Europe is one of the most touristy regions on earth and for good reason. It has everything the average tourist wants, from good public transport to loads of beautiful beaches, mountains, lakes, forests, and historical cities and sites. With all those tourists, however, things can sometimes become crowded and even downright unpleasant. No wonder parts of the region nowadays also boast some of the most unfriendly people (toward tourists, at least) in the world.
Combine large numbers of tourists with locals that have become rather fed up with struggling through crowds of visitors every day on the way to their favourite shop or restaurant, and you have a situation where it’s probably better to avoid certain parts of Europe – at least during certain parts of the year or certain times of the day.
An example of what we mean is a 2021 survey among 12,000 participants that tried to determine both the friendliest and least friendly countries in the world. The results might surprise a few people. Austria was voted as the most unfriendly country in Europe, with Finland, Switzerland, Hungary, Sweden, Denmark, and the Czech Republic close on its heels.
Without further ado, here is a very subjective list places to avoid in Europe.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris
If you think we’re telling you to avoid the Eiffel Tower, particularly during certain times of the year, you are perfectly right.
The planet’s most famous radio tower is also its most popular paid monument. By all means, find your way there early in the morning and take a couple of photos. Then head straight to the city’s 2nd tallest building, Montparnasse Tower, to get stunning panoramic views of Paris without the crowds.
Croatia’s capital Dubrovnik
This city is a remarkable walled fortress, but during the tourist season, it’s overflowing with visitors from across the globe. The biggest reason for this is that parts of the Game of Thrones series were shot here. If that makes you excited, however, you might also love one of the overpriced Game Of Thrones tours.
We would recommend rather checking out a few of the country’s more than 1 000 islands. Or visiting towns like Split or Zadar on the Dalmatian Coast. They offer beautiful scenery without the crowds.
The Acropolis in Athens, Greece
If you find huge crowds, glossy rocks, and selfie sticks exciting, don’t let us stop you from visiting the Acropolis during the summer months. This is, after all, a famous historical citadel that houses the Parthenon temple. If you need more peace and quiet there are other archaeological sites with smaller crowds all over Greece.
Quite a few of them are actually located at the base of the Acropolis, including the Ancient Agora and Hadrian’s Library. From here you will be able to take a couple of decent pictures of the Parthenon without joining the crowds of tourists on the hill.
Andorra’s most popular ski resorts
Andorra is a mountainous little haven between France and Spain with many ski resorts. That also means it’s an extremely popular destination for winter sports – so popular that during the peak winter months, it can become so crowded that one can hardly breathe. The high demand has also pushed up prices at the resorts to sometimes astronomical levels.
The alternative that we prefer is to leave your snow gear at home and head for the Caldea thermal spa. This is Europe’s biggest thermal spa and it’s worth every cent.
The Strauss and Mozart concerts of Austria
If you are a lover of classical music, Vienna will no doubt be your dream destination because quite a few of the world’s most famous composers were born here. Not surprisingly, therefore, the city has become a popular destination among classical music fans. Thousands of them flock to the Kursalon every year to attend Straus and Mozart concerts.
Aimed at tourists instead of locals, these concerts are quite pricey and to be honest the quality does not always justify the price, particularly when they are sold as a package deal with overpriced evening meals.
Rather than spend your hard-earned cash on one of these decidedly kitschy shows, rather attend a live performance at the super-famous Musikverein, where many of the top composers performed during their heydays.
The Minsk Old Town in Belarus
We recommend that visitors steer clear of the not-so-old ‘Old Town’ in Minsk, where quite a few of the original houses that are supposed to date back to the 17th or 18th century were actually rebuilt during the 1980s. Rather go somewhere else in this lovely city, for example, the Palace of Art.
Mini Europe and Atomium in Brussels, Belgium
Brussels has its fair share of tourist traps. One of them is Mini-Europe, an amusement park with rather kitsch 1:25 replicas of EU monuments that are quite honestly not very impressive.
It is located just below the Atomium, a weird-looking structure that was built for the 1958 Brussels World Expo. Made completely of stainless steel, it is now a museum that seems to have one main reason for its existence: to get tourists to buy overpriced gifts at the gift shop.
Rather visit the Grand Palace, particularly if you are there in August when the whole square will be covered in an amazing blanket of beautiful flowers.
Bulgaria’s Sunny Beach
Let’s get one thing straight: if you like to party hard, Sunny Beach is for you. If you are young and love getting knackered on cheap drinks with thousands of other similar-minded individuals, you will love it.
Everybody else should rather head for one of the lovely beach towns on the country’s Black Sea Riviera. Irakli and Ahtopol are both great options. Clothing is optional at both beaches and there is more than enough excitement.
Denmark’s Little Mermaid Statue
The quite aptly named Little Mermaid statue has somehow become one of the major tourist attractions in Copenhagen. This is precisely why you should perhaps rather avoid it during the peak tourist season. It’s only 4 feet tall, so you might not even be able to get a fleeting glimpse of it while being pushed around by the crowds.
