The world's most overhyped tourist attractions — readers' vote 2023

written by Joanne Owen

updated 13.06.2023

When it comes to visiting the world's most famous sites, any seasoned traveller will tell you that hype sometimes has a habit of hiding reality. Our recent survey saw hundreds of Rough Guides' readers spill the beans on the world’s most overrated tourist attractions. Hot on the contentious heels of revealing the world's friendliest and unfriendliest cities (as voted by you), your frank responses might just spark debate.

10. The Louvre

Perhaps influenced by your assessment of Paris as the unfriendliest city in the world, the City of Light takes three spots in the world's ten most overrated tourist attractions.

First up, the Louvre. Voted the tenth most overrated tourist attraction in the world, you deemed this bastion of art to be less than a masterpiece. 

“Confusing to navigate and overcrowded”, one of you lamented, with another remarking that “the queues are big” and it’s “too overwhelming”. 

While it’s true to say that art aficionados won’t want to miss visiting the Louvre, no matter how busy it is, other travellers might prefer to explore alternative things to do in Paris.

    Find out for yourself

  • Enjoy a luxury sojourn in the City of Light (The Louvre optional!)
louvre-museum-paris-france-shutterstock_1351673432

The Louvre in Paris left many of you cold © Shutterstock

9. The Grand Canyon  

As the ninth most overrated tourist attraction in the world, the Grand Canyon also failed to live up to your expectations.

While some of you acknowledged its wonder, there were caveats: "it is spectacular, but such a looooooong drive to get there". "Once you’ve seen it, it’s done, no matter how spectacular on first sight”. 

Disappointment was a major theme in general — “It just didn’t excite me. It was huge, but didn’t ignite my soul”. “It was just dull! “. That and the fact that “the facilities were poor and run down”. 

grand-canyon-skywalk-usa-shutterstock_1021659622

Grand Canyon Skywalk © nootprapa/Shutterstock

8. Château de Versailles 

Famed for its gardens, Hall of Mirrors and decadent royal apartments, many of you felt deflated by the Château de Versailles. You can read more about it in our guide to places aroud Paris.

Chosen as the eighth most overrated tourist attraction in the world, you weren’t happy to find the site “so hot and crowded”. As for the famous gardens: “I expected flowers, but it was just shrubs”.  

That said, if you’re into history and horticulture we still recommend visiting Versailles — it exudes the kind of charm that earned Paris a place in our run-down of the most romantic places in the world

To make the experience more rewarding, go early and spend the morning exploring the gardens en route to Marie Antoinette’s estate.

Then work your way backwards, leaving the palace and the Hall of Mirrors until as late as possible. That way, you’ll avoid the worst of the congestion caused by bus-trippers. 

    Find out for yourself

  • Enjoy an unforgettable romantic break in Paris.
 Versailles Palace in Ile de France © Shutterstock

Versailles Palace in Ile de France © Shutterstock

7. The Colosseum

When it came to the Colosseum — one of Rome's most iconic buildings, and your seventh most overrated attraction in the world — “too many hawkers” and “long queues” were common complaints. 

Many of you also had issues with “access and the condition of the site”, and unsatisfactory guides. For example, one of you shared this account of your guided tour: 

“Near the end, we took seats in a deep alcove where the guide took pleasure in talking about alcoholism since the time of Christ. One hour getting rushed around and no access to the slave area underneath. We went the day after visiting Pisa, which was miles better”. 

As with other world-renowned tourist attractions, many of your responses revealed the gap between expectation and actuality.  

For example, one respondent remarked that “the building itself was not so interesting as it was just a big theatre”. Another of you was unhappy to see that “so much of the tiered seating is gone, unlike many other amphitheatres”. 

Given that it's served as the prototype for stadiums for almost 2000 years, we stand by our view that visiting the Colosseum is one of the best things to do in Rome. But, if you're having doubts, there are plenty more incredible Roman ruins to see in the Eternal City. 

Colosseum, Rome © Farbregas Hareluya/Shutterstock

Rough Guides' readers said the Colosseum isn't all it's cracked up to be © Farbregas Hareluya/Shutterstock

6. Sydney Opera House 

Though an architectural icon, Sydney Opera House — actually a multi-purpose arts centre — left lots of you feeling cold: “I found it smaller than expected; underwhelming and cold”.  

Many of you suggested that because its “history doesn't inspire, it feels empty inside”. As a result, you deemed Sydney Opera House an attraction to “view and admire from outside”. 

Another of you echoed this opinion, stating that while there’s “beautiful architecture on outside, the inside not so appealing”.

What's more, many of you were dissatisfied with the lack of things to do: “Unless one has booked a concert or is inclined towards architecture, there really is nothing else to partake in".

In more positive news for Sydney, one of you suggested devoting more time to Darling Harbour: "Darling Harbour, on the other hand, is a completely different matter, with lots of sightseeing, walking tours and performances where you can completely lose track of time”.

Aerial view of Sydney Opera @ Shutterstock

Better out than in? Sydney Opera House @ Shutterstock

5. Statue of Liberty

In bad news for the Big Apple, Lady Liberty left many of you lackadaisical.  

Voted your fifth most overrated tourist attraction in the world, a stack of you saw New York City’s Statue of Liberty as “just a statue”.  

Others decried the Statue of Liberty visitor experience, from being frustrated by the fact that “it’s no longer possible to enter the Monument, which is a shame as it makes more memorable”, to feeling “like a herded cow”. 

If you, too, want to avoid feeling like a herded cow in New York, discover how to get off the tourist trail in NYC. Don't let some opinions of Lady Liberty cramp your personal experience.

