Features // Europe

Chasing cheese in Gloucester, England
Chasing cheese in Gloucester, England

Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling, an organized bout of cheese chasing down a grassy mound in Gloucestershire, is one of Britain’s best-known festivals, and possibly its most bizarre – a totem, somehow, of a country of eccentric and long-established events. It’s certainly in the best spirit of British amateurism: anyone can enter, and all they have to…

Dancing flamenco to the gypsy beats, Spain
Dancing flamenco to the gypsy beats, Spain

With Diego El Cigala cleaning up at the Grammys, Catalan gypsy-punks Ojos de Brujo scooping a BBC Radio 3 World Music Award and Enrique Morente jamming with Sonic Youth in Valencia, the socio-musico-cultural phenomenon that is Spanish flamenco has never been hotter. Like any improvisational art form (particularly jazz, with which it often shares a platform), it’s most effective…

Extreme hiking in Iceland: the Laugavegur trail
Extreme hiking in Iceland: the Laugavegur trail

In an adventure only for the bravest hikers, David Leffman tackles the rhyolite hills, black sand deserts and the icy glacier caps of the 55km trail from Landmannalaugar to Skógar. Whiteout. Five hours into a five-day hike and I was already stuck in a blizzard, barely able to see my feet through the stinging wind-driven…

Thoughtful travel – ten spots to remember the past
Thoughtful travel – ten spots to remember the past

There are some places in the world that you may not immediately think of visiting. Among all the favourite churches, museums and galleries lurk some more disturbing locations with morbid histories, places that represent the darker side of humanity. They may not be top of your itineraries, but they’re equally – if not more –…

The best places to go in December
The best places to go in December

December might be dark and chilly in much of north America and Europe, but it’s by no means a dull month to travel. There are world-class classical music events, a clutch of colourful festivals and oodles of southern-hemisphere sunshine. Here are our tips on the best places to visit in December:   DIVE THE BLUE…

Five top blow-the-budget hotels in Britain
Five top blow-the-budget hotels in Britain

Feeling flush? Or perhaps just in need of a treat? Why not try one of these luxurious and extravagant establishments… Babington House, Somerset Babington House, near Frome, pioneered the modern brand of country-house chic back in 1998, when its seductive mix of heritage, pampering and cool design, set against a backdrop of rolling Somerset hills,…

The world’s best breakfasts
The world’s best breakfasts

Morning habits are hard to break. You may love everything about a new country, but breakfast is often where culture shock first sets in. Staring down at your bowl, half-awake, all you can think is: how can they eat this in the morning? But breakfast in a foreign land can be one of the most…

Six real life film sets
Six real life film sets

From The Beach to The Great Escape, here’s six destinations that doubled as dramatic sets for big screen movies. Let us know your own favourite film set spots below. The great escape, Poland At first sight the area of pine forest stretching south of Żagań betrays few signs of the iconic place it occupies in…

Six fitness holidays with a difference
Six fitness holidays with a difference

Heli-hiking on Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand After the thwump-thwump sound of the helicopter has receded down the glacier, I’m left standing in a beautiful white silence. With half a dozen others and a guide I’ve got the next couple of hours to explore the upper reaches of Franz Josef Glacier, one of a pair…

Whale watching in Husavik, Iceland
Whale watching in Husavik, Iceland

The fact that in Icelandic the word for beached whale is the same as that for jackpot or windfall may give you some clue as to how these seaborne beasts are seen by the locals. Yes, you may well find whale on the menu in Iceland’s restaurants – but thanks to a temporary moratorium on…

Quiet stays in busy places
Quiet stays in busy places

Escaping tourists can be difficult in some of the world’s more popular destinations, but it’s still possible if you know where to look. Travelling the extra few miles can really pay off. These destinations are in or near very popular places but are just far enough removed to offer true isolation and respite from your…

Turkey in twelve meals
Turkey in twelve meals

Updating a guidebook is fascinating, exhausting, repetitive and exhilarating work. Nothing spurs you under the skin of a place more than 40 pages of listings that need checking in detail and the thought of thousands of travellers following your footsteps and relying on your diligence. Pounding the streets in search of that new café, lifting…

Sauntering through the ruins of Ani, Turkey
Sauntering through the ruins of Ani, Turkey

The ruins of Ani are a traveller’s dream – picture-perfect scenery, whacking great dollops of history, and almost nobody around to see it. While Turkey as a whole has been enjoying ever more popularity as a tourist destination, the number heading to its eastern reaches remains thrillingly low, lending an air of mystery to its…

