9 Tourist Attractions to visit at least once in your life
We defined “tourist attractions” as cultural and historical sites, natural landmarks, and officially designated spaces. The word “tourist” has taken on a negative connotation, especially when used to deride an activity or place as a “tourist-trap,” or suggest that a restaurant or sight is only for tourists. It is true that there are many commercialized or stereotypical sights and activities in certain destinations that are contrived, artificial, or low quality and can easily be skipped but today we’re going to come out and say it: There are certain iconic spots that you have to visit at least once in your life (even if it means embracing the iPhone-wielding, so-not-local/artisanal/authentic side of yourself). Here, the nine that top our list.
Gaze at the Taj Mahal
The striking white marble mausoleum in Agra was dreamed up in 1632 as a final resting place for Shah Jahan’s most beloved wife (he had three) and cost some Euro 741 million in today’s Euros to build. Tickets run 750 rupees (about Euro 9,00), remarkably cheap for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to have your mind truly blown. (Yes, the Taj Mahal is as amazing as it appears in pictures on top.)
WHEN TO GO: Sunrise, when the landmark is bathed in a highly ‘grammable soft, heavenly light.
Take a Gondola Ride in Venice
The scads of gondolas that dot the Venetian canals got their hulls wet centuries ago; there were purportedly 10.000 of them in the city during the 17th century. You may feel like a total sucker forking over Euro 89,00 for a ride nowadays but floating down Venice’s waterways, past the ancient palazzos and churches, is nothing short of magical.
WHEN TO GO: At sunset, when the sky lights the water with a pinkish hue. (Tip: Swap the Grand Canal for the smaller, more intimate back canals.)
Meet Your Love at the Top of the Empire State Building
Remember the 1957 classic An Affair to Remember? And normcore favorite Sleepless in Seattle? Peering over the edge of the 102nd floor of the Art Deco Empire State Building still trumps every other view in town, including the Top of the Rock. Steal a kiss while taking in the vista, which stretches 80 km on a clear day.
WHEN TO GO: For a nearly crowd-free experience, go when it opens, at 8 a.m. — because it’s never too early for love. (And buy your tickets online in advance.)
Toss a Coin in the Trevi Fountain
Italy’s capital is full of clichéd “when in Rome” locations, from the Colosseum to the Spanish Steps. But it’s the coin toss at the Trevi Fountain that’s vital for lovers of the Eternal City. Local legend has it that if you toss a coin into its waters, using your right hand, over your left shoulder, you’ll be coming back to the city. And who doesn’t want to see Italy again, and again and again?
WHEN TO GO: At dawn the Trevi Fountain is empty of tourists (in their place: bathing pigeons).
Ride a Cable Car in San Francisco
In a city of steep climbs (Bradford Street has a 40 percent grade), hopping on a cable car is the easy way up. The system was introduced in 1873 after the slippery-when-wet streets started hosting some horrific traffic accidents. And though the cars were built for safety sake, they still come with a dangerous thrill, just hold on to the poles along the sides of the car, and let the wind give your hair a fresh blowout.
WHEN TO GO: Anytime — but take the least crowded line, which travels down California Street.
Picnic at the Base of the Eiffel Tower
You knew this would have to be on our list. Going up to the top is a must for virtually every traveler, but we think picnicking in the Champ de Mars below is even better, preferably with some camembert or roquefort and a crusty baguette from a local boulangerie.
WHEN TO GO: The autumn months are significantly less crowded than summer.
Where to Stay in Paris: Hotel Mareuil
Check the Time at Stonehenge
If you’re in England, you’d be remiss not to make the trek to this bluestone Neolithic monument, which was finished circa 2000 BC. The sheer size of the rocks, and the effort it must have taken to erect them, will leave you awestruck. It’s still unclear what the structure symbolizes, but it was likely a solar calendar or a site for ancestor worship and pagan rituals.
WHEN TO GO: Skip the busy summer months — go in fall or early spring.
Where to Stay in London: The Wellesley – The Athenaeum Hotel
Steep in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon
You may not know that despite ranking high on lists of the world’s natural wonders, the Blue Lagoon isn’t technically natural. It was created in 1976 with warm runoff from a nearby geothermal power plant. But it’s a required rite of passage in Iceland thanks to its mineral-rich waters, steam rooms and silica mud masks. And did we mention the swim-up bar?
WHEN TO GO: Evenings are best, after the tourist buses head back to Reykjavik. Be sure to book your ticket in advance to guarantee entry.
Hang out with the Lincoln Memorial
Washington D.C. does memorials right. But the Lincoln Memorial, opened in 1922, will always be our favorite, with its Greek columns, 3-mt statue of Abe and walls etched with the Gettysburg address. Stand on the plaque in the exact spot where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech; you’ll feel the waves of history wash over you.
WHEN TO GO: Abe welcomes visitors at all hours. We love to go at dawn, when the sun is rising over the Potomac.