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"We're Over It": What are the Most Overrated Cities in the World?

July 18, 2014

The opinions of “Siena” are hers alone and don’t reflect those of Yahoo Travel.

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Earlier this week I ranted about places that failed to live up to their hype for me. Readers had a lot to say about my list and added the least favorite, most underwhelming destinations of their own. They ranted about places from Sweden and Chicago to Belize City and Albania. Some I disagreed with; I happen to love New York and find New Orleans seedily charming if you know where to go. But about several cities, the readers had a point. Here are some of them, plus a few of my own not-worth-the-flight choices. Full disclosure: I haven’t been everywhere on this list. 


Some readers don’t care for the City by the Bay (Photo: Thinkstock)

San Francisco
One S.F. native complained, “It’s a filthy city overflowing with mean homeless people… The pleasant-to-look-at richer areas, generally on tops of hills … are filled with the flaky, frightened yuppies you’d expect to find there. Insularity defines San Francisco.” I agree with that reader: Ugly class divides are spoiling the city’s waterfront beauty; now San Francisco is full of protesters haranguing Google buses. Plus, traffic is generally miserable. And while you can eat incredibly well here, prices are high and hotel rates are punishing. Also frustrating is that it’s such a one-industry town. Last time I visited, every conversation I had spiraled back to someone’s startup, his foundation, local/organic/seasonal/foraged restaurants, and ayahuasca. P.S.: It’s almost always cold.

Related: Anonymous Travel Writer: “The Overrated Places I Never Want to See Again”

Singapore is just a bit too orderly for some people’s taste. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Unless you really like to eat chicken and rice from street vendors and shop at the same international luxury boutiques you can find at home, Singapore has little to offer. What’s great about vibrant Asian cities is that they’re chaotic, uncontrolled places where anything can happen. Singapore, by contrast, is the Luxembourg of Asia: orderly, regimented, organized, and so tightly policed that even chewing gum is illegal. Traffic hums, air-conditioned mega-malls gleam, even the trees are manufactured, and everyone plays by the rules.


Has Florence been ruined by the tourists? (Photo: Thinkstock)


OK, yes, it’s beautiful. But you should have gone decades ago. Now it’s overrun with hordes of tourists lining up for the Duomo and Uffuzi and American students on their semesters abroad crowding the plazas. More English seems to be spoken than Italian. I say skip the crowds and check out an Italian city that’s still for the Italians, such as Bologna or Verona.


Sydney: a nice city that may be just a wee bit too much like other nice cities (Photo: Thinkstock)

I actually love Sydney. If I could close my eyes and wake up there, I would. I’d even get on a plane for a few hours. Sydney has one of the most beautiful harbors, best food scenes, and friendliest, most laid-back people anywhere. But it’s on this list because I don’t think it’s worth crossing an ocean to see. If I had to invest that much time and money, I’d rather go to Southeast Asia or even New Zealand and feel like I’ve gone somewhere different — somewhere that offers something I can’t get at home. Beyond the “flat white” coffees and some mild linguistic humor (e.g., ”thongs” when Americans would say “flip-flops”), Sydney might as well be California — even Sydneysiders describe it to me as a hybrid of L.A. and San Francisco (admittedly without the ugliness). So why not just go to California? 


According to writer Samuel Johnson, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Maybe, but some lively readers are still tired of London (Photo: Thinkstock)

It’s the twee factor that bothers me here. Unless you’re way out in the East End, there’s a sameness to every neighborhood. You never forget you’re in London. That’s true whether we’re talking about well-aged pubs in Covent Garden or self-consciously hip clubs in Shoreditch. And it’s all so bloody expensive: Here it’s common to pay upwards of $20 for a martini. Hotel rates are brutal, and a taxi across town can cost as much as a flight to London. Oh, and the rain. A friend of mine says the six-month stint she did in London mildewed her soul.

Related: 21 Things Londoners Have to Explain to Out-of-Towners

Even this gargoyle is getting bored with Paris (Thinkstock) 

When Yahoo Travel asked its Facebook followers about the cities they found overrated, several named the City of Light. One wrote, “You can just feel the hate.” I’m inclined to agree. Obviously, there are excellent small restaurants and boutiques in the outer arrondissements, and of course Sacré Coeur and the Musée d’Orsay (to name just two of Paris’s magnificent attractions) will always remain seductively beautiful. But the 8th and 16th are being overtaken by Asian hotels, international luxury brands, and American fast food.  The scene at Shakespeare and Company would have Hemingway and Fitzgerald rolling in their graves, Montmarte cafes are still capitalizing on Amélie, the Seine is filled with tourist-cruise bateaux, and too many old-school restaurants are resting on their laurels (witness A.A. Gill’s delicious takedown of L’Ami Louis in Vanity Fair).  Too much of the city feels like a caricature of itself.

Related: Smackdown — Paris vs. London 

We want to know what you think. What do you think of these “overrated” choices? And what cities are on your list?  Hit us up in comments or vote in our poll.

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