Tourist destinations with a difference. These hotspots are just next door
You’ve waited all your life to see Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece the Mona Lisa, but this isn’t how it was supposed to be: people swarm around the painting and hold up their phones taking pictures, so you can only catch a glimpse of the lady’s wry smile from afar.
The reality of many places of interest can be a disappointment. But did you know that around the corner there are other charming and awe-inspiring sights? We list the best alternatives in the vicinity of some of Europe’s most famous tourist attractions.
TOWER OF LONDON, LONDON
Not far from the Tower of London is the striking Tower Bridge. It’s not just for getting from one side of the River Thames to the other. You can step inside the famous structure and view the city from a unique perspective: a glass floor provides a view 42 metres above the river, and you could be lucky enough to see the bridge lifting as a ship passes. They’ve even started sunrise yoga classes in the walkways – perfect if you need a bit of relaxation from the crowds.
PRADO MUSEUM, MADRID
Nearly half a kilometre away from the Prado Museum is the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, a real insider tip for culture junkies travelling to Madrid. The museum opened in 1990 and has become a haven for modern, contemporary art on an international scale. The most famous piece any art lover will be brimming with excitement to see is “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso. Its powerful anti-war message, depicting the tragedies and suffering inflicted upon individuals, holds you in its grasp as you discover something new to marvel at each second you stand before it.
EIFFEL TOWER, PARIS
Just opposite the Eiffel Tower is the Parc du Champ de Mars, itself offering a beautiful view of the French capital’s landmark monument. It’s a place where both Parisians and visitors can unwind in the sun, have a picnic and watch the world go by. The site has a troubled past though: it once served as a military training area, and it has even been used as a racecourse. One of the stunning sights you’ll see here is the Mur pour la Paix, or “Wall for Peace”, created in the spirit of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
Just 600 metres from the popular Colosseum in Rome is the Santa Francesca Romana. The 10th century church was built partly on the Temple of Venus and Roma, and it is a must-visit if only to see the skeleton of its namesake: the patron saint of drivers, named so because it is said that her path was always lit by angels. It is a wonderful retreat from the bustle of the city; take a seat and be captivated by its inspiring mosaic floor, gorgeous art and stained glass windows.
MILAN CATHEDRAL, MILAN
The Palazzo Reale is located just south of the cathedral square. The former royal palace with its large halls, sweeping staircase and refined furnishings has held the fate of Milan in its grasp for centuries, having been used as the seat of government of the city. But it has since been transformed into a cultural centre with a number of museums. The Museo del Duomo in particular is one place you’ll never forget, but all of the attractions offer an impressive insight into the architectural history of Milan and house renowned artworks.