Europe can be a blissful vacation — unless, that is, you visit the same locations as every other tourist. It can be hard to find alternatives to tourist traps. After all, the big tourist destinations are the most heavily advertised — that’s why everybody is there. We've put together five European tourist traps you should avoid plus suggestions of exciting places to go instead. Happy exploring!
London Eye vs. Sky Garden
The London Eye might seem like a must-see. But the truth is, it’s expensive, less exciting than you'd imagine, and normally has a very, very long line. Instead, try visiting the Sky Garden, London’s highest public garden. Located on Fenchurch Street (just a short two miles away from the London Eye), the Sky Garden has breathtaking views of the city, and it’s also a great place to relax and put your feet up after a long day. Admission to the Sky Garden is free, but you’ll want to take advantage of the Fenchurch Restaurant (does the London Eye serve you toasted spelt risotto and Yorkshire rhubarb at the top?). The Sky Garden also has a couple of bars. It’s a fantastic alternative to the London Eye and one that you’ll probably enjoy a lot more.
Leaning Tower of Pisa vs. Towers of Bologna
According to The Wonders Of The World, the Leaning Tower of Pisa gets a million visitors each year. If you want to see cool Italian towers that don’t have that much traffic, try visiting the two leaning towers in the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana in Bologna, Italy. These towers (the Garisenda Tower and the Asinelli Tower) were built in the 12th century and, says Chasing Travel, “they’ve been teetering ever since.” The Asinelli Tower is 318 feet high and the Garisenda Tower is just a little shorter. Bring some shoes with good traction, climb the towers and enjoy the view of Bologna.
The Eiffel Tower vs. Maine-Montparnasse Tower
Just about everyone has a photo of themselves posing in front of the Eiffel Tower. And countless visitors wait in line for their turn to head to the top of the tower for a view of Paris. Sure, the Eiffel Tower is cool — it’s a recognizable, big-name landmark — but the Maine-Montparnasse Tower is every bit as exciting. This office skyscraper is 689 feet tall (for reference, the Eiffel Tower is 1,063 feet high) and can be found in the Montparnasse area of Paris, about ten minutes from the Eiffel Tower. It may not look like much from the outside, but once you reach the top you'll find a view that rivals that of the Eiffel Tower. You can go up to the observation deck and watch the sun set over Paris. And in the winter, the terrace of the tower even turns into Paris’s highest ice skating rink. The Eiffel Tower is beautiful, but you can’t go ice skating at the top.
Cliffs of Moher vs. Slieve League Cliffs
The 700-foot Cliffs of Moher are magnificent and breathtaking, but they can get extremely crowded — which tends to take the magic out of the experience. Luckily, there’s an alternative: the Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal. These cliffs are less well-known than the Cliffs of Moher, but in some ways, they’re better — the Slieve League Cliffs are a giant 1,900 feet tall. You can also visit the Slieve League Cliffs Centre, which is a family-run business where you can buy some locally-made knitwear or listen to Irish music.
Neuschwanstein Castle vs. Linderhof Palace
Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany, is like something straight out of a fairy tale. But it’s also one of the most-visited destinations in all of Europe. Kind of crazy when you consider that half the rooms in the castle were never completed. Instead, escape the crowds and spend your time visiting Linderhof Palace. Like Neuschwanstein, Linderhof was also built by King Ludwig II. It’s a little smaller, but just as beautiful. You can visit the Linderhof Palace and Park for under $10 a person, and children under 18 can get in free (Neuschwanstein costs about $20 for a guided tour). Some visitors think Linderhof’s interior is better than Neuschwanstein’s. Linderhof’s gardens are beautiful in the summer, and visiting the castle is a great option to spend your day.