An awesome travel experience has a lot to do with expectations. I want to begin with this because it’s important not to let others’ stories and experiences deter you from where you want to go. At the same time, some cities have been so hyped that it’s almost impossible for them to live up to the idealized expectations that have been set for them.
To give you the most honest picture possible, I’ve included what’s awesome about each of the following cities and what’s not. I’ve obviously decided for myself that these places were overrated, and my sincere recommendation is to take the money you’d spend at any of these and travel somewhere else less hyped.
4. Prague, Czech Republic
What’s awesome: The architecture, taking a long horse-drawn carriage ride through the city for under $40
What’s not: The colder atmosphere, (nearly) getting conned out of $60 for a slice of ham and some potatoes
Prague was a stop about halfway through our month-long honeymoon in Europe. So, maybe it’s because I loved Scotland so much or maybe I was starting to feel the constant, fast-paced speed at which we were traveling, but Prague really was a dud for me. I absolutely loved the architecture, but the overall atmosphere of the city was much less friendly than where we had come from and that really impacted me in a negative way. Plus, we were pretty salty about almost being tricked into spending our entire day’s food budget on a slice of ham from a street cart. However, we did get to see the city from a horse-drawn carriage that cost us less than $40, and that was pretty magical.
3. Venice, Italy
What’s awesome: The gondolas and rivers
What’s not: The very narrow pathways you have to use to get anywhere, the overly inflated prices, the crowds, the gondolas and rivers
Venice is on so many bucket lists and must-visit-before-you-die posts that I had to break this one down for you. If you are claustrophobic or don’t like being in crowds, this is most definitely somewhere to stay away from. Venice is literally built on posts over water, so the entire city is made up of very tall buildings placed very closely together. You either have to walk through extremely narrow pathways or take a very overpriced gondola ride (hence, why they are both awesome and not) to get around. Venice is a tourist trap, and not as great as it sounds.
2. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
What’s awesome: The food, Anne Frank’s Haus
What’s not: The throngs of bicyclists, the red light district, the smell of weed
Three things to know about Amsterdam if you choose to go: prostitution is legal, as is weed, which is sold in coffeeshops – so don’t go into one if you aren’t looking to get high. I was there for maybe 12 hours and I left feeling a bit depressed. The smell is literally everywhere you go and I think I got a secondhand buzz from it. Also, I almost got ran over by a dozen bikes. The majority of the city’s population travels by them – they even have their own traffic light system. Finally, the idea of women standing in storefronts in the red light district made my stomach turn. All the food we ate was good, however, and I did get to pass by Anne Frank’s Haus, which was a really humbling experience.
1. Paris, France
What’s awesome: The Eiffel Tower and the pastries (like, all of them, anywhere you go)
What’s Not: The smell of urine, the subway, the crowds, and the overly inflated prices
Coming in at number one is Paris, a city I thought I was going to fall in love with. And, while the Eiffel Tower is definitely a landmark worth seeing and the pastries are oh-my-goodness out of this world, you really don’t need to spend more than a day or two here. Paris is far from the city of romance it’s made out to be in pictures and movies. The subway is always packed and smells like urine, and if it weren’t for the Eiffel Tower, it really would be just like any other city. If you went there with realistic expectations of what it is, I am sure you would have an amazing time. However, it’s a city that has been over-hyped for decades, and it can be hard to get past that image of what you want it to be.
A final reminder that this is very subjective, and if you’ve had an amazing experience in one of these cities, I am SO glad! One of the best things about traveling is the highly unique perspective each person gains. Personally, I would not return to any of these four, and would recommend some less touristy destinations for a more unique, fulfilling travel experience for the money.
Speaking of which – look out for the most underrated cities I’ve been to and why, coming soon!