I’d wanted to write this post for quite some time now and always found some reason or the other not to (or to keep putting it off).
Thing is, my general idea of travel is to approach it with a fair amount of optimism.
Look for the best in everywhere you visit, try to make the most of what you have (whether that’s the budget you have or even just the amount of time you have to explore a destination), don’t complain about the heat/cold/humidity – embrace it and find a way to get past it… I could go on and on, my point here is that I’m not one you’ll find looking for ways to complain about a destination, I find that energy is better spent looking for ways to actually enjoy your travels.
With that in mind, I feel like even before I start with this blog post properly, I just need to clarify a few things straight away! The very first one being what exactly I mean by “overrated”.
Overrated in this context (and in most contexts, I’d imagine) simply means something that is hyped up way more than it should.
It’s definitely not saying that the thing isn’t worthy of some hype, it’s just saying that the level of hype around it is a tad too unrealistic. Like, so much so that you end up so disappointed because you arrive with this gargantuan expectation of what that destination or experience would be, that the thing itself could never ever possibly have met that expectation!
Expectation is truly the root of all disappointment.
I’m also aware that lots of people (ourselves included, on occasion) are prone to hyping things that we’ve enjoyed (as we all rightly should) so I’d like to point out that this post isn’t pointing the finger at anyone in particular! It’s just a bit of light-hearted fun – so please definitely do feel free to see and do everything below if that’s what you really want to! 🙂
With that out of the way, here are 7 seriously over-rated travel experiences in Europe!
1.) Watch the sunset in Oia, Santorini
If you’ve never been to Santorini before, you’d be forgiven for almost thinking that seeing the sunset in the town of Oia would give you magical powers.
This has been hyped up so much as being almost this mythical travel experience everyone should have when in truth, it’s a sunset as pretty as many other sunsets in the world.
Yes, you are in one of the most beautiful islands, not just in Greece but across Europe and yes, some of the pre-dinner ouzo (or Mythos beers) you’ve had might make it seem like this sunset is the stuff of dreams but trust me, after you’ve seen it once (maybe twice), you won’t even bother searching for the best spots in Oia to check it out, you’ll just take it in from wherever you are on the island.
The sunset is beautiful but here in our bigger island(s) called the UK, notorious for it’s grey weather, we have some pretty spectacular sunsets (especially if you have a really great viewing point) that will make you question everything you’ve heard about how ‘impossibly beautiful’ a Santorini sunset is.
2.) Find the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen
I totally get why this is a sight you have to see in Copenhagen and I get why this is fairly important to Copenhagen but this is definitely not a sight that will leave you amazed when you see it.
I know this sounds wrong but I think a large part of why (pun-intended) is its relatively small size. Statues don’t make for the most impressive of tourist attractions and even when they do, they tend to be gigantic enough to command some level of awe – the little mermaid does not. If no one told you about it, and you arrived to the city not knowing what it was, you’d be forgiven for not even stopping to take a photo.
This is in large part why it’s so hard to understand why the statue is touted as being a must-see attraction in the city. It also doesn’t help that you have to venture out of the more fun/exciting parts of the city to get to see it.
3.) See the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, Paris
This is perhaps one of the most famous over-rated attraction in Europe. The Mona Lisa is an amazing piece of art by Leonardo da Vinci and totally worth its critical acclaim but the experience of seeing it in the Louvre leaves a lot to be desired.
For starters, the crowds around it mean that the painting, which is fairly small anyway, will be something of a struggle to see and fully appreciate when you’re being shoved and prodded by lots of equally eager tourists.
Thing is, I’m a bit of an exception when it comes to crowds while travelling as I grew up in a very busy city and so being in tourist attractions surrounded by huge crowds never seems to bother me – I just get on with it. Even for me though, not being able to take a few moments un-interrupted to see the painting properly kinda dulls the shine on it though. (And sorry, I refuse to get up at the crack of dawn just to see it – I feel like I’d somehow resent it even more if I saw it so knackered from lack of sleep. 😀 Hehe! )
4.) Getting macarons in Paris
I said it here and I’ll happily say it again, macarons are just the most over-rated sweet treats ever. I seriously doubt most people actually really enjoy them! And when I say ‘really enjoy’ them, I mean, if they were asked “Pick any sweet or dessert in the world” I doubt it would make the number 1 (or even the top 3 choices) for most people.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re okay – they’re sweet enough but I feel they’re more for Instagram and for photos than they are everyone’s favourite dessert/sweet. It’s not like they’re particularly cheap either (currently, online they are like €3 for 1 macaron in Ladurée) so there’s no angle on which this ‘love for macarons’ exists for most people but for the lovely photos.
5.) Seeing colourful houses in Notting Hill
Notting Hill is a generally beautiful neighbourhood in London (that’s not to say it doesn’t have its less attractive parts too of course) but there are just too many things one could be doing and seeing in London (and too many beautiful parts of London) for you to overtly go out of your way to head to see the colourful houses of Notting Hill.
I don’t think you’d ever ask any Londoner what to see as a sight when you’re visiting London for the first time and get told “Top of your list – you have to see those colourful houses in Notting Hill!”. They’re totally worth seeing if you’re in the area and there’s a fair bit to see and do in the area so I’d recommend visiting Notting Hill itself but only if you have spare time to do so. Don’t feel obliged to or like if you haven’t spent time in Notting Hill, you just haven’t truly experienced London. It’s lovely and picturesque but like I said before, so are a LOT of places in London.
6.) Visit Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin
Berlin as a city is very much defined by the war (World War II, to be precise) – the eclectic mix of architecture where new buildings have been built to replaces those destroyed in the war, the many monuments are the city and even the Berlin Wall are all stark reminders of a dark time in Europe and felt across the world.
Checkpoint Charlie is one of those places (albeit more to do with the Cold War – an aftermath of World War II) and one that people recommended we visit when in Berlin.
Now, although this is still a place that has huge significance in the history of the Cold War, it feels trivialized by the actors who dress up in military costumes and patrol the areas for photos and tips with tourists. Something about that whole thing just kinda feels ‘off’ and a lot of what’s at Checkpoint Charlie feels kinda made up to be something of a tourist attraction than a sombre reminder of the tragic events of the past. I’d say it’s worth checking out but if you have LOTS of spare time on your hands.
7.) Walk up The Spanish Steps in Rome
This was the one sight in Rome which kinda felt like I had to see because everyone kept saying we had to but if we’d missed out on, I’d have been totally fine with that. It’s nice enough to see but there are just too many amazing things to see in Rome that it’s kinda dull in comparison. Also, after spending a few minutes here you’re bound to find yourself very bored here (though it might be a good spot to stop off if you have a pizza or gelato you’re working hard on in that Italian sunshine).
If you are looking for something of an unexpected gem in Rome, you should head down the road (it’s literally down one long street) to Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo where you’ll find so many amazing works of art from renowned old masters like Raphael, Caravaggio and Bernini dotted around this quieter Roman church.