Disappointing photos of 5 iconic attractions in Paris, from the overcrowded Louvre to a legendary café now called a 'tourist trap'

Disappointing photos of 5 iconic attractions in Paris, from the overcrowded Louvre to a legendary café now called a 'tourist trap'
Disappointing photos of tourist attractions in Paris: Louvre, Eiffel Tower - Business Insider

From the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre to Montmartre, you might find these destinations overcrowded, overrun with rats, touristy, or closed due to strikes.

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Expectation vs. reality.
Shutterstock/NaughtyNut, Reuters
  • More than 41 million people visited Paris in 2017.
  • While the French capital can be a magical place, some of its most iconic attractions don't always live up to the hype.
  • From the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre to Montmartre, you might find them to be insanely overcrowded, overrun with rats, turned into "tourist traps," or closed due to strikes


Not for nothing does Paris see more than 41 million visitors a year.

Its iconic museums, beautiful Haussmanian architecture, immaculate parks, cultural activities, and of course, its food, all place the French capital high up on the list of many travelers. 

But these disappointing photos show that some of the city's most iconic attractions, from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre to the Sacre Coeur basilica at Montmartre, don't always live up to the hype. 

Paris, the City of Lights, is one of the most-visited and beloved cities in the world.

Paris France

The French capital is known for its food and café culture ...

Cafe Paris France
AlexKozlov / iStock

... its fashion ...

Lou Doillon paris
Lou Doillon, daughter of Jane Birkin, in Paris.
Getty Images

... world-class cultural attractions ...

musee rodin shutterstock wjarek
Sculpture of the Three Shades, inspired with Divine Comedy of Dante, in the gardens of Musée Rodin.

... and charming cobblestoned streets.

Montmartre in Paris, France
Catarina Belova/Shutterstock

Source: Paris Info

And of course, it's a famously romantic destination.

paris france couple

More than 41 million people from around the world visited Paris in 2017 to see some of its most iconic attractions ...

paris tourists

Source: Paris Info

... including the city's most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower, built in just two years for the 1889 World's Fair.

Eiffel Tower
Kamil Zihnioglu/AP

Source: Tour Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower is quintessential Paris, and a visit to the structure is seen as practically mandatory for tourists.

eiffel tower paris france

But many see it as overrated. According to The Local, you have to either wait in line for hours or book far in advance to get a place on one of the elevators that will take you to the top.

eiffel tower paris

Source: The Local

Read more: Disappointing photos show what Venice looks like in real life, from extreme overcrowding and devastating floods to pollution from cruise ships

Otherwise, you can walk up the 674 steps to the second floor, which will take you 30 to 45 minutes.

eiffel tower stairs
Flickr/diamond geezer

Source: The Local, Eiffel Tower

When you make it to the top, your view might be obscured anyway by the crowds.

paris eiffel tower observation deck
Shutterstock/Resul Muslu

That's if the Eiffel Tower is open at all.

eiffel tower closed paris france

Some unlucky tourists have found the Eiffel Tower closed on account of worker strikes ...

closed eiffel tower france

... only to then have to wait in long lines at the information booth, presumably to inquire about the tickets they had already paid for.

paris eiffel tower closure line france protests
People stand in line at an information booth following the closure of the Eiffel Tower as part of a strike by employees on August 2, 2018.

Another world-famous Paris attraction is the iconic avenue, the Champs Élysées ...

champs elysees paris
Shutterstock/Ioan Panaite

... with its luxury boutiques and hotels ...

champs elysees louis vuitton paris

... and the Arc de Triomphe.

arc de triomphe paris france

In theory, a stroll down the iconic Champs Élysées seems dreamy.

woman champs elysees paris
Shutterstock/Ekaterina Pokrovsky

But most locals avoid the Champs Élysées at all costs because of the hordes of tourists.

champs elysees

Source: Business Insider

And the cafés can be just as crowded.

champs elysees paris restaurant terrace crowded tourists
Shutterstock/Radu Razvan

Source: Business Insider

Travel + Leisure included the Champs Élysées on its list of the 95 most overrated attractions in the world, noting that apart from the view of the famous Arc de Triomphe and the boutiques — most of which can be found in other countries — the avenue has very little appeal.

champs elysees paris france

Source: Travel + Leisure

Then there's the Louvre, the most well-known museum in Paris and one of the most famous in the world.

paris louvre

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The Louvre dates back to the late twelfth century and was once a royal residence. It's a stunning sight ...


