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Europe is my favourite continent. I love the architecture, the history, and the culture. Any trip to Europe will be amazing, but there are a number of overrated cities in Europe you may want to avoid.
The worst part about most of the overrated cities on this list is they are some of the most popular cities in Europe!
Tourists flock to most of these overrated cities in Europe and miss out on some of the best and most underrated cities that are just a stone’s throw away.
Just because a city is overrated doesn’t mean everything about the city is bad or you shouldn’t visit it.
It just means that it is overhyped, and there are tons of other cities that are better and should be on your radar.
I’ll help put a few of those cities on your radar in this post! I’ll be highlighting some of my favourite cities that are great alternatives to the overrated cities in Europe on this list.
Also, please don’t disown me if your favourite city is on the list. Pretty please.
1. Paris, France
Let’s just go ahead and get one of the most controversial cities out of the way.
Paris is probably the most overrated city in Europe.
It is at the top of nearly everybody’s European dream list, and it honestly doesn’t deserve to be.
It is true that there are a number of world class museums in Paris. They’re incredible, and you should 100% visit a few while you’re in the city, but the museums alone aren’t worth visiting Paris for.
People also love the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, but they are mediocre. You can more interesting (and less crowded) attractions elsewhere in Europe.
One thing nobody tells you about Paris before you visit is the smell. It is pungent.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a metro station or just walking down the street, Paris has a distinct oder you can’t get away from.
All in all, Paris isn’t what it is hyped up to be. It won’t meet the fantasy you have of the city before you visit.
It is unfortunate that Paris has become one of the most overrated cities in Europe, but that has come to be a sad fact.
Alternative to Paris
The good news is that everywhere in France outside of Paris is amazing!
I’ve never been to a French city outside of Paris that I didn’t love. They’re charming, the people are incredibly kind, and it is surprisingly affordable for a Western European country.
You can’t go wrong with visiting Strasbourg (especially during the winter to visit their famous Christmas markets), Lyon, or Marseille.
If you are visiting Paris, be sure to allot enough time to take a day trip or two outside the city. It is a great way to see a little more of France without committing to spending three or four days in a different city.
2. Brussels, Belgium
I don’t get the appeal of Brussels, but so many tourists visit the city on their first trip to Europe. The city has become bigger than it should be, and honestly it is one of my least favourite cities in Europe.
Brussels is in a great location, and it is just a train ride away from both Paris and London. I get the appeal of its location, but the city itself is very overrated.
The most popular tourist attraction is Brussels is Manneken Pis. A tiny statue of a little boy peeing into a fountaint.
And I mean tiny.
You can easily walk right past it and not notice it. Assuming there isn’t a hoard of tourists crowding around it wondering why the heck it is so famous.
I went to Brussels because I wanted to tour the EU Parliament, and even that was a let down.
The best parts of Brussels are without a doubt the food, chocolate, and beer.
Brussels is without a doubt one of the most underrated cities in Europe, and I can’t quite figure out how it became so popular.
Alternative to Brussels
Ghent is the perfect alternative to Brussels.
It is located in Northern Belgium and is a short train ride from Brussels.
Ghent is a historic town and is full of amazing architecture and is much less crowded than Brussels. There is a river that flows through the centre of Ghent, and it adds so much charm to the city.
It is a university town, and if you’ve ever been to a university town, you know they have some of the best food in the country!
The food in Ghent is incredible and knocks the socks off the food in Brussels.
I highly recommend you choose to visit Ghent over Brussels on your next European vacation!
3. Venice, Italy
Oh Venice. The city of canals.
Everybody wants to go to Venice when in Europe. It is marketed as one of the best cities in Europe.
The architecture. The canals. The history. The romance.
But when push comes to shove, Venice is highly overrated.
It is the most expensive city in Italy with prices being astronomically more expensive than any other city. Transportation is so slow because you either have to walk through a maze of small streets or taking a painfully slow boat.
Plus it is overrun with tourists. So much so that the locals hate their city now and just wish the tourists would leave.
To top it all off, the sights aren’t that great.
The canals are cool, but outside of that, there is nothing in Venice you can’t see in any other Italian city.
Alternative to Venice
The major draw of Venice are the canals. They are undoubtably really cool to see in person, and the reason most tourists visit the city.
So I wanted to give you an alternative city that has canals but is highly underrated.
That city is Bruges, Belgium.
I know that it isn’t in Italy, but Bruges is the perfect alternative to Venice.
