Lifehacker US just moved to Times Square, and boy is it weird to work in a neighbourhood run for tourists. I want to shout at them, “I have to be here, but you can leave! Save yourself!” No one should go to Times Square.
As a traveller, if you want to avoid a city’s biggest crush of tourists but still see something interesting, look at these heat maps of where tourists and locals take the most photos around the world.
Data artist Eric Fischer built a map of the world, populated with data from geotagged Twitter photos. A blue dot means a local took a photo in that spot; a red dot means a tourist took a photo. (Fischer identified locals as anyone who took photos in one city for over a month, and tourists as anyone taking photos outside their usual city.)
The maps show that tourists concentrate in certain areas, usually dense city centres, while locals spread out everywhere.
You can’t plan a trip based on this data alone, but it’s a great starting point for finding neighbourhoods and streets to explore. There are clusters around most major streets, but also around walkable streets with a lot of interesting bars, restaurants and shops. You can even spot smaller tourist traps to avoid within local neighbourhoods.
The map isn’t a perfect visitors’ guide: Major parks are weirdly blank, and because the data was collected in 2010–2013, some neighbourhoods are out of date. (For example, this map doesn’t show the recent tourist boom in Williamsburg.) But it still presents an overall accurate picture of where tourists and locals each congregate.
Fischer also captured maps of 36 cities on Flickr, including Sydney, Melbourne and the London map above. He included yellow dots for photos that could be tourists or locals: Places where everyone wants to take a photo, whether they’re here every day or seeing this place for the first time ever.