Picture this: you’ve just booked a ticket to one of your bucket list destinations. You’re pumped for the trip. Then, you Google it and see words like “overrated”.
Yes, there are plenty of overrated tourist attractions in the world. I already listed a bunch of them – from the Mona Lisa to Plymouth Rock.
But there are also plenty of tourist destinations that don’t deserve to be called overrated. These destinations have been hammered in so many online lists that they’re no longer overrated: they’re underrated.
Here are the top ten overrated tourist destinations that are actually underrated.
Paris, France is so “overrated” that there’s even a Wikipedia page for the disappointment you get when visiting Paris for the first time: Paris Syndrome.
I don’t like a lot of things about Paris.
The whole city smells like a combination of diesel fumes, body odour, and urine.
However, Paris is still Paris. Drinking champagne on the Seine and watching boats go by underneath Notre Dame is something you can do for free, surrounded by thousands of years of history.
Sure, Paris isn’t some magical, perfectly clean wonderland. But it’s also one of Europe’s largest cities: there are inevitably going to be some warts. It’s a real city where millions of people live. Deal with it and enjoy Paris. There’s still plenty of magic.
Mount Rushmore is really cool. Someone carved four fucking faces in the side of a huge mountain.
Seeing Mount Rushmore for the first time is like seeing the Hollywood Sign: it’s just one of those classic American sights that you’ve seen in so many movies and TV shows.
I think Mount Rushmore gets its “overrated” label because some people drive far out of their way to see it.
If you’re nearby and driving through the area, however, then Mount Rushmore is worth going at least 2-3 hours out of your way to see.
We visited in early March as part of our road trip from Alberta to the southern United States. Mount Rushmore was on the way. We stopped there between Deadwood and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
In March, there weren’t many people there at all. We walked around, took as many photos as we wanted, hiked up to the base of the mountain, then left.
If you drive hours out of your way or make a special trip to South Dakota just to see Mount Rushmore, then you’re probably going to be disappointed. If you’re nearby and already on a road trip, however, then Mount Rushmore is absolutely a must-see attraction.
Full disclosure: I visited Venice in November 2013 during offseason. The city felt empty. There were a few buses of Asian tourists, but beyond that, not much else. We walked the streets at night completely by ourselves. We sat and had beers in Piazza San Marco in the heart of Venice with literally nobody else around us.
With that disclosure in mind, I loved Venice. I have never been to a city like it.
Oh, and I experienced Aqua alta (“high water”) when we were in Venice – and I still loved it. The water rose and flooded the city. I paid 10 EUR for “shoe condoms” and they broke within an hour. I was soaked – and despite all this I still had a lot of fun in Venice.
Oh, and this was the view from my $30 per night hostel room in Venice. See why I liked Venice?
I get it: I hate crowds as much as anyone. I can’t imagine what Venice’s narrow, flooded streets are like in the summer when you’re pushing past rude tourists on crowded walkways. But still. It’s fucking Venice. Go in the offseason and stop complaining.
I’m surprised to see Neuschwanstein appear on a lot of “overrated travel destination” type lists. Again, I visited in offseason, so my experience may have been different. There weren’t many people there.
We walked up the hill (didn’t have to wait for buses) and bought tickets for an English tour that started in like 30 minutes.
Walking through Neuschwanstein is cool. Hiking to the bridge above Neuschwanstein is sweet. The whole area around the castle is nice, including Hohenschwangau (the town below the castle, Schloss Hohenschwangau, and Alpsee (the lake beside the town).
I get it: Neuschwanstein is “not a real castle”. It’s like a Disneyland version of a castle. But it’s still old (built in the 1800s), and it’s arguably got one of the prettiest backdrops of any castle in the world.
A lot of people shit on New Orleans as overrated because of Bourbon Street. Fair enough. Bourbon Street is what it is.
However, the rest of New Orleans is as advertised. There are cool, local jazz bars. Amazing music. Friendly people.
Yes, Bourbon Street – like any legendary party street in America – is going to be overpriced and overrated. But New Orleans is still absolutely worth a visit. And you still have to see Bourbon Street at least once.
In fact, I would argue that New Orleans is the most culturally-distinct part of America I have ever visited. There’s nothing else really like it.
Voodoo Donuts in Portland, Oregon
Anything “hipster” will eventually become too popular and lose its “cool” factor. That seems to be what happened with Voodoo Donuts in Portland. It appeared on every list of “must see things in Portland”, and now it’s jumped the shark.
I went to Voodoo Donuts and had a bacon and caramel donut. It was great. The lineup wasn’t bad – it was only like 5 minutes long.
