Five Places I Was Supposed To Like But Didn’t

Travel gives us all the opportunity to explore new places and ultimately grow as people. There is an inherent power to travel, one that should never be underestimated. When we experience something we like, we want to share it, to encourage others to have similar life-changing moments. When many people do this, the place in question becomes popular and ultimately a few destinations become ingrained as ‘must-visit’ cities or countries. Many of us dream of visiting these places, because we are told that they will change our lives. But what is often forgotten is how personal the travel experience is. No one sees the same city in the same way and if we end up not liking a popular tourist spot, there’s guilt – actual guilt – attached to the experience. Well that’s not necessary and so to prove that we are all human and that it is not possible to enjoy every trip we take, here are some cities (and one country) that I was supposed to like, but really didn’t. (I’m willing to admit that I’m wrong on some of these and perhaps a 2nd visit is in order, but when I toured these places I just didn’t care for them.)

 Marseille, France

1. Marseilles – In general I love traveling in France. The diversity around the country is incredible and it seems that every town and village has something unique and unusual to share with the rest of the world. That’s why I was surprised when I spent the day in France’s second largest city, Marseilles. Immediately I didn’t like the look and feel of the city. It was dirty, construction was going on everywhere and it was packed with people. The supposed tourist sites weren’t all that interesting and even the local shops and restaurants disappointed me. I can in no way recommend that anyone spend any amount of time in this southern French city, not when so many other great places are so close. Skip Marseilles and spend time in Arles, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, anywhere but the hot, dirty metropolis on the sea.

 Park Guell Barcelona

2. Barcelona – Often referred to as a jewel of the Mediterranean (if you like well-worn clichés), millions pack into this Spanish city every year for the beaches, the food and to board cruise ships heading out to sea. Spain is a great place and I like Catalonia in particular, but Barcelona just isn’t my kind of city. The size is what put me off almost immediately, the shear number of people living in Barcelona makes it hard to get around at times and took away a lot of the enjoyment for me. It also lacks the charm and grace of so many other, smaller cities that are close by. It’s in Spain, but without the warm feeling of being Spanish. Barring all this, there are of course sights to see and they almost all revolve around the weird and slightly grotesque architecture of Antoni Gaudi. Even if you like his buildings and parks, a day spent ogling them is just too much. Aside from that, I’m not sure what the appeal of Barcelona is; instead head north to Girona and even smaller towns and villages around the beautiful Costa Brava and Pyrenees regions.

 Amalfi Coast, Italy

3. Naples – Any time multiple people tell me that a place “Isn’t that bad,” or there are “hidden treasures to be found,” my travel antennae go up and I get worried. No one says that about Paris or London, but they certainly said both to me before my first visit to Naples. Southern Italy is great and Naples is indeed the gateway to exploring much of it, from Pompeii to the beautiful Amalfi Coast. But other than some tasty pizza, I see very little reason to visit the correctly much maligned city of Naples. When I was there it was hot, dirty and held very little interest for me. It is true that I didn’t spend a lot of time there and I’ll willing to admit that I was wrong, but as it stands this is easily a place to skip. Instead drive down the Amalfi coast and hang out in Positano for a few days.

4. Chicago – The Windy City, America’s Second City, the Jewel of the Midwest; Chicago has a lot of names, but none of them make me like it any more. I used to work for a company that was headquartered in Chicago, so I visited several times a year, taking in the sites as I could. I even planned extra time once for the sole purpose of sightseeing, in case my business trip wanderings had been wanting. No matter what I did and what I saw though, I could never understand why people like this city so very much. Yes, there are some excellent, world-class museums in town and Cloud Gate (bean statue) is very nice, but after that I wasn’t sure what was left. But Chicagoans are so proud of their city that I was sure I was missing something, until I realized I really wasn’t. While it’s a perfectly nice place, we just didn’t click. Their pizza was too chunky, they put weird things on their hot dogs and in the winter it’s a nightmare to visit. No, you can have Chicago thank you very much, it’s just not my kind of town.


5. Jamaica – What’s better than a relaxing, secluded beach on a Caribbean island, drink in hand and all worries having long since fallen away? Not much, but that dream of tropical relaxation was ruined for me on a trip to Jamaica. To be fair, I was on a cruise and only spent a day on the island, but in a moment you’ll see why I vowed never to return. My partner and I had just finished trekking up Dunn’s River Falls, a popular and fun activity near Ocho Rios, Jamaica. As we left the site we walked through a ‘tourist village,’ craftspeople selling trinkets of all sizes and shapes. After having politely said no to several touts, they all started to verbally gang up on us and the vile, evil things they said to us still makes my skin crawl. Is it fair to judge an entire island based on a few people? No, but within the LGBT travel world, Jamaica is well known for its intolerance of gay travelers so why, when there are so many other beautiful islands, would I choose to return to a place that so obviously doesn’t want my money? Until things change, Jamaica is a no-go for me; instead I recommend spending time on almost any other Caribbean island.

