If your Instagram feed feels familiar, there’s probably a good reason for that. According to one recent study, visitors to major international cities are posting photo after photo of the same key sites – and they’re doing so in overwhelming numbers.  

Eiffel tower and the Trocadero from the 'Parvis des droits de l'homme'.
According to one study, the Eiffel Tower is the world’s most Instagrammed  site © MathieuRivrin/Getty Images

To quantify that sense of scrolling-induced déjà vu, researchers from the InterContinental hotel chain looked at the top Instagram hashtags for seven always-trending destinations – Paris, Shanghai, Dubai, Sydney, Mexico City, London, and New York City – analysing thousands of social-media shares over the course of a week to determine each location’s five most overexposed tourist sites. 

Elevated view of Lujiazui financial district and the Bund skyline at dusk; Shanghai, China.
Central Shanghai's Bund waterfront features in 44% of all #Shanghai photos analyzed © Dove Lee/Getty Images

Per the InterContinental ICons Research Study, the Eiffel Tower is the world’s most Instagrammed, showing up in 53% of all #Paris photos examined – and 10% of all posts globally. The Bund features in 44% of all #Shanghai pics, and 36% of all #Dubai photos analyzed during the test period show the Burj Khalifa; the Sydney Opera House is next, followed by Mexico City’s Pyramid de Teotihuacan, London’s Buckingham Palace, and Central Park in New York City – all tried-and-true favourites, no creative thinking or off-the-beaten-path destinations here. 

A skyscraper in Dubai.
The Burj Khalifa © Ilona Ignatova / Shutterstock

But as popular as Central Park may be, it isn’t feeling the full brunt of overexposure just yet. Alongside its Instagram analysis, InterContinental conducted an online survey of more than 1500 New York City residents, and between the Frederick Law Olmsted masterpiece, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock observation deck – the five most Instagrammed sites in the city –  three out of four respondents declared Times Square the most over-hyped.

One of the world’s most distinctive buildings, Sydney Opera House, glows in the early morning light.
The famed Opera House appears in 35% of all #Sydney photos analyzed © Jonathon Stokes/Lonely Planet

There’s a connection between which sites travellers are visiting and which ones they’re posting about. Tourists can be so focused on checking sites off their bucket list that they miss out on getting to know the destination as a whole, and the general feeling is that they overlook the best bits, at least according to nearly 60% of global survey respondents. 

 Pyramids of the Sun and Moon on the Avenue of the Dead, Teotihuacan ancient historic cultural city, old ruins of Aztec civilization, Mexico, North America.
For a quarter of all #MexicoCity photos analyzed, the focus is on the Pyramid de Teotihuacan © Anna Omelchenko/Shutterstock

“We understand that travellers are craving a deeper connection to the places they visit,” Ginger Taggart, VP of global marketing for IHG Luxury Portfolio, said in a press release. “We’ve set out to discover and celebrate authentic places and moments that might be overlooked by visitors but are truly part of what makes a city special. We want to reignite a sense of fascination for these much-visited cities and encourage discussion around what makes them truly iconic.”

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