Tourists enjoying the walls of Dubrovnik, Source: Unsplash

Which European cities suffer the most from overtourism?

Which European cities suffer the most from overtourism?

This ranking puts in perspective how crowded some destinations get come summertime

Every summer season, many European cities face an increasingly uncomfortable dilemma – stay popular and attractive to tourists, but not too much. The trend of increasing crowds of tourists flocking to popular destinations has been on the rise for decades now, spurred on by things like boosted standards of living, budget airlines, availability of information and promotion through social media, or just a general fear of missing out (or FOMO).

That, however, has also brought along an undesirable effect known as ‘overtourism’, which despite its economic benefits carries connotations and marks of environmental degradation, destruction of local sense of community and culture and exploitation of scarce resources. Plus, it overall makes some cities feel more like theme parks than actual functioning communities.

The German online holiday rental company Holidu has done some research and compiled a list of the European cities that are most overloaded by tourists. Their ranking seeks to bring attention to a need to diversify and spread out tourism flows outside of the high-season framework, as a way to lessen the burden on these popular spots.

Here are the top 5 most tourist-packed destinations

Word of advice, the ranking was done using 2019 statistical data of yearly tourist visits to a city compared to its permanent population. Thus, it reflects the height of the pre-COVID era and with recent trends showing full recovery from the pandemic pause, it is only natural to expect that things might be even worse.

Here we have the top five European cities, where the tourists/locals ratio gets very extreme:

  1. Dubrovnik (Croatia) – 36 tourists per 1 inhabitant. The Pearl of Adriatic was already a famous cruise ship destination and overall eye candy, and using it as a backdrop in some of the Game of Thrones TV show scenes only shot its popularity into the stratosphere. The problem is that it has a fairly small permanent population and not really any room to grow. As can be expected, the worst time to visit would be the high summer.
  2. Venice (Italy) – 21 tourists per inhabitant. The other Adriatic hotspot that has served as an inspiration for poets, artists, writers and filmmakers for centuries is also suffering from unique environmental challenges given its unique and precarious location in the midst of a lagoon. Recently, activists installed an electronic counter of tourist beds in the old town to bring attention to the fact that tourists are increasing, yet the local people are diminishing.
  3. Bruges (Belgium) is on par with Venice in terms of tourists per inhabitant. Maybe because it also has charming canals, though back in the day no one knew that people in the future will crowd the city to see them and take a boat ride on them. The recommendation is to visit right now or in September – the so-called ‘shoulder seasons’, but then again with the moody Flemish weather you never know what you’re gonna get.
  4. Rhodes (Greece) – this one is also on par with Venice and Bruges. It also surprised us, we thought it would be Mykonos or Santorini, but either way, Greek islands all harbour small communities, which were never designed to sustain the onslaught of millions of visitors. And oh well, here’s a chance to feel unique and stand out from the crowd, visit them in winter or spring. Sure, they won’t be as lively, but you’ll feel the actual rhythm of local life.
  5. Reykjavik (Iceland), with 16 tourists per inhabitant, this one caught us a bit off guard. After all, Iceland is a bit out of the well-trodden path for your regular tourist seeking sun, sand and sea, but the stats show that it’s definitely gone increasingly popular in recent years with its “alternative” and unique landscapes. The recommendation once again is to try to go in May or September and hope that you’ll be lucky to get mild weather – it’s possible.

You can check out the rest of the ranking, which consists of 35 cities here.



Growing City


Smart City


Green City


Social City


New European Bauhaus




ECP 2021 Winner TheMayorEU