What are some places you visited but didn’t really like? (It’s ok to admit it!)

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

59 thoughts on “Five Places I Was Supposed To Like But Didn’t”

  1. Agree on Marseille, I have seen too many amazing French villages and cities to be impressed. However I absolutely fell in love with Barcelona. It was august when I visited (which is insanely busy) but when I went off the beaten path it was amazingly quiet and I managed to join in the Festival Major de Gracia festivities! Amazing town with great food and atmosphere IMO :)

    One city I really disliked was Milan… Just plain ugly, not a great vibe, boring… Sad!

  2. I agree with you on Chicago. It’s just a bit generic to me – nothing special. I’ve heard the same about Barcelona but I haven’t been there. Madrid would be on my list of “meh” cities though!

  3. I’m totally with you on Barcelona. Knowing I’m not a big city person – people told me I would love it so much. The best part was chilling on our hotel rooftop – away from all the craziness of the streets below. I was the most disappointed in Park Güell, felt more like visiting Disneyland than park with great art.

  4. Well, I loved Chicago and Barcelona (and London, which you mentioned in the comments) so maybe I should put the other three places on my list ;) Just kidding — I understand that travel is personal and that everyone will find places they love and others that don’t mesh with their personality. I’ve gotten flack for disliking Portland and San Francisco in particular. I always find it interesting to hear different takes on destinations so thanks for sharing your opinions even though they’re different from mine. Hopefully you fall in love with the next city!

    1. Thanks for the comments! And yeah, I tend to fall in love with most places I visit, but it really is important that part of the travel experience is indeed negative (sometimes) in nature.

  5. I am with you on not getting the “charm” of Barcelona. I’ve tried twice and aside from enjoying a few hours at Barceloneta Beach, I never connected with that city. Not sure why, but I much prefer Madrid.

  6. For the last ten years I have been lucky enough to call Barcelona home and I understand why you might not like Barcelona. The problem with that though is the Barcelona you see is not the “real” Barcelona.

    If you look closely at the people wandering the streetsin the centre of the city very few of them are actually locals. The only day locals go to La Rambla is on St George’s Day which is akin to Valentine’s Day, the rest of the time it is given over to the hoardes of tourists. Same goes for a lot of the other tourist areas in the city.

    The remarkable thing though if you step outside the centre of the city and head into the more residential areas you are going to find small squares filled with local children playing football, parents chatting amongst themselves and a real sense of community.

    I think Matt you really need to give Barcelona another go, next time do as the locals do and stay away from Las Ramblas and the tourist areas instead explore the neighbourhoods of Sarria, Les Corts and Gracia. You’ll experience a completely different Barcelona to the one you’ve already come across.

  7. Thanks for saying it out loud!
    I personally enjoyed Barcelona after a while, although I definitely get your point. I also agree with the statements of previous commenters that las Ramblas and Park Güell are the worst areas. I also just didn’t like the beach. However, we were lucky enough to find some really neat neighborhoods, markets, bars and even cool museums. I also have a thing for Spanish architecture.
    Places I didn’t fall in love with include:
    1. Paris (oddly), but I’m willing to give it another chance and maybe stay longer in order to really be able to explore
    2. Philadelphia. Ughh, just no. There really wasn’t a lot I enjoyed in Phili
    3. Pisa. Thank goodness we only passed through. Too touristy for my taste.
    4. Munich. Although, I have mixed feelings. There were a few things I really loved about it..

    Now, I’d like to turn this around and ask: What are some places you were surprised to really like?

  8. I expected to love Milan more than I did. The cathedral is beautiful (as is the rooftop restaurant next to it) and the shopping is obviously plentiful, but it feels a little small and superficial. Nearby Bergamot is much more charming.

    I was told I’d absolutely love Bristol but, other than sweet Clifton Village which you can cover in 20 minutes, I found it a bit too studenty.

    I thought I’d love being poised at the top of mountain with skis on, but that’s another story.

    London is an amazing city – those who aren’t into it should give it another go. A reliable insider’s guide is essential for scoping out the best spots.

  9. I really didn’t like Boston. Everyone tells me it’s so great, but the only good thing I really remember is a Thai dish I had at this quaint little restaurant before going to see The DaVinci Code at a cinema that had people protesting outside.
    I also am really not a huge fan of London… it’s alright and it has some nice tourist attractions, but it’s just a bit blah for me. I’ve been a few times and would go again but I just can’t bring myself to love it.

