The 10 Worst Tourist Attractions in Europe 29

Long Term Travel - Worst Tourist Attractions

Buckingham Palace or a Bank?

Certain times in your life it’s quite natural to be really disappointed.. Be it watching a Dockers game, cooking a soufflé or realising you need to pee just as you get into bed.. but when it happens overseas in a foreign country that you have paid thousands of dollars to get to and after elbowing your way through 16 cattle sized, Hawaiian shirt wearing families of tourists, it sort of compounds any bad feelings you may have when the grand reward for your time, money and sanity turns out to be so incredibly lame that in comparison Justin Bieber seems totally awesome …

Many of these sites involve large crowds, extortionate costs, boredom, anger, fire, brimstone and biblical plague style annoyance (when you realise that you have paid, waited and pushed to see something thoroughly ordinary). On the plus side, once you get the initial experience out of the way there are some absolutely fantastic moments to be had watching the faces of eager tourists as they stand there lost in confusion staring down some of the world’s worst tourist attractions. It’s only hilarious because you were in the exact same position yesterday..

1)      Buckingham Palace, London: There’s a big ornate gate, a large boring building that you’d be forgiven for mistaking for a bank and let’s not forget the poor guys who have to stand around all day wearing stupid hats… and… well… actually that’s pretty much all there is to it. Honestly, the best part of Buckingham Palace is probably the beautiful fence.

2)      Royal palace of Madrid: Sorry I’m picking on palaces a little but the appeal of looking at an overly large and often hideously decorated house is just lost on me. While more ornately presented (and less financial looking) than its English counterpart (Madrid 1 – London 0) Madrid’s royal palace is just as effective at making you go.. “ummm, cool, is that it?” There is another rather nice fence to stand behind, a big pompous building and swarms of confused tourists which is fun, but unfortunately no silly hats to be seen at all..  (London 1 – Madrid 1).

Long Term Travel - Worst Tourist Attractions

Awesome Clock.. but see those little men at the bottom.. their heads shake.. that’s it..

3)      Astronomical Clock, Prague: This one’s hilarious; the clock itself is beautiful and well worth a look but what draws the MASSIVE crowed of tourists every hour is the world famous ‘performance’. Tourists gather with bated breath, cameras at the ready, (pickpockets have a field day with the distracted tourists) and when the so eagerly anticipated moment actually occurs it’s about as exciting as being a tax accountant. A few tiny metal men shake their heads from side to side, some revolving doors open and close, there are a few shaky symbol crashes and… yep actually.. that’s pretty much it.. But here’s the good part: watching people’s faces when the show’s over.. Priceless… Anger, laughter and grunts of annoyance all smothered in a thick coat of confusion.. I actually saw a guy who was so angry that he shook his fist at the clock!! How angry do you have to be to shake your fist at something, especially an inanimate object like a clock.. Anyway the attraction is awful but the reactions are definitely worth waiting for.

4)      Jet D’Eau, Geneva (The big water spout): It’s a giant spout of water… umm yeh, that’s pretty much it. Sadly you can’t get close enough to it to throw a tennis ball or something else in to see exactly how high up it goes.. my guess would be ‘Whitney Houston high’ ( and that’s pretty high!).

5)      The Botanical Timekeeper, Geneva: The second of Geneva’s snore inducing sites is a clock that’s made of flowers… does it do anything useful apart from photosynthesis or the blindingly obvious (given that it’s a giant clock)? Nope. Yet it’s apparently one of Switzerland’s most photographed sites.

6)      The Mona Lisa, Paris: This more or less sums up the Mona Lisa Experience – Firstly you have to live long enough to get to the front of the Louvre’s entrance line (the old people you see in the museum were all young when they started lining up).* Once you’ve fought your way into the Louvre building, spent 30 minutes deciphering the cryptic visitor map and elbowed your way through packs of slavering tourists, you finally stumble into the pumping throng of people in the room housing the Mona Lisa who at first glance are all standing around looking at a blank wall… on closer inspection you can see a painting.. just.. if you squint.

*There are other entrances that for some reason most people just don’t use.. instead they line up in the hot sun for HOURS.

The Mona Lisa/Louvre Museum Essential Item Check List

–        Full protective riot gear, including Perspex shield and Kevlar vest

–        Magnifying glass – So you can see the painting

–        Camera with telescopic lens – So you can photograph the painting

–        Ball of string, so you can find your way out of the Louvre before your next birthday

–        Egyptologist to help with deciphering the hieroglyphics on the visitors map

–        Sense of humour.

