Every European Country's Worst Tourist Trap
All 44 countries that comprise Europe have amazing things to offer visitors. But they also all have destinations and experiences that can easily be categorized as tourist traps.
OK, maybe not all of them — Moldova, for example, isn’t a place with many tourist traps because it isn’t a place with many tourists. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, is full of foreign visitors and things designed to get their money while offering minimal actual value.
We’ve searched for some of the kitschiest experiences in every European country that we’d advise you to skip while offering up alternative sojourns that are far superior. Yes, Europe is filled with places you should visit. But it’s also home to plenty of places you should avoid at all costs.
Albania — Durres Beach
This tiny Balkan country has a gorgeous stretch of coast on both the Adriatic and Ionian seas. The most popular place to catch some rays and cool off is Durres Beach outside the capital city of Tirana. But good luck finding even a grain of sand among the throngs of thonged tourists. This is where folks go for bubble parties and sickly sweet cocktails.
Instead, check out Gjipe Beach. It’s lightly traveled, farther south on the Ionian Sea and well worth the effort.
Andorra — Ski Resorts
Stuck between Spain and France is the mountainous paradise of Andorra. Naturally, most folks come for the winter sports, booking stays at local ski resorts. The problem? During peak season, this can make overcrowding a serious problem. Plus, these resorts are often pricey.
Savvy visitors are better off ditching their snow gear and warming up in the Caldea thermal spa instead. It’s Europe’s largest thermal spa and worth every relaxing penny.
Austria — Mozart & Strauss Concerts
Vienna is a classical music lover’s dream. Many of the greatest composers hailed from the Austrian capital — but that was many, many years ago. Nowadays, most tourists remember the greats at Mozart & Strauss concerts at the Kursalon, showcasing songs by the two musical legends.
Geared toward tourists, these shows are numerous, expensive and frankly not high-quality enough to justify the cost, especially when they're packaged with overpriced dinners.
Instead of spending your money on one of these kitschy performances, see a live show at the uber-famous Musikverein, where all the greats performed in their day.
Belarus — Old Town Minsk
Avoid the “Old Town” that’s not really very old in Minsk — many of the original 17th and 18th century houses here were recreated in the 1980s — and go literally anywhere else in the capital city, such as the Palace of Art.
Note: Visa-free tourism has been allowed in Belarus only since 2017, so there aren’t exactly traditional tourist traps around the country.
Belgium — Mini-Europe & Atomium
Brussels is home to not one, but two ho-hum tourist attractions. Mini-Europe is a cheesy amusement park featuring replicas of European Union monuments that frankly aren’t all that impressive. (The scale is 1:25.)
The park sits at the foot of Atomium, a bizarre structure made of stainless steel spheres that was constructed for the 1958 Brussels World Expo. Today, it’s a museum that mostly seems dedicated to getting you to buy stuff at the gift shop.
The names of these places are cool, but that’s about it.
Instead, go to the Grand Place in Brussels, especially if you’re visiting in August when the entire square is covered in a blanket of flowers.
Bosnia and Herzegovina — Stari Most
Stari Most, the famous bridge in Mostar that dates back to the 16th century, is actually quite impressive and high, measuring 79 feet.
Just don’t fall for the diving scam here, in which handlers take bets on whether or not a young man will jump. These hucksters only want your money, and if you stand around you’ll almost certainly see the same diving action for free.
Bulgaria — Sunny Beach
Sunny Beach is full of tourists ready to party hard. If you’re between the ages of approximately 18 and 22, and enjoy getting wasted on cheap booze while throngs of people act like idiots around you, be our guest.
Everyone else should head to another beach town on Bulgaria’s Black Sea Riviera, like Ahtopol or Irakli. Both are clothing-optional and offer plenty of excitement, sans the hordes of intoxicated carousers.
Croatia — Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is quite a stunning walled fortress, but it’s absolutely mobbed with tourists from every corner of the world. For that, we can largely “thank” “Game of Thrones,” which used the location as a stand-in for King’s Landing and turned the destination into an over-touristed mess. (On that note, avoid the tourist-trap GoT tours here, too!)
Instead, check out one or two of Croatia’s thousand-plus islands or Dalmatian Coast towns like Zadar and Split. All offer scenic beauty with a modicum of breathing room.
Czech Republic — Expensive Beer in Prague
Yes, this sounds weird as a tourist trap, but when you’re in the famous city and want to enjoy some of the world’s best suds, make sure you’re not paying more than 50 CZK (a little less than 2 euros) for the common brands. Some craft beers will go for more than that, but it’s a baseline you should always be aware of.
