You’ve traveled to see one of the world’s greatest attractions, but unfortunately, it’s among the busiest tourist places and the line to get in is a mile long, so you’ll be glad you know how to beat the queues. Knowing how to beat the queues to get into a famous site can make a big difference to your experience and ultimately, how much you love the attraction. Read on for some tips and tricks on getting a march on the other visitors.
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1 The Louvre – Paris, France
The Louvre is the world’s most visited art gallery so it’s no surprise it’s one of the attractions where it really is a plus to know how to beat the queues. If you want to get close to the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, the best time to go is early Wednesday evening – 5:30 onwards. Day tourists will be leaving to get back to their hotels to get ready for dinner. You can also fast-track entry with a Paris Pass.
2 Taj Mahal – Agra, India
No photo will ever do the magnificent marble mausoleum justice and it is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. The best time to beat the queues at the Taj Mahal is at sunrise or sunset. The crowds haven’t gathered and the light at these times just makes the sight all the more magical.
3 Uluru – Northern Territory, Australia
The world’s biggest lump of rock is one of the iconic sights of Australia. My advice on how to beat the queues at Uluru is to firstly avoid the peak tourist season which is June to August, and secondly, to engage an Aboriginal guide or book a tour led by a local indigenous guide. The best tours and fewer crowds are those that start just before sunrise. Seeing the sun come up and bathe the rock in its gorgeous golden glow is amazing.
4 The Grand Canyon – Arizona, USA
You may wonder how such a huge attraction gets crowded but the best viewing points – especially the Skywalk - attract a huge number of tourists who flock to see the incredible steep multi-colored terraces of the Grand Canyon. The most popular areas are around the South Rim, so if you want to avoid the crowds at the Grand Canyon, head to the North Rim – the views and scenery are no less spectacular!
5 St. Mark’s – Venice, Italy
Priceless artworks and dazzling mosaics give an opulence to the Basilico Di San Marco that makes it a must see in Venice, plus it is anchoring St. Mark’s Square, a seriously fab destination. It is free to enter if you want to wait in line for 40-60 minutes, but if you don’t mind paying €2, you can book online (up to 10 mins before you go in) and skip the queue.
6 Tower of London – London, England
One of the very best ways to beat the queues at London’s main attractions is with a London Pass. This gives you access to more than 50 of the city’s best sights. At the Tower of London where Anne Boleyn lost her head and the home to the magnificent Crown Jewels, the London Pass enables you to bypass the line of tourists waiting to get in. londonpass.com
7 The Pyramids – Giza, Egypt
The last remaining of the original 7 Wonders of the World, the allure of the Pyramids at Giza is hard to resist. Just how many times have you wondered how they built those incredible structures more than 4,500 years ago? You and countless others have pondered this and that’s why hundreds of people visit the site every day. There’s one simple tip to being at the head of the queue – go early. And to make it extra special, a camel ride across the desert with a trusted guide to the site is perfect.
8 The Smithsonian – Washington DC, USA
It’s one of the most visited and busiest museums on the planet and undoubtedly, kids on school trips make up the crowds at the Smithsonian (eww!) The answer to how to beat the queues is to avoid school-friendly hours. That means, avoiding 12-3pm especially. If you want to visit special exhibits, attractions, the Imax theater or planetarium, book your tickets as soon as you arrive.
9 Angkor Wat – Cambodia
Dating back to the 12th Century, the breathtaking Hindu temple complex of Angkor Wat is best visited outside of high season which is between November and March. Most everyone heads to the site for the sunrise and it’s going to be busy then but you can’t miss it. See the sun cloak the temples in glory, then stick around while most tourists head back to their hotel for breakfast. Take you own picnic and you’re all set. It’s quieter around lunchtime too, after the morning crowds have dispersed.
10 The Grand Bazaar – Istanbul, Turkey
If you’re in Istanbul, do not miss the opportunity to shop and haggle in Turkey’s major sensory-assaulting bazaar. One of the world’s oldest (since the 1400s) and largest covered markets, the Grand Bazaar has more than 3000 stores in more than 50 streets. The best time to explore the main drags is before the crowds arrive from 10am onwards. After 10, be brave enough to venture into the back alleys, side streets and courtyards; you’ll have an altogether more local and less-touristy experience.
