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
Whenever I think of Belgium, I recall digging into a dish of mussels while seated on a sunny square in Brussels, in the shadow of a lacy medieval spire. My waiter bragged, "In Belgium, we eat as hearty as the Germans and as fine as the French."
Wedged between Germany, France and the Netherlands, Belgium often gets lost in the mix. But this ...Read more
While many tourists come to Italy only for the past, those who make time for Milan find that this powerful, no-nonsense city is a delightful mix of yesterday and today. Anchored by its historic cathedral, Milan is a modern, time-is-money metropolis of refined tastes. The window displays on its shopping streets are gorgeous, the well-dressed ...Read more
Like so many travelers, my images of Germany -- cute villages, dirndls and lederhosen, and fairy-tale castles -- are from Bavaria, in the foothills of the Alps. You could easily spend a week here, soaking up culture as you bike along fragrant fields and tour the sights.
My favorite home bases for exploring the Bavarian Alps are Fussen and ...Read more
Along the western Mediterranean coast, two easygoing -- and easy-to-enjoy -- beach towns stand like sister cities on each side of the border between France and Spain. Both Collioure, in France, and Cadaques, in Spain, are off the grid when it comes to glitzy resorts. And each has a delightful ambience, with welcoming beaches, quaint back streets...Read more
The Italian island of Sicily is -- perhaps more than any corner of Europe -- a layer cake of civilizations. On one island, visitors can marvel at a well-preserved Greek temple, admire the glittering mosaics of a Norman cathedral, wander through Carthaginian ruins, and feast at a market that evokes an Arabian souk.
One of my favorite places to ...Read more
Back in the summer of 1969, I took my first trip to Europe. My father, a piano importer, brought me to Vienna's Bosendorfer piano factory. Together, my dad and I watched the world's finest pianos being built by hand, in hundreds of meticulous steps.
Each hand-crafted piano had its own personality. And, as I played a selection of new pianos, my ...Read more
Spring fairs enliven towns throughout Spain, but I've found that nobody does it bigger or better than Sevilla, the capital of Spain's Andalucia region. If you come in April, you'll find one of the most exuberant and colorful festivals in a country known for fiestas -- the gigantic Feria de April (April Fair).
The fair is a vibrant and secular ...Read more
Glasgow, astride the River Clyde, is a surprising city -- and Scotland's most underrated destination. Just an hour from Edinburgh (making it an easy day trip), Glasgow offers an energetic dining and nightlife scene, fanciful architecture and top-notch museums -- most of which are free. Today, this once-run-down city feels revitalized, and ...Read more
Shopping in Europe can be fun, but don't let it overwhelm your trip. I've seen half the members of a guided tour of the British Houses of Parliament skip out on the tour to survey an enticing array of plastic "bobby" hats, Big Ben briefs and Union Jack panties instead. Focus on local experiences, and don't let your trip become a glorified ...Read more
Straddling the mighty Rhone and Saone rivers between Burgundy and Provence, Lyon has been among France's leading cities since Roman times. With cobbled alleys, pastel Renaissance mansions, Paris-like shopping streets, evocative museums and renowned cuisine, it's relaxed, welcoming and surprisingly untouristy. Just two hours from Paris by train, ...Read more