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What are some of the tourist traps in Europe?

[EDITED based on some of the responses]

Not really scams (thought sometimes you might feel scammed afterwards) but what are the real tourist traps in Europe?

I'm thinking of the places, events, and activities that the locals know aren't worth it but the tourists spend their money to do it anyway, or travel a ways to get there. And sometimes we don't mind spending our time and money on these things, but have to admit, it probably wasn't up to the hype or worth what we spent.

For example: kissing the Blarney Stone.

What else?

Posted by
7968 posts

Madame Tussaud's...admitting that I went on my first visit to London in 1973 and have not been back.

Posted by
3585 posts

No offence, but the 'real' scams are the ones that are in the definition of what to post on this sub forum.
What you are asking about are disappointments by gullible people.

Posted by
5535 posts

So, what happened with the centurions at the Colloseum? Were they still banned before COVID, or had they crept back into business?

Posted by
2146 posts

I don't know about those centurions, but I took a great photo of centurions smoking cigarettes around Terrazza del Pincio last year. Very authentic!

Posted by
2744 posts

Given that what the OP describes are NOT scams, but tourist traps, perhaps she might consider editing the title of her thread to reflect that?

Posted by
2884 posts

40 years ago in London I chanced upon a 3-card Monte game, and although I knew about those, I was mesmerized. So I watched for awhile, until one of the people running it tried to rope me in, then I walked away.

Posted by
1175 posts

"Neuschwanstein, a waste of time and money."

Maybe today, but when I visited back in 1981, is was definitely worth the time and money. You could spend all the time you wanted on the grounds and the "crowds" were very small.

Posted by
2104 posts

Tourist traps are in the eye of the beholder. I loved Neuschwanstein.

Posted by
11989 posts

As Laura said, I've always categorized individual victimization as a scam, and overpromised, often overpriced experiences that are not all THAT as tourist traps. The difference, IMHO, is that you usually can avoid the latter with some advance reading. I guess it can also come down to the individual? I'd absolutely put Madame Tussaud's into the "trap" category but obviously a lot of folks have it on the must-do list. And give me a real castle over King Ludwig's folly any day, even if pix of the thing from a distance are pretty. Again, lots of folks love it and it's THEIR vacation to spend as they choose to. Different strokes are OK. :O)

Others that didn't (or wouldn't, so we've skipped them) do it for us include the Blue Grotto in Capri; Avenue des Champs-Élysées and Rue Cler (sorry, Rick); Paris; Carcer Tullianum/Mamertine Prison in Rome, although it has some archeological value; Heineken Experience in Amsterdam.

Posted by
5759 posts

Tourist traps are in the eye of the beholder.

I think this is really true. Any place that anyone could list — well, someone else is going to have enjoyed that place, as we’ve already seen with Neuschwanstein in this thread.

Different strokes for different folks, and all that. And the difference in crowds depending on when a person visited makes a HUGE difference in one’s perceptions and memories.

Posted by
774 posts

Cinque Terre and The Vatican are two experiences I would readily trade for something else.

Posted by
1175 posts

The Vatican never. I only wish I could get there now without the crowds.

Posted by
3612 posts

The first thing that came to mind is the Leaning tower of Pisa - not for the tower itself but because of the plethora of cheap tourist trap stuff being sold next to it and the crowds of people posing “holding the tower.”

Posted by
11989 posts

Cinque Terre and The Vatican are two experiences I would readily trade
for something else.

What Kim said about WHEN you visit can make a big difference! I first saw the Sistine in 1973, before restoration, in relative tranquility, and the CT the spring after the Oct. 2011 flood when tourism in that region was just building up again. Some of the villages/open trails were busy with day-trippers during peak visitation hours but not as insane as pix I've seen of the place before and after. We had a great 3-night stay in Monterosso so I feel badly for others who haven't experienced it as we have.

Posted by
2236 posts

Thanks for the RS links, Laura. I agree that Titisee deserves to be on the top 10 list of tourist traps in Europe, but I will disagree with Rick's comment that the lake "is improbably popular among Germans." My conversations with Germans are not consistent with that. The Germans tell me they like Schluchsee, the much larger lake at the end of the train line that goes to Titisee; Schluchsee offers a wide variety of active outdoor activities. The Germans I know disparagingly refer to Titisee as the place where "foreign tourists" go.

