Touristy restaurants are part and parcel of tourism, but you don’t have to fall into their traps — certainly not when there are so many authentic experiences just around the corner. If you want to be a traveler, rather than a tourist, be wary of restaurants that are geared toward making you feel a little too comfortable. We’ve gathered 10 of the world’s most tourist-frequented restaurants, and have some suggestions for where you can go instead for a more authentically local experience.
You can spot a tourist trap in many ways, but the biggest red flag is the menu. How many different languages does it come in? It should be just one — two at the most. Another way you can tell is by the prices. Nobody should be paying suspiciously large amounts of money for average-seeming food that he or she can probably get at home.
To find the restaurants on this list, we researched some of the most visited cities in the world, according to the World Tourism Rankings, and found which restaurants in those cities are referred to as tourist traps in local blogs. We cross-referenced the terms “tourist” and “tourist trap” with names of famous restaurants in order to find what users on sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp had to say about particular places. We also looked for restaurants that feature prominently in famous movies or books, such as Café des 2 Moulins in Paris, which the movie Amélie made famous, thus turning their interior into a tawdry tribute to the movie rather than a dining establishment worth the wait. Finally, we consulted our Eat/Dine and Travel archives to suggest alternatives.
We did not put Café Du Monde in New Orleans on this list because we could find no alternative to their iconic beignets and café au lait. We were definitely able to find alternatives for the original Starbucks at Seattle's Pike Place, though.
So if you find yourself in these popular destinations, be vigilant of iconic or storied restaurants whose reputation and image have overtaken the care they put into their food. And if we missed one, please let us know by tweeting to us @thedailymeal.
Botín, founded in 1725, is said to be the oldest restaurant in the world. It is mentioned in such specific, beautiful detail in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, in which characters enjoy their roast suckling pig and sopa de ajo (chicken broth laced with sherry and garlic and garnished with a poached egg). The restaurant knows this all too well: they have quotes from the novel on the wall (with English translations), and their prices are exorbitant. One blogger reports that some neighboring restaurants put signs on their doors that read “Hemingway does NOT eat here.” Reviews on TripAdvisor complain that the food is mediocre and the service is rushed in order to make room for more tourists, who often line up outside. We can’t think of a thing Hemingway would have disliked more. If you’re looking for a storied restaurant with good, traditional food, go to Casa Lucio, just down the street, which opened in 1933. Mario Batali says it is where he often starts his visits to Madrid.
Café des 2 Moulins (Paris)
This Montmartre café gained international fame for being the workplace of Amélie Poulain, the titular character of the famous 2001 movie Amélie. While the café might have once been a quiet spot where locals could smoke grumpily, complain about life, and be moved by small acts of kindness, it is now covered in Amélie kitsch, and bears almost no resemblance to the movie version. Die-hard fans would probably enjoy the experience of crème brûlée and a glass of red wine here, but otherwise, skip the line and go to the nearby Le Fourmi (“The Ant”), whose quirky name is très Amélie.