When expectations clash with reality

I, like many others, love planning holidays and visiting destinations on my bucket list. Those are the places in the world that, for whatever reason, hold a special place in my heart and I get super pumped when the opportunity to finally go there presents itself. I research, plan and imagine being there, expectations rising high. Most of the time, it’s amazing, but there were few that left me feeling meh.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague was definitely in the top five on my bucket list of destinations. Everything I have ever read and seen told me that Prague was unlike any other city. After all, not many places can claim to be known as the Paris of Eastern Europe.  A city with an impressive Old Town Square and medieval astronomical clock, cobbled streets, striking architecture and abundance of beer, Prague seemed like my kind of place. It had all the elements I was looking for.


From the moment we arrived, we were faced with rudeness. From taxi drivers and shopkeepers to restaurant and hotel staff, the level of service was sub-par and unlike anything I have ever experienced. It felt like we were a great inconvenience and everyone wanted to rip us off.

I went to a store to buy a scarf and even though I was the only customer in the place with money in hand, the woman working there seemed like it was a hassle that I wanted to make a purchase. The horror!

There were a number of times when we were given one price just to be charged a totally different amount when the bill arrived. Even the medieval clock didn’t seem that fascinating and the beer was just ok. There were many people begging on the streets, which is not unusual in a large, touristy city, but here it made us very uncomfortable.

All in all, the experience wasn’t what we expected.

Prague does have spectacular architecture and is definitely worth seeing at least once, but it is not a place I’m likely to return to. Been there, done that.

Urbino, Italy

Located in the Marche Region of Italy, not too far from resort town of Rimini, Urbino is best known as the cradle of Italian Renaissance. During the 15th century, this was the home of Duke Federico da Montefeltro, a military man who was also an intellectual and a great patron of the arts. Under his almost four decades in power, the Ducal Palace became a place where many of the artists, painters, poets, thinkers, masters and musicians of the time discussed new and progressive ideas that would greatly influence Europe’s ideology in centuries to come.


As a history major, I learned about this place in one of my Italian Renaissance classes. I had an amazing professor who had the ability to make history come alive. So when it turned out that we were a short car drive away from Urbino, I knew that I had to go there. It seemed like I was destined to walk in the footsteps of these Renaissance Men and all their glory.

I arrived expecting an amazing collection of history that reflected Urbino’s golden age, but the reality was vastly different.


The former Ducal Palace was an impressive structure nestled in a lovely surroundings. Inside, it was virtually empty. We toured the palace and it became very clear that there wasn’t that much to see. For various reason, many of the furnishings and art made their way elsewhere, leaving behind stories of glory and greatness. It was quite disappointing.

In this case, it was my familiarity with the place that was a basis for my expectations. I wouldn’t have been as disappointed, if I knew nothing about Urbino and just happen to stumble upon it.  It’s been about 13 years since my visit and I keep hoping that they were able to bring in more items to fill the palace since then. Would I go back there? Only if I was conveniently in the area.

Barcelona, Spain

Ahhh Barcelona. I had such high hopes for you.

Barcelona is home to the famous Sagrada Família church and many other architectural wonders by the modernist architect Antoni Gaudí. From what I’ve seen, it was all worth a quick look. We quickly discovered that to see any of the attractions, we had to buy tickets and usually way ahead of time. While many European attractions offer tickets that can be purchased ahead of time, they also have an option of buying them on location. Not in Barcelona.  We had issues getting tickets online and had to wait for available times later in our trip. The Parc Güell was particularly disappointing at 9 Euros a person. Turns out they’ve only been charging admission for about three years. Great.

That time in #Barcelona 💜 There is something totally magical about European architecture that gets me every time.

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We found Barcelona very underwhelming. It was a nice city, but somehow did nothing for us. It’s hard to describe other than meh. Food, drinks and weather were great, which made up for the other disappointments.

Another place that I would probably not rush to get back to.

Have you ever been to a place that didn’t live up to your expectations? Let me know!

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19 thoughts on “When expectations clash with reality

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  1. THat’s too bad you didn’t enjoy these places as much as you’d hoped. It’s strange when a store clerk can hardly be bothered when a customer wants to buy something. I feel like that’s happened to me somewhere before too, though not sure where.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s always too bad when an experience like that happens for something you’ve been looking forward to 😦 Jamaica was that for me … compared to the Cayman Islands and key west I felt like Ochos rios was so worn down and while there were good parts, it was a very intimidating place when faced with all of the beggars and very aggressive panhandling

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bummer! When we went to Jamaica the weather was horrible but the rest was ok. In Domincan Republic there was a lot of aggressive people constantly trying badgering us to buy so I can relate. Thanks for sharing your story!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is possible to buy tickets on the day for attractions in Barcelona but the queues are LONG and who wants to stand in a queue for half the day?? When I discovered my error, I booked tickets using the hotel reception pc and printed them out! I’d go back in a heart beat.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This makes a lot of sense. The post that is. How many times are we let down by places and things that we build up in our heads…even people sometimes 🙂 But I am there with you on Barcelona. I loved the city in pockets but something about it did not make me go ‘I would love to come back over and over again’. The towns and cities around it were more up my alley.

    Urbino looks pretty and I have read about it in books, so would love to visit it. As for Prague, I am sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. The feeling of being ripped off is an awful one and I would not care for it too. But we went there for NY’s eve and it was less crowded (though not empty) and beautiful. I guess our experiences make or break a place for us. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you nailed it on the head. The experience has a lot to do with what impression the place leaves us with. Barcelona just didn’t do it for me, but I know lots of people who love it. To each their own I guess 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such an interesting topic. Some cities offer a different experience each time; that’s how New Orleans has been for me. I absolutely loved it the first time; the second time my expectations were too high and I felt disappointed; the third time was just right – no highs or lows, just general contentment. The time of year makes such a big difference too and it’s so easy to build up everything in our minds! I’m also fascinated about how cities handle their tourists. I still want to visit Prague someday, but your post has helpfully prepared me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I totally agree! Sometimes each visit can be totally different than the previous one. I think having a great time builds up an expectation of exactly the same thing the next time and that isn’t always the case. On the other hand, negative experience sets the expectations low and can turn into a better experience. You should totally go to Prague. Many others have gone and had better experience. It’s really worth seeing 👍🏼

      Like

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