Long Term Travel - Worst Tourist Attractions

Tai Chi – Pisa style..

7)      Leaning Tower of Pisa: The tower does lean, a little. You really need to get side-on to see it properly (it only leans about 4 degrees) Once you’ve taken a few photo’s you might notice that EVERYONE around you is trying to take those ‘hilarious’ pose photos where it looks like they’re trying to push the tower back up. Here’s what you do; ignore the tower completely and take photos of people posing from an angle that has no tower in it at all. It’s hilarious; people look like they are trying to do some demented form of awful Tai chi. It’s brilliant!

8)      Manneken Pis, Brussels: Ever seen that famous fountain of the little boy peeing into the water? Well it’s in the middle of Brussels tucked away around a corner, down a lane from the Grand Place (one of the most beautiful medieval squares in Europe). It’s surrounded by tour groups, tourist traps and more waffles than I ever knew existed and attracts large crowds all day.  Occasionally the boy gets dressed up in kids’ clothes overnight, which does add a little humour to the thing, yet it is generally quite the underwhelming fountain experience. Hilariously it’s not uncommon for visitors to leave disappointed or even a little… ‘pissed off’… (oh god.. sorry, I had to).

9)      Grand Bazaar, Istanbul: “I swear to god if one more person asks me if I want to buy another bloody carpet.. Sh%t is going to go down!!” – Anonymous English Tourist, 2013

While shopping in Istanbul is certainly an interesting experience in itself, the Grand Bazaar is about the worst place for good prices in the whole city… despite the shop keepers each insisting that they’ll give you “special price” or “for you my friend, only best price”. You can buy the exact same products outside the bazaar for about half the prices you’ll get inside and while the fully covered roof is nice on a hot day the shops and stalls in the surrounding areas of the city offer a far better atmosphere and genuine Turkish shopping experience.

10)   Spanish Steps, Rome: Generally the only time I get excited about a flight of stairs is when I get to the top.. you see it’s just not that easy to get excited about a bunch of stairs. The last stairway that I thoroughly enjoyed was the one Led Zeppelin came up with in 1971. As a general rule, stairs are just not that interesting to sane, rational people. The Spanish steps also happen to be the best way to get down the hill when you’re at the top, that’s probably about the best part about them… oh yeh and they get ridiculously slippery in the wet so be careful if it rains as falling down 135 steps would be somewhat unpleasant and ironically also probably the most memorable part of the entire Spanish Steps experience…

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29 thoughts on “The 10 Worst Tourist Attractions in Europe

  1. Reply Sian Sep 18, 2013 9:50 pm

    I was interested to see what you came up with! I loved #7!! Although I’ve take the ‘push the tower back up’ photo, how can you not, your idea of taking photos of others is hilarious.

    You definitely do need a sense of humour when travelling – especially with how long you’ve been away. I’ll be taking mine to NYC tomorrow – I’m a tad concerned with what our hotel will be like! :)

    • Reply Pete Sep 19, 2013 3:51 am

      haha yeh you have to take things in your stride right.. *cough* 18 hour bus rides *cough*
      Great to hear form you! Enjoy NY!! – Flick us an email and let us know how you guys go :)

  2. Reply Jan Biddle Sep 21, 2013 1:38 am

    I didn’t bother holding it up I STRAIGHTENED it up!

  3. Reply Jar Jar Sep 22, 2013 9:36 am

    Crikey, Europe in its entirety is a big yawnfest. If you want some adventure, or some culture, try Asia, Australia, South America, North America or Africa. My experiences in the Arctic were more interesting than Europe! The only thing of interest in Europe is the humour of watching the locals take themselves so seriously.

    • Reply Calder Nov 1, 2013 4:02 pm

      Yes. You’re right. For some real culture you need to be in North America. Where can else can you see a endless repetition of identical food exits, gas exits and motel exits with identical franchises in them. No inner cities but…. identical malls. Europe’s attractions are not “new, bigger, better, more spectacular”. They’re genuine (apart from Euro Disney) and if that disappoints you it says more about you than Europe.

      • Reply Pete Nov 1, 2013 6:51 pm

        Well not sure what North America has to do with anything to be honest, North America has its share of both terrible and awesome attractions, like every country does, got nothing at all to do with Europe or this post though. I love history but just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s instantly amazing, anyway a North American city is just as ‘genuine’ as an old European one, they’re just not considered ‘history’ yet. Also not sure when I mentioned that I was disappointed in Europe, quite the opposite actually, I love Europe. Sites and attractions from all around the world can be great or can suck, has nothing to do with where you are, some sites are hyped up or just turn out to be disappointing on the day for whatever reason, it’s no reflection on the country you happen to be in if a tourist attraction doesn’t appeal to someone.

