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10 European Tourist Traps You Don’t Want to Fall For, 5 Gems You Must Experience

Traveling Europe is an unforgettable journey, rich in culture and history. Yet, amidst its wonders, some spots, known as “tourist traps,” might disappoint, being overcrowded and overpriced. To help you navigate, we’ll uncover all ten places you might want to skip, ensuring a more genuine experience. Fear not; Europe’s charm isn’t lost— five must-see attractions genuinely live up to their fame, offering deep cultural insights, stunning views, and a genuine connection to the continent’s heritage. Join us as we guide you away from the pitfalls and towards the heart of Europe’s unforgettable beauty.

Here are the 10 tourist traps you should avoid in Europe.

1. Belgium – Mini Europe and Atomium

Mini Europe
Credit: Depositphotos

In Brussels, you might want to skip a couple of spots that sound cooler than they are. Mini-Europe, an amusement park with miniature EU landmarks, doesn’t hit the mark with its 1:25 scale models. Then there’s the Atomium, a unique steel structure from the ’58 World Expo, now a museum with a knack for nudging you towards its gift shop more than anything else. If you want something truly memorable, head over to the Grand Place. Visit in August, and you’ll find the square spectacularly carpeted in flowers—a sight not to be missed!

2. The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums
Credit: Calinstan/ Depositphotos

While a pinnacle of Catholicism and a beacon for many pursuing to immerse themselves in its rich culture and history, the Vatican can be quite the pocket pinch. Visiting can become costly with museum entry fees ranging up to 20 Euros and some exclusive tours hitting the 52 Euros mark. Add to that the crowds of visitors jostling for a glimpse of its sacred treasures, and it’s easy to see why some label it a major tourist trap in Europe. If you’re set on diving into its historical depths, just be ready to open your wallet wide for the experience.

3. Mozart and Strauss Concerts in Austria

Statue Of Mozart
Credit: Depositphotos

Vienna is celebrated for its classical music heritage. Once home to iconic composers, it now attracts tourists with Mozart & Strauss concerts at the Kursalon. However, these tourist-targeted events often come with hefty price tags, and the experience—sometimes bundled with expensive meals—rarely lives up to the cost due to mediocre performances.

Instead of opting for these overpriced and kitschy shows, visitors should experience a live concert at the renowned Musikverein. This prestigious venue boasts a history of hosting performances by legendary musicians, offering a genuine and unforgettable musical experience in the heart of Vienna’s rich cultural landscape.

4. Europa Park

Europa Park
Credit: Wirestock/Depositphotos

Europa Park, often likened to a European Disneyland sans the branding, has over 100 attractions, promising plenty of fun for visitors. However, the experience comes at a high cost, with entry fees from 52 to 109 Euros. Once inside, visitors face large crowds vying for rides and high prices for food and other amenities. Despite its appeal as an entertainment destination, the park is criticized for being a significant tourist trap, where the expenses can quickly add up, overshadowing the enjoyment of the attractions.

5. Bosnia and Herzegovina – Stari Most

Mostar
Credit: Depositphotos

Stari Most, the iconic bridge in Mostar dating back to the 16th century, stands tall at 79 feet. It’s quite a sight! However, watch out for a common scam where people bet on whether a young guy will leap off the bridge. Don’t get roped into handing over your money to these tricksters. If you hang around, you’ll likely catch the daring dive without spending a dime. It’s a reminder to enjoy the view and the excitement without falling for unnecessary gambles.

6. Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace
Credit: Depositphotos

Buckingham Palace, despite its global fame, has a few drawbacks. Visiting can be pricey, around 32-35 Pounds per person. Additionally, even if you plan to view the royal guards only from outside, expect to encounter large crowds. Those looking for a genuine British experience without the hassle should consider visiting the Ritz as an alternative.

7. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Woman On The Wall Of Dubrovnik
Credit: Depositphotos

Dubrovnik’s stunning scenery is often overshadowed by massive crowds, mainly due to its fame as a filming location for “Game of Thrones.” As a result, the city can feel overwhelmingly packed, and it’s wise to steer clear of the touristy GoT-themed tours. For a more relaxed experience, consider exploring Croatia’s numerous islands or the less crowded towns along the Dalmatian Coast, such as Zadar and Split. These spots offer breathtaking views without the excessive tourist congestion.

8. The London Eye

The London Eye Ferris Wheel
Credit: Depositphotos

The London Eye, famous for its stunning views, is a fancy Ferris wheel that costs 45-48 Pounds. If you’re after great views without the heavy price tag, head to Switch House. It’s free and offers similar breathtaking views. Despite its popularity, the London Eye is often dubbed one of Europe’s biggest tourist traps, so it might be worth considering alternatives to get the most out of your visit.

9. Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain
Credit: Masterlu/Depositphotos

Visiting the Trevi Fountain won’t cost you a dime, which is great! However, brace yourself for the crowds—it’s the most-visited spot worldwide, drawing around 1,200 people daily. While the fountain is a sight to behold, the real tourist traps are the restaurants and shops surrounding it. A big red flag is being invited into a restaurant; that’s a sure sign that it caters to tourists rather than offers a genuine experience. So, while the Trevi Fountain is a must-see, its popularity also makes it the world’s top tourist trap.

10. Estonia, Tallinn

St. Olaf Baptist Church And Tallinn City Wall In The Morning, Tallinn, Estonia
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Tallinn is a highlight with its rich history, but it’s also where most tourists flock when visiting Estonia, leading to crowded spots and pricey attractions. If you’re looking for something different, Tartu offers a relaxed neoclassical feel and a lovely college-town atmosphere. Or, for a more authentic Estonian experience, Parnu is the place to be. Situated on the Gulf of Riga, this resort city is perfect for chilling in a traditional smoke sauna.

