Everyone wants to go to the most sought-after destinations like Paris or Rome — but sometimes that takes a toll on our bank accounts. Not to mention that some of the best vacations come from traveling off of the usual path of tourism.
The major cities can be so over-flooded with tourists to the point that you can't tell where any of the locals like to hang out. Hidden paradises are where you get your real culture fix. Not to mention that these smaller cities where not too many people think to go give you the same experience but are easier on your budget.
There are problems that some destinations face when it comes to overcrowding brought on by tourism. According to Time, travelers have clocked 369 million international trips so far this year, an incredible sum equal to nearly 1.6 million trips per day. Many of those popular destinations simply can't handle the volume.
Take Venice, for example. The floating city has to deal with the threat of the rising tides, on top of being flooded by cruise ships and mass tourism.
So, in order to avoid high costs, busy crowds, and annoying locals, we have compiled a big list. Here are 15 expensive and touristy destinations followed by 15 of their similar, underrated alternatives.
30 Expensive And Touristy: London, United Kingdom
London is like the New York of Europe in the sense that you meet more tourists than locals. So that means that people flock there just to see Big Ben, while everyone has to muscle their way through the crowds.
London is notorious for being one of the most expensive places in the world to visit.
Hardly anyone goes there without the expectation that they are going to spend a lot of money. Plus, bear in mind that the US Dollar doesn't have as much buying power as the British Pound.
29 Underrated Alternative: York, United Kingdom
Luckily, York is just a 2-hour train ride north of London! This is a small town where the streets could not be more charming. According to The Independent UK, The Shambles is a little street in York that was voted "The most Picturesque Street in Britain", so that is definitely worth exploring!
According to the magazine, the magical-looking street is even rumored to have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films. Why go to Harry Potter World when you can see the real street that inspired J.K. Rowling's infamous work?
Plus, York Minster is also one of the city's stunning medieval cathedrals.
28 Expensive And Touristy: Paris, France
Ah, the City of Lights. There is no doubt that Paris is probably the most romantic city in the world and there has been much literature written about it.
It gets totally flooded with tourists, though, and many Parisians tend to get annoyed by the influx of visitors.
So, they aren't exactly known to be the most friendly and welcoming. Sure, everyone wants to see the Eiffel Tower and take beautiful Instagram pictures in front of it. So it's worth it to maybe make a day trip there if you are backpacking around Europe, but there are certainly other places you could stay instead.
27 Underrated Alternative: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Slovenia is such a tiny speck of a country, that most people would never think to visit there. Sure, there might be a handful of tourists, but not nearly as many in this quaint city.
Ljubljana's streets are just as stunning and just as romantic as those of Paris. There are bustling cafes, quirky art, and nouveau architecture, according to The Independent UK. Nothing makes you feel more old world than walking around cobblestone streets in Ljubljana Old Town. Don't forget to see the city's most iconic landmark, Ljubljana Castle.
26 Expensive And Touristy: Aspen, Colorado
Aspen is one of the most popular ski destinations that many Hollywood celebrities flock to. Though it's not quite as pricey as everyone thinks, you still have to deal with the incredible amount of tourists when you visit.
The trick is to go to small, local restaurants and grab a seat at the bar.
They have more condensed menus, according to thepointsguy.com. Aspen is usually that go-to mountain town that most people think about when they think Colorado.
25 Underrated Alternative: Telluride, Colorado
Colorado has many little mountain towns that attract many ski fans and nature lovers from across the globe. If you are specifically going to Colorado to ski, Telluride is home to some of the best world-class ski slopes.
This town is dominated by Telluride Ski Resort, which encompasses more than 2,000 skiable acres and sees an unusual pairing of 309 inches of snow and 300 days of sunshine, according to US News. If you visit during the warmer months, you will see many beautiful hiking paths.
24 Expensive And Touristy: Dublin, Ireland
Dublin is definitely the go-to place that American college kids aim to go for St. Patrick's Day. Many Irish people don't even choose to go here for vacation.
To many tourists, Dublin is a magical city with traditional bagpipes and rolling green hills.
According to the Huffington Post, the biggest attraction is the Guinness beer museum. This is simply not the way to get the full-on Irish experience. This is Ireland's biggest city so it's also home to a lot of tourists and expats.
