10 Most Disappointing Attractions in Europe – Part II

Back in 2009, BootsnAll brought you nine of Europe’s most disappointing attractions, those over-hyped, over-rated attractions that we felt just didn’t live up to their promise. From over-priced Gondola rides in Venice to the perpetually under-construction interior of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, from the boring London Bridge to the entire touristy town of St. Tropez in France, we listed those places and sights that, while they may have been beautiful or interesting in their own way, just didn’t warrant the hype they’ve built up. But it seems that one article wasn’t enough to list them all. Here is part two, with more sites which make you wonder whether they deserve the hype or not.

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Stonehenge

Why it’s disappointing and overrated:

Don’t be fooled by all those wonderful pictures you see of Stonehenge on travel brochures and magazines, the ones which manage to catch the stones bathed in a splash of sunshine and framed by puffy white clouds, and which add a dash of Photoshop to make the grass look hyper-green. In the end, whatever anyone says, Stonehenge is just a (sometimes) picturesque pile of very old stones. And while the experience would be worth it if you could at least get close to the stones, touch them and stand right beneath their bulk, you’ll have to make do with looking at them from afar if you visit during normal hours. Given that in the past, the first tourists used to chip off bits of the rock to take home as souvenirs, the authorities don’t really want to take any chances.

How to improve your experience:

Visiting Stonehenge during regular hours is just nothing special. If you’re really keen on the stones and want to get closer to them, you can book yourself on a private access tour before or after regular opening hours, or visit during the Summer solstice, when the crowd is allowed to go next to the stones. Alternatively, try the nearby Avebury stones, which you can wander around and touch freely.

The Crown Jewels, Tower of London

Tower of London

Why they’re disappointing:

The jewels themselves are spectacular if you’re into that sort of thing, but there are just so many other rewarding things you could be doing in London. To actually view the jewels, you will have to queue for quite a while outside of the building. When you’re finally inside, you’ll realize that there is still a lot of queuing left to endure, and this time you’re not out in the fresh air, but instead are being ushered like cattle along roped corridors while you watch videos of historical events connected to the royal family on repeat. When you actually do get to the jewels, you will be on a conveyor belt, so it’s not like you can stroll around at your leisure.

How to improve your experience:

Frankly, you can’t. There is no such thing as low season in the British capital, and even when visiting in February, the queues can be intimidating. Try going as early as possible, or, even better, visit (during low-season) much more impressive attractions like the British Museum, Tate Modern and National Gallery where you won’t have to queue at all.

Prague

Why it’s disappointing:

One cannot question the fact that Prague is a beautiful city, but the truth is that it’s just too small for the volume of tourists who visit every year, and during high season, like in other famous European cities, the crowds can be stifling. Added to this, travelers often complain that the city is developing a very artificial touristy feel, and is becoming more expensive while not really improving much (if not deteriorating) in terms of quality.

How to improve your experience:

As for previously mentioned examples, visit during low-season. Ok, so the temperatures might well be below zero, but it could be argued that it is much nicer to poke around and look for that perfect little pub or eatery where to warm yourself up rather than to walk around with thousands of other tourists warmer weather. Alternatively, give other Eastern European cities a go. They are usually a bit less expensive than Prague and are (at least for now) less crowded.

Switzerland’s ‘Top of Europe’

Jungfraujoch

Why it’s overrated:

If you’ve ever wondered where all those tour buses filled with Japanese tourists eventually end up, well, it’s most probably on Switzerland Jungfraujoch, a mountain in the region of Interlaken. While if you get yourself there on a perfectly clear day the views will be enough to make your heart skip a beat, visit any other time and you will just be on a mountain looking into white air. Whatever the weather conditions up there, the problem is that taking the train up to the ‘highest train station in Europe’ and back is going to cost you as much as cheap plane ticket to a European destination.

How to improve your experience:

Do not visit this place unless you really don’t mind spending the money. Switzerland, France and Italy have many, many peaks with equally stunning views which can be reached without spending as much. When it comes to weather conditions, be flexible with the dates of when you want to go up your mountain of choice, and keep an eye on alpine weather reports to make sure it’s actually worth taking the trip. For more, check out places to hike in Italy and affordable ski resorts in Europe.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Why it’s disappointing:

First of all, after so many years, people still insist on taking pictures of themselves doing not-so-funny-any-more things with or to the tower as if that was the highlight of their trip to Italy, and yes, this is disappointing, and makes you wonder if people are actually there to see the tower or simply take that picture. Secondly, travelers often mention the fact that apart from the tower itself, there is very little else to see and do in the city of Pisa.

