Features // Europe

Passport to write: the runners-up!
Passport to write: the runners-up!

After weeks of deliberation, we’re thrilled to announce the results of the Rough Guides and Journeys are made @gapyear.com writing competition. The winning piece can be read here, but we’ve also picked two fantastic runners-up.  Kyle Cunningham chose the theme “my greatest adventure”, writing about several days of searching for the rare silky sifaka in the lemur-filled jungles…

Quiz: can you locate these national parks?
Quiz: can you locate these national parks?

National parks are some of the world’s most awe-inspiring natural places, taking in mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and forests (sometimes all in the same one), but how much do you know about them? Can you tell these national parks apart? Compare flights, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Life on GMT: Gozo Maybe Time
Life on GMT: Gozo Maybe Time

It starts as soon as the ferry pulls away from the quay. Heading out from the bustle of the main island of Malta into the shimmering blue waters of the Gozo Channel, the Mediterranean sun warm on your skin, tensions just ebb away. Sliding past the tiny island of Comino, its solitary defensive tower giving…

Budapest: the perfect summer break
Budapest: the perfect summer break

Essentially two cities in one – Buda and Pest – Hungary’s magnificent capital is now firmly established as one of Europe’s most enticing destinations. Its dramatic setting astride the Danube is reason enough to visit, but the city packs in a multitude of things to see and do. First and foremost, no visitor to Budapest…

Bratislava: it’s high time you discovered Slovakia’s capital
Bratislava: it’s high time you discovered Slovakia’s capital

“Little Big City” proclaims the sign on the side of Bratislava’s trams. It’s certainly right about the first, Slovakia’s capital is dinky compared with its neighbours on the Danube – Vienna, the grand old dame of European capitals, ninety minutes to the west by boat, and exuberant Budapest, three hours to the southeast by train.…

Rome with kids: a different kind of mini-break
Rome with kids: a different kind of mini-break

Having visited Rome no less than four times, Monica Woods decided it was time to see it with a fresh pair of eyes: those of her four-year-old son. Here she discovers what Rome has to offer for a family holiday. Early spring in the eternal city. A weekend escape, a chance to get reacquainted with…

9 of the best tapas bars in Barcelona
9 of the best tapas bars in Barcelona

It’s tempting to say that there’s nowhere quite like Barcelona. As cool and hip as they come, this is Catalunya’s elegant and self-confident modern capital. It’s no wonder, then, that the city is also one of the most exciting places to eat in Spain. From the Pocket Rough Guide to Barcelona, this is our pick of the best…

The world’s longest pizza has been baked in Milan
The world’s longest pizza has been baked in Milan

Proving that revenge doesn’t taste sweet so much as tomatoey, Italy has officially reclaimed the title of “World’s Longest Pizza” from previous record-holders Spain. They took the title at the Expo Milano 2015 by baking a 1596.45m-long pizza – that’s nearly a mile of doughy, cheesy goodness. The massive margherita comes with some impressive stats: 1.5…

15 amazing pictures of London
15 amazing pictures of London

Professional landscape & wildlife photographer Nick Jackson shares some of his favourite pictures of London.  “I’ve lived in London for 15 years now, never intending to stay for anywhere near that long. This seems to be a common mindset amongst Londoners and particularly photographers, because every time it feels right for a change, the city itself changes…

Inside Europe’s most expansive cave system
Inside Europe’s most expansive cave system

Of Slovenia’s many show caves, none has quite the pulling power of Postojna, located in the heart of the country’s beguiling Karst region. And, at more than 20km long, it is Europe’s most expansive cave system. Writing about Postojna in the seventeenth century, the great Slovene polymath Janez Vajkard Valvasor remarked: “in some places you…

You can now travel by dragon in Wales
You can now travel by dragon in Wales

Who wants to drive for hours on winding Welsh roads, or take one of those tiny local stopping trains, when you could hop on the back of a dragon and make the journey between Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons in just 32 minutes? No, the Queen of Dragons from Game of Thrones hasn’t taken over Wales (although we’re…

Quiz: can you name these famous UK landmarks?
Quiz: can you name these famous UK landmarks?