  4. Reply Depressed Monkey Sep 22, 2013 10:28 am

    You forgot the Sistine Chapel. Hours of dragging yourself through miles of corridor and endless pictures of torture, death and pain (yep, a great place to take the kiddies) to finally arrive in a room where the famous bit of the Sistine ceiling is about an A4 piece of paper…..on a football field. The place is stacked with people and snarky security guards screeching not to take photos because it is offensive in this holy sanctuary or is it because they want you to fork out for the postcards featuring these exact same images on the other side of the door? – I guess the photographer who took those must have been blessed.

    • Reply Pete Sep 23, 2013 5:11 am

      haha fantastic one! Couldn’t agree more. It’s one of those site’s that count as “I’m glad I’ve seen it but I wouldn’t ever go back”

    • Reply Diane Nov 1, 2013 11:18 am

      The trick is to book a ticket online for Friday night. Crowd is small. We headed straight through to the chapel and it was deserted. Even after half an hour there were only a small number of very quiet and respectful viewers. The other method is a tour with Walks of Italy who go in at 8am but that’s quite expensive. I agree with you about the crowds though – horrible and you can’t see it properly.

  5. Reply Kate Sep 22, 2013 6:04 pm

    Hilarious! Especially the Mona Lisa comment…. !

  6. Reply Paksta Sep 22, 2013 11:31 pm

    3) What tool travelled so far out of his way to see a clock, that he was angered by the one in Prague? It’s got a live trumpeter and a skeleton. Skeleton! What was he expecting – a strip show? For that you need to reverse back down the street directly behind you. Third door on the left. Probably he was waiting for 45 mins and didn’t realise it, cause nobody can actually read the clock.

    6) Louvre is not very busy if you are there before the 3pm discount, cheapskate! Also there is no need to exit quickly if you’re not into art. I recommend the ‘Ninja Turtle Challenge’. Time yourself to see how long it takes to find works by all for ninja turtles. Record is 45 mins – although as far as I know, I’m the only one who’s ever played it. Warning: Donatello is a tough one!

    Just trying to be helpful. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

  7. Reply Sally Sep 23, 2013 5:32 am

    HAHAHA Great article!! I bet some people took this way too seriously right? Love a bit of well written satire!

    • Reply Pete Sep 23, 2013 5:37 am

      Thanks Sally. haha Yep had a few interesting comments from people who perhaps took the post a little too seriously… for the record I love history, in fact I read plenty of history in my spare time, my eyes are well and truly open and I still enjoyed every minute of visiting these ‘underwhelming’ tourist spots. :)

  8. Reply Eirik Sep 23, 2013 11:46 pm

    Honestly, this list was hit or miss for me.

    The Buckingham Palace is a reminder of what used to be perhaps the single most powerful royal family in the world. The building itself migth not be as impressive as the city of Petra, but it is what it represents that I found so fascinating. Besides, I bet you found Tower of London a big yawn as well I would imagine?

    For me its about the history and not how “impressive” some things must look for me to go “ooooh” and “aaaah”…places like Rome is a big tourist trap, sure, but you also get to see the ruins of an 2500 year old empire that controlled large parts the “known world” with the gladius…

    • Reply Pete Sep 24, 2013 3:08 am

      Thanks for the comments Eirik, obviously a good point about the significance of Buckingham palace. I’d never argue that its not a place of historical significance, and I love history, in fact I regularly read/study history when I can (of particular interest for me is medieval Europe up to about the 16th century. I thoughtfully enjoyed the Tower of London (except for the price tag..), I think it is perhaps one of the most interesting things to do as a visitor in London and again plays right into my historical interests. So I think we’re in the same camp when it comes to why we enjoy these sites. I really enjoy many parts of Rome too, (there are the obvious tourist traps of course, like anywhere) one of the best day trips I think for a history buff in Rome is Ostia Antica, a site i’m planning on doing it’s own post about. At this current time i’m in central Turkey and the number of amazing ancient cities and archaeological sites here is staggering, by the sounds of it (if you haven’t already been) you would really enjoy Turkey, i’m having a great time exploring over here. Always fascinating to see the remnants of the past, even with a healthy dose of sarcasm :P

  9. Reply Corinne Sep 24, 2013 12:27 am

    I have to agree with these, and I’m sure there are quite a few more! My favorite…bust…is the Leaning Tower of Pisa…yuck!

