People might flock to Hollywood to catch a glimpse of their favorite movie stars or make the eternity-long journey Down Under in search of drop bears, but no region boasts quite a diverse and vibrant allure as the European continent.
Made up of 44 countries, Europe has an almost never-ending list of intriguing places to visit. As expected, however, tourists tend to gravitate to the already-beaten path, echoing trips that friends or family have come home raving about. Unfortunately, when that happens, iconic landmarks become overrun with foreigners and can never live up to the almighty reputation thrust upon them.
The Iron Lady might be an icon of Paris, and Europe, for that matter, but it’s just like any other skyscrapers - just a little more pointy. In peak tourist season, the lines to ascend to the observation platform can have waiting times in excess of an hour (unless you want to take the stairs, in which case, good luck!), the cost is astronomical, and there are scammers dotted around every corner trying to take advantage of confused tourists.
The Eiffel Tower is the face of the city, but you can’t see it when you’re standing right on top of it. For that reason, the Montparnasse Tower’s observation deck is a great choice, but nothing can beat the view from the Sacre Coeur.
As a landmark on its own, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is actually pretty interesting. It blends history with quirkiness (that famous lean), however, that’s about where its list of positives come to an end.
The number of obnoxious tourists trying to snap the next cliché selfie is enough to drive most visitors nuts, and the tower itself isn’t as big as it appears in the pictures. Plus, compared to many of its less-trafficked neighbors, Pisa is a rather dull city. Skip the town altogether and spend a day walking the coastal path in Cinque Terre - offering incredible colorful cliffside vistas.
There’s no fine print for this European attraction - Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid Statue really is LITTLE - measuring up to a mere 1.25 meters! For some mysterious reason, the rather insignificant statue draws crowds of tourists from near and far, the majority of which leave disappointed after realizing its size, plus the watery background vista isn’t much to write home about either.
Snap a quick photo if you must, however, your time would be significantly better spend strolling thought Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park and beautiful garden with a history dating back to the 19th century. It’s also positioned smack bang in the middle of town, so it’s easily worked into any itinerary.
What was once considered as the epicenter of Ireland’s culture and nightlife, Temple Bar (it’s not actually one bar, it’s the whole area) has quickly transitioned into something of a tourist trap. The streets are flooded by an array of intoxicated tourists on pub crawls and selfie-happy foreigners, so the traditional feel of Temple Bar these days feels much more contrived.
If beer is the name of the game, then head to the Guinness Storehouse. There’ll certainly be a few tourists here as well, but the crowds are smaller and genuinely interested in the history and brewing process of the national drink, Guinness.
While Venezia is an entire city, it’s also a thriving tourist landmark due to its uniqueness. Unfortunately, heavy tourism has taken its toll on the once-stunning, canal-woven, floating city. The immense foot traffic is causing the city to slowly sink, the crowds are unbearably large, the rivers are often ridden with litter and foul-smelling, and its atmosphere has become jaded and contrived. Worst of all, a 30-minute ride on an iconic gondola will set you back 80 euro (close to 90 USD).
Skip Venice altogether and head inland to Verona for a day or two before grabbing the train down to Florence and exploring the stunning Tuscany region.
For those who are underage, you’re better off skipping this entry and moving on to our rocky friend, Stonehenge. Alright, now that we’ve got rid of the kiddies, let’s talk about why Amsterdam’s Red Light District is a disappointment. The beckoners dotted along the R-rated strip once lured in customers with clever sales tactics, the rise of an eyebrow, and a little bit of charm. These days, however, they’re glued to their cell phones and have little interest in bringing you in for a 'play.'
Forget the taboo red light district altogether and explore one of Amsterdam’s many world-renowned museums, such as the Van Gogh.
With close to a million annual visitors, Stonehenge in the town of Wiltshire, England is up there among the UK’s most popular tourist attractions. While the landmark might be shrouded in mystery, at the end of the day, it’s nothing more than a pile of awkwardly stacked rocks in the middle of nowhere. It’s not even that isolated either - the roaring motorway is audible from the site.
Forget Stonehenge and its hoard of underwhelmed tourists and spend an extra day in London instead. The English capital is booming with culture, art, and history, all of which overshadow Stonehenge by a long way.
Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic painting sits permanently in the Louvre - the world’s most visited museum. While the museum boats over 380,000 objects, the Louvre's most famous art piece is undoubtedly the Mona Lisa. Considering that the Louvre received 10.2 million visitors in 2018 (Statista), you can only imagine how many selfie-happy tourists swarmed the piece of art. Not only is it suffocatingly crowded, but it’s also much smaller than expected and heavily protected.
The smaller Musée d'Orsay, built in an old train station, displays countless famous works of art and is a much better investment of your precious time in Paris.
For some odd reason that nobody can quite put their finger in, this tiny statue is an incredibly famous tourist attraction. There’s nothing more to it than exactly what you see - a bronze sculpture of a little boy peeing into a fountain. That’s literally all it is. Oh, it’s also not even the original, it’s a copy...of a copy! Since it is in the middle of Brussels, you’ll probably walk past it at one point or another, but don’t waste any time trying to elbow through the crowds to nab a photo.
Instead, take advantage of Brussels’ thriving beer and chocolate scenes by taking a tour or simply popping in from pub to pub for a few samples.
In the Paris district of Pigalle, the red windmill atop the Moulin Rouge is an iconic postcard-topper. While it’s not too obscure during the day, at night surrounded by the neon-lit signs of the red light district, it can come across as both tacky and grimy. The Moulin Rouge itself is also excruciatingly expensive, so grab a quick photo in front of the windmill if you must, but get out of the area soon after.
Less than a 5-minute walk from the Moulin Rouge is an area much more deserving of a pleasant stroll - Montmartre. The hilly streets and quaint cafes are charming, while the view from the Basilica du Sacre-Coeur is top-notch.