I went to Paris (three times!) – and didn’t go inside the Louvre. There you have it, my shameful secret. I’m fairly sure everyone who visits Paris for the first time goes to see Mona Lisa. I really have no excuse. I was even in Paris on the first Sunday of the month when entry to the Louvre is free. What was I thinking?
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Travel seems to me to have become all about “must-sees” and checklists. “Oh, you simply have to go and see this in that city!” I’ve been travelling through Europe and I am beginning to think that the popularity of some attractions is not about the attractions themselves, but about the expectation that you have to go to it if you are in a particular city.
Here’s an example from just last week. The number one thing to do in Bucharest is to visit the Palace of the Parliament. For those like me who know nothing about this place, this is the second largest administrative building in the world, only surpassed by the Pentagon. Building was planned and begun during Romania’s communist years, but not finished until after liberation in 1997. It is a huge building, and impressive to look at from the outside.
We paid to do the tour inside. In 90 minutes we were shown only 4% of the building, mainly huge reception rooms of all different types. Mostly it’s use now is as a conference venue. The rooms are big, and they seem to be never ending, but there was nothing of interest about them apart from that. Maybe a different guide would have regaled us with more interesting stories, but really, we were bored stiff for most of the tour.
Why is this the number one thing to do in Bucharest? Is it just because it’s popular to say so? Maybe other people truly enjoy this building and it was just us who thought it less than interesting. With our limited time I would have gone elsewhere had I known what was to come. We had done a free walking tour the day before and had many interesting places pointed out to us.
This is by no means the only time we have walked out of a visit to an attraction and thought our money and time was perhaps not well spent.
We have skipped a few of the “big name” attractions on our trip, starting with not going into the Louvre in Paris.
Another confession – I am not an art lover! I have tried over the years to appreciate it, but often it’s just paint splashed onto canvas to me. I don’t mind going to the occasional art museum, usually when my arty daughter is with me who does appreciate these things. The Louvre though seems too big, with too many people, just to see a small painting that I’ve seen a thousand times in pictures. Surely it can’t be too different? Besides, what other plans do I give up to instead spend that time at the Louvre?
Do I feel like I missed out? Not at all. Would I go to the Louvre next time I am in Paris? I don’t know. If all the stars aligned, and I felt like going, then sure, but not just to tick it off a list.
Four months in Europe has taught me there is an unlimited number of museums, castles and churches, most of which get listed as must-see places in their town or city. After a while they all start to look the same. Roman ruins are similar, in Pompeii, Ephesus or Rome. Castles don’t change a lot either. It’s not just Europe, because in Asia it’s the same with temples.
When only travelling to a few cities it is fun to go to another church, but when it’s weeks in a row, they all start to blend. I am finally becoming more discerning with what we do and don’t visit. If I don’t feel like going to another museum or church, even it is THE place to visit, then I don’t!
In my opinion it is better to skip something now and perhaps visit again at another time when I’m not so museum’ed (or church’ed or temple’d) out! Just because “everyone” says this is the place to go, doesn’t mean it’s the place for me at this time.
So what else have we skipped? All of these were conscious choices made to not participate in these things.
1. Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam
2. The Florence museum with Michelangelo’s famous David statue
4. Going to the opera in Vienna
5. Going inside Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna
6. Drinking beer in Germany
And what have we done that was less than exciting?
1. Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest
2. Scrovengi Chapel museum (chapel itself was great) in Padua
3. St Marks in Venice. So many better cathedrals in Italy with no lineup.
4. Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Innsbruck
5. Bratislava castle’s “fabulous” gardens were newly redone. Might be better in a couple of years
6. Prague astronomical clock. Pretty to look at, but the show on the hour is not worth waiting for. We were left saying “is that it?”
So what place have you not gone to in your travels that is on every “must-see” list? Or is there somewhere that everyone else loved but you didn’t and I perhaps should avoid? Let me know in the comments below.
Want to read some more of my ramblings? Give these posts a go.
How to be a Travel Blogger
Six Months of Travel – Curious Facts & What I have Learnt
Common Travel Questions (And Why Sometimes I Can’t Answer Them)
10 thoughts on “I went to Paris – and didn’t go inside the Louvre!”
Gold Star ⭐️ for your Honesty Josie. I have to agree with you, Castles, Churches, Museums, Art Galleries and Ruins all start to look the same. I prefer to just stay in one place, live like a Local and get “the feel” of the country .. if possible. Hope you are still enjoying your Adventure and pleasing yourself when it comes to making Daily Choices.
Thanks Carol. Yes, still doing what I want not what I should! It’s turned cold and rainy today – maybe I’ll stay in bed! 🙂
We’ve been in the Louvre because we’re a kind of art lovers sometimes (if we’re in the mood). But just for a look of “La Giaconda”Mona Lisa – no it isn’t worth. Owercrowded! Standing in line! We made just a quick glimpse from the distant and walked into another room.
But there are many other lovely paintings and sculptures in pretty halls for artys.
My favourite art museum is the Musee d’orsay. Not only for the famous masterpieces but for the combination with the building. It’s used formerly as a train station.
There ‘re no “must see” – only what you like and in the mood for. Because it’s your lifetime.
Btw: english is not my native language, so I hope I express it well enough.
Your English is great! I’m glad you said it was crowded and not worth it just to say I had seen Mona Lisa. I will have to remember to consider Musee d’Orsay when we’re in Paris next time – if we are in the mood for art of course!
I have skipped a few things over the years too Josie. In my 20’s (some time ago) I also skipped the Louvre in Paris – I just could not be bothered so I too have not seen the Mona Lisa – but am ok with that. One thing I ummed about doing for many reasons – mostly ethical – but ended up going to was the Dachau concentration camp. It was a very emotional experience but I have a much better understanding for the atrocities that were committed by visiting the place, as harrowing as it was. Its not for everyone but my friend and I felt we made the right decision by going.
It’s so good to hear I am not the only one not to see Mona Lisa! While I haven’t been to Dachau, we did go to Auschwitz, and I absolutely agree with what you say. It was such an important place to visit.
I love this! We skipped going up the Eiffel Tower when we were in Paris but I do kind of regret it! I love your list of things you did instead.
Thanks Jennifer. If you regret going up the Eiffel Tower, it will still be there next time you are in Paris! And hopefully the visit will be even better because the timing will be right.
Every time you travel, you have to make tradeoffs. We’ve driven right past Blarney Castle, stayed on the Amalfi coast without visiting Capri, taken a train through Naples without stopping, skipped the National Museum while in London (among many more!). If it’s a can’t miss stop, unless I can figure out a way to beat the crowd (advance tickets, early arrival) I’ll skip it unless it’s really important to us. Rick Steves’ guidebooks are very helpful in that regard (example: we wanted to see the David statue, bought tickets for opening time, followed recommendation to go reverse direction when inside, and were able to be ‘alone’ with David for about 5 minutes until the horde arrived).
Thanks Michael, some great tips there! I always recommend going early!
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