Why is no one talking about the worst cities in Europe to travel to?

The visions of sparkly Eiffel Towers and Carbonara by the Colosseum get many of us excited but is there mayhap more than meets the eye in these hotspot destinations?

Europe isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be. Of course, nowhere’s perfect. But actually, some places are so far from perfect that we might as well just say that they’re proper shit

Sometimes it’s because some European cities are surprisingly dangerous – with scams and pickpockets on every street corner. Other times, they’re overcrowded, overrated, overconsumed, and of course, the anti-thesis of backpacker budget-friendly. (Can you smell something French?) 

The Broke Backpacker team have spent too much time in some of the worst European cities. We’ve spent our savings on overpriced dorm beds, stuck in traffic, breathing in poor air pollution, and losing valuables to thieves. 

Let’s dive into Europe’s so-called gems.

Nic covering their eyes whilst standing next to the ornate hand painted blue and white tiles of Porto, Portugal
Looking for the way out.
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

The Broke Backpacker is supported by you. Clicking through our links may earn us a small affiliate commission, and that's what allows us to keep producing free content 🙂 Learn more.

10. London

Don’t get me wrong, I actually like London. I grew up here, so of course I have a soft spot for London Town. 

I firmly believe that everyone should travel to London at some point in their lives (if possible). For a fleeting visit, it is surely one of the most iconic cities up there on most foreigner’s bucket lists.

With the fluffy shit out the way, now I can ramble on about what I HATE about London – brace yourself.

five men sat close together on an Underground train in London
That look when you know someone farted.
Photo: @joemiddlehurst

There’s no valid reason why London needs to be so expensive (especially for local youngsters!). Despite the pretty picture many people (Americans) paint of London, it is one of the most dangerous cities in Europe too. 

Know the wrong people, say the wrong thing, or be in the wrong place at the wrong time and London (in parts) is scary. Knife crime in London is notoriously high, with around 50,000 incidents involving sharp objects in 2023.

The traffic in London during rush hour is so infuriating that you want to pull the skin off your own face. To combat these extremely attractive self-destructive thoughts, you must take public transport….

YAY THE TUBE. If you want to feel like a battery-farmed chicken, experience sensory overload, and violate your nose with the stench of sweat and urine, you’ll love the tube!

Joe: Editor & Lover of Life

Weirdly enough, London is one of my favourite cities in the UK, so imagine how I feel about the rest of my home country in parts. I will leave you with my favourite quote from the internet today about my least favourite place in the UK, and that is…

“If the universe had an anus, it would be Slough”. –  Anon

Do You Want to Travel FOREVER??

Pop your email in below to get a FREE copy of ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day!’.

    9. Luxembourg City 

    Ok, so no shade on Luxembourg City as a whole. I mean, it’s honestly a very pleasant place to go, it’s got a super low crime rate and public transport is free. Luxembourg is far from being the worst country in the world to visit.

    So, why has it made this list? Because in being pretty much perfect, it’s honestly so dull and probably one of the most boring cities in Europe outside of Milton Keynes. 

    A panoramic view over Luxembourg with a river and cathedral below
    Even looks like Milton Keynes.
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    Once the novelty of visiting one of the smallest countries in the world wears off, there’s actually not a whole lot to see and do. Sure – there are some interesting city walls, a nice enough church next to the river, and a non-offensive city square. But that’s it!

    Give me the grimy streets of Paris, the roaring traffic of bustling London or even the threat of being stabbed with a kebab skewer in Bradford over such a non-eventful place! I need excitement and action… and this ain’t it!

    photo of Nic Hilditch-Short, member of The Broke Backpacker team

    Nic: Editor & Roaming Renegade

    Oh, and it’s a good job public transport is free because this city is bloody expensive!

    8. Berlin

    Some people are gonna kick off at me here: Berlin is fiercely defended by the alternative crowd – and for good reason. The underground scene in Berlin is unrivalled in Europe and people flock the world over for some good old-fashioned rave and drug tourism

    Others come to see and learn about the horrific effects of war in Europe. A huge wall to divide and conquer to forever remind people of Berlin’s grisly history before my very eyes? Well, when you put it like that!