It has beautiful canals, medieval architecture, a more affordable price point, and you basically have the city to yourself when you visit.
Bruges is due to explode and become a popular tourist destination in the coming years.
Visit now, so you can still experience it before it blows up and gets filled with tourists!
4. Prague, Czechia
I can almost hear the cries of outrage as I write this.
Prague is often hailed as one of the best hidden gems of Europe, and I’m here to tell you that is a lie.
Maybe once upon a time it was quiet and peaceful, but that is no longer the case. It has quickly become one of the most overrated cities in Europe.
The city is crammed with tourists. I’m talking shoulder to shoulder walking across Charles Bridge, lining up for half an hour to tour the church in the castle, and hundred of people wandering through the narrow old part of the city at any given time.
It is overwhelming and not a great experience. Especially if you’re like me and extreme crowds is an anxiety trigger for you.
The crowds wouldn’t be so bad if you could get away from them, but there are people everywhere.
So. Many. People!
Prague is a beautiful city, but it has lost a lot of its charm now that it has become a tourist hot spot.
Alternative to Prague
I’m a little nervous about sharing this one with your because this city is so underrated, and I kind of don’t want the secret to get out.
So please keep it between you and me.
My absolute favourite city in Czechia is Karlovy Vary.
It is only a 90-minute bus ride outside of Prague and is absolutely stunning and has a wide variety of things to do.
You can go hiking, wander through the old town, have some delicious food, or picnic in the park.
The most unique part of Karlovy Vary are the hot springs. They are everywhere throughout the town!
There are little kiosks where you can buy a special cup with a straw to drink out of the hot springs. Just stick your cup under the spewing water and have a not-so refreshing drink of hot, semi-salty water.
It is really cool though and one of the most unique and fun experiences I’ve had!
I will warn you that Karlovy Vary is a small town, so you don’t need more than 1.5 to 2 days there. You can even visit the town as a day trip from Prague and experience most of what the city has to offer.
5. Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Amsterdam is a gorgeous city, and I 100% understand the appeal of it.
The canals are beautiful, the buildings so cute, and being able to walk or bike everywhere is amazing!
The charm of Amsterdam is one of the things that has led it to become one of the most overrated cities in Europe.
It is filled with tourists all year around. You have to wait in extremely long lines to get into any tourist attraction, and the prices of hotels and food in tourist areas has skyrocketed.
The city feels crowded and less authentic than it should. It feels more like a tourist city than a city people actually live in.
A really important note to consider: please do not visit the Red Light District in Amsterdam. While paying for sex is legal in the Netherlands, many (if not the majority) of people who work in the Red Light District are not working by their own free will and are sex slaves.
I spent me Master’s degree studying sex trafficking prevention, and one of the easiest ways you can do your part in ending the sex slave trade is not participating in it.
If you do wish to partake in paying for sex, please do your research and ensure you’re going to a location that is reputable and does not engage in slavery.
I have nothing against paying for sex and believe that sex work is legitimate work and shouldn’t be stigmatized the way it is. However, as the consumer, it is your responsibility to make sure you’re not enabling the sex trafficking trade to continue. Do your research and always ask for consent even if you’re paying for sex.
Alternative to Amsterdam
The perfect alternative to Amsterdam is Rotterdam.
It is the second largest city in the Netherlands and has all the same charm and appeal as Amsterdam.
It is becoming more and more popular with tourists, so it may not be a hidden gem for long! Get there quickly or there will be just as many tourists there as in Amsterdam!
6. Krakow, Poland
I love Poland. It is one of my favourite countries in Europe, and I highly recommend it to anybody and everybody who will listen to my recommendations.
When people plan a trip to Poland, the most suggested and hyped city is Krakow. It is the first city I visited in Poland and the only city most tourists visit.
Krakow is an interesting city. It has some highlights like visiting Auschwitz and the salt mines, but, besides those two activities, the city isn’t that great.
It is without a doubt one of the most overrated cities in Europe. The city centre is quickly becoming over crowded and filled with tourists. Prices are inflating and the city is losing some of its charm because of the increased tourism.
I’ve been to Krakow twice and noticed a steep incline in tourists the second time I visited even though it was only a year after the first time I was there!
The last time I was there was in 2015, so I can only imagine how crowded it has gotten now!
I think Krakow is worth visiting- especially to go on those two half-day trips, but it shouldn’t be the only city in Poland you visit.
Alternative to Krakow
Warsaw is the most obvious alternative to Krakow. It is the capital of Poland and has all the same charm as Krakow.
