For scenes straight out of a box of old-fashioned Christmas cards, head to England. Many classic Christmas trappings, from caroling to mince pie and wassail, have been part of English tradition for centuries.
Other holiday customs have their roots in the 19th century. Queen Victoria's German husband, Prince Albert, popularized the decorating of...Read more
Europe is a surprisingly creative place when it comes to travel scams. Many of the most successful gambits require a naively trusting tourist, but seasoned travelers can be taken in, too. We should all be wary of the numerous subtle scams -- a cabbie pads your fare, a hotel business center computer records your password, or a waiter offers a ...Read more
With its romantic coastline, inviting beaches, and reliable sunshine, southern France's Riviera region has been a tourist destination since the 1860s. A hundred years ago, aristocrats from London to Moscow flocked here to socialize, gamble, and escape the dreary weather at home. But the area also attracted a who's who of 20th-century artists, ...Read more
Seeing the top sights in Europe's big cities can be intense. It's hot, it's crowded, and your dream of having a quiet moment with the Mona Lisa is shared by around six million people every year.
The mission of my most recent trip to Europe was finding peace and tranquility in big cities that, in many ways, feel overrun with tourists. And it's ...Read more
Every time I travel to Europe in the off-season, I find myself enjoying a cool and comfy tranquility -- and not missing the heat and crowds that so often come with peak season. But even more than that, I enjoy catching Europe by surprise -- at its candid best, living everyday life. When I travel outside of the tourist season, Europe seems even ...Read more
When I first came to the Cinque Terre, then an isolated stretch of the Italian Riviera south of Genoa, it was a classic "back door": a string of five pastel-hued hamlets, gently and steadily carving a good life out of difficult seaside terrain. It was authentic, romantic, and without a tourist in sight. Fast forward several decades ... and the ...Read more
Strung along the Danube River, three capital cities -- Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest -- make up a triangle of enjoyable urbanity at the heart of central Europe. Each of these capital cities shares a common Habsburg history, and thanks to their proximity -- only one or two hours apart by train -- combining all three into one trip is a breeze. ...Read more
With a rich culture, friendly people, affordable prices, and a salty setting on the edge of Europe, Portugal understandably makes a rewarding destination for travelers. Bustling Lisbon and the sunny Algarve coast are well known to tourists (for good reason), but quieter places also offer tantalizing tastes of Portuguese flavor.
About 90 miles ...Read more
With Halloween and All Souls' Day approaching, I'd like to spook you with some of my favorite European cemeteries and crypts. Over the years, I've popped into a lot of burial grounds -- some peaceful and scenic, some eerie and evocative -- with all revealing compelling stories of the past. Some high-profile places -...Read more
Sampling Italian cuisine is sightseeing for your palate. The tour plan: Start with fresh ingredients and talented cooks, mix in a city's personality, and add a happy dining crowd. Experiencing Italy's cafés, cuisine, and wines is a joy, and in the heart of Tuscany, Florence offers a particularly satisfying spread.
Tuscan cuisine is hearty and ...Read more
Picture this: Half-timbered towns with tall cathedral spires, thatched-roof cottages dotted among green rolling hills, fat happy cows, and drifts of gnarled apple trees. This is the beguiling Normandy coast of France.
Strategically positioned across from England, Normandy is the closest coastline to Paris. That prime location may attract urban ...Read more
Tiny St. Andrews has a huge reputation, known around the world as the birthplace and royal seat of golf. The chance to play on the world's oldest course -- or at least take in the iconic view of its 18th hole -- keeps the town perennially popular among golfing pilgrims. But any visitor to Scotland should consider at least a short stop in this ...Read more
From church domes to bell towers, fanciful rooftops to sky-piercing monuments, Europe is full of climbable structures. While most lead to impressive views, the best also offer insights into the historical, artistic, and religious thinking of their times.
In Milan, a highlight is strolling the rooftop of the Duomo -- the city's cathedral and the...Read more
I've spent the last several decades exploring Europe from every conceivable angle. And this includes checking out Europe the way millions of people do -- from a cruise ship.
I'm not out to promote or put down cruising. For some people it's a great choice, and for others it's not. On the plus side, cruising can be economical, with transportation...Read more
Stockholm is a highlight of any Scandinavian vacation, but don't discount the variety of fine day trips at the city's doorstep. Within an hour or so of the Swedish capital, you can bask in the opulence of a royal palace, swing through the home and garden of Sweden's greatest sculptor, see ancient rune stones in the country's oldest town, hang ...Read more
A walk through the heart of north Dublin recalls Ireland's long fight for independence, and makes a fine introduction to the historical lay of the land.
Start at the O'Connell Bridge, which spans the River Liffey. The river has long divided the wealthy south side of town from the working-class north side. From the bridge, you can see modern ...Read more
Sailing into the stony harbor of the island of Malta, surrounded by ramparts and turrets, you realize that this strategic and much fought-over rock midway between Sicily and Africa has had a long and difficult history. But its parade of foreign rulers (Phoenician, Roman, Greek, Arab, Norman, Sicilian and British -- to name a few) make it a ...Read more