Hiker’s paradise – seven essential walking trips
Hiker’s paradise – seven essential walking trips

Grab those boots, the ones that were made for walking, as we’re taking you on a trip round the world’s best hiking spots. From Estonian bogs to Ethiopian highlands, these are some of the most memorable walking trips we’ve ever experienced. Bog walking in Estonia Estonia is said by its locals to have a fifth…

The ten best dive sites in the world
The ten best dive sites in the world

Shipwrecks, nudibranchs, and terrifying journeys under huge ice sheets all feature in our round-up of the top ten dive sites around the world. If you love scuba diving and want to branch out from the usual spots, try one of these for size. See all ten spots as a full screen gallery. The great Sardine…

The world’s most expensive cities
The world’s most expensive cities

Don’t go to Japan or Australia if you’re looking after your pennies. A new poll from the Economist Intelligence Unit has placed Tokyo and Osaka as the first and second most expensive cities in the world, followed closely by Sydney, Oslo and Melbourne. Personally, I didn’t find Oslo too bad, but as a Londoner I’m…

Our top 30 holiday destinations
Our top 30 holiday destinations

 To celebrate Rough Guides reaching the grand old age of 30 this year, we’ve asked some of our writers, editors and staff members to nominate their favourite holiday destinations across the world. Be prepared for some acute pangs of wanderlust… Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast James Smart, Senior Travel Editor, Rough Guides The sandy, snorkel-friendly Corn Islands…

Soaking in lake Mývatn’s hot springs, Iceland
Soaking in lake Mývatn’s hot springs, Iceland

Most people visit Iceland in summer, when once or twice a week it actually stops raining and the sun shines in a way that makes you think, briefly, about taking off your sweater. The hills show off their green, yellow and red gravel faces to best effect, and you can even get around easily without…

Swiss skiing without breaking the bank
Swiss skiing without breaking the bank

Switzerland can be an expensive place to ski. Yet, while certain resorts such as St Moritz and Gstaad appear exclusively populated by “Made in Chelsea” Hugos and Prada-clad Natalias, writing off the land of Toblerone as a playground solely for the rich would be a shame. The Swiss Alps are the most beautiful in Europe,…

The 20 best beaches in Spain
The 20 best beaches in Spain

Thanks to its ample coastline there are hundreds of incredible beaches in Spain, so choosing where to go can often be a troublesome decision. To save you the pain of searching for your perfect stretch of sand, here’s our round-up of the best beaches in Spain, taken from the Rough Guide to Spain. Conil, Andalucía…

A Phallic Journey: Italy’s Penis Café
A Phallic Journey: Italy’s Penis Café

Outside the progressive town of Taormina, Sicily, Rough Guides writer Kiki Deere finds phallic fun at a penis-themed café. My long hair brushes against an erect penis as my hand firmly grips onto a dark phallus that protrudes from the bannister. Rows of excited male members line the windowsill, while others seemingly pop out of…

Five stunning white villages of Andalucia
Five stunning white villages of Andalucia

The Alhambra Palace in Granada; the Mezquita in Cordoba; the Alcazar and the Barrio de Santa Cruz in Seville… Andalucia certainly isn’t short of big-name sights. But beyond the cities (with their throngs of visitors) and crowning the dramatic landscapes that stretch away, lies another, just as appealing side: the stunning white villages of Andalucia.…

Bizarre contests across the globe
Bizarre contests across the globe

You’ve probably heard of La Tomatina, Spain’s annual tomato fight, but there’s plenty of other strange contests that take place around the world. Here’s five of our favourite oddball activities, all featured in Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth. Robot riders on camels, Kuwait A stampede of two-year-old camels tears down the racetrack,…

Ten top drinking spots around Britain
Ten top drinking spots around Britain

The Great British Beer Festival For five days of the year each summer, the somewhat soulless exhibition centre in Earls Court is transformed into a giant pub (pictured above). Or at least that’s what it feels like. Gone are the trade stalls and suited delegates, replaced by an army of (mostly bearded) volunteers manning hundreds…

Gigging in Glasgow, Scotland
Gigging in Glasgow, Scotland

Pop stars, travelling from coach to bar and from plane to arena, are notoriously oblivious about the city they happen to be performing in. There are countless stories of frontmen bellowing “Hello, Detroit!” when they’re actually in Toronto. But some places have a genuine buzz about them. London is fine, but all too often its…

