Nine iconic streets around the world that need saving

It's hard for travellers to resist the allure of a famous street. It all seems so simple: one thoroughfare in which you can soak up local culture, do a little shopping, have something to eat, enjoy a few drinks, and maybe even spend the night. All in one location.

And so tourists flock to the world's best-known boulevards, its pre-eminent pathways. And sometimes that's a great idea: the likes of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Chandni Chowk in Delhi. Everyone should see these places.

However, plenty of the world's most famous streets have become victims of their own success, and are in dire need of a spruce up. Streets such as these…

Champs Elysees, Paris

Full disclosure: I haven't walked down Paris's most famous street in a good 10 years or so. There's a reason for that, too. Last time I was there it just seemed to be a strip of high-rent chain stores and touristy, overpriced cafes. Why would you? And it seems as if Parisians agree, going by the recently announced plans to give the whole thing a $395 million makeover, which includes cutting traffic, extending pavements and creating new green space. Plenty of other cities could learn.

Instead, try: An actually charming street such as Rue des Barres.

Hollywood Blvd, LA

Hollywood Boulevard at dusk.

Photo: iStock

You expect film-star glitz and glamour on one of the best-known boulevards in the world. What you get is grit and grime, an underwhelming and – depending on the block you happen to be walking on – occasionally scary thoroughfare that leaves you scratching your head for days after. Was that it? Yes, there are stars on the pavement with famous names printed on them, and a well-known theatre or two. But as a tourist attraction, Hollywood Blvd could use some serious work.

Instead, try: Sunset Blvd, just nearby, has a lot more going for it.

Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - December 1, 2015: Kuala Lumpur is all about eating, and the best eating isn't in the air-conditioned restaurants. Locals know this as one of the best places for eating in Kuala Lumpur in the evenings - along Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang. The area caters to the delight of the gastronomical passions of its patrons. The stalls are parked all along the street and is often standing room only. SunOct13cover
iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted.

Photo: iStock

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There's a rule in life that every traveller can pretty much swear by: if Anthony Bourdain ate there, it's going to be good. The guy had a knack for sniffing out every city's best eats, from fine-diners to dives. And in KL, Bourdain ate at Wong Ah Wah, a well-known purveyor of chicken wings on a well-known eat street, Jalan Alor. And WAW, as it's affectionately known, really is good. Extremely good. The rest of Jalan Alor, however, is surprisingly average, particularly compared to some of the other foodie precincts in the Malaysian capital. Tourists love it, but plenty of KL residents steer clear.

Instead, try: Jalan Raja Muda Musa has some amazing options.

La Rambla, Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain - August 19, 2013: The busy high street of La Rambla in Barcelona during the day showing a large amount of people walking down the street iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Barcelona.

Photo: iStock

Barcelona's most famous street is great – if you want to be robbed or ripped off, or pick up a tacky souvenir T-shirt and eat a massively overpriced paella. In a city with so much to offer, it seems bizarre that one of its most famous locations is so bad. You only have to step a few metres either side of La Rambla to find something far better: the stylish Gothic Quarter to the north-east, and the rough-and-tumble Raval on the other side. And from there, keep walking.

Instead, try: Carrer del Parlament, in Sant Antoni, is where you want to be.

Orchard Rd, Singapore

Aerial view of sidewalk of Orchard road in Singapore iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Ben Groundwater iconic streets around the world that need to be saved or fixed

Photo: iStock

It depends what you're into. If you like shopping, if the idea of mall after mall filled with high-end stores selling luxury items has you drooling in anticipation, then you really will enjoy Singapore's most famous street. You've got it all here: shoe shops, handbag stores, fine-dining restaurants, see-and-be-seen bars… All that. What you don't have is thriving culture that feels accessible and enjoyable for all.

Instead, try: Geylang Road is everything Orchard Road is not – for better and worse.

Times Square, NYC

New York, USA - May 11, 2013: Times Square with tourists. Iconified as

Photo: iStock

Technically, this is not a street. But one of New York's most famous locations makes it to the list thanks to its incredible ability to maintain its tourist-drawing fame while offering absolutely nothing of any substance for those tourists to enjoy. Times Square itself is just an open space, not particularly lovely or inviting; the attractions that surround the square include Madame Tussaud's, Ripley's Believe It or Not, and a giant M&Ms World. Is this really what you came to New York for?

Instead, try: Union Square has far more going for it.

Khao San Rd, Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand - February 23, 2016: An outdoor restaurant crowded with tourists on Khao San Road in Bangkok.  Khao San Road is a world famous backpacker street. AFR Life & Leisure. Writer Dan Stapleton. Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. Generic Bangkok. iStock

Photo: iStock

I'm a little torn here, because to change Khao San Road would be to lose its very essence. This notorious backpacker haven, popularised in the '80s and '90s, is just as sleazy as you would expect, filled with rowdy backpacker bars, cheap-as-chips hostels, and street stands selling some of the city's worst pad Thai. It's famous, but that doesn't mean it's pleasant. Still, would you want to change that? There are plenty of other places in Bangkok to go. Maybe Khao San Road should be left as it is.

Until then, try: Phra Athit Road is Khoa San's classier cousin.

Philosopher's Path, Kyoto

Scenic landscape in spring time along the famous Philosopher's walk. The Path is a famous pedestrian path in Higashiyama district, Kyoto, Japan iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Ben Groundwater iconic streets around the world that need to be saved or fixed

Photo: iStock

Kyoto is beautiful: stunningly, achingly beautiful. There's so much to love about this city, so much beauty to soak in, so much history to enjoy. Every street seems more charming than the last; every temple more mind-bogglingly lovely. And so for the famous Philosopher's Path, a winding walkway in the north-east of the city, you have high hopes. And those hopes, unless you arrive during cherry blossom season, will probably be dashed. The Philosopher's Path is oddly bland, a canal-side track that winds through a nondescript neighbourhood, leading nowhere in particular.

Until then, try: The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is an Instagrammer's fantasy.

Abbey Rd, London

Thousands of fans gather to walk across the Abbey Road zebra crossing, on the 50th anniversary of British pop musicians The Beatles doing it for the cover of their album 'Abbey Road' in St Johns Wood in London, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. They aimed to cross 50 years to the minute since the 'Fab Four' were photographed for the album.(Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

Photo: AP

You only have yourself to blame if you arrive at Abbey Road in London expecting something amazing. This is a street that's famous for one thing, and one thing only: a pedestrian crossing that made it onto the cover of a fairly well-known record. Beatles fanatics and curious tourists flock here to recreate the album cover in their own special way, and then look around and realise there's nothing else to do. (As an aside, London's Carnaby Street and Brick Lane are also seriously underwhelming.)

Until then, try: Regent Street has plenty of old-England charm, plus things to do.

Which famous streets have you visited? Were you impressed? Or disappointed?

Email: b.groundwater@traveller.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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