23 Underrated Alternative: Kilkenny, Ireland
Kilkenny, located just an hour-and-a-half drive southwest of Dublin, is an excellent alternative to the pricier, jam-packed capital city, according to Trips to Discover, Kilkenny has more culture as Ireland's medieval capital city home to the magnificent 12th-century Kilkenny Castle.
Walking down the cobblestone lanes, you will discover interesting shops, pubs, and eateries. Kilkenny has also been labeled the “Creative Heart of Ireland,” according to Trips to Discover, with much of the population being artists and creative types. It is also known to produce some of the country’s finest beers, including Smithwicks.
22 Expensive And Touristy: Santorini, Greece
The Greek Islands are simply to die for. The three most commonly visited Greek Islands are Santorini and Mykonos. Santorini is social media gold with its opulent baby blue and white windmills that stand so high overlooking the sea. Not to mention that the famous cave houses light up like lanterns on a sunset, according to Travel Emming.
You can see Santorini all over Instagram but behind those cameras is tourist madness.
When you actually get to Santorini, you literally see people shoving each other in order to get a good shot, especially during sunset. In other words, you will gain more followers on Instagram but you might not even get to enjoy the moment because of all the crowds.
21 Underrated Alternative: Naxos, Greece
While everyone talks about Santorini, many overlook the other Greek Island, Naxos. The largest of the Cycladic islands, it sits in the Aegean about halfway between Mykonos and Santorini, according to Trips to Discover. Not only will you get the opportunity to experience authentic Greek village life, but some accommodations are so cheap that they start at $25 a night.
In Santorini, you find anything for under $90 a night. Naxos offers a different experience where you can see donkeys roaming the cobbled streets, charming white-washed homes, lush mountains, picturesque vineyards, olive groves and beautiful beaches (Trips to Discover). The restaurants serve fresh farm-to-table dishes and the historic sites date all the way back to 8th century B.C.
20 Expensive And Touristy: Venice, Italy
When you think Venice, you think of that romantic gondola boat rides and being serenaded by Italian men. In fact, it is on these gondola boat rides that many women get proposed to. Sure, Venice has all of those things to offer but the city is also expensive due to the high demand.
It is expected to have a glass of wine and a glass of water that costs €25.
According to Ania Travels, the food there is the worst in all of Italy. Yes, that sounds like an oxymoron, bad food, and Italy all in the same sentence. From her trip to Venice, Ania said that the food was not only was the food overpriced, but the turnaround time for the food had to be so quick since there are so many tourists there. Therefore, the actual food quality isn't that great.
19 Underrated Alternative: Colmar, France
Instead of Venice, opt for Colmar, France. You can have that gondola ride along the picturesque canals and the local cuisine is supposed to be amazing. Colmar occupies the Alsace wine region that is super close to the German border. This city looks like something that is out of a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.
Not only does it have a "Petite Venise" (little Venice) romantic boat tour, but the colorful, half-timbered houses highlight the cobblestone streets. There are some wine vineyards there that are to die for so be sure to check out the Alsace wine route.
18 Expensive And Touristy: Napa Valley, California
Napa Valley gets over 3 million tourists a year, according to Business Insider. It is safe to say that it gets crowded, touristy, and expensive.
Not to mention that northern California is just an all-around expensive place in general.
Even The New York Times, answering a reader’s question about honeymooning in the Napa area, notes: “There are, of course, other wine regions around the world that offer more than just tastings." There are many wine tours throughout the world that don't get the credit that they deserve. You can definitely find a better wine-tasting experience than Napa Valley.
17 Underrated Alternative: Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City, Michigan is located on the same parallel as Burgundy and Bordeaux in France and definitely doesn't see as many tourists as Napa Valley. Traverse City produces similar wines to Napa Valley, except it is much cheaper.
The region ranked 13th for US wine production, but it became internationally known for its white wines like Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. It's increasingly becoming known for its French-style reds like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, according to The Independent UK. Not to mention the breathtaking views in the autumn that will blow your mind.
16 Expensive And Touristy: Seattle, Washington
Seattle is one of the biggest tech cities in the country, coming in at a close second to San Francisco. As of now, Amazon and Microsoft are both headquartered in the Seattle area, so that makes the standard of living higher but also making it more expensive for tourists.
Yes, Seattle does have that Space Needle and the Seattle Seahawks.
