World famous landmarks and their lesser-known alternatives

Cost, crowds and queues got you rethinking your travel plans? momondo compares 10 of the world's most famous landmarks with their lesser-known and equally impressive alternatives

Crowds of tourists enter the site of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Crowds of tourists enter the site of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

The crowds, the waiting, the line that stretches for miles with no end in sight – been there done that. We’ve all paid our dues (literally) to see some of the world’s most famous landmarks. While there’s no doubt that these once-in-a-lifetime monuments are worth the extra effort, what if there were equally important attractions within reach that would allow you to save both time and money?

Whether you’ve already factored an extra day into your next vacation for visiting that world famous landmark, or you’re inclined to go crowd-free, stress-free landmark hopping this time around – we’ll tell you exactly what you’re in for once you get there. We analyzed the average price, visitors per day and waiting time for 10 of the world’s most popular landmarks, as well as an equally remarkable and generally less crowded and costly landmark nearby, to give you an all-encompassing idea of a typical visit to each of these quintessential icons.

You can check out the full table of landmarks at the bottom of the page. Go to chart

Landmarks in Paris, France

Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is one of Paris’s most iconic monuments © Patrick Cadet – Centre des monuments nationaux

The Arc de Triomphe is one of Paris’s most iconic monuments © Patrick Cadet – Centre des monuments nationaux

Paris’s most iconic symbol just so happens to be the world’s most-visited paid monument. Even though the Eiffel Tower’s long queues can run up to several hours and its over 19,000 visitors per day can seem a little overwhelming at first, the Tower remains one of the most cherished sights in the City of Lights. Plus, its accompanying park square is the perfect spot for a casual picnic with friends or a romantic dinner for two.

With less than 2,000 visitors per day, waiting times at the Arc de Triomphe are at a minimum. Usually admired from a distance and swarming with thousands of cars making their way around Place Charles de Gaulle, the grand Arc de Triomphe measures over 164 feet tall. After climbing 40 stairs to the top of the monument, visitors will find themselves face-to-face with a stunning view of the Parisian skyline, including the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

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Landmarks in Rome, Italy

Colosseum or the Baths of Caracalla

Tourists explore the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, Italy

Tourists explore the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, Italy

A ticket to the Colosseum is more than just entrance into the world’s largest amphitheater, it is also a ticket to the Roman Forum, the ancient site of Rome’s most important government buildings. The only downside of course is that everyone else is just as excited to visit these two historical landmarks, as evident by the Colosseum’s 18,046 daily visitors. Crowds aside, the Colosseum’s most impressive feature is its exposed underground system whose trapdoors, ramps and hoists tell the story of Rome’s brutal and fascinating gladiator matches.

The lesser-known Baths of Caracalla, one of the largest and best preserved spa complexes, is just a 20-minute walk from the Colosseum and averages only 779 visitors per day. Large enough for 1600 citizens to bathe in, the Imperial spa center was also a place for sports, health, study and recreation. Although its roofs have collapsed and the walls have worn over time, with a little imagination, visitors can recreate the Bath’s Olympic sized swimming pools, enormous marble columns and hundreds of statues.

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Landmarks in New York, USA

Statue of Liberty or the Tenement Museum

A passerby glances into the gift shop of The Tenement Museum in Lower Manhattan - New York, USA

A passerby glances into the gift shop of The Tenement Museum in Lower Manhattan – New York, USA

Today a universal symbol of freedom, the Statue of Liberty was the symbol of the United States’s immigration in the early 1900s. New York’s top attraction draws in millions of visitors every year, but before you can catch a glimpse of the famous sculpture on Liberty Island, you’ll have to wait your turn on the ferry and security lines, which could be anywhere from 30 minutes to over 3 hours. For around $18, you can roam around the Statue’s feet with a guided audio tour, but if you’re looking to catch views of the Big Apple from above, you’ll have to cough up some more cash to access the Crown Level, which can only be reached via the stairs.

On the main island, the Tenement Museum offers a more intimate look into the personal stories and daily challenges of the thousands of immigrants that transformed New York City. It will cost you about $7 more than the baseline Statue of Liberty entrance fee, but for the price you get an in-depth guided tour of your choosing, ranging from visits to restored apartments and walks along the Lower East Side to theatrical performances complete with costumed interpreters. Most visitors pre-purchase their tickets online, leaving virtually no waiting time for the 500 daily visitors.

