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10 Overcrowded European Destinations To Avoid And Where To Go Instead

paris Eiffel Tower overcrowded european destination

Every year, millions of people travel to Europe, eager to see the wonderful sights. Whether you’re looking for a city trip or a beach getaway, Europe has it all. Unfortunately, many European cities are now struggling with the influx of visitors they receive each year, especially in the summer months. This has led to problems such as overcrowding, higher prices, and damages to the environment. However, heading to less-traveled destinations is a great way to help protect popular historical sites. Get off the beaten path with this list of 10 overcrowded European destinations to avoid and where to go instead. 

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1. Barcelona, Spain

Known for its incredible art and architecture, Barcelona is the cosmopolitan capital of the Catalonia region. Visitors come to admire the fantastical Sagrada Familia, take a stroll on Las Ramblas or visit the famous Park Güell. But with over 32 million tourists per year visiting the city, Barcelona has become one of the most overcrowded cities in Europe. This has led to residents protests, and the city has even passed a law to limit the number of beds on offer. 

Where to go instead…

Valencia, Spain

Valencia is the third largest city in Spain. It’s a great combination of city, sun, and beach and a great option for budget travelers. The main sights include Valencia cathedral, the central market, and Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (the city of art and sciences). The best time to visit Valencia is in spring (May-June) and fall (September-October). At these times of the year, temperatures are still warm but hotels are much cheaper than in high season. 

valencia Spain science museum

2. Santorini, Greece

Santorini is probably the most popular destination in Greece. Spectacular and unique, Santorini is famous for its blue-domed churches and whitewashed stone buildings. With its incredible sunsets, volcanoes and the blue Aegean sea, there is no wonder Santorini has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. 

Where to go instead…

Naxos, Greece

Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades island group. With its ancient ruins, mountain villages and beautiful beaches, Naxos is a perfect alternative to Santorini. The island is located only one hour from Mykonos and is definitely one of Greece’s hidden gems. You’ll love exploring the charming old town of Chora with its cute shops and eateries, whitewashed buildings and cobbled alleys. If you’re up for a challenge, you can take a half-day cooking class at Basiliko Family Tavern to learn about Mediterranean cuisine or cruise the Aegean sea on a beautiful catamaran.

Naxos island Greece

3. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Famous for being one of the Game Of Thrones film locations, Dubrovnik is also known for its beautiful old town encircled with huge stone walls dating back from the 16th century. The city has become so popular that the UNESCO World Heritage was at risk to lose their status due to the huge number of tourists. As a result, the local authorities announced a plan to prevent the crowd and limit cruise ship visitors to 4,000 per day.

Where to go instead…

Hvar, Croatia

Hvar is best known for being a Croatian summer resort destination. With its beautiful weather, old stone walls, clear turquoise waters, and vineyards, this island is definitely a stunning travel destination. With its four UNESCO world heritage sites, Hvar is full of beautiful sights and hidden gems to discover. You can also head out of the island for a day trip to the breathtaking blue and green caves.

havre Croatia overcrowded european destinations

4. Cinque Terre, Italy

With over 2 million tourists visiting the area each year, mass tourism in Cinque Terre has become a huge concern. Indeed, the mass of tourists has led to less pleasant visitor experience but also damages to the local ecosystem, and more landslides and rock falls. On top of that, most visitors are day-trippers, who spend no money in the area and contribute to the degradation of these beautiful villages. As a result, Cinque Terre has definitely become one of the most overcrowded European destinations to avoid at all costs.

READ: Everything You Need To Know About Sustainable Travel

Where to go instead…

Portofino, Italy

Portofino is often seen as a perfect day trip destination from Cinque Terre, but it is actually a great alternative to the busy five villages. Famous for its colorful buildings, delicious wine, amazing weather, and picture-perfect port, Portofino is a charming little town. You’ll love wandering around the old town, visiting the Castello Brown and taking a stroll to the harbor to admire the yachts. You can even take a snorkeling trip to the famous Praggi Bay, and admire the sea life and beautiful coral reef. 

portofino italy

5. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Famous for its red-light district and coffee shops, but also for its artistic heritage and UNESCO protected canal, Amsterdam is a great weekend destination for many Europeans. Cheap flights and easy online booking brought 19 million tourists to the city last year. But local residents are tired of noisy and partying tourists. Consequently, Amsterdam has launched a campaign called “Enjoy and Respect” which aims to set limits to tourists.

