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10 Most Overrated European Destinations

Europe is one of my favorite travel destinations because you can literally hop on a train and find yourself in a new country within a few hours.  I also love that there’s so much history in Europe, many cities are walkable, and overall, European cities have more character than the cities in the U.S.  So, as a result of my love for this continent, I’ve done quite a bit of exploring – especially in many of its major cities – which is why with all the data points I now have, I think the below are the 10 most overrated European destinations.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t visit these cities – I’m just saying to set your expectations accordingly when you do visit.

(This line to enter the Notre Dame Cathedral wrapped around the block!)

(This line to enter the Notre Dame Cathedral wrapped around the block!)

1. Paris – I can see the allure of the city of lights but Paris isn’t as romantic as it’s portrayed in movies.  There’s trash on the streets, the metros smell, the people aren’t particularly friendly (note: they aren’t unfriendly. I think the Parisians just like to keep to themselves), and for a country renown for its perfumes, the locals don’t seem to take to applying deodorant which can be a downer if you’re visiting in the hot summer months.  Speaking of visiting, Paris is crowded in the summer and the winter (at least during the holidays), which means that for a tourist, you need to be prepared to spend an exorbitant amount of time standing in line if you want to hit up the major attractions.

(Rome, Italy; I had to wait until night time to get a photo without the throngs of tourists that invade this city during the daytime)

(Rome, Italy; I had to wait until night time to get a photo without the throngs of tourists that invade this city during the daytime)

2. Rome – Oh Rome… where do I start with you?  You’ve got so much history that you’re still basking in the limelight of yesterday.  But because every single tourist in Italy can’t leave home without visiting Rome, the city is a crowded hodgepodge of tourists elbowing each other for photo ops in front of your Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and of course, that Colosseum.  As a visitor, I never know if your metro will strike.  You’re also the only city in Italy with restaurants that will add a 15% gratuity to your bills just because you can get away with it. I visit Rome hoping for some eternal city enlightenment but I always leave feeling somewhat gypped.

(Budapest, Hungary)

(Budapest, Hungary)

3. Budapest – This city has been on so many “must see” lists lately and after visiting Budapest last year, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re going to go to Budapest, go when you haven’t seen much of Europe yet.  Then you’ll be enthralled by the architecture, the Danube that separates Buda and Pest, and the “charm” of the city’s many neighborhoods and pedestrian streets.  If, however, you’ve already seen a fair amount of Europe, Budapest comes off as another European city by the water that’s inconveniently waaaaayyyyy too big to navigate on foot.  Oh, and the Szechenyi baths that’s rated as the #1 attraction in Budapest by Rick Steves?  That was probably the most overrated thing about the city.

(Mykonos, Greece)

(Mykonos, Greece)

4. Mykonos – This Greek “party island” is a pretty place to visit.  It’s got windmills, beaches, meandering white-washed pathways lined with boutiques, and even decent Greek food.  But, if you visit Mykonos after you’ve been to Santorini, forget about it.  Santorini is on another level.  Also, if you’re not a big party type or if you have access to nice beaches back at home, then Mykonos doesn’t have a whole lot going for it (the beaches there operate like beach clubs and you have to rent a lounge chair – on a crowded strip of sand).  I will, however, say that Mykonos had the best damn cheesecake I’ve ever had in my life.  Come to think of it, I’d go back to that island just for the cheesecake.

(The BMW Museum in Munich, Germany)

(The BMW Museum in Munich, Germany)

5. Munich –  Yes, there’s the Hofbrauhaus and the BMW Museum, but for such a popular city in Germany, there’s not a ton of things for visitors there that they couldn’t get from any other city.  I guess Munich makes for a good launching point to Bavaria but in terms of the amount of time you really need to see the city, it’s maybe just a day (or less), unless you’re super into BMWs.  If you’re itching to go to a German city, I’d recommend Berlin over Munich any day.

(Zurich, Switzerland, is a peaceful little city without a whole lot to do.)

(Zurich, Switzerland, is a peaceful little city without a whole lot to do.)

