16 Aug,2017 By jagabond
I wrote a blog that will piss some people off, but honesty is the best policy when it comes to travel advice. I’ve listed cities that, if I won a free trip to, I would probably still visit while hiding my disdain. I live in Europe and love it here, so I would literally travel anywhere on the continent given the opportunity. I propose other options for each city listed, so I’m not purely negative.
1. Berlin, Germany
Do you love clubbing until early morning? Then Berlin is for you. Do you love depressing war history? Then Berlin is for you. Other than that, no. I’m not sure what Berlin would be without the horrible World War history. Locals seem riddled with subtle guilt, and attractions consist mostly of monuments and museums apologizing for what the city has done in its recent history. The monuments themselves aren’t altogether impressive. At least one article has accused the ‘Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe’ of whitewashing Germany’s involvement in the tragedy, and the underwhelming Gypsy memorial consists of a simplistic, lonely pool.
Visit instead – Munich, and the region of Bavaria as a whole, is a much more vibrant and aesthetically pleasing location.
2. Madrid, Spain
Welcome to New York…or any other big city. Madrid is one giant ‘meh’. The tapas are good, but you could have those anywhere in Spain. You can see all the major sights in a day or two, unless you want to visit the Prado museum and spend four hours in line. It says something when the day trips are better than the city itself.
3. Marseille, France
If you make it out of the train station with your wallet, good for you. The criminal element is strong here. I’ve stayed multiple times in the Vieux Port area, which was nice, but venturing out exposes you to pickpockets and other petty thieves. Anthony Bourdain gave this city a glowing review, and I respectfully disagree.
Visit instead – Marseille is close to so many amazing attractions…both Provence and the French Riviera are only a short train ride away.
4. Brussels, Belgium
What’s more exciting than drab NATO and EU buildings? Ummmmm….everything? Brussels can brag about being the unofficial capital of Europe, but they don’t realize that’s largely due to geographic location…remember why you were a strategic asset in both World Wars? If you visit here stay in the center, which actually does have an amazing Grand Place. The north is for junkies and prostitutes, and the south boasts the lovely area of Molenbeek, known for its rampant terrorist activity.
Visit instead – 90 minutes from Brussels by train is Ghent, which made my list for hidden gems of Europe.
5. Aix en Provence, France
My friend Carol cautioned me I might not like it here, and she was right. Do people really live here? I saw a mega-sized shopping mall, with streets clogged with tourists, and shopkeepers who were jaded, curt and rude. The city boasts almost no memorable sights. For example, they have a moss fountain, which is a fountain covered in moss…wow.
Visit instead – Maybe because ‘Provence’ is in the city name, people assume it’s the top attraction in the region, but I would recommend Avignon instead, with its majestic Palace of the Popes and proximity to the Pont du Gard.
6. Manchester, United Kingdom
Do you like to fight? Manchester is for you. The ‘soccer thug’ mentality runs deep here, like when I tried to pay and showed my Chelsea wallet and a couple young punks were ready to throw down with me. This city is UFC practice for those interested, and I even saw a handicapped guy get jacked for his 24 pack of beer. The men all looked rough, as if they had fought their way to adulthood. The accent is difficult as well. I met a nice girl but I couldn’t understand a word she said…then got her number but chose not to call, for fear of her brother kicking the piss out of me.
Visit instead – Experience a dose of music history on The Beatles tour in Liverpool.
7. Verona, Italy
You lose the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ romantic atmosphere the moment the fifth beggar asks you for change. This is the second most overrated city in Italy (see #11 for the first), and the famous Roman arena is worth a day trip, nothing more. Juliet’s house is a terrible tourist trap that offers no good pictures or memories. They have a nice fountain, an okay fortress, and besides that Verona is just a gateway to better places.
8. Warsaw, Poland
I’m sorry 88% of your city went down in the war, but this is simply not a very interesting place. The top attraction there, the museum of the Warsaw ghetto, covers an important historical event but is totally confusing in how it’s laid out. The preponderance of gray, communist buildings makes you drink more, but the alcohol buzz doesn’t make the surroundings any better.
9. Helsinki, Finland
What incredible sights…insert sarcasm here. They have a ‘rock church’, which is a church built inside of a rock, nothing more. They also have a ‘white church’, which is a nondescript cathedral with minimal adornments. This offers more proof that thanks in part to the Vatican, Catholics have a monopoly on pretty churches. Helsinki is also insanely expensive, but unlike other cities in Scandinavia it’s just not worth the money.
10. Bratislava, Slovakia
Statue of this, statue of that. Bratislava is the city of statues, but not much else. I met a local at a Scottish pub there, and he told me there was nothing to see in Bratislava. The castle is not worth the long walk, and they have the Czech Budweiser, which is kinda cool, but if you’re basing your city on beer you’d better be in Belgium. But they have this cool statue, of a guy coming out of a manhole….yawn.
Visit instead – Take a riverboat to Vienna, one of the more magical cities in Europe.
11. Pisa, Italy
Go ahead…take the tourist photo of holding up the leaning tower if you must. With the prevalence of ‘mini’ leaning towers being sold for exorbitant amounts of money, I feel this city was where tourist traps got their name. The best thing I can say about Pisa is their airport serves many budget flights, so it’s a cheap way to get into Tuscany. This is also the only airport I’ve been to in Europe where you can comfortably walk from there to both the train station and downtown area. So fly in, see the tower, and take the first train out of town!
Visit instead – The elegant Tuscan town of Lucca is less than an hour train ride from Pisa, and is much more worthy of your time.