Five Must-See Attractions in Europe

Lofoten Islands, Norway
Credit: Dmitryrukhlenko/ Depositphotos

These are some great alternatives for the tourist traps in Europe. 

1. Sintra, Portugal

Sintra Portugal
Credit: Depositphotos

Sintra, a picturesque town near Lisbon, Portugal, offers a fantastic day trip opportunity with breathtaking mountains and historic sites. Just 40 minutes by train from Lisbon, it’s a must-visit for those who are short on time but eager to explore. Places to visit include the vibrant Palacio de Pena, the historic Castelo Dos Mouros with stunning views, and the mysterious Quinta Da Regaleira with its gothic mansion and intriguing Initiation Well. Ideal for a mid-week visit to dodge the crowds, Sintra promises a mix of natural beauty and fascinating architecture, making it a memorable escape.

2. Fjords of Norway

Fjords Of Norway
Credit: Cookelma/ Depositphotos

Thanks to their breathtaking beauty shaped by glaciers over 2.5 million years, Norway’s fjords are a massive draw for travelers. These U-shaped valleys, with their cliffs, offer landscapes so vast they’re hard to grasp fully. While there are over 1000 fjords in Norway, places like Hardangerfjord and Geirangerfjord are among the few that attract crowds, so there’s still plenty of room to find your peaceful spot. Cruising through the fjords is a popular way to take in their towering walls up close, offering a unique perspective from the water. For those who prefer a view from above, hiking the fjords provides a stunning bird’s-eye view of this incredible natural wonder. Either way, it’s an experience you won’t forget.

3. Colosseum

Colosseum In Rome, Italy. Ancient Roman Colosseum Is One Of Main Tourist Attractions In Europe. People Visit Famous Colosseum In Roma City Center. Scenic Nice View, Photo Of Colosseum Ruins In Summer
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

The Colosseum takes you back to the peak of the Roman Empire. Built in 72 AD, it’s impressive how it could fit 50,000 people, making it the largest amphitheater of its time. Imagine being in the crowd for everything from wild animal hunts and executions to intense gladiator fights, and they even staged mock sea battles by flooding it! Even though it’s a ruin, the Colosseum still stands out as a big deal in Rome. Walking through its arches and taking a tour lets you almost hear the roar of the ancient crowds and feel the excitement of those epic spectacles. It’s like a time machine when Rome was at its most powerful and extravagant.

4. Lofoten Islands, Norway

Lofoten Islands
Credit: Depositphotos

Norway isn’t just about Svalbard; the Lofoten Islands are another gem, offering breathtaking natural beauty and a plethora of activities. This archipelago consists of seven islands recognized for their commitment to sustainability. It’s a fantastic spot for those interested in Viking history, pristine landscapes, and unique experiences like surfing under the Northern Lights. The Gulf Stream blesses Lofoten with a surprisingly mild climate, allowing for the magical phenomenon of the midnight sun during summer. Outdoor enthusiasts will find Lofoten irresistible, with its endless hiking, climbing, kayaking, cycling, and skiing opportunities. Whether you’re chasing adventure or simply want to soak in the serene beauty, Lofoten promises an unforgettable experience.

5. Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands
Credit: Ivankmit/Depositphotos

The Faroe Islands are a real adventure spot between Scotland, Norway, and Iceland in the Atlantic Ocean. Though part of Denmark, they’re pretty independent, with just 18 islands to their name. Getting there takes a bit more effort, with limited hotel stays or B&Bs. It’s a paradise for the bold-hearted, offering wild landscapes, incredible hikes, towering mountains, and unique wildlife like puffins. You can kayak, horseback ride, or chill Faroese-style with home-cooked fish and chips in a cozy, old house. A definite must-visit for the nature lover!

Avoid Those Tourist Traps and See The Hidden Gems 

Travel Bug
Credit: Depositphotos

Navigating Europe means dodging a few tourist traps to uncover its real gems. Skip the overcrowded spots and, instead, dive into its authentic beauty. From quaint towns to breathtaking landscapes, Europe’s must-see attractions await to transform your trip into a memorable adventure.

17 Best Places to Visit in Europe in the Summer of 2024

Puglia, Italy
Credit: Depositphotos

Europe is an incredible place to visit for a summer vacation. Across the 50 countries officially part of the continent, there is a mix of cultures, cuisines, great places to see, and things to do. If you are planning a trip there this year, settling on an itinerary may be intimidating. That is what we want to help with.

17 Best Places to Visit in Europe in the Summer of 2024

12 Underrated Cities To Visit in Eastern Europe That You Should Visit

Sarajevo
Credit: Depositphotos

These 12 underrated cities are like pages from a forgotten diary, each narrating a unique story that awaits the curious traveler. From the cobblestone streets echoing centuries-old tales to the vibrant cultural scenes that pulsate with modern life, these alluring destinations promise an adventure unlike any other. Let’s unveil Eastern Europe’s most underrated cities.

12 Underrated Cities To Visit in Eastern Europe That You Should Visit

Originally Published on https://thefrugalexpat.com/

Steve Cummings Journalist, Traveler, and Personal Finance Enthusiast

Steve Cummings is a traveler, writer, and personal finance enthusiasts that has taken an adventure to leave his home country to travel and live around the world with his family. Through many years of learning he seeks to help those to save more and travel better. He has been featured in MSN, The Associate Press Wire, and various other content outlets with his writing and publications through his website The Frugal Expat. In the last six years, He has traveled to all seven continents, over 30 different countries, and has lived abroad learning and teaching others about good financial habits and travel hacks.

As an ex-English Teacher, he hopes to provide good tips and education on money and travel to help people think outside the box and achieve the impossible.

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