I love Warsaw, but it is not my pick as the best alternative to Krakow.
In my mind, Gdańsk is the perfect alternative to Krakow.
It is located in northern Poland and is highly underrated and forgotten about, but it shouldn’t be!
Gdańsk is a small port city and is absolutely stunning.
The entire city was reconstructed after WWII and is an exact replica of what the city looked like before the war broke out. Polish people put years of effort and love into rebuilding Gdańsk, and you can tell from the moment you walk into the city.
I chose Gdańsk as my alternative to Krakow because it mixes beautiful architecture, great food, and history just like Krakow.
Gdańsk is where the Germans first invaded, and WWII officially broke out.
You can take a short boat ride to the small island of Westerplatte where the Germans first invaded. You can visit war bunkers, destroyed buildings, and war monuments.
It is a unique and important experience to have and really helps you get a deeper understandings of WWII and the horrors of it.
7. Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki was one of the biggest disappointments in Europe for me. It is without a doubt one of the most overrated cities in Europe and is my least favourite Nordic city I’ve been to.
It is painfully expensive, the sights aren’t that great, and the city is a little dull.
Helsinki isn’t a city I’ll be back to anytime soon, and it isn’t a city I’d recommend to anybody visiting Europe.
I love the Nordic countries, but Helsinki fell short for me (unfortunately).
My big tip for anybody visiting Helsinki is to take advantage of the lunch specials and buy as many of your meals as possible from the grocery store.
To say the food is expensive is an understatement!
But many restaurants offer a pretty good lunch special where you choose from a prix fixe menu and get an appetizer, drink, main course, and dessert for a decent price.
Certainly a fraction of the price you would pay for the same meal a few hours later at dinner.
Taking advantage of the lunch specials is the perfect way to save some money, dine at a quieter time of day, and still experience the food in Helsinki.
All-in-all, Helsinki isn’t anything to write home about, and there are much better cities in Finland!
Alternative to Helsinki
My top alternative to Helsinki may be a bit of a surprise, but I stand by it 100%.
It is Tallinn, Estonia!
Estonia is an incredibly underrated country as a whole. It is stunning, very affordable, and has incredible food (way better than Finland in my opinion).
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and is a short 2.5 hour ferry ride from Helsinki. You can technically visit Tallinn as a day trip from Helsinki, but I don’t recommend it.
There is so much to see and do in Tallinn that you need at least two full days in the city.
Plus Estonia has so much to offer outside of Tallinn. Most tourists only visit Tallinn and then move on, but that is a big mistake!
You should consider visiting Tartu when you’re in Estonia!
It is a short bus or train ride from Tallinn and is my favourite city in the country. The town square is so charming, and there is nothing more relaxing than sitting in a coffee shop, reading a book, and people watching.
8. Rome, Italy
Ah Rome. Perhaps the most overrated city in Europe. Everybody dreams of going to Rome, strolling the streets eating gelato, and soaking in the culture.
The reality of Rome is far from your fantasy of the city!
It is loud, smelly, crowded, full of scams, and you can’t even imagine the number of tourists in Rome at any given moment.
The city is far from romantic, and I guarantee you won’t live out your Lizzie McGuire fantasy of meeting a hot Italian in Rome and having a steamy love affair.
Steamy Italian aside, you probably won’t fall in love with the city either.
It feels a little sleezy with all the pushy tour guides trying to get you to pay for their overpriced tours or trying to scam you and sell you an overpriced ticket for the Vatican because “it is completely sold out, and you won’t be able to get in without this ticket.” Only to turn the corner and see that there is no line at the Vatican, and you could have paid the standard price of admission.
To its credit, Rome and Italy are really cracking down on the people who engage in these shady practices. The scams and harassment of tourists is becoming less and less each day, and that is a really good thing!
The word use to sum up Rome is meh.
The sights are meh. The city is meh. The food is meh (unless you get off the beaten track and find a local restaurant. Then it is incredible!).
Everything is just meh.
There are better cities in Italy that have more interesting sights and feel more authentic.
Get off the beaten track, and thats where you’ll fall in love with Italy!
Alternative to Rome
This selection may be surprising because it is also a really popular city in Italy, and some people may argue that it is overrated.
I wanted to choose an Italian city as an alternative to Rome because Italy is the top country on a lot of people’s bucket lists.
My pick as the best alternative to Rome is Florence.
You get the same Italian experience, but the sights are better, and it is less crowded. There are still a lot of tourists in Florence, but there are noticeably less than in Rome.
