We’ve all been there; there’s a city you’ve been dreaming of visiting and when you’ve finally saved up enough money/leave from work and arrived, you’ve been met with massive crowds of people, yelling and shoving their selfie sticks in every which direction. This is not the experience you’d been hoping for!
While there’s no denying that we all definitely make up part of this mass, being met with huge crowds of tourists is annoying. In fact, residents of some of Europe’s most high-tourist-traffic cities have been protesting in support of anti-tourism in recent years. While tourism brings in a lot of money and jobs for these areas, locals feel that it’s compromising their everyday lives, culture and heritage.
So what can we do to help encourage more responsible travel and lessen the burden of mammoth crowds at popular attractions? These cities are popular for a reason and we all want to visit them, however, you may be surprised to know that even in these densely visited areas, there are quiet areas to be discovered too. Here are some of my top tips for avoiding crowds in some of the world’s busiest cities:
Walk 5 blocks out of the city when looking for somewhere to eat
Despite the fact that getting a table at a centrally located cafe or restaurant can be near impossible in the summer months, this shouldn’t be your only reason for venturing further out of the city for food. Eateries in big cities are designed to be near the hotels, as a convenience for visitors. Therefore, by travelling an extra couple of blocks further out, you’ll find yourself enjoying a meal at a table (without a wait), and with locals. If you’re really lucky, you might even strike up a conversation with someone from the area too!
Don’t travel in the summer (peak) season
If you still want to see the big cities (let’s be honest, who doesn’t?! After-all, they’re popular for a reason), but aren’t too keen on the crowds and inflated prices, then travelling in the shoulder and/or off-peak season is a great option! Not only will you be able to enjoy city icons like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Trevi Fountain in Rome almost to yourself, but you’ll also be paying a lot less for travel, food and accommodation, and have the opportunity to experience unique interactions with locals.
Book ahead and jump the queue
No one likes to waste their days in a new location waiting in a queue for 3-hours to see a famous attraction. You can avoid spending time lining up by booking tickets ahead. Some places where this has certainly come in handy for me include the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Musee d’Orsay in Paris and Warner Bros Harry Potter Tour in London.
Visit other cities
If you’re interested in learning about a country’s culture beyond its big cities, planning to stay in places that aren’t on the standard tourist trail is a great way to do this. Rather than visit Rome, why not try Naples or swap Dublin for Galway.
Stay longer in places
If you have the time, it’s definitely worth adopting the ‘slow tourism’ method of travel. What is slow tourism? While it doesn’t have an exact definition, slow tourism can loosely be described as seeing an area as the locals do; taking the time out to relax and slow down and stay in an area for a longer period of time. Travelling on a tight schedule allows you to catch glimpses of life in a certain city/area, but it doesn’t allow you the chance to get to know the area and the history and culture around it. By slowing down and spending more time in a location, you’re allowing yourself to absorb the vibe and way of life of the area you are in.
Respect the local culture
Finally, no matter what season you are travelling in, it is always important to remember to respect the local culture. Dress how the locals dress and make an effort to learn a bit of the language. While this won’t make crowds disappear, it will change the interactions that you will have with locals. Making an effort goes a long way!
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