Trading taste for tat: The world's 10 tackiest streets

If you're tacky and you know it, clap your hands… Some streets around the world have achieved global fame, and whole-heartedly thrown themselves into milking as much money as possible from that fame. These streets swapped sophistication for souvenirs and traded taste for tat. Most visitors already know this, but still show up anyway.

So be warned and know what you're getting yourself into if you decide to embrace the tack in any of these 10 streets…

Khao San Road

Where? Bangkok, Thailand

The backpacker hub of South East Asia has the feel and appeal of a permanent stag party. Originally home to a few hostels and bars, Khao San Road has become saturated with highly dubious accommodation, market stalls selling unrelenting tat and bars pouring out suspiciously cheap cocktails using spirits of questionable provenance. You really need to be in the mood for it to enjoy it.

The Royal Mile

Where? Edinburgh

Colorful street with shops Edinburgh Old Town
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The historic procession route up towards Edinburgh Castle has got lots of good stuff along it. Real Mary King's Close is the highlight of several pretty decent museums and attractions. But no-one's going to pretend that the Royal Mile is a place of serene authenticity. The route is lined by street entertainers and the diametric opposite of entertainers – bagpipers.

Las Vegas Boulevard

Where? Las Vegas, USA

Las Vegas, Nevasa, USA - March 26, 2016: View of the Las Vegas strip on the night, the strip is full of hotel and casino. Is visible in the background the tour eiffel replica tower. SunOct6cover - So touristy so good - text Ben Groundwater
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Also known as The Strip, Las Vegas Boulevard is where most of Vegas' gigantic casino resorts line up. As a spectacle, it is awesome. A rollercoaster runs through New York, New York. The fountains dance outside the Bellagio. A replica Eiffel Tower soars above Paris. It looks incredible, but the experience of attempting to walk down The Strip is somewhat tawdry. Hundreds of people handing out leaflets for strip clubs don't exactly help.

The Shambles

Where? York, England

D6P4A0 The Shambles at Christmas, York, Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom, Europe tacky streets
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Over the years, this medieval street has gained a reputation for being the prettiest in England. Cobbled streets and crooked old buildings make for great photos. Unfortunately, it has bought into its own myth, and the old-fashioned jewellers are starting to get crowded out by shops selling scarcely-disguised Harry Potter knock-offs. How many wizard outfitting stores does one street need, exactly?

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Bourbon Street

Where? New Orleans, USA

Crowds in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana
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The historic heart of New Orleans' French Quarter is heaving with bars. Unfortunately, most of them are the sort of bars frequented by people who use 'party' as a verb. Bourbon Street is loud, gaudy, lit with neon and very often a bit fighty. Now, this can make for a great night out if you're up for it, but there's a nagging feeling that it all leans too far into enforced fun.

La Rambla

Where? Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, La Rambla
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Barcelona's famed pedestrian street shot to fame with its flower stalls, pavement mosaics and the Boqueria market. But the undeniable charms brought crowds, and the sort of ahem, entrepreneurs, who are drawn towards crowds. Bad souvenir shops, hordes of human statues and notoriously prolific pickpockets are all part of the Rambla experience. It's also pretty seedy at the southern end, which becomes a red light district at night.

Temple Street

Where? Hong Kong

MONG KOK, HONG KONG - JULY, 2019 : Top view scene of Public Temple street on July 4, 2019 at Yau Ma Tei station area, Hong Kong
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There may have been a time in the dim, distant past when stalls at the Temple Street Night Market sold items that were either high quality or of use to local people. That is certainly not the case now, however. The Temple Street Night Market is shamelessly pitched at the sort of tourist that is suckered into buying any old junk on holiday. It's also the place to go if you've felt like you've had too much personal space in Hong Kong so far, and want to feel hemmed in like a battery chicken.

Karlova

Where? Prague, Czech Republic

J1T8PH Cafe and shops on Karlova, Stare Mesto, Prague, Czech Republic tacky streets
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Alamy Photo: Alamy

Connecting the famed Charles Bridge to Prague's Old Town, Karlova is actually rather beautiful. There are a series of churches along it, complemented by several other handsome old buildings. Good luck actually taking them in, though, as Karlova is absolutely heaving with tourists. Waiting like bears on a salmon run for said tourists are cheap souvenir merchants and junk food purveyors.

Stradun

Where? Dubrovnik, Croatia

2A3103N Croatia travel - tourists in Dubrovnik old town - Stradun main street, a medieval street and buildings, Dubrovnik Croatia Europe tacky streets
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Falling into much the same trap as Karlova is Stradun. It's undeniably fabulous, with gleaming polished stone underfoot and climbing the walls of the churches and hotels that line the route. Stradun is made for processions and promenading, and it is at least wide enough not to feel like you're being kettled. But the sheer weight of tourist numbers makes Stradun hard to love.

Hosier Lane

Where? Melbourne

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 06: Two men are seen walking down Hosier Lane on November 06, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Lockdown restrictions in Melbourne were lifted on 28 October, with people now able to leave their homes for any reason. Cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars can reopen subject to patron limits while beauty services, tattoo parlours and any other service where you can wear a mask will be able to resume. Up to 10 people from any number of households will be able to gather outdoors, however, Victorians are still required to wear a face mask in public.  (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Photo: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty

Australia's contribution to the tacky street collection has a lot to commend it. Hosier Lane is the laneway that first drew international attention to Melbourne's street art scene. And there's still some good street art there. The problem is that there's plenty of half-hearted stuff and mindless tagging, too. The location has become a prize to claim, rather than a good spot to express. The rest of the world has heard about Hosier Lane's reputation too, so it fills with phone camera-wielding tourists who could see much better art in some of the other Melbourne laneways.

Disclosure: David Whitley has been a guest of the respective tourist boards in Edinburgh, Las Vegas, Prague, York and Melbourne.

See also: Australia's ten most spectacular dead ends

See also: Ten titanic hiking treks that should be on your hitlist

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