15 Notorious European Tourist Traps That Are Still Worth Visiting

Don’t overlook these travel gems just because they have a reputation for being touristy.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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Visiting Europe is high on many people’s bucket lists, but planning the right stops can be overwhelming. There are many tourist destinations, but deciding which ones are worth it and which are overhyped can be difficult.

Even though many major sites are considered “touristy,” that doesn’t necessarily mean you should bypass them. In fact, some of these are still must-see locations. 

If you’re visiting Europe soon, grab one of the best travel credit cards and check out these travel destinations. Whether it be their cultural significance or stunning architecture, they're worth a visit, despite their touristy reputations.

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The Eiffel Tower (Paris)

Givaga/Adobe sight of eiffel tower at spring

For Parisians, the Eiffel Tower may not be a big deal anymore. However, tourists in the city should check out the 1,000-foot-tall historic site.

Just watch out for pickpockets. Paris is one of the more notorious destinations for petty theft, and that is especially true in a place so densely packed with tourists. So, keep all of your valuables close at hand.

The Colosseum (Rome)

phant/Adobe shot of flavian amphitheater during day

If you’re visiting Rome, include a trip to the Colosseum in your itinerary. While only ruins remain, at one time, the amphitheater was filled with dueling gladiators and more than 50,000 guests.

General admission tickets cost 18 euros, and those under 18 get in for free. You can also get all-inclusive tour options or skip-the-line tickets for extra fees.

The Charles Bridge (Prague)

TTstudio/Adobe charles bridge at sunset in prague

If you’re planning a visit to Prague, you’ve likely come across recommendations to see the Charles Bridge. It was completed in 1402, making it the second-oldest bridge in the Czech Republic.

While walking across the bridge, check out the statue of St. John of Nepomuk. It’s rumored that touching the statue brings you good luck.

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The Sagrada Familia (Barcelona, Spain)

Valerie2000/Adobe sagrada familia cathedral in barcelona

The Sagrada Familia is a basilica in Barcelona and one of the most popular tourist destinations. Construction of this church began in 1882 and is still being built today.

The appeal of this site is due to its principal architect, Antoni Gaudí. Modern architects are still following Gaudí’s original schematics, which will make it the tallest church in the world upon completion.

The Acropolis (Athens, Greece)

tilialucida/Adobe parthenon on acropolis in athens

For those traveling to the Mediterranean coast, take time to tour the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. This citadel dates as far back as the Middle Neolithic era. Unlike other tourist sites, the Acropolis hosts multiple landmarks to visit and explore.

At this location, you’ll find the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Temple of Zeus, the Erechtheum, and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, just to name a few. There are more than 20 total places to visit altogether.

The Vatican Museums (Vatican City)

Photocreo Bednarek/Adobe beautiful vatican city museums

Few places in the world are home to as many famous and breathtaking art collections as Vatican City. 

Pope Julius II founded the Vatican museums in the 16th century, showcasing works from Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Carravagio, and more.

With historical and modern works displayed in the Vatican Museums, typically around 20,000 pieces of art are on display at any given time.

The Tower of London (London)

Mapics/Adobe tower of london with cloudy sky

London is a city steeped in tourist traps, from Big Ben to the London Eye. But arguably, the one that’s most worth your time and money is the Tower of London.

This tower dates back to the 11th century, and more than 3 million people come to visit each year. 

Royal treasures were guarded inside, as were prisoners. Anne Boleyn was held in the Tower, as were Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I.

The Palace of Versailles (Versailles, France)

Sergii Figurnyi/Adobe entrance gate of france versailles castle

Aside from the Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Versailles is one of France’s best-known and most-visited sites. While it caters to tourists, it’s still a great place to include in your travel plans.

After the French Revolution, the palace became a place of political and cultural significance. In 1837, it was turned into a museum.

The Amalfi Coast (Italy)

Serenity-H/Adobe amalfi-coast-at sunrise

Deciding where to visit in a country as steeped in history as Italy can be difficult. However, there’s a reason why the Amalfi Coast is so famous.

The Amalfi Coast showcases some of the Mediterranean's most breathtaking seaside cliffs and is as stunning as it is historic. 

Most people visit in the summer, but you can avoid large crowds while enjoying the weather if you plan your trip in May, April, or September.

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Brandenburg Gate (Berlin)

TTstudio/Adobe berlin gate at night

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin is a historic landmark in Germany and a well-loved destination for tourists and locals alike. The gate was built in the Greek Revival style in the late 18th century, inspired by the Acropolis.

During the Cold War, though, this gate was a physical dividing point between East Germany and West Germany. 

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the Brandenburg Gate became a symbol of unity. That makes it a great site for history buffs to check out.

The Blarney Stone (Cork, Ireland)

Helmut/Adobe ai generated shot of blarney castle

The Blarney Stone is one of Ireland’s most tourist-centric sites, shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Located in Cork, there are many possible origins of this stone.

One tale says Jacob used the stone as a pillow, and another that it was struck by Moses’ staff. A third tale says it’s imbued with the magical tears of the Queen of the Fairies.

Glenfinnan Viaduct (Lochaber, Scotland)

Dmitry Naumov/Adobe glenfinnan viaduct during day time

If you want to get an overview of some of Scotland’s most breathtaking sites while enriching yourself in architectural history, tour the Glenfinnan Viaduct via the Jacobite Steam Train.

Construction on the viaduct began in the late 19th century. The train tour is 84 miles long, showcasing some of the most gorgeous landscapes you’ll ever see. This is also the filming site for the second and third “Harry Potter” films.

Dubrovnik (Croatia)

igorp1976/Adobe dubrovnik fortresses along coast

If you plan to explore Eastern Europe, include a stop in Dubrovnik, Croatia, in your itinerary. 

If you recognize the ancient orange-roofed buildings, you’ve likely seen them in the “Game of Thrones” television series or even the “Star Wars” film franchise.

The city is also steeped in history, making it worth a trip. Taste local wines, explore local cuisine, and tour the ancient city. Visit in May, September, or October to avoid hordes of tourists.

London Eye (London)

offcaania/Adobe london skyline with london eye

While hardly the most historic site London has to offer, the London Eye is perhaps one of the more iconic. 

London is a large city, and unless you're there for an extended amount of time, it may be hard to see all it has to offer during your stay.

This is where the London Eye comes in. As the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel, it allows you to see the city in its entirety from a high vantage point.

Stonehenge (Salisbury Plain, United Kingdom)

Renato/Adobe stonehenge prehistoric monument in england

Stonehenge is one of the world's oldest and most curious monuments, making it a popular tourist destination. The stone monument was built in 2500 B.C.E., and the reasons remain unknown.

Along with the actual stone monument, you can also visit the Stonehenge museum and look at all the excavated archaeological objects on display.

Bottom line

Daria/Adobe happy couple riding scooter while traveling

Even if you're stepping up your travel game, there’s no way to see every beautiful natural or culturally significant site in Europe in one lifetime. However, you can start working through the most famous and popular.

While many of these locations are famous for being touristy, they’re popular for a reason. While visiting these places might bring the crowds, you'll leave with plenty of amazing memories.

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Lucy Clark

Lucy Clark has considerable experience writing about real estate, as well as homes and gardens, home value, and more. She is savvy and resourceful, and she aims to ensure others can be, as well.