Otherwise, you could find yourself getting ripped off, as far too many tourists are.
Denmark — Little Mermaid Statue
The diminutive Little Mermaid statue is one of Copenhagen’s top tourist attractions, which is exactly why you should avoid it. At a mere 4 feet tall, you’ll be lucky to catch a glimpse of it through the dense crowd.
Instead, check out Gefion Fountain. Much more artistic, it depicts the Norse goddess Gefjon driving a group of animals.
Estonia — Tallinn
Tallinn, the capital city, is impressive and filled with interesting history. But it’s also where basically all the tourists to Estonia go, which means plenty of overpriced attractions and not a lot of elbow room.
Instead, check out the neo-classical vibes of Tartu, a college town south of the capital. Or for a true Estonian experience, head to the resort city of Parnu on the Gulf of Riga and relax in a smoke sauna.
Finland — Rovaniemi
If you’ve come this far, you probably wanted to truly get away from it all. So there’s no reason to go to the mega-touristy Santa’s village of Rovaniemi, where it’s Christmas 365 days a year (sounds like a Tim Burton movie from hell).
If you’re way up in Lapland, you’re in one of the peak positions to view the incredible natural phenomenon called Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights. This is a way better use of your precious time.
France — Eiffel Tower
We would never tell anyone to avoid the Eiffel Tower. Except that’s exactly what we’re doing.
The world’s most iconic radio tower is also the world’s most visited paid monument. Get close enough to take some photos, but avoid those crazy lines by heading to Paris’ second-tallest skyscraper, Montparnasse Tower, for equally if not more awesome panoramic views of the city.
Germany — Oktoberfest
We love boots of beer as much as anyone, but we also value streets free of sots and their watery discharges. Oktoberfest is for most attendees a drunken blur. That’s why Munich has so many medics on site and police, albeit friendly police, to try to keep order and peace.
If you’d like to sample Germany’s incredible beer, do so anytime of year anywhere in the country except late September and early October in Munich.
Greece — Acropolis
If selfie sticks, glossy rocks and massive crowds are your jam, then by all means make the pilgrimage to the Acropolis, Athens’ ancient citadel and home of the Parthenon temple. But the city, and all of Greece for that matter, is filled with other archaeological sites that contain a fraction of the tourists.
Many are located around the base of the Acropolis, so while you’re enjoying Hadrian’s Library or the Ancient Agora, you can snap a few photos of the Parthenon without traversing the slippery slopes or having to dodge tourists from all directions.
Holy See — Basically All of It
Also known as Vatican City, this microstate and headquarters of the Catholic Church is essentially one big tourist trap. Visitors to the Sistine Chapel, for example, are herded through like donkeys and given only fleeting glimpses of the incredible frescoes.
There’s only one way to actually enjoy this destination, and that’s by booking in advance a 7:15 a.m. breakfast at Vatican Museum on a weekday, to enjoy one of the most extensive art collections in the world while most people are still in bed.
Hungary — Budapest
It’s easy to think of Budapest and only Budapest when visiting Hungary. The city rightfully earned the title of “Paris of the East” thanks to its incredible architecture and Danube River that cuts it in two. It’s full of castles and terrific food, but also hordes of tourists. To only spend time there would be a mistake.
Hungary is full of spectacular little towns and cities, such as Sopron on the Austrian border. The concentration of protected buildings and official monuments here — 240 in total — make for a Baroque and medieval architecture wonderland.
Iceland — Blue Lagoon
This little island nation is one of the least-visited countries in Europe, so it doesn’t exactly have what one might consider traditional tourist traps. However, where there are tourists and a few bucks to be made, there will be less than ideal adventures and attractions. So instead of paying $94 for the most basic experience at the Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater spa (it can get as expensive as $622 for the complete package), check out the Secret Lagoon for less than $25.
Ireland — Oliver St John Gogarty Pub
For a relatively small country, Ireland packs in a ton of attractions and attracts a ton of tourists. That makes it especially important to wade through the fluff to find the truly unique experiences.
The Oliver St John Gogarty pub and restaurant in Dublin’s Temple Bar neighborhood should be avoided at all costs. It was designed specifically for tourists who think Ireland is all about potatoes and Guinness — and you will pay a premium for that stout.