Posted by
1175 posts

"Disneylands"

Here I go again disagreeing on a tourist trap.

We took two young grandkids to Disney Paris (my son was stationed in Germany) about 16 years ago. They had a great time and so did my wife and I. I felt the Paris park was better run, nicer and less expensive than either of the two Disney parks in the US (yes, we have been to both of them with our children).

Posted by
4357 posts

Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin is a waste of time. Ditto Changing of the Guard in London.

The food offer at Mont St Michel in France is some of the worst value for money and not great quality as the only people dining are one time only visitors.

Posted by
691 posts

The definition of a "tourtist trap" is truly in the eye of the beholder. When we toured Ireland I read the RS guide book and several others before we went and agreed that the Blarney Stone would be skipped but several books mentioned the Rock Cashel as a great stop but all we found was a pile of rubble and felt it was a waste of our time. Several people here on the forum mention that the Folk History Park and evening Medieval banquet in Shannon, was a tourist trap but to the contrary my wife and I enjoyed the park and the Medieval banquet was a highlight of our entire tour.

I will admit that when we follow the RS guidebooks we have been happy with our experiences over 90% of the time.

Posted by
16 posts

I agree that I would not revisit Neuschwanstein I would also not become part of the mob in front of the Mona Lisa. It was small and dark and totally inaccessible to closer viewing. There is so much else in the Louvre that gets passed over. I am a fan of watching the Eiffel Tower twinkle at night. And love the dusk to night time cruises down the Seine. As far as the Blarney Stone, never been but have heard you kiss a lot more than that rock. Seems to be a favorite stop after a few pints in local pubs. We saw the Sistine chapel at Christmas time and I was told it was 3x more packed in summer. With no air and such dense crowds, I risk sounding like a troglodyte, but I’d pass. As with everything, the experience is very individual. I would not endure heat and hoards for almost anything or anybody.

Posted by
414 posts

I really could have done without the London Eye.

“Involve your kids in the planning process they said”
“Let them pick something they’d like to do they said”

Posted by
2991 posts

@Kathy:
If you think the Blue Grotto is bad, you should see the Emerald Grotto! Actually, don’t. We went to Positano as a day trip from Amalfi; and, after lunch, had had enough of that over-rated tourist trap. We thought we’d salvage a little of the day by taking the E.G. tour. Things only got worse.
First you pay to get to the entrance; but, if you want to go in, you pay again. Once inside, the guide points out different rock formations, which are supposed to look like something, other than rocks, e.g., Abraham Lincoln. The high point of the visit is a grouping of rocks around a plastic baby doll said to represent the holy family. (I couldn’t be making this up!). The guide solemnly intoned, “uno miraculo,” while sniggering at us gullible tourists.
I’d accept either “tourist trap” or “scam” as an apt description of the Emerald Grotto.

Posted by
2884 posts

Disneylands

Basically, aren't they geared to be tourist traps?

I too loved Neuschwanstein when I saw it in 1979. But I suspect that if I went there now, I might feel that it's a tourist trap. The same would probably be true for a number of things I saw 25-40 years ago.

Posted by
11989 posts

Kathy: If you think the Blue Grotto is bad, you should see the Emerald
Grotto!

Rosalyn, I'd read so many complaints about the Blue Grotto experience that we didn't even consider it during our 2 nights on Capri. There were plenty of other fun things to do without the headaches. And I'll agree with you about Positano but like anything else, it's all up to those different strokes so I'm tickled for the folks who've had their expectations met or exceeded there. They had fun and that's what matters, eh?

Posted by
4218 posts

If you ever find yourself in the Forest of Dean (highly recommended) then do your sanity a favour and skip the visit to Littledean Jail. It takes a lot to offend me but this place is very offensive however judging by some of the Tripadvisor reports evidently some people have a very different opinion on what constitutes entertainment than I do.