6. Zurich – This is another pretty little city by a river.  But once you’ve walked through the city (which would take you about half a day), you’ve seen it all.  And what you’ve seen is not a whole lot.  There are restaurants, trees, churches, and some fancy shopping areas… and a bunch of stuff you can’t afford because the Swiss Franc is a lot stronger than our dollar.  Even the people in Zurich don’t make for much interesting people watching.  The Swiss tend to be reserved and quiet (no kidding, at the Zurich airport, you could probably hear a pin drop!).

(Geneva, Switzerland; photo from here)

(Geneva, Switzerland; photo from here)

7. Geneva – While I continue to talk about Swiss cities, let’s add Geneva to the list. Besides being the city for the Geneva Convention, the city is kind of just… a big city that’s somewhat plain and sterile for visitors.  This is the one city on this list I’d say you should skip altogether.

(Milan; photo from here)

(Milan; photo from here)

8. Milan – The thought of Milan conjures up images of high fashion Italy – all your Dolce Gabbanas, Pradas, and Versaces.  But unless you get a kick out of seeing this stereotypical fashion powerhouse side of Italy or you’re in Italy just to shop, there’s not much of a reason to visit Milan – especially when you consider that there are at least a dozen other cities in Italy that are ten times as scenic, alluring, or charming as this one (and that even includes Rome).

(You can

(You can’t leave Pisa without posing like this – well, I couldn’t at least.)

9. Pisa – What’s a trip to Italy without seeing the Leaning Tower, right?  Unfortunately, the city of Pisa is not only in the middle of nowhere (it’s an hour train ride from Florence), there’s nothing to see in the city besides the one swatch of land that has the Leaning Tower.  And because tourists will still go there, that one swatch of land is lined with tacky souvenir stands while every other tourist tries to take a photo of themselves “holding up” the tower.  When you’re watching everyone take that standard photo, you’ll realize how ridiculous everyone looks but then you’ll realize you’ve come all this way and no one knows who you are so you kind of have to take that same photo…

(Helsinki, Finland... but let

(Helsinki, Finland… but let’s be real. If I told you this was another European city, you’d probably believe me.)

10. Helsinki – I love Scandinavia but of all the major Scandinavian cities, Helsinki has to be one of the most “ordinary”.  It looks like any other Scandinavian city – it has a park, it’s next to water, it has a downtown with restaurants, it has pleasant citizens who all look middle class… I mean, Oslo and Stockholm at least have their Nobel Prize buildings and Copenhagen has an interesting and buzzing waterfront/wharf.  As a result, Helsinki pales in comparison to these other cities. Oh, and if you want to include Iceland’s Reykjavik in the list of Scandinavian cities, don’t even get me started on Iceland – my love for Iceland is what inspired me to start this blog.

That was my personal list.  What European cities did you find overrated?

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Jeff - July 11, 2014 - 12:24 pm

Brussels, Prague, and Venice. Excessive tourism is ruining the latter two, I’d say.

Mark - July 11, 2014 - 1:02 pm

Wow. disagree! hahaha

Paris is my favorite city in the world. the romance oooozes out of the Siene river along the river banks. Been there multiple times and always seeking a return..

Rome is awesome – the food, the wine, the sights! Can be exhausting tho.

Mykonos is fun! quiet little beach, warm waters, and a party spot if you are into that.. but there’s quiet spots to relax.

Agree with Milan, Zurich & Pisa. 🙂

Rob - August 7, 2014 - 12:30 pm

Dude, munich aint the capital of germany…

JustWanderlust - August 7, 2014 - 1:49 pm

Rob – OMG! You’re right. Oops! I updated the post. Thanks.

Stephanie - September 3, 2014 - 9:10 am

I agree with ALL of these. I went to Paris four times already – hate it more each time! Rome – once was enough. I was so disappointed by Helsinki (I currently study in Stockholm) – was thinking of heading to Munich but may have to tailor plans!

Amanda @ A Latte Learn - September 21, 2014 - 10:48 pm

Awe, I disagree about Paris. Even with the hype, I enjoyed it so much. Great museums, food, and architectural beauty. And with a monuments pass you alleviate so much of the waiting in line and ticket admissions hassle. I was visiting right in the middle of Summer and had no wait at the Louvre or Musee d’Orsday. I definitely agree with you about Rome. What a disappointment. I had a one nights stop in Heidelberg, Germany once. That I could’ve done without. I would love to visit Berlin!