Statue of Liberty and Jersey City and Manhattan cityscape in New York City © Shutterstock

Statue of Liberty with Jersey and Manhattan cityscapes in the background © Shutterstock

4. Niagara Falls

Majestic. Awe-inspiring. Soul-stirring. Breath-taking. These are the kinds of words travellers and travel writers (guilty as charged) typically use to describe Niagara Falls

And yet you voted this iconic natural attraction the fourth most overrated tourist attraction in the world, with the site garnering less-than-glowing reviews from many respondents.

“It’s a big waterfall — others are more impressive”. “It wasn't as impressive as we expected and the Canadian side is so built up it doesn't really feel like a natural wonder anymore”.  

While someone suggested familiarity might be a factor in feeling let down by the Falls  – “Maybe it’s too familiar. We see pictures of it everywhere” – others were less forgiving.  

The harshest verdicts? "It felt like a cheap funfair”.

That said, while there are “tacky tourist traps” around the sight, no one can deny the majesty of the Falls themselves.

Rough Guides tip: try to avoid Clifton Hill, the centre of tourism, and opt to spend time in Niagara-on-the-Lake instead. 26km downstream from the falls, this is one of Ontario’s most charming towns.

Horseshoe Fall, Niagara Falls ©  Alexander Demyanenko/Shutterstock

Niagara Falls underwhelmed many Rough Guides' readers © Alexander Demyanenko/Shutterstock

3. Central Park

In more disappointing news for New York City, Central Park didn’t come up smelling of roses. In fact, it emerged as your third most overrated tourist attraction in the world.

The second major NYC tourist attraction to come under criticism in our survey, one of you reasoned: “At the end of the day it's just a park. We've got lots of those in the UK, and some are better than Central Park”.

Comparisons with UK parks didn’t end there, with another of you declaring Central Park to be “less than half the size of almost any UK public park" with “very poor maintenance”.  

But, as the saying goes, one person's meat is another's poison, and we still rate strolling Central Park as one of the best things to do in Manhattan.

Central Park, NYC

Stunning but unspectacular? Central Park failed to float your boat © Shutterstock

2. Eiffel Tower

Intriguingly, as well as voting Paris one of the best cities in the world, you also hailed Paris the world’s unfriendliest city, and gave the Eiffel Tower a big thumbs down.

Despite drawing an average of 25 thousand visitors each day, this illuminated icon left many of you feeling less than dazzled. 

In short, “crowds and cost” sum up why dozens of you voted the Eiffel Tower the second most overrated tourist attraction in the world. 

it also elicited a take-it-or-leave-it Gallic shrug from a big bunch of you who deemed it to be “nothing special”, claiming “there’s nothing great about it”.  

In addition, the view from the top of the tower left lots of you decidedly blasé. Someone pointed out that “the view is only breath-taking on a clear day”, while another suggested there are “better views of Paris from Sacré Coeur”. 

All that considered, we still reckon the Eiffel Tower is worth a visit. Even if you opt to spend minimal time around the actual monument, the Eiffel Tower quarter is gloriously grand, with sweeping avenues and excellent museums.

    Find out for yourself

  • Travelling with kids? Keep everyone happy by combining Paris with a trip to Disneyland on our Paris: Best of Both Worlds trip.
Paris street with view on the famous Eiffel Tower © Neirfy/Shutterstock

Eiffel Tower — best kept in the background, say Rough Guides readers © Neirfy/Shutterstock

1. Stone Henge — the world’s most overrated tourist attraction

Big hype creates big expectations, which can set places up for big criticism. And that’s certainly the case when it came to England's Stone Henge. You voted this mighty prehistoric monument the most overrated tourist attraction in the world.  

And the reasons? Many of you were unimpressed by the fact that Stone Henge is "just a pile of stones" — "lumps of rock" with “not much to see”. 

Other respondents cited issues around the visitor experience, feeling there were “too many restrictions imposed on visitors”. In addition, lots of you were frustrated by that fact that it “was fenced off with the new visitor centre a long way off”.

Many of you also responded to Stone Henge's ambiance with a resounding “meh”. While one of you said it had “no atmosphere”, another remarked that it had an uninspiring “been there done that sort of vibe”. 

Lastly, it seems size matters to many readers. Prompting thoughts of Spinal Tap, lots of you were seriously underwhelmed by the scale of the site: "It was soooo small!!”. “It was smaller than expected and located next to a major motorway!”. “It’s tiny, overpriced and too far away from the footpath”. 

Suffice to say, Stone Henge did not rock your world for various reasons, all of which reveal a gaping chasm between expectation and actuality. 

Our verdict: Stone Henge is well worth a visit if you're into ancient history and are prepared to make a bit of an effort. One of our editors recalled visiting Stone Henge for winter solstice and having a snowball fight with hundreds of strangers inside the stone circle as the sun rose – an experience that was anything but 'meh'!

Our tip: to avoid disappointment, expect to see stones when visiting Stone Henge! And come prepared for the fact that in order to protect a unique monument, you can't get too close (summer solstice and winter solstice are the only times you'll be allowed to walk among and touch the stones).

stonehenge-uk-shutterstock_397323310

Stone Henge — the world’s most overrated tourist attraction © Shutterstock

For more insights from Rough Guides' readers, discover 2023's top travel trends, and discover the world's most underrated holiday destinations — as voted by you.

Don't miss the Rough Guide to the best travel destinations for 2023.

If you find planning holidays a headache, check out our tailor-made trips — one of our local experts will plan and book your trip, personalised just for you.

Header image: Stone Henge © Shutterstock

Joanne Owen

written by Joanne Owen

updated 13.06.2023

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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