Spain is one of the most picturesque, fascinating and culturally rich countries in the world. However, it’s also full of tacky beach resorts, inauthentic experiences and most of all – ‘tourist traps’. Here are 11 of Spain’s most overrated ‘tourist traps’ to be aware of so that you don’t fall into them.
Yes, we know, it may be Barcelona‘s most famous street, but it really doesn’t live up to the hype, and, truthfully, you’re better missing it all together. Around ten years ago, you may have seen weird and wonderful stalls here, selling everything from plants to caged birds, as well as elaborate street performers and artists, but today, there are only a handful street performers left, along with a few artists selling similar types of caricatures and stalls selling tacky souvenirs and ice cream. There are few actual sights to see here, and you’re more likely to find kebab shops and overpriced tourist restaurants than authentic tapas bars or traditional Catalan fare.
Barcelona’s La Boqueria is said to be one of the most famous and best markets in the world – unfortunately, though, it just no longer has the appeal that it once did. Instead of stalls selling typical Spanish products such as olives, dried peppers and ham, most of the stalls here now sell novelty sweets, tropical juices and strange Mexican takeaway instead. Add this to the sheer number of people crowded into the small spaces between the isles, and you really won’t see what all the hype is about at all.
The famous Puerto del Sol lies at the heart of Madrid and is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. It’s the site where Madrileños celebrate the New Year and where other big events take place, but during the rest of the year, it’s really just a very crowded meeting spot. There is no real draw for visitors or reason to visit, so we’d advise you to spend your time more wisely and visit something else instead.
Like the Puerto del Sol, Madrid‘s Plaza Mayor is a major city landmark. While it does look impressive, surrounded by grand buildings and portico arches, it’s filled with hawkers selling odd souvenirs, people dressed in gaudy costumes, and is surrounded by overpriced cafés and restaurants.
Anyone that’s been to Spain will have surely seen these types of flamboyant shows advertised, combining dinner and a flamenco show. These types of shows are just for tourists, however, and are usually not very authentic. If you really want to experience the true flamenco spirit, head to cities like Seville and Granada and go to see dances in crowded local bars or old gypsy caves.
We’re not having a go at sangria – let’s face it, we love it, too; however, it really is only a drink for tourists and can usually only be found at touristy restaurants and bars. It’s also overpriced at around five euros a glass, and more than likely comes from a carton bought at the supermarket for just one euro. Locals don’t really drink sangria, so if you want to try something similar but more authentic, ask for a tinto de verano (summer wine) instead.
Located in Marbella on the Costa del Sol, Puerto Banus is the playground of the rich and famous – full of designer stores, marinas filled with yachts and gourmet restaurants. If you’re not flush with cash, however, Marbella and Puerto Banus can be very expensive tourist traps with little more to do than spend more money.
Located on the Costa Blanca, not far from Valencia, Benidorm is a favourite Spanish resort with many tourists – particularly those from the UK and Germany. Sometimes the whole of Benidorm it seems has become one big tourist trap, filled with tacky resorts, English pubs and clubs. In fact, there’s not much typically Spanish here at all.
You know the restaurants we mean – those with large colourful photos of the meals plastered up outside, the big board with pictures of paellas, and a person with a menu trying to entice you inside. Yes, these restaurants may have good photos, but that’s about all. The food is unlikely to look as appetising as it does on the photos, it won’t be authentic, and the paellas, like much of the offerings, have probably come straight out of the freezer.
It’s one of the most famous beaches in the Canary Islands, if not in the whole of Spain, known for its party vibe, beautiful bodies and lively international bars. The reality of this famous Tenerife beach, however, is that it’s packed with noisy sunburnt tourists, garish beach bars and restaurants serving steak and chips or all-you-can eat buffets, rather than anything remotely Spanish.
Other than Tenerife, Mallorca is one of the biggest Spanish destinations for the 18-30s’ club and package holiday tourists. Mallorca may be a dazzling island full of rolling mountains, orange and lemon groves and small coves and inlets, but most tourists are drawn to the clubbing resorts and the likes of Magaluf. One big overrated tourist trap, Magaluf is filled with noisy garish clubs, glitzy neon signs and drunk tourists. If you fall for only staying at the big resorts of Magaluf, you’re making a big mistake.