Alonso - September 26, 2014 - 9:31 am

Agree with Paris, Zurich, and Geneva but completely disagree about Munich. The English garden is beautiful, the market in the city centre has delicious food and great beer, there’s tons of museums, gorgeous churches (St. Peter’s church is probably my favourite church in Europe) and the locals are some of the most friendliest and helpful people I’ve ever met. Guess I just had a different experience though :/

Paul - October 26, 2014 - 12:37 am

I definitely agree with Paris, Budapest and Mykonos. I’ve been to Rome and Geneva, but not for long enough to make a fair comment. Paris and Edinburgh are two two cities that I think are the most overrated in Europe.

Jarron - November 13, 2014 - 3:43 pm

this is more of a “Pointing out the Flaws of the Top 10 European Destinations” list. I mean if you want to talk overrated European destinations we could talk about Praha/Prauge.

JustWanderlust - November 14, 2014 - 7:22 am

Jarron – “Overrated” to me is about a place that has a lot of hype – it sets the visitor up with certain expectations and then when the visitor goes, feels like the place doesn’t really live up to the hype. Since everyone’s travel experience is different (as is their expectations of a destination) so will their list of what is overrated and what’s not. I went to Prague over a decade ago and enjoyed my time there but I can see how some may consider it overrated as well. Unfortunately, a lot of the more famous cities in Europe are the candidates for “overratedness” since they have the most visitors and the thusly, the most expectations to live up to.

Julius - December 6, 2014 - 1:18 pm

I can take some of your points (especially regarding paris), but to say Rome is ” overrated” is quite simply an outrageous statement. The most fascinating and most beautiful city on earth bar none. There are some individual churches in Rome with more interesting sights than in many other entire cities. And the churches alone are just one single aspect of Rome are there are literally hundreds of them in the city.

But it all depends on the person. A person with no appreciation for history, art, culture, beauty and spirituality might not like Rome at all. It depends. But a human being who can fail to be somehow affected by this city would have to be dead inside to some extent.

Gavin - December 9, 2014 - 9:44 am

I would say one of the most overrated parts of Europe which of course includes the UK is Englands west country, of the towns and cities Torbay and Newquay are pleasant enough in the summer but are a bit run down and deprived, Plymouth is very deprived and depressing, with a high crime rate and little for tourists to see Exeter is the best of a poor bunch but does suffer from traffic problems, Dartmoor and Exmoor has nothing on the Yorkshire dales, lake district Scottish highlands or Snowdonia and the beaches are no better then anywhere else in the country

Reynard Jusuf - January 15, 2015 - 12:28 am

Paris (it’s good but not great)
Milan
Lucerne

Diego - May 10, 2015 - 2:31 pm

Rome and Pisa overrated??? come on!!!!!

DAVID STEIN, Toronto - June 23, 2015 - 11:23 pm

Exeter, England is the RUDEST, most BORING place I’ve ever been (except for Stratford-on-Avon, which takes the cake).

Maybe if the cathedral didn’t close at supper time … .

histerija - June 29, 2015 - 8:37 am

i don’t really agree with the list. saying paris or rome are overrated, just because there are too many tourists or that the people smell is not a real reason. these cities are famous for their historic buildings and streets, museums and monuments and i guess that not many cities in the world can offer you that much history or whatever, interesting old buildings like these 2 cities. and saying that rome living from it’s old glory is a bad thing- should people come and visit new industrial buildings and modern concrete block appartments? i don’t think that anybody is interested in that. and why helsinki? i didn’t even know that this city was on anyones top list of must visit cities, so how can it be overrated? i guess everyone sees a place in a different way.

Lyra - October 13, 2016 - 1:51 pm

St. Petersburg, it won some “most attractive destination” award this year, but it’s just a copycat of other European capitals with bad weather, pickpocketers, and very snobbish people

Liz - October 28, 2016 - 12:43 am

Good post. I love Paris & Rome but you have to take your time, stroll around & go when it’s summer!

Been to Paris 3 times. All so different. We had a different experience when we went to Paris with our 1 year old. Suddenly everyone was soooo friendly, cooing over our baby, giving us free food etc. It was like travelling with a rockstar! I agree with Milan unless you want shoes!

Rome I loved it, but some friends hated it. If you love history & don’t mind crowds you’ll love it. Do research of places to eat prior to visiting.

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