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A few thoughts on

This is not really a question per se, just some thoughts on so called "touristy" sights and looking for other opinions.

Though I like Ricks books, I find he sometimes is a bit overly critical (just my opinion) of places he deems to be "touristy". Though it is true that many places seem to exist only to cater to the tourist and thus, are perhaps not as authentic or worthwhile as others, there are plenty of other places that would be considered "touristy" simply due to the fact that a lot of tourists visit them. Why do tourists visit them? Well, perhaps they are worthwhile.

As an example I suppose the Grand Canyon would be considered touristy (extremely crowded on the south rim during the nicer weather). Does that mean it isn't worth seeing however?

On the other hand, an example of the "cheesy" type of tourist sport (again just my opinion) would be the Blarney stone). Why the hell I stood in line two hours to kiss a rock is beyond me. :) Believe me, I know many people who who didn't need to kiss a rock to acquire the "gift of gab".

Just looking for thoughts, opinions etc.

Posted by
21724 posts

What is touristy to one maybe a critical must see to the other. What difference does it make or do you need third party confirmation that it is OK to visit? Fortunately we all have different travel styles and tastes.

Posted by
83 posts

No Frank, actually I don't need confirmation (and no it doesn't make a difference). I see what interests me. It just surprises me that sights deemed "touristy" seem to have such a negative connotation.

Don't lose any sleep over this one.

Posted by
239 posts

I disagree that Rick Steves is overly critical of places he deems "touristy" just because they are visited by lots of tourists. He considers David, the Eiffel Tower, and the Sistine Chapel all "must-sees" even though crowds can be huge at those places. I do think he discourages spending lots of time at places that only "cater to the tourist" and are therefore not as "authentic," as you say. He advocates a philosophy of getting to know an area, learning about its people and its culture, rather than just seeing the sites and getting back on a bus. I believe he hopes travel will broaden a traveler's world view, not just provide another charm for a bracelet or magnet for the 'fridge.

Posted by
10344 posts

The question Steve asks is a good one. And there is a lot in what Elizabeth said: travel should broaden the traveler's world view. Sometimes on trips I find myself lapsing into too much of a "checklist" mentality, I'm exhausted at the end of the day and wonder whether I sufficiently understood what I saw.

Posted by
203 posts

I did some thinking last weekend in Quebec City (not Europe, but feels like it) about touristy vs. non-touristy sites. The center of the old city is a UNESCO heritage site. It is very beautiful and fun to see. But after a while, I wanted to see real Quebec residents. Luckily, another tourist advised us to visit an area several blocks the other way. There we see real residents of Quebec also having fun. The buildings weren't quite as beautiful, but I did enjoy that. I think our experience outside the UNESCO site is the kind that Rick encourages. While I would never skip the pure touristy sites, I think that when one just sees those sites, they miss out on an important dimension of travel.

Posted by
970 posts

Sites deliberately built to attract tourists certainly merit being called "touristy". That doesn't mean people shouldn't enjoy them, though.

A site like the Grand Canyon that attracts multitudes of tourists isn't "touristy". It's just very crowded. Most of the world's top atractions are going to be awash with tourists during the local high season.

Posted by
190 posts

Well, I am not surprised that you sometimes don't agree with Rick's opinions on some sights. Neither do I; after all we are all different and what appeals to one is just awful to the next. That being said, I have found that most of what Rick suggests is pretty much on target.

This summer I took Rick's Paris city tour. First time with a tour in many, many years. We did see tons of tourists. In fact I can't remember a trip ever where I have been so surrounded with tourists. But there were ways around some of that. For example, after the tour portion of the Louvre, I took off to see some things that were on only a few people's lists. Those areas of the museum were nearly empty, allowing me to thoroughy enjoy my time. Even a tourist-filled place can result in great experiences, just takes a lot more effort.

(P.S. I skipped the Blarney stone in Ireland; don't need any more gift of gab, and who wants those germs!!) ;)

Posted by
80 posts

Just see what YOU want to see, you are on vacation! You don't want to come home and say, "I wish I could have done...."

Posted by
389 posts

What I enjoy about RS is his attitude of travel, closer to the culture and not always in the cities. My greatest memories are mostly of those moments when I was in a town that had no tourist attractions and the locals engaged me. Yes, I am a “do” kind of traveler, always looking for the things to do, but when we were in a small village that had only seen the tour buses drive by, they were so kind and welcoming. It felt like I saw the “real” people. That said I can’t imagine missing those things that I’ve read about in books and seen on TV. Next time I can say, “I’ve been there!”

Posted by
221 posts

this is an interesting topic! obviously everyone on this 'post' loves to travel and we travel because we want to see and experience different cultures, history and sites and we run into, others who love to do the same. Even though I try not act goofy, it is always fun to see others on my travels on a street corner pouring over their ETBD books; it's like we belong to some invisible club! I bet lots of you also say 'hi, where are you from? are you having a good time?' when you see these folks, I certainly do. And why would we all spend time and worry trying to not look like a tourist, as if we should be ashamed. What is embarrassing is running into ugly tourists from many nations who don't respect the cultures and communites they visit. I hope my epitaph includes the words; "she loved to travel."
Happy travels!

Posted by
5865 posts

I agree with some of the posts about making a distinction between "real" attractions, and "fabricated" attractions, soley for attracting a crowd. However, the line can get pretty fuzzy, after all, the Eiffel Tower was built as a cheesy attraction for a worlds fair type event. I have to say I was a purist, but somewhere along the line realized that most places are popular for a reason, people like them, these places offer a good time or whatever the attraction is. I am not a Disney or even a Cruise Line fan, but I can appreciate that they are doing something right and people go to have a great time. I have visited some purely touristy sites as well, and in the end admit to enjoying myself, but smuggly did so the "Backdoor" way.

Posted by
342 posts

This kind of reminds me of a conversation I had with a neighbor. He is a retired merchant marine captain and a German told him not to bother coming to Europe as there was nothing there to see and everything is "old."

Just recently a German on Trip Advisor posted some sight seeing suggestions, but said he couldn't figure out for the life of his why people go to Rothenburg. I thought "WHAT?!?" But, I guess it's all in individual perception and taste. Does Rothenburg cater to tourists? You bet. Is it phoney? Well, it IS all spiffy and the buildings are all freshly painted - but is IS a real town, and has been for longer than any place in the U.S.