Navigating Tourist Traps: Discovering Genuine “Hidden Gems.”Amsterdam and Beyond

How seriously do you prepare for your travels and vacations? How much time do you spend to plan it? Many people waste months studying guidebooks, blogs, maps, and festival schedules before going on vacation. But in recent years, even with such good preparation, the journey itself often turns out to be disappointing. Why is this?

When planning a journey, we almost always attempt to include special places in our itinerary—those hidden from most tourists. They promise us unforgettable experiences, great pictures, the best shopping, etc.

Our maps are filled with Amsterdam’s hidden gems: “secret” yards with benches made of flowers, cafes with “the best cinnamon bun in the world,” “authentic” brown bars with the best beer choice, viewpoints with the most stunning city views, “underground” nightclubs for locals, and concept stores of unknown talented designers where you can supposedly buy luxurious items for a pittance.

The long-awaited day has arrived—we are finally in Amsterdam. After dropping off our bags at the hotel, it is time for a coffee with some cinnamon buns in a nice “local” breakfast place. But what is this? The “secret” café, known only to true locals—at least that is what was written on the famous travel blogger’s Instagram—has a huge line of tourists from all over the world. No problem! Just around the corner, we have another place with the best breakfasts in Amsterdam on our map. And again, another line of tourists! But we are on vacation, so we are optimistic and determined.

We end up buying sandwiches at a supermarket and head to the “secret” yard with a beautiful bench made of blooming hydrangeas. Oh no! We end up in a crowd of noisy tourists taking photos with the hydrangeas that ruin any desire to have breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even to continue traveling. Replace Amsterdam with other popular tourist destinations like London, Barcelona, Lisbon, and others, and you will have exactly the same experience. Sound familiar?

Yes, many cities are too crowded with tourists. This over-tourism affects not only the locals but also the travelers themselves. Even in the Himalayas, there are some traffic jams on the way to Everest. So, what can be done about it? Shall we stop traveling altogether? Of course not! Here are a few tips to help you plan a trip to any city, even the most popular and touristic one. This way, you can ensure you enjoy it and, most importantly, do not inconvenience the locals. These tips apply to any famous city suffering from excessive tourism.

– Plan one or multiple tours with a local guide at the very beginning of your trip. Carefully choose the guide based on your preferences and his reviews. Let your guide know about your interests and ask for advice on places to visit, eat, book in advance, etc. During the tour, ask as many questions as you can that would help adjust your trip. A good guide who loves his city will be delighted to share his favorite spots, from mini-museums to cafes and clubs, with interested listeners.

  • Check Google Maps. Pay attention not only to the ratings and number of reviews but also to the language in which the reviews are written. Authentic places, unknown to tourists, will have a significant portion of reviews in the local language of the country. These reviews are, of course, the most valuable.
  • Talk to locals—museum attendants, bartenders, shop owners, and patrons in cafes and bookstores. Locals are a treasure trove of fantastic information! They always have great local tips and are happy to share them with enthusiastic travelers!
  • Use social media wisely. Focus on posts written by locals or published in local media rather than what you can find on travel blogs or famous Instagram accounts with many followers.
  • If you speak the language of the country you are visiting, consider installing apps with city walks for locals. These apps are geared towards residents and will not include tourist spots and endless queues. Instead, you might find many great locations, useful tips, and promos that will make you save some money there.
  • If you don’t have time for all of this, consider ordering a custom travel itinerary. Fortunately, more and more travel companies and guides offer this service today. Choose the provider carefully. Don’t hesitate to share as much information as possible about your interests, preferences, and any restrictions. The most complete information about yourself will help to build the most fitting program for you.

And most importantly, remember, there is no place in Amsterdam with “the best herring,” “the best apple pie,” and “the largest beer choice.” Amsterdam doesn’t have “the most authentic yard,” or “the most beautiful canal.” Rather, there are many such places, and fortunately, most tourists still don’t know about them. We hope our tips will make your travel unforgettable, and let you discover some true hidden gems!

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