How to improve your experience:

Focus on the architectural beauty of the leaning tower of Pisa and forget about taking the same old picture. Enjoy the climb, which is not so much about seeing the view at the top but about noticing the awkward feeling of climbing up a leaning structure. Visit Pisa as a day trip from Florence, rather than basing yourself here.

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

Topkapi Palace

Why it’s disappointing:

When you purchase your ticket for the Topkapi Palace, you will be given two options. You can choose to purchase a rather pricey ticket to the main palace or a combined (and even pricier) ticket to both the main palace and the Harem. The problem is that the Harem cannot be accessed separately, and you must buy the combined ticket to see it. If you opt for the main palace only beware that for the price you’ve paid, it is rather underwhelming, and that the true star of this site is indeed the Harem, though you might think twice about visiting given the entry fee.

How to improve your experience:

If you really want to visit, accept the fact that you’ll have to pay the combined ticket and that the main palace is nothing special. The beauty of the Harem though, lies mainly in its intricate mosaics, and Istanbul has no lack of mosques and sites with mosaic-covered walls which you can admire for free or for little money. And check out these ten experiences not to miss in Turkey.

St. Moritz

St. Moritz

Why it’s overrated:

Viewed within the context of the Alps, St. Moritz is just one of many alpine retreats located in a picturesque setting, and its call to fame lies in the fact that it has become associated with the rich and famous. If you’re neither the former nor the latter, you’ll find there is no point in visiting as you won’t be able to afford anything.

How to improve your experience:

If you’re just looking for a ski/winter holiday, there are cheaper and less uptight places to choose around the Alps. One reason to visit St. Moritz though, is for the annual winter horse race on the frozen lake, which is the one event which makes this area special. Finally, follow a tip from a Swiss local: visit during low season when those with the seriously large bank accounts have left, and you’ll get all that designer wear in the local boutiques for heavily discounted prices.

Bullfighting and the Running of the Bulls, Spain

Bullfighting

Why they’re overrated:

Watching a bull prance around an arena while he gets speared and eventually killed? Getting some poor bulls so upset that they chase people around and potentially seriously hurt them? This must be overrated, since it’s hard to understand how animal distress can be entertaining.

How to improve your experience:

Europe is filled with festivals and events which celebrate, rather than hurt, animals. In Valais, Switzerland, cow fighting is a major event, though the name is misleading. The ‘fight’ actually consists of two cows pushing each other to determine which one is the strongest. Alternatively, there are more peaceful Spanish events, like the world famous La Tomatina. Throwing ripe tomatoes at one another must be more fun than watching an animal get hurt, right?

Climbing up the Tour Eiffel

Tour Eiffel

Why it’s overrated:

The Tour Eiffel is spectacular when seen from outside, but getting yourself into what quite commonly turns in a wait of hours just so that you can say you’ve been to the top is just pure torture.

How to improve your experience:

If the main goal of your trip up the tower is the city view, try La Tour Montparnasse instead, which is Paris’ highest skyscraper. You will still have to pay an entrance fee, but travelers find the view to be better and they appreciate the significantly shorter lines. Or, check out the view from La Sacre Coeur in Montmarte.

» Budget hotels near the Eiffel Tower

The Maltese Islands’ beaches

Why they’re disappointing:

This is mostly a question of misconception and misleading advertising. Many summer trippers often expect this tiny group of islands to have vast expanses of white beaches, but given the size of the country, this is not really logically possible. The Maltese islands do have some wonderful sandy spots with some memorable landscapes around them, but the sand is yellow, rather than white, their size will inevitably be small, and in the busy summer months, they will be crowded.

How to improve your experience:

Get yourself a map and a rented car and go to those sandy beaches which are largely ignored by tourists but loved by locals. Even better, forget about your idea of beach=sand, and explore the rocky coast, which is filled with some very scenic spots where to dip your feet in the cool sea water. Or, try these other ten European beaches you’ve probably never heard of.

Do you agree or disagree with these choices? What European attraction or destination have you been the most under-whelmed by?

