“I am going on a Eurotrip” – well, hopefully this plan hasn’t been inspired by the trashy movie of the same name. Not only will you be trapped in some of the most touristy cities of the continent, but also have totally false expectations. Even if you don’t get your inspiration from movies, likely you would end up in visiting the same cities as many other travellers from the US. I don’t want to discourage you from visiting London, Paris, Rome and Berlin (just to mention a few of the most popular tourist destinations). In the opposite: I want to encourage you to get a bit off the beaten path and extend your travel plans to some lesser known gems.
Off the beaten path: really?
If you have never been before in Europe it is understandable that you want to see the popular cities first like every other tourist. It gives you some comfort as everything has been explored by others before you. You can find everything online before your trip: The best-rated hotels, hostels and Air BnB hosts, the best restaurants, the best night clubs etc. This is especially true for the most famous tourist destinations. The path has been prepared for you by countless other travellers before you. However, when you decide to visit less well-known places you might feel like a pioneer. Until you arrive at the destination: You will often find a similar level of comfort (and sometimes even more comfort) as in the big touristy cities. Because also here others have explored everything before you. Still, these destinations can be more rewarding for your travel experience than the big capitals.
Europe’s capital cities are not always representative of their countries
Just because you visit the capital doesn’t mean that you have a grasp about the whole country. European countries are very diverse in mindsets, culture and history within their own borders. Some of these countries who are just about the size of one of the 50 US-States are probably as diverse as the whole United States. Imagine European travellers visiting only Washington D.C. (or New York City). Would it be really representative for the whole US? Wouldn’t these tourists miss out on what the US has to offer (and I don’t even speak about nature)? The same applies to Europe: London and Paris are not representative for the whole continent. And even if they are the dominant cities within their countries, they aren’t representative either for the UK and France respectively. In Germany, Berlin is not even the dominant city economically, despite being the capital of the country. In multilingual Switzerland, the capital Bern doesn’t even have an own international airport.
The disadvantage of popular cities
Hardly anything is more annoying for a traveller than other tourists who always stand in your way, cause you to wait in line for hours to get into the museum and can simply make the trip a stressful experience (and these other tourists might think exactly the same about you!). In some cities flooded with tourists, the locals feel annoyed by them, and that can affect the service you get: less attentive servers in restaurants, overpriced meals at a sub-standard quality, overpriced accomodation in bad condition (because there are enough travellers waiting in line to book anything they can afford) and lots of tourist traps which try to tell you fairy tales. But you don’t come to all the way from overseas to Europe just to have a Disneyland experience, right? You want to feel the real deal.
The advantage of lesser known towns:
Less tourists (especially of the sheeple kind)! That doesn’t mean that other places don’t have experience with foreign travellers, but just the smaller amount of tourists can mean that you don’t need to waste half a day waiting in a long line just for entering a museum. Furthermore, when you extend your visit to other places than the most touristy city, you can get a better understanding of the diverse society which just one European country can offer. And all very likely at a lower cost.
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In a future post I will list the most popular tourist cities in Europe (and give my geographic definition of Europe) and give my opinion whether to visit each of these cities or not. In the meantime please feel free to follow me on Twitter (click on the twitter bird below) and spread the word about my blog.