3 Most Disappointing European Capitals
As much as I’d love to say that every destination I visited on my trek around Europe was spectacular, there are three cities in particular that were utterly disappointing. It’s awful to spend time, energy and money getting to a place and then not to enjoy it, but sometimes that’s what happens. After visiting 18 countries in Europe, these are the three most disappointing European capitals:
The only thing that’s memorable about Oslo is how outrageously expensive it is. My boyfriend and I did our best to make it on a shoestring budget. Spoiler alert: it’s impossible. The hostel we stayed at was over $90 per night, which is hardly shoestring. For dinner, we wandered into a pub knowing that pubs are great for good beer and mediocre food. What we didn’t know is that four beers, a stew and a club sandwich costs$118. Yes, that means the beers were averaging $15 – 20 each. Apparently, Norway really doesn’t want people to drink.
So we decided not to drink. If you insist on going to Oslo despite my best advice, don’t go during July. It’s so expensive here that it’s cheaper for residents to spend a month anywhere else than it is to stay in Oslo. For travelers, this means that virtually every restaurant, bar and market is closed. We stopped at Norway’s version of Chipotle for two burrito bowls, which cost $38.
The last disappointing thing about Oslo is that it’s small. It’s the smallest capital I’ve ever been to in both area and population. You can walk from the outskirts of the city to the city center in 30 minutes. We walked all of it and spotted one art museum and a pier with overly overpriced food and beers. If you think you can’t get more expensive than a $15 beer, think again. Perhaps most disappointing is the lack of a free walking tour. That’s Oslo in a nutshell. Even if you have the opportunity to go for a day, pass on it.
The best part about Copenhagen? Seeing windmills in the middle of the ocean as the plane landed at the airport. After being in Finland where it was a struggle to find anyone that spoke English, we were very disappointed to walk around Copenhagen and find all of the American creature comforts: a two-story Burger King, fro yo, peanut butter, and Starbucks. We didn’t see anything remarkable about the city at all. No culture. All Americana.
We spent 36 hours in Copenhagen and that was too much. All we wanted to do was to take a walking tour. We loaded Google Maps and took public transit to the city center where we were told a man with a green shirt would be waiting. We waited around in the square for 20 minutes and once the appointment time passed with no green shirt in sight, we assumed we were in the wrong place. We went to a hotel and a tourist information desk. Both gave us two completely different locations for the walking tour. End result? Two disappointed travelers with no fun facts about Copenhagen.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing was how difficult it was to get the hour-long bus ride to Malmo, Sweden. It costs $20 round trip (which is probably the cheapest thing to do in Denmark) but the buses leave Copenhagen at 9am and then the last bus leaves Malmo at 6pm. We were under the impression we could have lunch in Denmark and dinner in Sweden, but this was not the case.
I had really high expectations for Rome based on the feedback from many friends who told us: people are so friendly, the food is heavenly, and the scenery is beautiful. This was not my experience. I had the worst interactions with locals to date. I’ve had better Italian food in Miami. Rome is also really dirty, and unfortunately, there’s a lot of graffiti.
My family met us in Rome and nearly every interaction with a local was awful. When we visited one restaurant in Rome, we were told that we could only stay for two hours because there was a “private party” coming in at 9:30. However, no other patrons were given this announcement. At a pizza restaurant, we were blatantly charged a higher price because we were American. When we asked about it, we were told that it was due to the “tourist tax.”
Second, if you want to visit the Colosseum because you’re like me and enjoy ruins or historical sites, your time is running out. It is currently under renovation to look “like new” so it’s covered in scaffolding. Big frown. The new sections look disgustingly modern.
Lastly and perhaps most disappointing, the food was nothing to write home about. This was very sad for me. I wanted to rave about the enormous portion sizes and the succulent chicken and the al dente pasta and the ever flowing fountain of perfect Italian wine, but in Rome, that was all a lie. Portion sizes were meager, the seasoning was lacking, and the wine was a little too dry.
Have you been disappointed by a destination, in Europe or otherwise? Please let me know!
Photo credit: Moyan Brenn