Instead, try something like Mary's Bar & Hardware Shop, which is a throwback to Ireland’s old village pub scene, when a bar was tucked inside a grocery or DIY shop.
Italy — Piazza Navona
Public squares, or piazzas, are big in these parts, especially Rome. The most famous is easily Piazza Navona, which is beautiful but full of tourist traps like bland restaurants, cheesy street performers and folks hawking cheap souvenirs. It’s also wildly crowded with camera-wielding visitors.
So after you get a whiff of Navona, keep walking a bit and find Campo de Fiori. This public square is a hopping outdoor marketplace by day and a restaurant and nightlife destination by night.
Latvia — Jurmala
When it heats up in summertime, everyone heads to the seaside resort city of Jurmala outside the capital of Riga. The crowds can be overwhelming at these beaches, so it makes more sense to check out another town on the Gulf of Riga like Saulkrasti, or even to opt for a lake experience at the family-friendly Kisezers.
Visitors will find the same warm sun and cool waters, but none of the 80-year-old men in thongs.
Liechtenstein — Winter in the Alps
Liechtenstein is small — its capital city, Vaduz, has only about 5,000 residents — but the mountainous country is full of wonders, all of which can be experienced in a relatively short trip thanks to the country’s compact size.
Tourists come here for winter sports in the Alps and lakeside lounging in warmer months, both of which can be had in a million other locales. Visitors would be wise to instead trek through the castles and museums of Vaduz and the Roman ruins of Schaan, which is actually more populated than the capital city.
Lithuania — Hill of Crosses
Unless you’re on a Christian pilgrimage, there’s no reason to make the trek all the way to the Hill of Crosses, which is exactly what you’re picturing in your head. And “hill” is being generous; it’s more like the Mound of Crosses.
Instead of driving three hours north of the capital Vilnius, just stay right there in the city. Its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the city as a whole was the center of Europe’s largest medieval state, famous for its Baroque, Gothic and neo-classical architecture.
Luxembourg — Grand Ducal Palace
This landlocked microstate is famous for its dozens of castles — 130 by some estimates — meaning that if you make your way to Luxembourg you’re probably going to visit plenty of these historic structures.
That makes it doubly important to avoid the most boring castle of all: Grand Ducal Palace. This is where the Grand Duke of Luxembourg lives and conducts his business, and it has virtually nothing interesting going on. Your time will be better spent checking out the castles of Vianden, Beaufort, Bourscheid, Larochette or Clervaux.
North Macedonia — Fortress Kale
This small Balkan nation, not to be confused with the northern Greece region, is full of historic ruins and extremely wild wildlands. Most start their journeys in the capital city of Skopje, where all would be wise to avoid the Byzantine-era Fortress Kale. It lacks basic signage and upkeep is nonexistent.
For a dose of North Macedonian history, visit the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia.
Malta — Comino
Malta is comprised of three islands just south of Sicily, which means it’s a popular Mediterranean destination for sun and surf. Most beaches are fairly crowded, naturally, but some are more insane than others. Comino, the smallest of the three islands, should be avoided at all costs, unless you dig swimming with thousands of strangers and sunbathing next to even more.
Check out the hidden gems — that require a bit of effort to reach — in Imgiebah Bay, Qarraba Bay and St Peter’s Pool for actual R&R.
Moldova — Nothing!
It’s hard to pinpoint any tourist traps in the third least-visited country in Europe, where just 121,000 international tourists go each year.
So instead of avoiding places in Moldova, travelers should just go there, period. Why? It has interesting museums, cultural attractions like monasteries, archaeological ruins (including three UNESCO sites) and plenty of big-city charm in the capital of Chisinau, with zero real tourist traps to speak of.
Monaco — Monte Carlo District
The land of millionaires is among Europe’s least-visited countries and one of its smallest with about 40,000 residents. Still, its casino, auto race and Mediterannean seaside attract well-heeled visitors and those who want to gawk at yachts and cars that cost as much as a studio apartment in San Francisco.
Most visitors will head for the Monte Carlo district, where the people-watching is prime but the meals are way overpriced and most people lose their shirts at the casino. For a more alternative and affordable experience, check out the flora and incredible views of the Mediterranean from the Jardin Exotique garden.
Montenegro — Old Town Kotor
Often overlooked in favor of its more popular neighbors of Croatia, Italy and Greece, Montenegro is a beautiful and dynamic little country on the Adriatic Sea. Its capital, Kotor, is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans and boasts plenty of charms. But while its walled Old Town is a throwback to medieval times, it’s also the most touristy part of the city and can make you feel like the locals are grabbing at your pockets every minute.
