As the global tourist apparatus slowly creaks back into gear, the world’s attractions are coming back on the menu for the first time in over a year. Some are sites of extraordinary history or beauty worth traveling halfway around the world for when we are finally allowed to go there. Others, we would argue, are not.
These hotspots, for us, are in the latter category…
The Mona Lisa, France
We have nothing against the Mona Lisa – it’s a very, very good painting. We have plenty against queuing for ages to stand at the back of a large crowd (because that’s where polite people end up), to squint at a portrait barely 30 inches tall.
The mysterious smile loses some of its luster when it’s a line on a remote, beige blob, and the eyes can’t follow you around the room if you’re far too jam-packed to move.
The Four Corners, USA
It only exists because someone drew it on a map with a ruler, but you’ll soon realize the surrounding environment is indifferent to the invisible lines of man, and that state borders, even for Americans, really aren’t that big of a deal.
Spanish Steps, Italy
Of all the world’s cities, Rome sets a high bar for historic, architectural attractions, and the incongruously named Spanish Steps does little more than ferry visitors up a small hill. The stairs are just that – stairs – and even the fountain at their foot pales in comparison to Rome’s other offerings. They say it’s a great spot for people-watching, but only if you enjoy seeing anticipation turn rapidly into disappointment.
The Little Mermaid, Denmark
The clue is in the name, but we wonder how many people expected the Little Mermaid to be quite so diminutive before arriving at this insubstantial statue. Four feet high atop a cairn in Copenhagen harbor, the statue was built in 1913 to be a symbol of the city but raises eyebrows more than it does hopes and dreams. Michelangelo’s David, it is not.
Checkpoint Charlie, Germany
If there’s one thing you can say about Checkpoint Charlie, it’s that its heavy commercialization stands as a fitting rejection of the ideals it once bordered. A glorified photo op, with American flags, actors in border guard get-up, and a distinctly modern-looking shack — there really isn’t too much to see.
With the East Side Gallery mere minutes away, Berlin has much better ways to explore the traumas and complexities of its famous wall.
The Empire State Building, USA
Perhaps our most controversial inclusion, cinephiles from two distinct generations still flock to the Empire State Building’s viewing platforms thanks to An Affair to Remember and Sleepless In Seattle. The panoramas are still pulsating, but the skyscraper is now an old dog that can’t learn new tricks.
The tallest building in the world on completion in 1931, this New York icon could only watch as it was overtaken by sleeker, newer models at home and abroad, and in Manhattan alone there are now several loftier views. Short of building more storeys, there isn’t much to be done. Our expectations have grown, but the Empire State Building has remained the same size.
Abbey Road Studios, UK
If your main concern in life is that not enough people hate you, by all means skip down the famous zebra crossing outside Abbey Road studios, and hold up two lines of traffic by posing for a photoshoot in the middle of the road.