The Most Overrated Cities in the World, and the Underrated Alternatives You Should Visit Instead
There's no doubt the tourism Gods of this world have smiled upon some places more than others. Whilst certain cities rake in the visitors, others are left relatively untouched. And this is rarely a reflection on the quality of each place. If anything, the unspoiled air of some of the less tourist-heavy locations only adds to their charm. So if you're planning a trip, here are some of the places you might be thinking of, and some lesser-appreciated options to consider instead.
It might be one of the world's fashion capitals and you can be forgiven for being drawn in by postcard images of its stunning Duomo. But, in reality, Milan's offerings are limited. Unless you can actually afford to shop around in Prada and Armani, a stroll down Via Montenapoleone won't take you more than ten minutes. The city itself is extremely busy and the vibe more closely resembles that of London than the charming hospitality famous of Italian culture.
Try instead: Bologna
You'll have heard of Bologna, if only as the home of the famous spaghetti Bolognese. This red city, capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, is a constant parade of stunning medieval and Renaissance architecture, the food is impeccable, and if you're in it for the shopping, it certainly won't let you down. It's also an easy day trip away from other cities like Verona, Mantua and Padua, so it makes a great base for further exploration.
If you're not from the UK, visiting the UK tends to mean one thing: London. The call of Covent Garden, Oxford Street shopping and the opportunity to take a selfie with Big Ben or one of those iconic red phone boxes is generally too much to resist. But, like Milan, London is unfathomably busy, overpriced, and it just lacks some of that genuine British charm.
Try instead: Bristol
Around two hours West of London, and with its own international airport, is the city of Bristol. Still a huge city, Bristol offers a more genuine (and affordable) experience of a British city, away from all those tacky London bus souvenirs. It's a thriving, friendly city with a great night life, interesting museums, and a buzzing arts and music scene. It's well known as home of elusive graffiti artist 'Banksy', so look out for some of his enigmatic masterpieces along the way.
Famous for its central street, La Rambla, Barcelona is swamped by tourists almost all year round. It's unrelentingly busy, and has become a sporting ground for pick pockets. Its rows of identical, paella-offering restaurants leave the more discerning traveller grasping for a more authentic experience. There's no doubt it's worth a visit once in your life, but Spain has so much more to offer than this tourist hotspot.
Try instead: Valencia
Located on the south east coast of Spain, Valencia is a striking mix of historical buildings and futuristic architecture. Far from trying to compete with bustling cities like Barcelona and Madrid, Valencia moves to the beat of its own drum. The cuisine of this fertile, farm-flanked city is fresh and delicious, the culture is vibrant, and the nightlife is incredible.
Host of the first modern Olympics and home to the famous and magnificent Acropolis, Athens has been one of Greece's hottest tourist destinations for decades. Unfortunately, this popularity has taken its toll, with visitors in recent years describing the city as rundown. Whilst most of the hotels are well-maintained, the streets themselves are becoming dingy, and many people feel this ancient city just doesn't live up to its own hype any more
Try instead: Evia
Not too far away from Athens, allowing you to make the obligatory 'see it for yourself' visit to the overrated capital, is the island of Evia. This lesser-known treasure is connected to the mainland by two bridges. It's the second largest island in Greece and offers a relaxing, local experience. The climate in Evia is milder than the blistering heat of Athens, the beaches are stunning, and the thermal baths of Edipsos are a must-visit.
We've seen it in the movies, that hedonistic blend of class and debauchery. That oh-so-tempting attitude of 'what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas'. And yet, like the other cities on this list, the realities of Vegas clash with the hype, and its own popularity is to blame. Fancy queuing two hours to get into a club? Or paying twice normal price even for a McDonald's meal? To top it off, the sweltering heat in the summer means getting outside to escape the crowds can be difficult. These days, a lot of people are reporting that Vegas was just a bit too, well, Vegas.
Try instead: Macau
Hear us out. This city on the south coast of China might be a far cry from Vegas but it's known as the 'Vegas of China' for a reason. Not only will this underrated city satisfy your thirst for gambling with its numerous 24/7 casinos, it offers a side of fascinating culture that Vegas simply can't compete with. A former Portuguese colony, Macau's culture is the product of 300 years of blended Chinese and Portuguese influences, and this is reflected in its architecture and cuisine.
So when you're planning your next city break, turn a deaf ear to the calls of the biggest and best-known cities. There's great value in heading off the beaten track; you can save some money, see things that not everybody has seen, and you don't always even have to wander too far to do this.