A better option? Find your way to the Adriatic jewel that is Sveti Stefan on the Budva Riviera.
Netherlands — Heineken Experience
Looking for a nice pint or several of Dutch beer? Then avoid the Heineken Experience at all costs.
What used to cost 1 euro for a full brewery tour and all the beers you could drink has become an 18-euro advertisement for a global alcohol brand with kitschy “experiences” like creating your own Heineken label. And all you get to drink is two half-pints of awful beer.
Instead of imbibing propaganda, check out the Netherlands’ incredible craft-beer scene, found in cities from Haarlem to Amsterdam to The Hague.
Norway — Pulpit Rock
Most visitors come to this Scandinavian paradise for the natural beauty — snowy mountains and deep-cut fjords — and the dearth of other people.
But though Norway is huge and lightly populated, in recent years tourists have been making it much more crowded. If you want to enjoy anything resembling solitude, avoid places like Pulpit Rock, a 1,900-foot cliff overlooking a fjord that can only be enjoyed after waiting in a long line. The Trolltunga rock formation and port town of Ålesund have also suffered from over-tourism.
Look for guided tours of Norway’s true wildlands or opt for off-the-beaten-path destinations like Rjukan, Åna-Sira or Folldal to discover the peace and beauty that made this country so popular to begin with.
Poland — Upside Down House
There are numerous mountain resort towns in Poland that offer memorable experiences in all seasons, and one of the best is Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains. But whether you’re there for wintertime skiing or summertime hiking, there is one major tourist trap to cross off the list: the Upside Down House.
It’s meant to symbolize the decades of the Polish People's Republic in the Eastern Bloc and how twisted, or upside down, the country was during this time. We’re down with that kind of rebellion, but not so much with the huge crowds. The house is also really small, making a tour of the inside a waste of time and money.
Save a few euros by snapping a quick photo from the outside, then spend the rest of your day exploring the rest of this cool little mountain town.
Portugal — Sintra
Tourists have only recently discovered the wonders of Portugal, so it’s pretty easy to avoid the crowds and have a truly authentic experience. Many visitors will start their journey in Lisbon, the capital city, and take day trips or short excursions in all directions. One of the first towns people flock to is Sintra, and for good reason — it’s a gorgeous slice of UNESCO-protected history.
But it’s also super-crowded and filled with people looking to make a quick buck off hapless tourists. The dining is overpriced and tours of places like the Sintra Palace cost way more than they should (up to 27 euros per person!).
Just as gorgeous, and far less touristy, is Viana do Castelo in the north of the country. Rent a car and take a four-hour road trip you will not soon forget.
Romania — Casa Vlad Dracul
If you’ve made it all the way to Romania, congratulations. It’s well worth a visit and none of your friends have ever been there or can even locate it on a map (it’s in southeastern Europe).
Once there, you will likely want to visit the beautiful forests and mountains of Transylvania in the north. And you might even have designs on cozying up with the world’s most famous vampire, Vlad the Impaler (Dracula). He was a ruler of old Wallachia and is still revered in the country.
Vlad was born in Sighisoara, a romantic little town and UNESCO site. By all means visit Sighisoara — just avoid Dracula kitsch like Casa Vlad Dracul. It’s reputedly the home where Vlad was born, but it's been completely rebuilt since he was there. The onsite restaurant is mediocre, and a tour amounts to walking into a tiny room and getting jump-scared by a guy dressed in a cheap Count Dracula costume.
Simply enjoying the town on foot is a far better way to go.
Russia — Lenin's Mausoleum
Say what you will about Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, aka Vladimir Lenin, but the father of the Soviet Union still attracts huge crowds. That’s because his corpse has been lying in state since his death in 1924. See it for yourself in Moscow if you must, but know that there are much better ways to spend your time in the Russian capital.
The queue for Lenin will take forever, and all you’ll get is a glimpse of the body before being shuffled along. If it’s Soviet-era relics you desire, there are numerous tours and attractions offering exactly that and more.
San Marino — Shopping
One could make a case that this microstate with millions of visitors a year is one big (er, small) tourist trap; its tax-free status has made it a haven for shoppers looking to buy generic stuff for much less money. As they say, when in (somewhat nearby) Rome…
In all seriousness, if you’re looking for a break from the beaches of Rimini, you could do a lot worse than a San Marino day trip. Located in the Apennine Mountains, the views are stunning and the history is fascinating (it’s the world’s oldest republic). Go for the sightseeing and avoid the shopping crowds.