Where to go instead…

Gdansk, Poland

Gdansk, located on the Baltic coast of Poland, is a colorful city famous for its historical attractions such as the Basilica of St Mary, Neptune’s fountain and Long Market. Often overlooked by many travelers who prefer cities like Warsaw or Krakow, Gdansk is an amazing travel destination definitely worth the trip. With its historic cathedrals and cool cafes, Gdansk is a fantastic destination for a holiday far from the crowd.

gdansk poland

6. Reykjavik, Iceland

That’s no secret, Iceland has been the victim of a rapid increase in tourism in the past few years. With its incredible canyons, volcanic landscapes and stunning waterfalls, this country has become a dream destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. With most flights arriving in the capital city, Reykjavik and its blue lagoon have become overcrowded. Overtourism is causing damage to the environment and Iceland has been forced to close some of its main tourist attractions, such as the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon in the south.

Where to go instead…

Oslo, Norway

If you’re looking for an authentic experience in Scandinavia, Oslo is the best place for you. Whether you want to soak in the culture at the national gallery, take a stroll in the Vigeland park or hike in the Oslo forest, the capital city of Norway definitely has it all. Take a day trip to Bergen, a picturesque village on the UNESCO world heritage and a bucket list destination for anyone traveling to Norway.

bergen Norway

7. Venice, Italy

Venice is probably the most romantic city in the world… and also one of the most overcrowded European destinations. Travelers can admire the Grand Canal, Rialto bridge and Saint Marc’s Basilica. Unfortunately, the small city sees over 20 million visitors per year, many of them being day-trippers. Overtourism damages Venice’s buildings and frustrated residents are forced to watch tourists litter their streets or swim in canals.

READ: 7 Myths About Eco-Friendly Travel Debunked

Where to go instead…

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana is the stunning capital city of Slovenia. Divided by the Ljubinica river, Ljubljana is a picturesque little city best explored on foot. Take a walking tour and river cruise, or visit the Dragon Bridge and Ljubljana castle, I guarantee you’ll fall in love with this beautiful city. The riverfront will remind you the one of Venice, the only difference is that you’ll most likely have the place to yourself.

Ljubljana slovenia overcrowded european destinations

8. Paris, France

Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world and for good reasons. Between the magnificent architecture of Versailles, the incredible art and culture in the Louvre and the famous Eiffel Tower, Paris has it all. Unfortunately, Paris is also overcrowded in all four seasons. With millions of tourists arriving every year to Paris, it has become very hard to enjoy the city’s sights. 

Where to go instead…

Brussels, Belgium

Belgium is definitely one of the most underrated countries in Europe. It’s small, but there is so much to do. The capital city, Brussels, will leave you in awe of its incredible sights. From the Grand Place to St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral, or the Manneken Pis, Brussels is a wonderful place for a city trip. In fact, you can’t leave this stunning city without taking a chocolate tasting tour or tasting some of the best beers that make the country famous. 

galerie royale Bruxelles

9. Rome, Italy

Rome is a cosmopolitan city with incredible art, architecture, and culture. Between the famous Coliseum and the Trevi fountain, millions of tourists head to Italy’s capital city every year to have their photo taken in front of Rome’s iconic landmarks. In Rome, you’ll see more selfie sticks than anywhere else in the world. In fact, it has become a huge business in the city center. Rome is an unmissable spot in Europe, but know that even in winter, the city is packed with tourists.

Where to go instead…

Verona, Italy

Famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona is a medieval town with beautiful churches, museums, and archeological sites. Popular sights in Verona include Juliet’s House, the Verona arena and Castel St Pietro. You’ll love taking in the Italian culture, enjoying a gelato, and admiring the city’s old monuments without the crowd.

verona bridge

10. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and also the 5th most popular European destination for tourists. You’ve probably seen thousands of pictures of the Charles bridge on Instagram. Prague is a small city, but yet over 8 million visitors visit its historic center, the astronomical clock, and famous castle. Prague went from being one of Eastern Europe’s developing destination into one of the most visited capital cities in the world in a very short time. Consequently, Prague is now one of the most overcrowded European destinations and is expecting even more tourists this year.

Where to go instead…

Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava is a stunning historic city with many wonderful sights. From the presidential palace to Michael’s gate, there’s no lack of things to see and do in Bratislava. The capital city of Slovakia is actually one of the most underrated cities but interest in Bratislava as a tourist destination is slowly increasing. My recommendation, visit this gem before it gets too crowded. 

Bratislava castle overcrowded european destinations

Overtourism is having a negative impact on many beautiful European cities. However, there are still many stunning hidden gems to visit on the old continent. Try to avoid overcrowded European destinations in favor of less-traveled cities and countries. This way, you’ll help protect Europe’s incredible heritage and environment, while enjoying a crowd-free vacation in historical and picturesque towns of Europe. Have you ever been to one of the most overcrowded European destinations to avoid? Let me know in the comments below!

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