Source: Louvre

... and the inside, with its vast collection of priceless works of art, is just as impressive.

Nike of Samothrake Louvre
Wikimedia Commons

But more than 8 million people visited the museum in 2017, and the lines to get in certainly reflect that number.

louvre museum tourists queue paris
Getty Images

Source: Louvre Presse

So if you intend to visit the museum, prepare to wait.

louvre paris line queue
Getty Images

Once you finally get in, you'll likely want to see one of the Louvre's most prominent works of art: the Mona Lisa — but don't expect to see it quite this close.

Mona Lisa
Wikimedia Commons

Instead, your view will probably be more like this.

mona lisa
Leandro Neumann Ciuffo/Flickr

Or maybe like this, if you're lucky.

mona lisa louvre paris

Considering the number of people who visit the Louvre each day and that most of them will want a glimpse (and a photo) of the Mona Lisa, it's perhaps not surprising that the site of the painting typically looks like this.

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But it's not just the Mona Lisa. As one of the most-visited museums in the world, the Louvre as a whole is almost always crowded.

louvre paris france

Source: Louvre Presse

"Don't expect to get many pictures without other visitors in them," one visitor wrote on TripAdvisor. "There are so many who visit there is literally no 'best time' to visit."

louvre paris tourists

Source: TripAdvisor

It can be exhausting trying to see as much as possible of the world's largest museum, but you won't have an easy time finding a place to sit down and rest.

louvre paris france tourists

Source: Louvre

Another of Paris' most recognizable sights is the Notre-Dame Cathedral on the banks of the Seine.

notre dame
Maziarz/ Shutterstock

If you plan to visit, be sure to watch out for the rats, which apparently overrun the area around the cathedral, according to TripAdvisor reviews. The city recently installed anti-rat garbage containers to help curb the problem.

notre dame paris

Source: Reuters

... which means the streets are almost always crammed with people.

Montmartre paris
Getty Images

The famous Place du Tertre caters almost solely to tourists, with painters selling portraits to tourists.

place du tertre paris montmartre
Getty Images

Source: Montmartre Guide

"Restos and bars around the place are overpriced (save your money to eat somewhere else) and it's only full of touristy shops," one person wrote on TripAdvisor. "This is not the best side of Paris, and there are far prettier places to go too."

place du tertre montmartre paris

Source: TripAdvisor

Another person wrote that Place du Tertre is only worth a visit "if you are interested in having your portrait sketched or are interested in buying some cheap trinkets or second rate art."

place du tertre montmartre
Place du Tertre in Montmartre, Paris.
Getty Images

Source: TripAdvisor

Sacre Coeur, the basilica that sits at the top of Montmartre, is the highest point in the city and the second most-visited monument in Paris.

sacre coeur paris france
Shutterstock/Marcello Landolfi

Source: Getty Images

Its popularity means that it's usually swarming with visitors, particularly in the summer months.

sacre coeur paris france
Getty Images

The views of the city are great, but they'll come with views of crowds of people with selfie sticks and backpacks.

sacre coeur montmartre paris
Getty Images

And don't expect to have a quiet moment to yourself in the beautiful interior of the cathedral. That, too, will be packed with people.

sacre coeur montmartre paris
Getty Images

Another of Paris' most legendary destinations is not a museum or a basilica, but a humble café: Café de Flore.

cafe de flore paris
Shutterstock/Petr Kovalenkov

Source: Café de Flore

Artists and writers including Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Jean Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, once worked and socialized there.

cafe de flore paris
Café de Flore in 1949.
AP Photo

Source: Café de Flore

But according to TripAdvisor reviews, it has turned into an overpriced tourist trap where you can expect to pay $25 for a sandwich.

cafe de flore paris
Getty Images

Source: TripAdvisor

"Probably because this place was mentioned in many guide books, prices are unreasonable there," one reviewer wrote. "Food is average. Service is plain horrible. ... Walking by and take a picture is more than enough for this place."

cafe de flore paris
Getty Images

Source: TripAdvisor

Ultimately, though, Paris may have its flaws like any other city, but it still remains an iconic travel destination.

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