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Landmarks in Peru

Machu Picchu or Kuelap

Kuelap, located in northern Peru, pre-dates Machu Picchu by almost 1000 years

Kuelap, a major archaeological site in northern Peru, pre-dates Machu Picchu by almost 1000 years

Surrounded by tropical mountain forest high above the clouds, the preserved city of Machu Picchu remains one of the most well-known testaments to the history and culture of the Inca Empire. For around $37 it’s possible to purchase a permit to visit the Lost City of the Incas, but this will not include a guided tour or access to Machu Picchu’s additional Huayna Picchu mountain. In order to preserve its most famous landmark, the Peruvian government caps the number of daily visitors to just 2500 per day, which is why buying your permit online well in advance is a must.

Originally built by the Chachapoyas or the “Warriors of the Cloud,” the fortified citadel of Kuelap is sometimes called the “Machu Picchu of the North” and will only cost travellers around $4 to visit. It receives an average of just 109 people each day due to its remote location in the northern part of Peru. To get there, travellers can take a guided tour where they will have the option to arrive by private transport from city of Chachapoyas or hike 6 miles to the entrance from Tingo Viejo.

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Landmarks in India

Taj Mahal or Humayun’s Tomb

Two men cross in front of Humayun's Tomb in Delhi, India

Two men cross in front of Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, India

Celebrated as one of the most stunning symbols of India’s culture and history, the Taj Mahal receives over 20,000 visitors per day from all corners of the world. Standing on the south bank of the Yamuna River in the city of Agra, it is one of the greatest examples of Mughal architecture, combining Indian, Persian and Islamic influences. For around $15, visitors can enter the ivory white marble mausoleum to learn more about Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan and his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal whom the Taj Mahal is dedicated to.

For half the price and about 1/3 the amount of daily visitors, travelers to India can visit Humayun’s Tomb, the first example of Mughal architecture and India’s first garden tomb. Constructed of red limestone and adorned with white, yellow and black marble, Humayun’s tomb was built in 1570 and inspired several major architectural innovations including the Taj Mahal. One of the best examples of Persian architecture, the magnificent tomb remains the final resting place for several prominent Mughals from the royal family.

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Landmarks in Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia or Casa Batlló

Guided audio tours reveal the history and ideas behind Gaudi's famous Casa Batlló - Barcelona, Spain

Guided audio tours reveal the history and ideas behind Gaudi’s famous Casa Batlló – Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia is Barcelona’s crown jewel – and for good reason. Gaudi’s most famous work of art provides the geometry, light and color that art lovers crave. Revered as one of the most original and ambitious buildings of the modern world, La Sagrada was first erected in 1882 and is still undergoing construction today. While queues can run well over two hours during peak season and the entrance fee is roughly $16 per person, La Sagrada’s awe-inspiring architecture is well worth the extra bit of effort.

Although it costs about $7 more compared to La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló is often considered Gaudi’s most creative work. Lovers of magic will be thrilled by Casa Batlló’s whimsical exterior and surprising interior, including its entrance hall reminiscent of undersea grottoes and its first floor with panoramic views over Passeig de Gràcia. Depending on the day and time, lines can range anywhere from 0-30 minutes, or for around £4 more, visitors can purchase an additional ticket to skip the lines altogether.

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Landmarks in Mexico

Chichen Itza or Uxmal

Visitors snap a photo from above of Uxmal's central Magician's Pyramid - Yucatan, Mexico

Visitors snap a photo from above of Uxmal’s central Magician’s Pyramid – Yucatan, Mexico

The Mayan-Toltec civilization comes alive at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichen Itza on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Its massive and highly photographed El Castillo pyramid sits at the center of it all and is considered one of the seven new wonders of the world. As one of Mexico’s most popular tourist sites, Chichen Itza draws in over 5,000 curious visitors each day and only costs 232 pesos for foreigners, roughly $9 without a guide or tour, which will cost extra.

An equally important UNESCO Mayan ruin, the prehistoric city of Uxmal is about a 2-3 hour drive from Chichen Itza and is much less crowded, often allowing visitors to feel like they have the whole place for themselves. Meaning “built three times,” Uxmal’s name refers to the construction of its highest structure, the Magician’s Pyramid. Unlike Chichen Itza, visitors to Uxmal can actually climb the steps of the Magician’s Pyramid for incredible views of the ancient city and its surroundings.

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Landmarks in St. Petersburg, Russia

State Hermitage Museum or State Russian Museum

The State Russian Museum holds the largest collection of Russian fine art in St. Petersburg

The State Russian Museum holds the largest collection of Russian fine art in St. Petersburg

Its iconic pastel-green exterior and gold-covered interior make the State Hermitage Museum one of the most beautiful attractions in Russia. Its beautiful art collections feature more than just fine paintings and important exhibits, they also show Russia’s nationality, culture, history and view of the world. Entrance into the museum is around $10 and is free the first Thursday of every month is free.