Ten top British breaks for sports fans
Ten top British breaks for sports fans

From cricket at Lords to darts in Lakeside and boxing in London, here’s ten of our favourite British sporting breaks. Share your own below. Visiting the home of cricket at Lord’s Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard once said that he considered Lord’s “the cathedral of cricket”. Nestled into your seat at a Test match…

Toasting bad weather in the Scottish Highlands
Toasting bad weather in the Scottish Highlands

First, be glad that it rains so much in Scotland. Without the rain the rivers here wouldn’t run – the Livet, the Fiddich, the Spey. Without the rain the glens wouldn’t be green and the barley wouldn’t grow tall and plump. Be glad it’s damp here in Scotland. Peat needs a few centuries sitting in…

Hearing wolves howl, Sweden
Hearing wolves howl, Sweden

Deep in the Swedish birch forest your mind can begin to play tricks. As the shadows lengthen and a chill creeps into the pine-scented air you’re reminded of the folk tales that originated here, from gnomes and trolls to the siren call of the Tallemaja or “Lady of the Woods”. But there is one much-mythologized creature very much…

Off the tourist trail in Northern Anatolia, Turkey
Off the tourist trail in Northern Anatolia, Turkey

Turkey is, in many respects, the ideal travel destination. It scores highly across the board: layer after layer of history; an amazing variety of landscapes; super-friendly people; terrific food; relatively low prices; reliable public transport… the list could go on. What a pity, then, that the vast majority of travellers to Turkey confine themselves to…

Travelling with children – a cautionary tale
Travelling with children – a cautionary tale

As part of our travel with children week, Ross McGovern recounts one particularly fraught journey with kids in tow. Travelling with children is hard enough at the best of times, but my trip to the ecumenical community of Taize in France with a four-year-old was particularly ill-planned. I’d seriously underestimated her capacity for road travel…

10 great festivals and events across the UK
10 great festivals and events across the UK

From Hogmanay in Edinburgh to Bonfire Night in Lewes, Britain is home to a whole range of excellent festivals and events throughout the year. If you’re planning a visit anytime soon we recommend you build you trip around one of these memorable parties. Notting Hill Carnival in London Carnival Sunday morning and in streets eerily…

Hiking the Besseggen Ridge
Hiking the Besseggen Ridge

As trekking goes, the beginning of the Besseggen Ridge is a breeze. Sitting on the bow of a little tug as it chugs along picturesque Lake Gjende in central Norway’s Jotunheimen Nasjonalpark, you’d be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about – this is, after all, Norway’s best-known day hike, in the country’s…

The world’s craziest rollercoasters
The world’s craziest rollercoasters

Thrill seekers, adrenaline junkies, or just plain crazy – whatever you want to call us, there are millions of us around the world, looking for our next fix of terrifying twists, turns and tangled steel tracks. Whether you relish in the horror of plummeting to the ground at unnatural speeds, or – as “designated photographer”…

20 Facts about Turkey you never knew
20 Facts about Turkey you never knew

You probably didn’t know Turkey’s real name, you might have been confused about which city is the capital, and you probably thought tulips came from the Netherlands. It turns out, you were probably wrong. There is a lot more to Turkey than meets the eye – between the beaches and bustling markets lies a wealth…

Folking out under the Sugar Loaf, Wales
Folking out under the Sugar Loaf, Wales

Convertibles sell better in Britain than in much of the Mediterranean. That might make it sound like the inhabitants of this damp island are stupid. A kinder explanation is that they just enjoy the sunshine when it comes – an impression that will have struck anyone who’s attended a pop festival in the UK with…

The world’s strangest sports
The world’s strangest sports

For all the media’s focus on big-money events, it’s often weird local games or odd new hybrid events that really capture the joy of sport across the world. So we asked the authors of The Rough Guide to Cult Sport to select their ten favourite strange sports from the book (with apologies to the likes…

Hot coals for Constantine, Greece
Hot coals for Constantine, Greece

In a handful of sleepy farming villages in northern Greece, the fire-walking ritual is an annual celebration of a thirteenth-century miracle, when locals rescued icons from a burning church – without being burned themselves. By nightfall, the towering bonfire in the main square has dwindled to glowing embers. Every light is put out and all…

Following the Oyster Trail in Galway, Ireland
Following the Oyster Trail in Galway, Ireland

