The 10 hugely popular tourist attractions that were slammed at first

A new tourist attraction in London – the Marble Arch Mound – has become a laughing stock already. Who's going to pay to climb a scrubby little hill, ask the naysayers. But it's by no means the first attraction around the world to be met with scorn – and some of those that were panned at first have gone on to become huge success stories.

THE EIFFEL TOWER

Where? Paris, France

Originally built for a World's Fair, and slated to stand for just 20 years, the Eiffel Tower has become an internationally beloved symbol over time. But when it first appeared, many Parisians regarded it as an eyesore, unforgivably clashing with the rest of the city. Paris' arty set particularly hated it, with novelist Guy de Maupassant having lunch most days in a restaurant at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. He did so not because he loved it, but because it was the only place he didn't have to look at it. See toureiffel.paris

THE POMPIDOU CENTRE

Where? Paris, France

Pompidou Centre

Pompidou Centre Photo: Alamy

If locals felt the Eiffel Tower didn't fit in, then the Pompidou Centre most certainly didn't. Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano came up with a groundbreaking design for this cultural centre, giving it a multi-coloured exoskeleton, with the pipes and structural framework exposed on the outside. At the time, one French paper branded it a "monster", and it was very much love or hate. Nowadays, it's regarded as a masterpiece. See centrepompidou.fr

THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT

Where? Washington DC, US

Washington Monument  from the Lincoln Memorial

Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial Photo: Alamy

It took almost a century for the Washington Monument to finally be completed, after long squabbles between Federalists and Republicans, North and South. Some wanted an equestrian statue, a stone donated by the Pope was destroyed by an anti-Catholic group and construction donations ran out in the 1850s. Mark Twain called it the "memorial chimney", some said it looked like a giant asparagus, and others moaned the giant obelisk was too bare. The carpers lost out, though, and the Washington Monument is still the centrepiece of the National Mall today. See nps.gov/wamo

THE LONDON EYE

Where? London, England

London Eye

London Eye Photo: iStock

The London Eye, perhaps the most famous big wheel on earth, was supposed to be temporary. It had an initial five-year lease, but has since become a permanent fixture on the banks of the Thames. Much of the original backlash was due to it not being ready on time – a technical fault meant it only opened in March 2000, rather than at the turn of the millennium. But that wasn't the only objection. Lord St John of Fawsley, chairman of the Royal Fine Art Commission, insisted the London Eye was a "white elephant". See londoneye.com

THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING

Where? New York, US

Empire State Building

Empire State Building Photo: Alamy

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Now a genuine global icon, the Empire State Building was regarded as a massive waste of money when it opened. That's partly because that opening took place in the teeth of the Great Depression, and most of the office space remained empty. In the first few years, tourism brought in more money than tenancy rents. People are still happy to spend significant money to get a view from the top, 90 years on. See esbnyc.com

THE SAGRADA FAMILIA

Where? Barcelona, Spain

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia Photo: iStock

The Sagrada Familia is such a striking piece of architecture that it attracts millions of visitors even though it isn't finished. Antoni Gaudí's one-of-a-kind basilica wasn't always a universal hit, though. Spanish artists Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali hated it, while George Orwell hoped it would be destroyed in the Spanish Civil War, calling it one of the most hideous buildings in the world. See sagradafamilia.org

MOUNT RUSHMORE

Where? South Dakota, US

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore Photo: iStock

Carving the faces of four Presidents onto the face of a mountain in the Black Hills was an astonishing act of disregard for local feeling. The Lakota Sioux native American people considers the hills sacred and a key part of their creation stories. The Lakota Sioux's objections were dismissed out of hand, however, as were those of suffragists including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who felt there should be a woman's face carved at Mt Rushmore too. See nps.gov/moru

THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

Where? San Francisco, US

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge Photo: iStock

Nowadays, the Golden Gate Bridge is seen as a graceful frame for San Francisco Bay. But while the lobbying process to get it built was under way, many San Franciscans objected, fearing it would spoil their view. They had support from the military, who feared it could prevent Navy ships getting in and out, and the local ferry operator, which frankly didn't want the competition. See goldengate.org

THE BURJ KHALIFA

Where? Dubai

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa Photo: iStock

When the Burj Khalifa opened in 2010, it was generally regarded as a graceless hulk of a thing. The Observer called it "a bleak symbol of Dubai's era of bling". Elsewhere, it was "the world's vainest building" and an "entirely pointless symbol of prestige". Critical opinion hasn't come round entirely, but try telling that to the people who stay in the Armani Hotel or go up to the observation decks. See burjkhalifa.ae

SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

Where? Sydney

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House Photo: iStock

The Sydney Opera House is instantly recognisable across the world, but it wasn't universally popular when it opened. Big budget overruns, long construction delays and constant squabbles with architect Jorn Utzon had many Sydneysiders – including several prominent state politicians – question whether it was worth it. Almost 50 years on, there's a pretty conclusive answer to that. See sydneyoperahouse.com

Disclosure: David Whitley has been the guest of the NSW, California and New York tourist boards.

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