  10. I really disliked (and still dislike) Paris, and I’m not afraid to admit it :D I’ve lived in France for 3 years and often had to go to Paris for whatever reason. Each time I tried to like it more. Each time I failed.

    1. I lived there for a month in high school and hated it until week three. Then something clicked and I fell in love. It’s still my favorite city in the world.

  11. Totally agree about Chicago – I was so under-whelmed when I visited in March. No character, no charm, just the brilliant Art Gallery and that’s about it

  12. Aside from Jamaica…it’s all cities. Yep, cities suck. And Jamaica lost out because of the attitude of some people.
    Head out into nature….animals and forests never disappoint!

  13. I am a bit pleased to see Barcelona on this list as I’ve felt like a bit of a weirdo since I was there… Everyone I know (almost) seem to love it, but I must admit I found it nice. Just nice. Not hellish or anything, but I didn’t love it…

  14. Couldn´t agree more with you about Marseille. I think it was a truly wonderful city maybe fifty years back, but it seems that things took a turn for the worst in the 80s due to uncontrolled hordes of immigrants. Now it´s generally just a very dangerous city, where some districts are not patrolled at all as the police themselves could get into trouble going there..

  15. Ahh,Jamaica. I can’t remember hearing anything positive about it recently. Talk about a place doing tourism wrong.

    I absolutely loathed Cartagena. Abusive touts, stiflingly hot, and the most appalling city beach I’ve ever seen – gorgeous sand, but covered with tents, so you couldn’t relax on the sand, and crawling with people selling all kinds of crap. You’d have to pay me a hell of a lot of money to go back.

  16. I couldn’t agree more with you about the tourist village at Dunn’s River Falls. We were walking through to get to our taxi after a swim there and were bombarded by locals looking to sell their wooden figurines. A man came out from one of the shops and asked his husband’s name. When he gave it to him he quickly pulled one of his wooden tikis out of his pocket and started to carve his name on it. When we said we didn’t want to buy it, he screamed at us that he couldn’t sell it to anyone else and that we HAD to buy it. Very quickly we were surrounded by other locals and had to give the merchant money for the tiki in order to be able to leave. I will never EVER go back to Dunn’s River Falls again. It is very pretty but the locals make it so that you can’t enjoy the beauty.

      1. But, at the same time, you don’t HAVE to go through the tourist village to get out, and when we went our guides prepped us and told us what it would be like and how to avoid it (although I still got suckered in somehow, but it was kind of a great adventure running away from the merchants as they yelled nasty things after us). We also did Mystic Mountain, and the view from up there couldn’t be beat, and the employees were all VERY friendly. I would love to go back and spend more time.

  17. What an interesting & honest post! I loved both Barcelona and Chicago – they were both places I felt I would like to live in if I had the opportunity (other than the ridiculous Chicago winters!). I hated Amsterdam the first time I visited but enjoyed it far more the second time. Still would not say I fell in love with it though. Both Warsaw and Prague left me cold, despite everyone telling me I’d love Prague. The place that surprised me most was Granada in Andalucia – I expected very little as it was just a convenient place to meet friends who were travelling, but it ended up being one of my favourite places I have visited, ever. I’ve never wanted to visit Naples of Maresilles, for precisely the reasons you mention ;)

  18. Not a fan of Marseille either. France’s most dangerous city just doesn’t appeal to me in any way, and gets a very bad rep on the local news. I kind of like Barcelona, but not areas around Las Ramblas or the beach. Residential, locals-only neighborhoods like La Eixampla are pretty nice.

  19. Love Amsterdam, Prague, Barcelona and of course Chicago (as a native who no longer lives there though). Big misses for me have been Madrid and Berlin.

    1. Eduard,
      Interesting that we are polar opposites. I wonder what your sign is? LOL. Madrid and Berlin are two of my favorite cities in the world and I dislike Prague, Barcelona and Amsterdam.

  20. I have to agree with you on Naples. Pompeii is really cool, a must see in my opinion, but Naples just isn’t special at all. There are so many awesome places to see in Italy that it makes no sense to linger there.

  21. I agree with Marseille – I don’t like it either. However, I try to avoid Mexico City – that’s a place I really dislike. I think it’s huge, dirty and run down, with traffic from a nightmare.
    Also, to be brutally honest, Shanghai. Probably I just don’t get it, but I’m not too crazy about 10 million people one on top of another. And yes, I think I just don’t get Chinese manners and etiquette of shouting, slamming doors and not waiting in line for their turn.

  22. I agree completely on Barcelona. I think Madrid has much more to offer in Spain. I didn’t care that much for Jamaica either and Marseille is the Naples of France (Not a compliment). However, I really like Chicago. It is an outstanding city if you’re a sports fan, which I am.