How well do you know the UK? Do you know your castles from your stately homes and your abbeys from your cathedrals? Take this test to find out. Can you name these ten famous UK landmarks? Compare flights, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Rome
An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Rome

You’ve booked your flight to Italy, now where to stay? Whatever kind of trip you’re planning, co-author of the Rough Guide Natasha Foges has the lowdown on the best area to stay in Rome. Best for romance: the Centro Storico The Centro Storico (historic centre) is what most people dream of for their Roman holiday: a…

21 things everyone should know before visiting Britain
21 things everyone should know before visiting Britain

Brits can be a funny lot. The country might be small, but you could spend a lifetime learning its quirks and idiosyncrasies. Regional pronunciation, strange road rules and its renowned drinking culture can all prove hazardous to the first-time visitor. Here’s our guide to surviving in Blighty. 1. There are three nations in Britain First…

A guide to Sweden’s unforgettable midsummer celebrations
A guide to Sweden’s unforgettable midsummer celebrations

Nobody does midsummer like the Swedes. They down tools and head for their summer houses on the coast for a family gathering lubricated by beer, herring and shots of the local firewater. Whether you’re a builder or a banker, it’s the one day of the year that everyone casts aside their daily routine and goes…

Somerset: a British road trip to rival the world’s great highways
Somerset: a British road trip to rival the world’s great highways

Keith Drew sees Britain’s Somerset in a different light from behind the wheel of a six-man motorhome. Cotton-budded wisps of mist hung lazily above the water, the early morning sunlight glinting off the pools. Freshly brewed tea in hand, we settled down in chairs outside our motorhome to survey the reedbeds in front of us,…

A beginner’s guide to the best German beers
A beginner’s guide to the best German beers

Think Germany and you think beer. It’s a country whose beer culture is so ingrained and recognised that Oktoberfest is celebrated around the world. It’s the birthplace of lager, and one that is full of life and flavour (a far cry from the insipid mass-produced stuff). In fact, the word ‘lager’ just means cold-stored, and…

Video: why Cappadocia is best seen from above
Video: why Cappadocia is best seen from above

The ethereal landscape of Cappadocia is one of Turkey‘s top attractions, and the fields of naturally-hewn “fairy chimneys” and mysterious rock caves here have intrigued visitors for years. These days, however, there’s only one way to take in Cappadocia’s unusual formations – from the air. On still days at dawn, a swarm of hot-air balloons slowly ascends as the…

Scaling the Metéora: the monastic mountains of Greece
Scaling the Metéora: the monastic mountains of Greece

Not for those without a head for heights: Rough Guides editor Ros Walford conquers one of the cliffs of the Metéora.  This is no ordinary day. I’m dangling by a rope from a vertical rock face in mainland Greece. All around me are towers of sandstone, jutting from a wide plain – carved by water…

The best gelato in Rome
The best gelato in Rome

While in Rome researching the upcoming Rough Guide, Natasha Foges sampled gelato in every corner of the city – all in the name of research. Here’s the scoop on where to find the city’s best. Every Roman has a favourite gelateria, and can spend hours arguing the merits of their local haunt. In the last…

Lyon: the French city that has it all
Lyon: the French city that has it all

Forget Paris. Lyon is currently where it’s at, and whilst it’s reputation as France’s culinary capital is fully justified – twenty-two Michelin stars and counting – there’s a great deal more to this colourful city than gluttony. A flourish of fabulous new accommodation, cultural sights galore, and a raft of exciting festivals will keep you…

This Greek beach looks like it’s on another planet
This Greek beach looks like it’s on another planet

Dotting the southern Agean, the Cyclades (Kykládhes) are one of the best places in Greece’s for island-hopping. But it’s not all the crystal-clear seas and golden beaches that you might expect. On volcanic Milos, a geologically diverse island known for its unusual rock formations and geothermal springs, the spectacular shorelines are characterized by multicoloured rocks and volcanically heated sand. Sarakiniko, in particular, is astonishing.…

5 street foods you need to try in Istanbul
5 street foods you need to try in Istanbul

One of the most enjoyable ways of tasting the best Istanbul has to offer is to work your way around the city snacking on the incredible street food, sold from carts and trays at street corners and other likely spots. This can be as simple as raw almonds on ice, but there are far more…

10 reasons why you need to visit Tirana
10 reasons why you need to visit Tirana

Albania’s capital used to regularly top lists for Europe’s worst city. Decades of Stalinist rule left Tirana grey and grim, lacking in both infrastructure and services. The collapse of communism in 1992 only worsened the situation, as chaos engulfed the city and crime started to rise. All that has now changed. Today Tirana is –…

21 pictures that will make you want to jump on a plane to Italy
21 pictures that will make you want to jump on a plane to Italy

