Mont-Saint Michel, France's most popular attraction outside Paris, (read more below) was slammed last year by an official report for basically being a tourist trap that offers a poor welcome to its guests and as a result leaves many disappointed.
But there may be a few other well known sites around the country and especially in Paris that could do with a telling off too.
Rejecting this eternal symbol of Paris may sound like sacrilege, but climbing to the top is something to avoid. Queuing for hours or booking months in advance are the only two options to secure a place on one of the elevators that will take you skyward. Instead you should spend €15 euros on a ride to the top of the equally impressive Tour Montparnasse or the Arc de Triomphe.
Nice Old Town
The old town of the Mediterranean resort of Nice is a must see for most who venture to the Côte d'Azur but be warned you may not find exactly what you were expecting.
Here is one review on Tripadvisor: “You may think you need to experience the old town, but you really do not want to spend more time there than necessary. Crowded restaurants, noisy with too many sources of music (some live appearances as well, of poor karaoke quality), and filled with “souvenirs” that were probably manufactured in China.” Although it must be said, negative reviews are vastly outnumbered by positive ones.
It'll cost you €6 for the privilege of climbing aboard this cheesy little train that will then creep through the crowded streets of Montmartre, which you could have walked on your own for free. In fact walking is pretty much always the best option in Paris because it allows you to properly wander and find the really interesting stuff.
It's not much like the movie, that's for sure. Between the tourist buses parked several deep out front, to being herded in like bovines and finally treated to what passed for family fun in 1986, there ain't much authentic about Moulin Rouge. And all of this for the modest sum of €215 (if you opt for an all-inclusive deal)! Better to just snap a pic of yourself in front of the sign and enjoy the incredible people watching opportunities in the area.
Yes, it’s beautiful. But it is also the second most-visited place in France after Paris, with 2.5 million tourists per year. So don’t expect to have a spiritual experience. Two recent and very critical reports sum up all the problems with Mont-Saint-Michel, notably the poor quality of shops and restaurants on offer, the traffic problems, the overcrowded shuttle buses and the basic strategy of trying to get the tourists in and out as quickly as possible.
It's a fun place for the whole family (or at least for those not paying the triple-digit entrance fees). But you better be very patient if you do decide to visit the 'Magique' Kingdom. Queues for the rides can be hours long, especially the attraction where you get to meet (actors playing) some of Disney's famous ladies like Snow White. For a slightly cheaper and more French theme park experience check out Parc Astérix which is just north of Paris.
Château de Chambord
It’s not that the place is not beautiful, but shuffling through the exceptionally golden and tacky interior with a crowd may not be what you had in mind. Fortunately France is absolutely overflowing with châteaux, especially in the Loire Valley. For example, the Château de Chenonceau may be equally touristy, but you can appreciate the beauty of the water flowing beneath it without having to go inside.
It's THE place to be in the summer for the rich and famous. But if you want to enjoy the gorgeous beaches and turquoise water of the French Riviera without the bling-bling mafia, there are plenty of other places which are just as good or better. And most of them have fewer people and are cleaner. The New York Times described the Saint Tropez restaurants as a “gastronimic scene full of tourist traps and obscenely priced see-and-be-seen restaurants”.
Consider the La Mala Beach in Cap D'Ail or La Paloma beach on the Cap Ferrat Peninsula.
Braderie de Lille
If you are into flea markets then you've probably heard of the Grande Braderie de Lille in northern France. It happens every year on the first weekend in September and draws mobs of bargain hunters and sellers of old-ish stuff alike. But as the market has boomed in popularity and renown it has gone from being charming and authentic to being a great place to get pickpocketed. Consider it a must-don't.
Fête de Bayonne
In addition to great food and warm people, Basque Country is home to an annual tradition of outdoor festivals or 'ferias' in its various towns. One of the most famous is in Bayonne, yet sadly many accidents and much violence are reported every year in the wake of the event. Smaller 'ferias' like the one in the town of Guethary can be a lot more fun.
Of all the places in the Alps you can go to is Chamonix really the best? The price of the ski passes and the runs on offer have led many to complain about feeling ripped off. The town nestled under Mont Blanc is spectacular, no doubt, but you can almost certainly find equal beauty and better value for money elsewhere in France.
Grands Magasins, Paris
Local Parisians don't really go to Galeries Lafayette or Printemps, instead they leave it to the tourists. That should tell you enough about what kind of stores they are. Although the roof top cafes are worth a visit.
For the same reasons as above. Overpriced cafes, fast food restaurants, traffic, expensive stores means Parisians in general stay away. Don't fall into the trap.
The medieval old town of Carcassonne is one of the most spectacular sites in France. But type the words “Carcassonne” and “tourist trap” into Google and you'll see what many people think of it. One reader complained about all the rubbish Cassoulet restaurants around the old town while others complain of the tacky tourist shops.
Here is what one Tripadvisor commenter wrote: The Medieval City was absolutely beautiful to look at. The views of the city as you walk over the bridge are great and it looks straight out of a fairy tale. However, it felt like a bit of a tourist trap once you get inside. It was full of shops selling trinkets and postcards as well as cafes. We went to a cafe there and it was the most expensive cup of coffee of my entire trip to France.”
I think the pictures tell you all you need to know about why the Mona Lisa might be worth giving a wide berth to, even if she is the world's most famous painting. There are plenty of other worlks of art to see at the Louvre.
(Ken and Nyetta/Flickr)