8 Tourist Attractions That Will Leave You Disappointed (And What to See Instead)

It’s not just us — these places are seriously overhyped. Here’s what you should spend your time visiting instead.
Updated April 9, 2024
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Male tourist at Times Square

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If your wish list of travel destinations keeps growing, you can’t afford to waste another vacation visiting overrated tourist attractions. So many of us have fallen into the trap of seeing the perfect Instagram shot in what appears to be a remote destination, a magical place that’s a must-see. 

Whatever the reason, savvy travelers know if you're stepping up your travel game, there are a lot of places that simply aren’t worth the hype. 

So whether you're worried about your next trip or are experiencing FOMO about not being there, here are eight overrated travel destinations that you can skip. 

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Mona Lisa, Paris

Mari79/Adobe Outside of the Louvre

Despite her never-ending popularity, the Mona Lisa may not actually be all she’s cracked up to be. Coming in at just two feet, six inches by one foot, nine inches, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to see her well enough to contemplate all the wonder and artistry of Leonardo Da Vinci.

In fact, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll come anywhere near her at all — or at least, not for very long. According to recent reports, the Mona Lisa’s temporary new location makes seeing her even less tempting — since your time in the tiny room where she now resides only lasts a few seconds as guards pressure visitors to keep moving.

Instead, consider going to the Louvre, which hosts an amazing collection of works that go way beyond the favor La Joconde.


Spanish Steps, Rome

Alberto Masnovo/Adobe View of Ostia Antica Rome

Stairs are pretty and all, but no matter where you’re from, you’ve seen them before. Like everything in Rome, these stairs have a story. But unless you like the feeling of being packed into a crowd with souvenirs shoved in your face, you can probably skip this destination.

After flying all the way to Europe, you don't want to waste a single day on an underwhelming tourist trap. Rome is positively overflowing with must-see destinations like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, so you may find your time better spent elsewhere.

Instead, you can visit Ostia Antica which is probably the most underrated destination near Rome. Once the harbor city of ancient Rome, Ostia Antica offers tourists an amazing opportunity to walk through an entirely excavated ancient city, seeing homes, bathhouses, and even pizza ovens once used by the people living there.

Times Square, New York City

Gagandeep/Adobe Brooklyn Bridge at night

Unless you really like large, bright advertisements, you can probably pass up the flashiness of Times Square. It is an undeniably cool place to spend New Year’s Eve, but barring that? It’s frankly just a bit overwhelming.

People flock to see Times Square every year, only to arrive and realize it’s little more than a collection of very large TVs, colorful shop signs, and pure chaos. New York has a lot to offer, so don’t spend too much time in this spot if you do go.

Instead, get a real (and much more chill) NYC vibe by taking a stroll down the High Line or even walking across the Brooklyn Bridge into DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), a trendy, cobblestoned neighborhood in Brooklyn. 

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Bondi Beach, Sydney

Richie Chan/Adobe Botanic Gardens in Sydney

Bondi Beach certainly looks idyllic in photos, but visitors seem to agree that the reality is anything but. “Overcrowded” and “dirty” are some of the ways disappointed tourists in Sydney have described the beach in recent years.

The consensus seems to be the same — if you only have a little time in Sydney, don’t waste it at this beach. Instead, put your best cash back credit cards to use at numerous other offerings that Sydney has.

You could also take a stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens or peruse the attractions in Darling Harbor. If you’re looking for an indoor activity, take a walk through the hundreds of stalls in Paddy’s Markets.

Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador

Fotos 593/Adobe La Ronda Ecuador

If you’re heading to Ecuador’s famous “middle of the world” just to say you went there, then we can save you the price of the ticket. Although this famous monument was built over what was once believed to be the equator, modern measurements confirm that it’s about 250 meters off its mark.

The monument does have a museum hosting some worthy artifacts and bits of history about the Highland and Amazonian tribes, which is one reason to make a quick trip without grabbing a “middle of the world” photo.

Head to La Ronda instead. It's a charming street in colonial Old Town that’s worthy of a visit regardless of its GPS coordinates. Pick up a few souvenirs or duck into a cafe for a cup of coffee, then continue your tour of Quito — Ecuador’s capital city — by visiting its many famous churches, most notably the Basilica del Voto Nacional.

Hollywood Walk of Fame, Los Angeles

BRIAN_KINNEY/Adobe Venice beach boardwalk

Although this seems to be on everyone's must-see list for LA, anyone who has actually spent time on the Hollywood Walk of Fame will tell you to pass.

While you can star hunt for your favorite celebrity’s name on the boulevard, it might be hard to see much beyond tourists’ shoes and people running around in costumes. LA has a slew of way better things to see and do.

Rather than trying to catch ‘em all on Hollywood Boulevard, take a walk instead on Venice Beach or cruise the famous Mulholland Drive for scenic views of the city. And if you’ve never been, go ahead and check out Disneyland. Whether or not you like rides, this iconic theme park has something for everyone.

Phuket, Thailand

saiko3p/Adobe Thailand beach and small boats

Thailand makes most people’s bucket lists for a variety of reasons, and when you see photos of it, imagining why isn’t very difficult. Phuket is the country’s largest island and receives more than 30,000 tourists per day, in addition to the quarter of a million people who already call it home.

Suffice it to say the place is crowded and expensive. Unless you really want to see something specific on the island, there are many more relaxing places to visit in Thailand that will help you keep more cash in your wallet.  

Thailand has plenty of islands worthy of exploring if you want to avoid the chaos that is Phuket. Koh Chang, for example, is a large island not far from Bangkok that’s moderately developed but still has enough wild land to make memorable day hikes (without a million people around) a real possibility.

Cradle of Humankind, South Africa

Thomas/Adobe Cape Town shoreline

Not to be biased, but this country is one of the most amazing places to visit. However, its renowned world heritage museum is not. It's a bit expensive so you may need to earn some extra money if you do want to go.

The museum is small, and although you see some really old bones, your time would be better spent watching a show about it on the Discovery Channel. Don’t waste any time that could be better spent elsewhere in and around Johannesburg by making the drive here.

Instead, learn some local history with visits to the Apartheid and Nelson Mandela museums. After visiting Nelson Mandela’s house (which is part of the museum) in Soweto, take a stroll up and down the vibrant Vilakazi Street for some authentic local cuisine and better (and more affordable) souvenirs than the ones you’ll find in Cape Town.

Bottom line

Volodymyr Shevchuk/Adobe Couple looking out over mountains and lake

Whether you just started globe-trotting this year or are an old hand in the airport security lines, travel only gets easier the more you do it. It's important to make sure you know what you're getting into or really missing out on before you book a trip or get lost in the fear of missing out.

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Author Details

Larissa Runkle Larissa writes for FinanceBuzz and divides her time between a cabin in the San Juan Mountains and traveling in a van. She enjoys writing about travel, debt relief, personal loans, and mortgages. Her work has been featured on MagnifyMoney, LendingTree, and Realtor.com. Outside of finance and real estate writing, she’s also at work on several fiction projects. When away from the computer, you’ll find her reading, exploring local trails, and climbing rocks.

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