Serbia — Ski Resorts of Zlatibor
It’s difficult to fault the popular destinations of Belgrade, which is one of Europe’s cooler if grittier cities. So how about the ski resorts of Zlatibor? Why would anyone come to Serbia for skiing?
The country spent a lot of time and money trying to make these resorts destination-worthy, and sadly, those efforts did not pay off. The resorts are small and the slopes offer little in the way of exciting runs.
Instead of coming here for snow sports, check out the country’s amazing wildlands when the ice melts. There’s Djavolja Varoš (Devil’s Town), where the legend goes that petrified wedding guests make up the eroded rock formations. Then there’s Mokra Gora village, Uvac Canyon or Derdap Gorge — all breathtaking and one of a kind.
Slovakia — UFO Observation Deck
There are thousands of visitors to the UFO Observation Deck, but none of them are extraterrestrials. The attraction’s name, disappointingly, refers to its spaceship-like shape.
Still, if you’re keen on being 300 feet above the capital of Bratislava and eating expensive “authentic” food, this is your spot. Just don’t show up if you use a wheelchair, as it’s inaccessible.
For better views and some actual Slovakian history, head to the Bratislava Castle above Old Town. The site dates to the Stone Age and contains a museum and restaurant serving traditional Slovak food.
Slovenia — Lake Bled
Many visitors to this former Yugoslavian state will no doubt check out Lake Bled. It’s often considered the country’s biggest tourist trap, although not necessarily in the avoid-at-all-costs kind of way. Visitors should, however, know a few things before they set out for the lake.
Most things you will want to do are anything but free of charge, including parking. Taking a boat to the little island with the medieval castle can cost 10 to 15 euros per person, and there’s a charge for seeing Savica Falls as well. It’s only a few euros, but most hikers don’t expect to pay anything after trekking for hours to get there.
Oh, and parking tickets are common around the lake, so look out for signs or pay 20 euros for a pass.
Spain — La Rambla
La Rambla might be Barcelona’s most iconic street, but these days it doesn’t live up to the hype.
Years ago it was a fascinating place to see oddball street performers and even weirder items for sale, like exotic plants and pet birds. However, all that charm has been replaced with tourist tat. Also gone are the tapas bars and traditional Catalan food, replaced by overpriced restaurants with bland menus catering to international travelers.
Instead, head to Rambla del Poblenou for its culture, food, people-watching and shops, famously connecting the sea to the mountains.
Sweden — Gamla Stan Restaurants
When in Stockholm, be sure to visit the old town called Gamla Stan. It’s full of incredible sights such as the Nobel Museum, and the architecture is stunning. Peruse the streets and enjoy the ambiance.
Just don’t dine here.
With so many tourists, the restaurants are overpriced and the quality is low compared to the rest of the capital city. Instead, go to the Östermalm neighborhood for its array of interesting eateries. The area is slightly sleepy overall, but the dining scene is on fire.
Switzerland — Matterhorn
Tourists will likely seek out the Matterhorn area of the Alps when in the land of skiing and chocolate, but that will come with some downsides. Yes, the mountain is spectacular, but the crowds are not. There have also been recent concerns over the mountain’s safety; at least six people have died while trying to climb it this year.
Luckily there are tons of alternatives, such as Gemmipass. There you will find some of the country’s best hiking and plenty of family-friendly activities, plus much smaller crowds.
Ukraine — Chernobyl
We’re pretty certain that if you’re visiting this former Soviet republic you can do a lot better than touring the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Chernobyl tourism is increasing as, apparently, more and more folks are just throwing caution to the wind for a chance at some voyeuristic experience. (The recent HBO hit show has made matters even worse.) Even if they tell you the radiation levels are too low to be harmful, we can’t think of a single reason to visit the area.
There is an entire country surrounding Chernobyl that is far more worthy of your time. Check out Kyiv for big-city life, Odessa for a seaside jaunt or the Carpathian Mountains for rural adventures.
United Kingdom — London Eye
London is easily one of the world’s most interesting cities, so what exactly compels someone to spend upwards of £40 to wait in line for an hour to ride a ferris wheel?
Apparently, nearly 4 million people queue up for the 440-foot London Eye every year, which means you should not. Want an incredible view of the city? Try climbing up Primrose Hill. OxoTower has an observation deck as well, and the Sky Garden is free.