Why it is OK to see the tourist sights!

We are known for wandering off the beaten path, going to places and seeing things many don’t even entertain the idea of exploring. We love the idea of getting lost on purpose, getting under the skin of a place and seeing the reality rather than just the constructed tourist traps. We always explore far and wide whenever we visit a new city or country and always preach to other the benefits of doing the same. BUT…we are also not ashamed to say that we love hitting up the sights too. What would a visit to New York be without Times Square, Paris without the Eiffel tower or London without Big Ben….lacking just as much as if those were the only things you saw! So here’s why it is ok to still see the sights and join the tourist trail from time to time!

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They are popular for a reason

It kind of goes without saying really, and of course this isn’t a once size fits all rule, but generally speaking all those tourists are flocking to see the Statue of Liberty or hiking up to experience Machu Picchu because they really are amazing! Once discovered these things get around, whether on blogs, in guide books, word of mouth or just general notoriety. There is usually a good reason they keep attracting so many people!

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Exploring the Temples of Egypt above

Contrast: They make those off the beaten track places more special

This might seem like a hypocritical thing to say but stick with me here. We loved exploring the out of the way and off the beaten track secrets spots, but we also love the main sights, why? Contrast! What makes the quietness of those hidden temples and out of the way side streets that much more special, the fact that everyone else is crowded into somewhere else. But then again, that is what makes the atmosphere of such places like Times Square that much more electric! Done right they provide contrasting view points and a yin and yang to your experience of a place.

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Visiting the main square of Krakow where we also went more off the main track when we watched a pretty intense game of Football at Wisla Krakow too…and well as heading over the border into Ukraine!

Missed opportunity

You have travelled half way around the world, sat on a plane for hours, saved up for months…and you don’t go and see that famous landmark everyone keeps asking you about! You will end up kicking yourself and at the same time just as you would miss out if you only stuck to the tourist travel, you will also miss out on what is likely to also be an important piece of history and culture too!

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Seeing the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC was something I had dreamt of for years!

Don’t let your own travel snobbery stop you

Just as ignorance and a lack of knowledge can stop you from really seeing a place and exploring further, travel snobbery can also rob you of these memorable moments in front of some amazing landmarks. Of course, we encourage you to wander and explore, to get lost and discover something new. But don’t let your “traveller vs tourist” ego get in the way of seeing ALL what a place has to offer! It IS ok to occasionally do something you might consider touristy…even if you have travelled half the world with a backpack strapped to you!

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You just have to see the wonder that is Tower Bridge when you come to London!

They are what travel dreams are made of

Many of the main sights in any given city or country are the snap shots and photographs we grew up dreaming of seeing. I know that I had posters of The Empire State Building and a model of the Eiffel tower as an example. These are our first introduction to the world of travel and often the initial instigators for our wanderlust. Before I even knew what travel was really about I had dreamt of seeing the Taj Mahal, wandering through central park and exploring the Swiss Alps. So it is ok to make those live long dreams come true!!

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You can’t miss out on this famous view when you head to New York City…but also make sure and get out to the boroughs to see awesome off the beaten track places like Coney Island!

They are a good into to a new and unfamiliar place

The great thing about the well known landmarks and locations is that they are a great introduction to a new city or country when you first arrive. They allow you to find your feet as well as often being easy to locate themselves too. There is often other people around or tourist information points from which to get some information from before exploring further afield. When travelling solo it is also nice to be somewhere surrounded by people rather than finding yourself all alone in an unfamiliar place.

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But also make sure to get off the beaten path too!

The great things about travel is really being able to see a place in a way that the guide books will never be able to show you. Seeing the tourist spots is a great way to do that and to tick those all important dreams off your bucket list! But at the same time make sure to leave room for the unexpected, the overlooked and the off the beaten path. Speak to locals, read insider blog posts and take a wander! Most importantly don’t let fear or snobbery stop you from seeing ALL a place has on offer!

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The Ha’Penny Bridge in Dublin is such a beautiful sight as it crosses the Liffey…but also get out the lesser known Kilmainham Gaol too!

Our tips for visiting the not so off the beaten path landmarks

Try to see it from a new angle, get your camera down to the ground or up high.

Explore the area surrounding the main landmark too to find something often overlooked.

Visit early in the morning or later at night when it might be quieter.

Even visit a few times at different time, sun rise, midday, after dark to get different perspectives.

Visit in the off season and have it to yourself!

Check opening times or if it is under maintenance to avoid disappointment.

Seek out a locals perspective on a global icon and other things to see.

Expect crowds and just roll with it, try not to get too stressed! Take a smaller bag for example so you are being pushed around a little less.

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The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland…It’s UNESCO listed for a reason! But whilst in this fascinating country get out and see the Murals of Belfast too!

What do you think, do you still visit the tourist sights too?

The whole point in this post is not to say, only stick to the main tourist spots, but just as we often preach about the lesser known places, it is good to get a balance when travelling. Seeing important historical and cultural sights, whether they are popular or not, is just as important to getting the full picture as hunting down some undiscovered local gem!

But even us, who venture to places like Ukraine, castles on the outskirts of Bratislava, suburban Budapest to go shooting and even The Bronx…we are down with Times Square and The Eiffel tower too!

Here are some post about our off the beaten track wanderings just to even things up!

The realities of Belfast and keeping an open mind when travelling

Travel lessons: Reflecting on visiting Ukraine

Crossing the border from Poland to Ukraine at gunpoint at 4am!

The art of walking: Getting Lost on Purpose

Off the Beaten track NYC: Coney Island, Brooklyn

The forgotten concentration camp of Prague

We shot an AK47 in Hungary!

Surviving the crazy crowd of Wisla Krakow!

Bratislava: Where everything is off the beaten path!

Castle Devin on the Austrian-Slovak border: The edge of the old Iron curtain!

Seeing the body of Vladimir Lenin!

The tiny country of Liechtenstein

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Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.
  • Girl Unspotted

    I’m totally okay with some tourist spots! If it has significant history to offer, I wouldn’t pass up the chance, especially they’ve become a hotspot for a reason.

    • Yes, I hate it when people miss out on such important things just to make a point, you can do both on and off the beaten path in one trip!

  • Casey O’Connell

    Great points! I DO always go to the touristy sights a city has to offer… after all, they are popular for a reason!! However, I do tend to enjoy sights more when there’s not so many people around. But, both are valid experiences, and a mix of both is good!

    • Yeah it is so much better when there are not so many people around but we all want to see these places so it is best to go at a quiet time. It’s good to get a balance between well known and unknown places.

  • Nancy Pitman

    All I can say is “Thank You” for this article. For some reason over the past couple decades its become unfashionable to say you have visited a popular and well known historical sight like the Eiffel Tower or the Vatican. What they don’t realize is that sight is part of what brings travelers to that destination. It’s what put that city on the map! I know that it will be crowded if not ridiculously packed but after reading about some of these places since grammar school wouldn’t you want to see the real thing at least once?

    • Yes, that is why I wrote the post, it is annoying that it only seems that you can be a “real traveller”if you miss out the tourist spots. I think to get the whole picture of a place it is important to see these important places alongside more local and lesser known places too.

  • Sharmistha

    This is so apt for today’s generation ! – thatgirlslifestories.com

  • Svetoslav Dimitrov

    Great idea for an article, guys, and thanks for the tips off the beaten path 🙂 I will never understand (and I will never try to) why some people would skip these places and then claim “real travellers don’t visit the famous spots”. What a thought is that? Haha

    • Cheers Svetoslav! I can never understand either how it has become kind of fashionable not to see these amazing places! Such a shame, but balancing that out with off the beaten path is the best way!