    Laura stood next to the Berlin Wall in front of a barrier with a stern face
    No smiles here: it’s all very sad.
    Photo: @Lauramcblonde

    The Berlin Wall is obviously grey, repetitive, and yes, pretty melancholy. Yes, there’s East Side Gallery – but that’s littered with tourists taking profile pictures for FaceTube. One of the most “popular sights” of Berlin is a Memorial to the Fallen Jews of Europe… Heavy stuff, man. 

    It takes time to dig below the surface in this city. And if you don’t have time, you end up standing in front of an underwhelming Brandenburg Gate knowing that the next thing to see on your itinerary is also something sorrowful and downcast.

    Go to Cologne. Go to Hamburg. They’re much more fun for tourists on a short visit. 

    Meet the Team

    Laura: Senior Editor & Chill Goddess

    Unless you’re a hardcore techno head, you’ve got a good friend to show you the hidden gems, or you’re riveted by complex and sad historical events, Berlin’s actually one of the most boring European cities.

    Is This the Best Backpack EVER???
    Aether Backpack

    We’ve tested countless backpacks over the years, but there’s one that has always been the best and remains the best buy for adventurers: the broke backpacker-approved Osprey Aether and Ariel series.

    Want more deetz on why these packs are so damn perfect? Then read our comprehensive review for the inside scoop!

    View on Osprey View on REI

    7. Bradford

    Any guesses as to which city has been awarded the accolade of European Capital of Culture 2025? Yes, of course, it is Bradford, everybody’s favourite shithole up in the North of England.

    The awarding is clearly a desperate, last ditch attempt to stave off the bulldozers for another generation and revive this embittered corpse of a town with some insincere attention and a fresh wedge of taxpayers’ change.

    The depressing post industrial wasteland of Northern England, United Kingdom
    Just look how beautiful this place is!
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    Bradford is just sad. A former industrial behemoth that died fast and hard when they closed the mills. It has produced 2 serial killers in my lifetime (and let’s not mention 7/7) and last week made National Headlines as the city where female runners feel the least safe.

    Are there any positives? Yes. The surrounding Pennines are some of the most beautiful places to visit in the UK, the town hall is glorious, the National Media Museum is great and the city does have the best curry scene perhaps in the entire world.

    photo of Aiden Freeborn, member of The Broke Backpacker team

    Aiden: Gear Manager & Senior Editor

    In his 1990s travelogue “Notes From a Small Island”, Bill Bryson describes Bradford as “palpably forlorn”. That’s perhaps the kindest thing that can be said about it.

    6. Benidorm

    Ah, the beautiful Spanish coast, sun, sea, and sangria. Sounds like a dream, right? Wrong. Benidorm is a shithole full of sunburnt tourists, groups of drunk wannabe karaoke stars, and ugly skyscrapers.

    My experience in Benidorm was brief, but even that was too long spent in this soulless pit of Spain. I was searching for a café to sit and watch the world go by. Instead, I was greeted by a group of mums, grannies, and lads on tour, already plastered, belting out Abba and Wonderwall in the middle of the street.

    If you want to try the delicious Spanish cuisine, and feast on Tapas and Paella, you’re in for a whole lot of disappointment. All-you-can-eat buffets stretched as far as the eye could see, serving the finest ham, egg, and chips. Because who travels to Spain to eat Spanish food?

    Some chips and Irn Bru
    Soggy and greasy… Just like home.
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    Surely the beachfront would be better? Wrong again.

    My optimism was crushed by the depressing strip, lined with clubs full of tourists slumped at the bar still going from the night before. The smell of stale sambuca shots and regretful decisions filled the Spanish air.

    Overall, Benidorm is a sorry sight. This beautiful coastal town has lost its charm and become a playground for sunburnt Brits drinking their body weight in cheap alcohol and murdering “Wonderwall.”

    Harvey: Junior Editor & Double Protein Champion

    My highlight? Leaving this shithole – and it’s fair to say I won’t be going back any time soon.