From Tuscany‘s picture-perfect countryside and rambling hill-towns to Venice‘s dreamy canals and palazzos, there’s no end to Italy‘s beauty. It’s really no wonder that the country attracts nearly 50 million visitors a year. Here, we’ve picked 21 of our favourite pictures of Italy from the Rough Guides archive. If these don’t make you want to jump on a plane, we don’t know what…

Minsk: beyond the stereotypes of the Belarusian capital
Minsk: beyond the stereotypes of the Belarusian capital

‘Mini-break’ and ‘Minsk’ don’t trip off the tongue. And if you’ve never considered a visit to the Belarusian capital, you aren’t alone. Anita Isalska explores why the city makes for an interesting trip.  Firstly, there’s the popular perception of Minsk as a grey, post-Soviet megalopolis. Another disincentive is the Belarusian visa, a requirement for visitors…

Baikal: exploring Siberia’s epic frozen lake
Baikal: exploring Siberia’s epic frozen lake

Anita Isalska explores the frozen surface of the epic Lake Baikal in Russia.  During Siberian winters, the mercury drops as low as minus 35ºC (minus 95ºF). Brightly painted houses in central Russia’s villages groan under the weight of snow. The surface of vast Lake Baikal freezes. But as I stand its shore, I see an…

18 beautiful pictures of Finland
18 beautiful pictures of Finland

Professional travel photographer Tim Bird shares his love of photographing Finland.  “I’ve been based in the Finnish capital Helsinki for more than thirty years, so I know the country well. Four distinct seasons lend varied moods to endless landscapes of lake and forest. In the far north, Arctic wilderness fells are ablaze in reds and yellows…

What it’s like to be a pilot for a day
What it’s like to be a pilot for a day

It was a beautifully clear evening; the sun was sinking below the horizon and the runway at Heathrow stretched ahead in neat rows of orange lights. The cars on the access road were getting closer and closer, their headlights sweeping across the road in the early evening light. “One hundred”, the automated voice said. I…

A foodie pilgrimage along the Camino del Norte
A foodie pilgrimage along the Camino del Norte

After a foodie pilgrimage along the northern Spanish coast, Ros Walford shares some of her edible highlights of the Camino del Norte. There’s something magical about entering a city on foot. First, you see a rash of buildings in the distance; some hours later, you finally reach the centre, where, stomach rumbling, you follow your…

Stunning video shows why you should travel at home
Stunning video shows why you should travel at home

In this week’s featured video “adventure is on our doorstep” is the message from Sebastian Linda from Saxony, Germany. “We travel to far away places because we expect holidays, recovery, adventure and new experiences. But is that always necessary?”, he asks. In this visual tour of his home state, Sebastian explores it all from the city of…

Hamburg: Germany’s second city is hotting up
Hamburg: Germany’s second city is hotting up

Most travellers thinking about a weekend break in Germany overlook Hamburg and put Berlin and Munich at the top of their wish lists. Yet within Germany, the nation’s second city proves a popular draw thanks to nightlife, shopping and museums. Stuart Forster, a regular visitor to Germany, finds out what Hamburg has to offer. Why…

You can now zip line through Wales at 100mph
You can now zip line through Wales at 100mph

If you’ve ever dreamed of flying through the air at high speed, or wondered what it might be like to jump off a large metal platform and leave your fate in the hands of some rope and wires, then Zip World Titan is for you. Rough Guides editor Rachel Mills visited the disused quarry in…

13 crazy new British beers you need to try
13 crazy new British beers you need to try

It’s an utterly sparkling, adventurous and intoxicating time for beer right now. The number of British breweries is pushing 1400, and there are 70 in London alone – in 2006 there were only two in the capital. Hundreds of small, highly experimental craft brewers have sprung up in garages and industrial estates using borrowed, begged…

The best beaches in Crete, Greece
The best beaches in Crete, Greece

Crete has easily the longest summers in Greece, and there are plenty of beaches with which to fill those long, lazy summer days. Whether you’re into watersports, skinny dipping or good old-fashioned sunbathing, the island almost certainly has a stretch of sand to suit your tastes. Elafonísi Elafonísi Beach comes as an exotic shock. The…

6 enticing alternatives to Italy’s big sights
6 enticing alternatives to Italy’s big sights

You’ve hiked the Cinque Terre, gondola’d down Venice’s Grand Canal and got Renaissance art fatigue in Florence’s Uffizi. So what’s next? Italophile Natasha Foges picks six less-known places that offer all the charm of Italy‘s big sights. If you like Lake Como try… Lake Iseo Of the six Italian Lakes, it’s Garda and Como –…

9 of the world’s best white­water rafting spots
9 of the world’s best white­water rafting spots

