7 May,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.
Visit instead – I don’t know how people can prefer this city to Barcelona, a place with something for everyone, or Sevilla, one of the warmest climates in Europe.
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.
Visit instead – Verona is only a short train ride from Venice and Bolzano, which are much better options.
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.
Visit instead – Krakow is one of my top cities in Europe, and Gdansk is very underrated.
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.
Visit instead – Tallinn, Estonia is a medieval beauty and easily accessible from Helsinki via short ferry ride.
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.
May 7th, 2017 at 11:22 am
Great list, and helpful. I disagree a bit with Berlin, but you are spot on with Munich & Bavaria. Also, couldn’t agree more with Madrid. Haven’t seen Barcelona yet, which you recommend, but Sevilla is one of my favorite cities. Same goes for your Bratislava-Vienna review, however I think all one needs to be is a citizen of the world and it should be obvious as to which of these two places gets the nod! Keep up the great work, I enjoy the reading!
May 7th, 2017 at 1:08 pm
Rich money, thanks for reading! Berlin was during December, so I’ve thought about going back in a better month.
May 8th, 2017 at 12:43 am
Somebody tried to be controversial with Berlin on top there. And, regarding Helsinki, I believe you just went into a lot of shitty locations. That city is more than amazing.
Either way, couldn’t agree more with Bratislava.
May 8th, 2017 at 12:07 pm
I respect your opinion, and I’m glad you had a more positive experience than I did in Berlin and Helsinki. Writing about least favorite cities always drives an interesting debate.
May 8th, 2017 at 2:53 am
Every city is worth a visit, in general. But, in any case, I do not agree at all when we come to Berlin and Verona.
The Pergamon Museum in Berlin is something absolutely amazing and also the architecture of the new Potsdammer Platz is something important.
Regarding Verona, well it is not only the house of Rome and Juliet, a tourist trap I agree. Maybe you lost the Arena, strange is rather big, San Zeno, arche Scaligere, Piazza Erbe and so on.
And, sometime the relevance of a city is provided by some facts that one might forget or simply not know.
Verona is the only italian city not being a chief town of a region having, not every year but frequently, two football teams in Serie A, the top league. And it is the only city non chief town of a region having a football team winning the championship after WW II. And by the way the surroundings are beautiful.
I am not from Verona, but form Rome.
May 8th, 2017 at 12:08 pm
At least we agree on Juliet’s House! Thanks for reading!
May 8th, 2017 at 8:55 am
My friend I could not agree with you more. This is probably one of the best posts I have read in a while. Lets cut the crap and see the real treasures in Europe instead. I mean if you are going to spend your hard earned money at least spend it wisely.
May 8th, 2017 at 12:06 pm
Thanks, Joella! I had fun writing it!
May 8th, 2017 at 11:30 am
Berlin is way nicer in summer. In winter, you get a hang of the depressive mood that everybody carries along due to unforgiving dark, wet, cold, windy and waaaay too long winters.
May 8th, 2017 at 11:46 am
I definitely see your point, in fact there are many cities in Europe that have unforgiving winters!
May 8th, 2017 at 2:45 pm
I could agree with all… But its your personal opinion so i wont troll you. But I would suggest or request you to visit Berlin for atleast 3-4 days in summers . N apart from doing touristy things i would suggest you to do following
1. Take a long walk in Grunewald or Waansee
2. Hang around in cafe of Kreuzberg
3. Roam in the evening around Spree on one of the weekend evening and dance with others
4. Eat at Hackersher markt
And many other experiences…
You dont need to party till 6 or visit Holocaust to like the city. But definitely its your choice
May 8th, 2017 at 10:18 pm
Thanks for the specific recommendations, I will put these on my to-do list for next time I’m there. Thank you for reading!
May 25th, 2017 at 1:51 am
Intriguing list especially about Berlin but I guess you’re just being honest here. Enjoyed it, thanks for sharing!
May 25th, 2017 at 12:04 pm
Thanks for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed it!
August 29th, 2017 at 5:37 am
Haha, lol, I see that a lot of people agree with me on Berlin not belonging on this list. I guess Berlin is a city where you can easily get into a boring tourist loop but it is surely one of the most vibrant cities in Europe right now. Yes, a lot of it is built around the music scene but there is so much more going on. I liked the list Anchal gave but I would like to add the Tempelhof airport park. Did you go there? Or maybe the kulturbrauerei? I must admit that many of my greatest moment in Berlin did involve staying up late, but is that so bad? Yeah, so maybe you shouldn’t take your grandma to Berlin.
August 29th, 2017 at 9:01 am
Yes, different people like different things…that’s the beauty of travel! Thanks for reading!
July 7th, 2018 at 6:59 pm
I find it funny you put Bratislava. Eurotrip had me stoked when I went to Europe, nostalgia for every euro stereotype lol. I was expecting much more, I tell everyone you can see it in one six hour stop through by train.. there’s really nothing to it, and it’s getting all this construction of big banks going on it seems like. Still pretty cheap for being on the Euro, though. Helsinki I couldn’t disagree with you more on though, was just there in late June. Beautiful city.
July 8th, 2018 at 11:31 am
At least we agree on one of two! I took the ferry to Bratislava from Vienna and stayed around six hours…you’re totally right that’s the perfect amount of time. Thanks for reading!
January 15th, 2019 at 9:45 am
Well I disagree with many of your choices. Verona is a very beautiful city and I love Brussels, but I understand why people don’t like it, it’s not exactly a super touristic place (and Molenbeek is in the east of the city, not the south and it’s in full renovation mode), but I’m positively impressed that you put Berlin on your list.
I agree 100% and I’ve been living in the city for two painfully long years. Ugly city, horrible weather (summer is not nice, is super humid), either rude or patronising people. As you said it, if you don’t care for clubbing or for WWII there isn’t much else for a casual person.
I laugh at the suggestion made by other users: Templehof is literally a gigantic lawn with no trees and two slips of road in the middle, I fail to see the appeal. The Kulturbrauerei is a reused beer factory with some concert halls and a supermarket, hardly an unforgettable site (I live behind it).
I can go on and on ranting about the city and dismantling any “cool” suggestion but I’m going to stop 🙂