Germany's second-largest city, Hamburg, is awash with history -- from emigration to World War II to the Beatles. It's also a thriving 21st-century metropolis with an inviting harbor boardwalk, avant-garde architecture and Las Vegas-style nightlife. Every visit here makes me wonder why so many Americans skip it. I love this city.
Even though it'...Read more
As the capital of the country that gets my vote for the friendliest in the European Union, Dublin is a sightseer's delight: It's safe, thriving and extremely accessible. Dubliners are energetic and helpful, and visitors enjoy a big-town cultural scene wrapped up in a small-town smile.
Part of the reason Ireland is one of my favorite ...Read more
High in Switzerland, the mighty Alps seem to shout the glory of God. Up here, the Christmas season fills a winter wonderland with good cheer. I'll never forget the holiday I spent in the village of Gimmelwald in mountainous central Switzerland, where old traditions remain strong.
In Swiss villages like this, home windows serve as life-size ...Read more
The quintessential image of Spain is the region of Andalucia, home of bullfights, flamenco, whitewashed hill towns and glamorous Mediterranean resorts. And while much of the region's appeal is in its hill and coastal retreats, at the heart of Andalucia are three great cities: Granada, Cordoba and Sevilla.
Granada is the famous last home of the ...Read more
You can blame my Norwegian heritage, but I'm not so hot on the Swedish countryside. Even so, you can't say you've seen Sweden if you've only been to Stockholm. Rural Sweden -- especially the province of Smaland -- is a worthy addition to any Scandinavian itinerary.
Covering the entire southeast coast and running deep into the interior, Smaland'...Read more
It may lack the Botticellis, Guccis, and touristic icons of Venice, Florence or Rome, but Sicily still packs a punch. This island -- a little smaller than Massachusetts -- is home to some of Europe's most important ancient Greek sites, the most active volcano in Europe, and some of Italy's most intriguing architecture and tastiest food.
While ...Read more
Sometimes in travel, the journey is the reward. And that is particularly true in Europe, where travelers can enjoy special trains, buses, and boats that link destinations near and far, high and low, urban and rural, often through spectacular scenery.
One of my favorite journeys is called "Norway in a Nutshell," a series of coordinated bus, ...Read more
A former imperial capital and the home of the czars, St. Petersburg is Russia's most tourist-worthy city. Pastel palaces, bucolic gardens, commanding statues and graceful waterways evoke romantic images of Peter the Great and the Romanov dynasty.
But travelers can also find memories of St. Petersburg's darker history: In 1917, the Russian ...Read more
The Dolomites -- the dramatic mountains along Italy's northeast border -- offer not only some of Europe's most scenic alpine experiences, but a chance to encounter an intriguing mingling of cultures. These Alps belong to the long-Austrian, now-Italian region of South Tirol, an area that for centuries has been at one of Europe's main crossroads, ...Read more
Martin Luther -- a pious monk and fiery orator who became "The Great Reformer" -- came from a humble, pastoral corner of Germany's heartland. It's a land of half-timbered villages, rolling hills and fanciful castles -- and where Luther's bold attempts to reform the Catholic Church launched the Protestant Reformation. This month marks the 500th ...Read more
I don't give much thought to petty crime when I travel abroad. I'm well aware that it happens: I've been preaching about the importance of wearing a money belt for decades. And for decades -- probably about a total of 4,000 days of travel -- I've never been hit by a thief. Well, my happy streak finally ended: I was pickpocketed in Paris this ...Read more
Tucked into a far corner of Europe, just two hours north of Lisbon, is one of my favorite beach towns: Nazare, a Portuguese fishing town turned tourist retreat. Visitors are greeted by the energetic applause of the surf, widows with rooms to rent, and fishermen mending nets. This is a place to relax in the sun among cork groves, eucalyptus trees...Read more
France is a cultural bouillabaisse that surprises travelers with its varied, complex flavors. To experience the tasty and fragrant wonders of its edible diversity, head to a street market. No single "sightseeing" activity better connects you to the French preoccupation with fresh products and their strong ties to the soil.
Markets combine ...Read more
Serene Sorrento, wedged on a ledge under the mountains and over the sea, is a great springboard for sightseeing along Italy's Amalfi Coast. Just an hour south of wild and crazy Naples, calm and genteel Sorrento makes an ideal home base for day-tripping around the region (Pompeii, Positano, and Capri are well within reach). And every night, you ...Read more
In Europe, getting from Point A to Point B is a snap. The train system shrinks what is already a small continent, making a whirlwind or far-reaching tour a reasonable possibility for anyone. For me, trains remain the quintessentially European way to go, and the best option for romantics. However, ...Read more
Last year in Munich, I joined the planet's biggest kegger -- Oktoberfest. With my fellow revelers, we swayed our beer steins and toasted to "Gemuetlichkeit" (the cozy and convivial atmosphere). At the "whop" sound signaling the tapping of a classic old wooden keg, everyone knew they were in for a good fresh mug -- and another ...Read more
England's scenic landscapes hold a mix of historic wonders and legends that go back to Camelot and beyond. Two of the best places to contemplate the country's mythic past -- Glastonbury and Wells -- are in southwest England. Both market towns were once stops for religious pilgrims a day's walk apart, and together make a great day-trip from Bath ...Read more