Rough Guides’ adventure sports expert Helen Abramson gives us her top tips on some of the world’s best adrenalin­-pumping whitewater rafting. Rapids are classified from I–VI, where grade VI is “un-runnable”, so the Grade V rivers listed here are essentially as thrilling as it gets. 1. Zambezi River, Zimbabwe Africa’s most exhilarating rafting is found on…

A giant underground trampoline has opened in a cave in Wales
A giant underground trampoline has opened in a cave in Wales

Rough Guides editor Rachel Mills goes deep underground in the heart of Snowdonia National Park to discover the latest, and craziest, adventure activity in North Wales. A Victorian slate mine close to the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog was once where miners wielded hammers and chisels to eke out a hard living from the rock. Today, it’s…

Discover Zagreb, Croatia’s capital of cool
Discover Zagreb, Croatia’s capital of cool

The Croatian capital Zagreb has enjoyed the dubious honour of being underestimated twice over. Cold-shouldered by Croatia-bound travellers because it’s a landlocked city without a beach, it has also been ignored by city-breakers bound for Prague, Kraków or Budapest. One consequences of this relative neglect is that Zagreb is one of the few European capitals…

14 magical sunrises that prove it’s worth getting up early
14 magical sunrises that prove it’s worth getting up early

Looking through the Rough Guides photography archive, one kind of shot stands out again and again: pictures captured at sunrise. Sure, there’s nothing more tempting than sleeping in until noon while you’re on holiday. But if you can bring yourself to brave the odd early morning, you’ll discover a magical world as dawn breaks. From…

10 free things to do in Amsterdam
10 free things to do in Amsterdam

There’s nowhere quite like Amsterdam. You could
 be sitting nursing a drink outside one of its cafés, chugging by boat along its canals, or riding its ringing trams, and you’ll sense immediately that you couldn’t be anywhere else in the world. Of course, there’s a slew of first-rate attractions, but it’s not all about big…

Gintonic is the only thing to drink in Barcelona
Gintonic is the only thing to drink in Barcelona

Whatever you’re looking for from a night out, you’ll find it somewhere in Barcelona – bohemian boozer, underground club, cocktail bar, summer dance palace, techno temple, Irish pub or designer bar, you name it. But when it comes to drinks, gintonic, as it’s known, has always been a favourite. In recent years, however, there’s been a…

Passport to write: travel writing competition
Passport to write: travel writing competition

** This competition is now closed ** Do you want to become a travel writer? Have you always dreamed about getting paid to travel the world? We’re on the lookout for talented new authors for our online features section, and have teamed up with Journeys are made @ gapyear.com to give someone the chance to write for…

7 European cities you’ve not been to but must visit
7 European cities you’ve not been to but must visit

We all know about the big European city breaks like Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam, but what about Maribor in Slovenia, Osijek in Croatia and Cadiz in Spain? If you’ve already been to all the big boys, or just want to venture off the well-beaten tourist track, it’s time to discover some seriously unsung cities. Here, we’ve picked…

A first-timer’s Guide to the Canary Islands
A first-timer’s Guide to the Canary Islands

Pre-conceptions are a funny thing. If someone told you about an archipelago of islands set adrift off the coast of Africa, an oasis that boasts superb beaches and perennial warmth, which is home to the world’s second largest Carnival, award-winning wines and Spain’s highest mountain, you’d probably want to visit. If they revealed they were…

10 great places to go walking in Scotland
10 great places to go walking in Scotland

Billy Connolly famously said that “there are two seasons in Scotland: June and winter”. Yet anyone who loves walking in this hauntingly beautiful country knows that even the weather can’t spoil the bleak majesty of its ancient landscape. It’s the rain, wind, sleet, snow, sun, and constantly changing light bursting from vast, shifting northern skies…

The one Magna Carta exhibition you need to see this year
The one Magna Carta exhibition you need to see this year

This feature is brought to you by the Magna Carta – indirectly, at least. 2015 marks 800 years since the signing of the first Magna Carta (Great Charter) in Runnymede, England. While it was retracted and reinstated by various monarchs a number of times in the following years, the document has become an international icon of…

Escape rooms: would you pay to get locked up?
Escape rooms: would you pay to get locked up?

Paying a stranger to lock you and your friends in a room filled with fiendish puzzles sounds an unlikely holiday activity, but “escape rooms” are springing up around the world. Shafik Meghji got locked up in Budapest… The email was brief and ever so slightly unsettling: “Please arrive punctually at 16:30 to Erzsébet Körút 8,…

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