It should be no surprise to anyone that Paris is consistently one of the most visited cities in the world. With its Eiffel tower, its world class museums, its elegant architecture and outstanding restaurants, the City of Light has a great many things going for it. It also has the crowds to match. But what if you want all the oh là là without all the people? Here are five alternatives to some of the world’s busiest tourist spots.
Instead of Paris, consider Lyon:
Lyon is for culture hounds, fashionistas, foodies and Francophiles. With its outstanding museums and lively arts scene, Lyon has a distinctly sophisticated air. The shopping is fantastic, too. The city used to be famed for its silk-weaving industry, which continues today. And the food? Outstanding. Paul Bocuse, the “Pope of French Cuisine”, was from here and his legacy lives on in the many top restaurants that dot the city. Visitors cannot leave the city without exploring the traboules (secret covered passageways that wind their way through buildings, courtyards and staircases) nor sampling some local specialties in a bouchon (a typical Lyonnais restaurant). For those who simply can’t imagine visiting France without seeing a graceful iron tower, no fear! Lyon has its own landmark tower called the Tour Métallique and its own Notre-Dame!
Instead of Dubai, consider Abu Dhabi:
Over the last twenty years, Dubai has put the small federation of the United Arab Emirates on the map. People often forget that there are six other emirates, including the capital city of Abu Dhabi, just one and a half hours away. Abu Dhabi has a bit of Dubai’s glitz, a bit of its glamour and a lot of fantastic tourist attractions. Places to visit include the extremely Instagrammable Sheikh Zayed mosque, stunning Louvre Abu Dhabi (worth visiting for its art and architecture) and exciting Ferrari World. While people might not immediately connect this part of the world to nature, there is so much outstanding flora and fauna to be discovered on Sir Bani Yas Island, one could even go there on safari. This island is home to thousands of large free-roaming animals like oryx, gazelles, cheetahs and giraffes, as well as millions and millions of trees. One would be remiss not to mention the beaches because like Dubai, Abu Dhabi has its fair share – and a choice of public beaches and fancy beach clubs. For a small city, this one packs a lot in.
Instead of Bali, consider Raja Ampat:
There is a reason many (many, many) people love Bali. It has stunning beaches, magical temples, scenic waterfalls, lush greenery and so much more. Unfortunately, Bali has also become something of a tourist trap, with throngs of people flocking there on holiday. What if you were told there is another tropical paradise with miles of turquoise coast, great diving and phenomenal natural sites? It might take a little longer to get to, but Raja Ampat, an archipelago of 15,000 islands is well worth it. Besides its glorious beaches, Raja Ampat is home to Komodo National Park and the giant dragons with which the park shares its name. The park is also home to many bird species as well as the deer, buffalo and goat the dragons eat. Besides animals, there are some phenomenal natural sites, including waterfalls, volcanoes, crater lakes and thick jungles, so it’s as close to Jurassic Park as you can get.
Instead of Barcelona, consider Cadíz:
Barcelona’s mayor has recently pledged to reduce the number of tourists allowed into the city, which is a signal that it is suffering from over tourism. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has visited in the last twenty years. While there are many great reasons to visit Barcelona, anyone not keen on encountering crowds will find other equally interesting places to visit in Spain, like Cádiz. This ancient port city in Andalusía made it onto this year’s New York Times 52 places to go in 2019 due to what they are calling a culinary renaissance currently underway. Besides outstanding restaurants, Cádiz has a wonderful old food market, rambling streets, beautiful panoramas and sandy beaches on which to lie or try surfing. If this is not enough, just a little bit beyond its borders are Jerez de la Frontera, the cradle of sherry wine, and the pretty white hilltop village of Vejer de la Frontera.
Instead of Venice, consider Verona:
There is no question that Venice is achingly beautiful, incredibly romantic and yes, extremely crowded. It is so teeming with tourists that the Venice city council recently imposed an entrance fee for all day-trippers. Just a little over an hour away in Verona, the streets feel positively empty, even though it is the fifth most visited city in Italy. Like Venice, Verona is surrounded by water (the city forms a small peninsula upon the meandering Adige river), has colorful Venetian architecture and open-air piazzas. Tourists can visit the Piazza delle Erbe, Verona’s most ancient square, which is bordered by numerous interesting and historic buildings including the Torre dei Lamberti, the Casa dei Giudici, the frescoed Mazzanti Houses and the Baroque Palazzo Maffei. Must-sees also include the Arena, which is the third largest Roman amphitheater in the world, and of course the houses of those famous star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. It is not for nothing that Verona is considered Italy’s City of Love.
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