4 ways to enjoy famous landmarks with fewer crowds

Eiffel Tower viewed from Montparnasse Tower

Neither of us loves crowds. Shocker, right? Hello introverts!

But, at the same time, crowds are almost impossible to avoid in big cities with big, famous landmarks. So what’s an introverted traveler to do?

Well. You can suck it up, or you can find alternatives that will allow to to enjoy the landmarks you’ve been dying to see… without feeling like you’re actually dying.

Here’s what we did:

 

Find an alternative viewpoint

When you think of seeing the Eiffel Tower, you probably think of walking right up to its base and staring to the heavens. But there are myriad other ways to enjoy this iconic creature. For instance, make a reservation at Les Ombres, the rooftop Quai Branley restaurant overlooking Mr. Eiffel’s monument. It’s not the most affordable dinner in Paris, but the wine is top-notch, and the view is even better. Or, head 59 stories above the city to Montparnasse Tower’s spacious observation deck.

Boyfriend Perspective: So, €20 per person to ride an elevator seemed a little ridiculous. And the top floor is completely built like an souvenir shop (think Empire State Building). Still it was one of the best views we had of the city, offering panoramas that included several Parisian landmarks. Not many tourists seem to know about this – it was  extremely quiet, with very few people there.

Both of these options gave us the height and the proximity to truly enjoy the Eiffel Tower without being shoulder-to-(sweaty) shoulder with our fellow travelers. The same can be done with almost any monument or landmark – think outside the box and research different viewpoints to get the most out of your trip.

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Visit during low season

Our visit to Iceland happened in the midst of winter, which was probably a ballsy choice for a country with “ice” in its name. The amazing part about this, though, was that even though we certainly weren’t alone in our Icelandic wanderlust, there were almost no crowds. We could get in to every spring, every building, and every restaurant with little-to-no wait time. And excursions were relatively easy to book, too!

If you want to do the same for many European cities, visit in late Fall or early winter. Avoid “romantic” holidays. You may not experience the perfect weather or the perfect flower bloom (or whatever the case may be), but you’ll be more likely to just be able to breathe.

 

Pick a less hectic time of day

While in Paris, we made our way through Montmartre and up to Sacré Coeur around 3:30pm on a Thursday. Let me tell you, that was a bit of a mistake. We got some lovely photos from unconventional angles, but the lawns, terraces, and stairways were beyond packed. We didn’t even bother to inquire about going inside.

Then, on Saturday morning, we got up at a decent hour and made it across down by about 9am. Guess what? With the exception of your typical “let me weave you a bracelet” scammers, the Sacré Coeur crowds were extremely sparse.

Boyfriend Perspective: On Thursday, it was busy enough that I felt like we should have been tethered so we didn’t lose each other. Saturday was much better. Check Google Maps for busy times at your destination. Most landmarks have them, and they seem accurate enough to us.

 

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Explore off the beaten track

Okay, so this is a little outside the spirit of this post. But perhaps the best thing we did on our Paris trip was to avoid most of the big landmarks altogether.

We passed right by the Louvre on our way to La Galcante. We cut short our visit to Notre Dame to sit and enjoy live jazz on a street corner on Île-de-la-Cité. And we overlooked the Champs-Elysées in favor of visiting the Richelieu-Louvois Library. And for all that we “missed,” our visit was incredibly rich.

Boyfriend Perspective: With Meagan being a fan of libraries, I scouted a few lists on the internet to find the most beautiful ones in Paris. Richelieu Library was the only one we were able to get to (there were five others on the list I had), and it was totally worth it.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy touristy or other busy attractions?

 

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Also published on Medium.

