Europe is home to some of the world’s most iconic landmarks. You’ll never run out of things to do and see here, and whatever you include in your itinerary, you’ll always be left with amazing memories.
But in the major cities, like Rome, Paris, Berlin, and Barcelona, some of the most well-known highlights could leave you feeling disappointed. Often unreasonably expensive and overcrowded, these attractions are better off left out of the itinerary. And there are plenty of free, lesser-known landmarks and attractions that give you the same experience without the startling price tag and sensations of claustrophobia.
Check out these 10 tourist traps to look out for in the busy cities of Europe.
10 The Spanish Steps, Rome
The Spanish Steps are one of the most famous landmarks in Rome. While you don’t have to pay to see them, it might be a good idea to opt for seeing other highlights in the Eternal City if you’re strapped for time. Of course the Steps are historically significant, but in reality, the landmark consists of a wide staircase that’s covered in crowds.
If you have lots of time, then, by all means, go to the Spanish Steps. But if you’re on a tight schedule, then it’s more worthwhile to spend your time at the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Pantheon.
9 The Little Mermaid, Denmark
While in Copenhagen, most tourists flock to the statue of the Little Mermaid. A testament to Danish literary history, the statue pays tribute to one of the most famous fairy-tale characters in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to spend your time while in the beautiful city of Copenhagen.
The statue may be iconic, but it’s only four feet tall and usually hard to see behind all the tourists. There are plenty of other highlights to see in Copenhagen, including the Amalienborg Palace, and the 19th-century amusement park known as Tivoli Gardens.
8 Reichstag, Berlin
It’s true that the Reichstag offers amazing views from the glass dome, but it’s not the only place in Berlin where you can get a spectacular view of the city. Although the Reichstag is still a worthwhile experience, you’ll have to line up in long queues to get up there, as well as pay an admission fee.
Instead, check out the Panoramapunkt building, which is only a short walk away from the Reichstag. According to Her, the building has just as good a view of Berlin but will save you time and money.
7 The Leaning Tower Of Pisa, Pisa
If the only reason you’re going to visit the town of Pisa is to see the Leaning Tower, it might not be worth it. It is a spectacle, and the view from the top is pretty impressive. But there are plenty of similar medieval structures in the region of Tuscany. Why not check out the medieval towers in the town of San Gimignano?
The towers in the town are just as remarkable as other structures in Tuscany (although they’re not leaning!). And there’s bound to be far fewer crowds in Sam Gimignano than in Pisa.
6 La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
La Sagrada Familia is an icon of Barcelona and one of the most marvelous structures you’ll ever see. While we definitely recommend getting some photos of the building from the outside—on a bus tour of the city, perhaps—taking the time to actually go in is kind of overrated. It’s expensive, crowded, and you’ll have to line up for a long time before you get in.
On the other hand, La Catedral de Barcelona is free to enter and is also brimming with history. The building goes back to 599 AD and is definitely worth adding to your bucket list.
5 Gondola Rides, Venice
If your childhood dream was to take a gondola ride across the canals of Venice, then you should do it. Just be aware that it probably won’t be what you expected. Like many things in Venice that are designed for tourists, the gondola rides are incredibly overpriced. It also costs extra to have the gondolier sing to you.
You can still live out your dream by taking a traghetto, which is essentially a less-pretty gondola anyway. Locals use these to cross the canals, and are must cheaper than traditional gondolas.
4 The Eiffel Tower, Paris
To visit Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower sounds like blasphemy to some travelers. While you can still see the tower, going up to the top might not be necessary. Once you’ve snapped some pictures from the bottom, check out the Montparnasse Tower, which was once the tallest skyscraper in France.
From the top of the Montparnasse Tower, you’ll get an unrivaled view of the city. And included in your view will be the Eiffel Tower, which you obviously won’t get from going up to the top of the iconic landmark.
3 The Mona Lisa, Paris
Speaking of tourist traps in Paris, the Mona Lisa—despite all her cultural significance—tends to underwhelm most travelers. There are always huge crowds surrounding the painting, and she’s a lot smaller than most people picture. That said, you shouldn’t bypass the Louvre altogether.
There’s lots of other art that won’t be so underwhelming in the museum, including the Winged Victory of Samothrace, which is one of the world’s most famous statues. There’s also the 18-foot sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike, which dates back over 2,000 years.
2 The Temple Bar, Dublin
The Temple Bar is one of Dublin’s highlights. While it may be a quality establishment, it is so well known now that you’ll virtually always have to battle it out with hordes of crowds for a spot inside. If it were the only pub in Dublin, that might be worth it.
But the Irish capital is full of pubs serving Guinness and a variety of other drinks. Your choices aren’t limited, so choose a place that’s easy to get into. And if you’re heading to a Dublin pub around St. Paddy’s Day, get ready to party!
1 The London Eye, London
The London Eye is renowned for the views it boasts of London from its capsules. But it’s definitely not the best option as far as views of the English capital go. Aside from being expensive, your time on the Eye is limited. Instead, you should head to the Sky Garden.
This is the superior option for a few reasons. Primarily, you can spend as much time as you like taking in the breathtaking view of the city. There are also lots of places to eat and chill out, and it’s totally free.