St. Petersburg’s less visited museum, the State Russian Museum, is a short 20-minute walk from the Hermitage and is just as impressive. Rivaling the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow as the world’s finest collection of Russian art, the State Russian Museum is also one of the largest museums in the country. With about half as many daily visitors as the Hermitage, visitors to the State Russian Museum are free to roam its halls without all the hustle and bustle that comes along with Russia’s most crowded tourist attractions.

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Landmarks in Cambodia

Angkor Wat or Beng Mealea

Beng Mealea, only 40 km away from the main group of temples at Angkor, Cambodia is open to the public

Beng Mealea, only 40 km away from the main group of temples at Angkor, Cambodia is open to the public

As the largest religious monument in the world and one of the biggest archaeological sites in operation, it’s no surprise that Angkor Wat receives thousands of visitors every day. Built in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat’s impressive temples, towering walls and detailed carvings represent the Hindu faith and ancient gods. Travelers who are eager to see Angkor Wat should be advised, beginning in February 2017, entrance fees are expected to double to almost $35 for a one-day pass according to news sources.

For a fraction of the cost, travelers can visit Beng Mealea, one of the most mysterious temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park. While a ticket to the park is not needed, a separate entrance fee of around $5 USD is required. Arguably one of its biggest selling points is that it has not been restored over the years, making a visit to this temple a truly hands-on experience. Visitors will have to climb over crumbling stone blocks, moss covered facades and wild jungle terrain to fully experience all that Beng Mealea has to offer.

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Landmarks in London, UK

Westminster Abbey or Westminster Cathedral

London's Westminster Cathedral is the largest Catholic Church in England and Wales

London’s Westminster Cathedral is the largest Catholic Church in England and Wales

At first glance, $25 can seem like a hefty price to pay for a few hours in one of London’s most visited buildings, but a trip to Westminster Abbey is well worth its entrance fee. Over one million annual visitors come to explore this stunning 700-year-old Gothic church, which remains a famous site for royal coronations and weddings, most recently that of Prince William and Kate. If you’re looking to explore the Abbey’s majestic grounds and gardens in peace, aim to arrive in the early morning when the crowds have not all yet arrived.

Often overshadowed by the more well-known Abbey, Westminster Cathedral is a striking church nestled between shops and cafes. Its exotic Byzantine style, multiple domes and spherical towers are a rare sight to see and its famed for its choir, which is internationally recognized as one of the best in the world. There is no fee to listen to the choir, since the church is free and open to the public, simply pop in during a mass to check out what all the hype is about and see for yourself.

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World famous landmarks and their lesser-known alternatives

Location Landmark Ticket* Avg. visits per day** Waiting time (mins)
Paris, France Eiffel Tower USD 17 19,178 0-120
Paris, France Arc de Triomphe USD 12 1,662 0-15
Rome, Italy Colosseum USD 12 18,046 0-45
Rome, Italy Baths of Caracalla USD 6 779 0-10
New York, USA Statue of Liberty USD 18 10,989 30-180
New York, USA Tenement Museum USD 25  500  0-10
Cusco, Peru Machu Picchu USD 37 2,500 15-45
Chachapoyas, Peru Kuelap USD 4 109 0-10
Agra, India Taj Mahal USD 15  23,962 0-60
Delhi, India Humayun’s Tomb USD 7 8,219 0-30
Barcelona, Spain La Sagrada Familia USD 16 8,219  0-120
Barcelona, Spain Casa Batlló USD 24 2,718  0-30
Yucatan, Mexico Chichen Itza USD 9 5,055 0-30
Yucatan, Mexico Uxmal USD 6  598 0-25
St. Petersburg, Russia State Hermitage Museum USD 10 11,794 0-180
St. Petersburg, Russia State Russian Museum USD 10  5,037  0-15
Siem Reap, Cambodia Angkor Wat USD 35 3,288 0-120
Siem Reap, Cambodia Beng Mealea USD 5 829  0-15
London, UK Westminster Abbey USD 25  5,319 0-30
London, UK Westminster Cathedral USD 0  N/A  0
*Based on local currency conversion rates as of December 2016. All ticket prices reflect the standard price for an adult as advertised on the landmark’s official tourism website. For landmarks which offer separate prices for local residents and foreigners, the foreigner price was used.
**Visitors per day were calculated by dividing the total number of 2015 visitors by the number of days the landmark is open.
Sources: La Tour EiffelCentre des Monuments Nationaux, Società Cooperativa Culture, The-Colosseum.net, National Park Service, Tenement Museum, About Cusco, Chachapoyas BackpackersWait a MomentBarcelona Tourist Guide,  Casa Batllo,  Travel Yucatan, Russia Beyond the Headlines, Tourism Cambodia and Statista
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