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Helsinki highlights

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Helsinki -- Europe's youngest and northernmost capital city -- feels like an outpost of Europe. While it lacks the cutesy cobbles of Copenhagen, the aristocratic setting of Stockholm, or the futuristic vibe of Oslo, Helsinki holds its own among Nordic capitals with its creative spirit, zest for architecture and design and a steamy love of saunas...Read more

Europe's famous walls

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

I'm so glad borders and walls are out of fashion in Europe. The continent's many proud nations don't always get along, but they have learned to respect each other -- making it possible for peace to flourish.

Historically, though, Europe has a rich past when it comes to wall building. At one point or another, most of Europe's great cities -- ...Read more

Off the beaten track in Switzerland

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Mountainous Switzerland is well-known for its cows, chocolate, and stunning scenery -- but there's more to enjoy. Here are some lesser-known Swiss travel treats.

Experience Swiss military readiness. To protect its prized neutrality in the tumultuous 20th century, Switzerland wired its roads, bridges, and tunnels so they could be destroyed with ...Read more

Italy's Riviera: Beyond the Cinque Terre

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

When it comes to basking in the beauty of Italy's Riviera, the Cinque Terre is tops for me. But there's much more to this region on the Mediterranean coast than those famous five villages.

A handful of charming towns lie within an hour of the Cinque Terre, with posh ports set against rugged mountain backdrops that have drawn poets, authors and ...Read more

10 ways Iceland can kill you

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Gazing into a volcanic crater lake, leaping across a tectonic fissure in the earth's crust, descending into the magma chamber of an extinct volcano ... Iceland is filled with unforgettable experiences. This beautiful country is packed with tourist-attracting natural wonders: waterfalls, glaciers, rivers, fjords, cliffs, thermal springs and ...Read more

Ireland's culinary delights

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Irish cuisine has long been the fodder of jokes -- a kind of penance to suffer through in order to enjoy the people, music and lush scenery of the Emerald Isle. But that's an outdated notion: Travelers today find fresh, inventive, flavorful meals there -- and many Irish towns are working to establish themselves as foodie destinations.

Long ...Read more

Pomp and consequence: Visiting 20th-century fascist sites

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

The sweeping impact of fascism in the 20th century can be felt to this day in the many monuments and memorials across Europe that remind us of those horrific years.

You can trace fascism's roots to the turbulent aftermath of World War I, where masses of angry people rose up, and their charismatic leaders manipulated that anger. Both Benito ...Read more

France's serene abbeys

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

The French countryside is littered with medieval monasteries -- stony, quiet and atmospheric. Some are in a state of ruin; others are still home to peaceful monks or sisters going about their religious work. Still others are intact but now open only as museums. A little history can help visitors breathe life into these serenely remote monuments....Read more

Playing around in Shakespeare's Stratford

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

To see or not to see? Nonliterary types might find England's Stratford-upon-Avon to be much ado about nothing, but Shakespeare's hometown is blanketed with opportunities for bardolatry. It's an easy side-trip from London, but an overnight stay is best to take in a performance of the world's best Shakespeare ensemble.

Within Stratford's compact ...Read more

Going to the dogs (and other animals) in Europe

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Despite a lifetime of European travel, there is a world of firsts still out there for me. And recently, I had my first falconry experience.

It was at the Ireland School of Falconry (just outside of Cong, north of Galway), where a great guide took our tour group on a "hawk walk." For about an hour, we wandered through the enchanting grounds of ...Read more

It's more than a tour -- it's an education

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Honolulu or Havana? The world is full of travel opportunities that are more than enjoyable -- they can be transformational. By getting out of your comfort zone, you realize that different people find different truths to be self-evident and God-given. You gain empathy for the other 96 percent of humanity -- and in many ways you can learn a lot ...Read more

Bastille Day: France's party for the people

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

For the ultimate summer party in France, visit during Bastille Day, the country's Independence Day. This July 14 holiday is celebrated with gusto, with all-night parties, picnics and fireworks. And the fun permeates the country, from tiny towns to Paris.

The day marks the symbolic start of the French...Read more

Scotland's most intoxicating places

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

When I was in Scotland recently updating my guidebook, I came to a sobering conclusion -- this is a land of booze geeks. Some of my favorite discoveries have been inviting whisky bars and historic distilleries, run by people evangelical about Scotland's favorite beverage. When it rains -- as it often does -- the showers elicit a cheery "That's ...Read more

Sightseeing skills for the ancient world

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

Climbing the Acropolis, communing with the druids at Stonehenge or marveling at the sprawling remains of Pompeii -- exploring the remnants of Europe's distant past brings a special thrill to those of us able to resurrect all that rubble.

I had such a thrill recently in Epidavros, where I visited the finest and best-preserved of Greece's many ...Read more

Futuristic Oslo

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

I'm always inspired by Norway's capital Oslo -- a classic old city that keeps chugging into the future. It's architecturally fascinating, extremely livable, and mellow. While buying things is expensive, many of Oslo's joys are free.

Situated at the head of a 60-mile-long fjord, Oslo sprawls out from its historic core. Its streets are a mix of ...Read more

Santorini is more than just a pretty face

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

The words "Greek Isles" evoke visions of sun-bleached houses shoulder-to-shoulder against a hillside with a mesmerizing view of glittering blue water. But with more than 200 Greek islands scattered across the Aegean and Ionian seas, where do you start?

Chances are Santorini is the island you're picturing. Once a complete island like its ...Read more

Tidy and Tiny: Top towns of coastal Ireland

Travel / Rick Steves' Europe /

When someone asks me about visiting Ireland, I tell them not to miss the southwest coast. This is the place to experience the wonders of the Gaelic language and old Irish civilization, as well as the country's contemporary charms. It's the most mystical, Celtic, spiritual and rugged region of Ireland -- and the towns along the way are just plain...Read more

 

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