  23. I totally understand your point of view about Barcelona, you visited the most touristic and crowded places. But if you really want to feel the magic of this city I think you should come during spring, and get lost among the small and charming streets of “el Born” or “Gràcia” and enjoy the amazing restaurants and the culture.
    If you decide to give it another shot maybe you could try with Plaça Reial, Ciutadella Park, the stunning “Catedral del Mar”, the Montjuic Fountains and the MNAC, get to the top of Casa Milà at night, and enjoy the sunset in the “Bunkers del Carmel” (near Park Güell)…

    And, from my point of view, if you come to Catalonia during summer, better go to la Costa Brava and enjoy places like Cadaqués, Pals, Calella de Palafrugell and the “calas” in Begur or Tossa de Mar.


  24. Definitely Paris – pretty but boring. My least favourite capital of the ones I’ve visited.

  25. Totally agree with Jamaica, I can ‘t really pinpoint why but I was uncomfortable the whole time I was there

  26. Marseille is the only place I’ve ever been that I’ve had something stolen (my camera) and as such I have bad memories attached to it. That and I love the rest of the Cote d’Azur mean I’d never bother going back.

    I also really disliked Berlin. It seemed clinical and has dismal architecture. I’ve never left anywhere feeling less inclined to go back. Having said that, I’ve heard nothing but good since and feel like I ought to give it another go.

  27. Great blog, i’ve been in Barcelona nearly 2 weeks. I came with the idea of living here for a while, but found that it just didn’t live up to my somewhat idealistic or maybe naive image. I found it dirty and seedy, bit dangerous (i never felt relaxed or at ease as i was always on guard), and being asian looking (im actually half English half Malaysian), i also unexpectedly noticed a somewhat reticent attitude towards asians or the Chinese simmering away. Parts Gracia were nice, as was El Born etc but not enough to charm and fall in love with im afraid… but people rave about Barca… each to their own i guess.
    Edinburgh! now there’s an underrated city.. beautiful beyond words, great vibe, great people : )

  28. I would have to agree with you there on Barcelona. Having visited it once for a short time while I was in high school, I decided that while in college that I would want to study abroad there.

    Well long story short, my school didn’t have a program in Barcelona, so I ‘settled’ for Madrid. Little did I know, it would become my favorite place in the world. It was beautiful. I like big cities, but Madrid to me had a different feel, like there were no tourist areas and local areas. In the most ‘touristy’ parts of the city I would find myself sitting next to locals enjoying an afternoon beer.

    I managed to visit Barcelona again while I was studying in Spain. To say the least I was excited to get back to my home of Madrid. It felt like an overly spread out city with a sea of tourists that wasn’t laid out to be walk-able at all.

  29. Just recently found your blog and FB page. Love it! Couldn’t agree more with you on Jamaica. I was there for a day on a cruise ship and that was more than enough. The people are the most unfriendly bunch I’ve ever met….anywhere I’ve traveled! I can handle that, though. It was the treatment of the 100’s of stray dogs that left me very, very sad. I still think of those poor souls being mistreated, and for that I will never, ever go back.

  30. I honestly don’t understand why so many people didn’t end up liking Barcelona. True, I’ve only gone there once but found that there is quite a lot to see and I didn’t get to see it all yet. The weather was great and the experiences were pleasant. Maybe the fact that our hotel was in a small town 20 minutes outside Barcelona made the experience nicer as we were right off of a beautiful sandy beach. So we returned to a nice relaxing place every evening.

  31. I agree on marseille. You have so many cute french villages and towns to visit. Why Marseille. Its true that they often have constructions and the city looks dirty. I don’t get Chicago. My dirtiest town was Colombo, Sri Lanka

  32. I am glad I visited, but I wasn’t a fan of Amsterdam. Not quite sure what it was, the atmosphere and sights just didn’t grab me like others have. Of course, it also doesn’t help that the famed boat rides can only be enjoyed by those who have good balance, and have no problem with stairs (unlike myself).

    I, like you, don’t like Jamaica.

  33. I think you should really give Naples a second chance! I was staying there for almost two weeks a few years ago and found the City to be most stunning and fascinating. There is so much to see and explore. Granted, you have to get into the Napolitan mindset somehow, but I tried blending in with the locals,so even exploring quarters of a somewhat sketchy reputation like Sanità wasn’t a problem at all. And I’d seriously die for Sfogliatelle!

    I found Marseille not too bad either. It took a little time to become comfortable with the City since it’s a little rough, but I seriously enjoyed the diversity of its quarters and its people. Sometimes you’ll feel like either you’re in Provence (Panier),Paris (the Boulevards around Palais Longchamp) or even Algier (the Arabian quarter Noailles, where you can shop sensational spices and sticky Baklava). And if you take the Bus South along the coast you’ll real the beautiful villages of the Calanques in no time at all.

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