12 Overrated European Tourist Traps to Avoid This Summer


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With its iconic landmarks, scrumptious cuisine, and rich history, Europe is home to some of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. But as much as I love visiting our favorite cities across the pond (I’m a Barcelona girlie), certain destinations have become notorious tourist traps. Often overrun with droves of tourists, pesky scammers, and inflated prices, these spots make it difficult for budget travelers to enjoy their time without having to spend a lot more than they’d like. 

By avoiding these overly commercialized tourist hot spots, you’ll be able to discover Europe’s hidden gems and experience its true charm without breaking the bank. 

Here are 12 popular European tourist trap to stay away from, plus alternatives on where to go instead. 

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1. The Wall Museum — Checkpoint Charlie (Berlin, Germany)

Famous for its role in the Cold War, Checkpoint Charlie was the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin. Today, it draws throngs of visitors eager to see the reconstructed guardhouse and museum exhibits to gain a unique glimpse into Germany’s divided past. However, the area is often packed with tourists, and the museum’s entry fees can be steep, especially during peak seasons. 

Instead, you’ll be better off visiting the Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse, where you’ll be able to explore a more authentic and less crowded section of the wall, complete with preserved watchtowers and informative displays. 

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2. The London Eye (London, England)

Offering stunning panoramic views of London, the London Eye is one of the city’s most visited attractions. While the 30-minute ride provides a unique perspective on landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, the long lines and pricey tickets ($58) can be off-putting. Budget travelers might prefer a free vantage point, such as Primrose Hill or Greenwich Park, to enjoy London’s skyline.

Another good option for those who despise crowds is Sky Garden. Located atop a skyscraper, “London’s highest public garden” offers stunning views of London for free, along with beautiful indoor gardens, a restaurant, and a more relaxed atmosphere.

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3. Blarney Stone (Cork, Ireland)

Nestled in Blarney Castle, the Blarney Stone is famous for bestowing the gift of eloquence (or “gift of the gab”) upon those who kiss it. Despite its charming (and slightly bizzare) lore, the experience involves climbing steep, narrow stairs and waiting in long lines for a brief moment with the stone. The crowded, tourist-heavy atmosphere and the associated costs can also make it a less appealing destination.

Instead, consider giving the nearby Rock of Cashel a visit. This historic site features medieval buildings set on a limestone hill, offering rich history and stunning views without the long lines and touristy feel of the Blarney Stone.

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4. Trevi Fountain (Rome, Italy)

Renowned for its intricate Baroque-style architecture, the Trevi Fountain is often viewed as a must-see attraction in Rome. Tradition dictates that tossing a coin into the fountain will bring you good luck and ensure that you’ll return to the city in the future. But the area is perpetually crowded, pickpocket-prone, and surrounded by overpriced restaurants, making it difficult to enjoy its beauty and history in peace.

A less touristy alternative is Villa d’Este in Tivoli. A short trip from Rome, this UNESCO World Heritage site features magnificent gardens, fountains, and Renaissance architecture — all the while providing a more serene yet equally beautiful experience.

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5. Mona Lisa at The Louvre (Paris, France)

The Mona Lisa, which sits in Paris’ famed Louvre Museum, is arguably the most famous painting in the world. But seeing this da Vinci masterpiece in person means you’ll be fighting your way through massive crowds, as throngs of people jostle through for just a brief, distant view. The Louvre itself is vast, and while it’s rich in art and history, the focus on the Mona Lisa can overshadow other, less crowded treasures.

Instead, visit nearby Musée de l’Orangerie. Home to Monet’s “Water Lilies” and other impressionist masterpieces, this underrated museum offers a more peaceful and intimate art-viewing experience compared to the crowded halls of the Louvre.

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6. Leicester Square (London, England)

Known for its vibrant atmosphere in the heart of London’s West End, Leicester Square is a hub for entertainment, theaters, and cinemas. However, the British version of Times Square can also be a tourist magnet, which results in crowded streets and steep prices at nearby eateries, pubs, and shops. The overwhelming number of visitors can take away from the enjoyment of this lively and exciting area. 

For a less hectic and crowded experience, visit nearby Covent Garden. This historic market area is still lively but much less crowded, with street performers, shops, and a variety of dining options in a more relaxed (and affordable) setting. 

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7. La Rambla (Barcelona, Spain)

A tree-lined pedestrian street, La Rambla is famous for its shops, live shows, street performers, and historic sites. While it’s a vibrant part of Barcelona’s culture, it is also notorious for being overcrowded and a hotspot for pickpockets. The high prices at cafes and tourist shops further contribute to its reputation as a tourist trap.

Instead, consider visiting the much quainter Gràcia District. This charming neighborhood is known for its bohemian atmosphere, quaint streets, robust dining options, bars, and cafes. This way, you’ll still get to experience all that Barcelona has to offer away from the tourist-heavy areas. 

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8. Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)

One of the most iconic landmarks in the world, the Eiffel Tower undoubtedly offers breathtaking views of the City of Lights (or is it the City of Love?). However, the queues for tickets and the crowded observation decks can be overwhelming. In addition, the surrounding area is filled with vendors and overpriced souvenir shops, which can make it feel chaotic and unsafe. 

If you’re not a fan of spending 50 euros (about $55) on an elevator ticket, visit the Montparnasse Tower instead. This skyscraper offers stunning panoramic views of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower, but with much shorter lines and cheaper tickets.

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9. The Colosseum (Rome, Italy)

As a symbol of ancient Rome, the Colosseum attracts millions of visitors each year. (I mean it really is wild that gladiators used to fight each other to the death for entertainment within these walls). The historical significance and impressive architecture are undeniable, but the long lines and crowded tours can be exhausting and take away from the overall experience.  

Instead, visit the nearby Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. These lesser-known sites still offer an intimate view of ancient Roman ruins and their historical insights with fewer crowds.

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10. Santorini (Greece)

Known for its stunning sunsets and ornate blue roof buildings, Santorini is a popular destination in the Greek islands. However, the influx of tourists during peak season (typically July through August) can lead to overcrowded streets and beaches, as well as inflated prices for accommodations and dining. During this time, travelers will find more serene and affordable experiences on other, less-visited Greek islands.

To beat the crowds, consider visiting Naxos. This nearby island offers equally beautiful beaches, charming villages, and historical sites without the overwhelming crowds and high prices of Santorini.

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11. Versailles (France)

The Palace of Versailles is renowned for its opulent architecture and beautifully kept gardens. However, the sheer volume of visitors, especially in the summer, can make the experience less enjoyable. The long lines, crowded rooms, and high entrance fees can detract from the splendor of the palace and its rich history. 

Instead, visit the Château de Fontainebleau. This underrated but equally grand palace offers stunning architecture, beautiful gardens, and rich history, but with fewer visitors and a more peaceful environment compared to Versailles.

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12. Pisa (Italy)

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is an iconic sight, drawing droves of tourists eager to capture the perfect “look, I’m holding the tower up” photo. As a result, the small area around the tower can get extremely crowded, and the surrounding souvenir stalls can charge exorbitantly high prices for everything from drinks and food to trinkets and souvenirs. 

Instead, consider visiting nearby towns like Lucca or Siena. These charming Tuscan spots are known for their well-preserved Renaissance walls, historic buildings, and more relaxed atmosphere. You’ll also find some of the best pasta in Lucca, trust me. 

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