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.
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.
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.