    5. Milan

    Like Samantha (wait until you see what’s coming further down), I wasn’t lucky in my introduction to Italy either. But I was young, wild, and… well, dumb.

    Interrailing my way around Europe with friends, we decided to time my friend’s birthday with a little visit to Milan. Fashion capital, we figured, that’s gotta be debauchery central as well.

    the facade of the duomo in milan
    Little did we know…
    Photo: @monteiro.online

    It was peak summer, so we were expecting big parties, lots of drinking, and hordes of sexy women that we’d be too shy to even start talking with. But well… It was the exact middle of August which in Italy apparently means everyone closes shop and goes on holiday.

    We spent heaps of money trying to get somewhere only to find every bar closed. The city is expensive, not easy to navigate, and there’s not much to do besides… well, spending money. 

    It doesn’t help if you’re a cash-strapped backpacker, that’s for sure. We obviously booked the cheapest Milan hostel and ended up in a rather weird, dodgy area.

    photo of Tomás Monteiro, member of The Broke Backpacker team

    Tomás: Brand Specialist & Whizz-Kid

    The Duomo is beautiful but besides that, unless you’re into extreme materialism and opulence, there’s not much in store for you in Milan. I’ve since then returned to Italy several times and can recommend going pretty much anywhere else in the country.

    4. Barcelona

    My friend, if you are planning your European summer trip bear in mind that Barcelona can be a glorious stop or a shit experience. Let me tell you why I think Barcelona is one of the worst European cities to visit in summer.

    To be very honest, no Catalan likes tourists. So you are not going to be very well welcomed. They are tired of the loud tourists, dirty streets by morning (that smell like piss on every single corner of the old town), high rent values, inflated prices due to the tourist boom, and increasingly dangerous and insecure streets.

    An ornate bridge in the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona
    Photo: Nic Hilditch-Short

    Barcelona is one of the most unsafe cities in Europe for tourists, especially during the night in old town alleys and in some neighbourhoods on the outskirts. They have professional pickpockets working 24/7 everywhere that’s crowded. So summer is easy-pickings for them. 

    I mean, a summer trip to Barcelona can be a wonderful experience, full of parties and long days with young people full of energy. But you pay high prices for a night in any of the shitty places that abound to attract sightseers.

    The nightclubs will show you that queueing is very annoying and also that clubs can be very overrated. The best night is the underground in this great city. 

    When doing your must-see places in BCN, you’ll have to fight with hundreds of tourists trying to get the same picture in front of every single monument/house/church. In addition, it can get annoyingly hot during the day (over 35 degrees).

    I’ll tell you this: I love that city but the amount of tourists in summer just makes it shit. If you want a unique experience go in shoulder season.

    Travel with peace of mind. Travel WITH a security belt.
    Active Roots Security Belt

    Stash your cash safely with this money belt. It will keep your valuables safely concealed, no matter where you go.

    It looks exactly like a normal belt except for a SECRET interior pocket perfectly designed to hide a wad of cash, a passport photocopy or anything else you may wish to hide. Never get caught with your pants down again! (Unless you want to…)

    Hide Yo’ Money!

    3. Paris

    Yes, I know… why is Paris on this list? Mon dieu!

    Beyond the sold-outs: Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Versailles, romanticism, cafes, wine, and baguettes, Paris has the reputation of being one of the worst cities in Europe in terms of welcoming tourists. And from my personal experience, I can say that is 95% true.

    With a markedly sour and unfriendly character, the locals have no intention of helping you – and in fact you are almost a nuisance. Of all the beautiful things that Paris has, perhaps, in opposition, what stands out the most is the bad vibes of the citizens.

    A person riding past a floral cafe on the streets of Paris
    Not a single person happy to see me.
    Photo: Nic Hilditch-Short

    One more thing, Paris, is one of the most touristic cities in the world, common crimes such as pickpocketing, robberies, and scams, of course, target the naive visitor.

    Contrary to the romantic vibe or scene that is portrayed about the city, Paris has a cringe nightlife in some areas, so don’t be surprised to find people living on the street, the use of drugs in public, and a dodgy and dangerous vibe. Paris, to me, could be one of the worst cities in Europe for drugs from what I’ve seen.