Photos by: Michal Osmenda, Hawk684, Fourme, Ed Coyle Photography, Camera Slayer, xiquinhosilva, Andreas EblingRobertFrancis, Gadl, The_Woo

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Leave a Comment

  • Nebraska Dave West said at 2013-04-21T04:51:22+0000: I disagree with you on Prague. I enjoyed my visit there immensely.For one of the worst/most disappointing is the statue of David in Florence. The statue is not all that large, and you are not allowed to take pictures of it. Instead, you are forced to either sneak a picture or buy one of the myriad of overpriced photos sold in the gift shop.Another overrated location in Italy is the Sistine Chapel. Again, no photography allowed, no talking either. In fact, the Vatican has professional guards standing in the room shushing people the entire time it is open. On top of it, it is elbow to elbow crowded during the tour through the Vatican, thus a haven for pickpocket potential.
  • Manuel Pace said at 2012-10-08T10:06:23+0000: Malta is in truth very small yet I disagree with the statement that the beaches are quite small compared to the over all size of the island. I also disagree with the fact that the article shows the smallest beach in Malta to try to convince the audience about this :) Apart from Beaches Malta is very rich in culture and history. One can walk through the streets in Valletta and Mdina to attest this. Audio guides might help you get a better background too. check out the guides from www.ugide.com.
  • Christine Nimitz said at 2012-07-25T21:22:25+0000: definitely climb to the 2nd level & then take the elevator to the top-- you get exercise, skip most of the lines & get really interesting perspectives on the Tower on the way up.
  • Edina Hollosy Toole said at 2012-07-26T05:45:05+0000: at the Eiffel Tower, I don't remember such a ridiculous line, and I didn't go gagagoogoo, like most, so, whatever it was, that's what it was, no big deal. SWITZERLAND, on the other hand, "sorry", but you're soo wrong: I lived up in the Alps for six months, and it was all that, and then some more, the view, the breath taking mountains, clouds, cows roaming the narrow streets of villages, ringing their bells, fresh yoghurt in another village, walking distance, snow piled up on the side of the road, "sky" high, and you can walk still, safely, cross country skiing, a train that went to the highest possible peak (nowhere else to go); fondue, in a real fondue pot (no fake, American/etc. copy); living near Gruyere, where the REAL fondue cheese comes from, going to the farmer, fetching milk in a can, carrying it "home", yeah, that really was ALL that and then some more, living in CHALETS, kids going skiing for p. e., etc.
  • Doug Flood said at 2012-07-27T19:52:35+0000: Running with the Bulls in Pamplona and the whole San Fermin festival was the single greatest party/3 days I spent during a full summer all over Europe.
  • Eeva Valiharju said at 2012-05-15T16:39:31+0000: I have climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I didn't have to "wait for hours". Actually I didn't wait at all to climb the stairs &under an hour for the elevator & enjoyed it all. It was a great view & I'd do it again.
  • Nicolas Renaud said at 2011-06-08T22:56:02+0000: hehe I agree about the Effeil Tour, when I went to climb it, I asked myself at the top *...why am I here?*. I didn't feel anything special about it, the view isn't worthing it because of the cables and the metal structure. In addition, I didn't feel we were well positionned to see Paris. And just imagine the line and the price to enter it... haha also, I felt the same when I went up the Arc de Triomphe :PIt makes me remind when I went to the Louvres to see the Mona Lisa and the Venus of Milo. In front of it, I realised that I have seen tons of pieces of art more beautiful, more mysterious and more valuable in this same museum, maybe 60% are more.But anyway! These are the only bad comments I can say about Paris! My trip there was very fine but short, I must go there another time to visit it more.

Older comments on 10 Most Disappointing Attractions in Europe – Part II

Tristan Cano
07 March 2011

Bullfighting “must be overrated”?

Also a bull run such as that which takes place during the festival of San Fermin in Pamplona is different to ‘Bullfighting’

Not a massive fan of either myself, but it seems to me that if you are going to judge this ‘attraction’ without actually experiencing it – a little bit of research would not really go amiss.

Debbie Beardsley
07 March 2011

I agree completely with Stonehenge, St. Moritz and bullfighting. I have not been to Pisa but can see your point. I do enjoy seeing jewels so I make sure to leave time so I can enjoy the other things that make London special. The Jungfaujoch is spectacular but only on a clear or mostly clear day. That is why I advise not buying tickets until the day you want to visit.

vister
07 March 2011

I think it’s all a matter of personal opinion. I have never done anything that was “disappointing” when in Europe. I’m just so thrilled to be there that every day is a wonderful adventure! I especially love Great Britain and visiting Stonehenge was wonderful! I would never ever go to Europe in the summer as I do have a choice. I prefer Winter and Fall. I don’t remember any long lines for anything (crown jewels, Eiffel Tower, etc.) If you are lucky enough to go to Europe, why complain?

Bensonn Harris Wallace
08 March 2011

Prague is good any time of year if you go for the beer, and don’t expect too much else. Still some of the best and cheapest (at pub prices) beer in Europe.

