European Tourist Traps

All over Europe I’ve noticed there are two kinds of sights: legitimate cultural and historic sights that thoughtful travelers seek out, and commercial ventures that advertise aggressively and are on sale all over town with various discounts, promotions, and commissions.


It’s fascinating to see how the crowds that patronize these two groups of sights–cultural and commercial–are distinct and different.


Compare the cost. In Amsterdam you can have a fascinating look at the Dutch Resistance Museum filled with actual artifacts from the days the Nazis ruled the Netherlands; a walk through Rembrandt’s studio complete with his personal inventory of curiosities and his best etchings, and then actually print a replica for yourself; be up-close-and-personal with the very best paintings by Vincent Van Gogh–or you can buy a ticket to a tacky torture exhibit with plenty of papier-mâché gore but absolutely nothing historic inside. Choose carefully how to use your precious vacation time and money.

Do you have any warnings about well-advertised but disappointing commercial sights in Europe? How about sights that might be written off as tacky, commercial ventures that are actually a great value?


4 Replies to “European Tourist Traps”

  1. BOB’s SOUND of MUSIC TOUR Salzburg, Austria. I know you think highly of this tour and booked it based on your recommendation. Whether the fault was incorrect expectations on my part or a bad tour guide, I was very disappointed.
    I went to Bob’s website and saw all the attractions/sites included in this tour so I expected information about these sites to be provided during the tour. Big mistake. Our van was full so my daughter and I were told to sit in the front seat so the other party of 6 could occupy the rest of the van. No problem … until I realized that most of the Sound of Music sites were viewed only from the van as you peered through trees or a front gate while driving by and ALL were on the driver’s side. I was in the middle and could not take a single photo without leaning across the lap of the driver. No vistas from the top of a hill per the movie opening were visited. Instead, we were taken to a field in a valley and told to take “the hills are alive with the sound of music” photo. The lakes were lovely to see but less stunning than the ones seen on our drive to Linderhof.

    The Salzburg sites listed on the website were simply identified as we drove by — no history or information was provided, no pause for a photo. And we skipped the Mirabel Gardens because the party of 6 had already visited it…but our driver agreed to drop us off nearby at the end of the tour. He acted like this was a great favor even though it was on our way back to the hotel.

    If you are only interested in Sound of Music (SOM) trivia, this is the tour for you. But if you hope to learn about or visit any other Salzburg non-SOM site, take another tour. I think the explanation at Bob’s website is misleading. I’m sorry to say that this tour was an expensive waste of time.

  2. In the last decade or so that we don’t travel with little kids who really love all the cheesy stuff, we try and stick to the real sites and find of course they are much cheaper and some are free. But once in awhile we get sucked into one of these others and you feel so ripped off afterwards.

  3. I went on an excellent tour at the Torrrylinn Creamery in Kilmory on the Isle of Arran off the coast of Scotland. We had a tour of the facility and tasting afterwards. The Arran Dunlop, a Scottish cheddar was fantastic.
    The experience was not “cheesy” at all. Highly recommended.

  4. I suspect the Tour Guide is the key to any tour – we took the Panorama Sound of Music Tour and had a fantastic time (4 adults all commented on it), but a lot of the fun as well as the amount of history of Salzburg that was enjoyed was (I suspect) due to Peter, our guide. He not only knew his town inside & out but was also a fantastic performer.

    One town with a ticky-tacky reputation that we enjoyed in Germany was Ruedesheim. The alleged home of Schlager music – we had a great evening of food and entertainment with families and adult groups of Germans in a relaxed atmosphere. No history, no great art, just plain fun.

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