Posted by
11450 posts

Well I think we all agree a tourist trap for some is not to others , so this is my submission

The Moulin Rouge

A place being crowded does not mean it’s a tourist trap to me - it just means many people want to see it as it’s amazing - ie: the Vatican or Versailles for instance - they may be unpleasant to visit because of the crowds but if you are actually interested in the history etc then you put up and shuffle along - certainly if one is only going to see them to “ check them off a list of must sees“ as others call them then they will be unhappy with the crowds

Posted by
597 posts

Whatever the definition, here are some of the places that were disappointing to me:
- Ireland - Book of Kells - rushed through, couldn't see much - go to the free Chester Beatty library instead
- Paris - Sacre Coeur area - view of the city not all that great, tons of scammers & artists trying to get you to have a picture done - can get as good or better a view of the city from the free terrace at Galeries Lafayette
- London - Westminster Abbey - very crowded so hard to see much - would be ok if you time it better - same for Tower of London - fine if not too crowded
- Stratford on Avon - if you're a real Shakespeare fan its fine but otherwise skip
- Baden Baden - mega boring unless you want to go to a spa

Posted by
1126 posts

There’s a first time for everything. I can’t imagine the Tower of London or Westminster Abbey being considered tourist traps, they have almost 2000 years of legitimate history between them.

Obviously, both sights are expensive and I do suggest allocating enough time to visit each one. £30 or so for admission isn’t cheap.

But, if someone has no interest in them, then feel free to skip them.

European Medieval Torture Museums.
Some of these are legit and have authentic torture devices and history. Many are set up in tourist zones with replicas.
But Hey - if learning about torture is your thing ... it may be worth your money.

Posted by
2236 posts

jehb2--

If you return, I'm curious if your kids liked the London Eye.

Posted by
1 posts

The tourist traps for me are the very expensive places that are near the momuments of the main cities.
On my last trip to Paris, I was charged 20 euros for a coffee and a bottle of water. I find that very unfortunate for them to take advantage of tourism in that way.
Luckily I now go with some tripadvisor or booking type play store app that tells me the places that have normal prices.

Posted by
942 posts

The London Dungeon-There's nothing old or historic about the place just an overpriced haunted house.

Posted by
4952 posts

Sorry, any place any of us visit probably qualifies as a "Tourist Trap", otherwise we would not go there. (OK, yes there are you "true travelers" on this board that do not ever go any place anyone else does, but I am clever enough not to include you, if you note I used a secret macro that allows only you to see this message) I have been to many "trap" places and enjoyed them (The Cingue Terra...though years ago, Tower of Pisa, etc), and have skipped many "must see places (Changing of the Guard, London Eye, etc.), but really, I just take it as it comes, if I enjoy it, great, if not, then at least I had the experience, I do not fret over it.

Posted by
597 posts

Dale, I've actually been to the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey twice. Both are filled with history and interesting things to see. However, if they are over crowded you don't really have the time or ability to see and appreciate them. The crowds and the wait in long lines can spoil even a great sight.

Lived in the DC area for years. Tourists always wanted to see Mt Vernon. I generally directed them to George Mason's home Gunston Hall. Both are lovely properties on the Potomac river. Mt Vernon you pay $20, wait in long lines, then get rushed thru. At Gunston the price is $10, never saw a long line, you can wander around the house as long as you like and the docents will answer questions. If you just wanna say been there, go to My Vernon. If you actually want to absorb some history, go to Gunston Hall.

Rick Steves repeatedly encourages people to tour sites when they aren't crowded. He's right.

Posted by
149 posts

Last time I was in Venice, at the end of a cruise, II treated myself to lunch at Cafe Florian on Piazza San Marco. Was it expensive? Yes, 30€ for a ham panini, a Spritz and a coffee. But I got to sit in the shade on a hot and humid day, relaxing after my trip/walk from the cruise centre, listening to some pleasant music, enjoying excellent service and watched the world go by for an hour or so. The panini was freshly made with lovely bread, proscuitto freshly carved Off the joint, yummy. Oh look, a wedding party coming to take photos. Oh what a beautiful outfit that woman is wearing. Oh there goes a rather frazzled looking tour group rushing to the next site. So, do I think Florian’s Is a tourist trap? No, because it gave me a much needed break during a hot, humid and extremely crowded day in Venice. As others have said, tourist traps are in the eye of the beholder and I look back fondly on my lunch on Piazza San Marco. And I even managed to get into the Basilica without a long wait before my lunch, bonus!

Posted by
11450 posts

It is simply ridiculous to me to call the Tower of London a tourist trap . It’s a fascinating historical site and the crowds did not ruin my second visit last year either .

