These were some of 2023’s worst destinations for overtourism. Here’s how to avoid the crowds next year

Overwhelming crowds of visitors have stirred anti-tourism sentiments in Barcelona, Spain.Albert Llop/NurPhoto/Getty ImagesCNN — 

Following several years of pandemic-induced downturn, the travel sector is not only back, it’s positively booming. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the industry is expected to bring in some $9.5 trillion in 2023 — which accounts for 95% of its pre-pandemic levels.

Nowhere is this surge more evident than at popular tourist hot spots around the world, many of which have experienced record visitor numbers over the past year.

Such surges may be sweet for local economies and hospitality businesses’ bottom line, but they also come with notable downsides: increased noise, pollution, traffic and strain on public resources; a lower quality of life for locals; and a diminished visitor experience, just to name a few.

Not surprisingly, many tourist magnets across the globe, including several European hubs, have created initiatives and restrictions aimed to combat overtourism issues. Among them: new or increased tourist taxes, campaigns aimed at discouraging problematic visitors and attendance caps at popular attractions.

On the bright side, more travelers seem to be aware of the risks of overtourism — and how they can help alleviate the problem. In a 2022 survey by travel booking site, 64% of respondents said they would be prepared to stay away from busy tourist sites to avoid adding to congestion. And 31% said they’d even be willing to choose an alternative to their preferred destination to help avoid overcrowding.

On that front, here’s a look at some of the most prominent destinations around the world whose overtourism issues made headlines in 2023 — along with what’s being done to address the issue and how travelers themselves can mitigate (or avoid altogether) the crowds in 2024.


February 12, 2023, Amsterdam, Nederland. A coffee shop in the Red Light District. In the fight against nuisance caused by drug use in public spaces, it is prohibited from mid-May to smoke weed on the street in the old city center of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam has been actively discouraging certain tourists from visiting the city.Koen van Weel/ANP/Zuma

The Dutch are traditionally known for their directness, and in 2023, tourism officials in Amsterdam weren’t shy about taking aim at one particular demographic — young British males — as “nuisance tourists” who are not welcome in the Dutch capital, a city long associated with vice.

The initiative, announced in March 2023, specifically targeted young male Brits, telling them to “stay away” if they had plans to “go wild” in Amsterdam. Online searches in the UK for terms such as “pub crawl Amsterdam,” “stag party Amsterdam,” or “cheap hotel Amsterdam” generated a video ad warning about the consequences of overimbibing, drug use or acting too rowdy.

The campaign is part of the city’s comprehensive plan to reduce mass tourism, attract a different kind of demographic and make life more hospitable for residents, especially in De Wallen, also known as the Red Light District. In 2021, an ordinance called “Amsterdam Tourism in Balance” was implemented, establishing that when the number of overnight visitors hits 18 million, the city council is “obliged to intervene”.

A still from Amsterdam's "Stay Away" video campaign discouraging tourists from visiting for a "messy night."

Amsterdam asks ‘wild’ young male British tourists to ‘stay away’

Since then, officials have banned smoking marijuana on the streets in De Wallen and adopted a proposal that will eventually ban cruise ships from the city.

Good or bad behavior notwithstanding, all visitors to Amsterdam in 2024 should plan to pay the highest tourist taxes in Europe.

In September, the city announced the daily fee for cruise ship day visitors will go from 8 to 11 euros (about $8.50 to $11.60), while the nightly fee built into hotel room prices will jump to 12.5% of the room rate. But even with such initiatives in place, Amsterdam is still expected to host up to 23 million annual overnight visitors by 2025 (not counting another 24 million to 25 million day visits).

How to avoid the crowds: January, February and March are among Amsterdam’s least-visited months, but travelers also should be prepared to deal with cold, rainy weather. June brings better weather but more crowds, though not as many as later in the summer since school is still in session for many European countries.

Travelers looking to experience Dutch culture but not the masses in Amsterdam can choose from plenty of worthwhile alternatives within an easy train ride.

The Hague, Utrecht and Rotterdam are all solid options for a city-centric getaway, while an array of quaint towns beckon with more relaxed exploring and distinctly Dutch charm. About an hour southwest of Amsterdam, Delft, which is sometimes described as a “mini Amsterdam” thanks to its network of canals and Dutch architecture, does draw its own share of tourists, but it remains refreshingly free of boisterous, bawdy crowds.


Atop the Acropolis ancient hill, tourists visit the Parthenon temple, background, in Athens, Greece, Tuesday, July 4, 2023.

Athens placed a cap on visitor numbers to the ancient Acropolis in the summer of 2023.Thanassis Stavrakis/AP

A scorching heat wave in Europe didn’t stop hordes of visitors from cramming into the Greek capital this summer.

In fact, the Acropolis, the country’s most visited archaeological site, was so packed that in September officials capped the number of visitors into the ancient landmark at 20,000 per day via an hourly slot system on a booking site. Starting in April 2024, the new booking system will also apply to more than 25 other archaeological sites and monuments across the country.

Crowds swarmed Greece’s most popular islands, too, including Santorini and Mykonos — a trend that’s sure to continue as Greece’s perennial appeal among travelers shows no signs of fading.

How to avoid the crowds: To sidestep the worst of the congestion in Athens, visit outside the peak months of July and August. April and May are sublime before summer crowds arrive, and after they disperse, September and October beckon with cooler temperatures and more space to enjoy the city’s museums and monuments.

On that note: Anyone who has the Acropolis on their bucket list may want to book a timeslot in the afternoon or early evening, as the bulk of the crowds, including cruise ship passengers, come in the morning.

Finally, anyone planning to tack an island visit onto an off-season Athens trip should note there are reduced ferry services and closures for restaurants and lodging, especially January through March.

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