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
Once an economical and easy way to travel around Europe, rail passes over the years had become more of a headache-inducing puzzle. But in 2019, Europe's rail passes underwent some sweeping changes that have made them an affordable option again, and much less confusing to shop for -- and made me nostalgic for their glory days.
As of this year, "...Read more
Long a city of aristocrats, luxury goods, and trade, Venice has an amazing culture. Its fantasy-world atmosphere of elegant decay is like nowhere else in Europe. But with souvenir hawkers everywhere pushing cheap masks, glassy baubles, and lacy doilies, it can come across as a tacky tourist trap. Look behind those tired clichés, though, and you...Read more
When touring any city, it's fun to drop in on the local university. But in Europe, universities can be essential sightseeing, as some are home to great architectural, artistic, and cultural treasures.
One of Europe's top university sights is the Book of Kells, tucked away in the library of the venerable homeandleisure/travel/ricksteves/s-2255362">Read more
On a recent trip to Great Britain, I decided at the last minute to snip two days off from my time in London and go somewhere I've never been before: the Orkney Islands. Perched just an hour's ferry ride north of the Scottish mainland, these islands are remote, historic, and -- for the right traveler -- well worth the effort.
Orkney has two ...Read more
Many of Europe's time-warp houses -- sights that bring you back to a bygone era -- get only a few thoughtful travelers, overshadowed by big-name museums. Some of the ones I highly recommend may make people say "Huh!?" But they're the sights that might just make your day.
For example, Glasgow's Tenement House offers a chance to drop into a ...Read more
An endearing slice of Portugal is the Douro River Valley, the winding, terraced region that produces the country's beloved port wine. This is Portugal's answer to Germany's romantic Rhine River Valley. But unlike the Rhine, the Douro was never a strategic military location. So, rather than castles and stony ramparts, visitors encounter farms and...Read more
Few cities can match Prague's over-the-top romance, evocative Old World charm ... and tourist crowds. To escape the masses and experience more of the real Czech Republic, take a bus or train ride outside of the city to see a rich medieval town, a sobering concentration camp memorial, or a grand Czech castle.
Kutna Hora, a beautifully preserved ...Read more
I'm often inspired by families on the road. Last summer, on a ferry between Oban and the Isle of Mull in Scotland, I met a family from Texas. The parents were taking their kids on a year-long adventure through Europe and told me how they've realized there's no better education or quality family time than traveling together -- and I ...Read more
When travel dreams take people to Europe, Italy is often their first stop. There's something seductively charming about this country, its people, and "la dolce vita." I always feel at home in Italy, whether struggling onto a crowded bus in Rome, navigating the fun chaos of Naples, sipping a cocktail in a Venetian bar, or sitting on the banister ...Read more
Just like today, the royal families of the past were fond of their countryside getaways. These lavish retreats provided an escape from the city and the summer heat, a place for diversions like hunting and horseback riding, and enough land to build grand showpiece palaces and gardens. While Europe has many royal retreats, a few are remarkable for...Read more
Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia and once a nearly desolate ghost town, is one of the big surprises of my recent travels. Its compact old town bursts with colorfully restored facades, lively outdoor cafes, and swanky boutiques. The ramshackle industrial quarter to the east is rapidly being redeveloped into a forest of skyscrapers. The hilltop...Read more
Iceland, formed long ago by volcanoes, is known for its otherworldly landscape, with steaming fields and percolating mud. The volcanic activity produces naturally heated water, which Icelanders have cleverly harnessed for thermal baths and pools. Geothermal experiences -- visual and physical -- are worth seeking out on a visit here.
Wandering ...Read more
When it comes to eating in Spain, I love gathering around the table or bar for tapas -- a parade of small dishes served family style. I never tire of them. The experience is like an edible scavenger hunt, where I collect small portions of seafood, salads, meat-filled pastries and deep-fried tasties and piece them together for a light evening ...Read more
With the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings coming this June, most Americans visiting France's D-Day sites will focus on Omaha Beach -- where thousands died on June 6, 1944. But if you're planning to visit Normandy this year, don't miss the other American landing site -- Utah.
Utah Beach, added as a landing site late in D-Day...Read more
It's easy to travel through Europe without a car, but there are times when I enjoy the freedom of having my own wheels. I don't drive in big cities, but having a car can be the best -- and, sometimes, only -- way to get off the beaten path. When exploring small towns or the countryside, I connect the dots with a rental car.
Last spring, for ...Read more
Tiny, overlooked Slovenia is one of Europe's most unexpectedly charming destinations with spectacular natural beauty, a fascinating recent history, and a spirit of adventure -- yet much of it is still off the typical tourist path. Here, in the land where the Adriatic meets the Alps, lies a romantic getaway that once entertained emperors and ...Read more