  10. Reply TdeF Nov 1, 2013 6:06 am

    Cannot agree about the Grand Bazaar! I have been every year for the last three years and it is fantastic. Mind boggling and surrounded by street stalls spilling down the hill. Prices are great. You could try bargaining. The leather jackets I bought this year was better and 1/3 of the price of Italy. Made in Turkey too. Superb quality. The range of goods is overwhelming. Istanbul is a huge city, one of the world’s biggest and the market does not exist just for tourists. There is nothing like it in any other city to even compare.

  11. Reply Hayley Nov 1, 2013 6:42 am

    Maybe it is a different palace but I remember the Palace Real in Madrid as being a pretty amazing place to visit. Inside the rooms are incredible, the decorating is very over the top and obviously cost a fortune.

  12. Reply Heather Nov 1, 2013 8:57 am

    How about Covent Garden. Tiny shops, full of useless knick-knacks that could be purchase any where in the world, but for five times the price, surrounded by cobblestones with one lame juggler on a unicycle. Pick pockets delight.

  13. Reply Willsy Nov 1, 2013 9:55 am

    Could not agree more about the Mona Lisa, and the Sistine Chapel should be number 1!! I went there with mates, said i’d never be back. Came back to Europe with my GF, got dragged through again. Such suffering!
    Enjoyed the Astronomical Clock too haha.

  14. Reply Peter Nov 1, 2013 3:19 pm

    Venice as a whole is a bore. Supercrowded with tourists, rude locals and who hasnt seen a dirty canal before? Almost every capital city in the world is built on a water body. I couldnt see what the fuss was about.

  15. Reply Tania Nov 3, 2013 12:54 pm

    I am another lover of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, especially the antiques area – although I must confess I just love Istanbul’s incredible heritage and history. Agree with the author about the annoyance of constant touting but wonder whether he just doesn’t like shopping?

    • Reply Pete Nov 4, 2013 9:58 pm

      haha well put Tania, it is very true that shopping is perhaps not my forte. Agree about Istanbul also, fantastic city.

  16. Reply Gunnar Nov 9, 2013 5:06 am

    I really enjoyed your comment about the spanish steps because that’s EXACTLY what I thought about them the first time I visited Rome. I mean… I came, there were the steps, and I went upstairs… the area above wasn’t even interesting, but a rather dull quiet neighborhood.

    My experience with Mona Lisa was however a little different. I came with the underground which is physically connected to the museum. So I skipped the entrance line. Also, it was quick and easy to buy tickets once inside (there are many automatic ticket machines where you buy a ticket in 30 seconds, but for some reason everyone lined up in front of the main ticket office). There weren’t too many people in the Louvre either, but that is perhaps because I was there outside the main tourist seasons.

  17. Reply Louis Dec 9, 2013 9:17 am

    Haha i enjoyed your list, but have to say that I loved Madrid Royal Palace, not only for the beautifuly decorated rooms but also for the arms museum. The palace is within the city and absolutely no hassle to visit.
    Just note that every piece inside the palace is original, not like Versailles Palace which was totally restored after the french revolution. Now that Palace I would include in your list.

  18. Reply Rojcan Dec 16, 2013 3:52 am

    If you end up back in turkey head to the south east, totally different culture and endless amount of history.

    • Reply Pete Jan 23, 2014 9:14 pm

      Yes, I would love to. I was hoping to get there but with the situation in Syria, my family (and girlfriend) wouldn’t let me :) – still great excuse to go back to Turkey!

  19. Reply aubrey Aug 11, 2014 10:05 pm

    I was clearly super lucky with the Louvre, after reading all about these terrible crowds and queues I got there at opening time, queued for a short time going into the glass triangle (I didn’t know there were other entrances or I would have avoided it) I also avoided the ticket line as ALL EU students get in for free, no ticket, just show your passport at the gate, so there were only about 5 people in the mona lisa room, I did pop my head round the door on my way back up that corridor and there were more people in there, perhaps they all got held up with the ticket line?

    When visiting Rome my friend was excited about visiting the Spanish Steps, I also didn’t realise stairs were that interesting… In the day it was a bunch of steps but I visited them again very late at night and it was brilliant, a great place to meet people and packed with people enjoying each others company, the stairs just happened to be a lovely cool place to sit after a long hot day.

    • Reply Pete Aug 27, 2014 12:32 pm

      Thanks for the comments Aubrey, I love to ‘embellish’ my stories a little, maybe you noticed :) I actually did a very similar things with the Spanish steps! I’m a huge fan of just looking at things and while yes, they are ‘just steps’ they are beautiful examples of what steps can be, far more than just a way to go up and down.

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