A canny bit of marketing may lie behind the origins of the Galway International Oyster Festival, but Ireland’s longest-running and greatest gourmet extravaganza continues to celebrate the arrival of the new oyster season in the finest way possible: with a three-day furore of drinking, dancing and crustacean guzzling. Just after midday in Eyre Square, Galway’s…

Creepiest places around the world
Creepiest places around the world

There is something alluring about the eerie, macabre side of life (or death, for that matter), so it’s not surprising that plenty of sinister, chilling places in history have become popular tourist attractions. From Western Europe to Asia, there are some truly creepy places to visit around the world – here are a few that…

A titillating tour of the world’s finest sex museums
A titillating tour of the world’s finest sex museums

Sex museums are nothing new. Dozens were erected across Europe during the Swinging Sixties when the sexual revolution was in full swing. These days the orgy of sex museums has slowed to a mere mouthful, though they have been stimulated by a new breed of ‘erotic’ museum that aims to steer more towards art than…

Feast at Salone del Gusto, Italy
Feast at Salone del Gusto, Italy

Turn a corner and you’re at one end of a long aisle, its sides lined with stalls selling nothing but chocolate. Turn a different corner and you enter another food-laden aisle, only this time dedicated to cheese, including matured Pecorino wrapped in walnuts, Norwegian Sognefjord geitost and Tcherni Vit green cheese from Bulgaria. There’s no…

Wild and remote Britain
Wild and remote Britain

Britain’s more remote fringes are perfect for getting back to nature. Here’s seven our our favourite wild and remote spots drawn from travel bible Make The Most Of Your Time In Britain. Visit Bardsey, island of 20,000 saints You might get more than you bargain for if you’re out for a breath of fresh air…

Meet the locals – how to immerse yourself on your travels
Meet the locals – how to immerse yourself on your travels

However good your intentions are, it’s often all too easy to retreat to the comfort of the hotel room and shy away from really engaging with the locals when you’re on your travels. Here’s a selection of holiday ideas that will thrust you into the heart of the community you’re visiting and foster a much…

Hoarding books in Hay-on-Wye, Wales
Hoarding books in Hay-on-Wye, Wales

Though a drive through the electrically green countryside that surrounds Hay-on-Wye makes for a perfectly lovely afternoon, a more potent draw is the sleepy Welsh town’s mouthwatering amount of printed matter: with over a million books crammed into its aging stores, quaint, cobblestoned Hay-on-Wye (Y Gelli, in Welsh) is a bibliophilic Mecca to be reckoned…

World rituals – eight captivating celebrations
World rituals – eight captivating celebrations

One of the great pleasures of travel is observing – and learning from – the locals. Here’s a selection of awe-inspiring rituals from around the world, that feature dancing, theatrics and a little sacrificial slaughter. Cavorting with the kukeri, Bulgaria When it comes to the rich folk heritage of Eastern Europe, few events carry the…

Gorging on chocolates in Brussels, Belgium
Gorging on chocolates in Brussels, Belgium

The Mayans may have invented chocolate long ago, but Belgium is today its world headquarters, and nowhere more so than Brussels, whose temples to the art of the brown stuff are second to none. It’s not just a tourist thing, although within the vicinity of the Grande-Place you could be forgiven for thinking so. Chocolate…

Eat the original: five places for authentic food
Eat the original: five places for authentic food

After a long time on the road, menus – especially on the budget end – start to blur together into a mix of familiar fast-food staples, whether you’re in France or the Philippines. It’s easy to forget that some of the foods people the world over eat with gusto are actually based on a single…

Browsing La Boqueria, Spain
Browsing La Boqueria, Spain

It happens to most newcomers: noses flare, eyes widen and pulses quicken upon entering La Boqueria, Barcelona’s cathedral to comida fresca (fresh food). Pass through the handsome Modernista cast-iron gateway and you’re rapidly sucked in by the raw, noisy energy of the cavernous hall, the air dense with the salty tang of the sea and…

Ten stunning film locations across Britain
Ten stunning film locations across Britain

Britain crams an impressive array of landscapes, historical sites and urban environments into a relatively small area, making it a popular location for a wide range of films. Here’s a selection of well-known film locations that also make for a great day out, whether you want a relaxing walk or a session in the surf.…

Ten beautiful time-lapse videos
Ten beautiful time-lapse videos

Time-lapse photography, where multiple images are captured and played back at an increased speed, can portray the world in unusual and awe-inspiring ways. Here’s a look at ten of the best clips we’ve seen, featuring Yosemite National Park at night, a flight across the USA, and the northern lights. Yosemite Range of Light This clip,…

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