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Tower power in Tuscany

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

San Gimignano is the epitome of a Tuscan hill town. About 25 miles from Florence and Siena, it's the region's glamour girl -- visually striking and perfectly preserved -- getting all the fawning attention from passing tour buses. But despite its tourist-trap feel, it's still worth slotting into ...Read more

The back streets of Bohemian Montmartre

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Montmartre, the hilltop neighborhood hovering on the northern fringes of your Paris city map, is in many ways the perfect French cliche: red-and-white checkered tablecloths, artist's easels filling petite squares, and bohemian cabarets offering up high-kicking cancans. The literal high point is the bone-white Sacre-Coeur Basilica, from where the...Read more

Wales: Packed with castles and charm

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Humble, charming little Wales is a land of lusty men's choirs, salty harbors, slate-roofed villages, stunning mountains, and stout castles.

In fact, Wales is slathered with castles. During the late 13th and early 14th centuries, English King Edward I started building these awe-inspiring fortresses -- arguably the most breathtaking you'll find ...Read more

Going solo? How to have fun in Europe

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

I've talked to too many people who put off their travel dreams just because they haven't found a travel partner: The prospect of going alone sounds either too daunting or just not all that fun. But traveling on your own can be rewarding, vivid and exhilarating -- a gift from you to you. Prepared with a positive attitude and solid information, ...Read more

Stories behind great European Art

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

The "Mona Lisa," the Colosseum, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Michelangelo's "David" ... Europe's cultural treasures are world-class, including some of the most beautiful and enduring objects humans have created.

But let's face it. Too many museums can ruin a perfectly good vacation. For some, Notre-Dame's vast interior can be a yawning bore, and the ...Read more

Warm memories when you chill in Europe

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Every summer, Europe greets a stampede of sightseers. Instead of jumping into the peak-season pig pile, consider planning a trip for the off-season -- generally November through March. Here are some things to know when planning a winter trip.

IT'S CHEAPER: Off-season airfares are often hundreds of dollars cheaper. With fewer crowds in Europe, ...Read more

A walk through Ghent

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Once one of Belgium's medieval powerhouses, Ghent -- about 30 minutes away from Brussels and Bruges -- oozes with cobbles and charm. But it's also a living place -- home to one of Belgium's biggest universities. While there's a certain amount of urban grittiness, the heart of Ghent still looks much like it did circa 1500, when this was one of ...Read more

Best sunsets on the road

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Sunsets decorate my travel memories. They can be a vivid, romantic capper for a beautiful day on the road. I've seen a lot of sunsets in my travels, and these spots are some of my most memorable.

AERO ISLAND, DENMARK. Four hours from Copenhagen, time-passed Aero Island is the perfect place to wind down. At a lazy day's end, stroll out to ...Read more

Escape the Venice crowds with these day trips

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

I love Venice, but when the crowds become unbearable, I make it a point to get out of the center and discover what the surrounding area has to offer.

One easy escape is to the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello, which hide out in Venice's lagoon. Water taxis and ferry boats zip from central Venice to the islands, so you can easily see all ...Read more

Europe's great walled towns

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

As a kid, my treehouse was my castle: no parents reining me in, a ladder that pulled up, and nails sticking down through the ceiling -- just long enough to keep out bullies taller than me. With my sliding tongue-in-groove panels, I could see who was coming. My refuge was the envy of other little kings.

The treehouse is long gone, but I can ...Read more

Confessions of a Monoglot

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

While it's nothing to brag about, I am a miserable linguist. I got into the University of Washington, which required two years of a foreign language, thanks to an intensive summer French class at a local community college.

It was probably the worst month of my life. The eight ways the French pronounce "uh" pretty much broke my spirit. But I ...Read more

First trip to Europe? What to expect

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

If you're planning your first trip to Europe, congratulations! Learning about the world through travel is the best thing that ever happened to me.

Things are different in Europe -- that's why you go. But every first-timer has concerns about getting along in an unfamiliar place. Travelers are worried or curious about everything from bed sizes ...Read more

Salty and modern Portsmouth

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Portsmouth is the famed home of Britain's Royal Navy. But as Britain's military shrinks, the port is pumping up its tourism. Many travelers pass through this major port on England's south coast, busy with ferries heading for France's Brittany. And there are plenty of excuses to stop here. The city has amazing maritime history on display, and ...Read more

Bulgaria revisited

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

I have an affinity for Bulgaria -- so overlooked and underappreciated ... and yet so charming in a Slavic way. In my student days I spent lots of time exploring Bulgaria and its capital city Sofia: playing chess in the park, watching paranoid people huddled on street corners talking sports (and wishing they could talk politics), seeing locals ...Read more

European sweet treats

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

We all know that Belgians are connoisseurs of fine chocolate, and Italy's gelato is an edible art form. In France, travelers look for tempting "patisseries" where they can indulge in eclairs, fruit tarts and macaroons. Americans in Germany expect to try the famous Black Forest cake, a mouthwatering concoction with alternating layers of schnapps-...Read more

The magic of Aix-en-Provence

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Westminster Abbey, the Eiffel Tower, the Sistine Chapel -- these are some of the reasons you came to Europe. They're also why millions of other tourists are here as well. Nothing kills a sightseeing buzz like waiting in line for hours to see a popular sight or being crammed shoulder to shoulder as you squint up at Michelangelo's masterpiece.

...Read more

Barcelona is vibrant and spirited

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Life in Barcelona is a distinctive mix of Madrid-style love of life and Parisian elegance and taste. Spain's second-biggest city is one of the hottest tourist destinations in Europe these days, with more than 7.5 million visitors a year, so its popular pedestrian boulevards can become human traffic jams.

In spite of what can be horrible crowds,...Read more

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