But unless you are a techie with an incredible job offer, there are better places to visit. This city will take a toll on your wallet.
15 Underrated Alternative: Portland, Oregon
According to Trips to Discover, lots of Washington state residents head to Oregon, particularly Portland, to enjoy sales tax-free shopping, and you might want to consider doing the same. Portland is a quirky city and has a lot of delights to offer at a much lower cost.
For Portlandia fans, a visit to Portland is a no-brainer, in fact, it’s difficult not to bump into a location where the TV show has been shot. Check out the world-famous Voodoo Doughnut where you can sample doughnuts like the Voodoo Doll, which is filled with raspberry jelly and topped with chocolate frosting. Other interesting highlights include 50+ vintage shops in the city, strolling through the Japanese Garden (which is one of the best in the world outside of Japan) and checking out the live music scene.
14 Expensive And Touristy: Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok used to be a destination that was off the usual path, but tourism has been drastically increasing over the years.
In fact, it's one of the most popular places to visit in Southeast Asia.
Many Western tourists skip some of the most amazing regions of Central Asia and head straight to Bangkok. Unlike other overrated destinations on this list, Bangkok is actually not expensive, it is incredibly cheap. That is the unfortunate reason that it gets plagued with even more tourists.
13 Underrated Alternative: Hanoi, Vietnam
Hanoi is not only much less expensive than other Asian capitals but it gives off a much different vibe. It has an elegant collage of cultural influences from the French and Chinese but still retains its local Vietnamese customs. It is a bustling city that has its share of skyscrapers and mopeds, but it also has French-inspired architecture and food in its Old Quarter, according to Trips to Discover.
If you are balling on a budget, this is definitely the go-to place for Southeast Asia. It has over 600 temples and pagodas, like Bangkok. The food is cheap and of high quality. Just for under a dollar, you can get a tasty bowl of Pho noodles. The Central Hanoi Backpackers Hostel dorms start at $5 a night, which is practically a steal.
12 Expensive And Touristy: Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey is known for its famous landscapes, oriental touch and superb cuisine that attracts so many tourists on a global scale. Not to mention it has a rich ancient history and is formerly known as Constantinople — the capital of the Byzantine Empire — according to Adventurous Travels.
Though it is definitely worth visiting if it is on your bucket list, Istanbul is said to be over-commercialized by many.
Now the city of rich, historical importance has turned more into a post-Soviet city with bleak and unoriginal concrete blocks.
11 Underrated And Alternative: Belgrade, Serbia
Belgrade, Serbia is a city that is often overlooked and should be added to any Eurotrip itinerary. According to The Independent UK, it has been voted the world's #1 party city, beating out other popular hubs like Istanbul. If you are looking to let loose and hit up the nightlife, Belgrade is the perfect place for that.
During daylight hours, you can explore the Kalemegdan Fortress, which dates back to around 535 A.D. You can also relax on the beach at Da Ciganlija, a small island on the Sava River that flows throughout the city, which is comparable to Istanbul's Bosphorus.
10 Expensive And Touristy: Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm is one of the first-choice destinations when tourists want to visit a Scandinavian country. The coastal capital is spread over 14 islands and looks impressive with medieval streets and waterfront promenades.
However, it is packed with tourists (especially during the summer) and it can get super expensive.
It's a compact city so your best bet to get a more local experience is to travel on foot or by bike. Much like many of these cities on this list, sometimes it is better to explore smaller cities outside of the main capital for the real Swedish experience.
9 Underrated Alternative: Gothenburg, Sweden
Gothenburg is a beautiful Scandinavian country that few people think to visit. As Sweden's second largest city, it is home to the famous theme park Liseberg which ranks as one of Scandinavia’s most popular attractions, as told by The Telegraph.
Plus, it is a less crowded and cheaper alternative to Stockholm. The city bursts with charm thanks to picturesque wooden houses and cobblestone streets. Visitors can also check out Långgatorna, a modern street known as a bustling "Little London" with cute shops and boutiques, according to The Independent UK.
8 Expensive And Touristy: Milan, Italy
Everyone knows Milan as the capital of high-end fashion and a paradise for fashionistas all over the globe. There is no doubt about that.
But before you know it, you will have spent your entire life savings for a week of bingeing on Italian leather boots and other expensive items.
