There are some tourist attractions it would be a crime to miss, but there are also plenty of lesser known gems that could give them a run for their money – and sometimes for a lot less! If you find yourself on a fleeting visit to Italy or a penny-pinching weekend in Paris, we’ve found some hidden hotspots just off the beaten track!
Ostia Antica vs Pompeii, Italy
Image © Sergio & Gabriella
The famous site of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, Pompeii has been revered by tourists since it’s remains were unearthed during the 18th century. The thick coating of ash left the ruins of Pompeii mostly intact, giving modern tourists a unique insight into the ancient world.
It’s easy to see why over two million tourists flock to the ruins of Pompeii every year, but hidden away just over an hour from Rome there’s a secret spot that offers another glimpse into antiquity that no one’s ever heard of – Ostia Antica. Walk the preserved ancient cobbles and see the homes, baths and amphitheatre, which have all remained standing since around the time of 12BC. It’s well worth a ‘Rome’!
Korcula vs Dubrovnik, Croatia
We get it. It’s the Lannister’s playground, the resting place of Ned Stark, the home of the most powerful throne in the Seven Kingdoms (for now), but there’s more to Croatia than King’s Landing. As the filming location for one of Game of Throne’s most esteemed cities, it’s no wonder tourists flock to Dubrovnik in their droves, but if you’re looking for old world charm without the chants of ‘King in the North’ then Korcula might just be the place for you.
The alleged birthplace of Marco Polo, this picturesque island lies just off Croatia’s Adriatic Coast and is lush with forests, olive groves, golden beaches, Venetian inspired villages and, crucially, peace and quiet.
Leiðarendi Lava Tube vs Northern Lights, Iceland
Image © Reynir Jónsson
As brimming with natural wonders as a pub beer garden is with drinkers on a sunny day, Iceland might as well be a mythical location from a Tolkien Novel. Seeing the Northern Lights is at the top of most tourists to-do lists, but while they’re busy looking up, they’re missing out on some incredible sights hidden down below.
Earning itself the nickname the Volcanic Veins thanks to its unsettling resemblance to an artery, Leiðarendi Lava Tube is a stunning subterranean cave structure created by lava flowing through the ground. The tube is a hidden lair of otherworldly rock formations, plunging to depths untouched by natural light. You can descend the red, lava encrusted tubes into darkness by guided tour, if you’ve got the bottle.
Mount Mitsutoge vs Mount Fuji, Japan
Image © Vincent Van den Storme
The snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji is an iconic sight adorning many a postcard. As Japan‘s tallest mountain, it cuts a striking silhouette against a clear sky, and millions make the climb every summer to watch the sun rise over the eastern horizon. It could be argued that the only thing missing from this view is Mount Fuji itself!
Mount Mitsutoge sits just a short distance away and promises stunning panoramic views after a mild climb to the summit, and the best thing is Mount Fuji can take centre stage in your Insta pics.
Le Musée des Vampires vs Le Louvre, Paris
The Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, La Belle Jardinière, these are just three of the iconic pieces of art to be found at The Louvre. When you house hundreds of the world’s most revered masterpieces, crowds and long lines shouldn’t come as a shock. While the Louvre is certainly worthy of its reputation, Paris is a city filled with museums celebrating everything from fine art to architecture to… Vampires?
Yes, Le Musée des Vampires is Paris‘ one and only vampire museum, tucked away down a gloomy alleyway near Porte des Lilas. This one-room museum is packed with all things macabre, the highlight being a genuine anti-vampire protection kit from the 19th century.
Staten Island Ferry vs Statue of Liberty Cruise, New York
Image © Mike Cotter
It’s no frills, but it’s free! The Statue of Liberty Cruise is the go-to option when it comes to seeing Lady Liberty in New York, and the price of a basic ticket will get you the journey along with audio tours and museum entry. If you don’t feel like parting with the cash then there is another, less official option.
The Staten Island Ferry ushers commuters between Staten Island and Manhattan, and offers its passengers a commute with a view (take note Northern Line). The ferry passes by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and offers iconic views of the Big Apple. The free harbour cruise runs 24-hours a day, seven days a week – though probably wise to avoid during rush hour.
Oude Kerk vs The West Church, Amsterdam
Image © rawshooter72
Amsterdam‘s West Church is like the St. Paul’s of The Netherlands. Playing host to royal weddings and located in the heart of the city it holds the title of most visited church in the country, and is the proud home of Amsterdam‘s tallest tower. As impressive as it is, it’s not the only note-worthy church in the city.
Located somewhat ironically in the middle of the red-light district, Oude Kerk (literally ‘Old Church’) is the oldest building in the city, and for reasons we can’t imagine *cough* tourists seem to walk right past it. Founded in the 13th century, Oude Kerk has served as a place of worship for 15 generations, and was even the preferred parish of Rembrandt. The church is open to the public seven days a week, and is likely best enjoyed before a trip to a coffee shop.