I’m sure there are better donut places in Portland. And I’m sure the line sometimes lasts an hour or more. But I enjoyed Voodoo Donuts in Portland. Your mileage may vary.
I’m not a big fan of Las Vegas. I don’t really gamble. I’m not rich enough to go to shows every night.
However, calling Las Vegas overrated seems silly. Las Vegas is great at being Las Vegas. If you want a party city where you can drink, go to clubs, go to pool parties, gamble, catch a hockey game, catch a fight, or just walk around drunk and make friends from all over the world, then Las Vegas does a great job of that.
You don’t have to be rich to enjoy Las Vegas. The last time I visited, we stayed for one night and paid like $60 for a four-star hotel (midweek rate). We threw $20 in the slot machines, lost it all, then walked up and down the strip.
Instead of going into bars and paying $10 a beer to sit around, we bought drinks from one of the many convenience stores along the strip. We walked around the entire night just soaking up the atmosphere, talking to random people, and wandering in and out of some of the flashy resorts. Beer was $2 or $3 and everything else was free.
I have a question for people who think Vegas is overrated: what did you expect to find in Las Vegas?
The Red Light District in Amsterdam
Amazingly, I’ve seen the Red Light District in Amsterdam show up on some lists of overrated travel destinations.
Again, what did you expect from Amsterdam’s Red Light District? For me, it was exactly as advertised.
There aren’t many places in the world where you can pay 150 EUR to have a threesome with two rockets from eastern Europe in a safe and regulated setting.
Even if you’re not sampling the local wares, you can do other shit in the Red Light District that you can’t do in most other cities. You can go to a sex show, for example.
I have the same question as I do for the Vegas haters: what did you expect from Amsterdam’s Red Light District?
Hobbiton, New Zealand
This is another destination that seems to appear on a lot of the “overrated destination lists” – and I have no idea why.
Hobbiton, New Zealand was one of the coolest places I’ve ever visited. I grew up reading the Lord of the Rings books. The movies played an integral part of my life growing up.
I loved being able to walk through Hobbiton, take a picture under The Party Tree, see Bag End, walk down Bagshot Row, and have a beer in the Green Dragon. I was in heaven the whole time.
I guess Hobbiton is overrated if you’re not a big fan of the movies. But why the fuck did you go to Hobbiton if you’re not a big fan of the movies?
Temple Bar District in Dublin, Ireland
With the way people talk about Temple Bar in Dublin, you’d think it was like Irish Disneyland.
“Beer prices are insane”
“It’s filled with drunk Americans and Australians”
“There are way better pubs in Ireland”
I’ve been to a few pubs around Temple Bar. I ordered a Guinness and Irish stew at one of the best-rated places in the area. The price of my Guinness wasn’t listed and I was terrified it was going to be like 10 EUR.
Instead, my bill came and my pint of Guinness was 4.50 EUR. That price includes tip and tax.
I’ve been to many touristy parts of the United States where you pay $8 for a small American-sized pint (16 oz) and then need to add 10% (sales tax) and 20% (tip), bringing your total up to around $10.50. In fact, I’ve paid $8 a pint in many average parts of California. 4.50 EUR for a 20oz pint is not bad at all.
I get it: Ireland has lots of amazing pubs, and Temple Bar isn’t the best representation of Ireland’s pub culture.
But every city has its touristy zone where there are more visitors than locals and where prices are higher. I’ve seen much worse districts in much worse cities.
I’ve never had a bad night at a pub in Ireland – whether in Temple Bar or anywhere else. It’s just not possible.
The Cable Cars in San Francisco, California
When you picture San Francisco, you probably picture the Golden Gate Bridge and the cable cars.
I initially didn’t want to do the cable cars in San Francisco. They looked stupid, crowded, and expensive.
But then you get on a cable car and it’s actually pretty cool. You get amazing views of the city. It’s almost like a roller coaster in certain spots because the hills are so steep. You cruise right past Lombard Street and other recognizable sites. At one point, you get a perfect view of the San Francisco Bay with the cable car and Alcatraz in the background.
The cable cars are also a great way to get from one end of town to the other without walking up and down the hill.
Oh, and our cable car wasn’t really crowded. Yes, it’s a touristy thing to do – but you should still absolutely do it.
Final Word: Being Crowded Doesn’t Mean Overrated
The most beautiful views in the world are going to be crowded.
The most historic sites in the world are going to be crowded.
The most significant places in the world are going to be crowded.
Just because a place is crowded, however, doesn’t mean it’s overrated.
Yes, there are many places that are both crowded and overrated. However, you shouldn’t shit all over Paris just because you thought it was some undiscovered hidden gem.