It is also significantly easier to get around in Florence than Rome. You can walk basically anywhere you want and don’t have to rely on public transportation to get around.
Florence is a better city than Rome in my opinion, and you should consider visiting it rather than Rome next time you’re in Italy!
9. Barcelona, Spain
Next up on the list of overrated cities in Europe is Barcelona, Spain. It is such a popular city that most people (incorrectly) think it is the capital of Spain. In a lot of cases, it is the only city in Spain people can name!
But I’m sorry to have to break it to you: Barcelona is highly overrated.
There is no doubt that Barcelona is a beautiful city. Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia are stunning and the reason the city is so popular with tourists.
I must admit that I think the entrance fee to La Sagrada Familia is way overpriced, and it is so expensive that a lot of people choose to skip it because it isn’t worth what they’re asking.
If you do choose to visit Barcelona, try to get out of the highly tourist areas and get off the beaten track.
It is a beautiful city, and walking through the neighbourhoods and stumbling on local hidden gems is one of the best ways to see the city!
Alternative to Barcelona
There are a lot of great cities in Spain, and a lot of them get overlooked or ignored.
While it is also a pretty popular Spanish city, my top alternative to Barcelona is Seville.
It is a stunning city with a super cute old town and a surprising number of things to do with it being a relatively small city.
You can easily spend two or three days in Seville and not run out of things to do!
You won’t want to miss visiting the Plaza de España, Catedral de Sevilla, or Royal Alcázar of Seville. They are the highlights of the city!
Seville is also home to some of the most delicious tapas in Spain! Wear your stretchy pants because you’ll be eating a lot!
10. St. Andrews, Scotland
This is a difficult one for me to put on the list. I love St. Andrews, but just because I love it doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the most overrated cities in Europe.
You either want to go to St. Andrews because you love golf or because you love the royal family. The town pulls in an interesting combination of visitors!
There really isn’t much to do in St. Andrews, and it gets a bit boring after a few hours. Unless you managed to get a tee time on the links!
After you walk around the old town, visit the castle and cathedral ruins, and pop into a few shops, you’ve pretty much seen all St. Andrews has to offer.
There is also a golf museum that keeps golf lovers occupied for a few hours.
St. Andrews is a great town to stop in for a few hours on a road trip, but you shouldn’t go out of your way to visit it.
It is cute and charming, but there isn’t really anything there you can’t find in any other small Scottish city or town.
Alternative to St. Andrews
Dundee is the perfect alternative to St. Andrews. It is a 30-minute drive north of St. Andrews and is a much bigger and livelier city.
Dundee is a port city, and there are a lot of interesting things to do in the city. You can easily spend three days in Dundee and not see everything it has to offer!
The highlight of Dundee is being able to tour the RRS Discovery. It is the ship Ernest Shackleton used to explore the Arctic in 1901.
There is an informational exhibit about the ship and the Arctic expedition, and after you tour that, you have the opportunity to tour the RRS Discovery.
It is an incredible experience you can’t have anywhere else in the world!
There are a number of other museums, cultural sights, and castles you can visit in Dundee as well. There is no shortage of activities!
Surprisingly, Dundee is also home to some of the most delicious food in Scotland! It is a university town, and we all know university towns always have the best food!
You’ll be hard pressed to find a bad meal in Dundee!
Dundee is truly one of the most underrated cities in the United Kingdom. You won’t regret skipping St. Andrews and heading straight to Dundee instead!
Whew. I have a feeling I made a lot of people angry with my choices for the most overrated cities in Europe.
I’m sorry if your favourite city or dream destination made the list!
But I have to speak the truth. All ten of the cities on this list are overrated, and there are better, underrated choices you can visit instead.
Just because a city is overrated doesn’t mean it isn’t worth visiting! Cities become overrated because so many people visit them, and that doesn’t happen without a reason (most of the time)!
This post is designed to help you learn which European cities are overrated, so you can (at a minimum) be prepared before you visit them.
There is hardly anything worse in the travel world than showing up to an overrated destination, being crunched between hoards of tourists, overpaying for attractions and food, and not having the vacation you always dreamt of.
I’m here to help you not make that mistake!
Even if you plan on visiting the overrated cities in Europe on this list, please consider visiting the alternative cities as well.
They have so much to offer and show you a different side of each country or region you don’t get to experience when you visit overrated and hugely popular cities.
Don’t rush from city to city and from country to country next time you’re in Europe.
Slow down and take the time to explore the lesser know areas, and I promise you’ll have a better experience!