Europe’s major cities are becoming engulfed by tides of camera-wielding bucket-list checkers.
Everyone loves Europe, but there’s one big problem with this lovefest. Europe’s major cities are becoming engulfed by tides of camera-wielding bucket-list checkers. Besides retiring Baby Boomers spending their hard-earned savings on trips to Europe, there’s also the rising middle classes in countries like China, Russia, and India—folks like you and me who want to see the world and are—in record numbers.
Amsterdam, the cozy, canal-lined capital of the Netherlands, where I met my husband, Peter, is a good example of overtourism. New waves of backpackers, busloads of tour groups, cruise ships that expel hordes of day trippers, and people like me, who simply love the culture and beauty of the Netherlands in general and Amsterdam in particular—we descend like vultures landing on prey.
We line up for the Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum, the cheese-making demonstration. We crowd the markets, the cafés, the attractions. We buy trinkets and souvenirs and cheese and chocolate and then go home and tell our friends, and soon new people are coming to Holland and swarming the streets. They want to experience Amsterdam’s coziness, too.
So what’s a tourist to do? Here’s one idea. Skip the big cities and head for the smaller ones. They need your tourist dollars more. They want you to fill up their hotels and cafes, museums and restaurants. And guess what? It’s less crowded off the beaten path. You might even find little towns where you’re the only tourist. That’s when you discover the real culture. That’s when you connect with the people of the country you’re visiting.
Another option is to visit in the off season. Places like the Van Gogh Museum, Heineken Brewery, and the Anne Frank House are perfect for seeing in winter. Crowds are fewer, prices are lower, and you’ll discover Amsterdam’s winter charms—like to-die-for split pea soup and olie ballen, a doughnut-like winter treat. Finally, whenever you decide to go abroad, remember to be kind, friendly, and open to new experiences. Let’s let that Ugly American myth fade away into the sunset.