Like Paris and New York City, Milan is known for fashion, finance, luxury, and nightlife but unfortunately is the least exciting of the three, according to Madame Noir. The weather consists of colder temperatures, gloomy overcast skies, crowds of people zig-zagging along narrow walkways, mediocre food, and very little personality. If you are really a fashion junkie, stick to Paris, London, or New York City.
7 Underrated Alternative: Cologne, Germany
When most people want to visit Germany, they opt for Munich or Berlin. Cologne is a 2,000-year-old city that is famous for its super pale ale, Kölsch, and its extravagant High Gothic architecture, according to The Independent UK. Much like Milan, this city is known for its old, dreary gothic architecture.
In Milan, you will see long lines of tourists waiting to see the Gothic styles of Milan Cathedral. The better alternative is to visit Cologne's picturesque hallmark, Cologne Cathedral which is not only stunning but it is over 150 feet taller.
6 Expensive And Touristy: Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark, which is one of the smallest European countries. The city has been compared to Amsterdam with its canals and flatlands, but despite all of that...it's still expensive.
Indeed, there are bikes as far as the eye can see and the people are really friendly.
But there are other cities in Scandinavian countries to visit that may offer similar cultural qualities.
There aren't quite as many sights to see as you might expect unless you are a museum fiend, according to Journey with Chloe. Even in the surrounding neighborhoods, it is really quiet and there is a lack of atmosphere.
5 Underrated Alternative: Bergen, Norway
Bergen's historic wharf is similar to Copenhagen's famous wharf, Nyhavn and is just as colorful. However, it is much more peaceful because you don't have to fight the crowds the way you would have to in Copenhagen.
Visitors can also take a cruise to see some of Norway's largest fjords, such as Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord, or jump on a train to Voss, Norway, on the famous Flåm Railway according to The Independent UK. The route between Bergen and Voss is considered one of the world's most scenic train rides, with endless views right outside your window.
4 Expensive And Touristy: Vienna, Austria
Vienna, Austria is a city that is rich with art, culture, and history. On paper, it seems like a vibrant city with so many things to do. Everything is clean and beautiful, but the sites are drastically more expensive than many tourists anticipate, according to Barclay Card Travel.
If you are in the mood for some Austrian or German food, all you can find are pizza places.
Odd, right? If you are someone who is on a budget, it can be incredibly difficult to find things to do in the city.
3 Underrated Alternative: Salzburg, Austria
Like Vienna, Salzburg is an Austrian city filled with art, culture, and history. However, you can experience all of these qualities on a much smaller scale. Known as the city of Mozart, music lovers can visit the famous musician's birthplace, tour Bibliotheca Mozartiana, the most extensive Mozart library in the world, or catch a concert at the Salzburg Marionette Theatre, as told by The Independent UK.
You can also get lost in the stunning baroque architecture of the city's historic center that leads up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, which is one of the largest Medieval castles in Europe.
2 Expensive And Touristy: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janerio is one of Brazil's most famous metropolis, especially around carnival time. Sure, everyone wants to see the Christ the Redeemer (aka Cristo Redentor, or the "Big Jesus") which is the city's landmark.
However, the crimes rates in this city are extremely high and tourists are the main targets of pickpockets.
Not to mention the hotel get hideously expensive and you don't get what you pay for, according to Easy Voyage. The beaches (Ipanema, Copacabana), one of Rio's major pulls, are always crowded and are actually quite trashy, lined with hotels and a main road as well.
Brazil is home to many beautiful beaches and cultural activities, but Rio is worth bypassing.
1 Underrated Alternative: Morro de São Paulo, Brazil
So forget about all the crowds in Rio de Janeiro and just head to the car-free village of Morro de São Paulo, which is located on the northeastern tip of Brazil's Tinharé Island. This little town has much nicer and less crowded beaches so that you don't have to worry about too many bodies blocking your view.
For some peace and quiet, check out the Quarta Praia Beach or head to the Segunda Praia Beach if you want to see some more action. Segunda Praia Beach has some bustling beach bars with vendors selling fresh cocktails.
References: Independent UK, Trips to Discover, Time, US News, Huffington Post, Telegraph UK, Travel Emming, Business Insider, Cheat Sheet, Adventurous Travels, Time Out, Journey with Chloe, Barclay Card Travel, Easy Voyage