Skip the Sistine Chapel– stay outside and enjoy the view

 In Europe

When in Rome, go ahead and skip the Sistine Chapel. And while you’re at it, walk right on by Paris’s Louvre. There is no travel rule that says “you must go in.”

So if you’re more of an outside girl (or guy) than an inside girl, like me, let go of that fear of missing out when you stay out of buildings.

(Hello, my name is Tara and I don’t really enjoy going inside cathedrals. I twice sprinted through The Louvre. Once to catch a chamber music concert in the halls after hours and once to see the Mona Lisa. It was … meh. Go ahead and have your gasp. )

Louvre

The Louvre in Paris

I don’t hate the insides of buildings. I’m not claustrophobic. But I’m more than fine spending my day walking around a city without venturing inside its structures.

I happily stroll past museums and stand in awe of the marble and stonework and their place in city skylines. I meander around castle grounds or monuments and feel nary a twinge of guilt by staying there, on the outside.

This is especially the case on a budget tight for both money and time. If there’s little of these then I’ll pass on places for which I have to stand in line and will likely have to peruse while in a line. (Maybe I have a phobia of queues?)

I’m just not as big on delving into the guts of museums and churches as I am seeing them whole from the outside. There are, as always, exceptions. I once had the opportunity to actually go into the “guts” of a museum where the unshown works are buried. Well, more the jaws, rather than guts. I stood inside the jaws of a whale skeleton while stored in a natural history museum. Quite a worthwhile “indoors” experience. Internal histories and artwork displays are certainly things to appreciate. And if I’ve seen all the outsides of all the buildings I want to see, I’ll probably go back for the stuff they contain. If there’s something specific in which I have interest, then by all means, entrez vous. But for me, going in for the sake of going in, well, it’s rarely the No. 1 draw.

Brussels-Town-Hall

Brussels Town Hall in Belgium

I noticed this preference on my first trip to Europe. I spent a winter and spring in Copenhagen, Denmark. By the time the ice thawed and the red tulips were in bloom around Rosenborg castle, I was happy to sit in the garden with the locals and see this beautiful landmark in its setting. I had no desire to go inside, for I could not imagine what would top the feeling of sitting on a patch of Danish grass in the springtime with a castle at my feet.

The insides of many places often feel congested, confined and, OK, yes, maybe a tiny bit claustrophobia-inducing even in the grandest of cathedrals with their long lines, dark or dimly lit pathways where movement is restricted by ropes and crowds. A few items may catch my eye, but I’m soon checking my watch and wondering, like a child on a road trip, are we there yet? “There” being the exit.

So if, on your next trip, you sense pressure that you “should” go inside this church or that monument just because it’s famous, honestly ask yourself if you’d be OK letting it go. Since you can never see it all, would you rather spend your time wandering through a rose garden, sipping a cool beverage or picking out some souvenir you had your eye on? It’s your trip. Make it your own, even if that means never going inside a single sight.

View-from-St-Peters-Bascilica

View from the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

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Showing 2 comments
  • Jenna

    I like doing both and love the interiors of cathedrals, but I think people need to be open to not going inside every attraction/sight. It’s cheaper, too. 🙂

  • Sally@Toddlers on Tour

    I have to say if your travelling wit kids especially young kids these aren’t great places to take them.

    You can’t get a pram about the Vatican and Sistine Chapel and getting through the crowds in the Lourve would be a nightmare. If the kids aren’t in prams I would be terrified of loosing them.

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