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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