11 The Great Wall – China
If you are part of a tour and are seeing the wall in a location some way from Beijing – lucky you! If you are heading for the most popular section at Badaling it is best to avoid Chinese holidays such as New Year, the Spring Festival and the first weeks of May and October. The majestic, more-than-2000-year-old Great Wall of China that stretches for 13000+ miles, is as fascinating to the Chinese as it is to foreign tourists and many will take the opportunity of a holiday to visit.
12 The Eiffel Tower – Paris, France
Offering the best views of the City of Light since 1889, the Eiffel Tower is the iconic emblem of Paris. This means it attracts a huge number of visitors daily. The best time to visit is October. There is a lull between the summer visitors and those coming for the Christmas shopping, and it’s not too late in the year for the icy winds to make for an uncomfortable viewing experience. There are a couple of strategies to beat some of the queues though. One is to buy and print tickets for the lifts online. Another is to go to the south pillar 15 minutes before opening time and when let in, take the stairs to level 2. You can then buy a ticket for the lift to level 3.
13 Uffizi Gallery – Florence, Italy
Michelangelo’s Statue of David and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus are huge draws and just two of the reasons people love to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia and Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Like for most of the world’s greatest museums and art galleries, the most obvious ways to beat the queues are to book and go early before the tour busloads hit. Book online for early-morning slots. Another good time to avoid is US school holidays when art students visit in droves.
14 Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes, Peru
The most popular destination on a tour of South America, the enigmatic 15th century Inca site, once abandoned and the target for small groups of backpackers, Machu Picchu is now besieged by busloads of tourists from Cusco. Avoid this trip and stay 2 nights. This gives you the opportunity to get up for the sunrise trek and do the twilight trek, with a break in between when you leave it to the day trippers.
15 Niagara Falls – Canada/USA
Whether on honeymoon or just there for the thrill, Niagara Falls is spectacular at any time of year. The best way to avoid the crowds that come to view one of the most beautiful sights in the world is to not visit in summer. If you don’t mind the cold, the falls in the height of winter are truly magical. If you are there in busy season, the least crowded vantage points are Luna Island, Goat Island and Three Sisters Islands.
16 The Vatican – Vatican City, Italy
The Vatican is on so many travel wishlists for Christians globally, but lovers of architecture and art have it on their bucket lists too. Who wouldn’t want to see the magnificent painting of the Sistine Chapel? Michelangelo’s masterpiece is best viewed an hour before closing time. As to the Vatican Museums which are stuffed with Renaissance art and artifacts and curios from all over the world, you can buy a ticket online if you buy up to 60 days in advance. It can cost up to €5 more than at the door but honestly, when you see the queues, you’ll pat yourself on the back for having such foresight.
17 Westminster Abbey – London, England
As the place where every British king and queen has been crowned since the 11th Century and host to numerous royal weddings and burials, Westminster Abbey is a veritable who’s who of the British monarchy and there are always lines to get in; except on Wednesdays – not so much. This is because the opening hours are different on Wednesdays and it catches people out. Monday to Saturday, opening hours are 9:30am to 3:30pm, whereas on Wednesdays it is 1pm to 6pm. Another way to avoid the crowds at Westminster Abbey is to join a service on Sunday when it is closed to the public, but I have to confess, I don’t know how much time you’d get t look around after the service.
18 The Magic Kingdom – Orlando, USA
One of the most visited places on the planet, I could probably write a book on how to beat the queues at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. And actually, there are so many strategies for making the most of beating the crowds here that to try and summarize them would take forever … well not quite forever! The best advice I can give is to find a really good resource and devour it. You’ll find the obvious tips like avoiding certain holidays, off seasons and times, but you’ll also learn about fast passes and other tricks. This one’s not a bad resource.
19 The Palace of Versailles – France
You might not know, but the incredible Palace of Versailles and its stunning gardens, the seat of the court of Louis XIV, attracts more than 10 million visitors every year. Crowds aren’t often too bad but the best strategy is to join a group tour (book online) as this means no waiting in line for entry and it also provides access that the general entrance ticket doesn’t.
If the top attraction you plan to visit isn’t listed here, you can still see there are various ways to beat the queues. Google your intended site online before you go. Which attractions are on top of your list?
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