Tortuga_traveller
08 March 2011

Ok, I think the Topkapi palace is worth visiting for the view is nice and part of the ticket for the palace gives you entrance to the Religious museum, which is an eye opener. The Harem isn’t bad either. I’ve gone twice and haven’t seen everything yet.

Also, nearby is a don’t miss, which is the archeological museum. This has some pretty incredible roman and greek finds, including the busts of most of the Caesars and other famous romans.

Their crypt area is pretty darn impressive in that museum, and darn, it is just cool to sit among ancient columns and parts of sculptures in their little cafe.

Another great item often missed is the Islamic museum by the way. It’s not expensive, and very informative about Turkish tribal ways in the lower floor exhibit, not to mention the history of Islam and Islamic culture, up to the Turkish.

Eiffel tower- i did it twice. The first time was in winter and the lines were fairly short, even for the elevators. The second time was in summer, and the lines for the elevator were, well, very long, even for the elevators to the very top from the middle section. If you’re not scared of a heart attack, going up the stairs might be an interesting option in summer.

I went DOWN the stairs in summer, for the lines for the elevators down were just too much for me.

But, once on top, you have conquered the tour eiffel, and your soul will be more complete for it, not to mention your bucket list.

Tyler-Dorr
09 March 2011

Rather than visit the overhyped Stonehenge go to Ireland and visit Newgrange/ Brú na Boinne and with a decent specialist guidebook tour the Stone Circles of the South West of Ireland

Visiting the Topkapi you really have to have an understanding of why it is built the way it is – it is an encampment of tents made of stone – and within the palace there is a marvellous ceramics museum, a fantastic collection of Ottoman weaponry, the Treasury (for which you pay more) as well as the marvellous view. You need to remember also that all of south west Europe, North Africa, the middle East and Arabian gulf as well as Anatolia were ruled by one man from this fantastic place.

Bull fighting is an art and a science – a not very pleasant art but a well honed science – from the teasing of the bull to make him angry, to the weakening of teh neck muscles with the barbed short spears to the final coup de grace which if done skillfully fells the bull in a single move, it is grace and poetry and dance – BUT it is horrible.

Why anyone would want to go and see Crown Jewels, Madame Tussauds, Tower of London is beyond me – a far better experience in London is the Camden Town Market or a stroll along the South Bank from Southwark Bridge to Waterloo with a stop or too for a pint of bitter and a sausage and mustard mash lunch.

Tour Eiffel is overrated, the view from Place Chaillot is nearly as good and Notre Dame and Sacre Couer are as they say parfait.

Global Postmark
09 March 2011

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is still incredible. Remembering that it is 800 years old makes the experience magical. I actually enjoyed the tourists posing, as that is what I expected (however, we visited in March).

The Tower of London was a great experience, but I’m not a jewel lover, so the Crown Jewels weren’t a show stopper. However, the week of Thanksgiving was without crowds.

I have only traveled to Europe in off-season, so I can only imagine my disappointment at standing in lines like the ones you have photographed.

Rebecca Sebek
22 March 2011

I totally disagree with Stonehenge, Prague, and Climbing up the Tour Eiffel. I do agree with forgoing The Crown Jewels. I would see the ‘Red Room’ and everything else in The Tower of London before seeing the precious gems.

1) Stonehenge is awesome and inspiring, especially if you’re into witches, pagans, history buff, and all that jazz.

2) Prague is a beautiful city. If you’re an aspiring screenwriter (I am) then you want to visit the city because Hollywood likes to film movies there. You can get a feel for the city and imagine your film being made there.

3) Climbing up the Tour Eiffel is a fantastic cardio work out. Most people gorge themselves when they travel. The climb will do the body, mind, and soul good.

jessus
22 March 2011

Interesting list again!

I agree that Stonehenge is grossly over-touristed, but if you can close your eyes and ignore the crowds, there’s still something magical in seeing the stones face-to-face. (Although a big yes on visiting Avebury!).

I agree with the Crown Jewels, but I adore the Tower of London itself. Then again, I’m a British history fan, so it makes sense.

I also really agree with going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I did it, but wished I had spent my time in a cafe with the Tower in view instead.

TheNaysayer
28 March 2011

An interesting list but I’m going to have to disagree with the Tower of London, Stonehenge, Prague, Eiffel Tower and Jungfrau! I went to all during what was probably the height of the Summer/Autumn season and didn’t experience any of the problems you describe. I guess I’ve been lucky!
But the Tower of London overrated? Seriously? It has so much more to offer than the Crown Jewels. It is the seat of a millenia of history and the perfect place to start if you want to explore the square mile.