Overrated Sights in Europe: Many people will tell you that you need to visit these “world-famous attractions”. But sometimes people are wrong. Save your precious vacation time for the best these destinations have to offer, not overpriced touristy places. Here are some of Europe’s most hyped attractions and alternatives.
Eiffel Tower, Paris
You might like the view from the tower, but absolutely no one likes queues. You will be surrounded by screaming children and pushed around in the scorching sun or rain for an hour or more. And when you finally get to the end of the line, you will be pushed into a crowded elevator that will take you to an equally crowded platform, and you will have to make an effort to get to the railing from where you can see.
When you take pictures, you will realize that they will all be missing one important element in Paris – the Eiffel Tower.
Instead: Arc de Triomphe, Paris
There are so many excellent viewpoints in Paris, from the terrace of the Sacré-Coeur in the north to the bar in the Montparnasse tower in the south. But one of the best is on the right bank of the Seine, directly opposite the Eiffel Tower.
The Arc de Triomphe, built-in 1836, offers panoramic views of the Champs Elysees, the Louvre, the Seine, Notre Dame, the Sacré Coeur, and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. And, unlike its left-bank competitor, the rooftop is rarely crowded, with an average waiting time in the line of just five minutes.
Spanish Steps, Rome
To quote Wikipedia: “The Spanish Steps are a set of steps in Rome, Italy.” And this is their exact description. These are the steps. They don’t lead to anything particularly noteworthy, nor do they provide great views.
There is an old fountain with a submerged boat at the bottom, which is one of the least impressive fountains in this fountain-rich city.
Instead: Trastevere, Rome
This lively little area is where the Romans come to relax with friends over food and drink.
Buda Castle, Budapest
The city’s most prominent landmark is a disappointment. When you think of a castle, you expect grandeur – medieval thrones, armor, magnificent ballrooms. But climbing a steep hill – or paying for a snail-slow old funicular – in the sleepy “Buda” half of Budapest, you find yourself on a piece of land the size of a football field.
There is a historical museum there, but other than that, the best thing you can do is walk around the walls and admire the Danube on the Pest side of Budapest. Just a waste of the day
Instead: Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest
Forget the antics of the populist politicians inside and focus on the grandeur of this neo-Gothic beauty, built-in 1902, one of the world’s greatest government buildings. During the tour, you will see some of its 365 towers, the gold decoration of 691 rooms, and 29 staircases – plus the Holy Crown of Hungary.
The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen
For the title of the most miserable statue in Europe, competing with the tiny Brussels pissing boy, this soft prefix on a rock in the harbor of Copenhagen is fighting. She sits looking across a small stretch of water to the opposite bank, where you will see dreary working docks, warehouses, and cranes.
Created in 1913, this sad creature was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale about a mermaid who sheds her gills to live on land. Judging by the facial expression of this sculpture, The Little Mermaid 100% regrets this decision – and you will regret spending an hour to find it.
Instead: Louisiana Museum of Contemporary Art, Humlebeck.
Take a look at Henry Moore’s Figure #5 and watch the wind move the iron arms of Alexander Calder’s little Janey Wayne mobile across the lawn.
When you’re done exploring the vast Sculpture Garden, head inside to see works by Louise Bourgeois’ giant spider and Alberto Giacometti’s skinny human sculptures, as well as paintings by world-famous artists.
It can take 45 minutes to drive from downtown Copenhagen to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, but unlike The Little Mermaid, it’s well worth the trip.
Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin
Have you ever seen Portaloo? If this struck you, you will definitely love Checkpoint Charlie. If that doesn’t sound like you, then it’s best to stay away from this seedy barn located in the middle lane of Berlin’s busy road. And this is not even a real Checkpoint Charlie, but it’s a modern copy. There are several sandbags, loudspeakers, and a sign saying “You are leaving the American sector” … – and that’s it.
Instead: East Side Gallery, Berlin
This 1.3-kilometer section of the Berlin Wall is a much more emotional relic of the Soviet era in Berlin. Since 1990, it has been a free open-air art gallery with murals by artists from all over the world. They reflect political and social themes, many of which are still disturbing.
Park Guell, Barcelona
You’ll see photos of its sumptuous balustrades everywhere – on the covers of travel guides, travel articles, and on Instagram. But what you may not realize until you drive up to the gate on the north side of Barcelona is that, unlike most parks, you have to queue and pay ten to enter the picturesque part.
It is also one of the smallest works by Antoni Gaudí in the city. And if you’re just looking for open green spaces to get some fresh air, you’ve come to the wrong place too. The back part of the park is free, but there is little interesting, with trampled dirt paths and thirsty trees, and crowds of tourists roam in the front.
Instead: Casa Vicens, Barcelona
Fans of Antoni Gaudí would be better off investing in one of the dozen other Gaudí attractions in the city, all of which are more impressive and closer to the city center. One of the lesser-known – and therefore less crowded – Gaudí’s first major buildings in Barcelona is Casa Vicens, a charming house with an elegant terraced garden built in 1885 in a flamboyant Catalan Art Nouveau style.
Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pisa
If you don’t want a crappy photo of you “holding” that slightly wobbly tower, save yourself the trip to Pisa. It looks much more interesting in photos than in real life, and if you pay to climb it, you will be queuing for hours. You won’t get much of an experience for 20 euros and you’ll only be breathless after climbing 300 steps, not from the view of the low-rise town and flat countryside.
Instead: Asinelli Tower and Garisenda, Bologna
In fact, there are leaning towers all over Italy, from tiny villages to big cities. But in the beautiful city of Bologna, two hours from Pisa, there are not one, but two leaning towers and they are also older than those in Pisa.
They are located in close proximity to each other, and one of them, Torre Degli Asinelli, is the tallest leaning tower in the world, with a height of 97.2 meters. Admission is only €5, and you’ll rarely see lines to climb the 498 steps to the top, where you’ll see the terracotta roofs and Spiers of Bologna, and the lush Apennine Mountains right on the outskirts of the city.
Red Light District, Amsterdam
A gaudy area is full of drunken tourists, corrupt women in the windows, and dodgy drug dealers. There is nothing even remotely exciting about this cluster of streets. An extraordinary passion killer, this is one of the most depressing red-light districts in Europe.
Instead: Nine Streets, Amsterdam
It’s hard to go anywhere in this beautiful canal-filled city and not be enchanted by it – with the exception of the Red Light District. But if you’re short on time and want to see the great canal houses, shops, restaurants, and bars, head straight for Nine Streets, close to the Anne Frank House and within walking distance of the main train station.
Shop for aged gouda at the cheese shop and vintage clothing at the boutique, then grab a beer and grab a bite to eat at one of the cozy old canal-view bars.