    As we always suggest at The Broke Backpacker, ensure safe travels by staying out of areas you don’t know and reduce risks by not wearing flashy clothing or shiny expensive jewellery.

    bio pic for Sebastian Garcia Vivas

    Seba: Digital Wizard & Latino Legend

    Let’s be honest, this historic city has seen millions of tourists in the last 600 years. You’ll just be one more who is going to do the same, speak bad French, consume and interfere with the daily life of Parisians.

    2. Frankfurt 

    Disclaimer: I visited Frankfurt for less than 24 hours. I arrived on an overnight train through Europe that I didn’t sleep a wink on with my heavy-ass bag to leave again at 1 am. I was tired, and I had poorly planned to sleep the next night on a train too. 

    But that wasn’t why it was shit. 

    Trains pulling into a station. Transport.
    The best bit about Frankfurt.
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    I wish I could offer you some light on Frankfurt, but I genuinely got nothing. It was a waste of time on an already expensive Europe backpacking trip. It is also easily the most ugly city in Europe that I’ve ever visited.

    It’s got the second-highest crime rate in Germany – and it shows. It felt sketchy as and I thanked my lucky stars that my poor planning meant I was catching a train out in a few hours.

    To be honest, I didn’t see much outside of the park I slept in – but I’ve slept in way better parks. To make it worse, it was Sunday, and everything bar a weirdly quiet town market serving obscenely expensive sausages was closed. 

    Meet the Team

    Laura: Senior Editor & Chill Goddess

    2.5/10 for Frankfurt – and that’s being kind. Proper stinker of a city.

    1. Venice

    I visited Venice during my absolute first trip to Italy (unfortunately), and while I’d certainly give the country another go, you couldn’t pay me to come back to this dump. More crowded and sardine-like than Disney World, no piece of pretty architecture can convince me this isn’t one of the worst cities in Europe.

    Despite it being Italy, the food was sub-par, to say the least. And before you accuse me of only going to touristy spots – that couldn’t be further from the truth.

    A person stands on a walk way over a main canal in Venice, Italy
    The only place to get away from the tourists.
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    I’ve quite literally had better Italian food in my family home where not a single drop of Italian blood resides. Otherwise, everything was criminally overpriced, locals and staff were not friendly (I guess I wouldn’t be either if I had to live in such a place), and really – I just could not wait to leave.

    If you’re planning a European trip, trust and believe that you’ll be much better off avoiding Venice. Perhaps it was nice a few decades ago, but there’s nothing left to love about the “City of Serenity” if you ask me!

    Samantha: Travel Writer & Adventure Expert

    When I’ve spoken about my strong opinion on Venice in the past, I’ve had people come out with pitchforks. But frankly – I couldn’t care less – the reality of this mass-tourism hell-hole deserves to be known!

    Get Insured Before Your Travels

    Many of the most dangerous European cities become considerably less risky for tourists with good travel insurance.

    ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

    They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

    SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

    Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

    Final Regrets: The Worst Cities in Europe

    I wish I’d have known earlier about the worst cities in Europe. As well as it saving me a small fortune, it would have also left me with room on my European itinerary to see the real stars of the show. 

    It might feel wrong initially to skip over Paris and Venice. But from personal experience, and speaking with other highly experienced travellers, the risk to reward is worth it.

    That said, we all have different tastes. There’s every chance you might go and LOVE some of these places. Many people are so passionate about some of these metropolises that it often just comes down to who you are and what you enjoy. 

    Well… not Bradford. Bradford is shit.

    Sometimes meeting the right people, finding a good place to stay, or avoiding the peak seasons can change everything. The first time I went to London, I hated it. But the more I go back, the more I fall deeply in love with this special place. 

    Granted, it’s still one of the worst cities to live in Europe in my opinion. But for short visits, there’s nowhere like London. 

    So don’t just take our word. But you have now been warned… 

    a guy riding a scooter on a windy road near the ocean in faial island, the azores, portugal
    Get me out of here.
    Photo: @rizwaandharsey
    Looking for more inspo on travel destinations?