22 Replies to “4 ways to enjoy famous landmarks with fewer crowds”

  1. confettiandbliss says: Reply

    What fantastic tips for making the most out of a vacation. It takes planning but it’s so worth it. And what a difference it makes to visit locations during the off-season, and venture off the beaten path to discover little marvels that other visitors overlook. 🙂

    1. Thank you! Yes, taking the extra time to plan your trip really can make all the difference in the world. We’re getting better at it, slowly but surely 😉

  2. I once did a post like this about Iceland it yes, it’s much better to visit popular places without the crowds. Iceland is actually way better in winter so thumbs up for that 🙂

    1. Hah! I’ve heard people say it’s better in summer, and I can’t imagine that being true – it’s breathtaking in the winter!! And there’s something about being chilly all the time and then sinking into a hot spring or pool that’s just perfect. But to each their own 😉

  3. I love visiting places out of season. Yes you might not get the best weather but you can still enjoy many places with great weather just slightly lower temperatures. I went to Macedonia in October and it was 20 degrees and literally I had entire castles to myself

    1. That sounds AMAZING!! I’ll take less than ideal weather any day 🙂

  4. Very good tips, especially the first one about finding alternate locations to enjoy views of the landmark. As for visiting during low season, although you avoid the crowds, there are several activities that are shut during that time and that’s one of the biggest reasons why I struggle to find the right time to visit, ‘shoulder’ season is usually the answer to that 🙂

    1. Man, even shoulder seasons can be tough, but agreed! Glad you enjoyed the list 🙂

  5. Yes some times thats the downside of visiting famous landmarks the CROWDS, it so hard to capture the picture perfect ala postcard view. But sometimes its just the timing of the day to consider when visiting the place.

    1. Definitely – timing is everything, whether season or time of day 🙂

  6. crowds can really ruin the vibe of the visit! its great to find a new perspective of the main attractions, great work!

    1. Agreed! And thank you 🙂

  7. Really usefull tips and I agree with them. I have used the one with the low cost season and it worked perfectly. Anyway I think that each tip here can show us something new everythime even if we visited the place many times.

    1. Half the time, we just get excited, fly by the seat of our pants, and forget to book on a low season – but you’re right, it really can make all the difference. And I’m glad you found these tips useful!

  8. This post made me realize I lacked foresight when making my itineraries with my introverted partner. This is really great insight! We can always take note of peak hours and where else and how else to enjoy the scene without being in the middle of a crowd!

    1. I’m glad you found it helpful!! Safe and happy travels! 🙂

  9. travellingslacker says: Reply

    Many a great tourist spots have been ruined by excessive tourism. But I guess it is inevitable and is a double-edged sword. Off season trips may work but the best way is to stop trusting the guidebooks alone and read up a bit more about any place, so that you find more places and attractions in any area.

    1. Agreed! Research (using multiple sources) makes all the difference. For some destinations, I kind of blame Instagram for the influx of selfie sticks and iPads. But there are others – at cathedrals and the like – where you know there have been crowds for centuries. Can’t decide if that makes it better or not!! hahah

  10. Thanks for the great ideas! I love getting great pictures of places, and for me that usually means pictures without people in the background, but that can be hard to do if the attraction is a pretty popular place. I’ve done my best at trying to go during low times, but sometimes what I thought would be a low time actually ended up being one of the most popular times. Any recommendations for how you can research what are low times and popular times?

    1. For us, sometimes a Google search can really help – if it’s a big enough attraction, there’s often a graph that will show you how busy it gets depending on time of day. It’s not always perfectly accurate, but it’s helpful. If you can’t find info there, I’ll usually just do a Pinterest or Google search for info about the location. Often, other tourism sites and other travel bloggers who have visited will mention what’s a good low time to see the attraction (local portrait photographers with a blogging aspect are also good resources) 🙂

  11. Excellent post. As an avid travelling family, this is something we discuss often. Absolutely agree that an alternative viewpoint or entrance can make a big difference. We used one at Angkor Park earlier this year and it was wonderful.

    1. Is it just me, or do crowds get a bit less tolerable the more you travel? The first few times we went to new places, I think we were willing to put up with it… but the last few places we’ve gone, we’ve actually spent time in advance figuring out how NOT to have to deal with them! 😛

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