A good alternative is to visit Gefion Fountain, built in honor of the Norse goddess with the same name. It’s a lot more artistic and shows her driving a couple of animals.
Estonia’s capital, Tallinn
We do not deny that this lovely city is crammed with history. That is why during the summer months it sometimes feels like the rest of humanity is gathered here. That also means very little elbow room and lots of overpriced tourist attractions.
Rather spend your time exploring the neo-classical sights of Tartu. This college town is located to the south of Tallinn. For an even more ‘real’ Estonian day trip, find your way to Parnu, a resort city on the Gulf of Riga, where you can experience a very relaxing smoke sauna.
Most of us can appreciate a good beer in the company of friends and family and the bonhomie that often accompanies it. The German Oktoberfest is taking it a little bit too far. For most visitors, the whole experience is nothing more than a drunken blur. Why else would there have to be so many cops and medics on duty to try and keep peace and order?
If you would like to enjoy a great German beer, you can do it anywhere in the country instead of in Munich during late September/early October.
The Vatican City in Rome, Italy
The global head office of the Catholic Church is also a microstate and a massive tourist trap. If you want to visit the Sistine Chapel in August, for example, you will be herded through like sheep and you will be lucky to get a fleeting glance at the beautiful frescoes.
The only way we know of to really enjoy this experience is to book an early breakfast (around 7.15) at the Vatican Museum from Monday to Friday. You will get a chance to appreciate one of the biggest art collections on earth while the rest of the world’s tourists are still in bed.
Comino in Malta
Malta (immediately to the south of Sicily) is actually comprised of 3 different islands. This is a prime tourist destination during the summer months and the beaches can become extremely crowded. Particularly avoid the smallest of the 3 islands, Comino, at that time of the year.
For all the fun minus the crowds rather head for Qarraba Bay, Imgiebah Bay, or St Peter’s Pool.
Hungary’s capital, Budapest
It’s a common mistake to get stuck in Budapest without realizing there’s more to Hungary than a single city. After all, Budapest isn’t known as the Paris of the East without good reason. The beautiful Danube River cuts the town in two and the architecture is genuinely stunning. The whole place is brimming with castles and the food is great. Unfortunately, during the tourist season, it will sometimes feel like there’s no breathing space.
Fortunately, Hungary is also overflowing with beautiful smaller cities and towns. One of them is Sopron. This place is literally brimming with official monuments and protected buildings.
Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy
You will find hordes of piazzas (public squares) in Rome, but Piazza Navona is undoubtedly the most famous. Unfortunately, that comes with crowds, overpriced eateries, cheap souvenirs, and sub-par street performers.
Not far from Navona, however, you will find Campo de Fiori, a public square that doubles as a bustling outdoor marketplace by day. At night it turns into a prime nightlife and restaurant destination.
Vadun in Liechtenstein
Despite being the capital of Liechtenstein, Vaduz only has around 5,000 inhabitants. There is nevertheless a lot to see and do.
Thousands of tourists flock here during the summer months for lakeside lounging and during the winter months for winter sports. If you prefer some personal space, rather explore the Roman ruins at Schaan or the nearby museums and castles.
Durres Beach, Albania
This small Balkan nation has a stunning stretch of coastline on both the Ionian and Adriatic seas. One of the most popular spots to get some sunshine or cool off in the sea is Durres Beach, quite close to the capital of Tirana.
The bad news is that, during the summer months, you will be lucky to find even a square inch of open sand among the tourist crowds. This is where they all go to sip sweet cocktails and have bubble parties.
Rather opt for the much quieter Gjipe Beach. It’s on the Ionian Sea a bit further from Tirana but once you’ve been there you will keep going back.
Monaco’s Monte Carlo
This hangout of the rich and famous might not get as many tourists as the Eiffel Tower. Its auto race, casino, and beachfront nevertheless attract many wealthy tourists and even bigger numbers of less well-heeled visitors who just want to take selfies in front of cars and yachts that cost more than a luxury apartment anywhere else.
The majority of tourists can be found in the Monte Carlo neighbourhood, where you might now and then also spot a well-known billionaire or actor. The food is, however, grossly overpriced and the casino has made very few people rich.
For a more peaceful (and affordable) time, find your way to the Jardin Exotique and check out the stunning views and beautiful flora.
Moldova – the best-kept travel secret in Europe?
With only 121,000 foreign tourists a year, Moldova is the 3rd-least visited nation in all of Europe. Does that mean there is nothing to see and do? NO. There are many cultural attractions such as monasteries and archaeological sites (3 of them UNESCO sites). There are also captivating museums and Chisinau, the capital, has lots of big-city charm – all without the crowds.
Schengen visas and ETIAS
Currently citizens from nearly 63 countries do not have to apply a Schengen visa to visit Europe. Most of the rest must apply for a Schengen visa before they will be allowed to visit the region.
From next year, however, visitors from the countries that do not currently require a Schengen visa will have to apply for what is known as the European Travel Information and Authorization System or ETIAS. This includes travellers from the United States. More information on this topic can be found at the ETIAS FAQ.