Sightseeing is hard work, especially when you have just a few days to explore a new city and want to make the most of your vacation. Many cities have iconic sights that are must-sees during your trip, but these historic landmarks attract crowds that can take hours to navigate. A little bit of planning and insider knowledge can take you from a rookie tourist to the savvy traveler that has free time to wander the streets, soaking up the local scene. Take it from us, we know! So read on for a few of our best tips and travel tricks.
Plan in Advance
What many don’t know is that most of the most popular sights have online booking options available that guarantee your admission at a certain time of the day. Similar to a fast pass at Disney, these reservations can make you feel like royalty as you walk past the crowds to the front of the line. While booking ahead does require you to pick a specific time and removes a bit of the spontaneity from your day, the hours saved are hours you’ll be able to use for other adventures and new discoveries.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, and Picasso Museum in Barcelona are just a few places where you can book admission ahead. Seems too easy, but as you’re walking past the line headed to the entrance, you’ll appreciate the benefits of planning ahead.
If you’re spending a bit more time in a city, look into purchasing city sightseeing or tourist passes that group sights together to include discounted entrance and skip-the-line perks to most of the attractions in a certain amount of time. The Paris Museum pass and the Madrid Card are two great options if you are planning to visit multiple city sights while in town.
Tips and Tricks to Know
Everyone loves a good shortcut, especially when it comes to saving time or money. In Paris, almost 10 million people visit the Louvre every year. While the glass pyramid is an iconic entrance, if you enter underground from the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall, off of Rue de Rivoli and the Palais Royale Musee du Louvre metro station, you still go through a security checkpoint, but without the crowds.
In Rome, a visit to the Sistine Chapel means long lines to enter the Vatican, a crowded procession through the halls of the museum, and then a brief look at the ceiling as you are shuffled along. It is possible to buy your ticket online through the museum ahead of time, but you’ll have an even more memorable experience by booking a guided tour. While a guide is a bit more expensive than the ticket alone, their stories and expertise bring the museum to life, as well as gives you more color about Michelangelo’s famous works.
Timing can also improve your experience. Companies such as Walks of Italy offer private evening tours of the Chapel that take advantage of the peace and quiet after most tourists have gone home for the day.
If the Colosseum is also on your list, the queue to buy tickets can be overwhelming, especially during the summer. Walk past the monument to the entrance of the Roman Forum where you can buy the same combo ticket you would have bought at the Colosseum, which includes admission to both attractions. Explore the Forum, and then head back to the Colosseum and into the ancient amphitheater to show your same ticket again and venture back to gladiator times.
Visiting Berlin? You can’t miss heading to the top of the famous Reichstag dome to get a view of the city, but during high season online booking reservations do fill quickly. Luckily, Germany is the only country to have a public restaurant in their parliament building. Book a table ahead of time by calling or even sending an email, and you can bypass the line by heading directly up the dome after your meal.
What tricks do you have? Share them in the comments below.
This was originally published on March 23, 2016.