then spend the day perusing the rest of the museum. The Mona Lisa is great and all, but there is so much amazing artwork in the Louvre (including the Louvre itself); don't let high expectations for this one painting ruin a terrific experience. And wear comfortable shoes! I know it's Paris, but for this one day, just wear the sneakers!
3. The Empire State Building - New York City.
What it Was Like: Okay, the Empire State Building is pretty great. There's a ton of history and fun facts and the views are awesome. We went at night in December during our first trip to NYC, and even though it was freezing we still had a fun time. So why is it on our letdown list? Well, on Christmas morning a few days later we went to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck in Rockefeller Center. Imagine the views from the Empire State Building, but OF the Empire State Building. Rockefeller Center is about midway between the Empire State Building and Central Park, so you get amazing views of Central Park on one side and that postcard picture of the ESB on the other. And it's not as "famous" as the ESB so (in my opinion) the crowds are smaller and the lines are shorter. If we had gone to the Top of the Rock first, the Empire State Building would have felt pretty underwhelming by comparison.
What I Recommend: If you have time, do both. Go to the ESB first and go at night. See the city all lit up. Then go to the Top of the Rock early in the morning and get your gorgeous photos of the Manhattan skyline with the Empire State Building in them. And if you go in the winter, bundle up. It is freezing up there.
Have you ever been somewhere that didn't live up to the hype for you? Share in the comments below!