Posted by
6104 posts

To clarify, what I did not like about Neuschwanstien was that the rooms were reproductions of Wagnerian operas, like theater sets. Rather bizarre. And as castles go, it wasn’t that old.
Just because a place is crowded does not make It a “tourist trap.” To list the magnificence of Westminster Abbey in that category is just plain wrong. Attend a service there, listen to the choirs and savor the history. I always visit it every single time I am in London.

Posted by
1801 posts

Tourist trap to me indicates some kind of historic item or sight which is actually manufactured to purposely dupe people. Did anyone ever see the movie High Spirits which is set in an Irish castle. They manufacture ghosts and advertise in America To dupe them into visiting. PS it is a pretty funny movie. Anyway, that to me is a tourist trap. To put the Vatican or leaning tower of Pisa in this category just because you were disappointed is not correct, in my opinion.

Posted by
597 posts

Get a grip folks. I just said (twice) that both the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey are great historical sites. But if they are very crowded it spoils the experience.

At the tower the Beefeaters spiel is great, but if the group you are in is huge its hard to hear them. On our last visit, we were lucky and got over to the crown jewels quickly, had a very short line outside in the heat, and they have really added to the interesting displays inside. But if I'd had to stand outside in lousy weather I don't think it would be enjoyable.

Yes, I'd enjoy a concert at the abbey, but didn't like to be there elbow to elbow with people unable to take my time and read/look. Go, just go when it isn't crowded.

Sometimes the lesser known sites turn out to be the most enjoyable even if they aren't on everyone's bucket list.

Posted by
991 posts

It's all about perception. I never feel like I was scammed, I am usually amused and remember where I am and how fortunate I am to be there. I can find joy in even the most cheesiest things. I usually acknowledge that what i am seeing is not authentic but appreciate the effort.

Posted by
11450 posts

To me a tourist trap is a manufactured sight like the “ Biggest ball of Yarn “ or “ worlds oldest petrified dog turd “ lol

A sight be crowded just isn’t my definition.

Posted by
1126 posts

@cj-traveler Thanks for the Gunston Hall suggestion. It’s added to my D.C. list when I can travel again.

Posted by
24655 posts

Now I wouldn't go out of my way for the biggest ball of yarn, but I would for the biggest ball of rubber bands. Maybe the museum dedicated to the oldest petrified dog turd would be a winner. I mean, after all, it has to be really old to be petrified, right? Is it from Egypt? What does it look like?

I actually did go to the biggest donut - Inglewood California in LA and if it was on my way I would love to see the biggest pencil.

I wish I could remember the name of the donut place. I remember (it has been many many years)!!! Randy's Donuts, corner of La Cienega and Manchester. Now that's a donut.

Posted by
1097 posts

There is enough information out there to prevent total disappointment. Disney World and Universal. We went when our children were teenagers and had a great time. We expected water slides, rides, corny attractions, together with very expensive accommodation, food and drinks. Exactly what we got.

Many tourist traps mentioned here and elsewhere were not built, nor were they formed, to attract tourists. Poor old mad Ludwig never intended to have many visitors drop by, that was someone else's crafty idea.

"I mean, after all, it has to be really old to be petrified, right?" - Unless it sees a bigger, scarier dog turd.

Posted by
2236 posts

I agree that going to the intersection of Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße in Berlin to see a fake Checkpoint Charlie building is a waste of time. It is priceless, though (at least to me), to see the place where the US ran small, military-escorted convoys into East Berlin in 1961 to demonstrate its right to enter East Berlin at the crossing AND to stand at the only place during the Cold War where US/Soviet tanks directly faced each other inimically.

Posted by
732 posts

Hollywood studios at Disneyland Paris was BORING.

I hated Madame Tussaud's in London but had fun at the one in Vegas..... Weird.

We went to a lot of places in France and the UK.....None we would consider a trap.... Penzance was boring and we moved on..... the Food at Mt Saint Michel was horrible but the view and the history was worth it.

We plan on skipping Blarney Castle when we get to Ireland because it seems gross to me and I can't climb that many stairs anymore.

Posted by
12155 posts

Dave, for me, sometimes, it's about standing at a point in history that draws me. For the right subject that could be a point in the sand of Sarah desert. Others need flash, glitter and props for selfies; which by the way, I often enjoy too.

If your great grandfather told you amazing stories about the Blarney Stone; it might not be a tourist trap for you. If you know nothing or care little about Berlin history then Check point Charlie will be a definite tourist trap.

Its all relative.