Disappointing photos show what 13 famous views around the world look like in real life

Tauno Tõhk / 陶诺/FlickrThe view from the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.
  • From the Grand Canyon to Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands hotel, tourists trek the globe for that picture-perfect view.
  • But crowds and unpredictable weather can dampen the experience and photo of a renowned view.
  • Visit INSIDER’s home page for more stories.

There’s no better way to see a new place than to see it from above.

That’s why so many tourists travel far and wide to sites that are often considered tourist traps, but boast beautiful vistas.

Depending on things like weather and angles though, sometimes a view might not be as spectacular as you might expect.

We’ve rounded up photos of 13 iconic views around the world in order to show the disparity between what you think you’ll be seeing and what you might actually be seeing.


Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl Tower offers visitors four different floors that provide 360-degree views of the city and the Huangpu River.

ssguy/ShutterstockA view of Shanghai’s Puxi District from the Oriental Pearl Tower.

The 1,535-foot tower features a glass-floor observation deck and a revolving restaurant.


Just hope that your trip up the tower doesn’t fall on a foggy day.

Tauno Tõhk / 陶诺/FlickrThe view from the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.

Fog in Shanghai is not that uncommon.


The Empire State building is arguably the the most iconic skyscraper in New York City.

Yulia Mayorova/ShutterstockThe view from the Empire State building.

The building’s two observatories – one on the 86th floor and one on the 102nd – welcome more than four million visitors a year.


What many tourists don’t know, though, is that the buildings of Midtown Manhattan that you’ll be looking down on really aren’t all that exciting.

Jim Bowen/FlickrMidtown Manhattan.

For a much more dynamic view of the city, which includes the Empire State Building, take a trip up to the Top of the Rock.


Singapore’s most coveted view can be found at an infinity pool located on the 57th floor of the Marina Bay Sands hotel.

Alexander Mazurkevich/ShutterstockMarina Bay Sands’ infinity pool.

The resort refers to its pool as the largest rooftop pool in the world.


But what most photos don’t show is the part of your view will be filled with cranes and oil rigs.

Dan Brown/FlickrMarina Bay Sands’ infinity pool.

Not all of the view is Instagram-worthy.


The Grand Canyon is one of those natural wonders that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

Martin M303/ShutterstockThe Grand Canyon.

The breathtaking attraction recently celebrated its 100th anniversary as a designated national park.


But just keep in mind that, depending on the weather, the canyon might not look as red as some of the photos have you believe.

Deepti Hari/FlickrSometimes the canyon looks a little dusty.

That said, it still warrants a visit – despite the crowds and the people who call it a tourist trap.


Plenty of tourists climb the Cologne Cathedral’s 533 winding steps to see the German city from above.

ElysiumImages/ShutterstockThe view from the Cologne Cathedral.

The Cathedral is actually Germany’s most popular attraction.


The view is less enticing when you see it through the wire fence that surrounds the top of the cathedral.

Joe/FlickrThe view from the Cologne Cathedral.

The fence has a tendency to get in the way.


Seattle’s 605-foot-tall Space Needle is synonymous with the city.

AngelSchwai/ShutterstockThe view from the Space Needle.

On a good day, you can see Seattle’s skyline, as well as Mount Rainier.


On a not-so-good day, the view looks slightly more dismal.

ChrisYunker/FlickrThe view from the Space Needle.

And since Seattle is known for its heavy amount of annual rainfall, there’s a good chance you’ll be visiting on a rainy day.


Christ the Redeemer is a 98-foot-tall statue that stands on the top of Mount Corcovado, which towers over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

vitormarigo/ShutterstockRio de Janeiro from the Christ the Redeemer statue.

The observation platform that the statue is built on offers majestic views of the city below.


The views are only majestic if you can actually manage to wade your way through all the crowds and catch a glimpse, though.

Sophie Hoeller/INISIDERCrowds at the Christ the Redeemer statue.

During peak season, the statue sees anywhere from 3,000-4,000 visitors a day, making it a battle to see anything at all.


The London Eye is the UK’s best-known Ferris wheel. Standing 443 feet tall, it was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world when it opened in 2000.

Ale Argentieri/ShutterstockThe view of the River Thames from the London Eye.

If you go for a ride on the giant wheel at sunset, you can see Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster illuminated beautifully.


During the day though, the view looks a lot more ordinary.

Jennifer Boyer/FlickrThe view of the River Thames from the London Eye.

Westminster Palace doesn’t look as charming without the lights.


Toronto’s CN Tower boasts the world’s highest hands-free external walk, which is a great opportunity to catch a birds-eye view of the city.

oltrelautostrada/ShutterstockThe view from the CN Tower.

The walk allows visitors to walk around the tower 1,168 feet above the ground – while safely attached with cables and harnesses.


But on a foggy day, that daring walk may reveal less-than-noteworthy views.

Robert Lindsell/FlickrThe view from the CN Tower.

For the best view of the tower itself against the backdrop of the Toronto skyline, head to Polson Pier.


Paris’ Eiffel Tower looks down onto the Champs de Mars, a large public park that attracts both locals and tourists.

Felix Lipov/ShutterstockA view of the Champs de Mars from the Eiffel Tower.

In this photo, the park is a beacon of vibrant greenery.


The park doesn’t look nearly as inviting in this photo.

Yortw/FlickrThe Champs de Mars from the Eiffel Tower.

Many will tell you that the money you’ll pay and the time you’ll wait to climb up the Eiffel Tower isn’t worth it, and that you’re better off viewing the tower from a distance instead of using it as your viewing platform.


Located on Carmel Hill, in Barcelona, Spain, Park Güell is a colourful attraction that provides sweeping views of the city.

Georgios Tsichlis/ShutterstockThe view from Park Güell.

The park is one of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí’s most famous works.


But the colours of the park and of Barcelona might not be as bright as some photos make them seem.

Semisatch/ShutterstockThe view from Park Güell.

It’s pretty, but you might want to lower your expectations.


Chicago’s famed Willis Tower overlooks the city’s glimmering downtown skyline.

cendhika/ShutterstockA view of downtown Chicago from the Willis Tower.

The skyscraper’s 103rd floor is home to the Skydeck, which attracts more than 1.7 million visitors annually.


But the 4-foot ledge is a tight squeeze for groups, so you may end up scrambling to get other tourists (and their feet) out of your shot.

daveynin/Flickr/Attribution LicenceThe view from one of The Ledge’s glass boxes.

Long wait times and timed photo sessions make the experience less exciting, and more stressful.


The seaside villages of Cinque Terre, Italy, have become popular among travel enthusiasts for their bright colours.

Minoli/ShutterstockA view of Vernazza from the Cinque Terre National Park.

The coastline, cliffside towns, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


But depending on the weather, the colours of the villages may not shine as bright as expected.

Kevin Ekmark/Flickr/Attribution LicenceA view of Vernazza, one of the five villages that make up Cinque Terre.

While visitors can trek the hiking trails along the cliffs, the best way to see all five villages is via train or boat.

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