Even with a carefully planned itinerary, travel mishaps like missing a train or landing up at the wrong hotel can be quite unavoidable. But there’s another kind of misadventure that we may not foresee, yet it happens quite too often – falling for popular tourist traps. And I learnt this the hard way on my recent trip to Spain.
Like most travellers trying to make the best of their trip, I googled each and every city or village that I’d pass by. Obviously, I ended up with a massive list of must-visit places that I was desperate to strike off. Though my journey was peppered with some unforgettable stories, I did have my share of underwhelming experiences. So, if you’re travelling to Spain – one of the most popular countries for tourists – here are 7 tourist traps that you can avoid, and what to check out instead.
1. Puerta del Sol, Madrid
You’ll find this landmark mentioned in almost every online guide to Madrid. However, it’s just a square where all the big events in the city take place. There’s nothing for tourists to do apart from take selfies with King Carlos’ statue.
Instead, head to the rooftop bar at Circulo de Bellas Artes for a sundowner and some stunning views of the cityscape against the striking Madrid skies.
2. Plaza Mayor, Madrid
Just like the Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor is a major landmark in the city centre. However, it is not all that impressive. It’s full of hawkers selling overpriced souvenirs, pickpockets and people dressed in weird costumes.
Instead, take a tour of the many museums in Madrid or simply walk around Gran Via to explore the shopping district.
I know what you’re thinking. How can one visit Spain and not order a glass of Sangria. But hear me out. At most popular restaurants and bars, a sangria is the most dubious of all so-called authentic Spanish experiences. It’s rarely made fresh; instead it is often picked up from a supermarket.
Opt for Tinto de Verano (summer wine) instead. It is likely to be more authentic.
Since we are talking about drinks, let’s also make it a point to never order a tortilla (the very famous Spanish omelette) for breakfast. Most restaurants usually make it the previous night and simply heat it before serving the next day.
Instead, opt for coffee with freshly baked breads and churros with hot chocolate.
5. La Rambla, Barcelona
It’s one of the most famous streets in Barcelona, but it doesn’t live up to the hype. Though tourist guides promise street performers and stalls selling cheap and quirky things, but there’s very little of that.
Opt to visit La Boqueria (situated close to La Rambla) for a cup of coffee and a taste of local produce.
6. Park Güell, Barcelona
This one tops the list as one of the most useless tourist attractions in Spain. Built by Gaudi - a famous architect as a residential area, Park Güell was considered to be too impractical to live in. It was then turned into a public park. However, apart from some odd structures and ‘selfie points’, there’s very little to see here.
Instead, take a walking tour of other Gaudi buildings spread across Barcelona to understand the genius behind the creations.
7. Mt Tibidabo, Barcelona
It might be quite tempting to visit this popular reference from Friends - a show we’ve all binge-watched gazillion times, but it’s best to avoid it at all costs. This mountain overlooks the city of Barcelona and has a tiny amusement park on top. A tram takes you to the top, but there’s very little to do once you get there - apart from eating overpriced churros and visiting a church, that is.
Walk around Gràcia, Barcelona’s hipster district known for its trendy bars and restaurants.