Features // Europe

Take the Trans-Mongolian Express
Take the Trans-Mongolian Express

Even after seven unbroken days on a train from Moscow, nothing can prepare you for the Chinese border. As you pull into the platform, which is lit up in neon colours, a Chinese-tinged version of the Vienna Waltz comes blaring over the Tannoy. Trying to work out the cultural relevance of this is a hopeless…

Top ten Croatian island getaways
Top ten Croatian island getaways

The sheer diversity of Croatia’s islands ensures that there is something for everyone in the Adriatic, regardless of whether you’re a party animal, lotus-eater, young family or a combination of all three. Jonathan Bousfield, author of The Rough Guide to Croatia, picks out his top ten. SUSAK: THE ISLAND FOR KITE FLYERS One for the…

22 beautiful pictures of Ireland
22 beautiful pictures of Ireland

 From beach to mountain to fen, every corner of Ireland has something beautiful to discover. In celebration of this stunning country, here are 22 stunning pictures of Ireland: Killarney, County Kerry  Beara Peninsula, Cork  Roundstone Harbour, County Galway  Dog’s Bay, County Galway  Dunguaire Castle, County Galway  Kinsale Harbour, Cork  Glendalough, County Wicklow  Dublin  Pine Island, Connemara…

How to get away from it all
How to get away from it all

It’s one of the ultimate travel goals: how to well and truly get away from it all. Here’s ten trips, selected by the writers and editors at Rough Guides, that offer true isolation and recuperation. Share your own below. Sleep out in a remote bothy Britain may be one of the most crowded islands on…

Winning the prehistoric lottery, Ireland
Winning the prehistoric lottery, Ireland

Every year in Ireland, thousands of people do the Newgrange lottery. Entry is by application form, with the draw made in October by local schoolchildren. And the prize? The lucky winners are invited to a bleak, wintry field in the middle of County Meath on the longest night of the year, to huddle into a…

Travel news: AirTHC, tuk tuks, and new flights to Vegas
Travel news: AirTHC, tuk tuks, and new flights to Vegas

Holiday homes for stoners, electric tuk tuks, and the website that promises to freeze airfares solid: it’s the latest travel news briefing from Rough Guides. Finding fair fares Have you ever held back from booking a flight, only to check again later and find that the fare has shot skywards? Well check this out: a…

Ten hours of beauty from Podgorica to Belgrade
Ten hours of beauty from Podgorica to Belgrade

Travel writer Mary Novakovich is awestruck by the beauty of mountains and rivers on a ten-hour-long stuffy train ride from Montenegro‘s capital to Belgrade. “You’re taking the train to Belgrade? It’s at least 10 hours – if you’re lucky. Why don’t you fly?” The friendly barman in Virpazar in southern Montenegro had a valid question.…

Top places to eat out in Moscow
Top places to eat out in Moscow

In a city where it’s possible to pay up to US$250 for a rib eye steak, it is no surprise that most feel daunted at the prospect of visiting the pricy Russian capital, Moscow. Yet there are plenty of quirky cafés, hidden restaurants and expat haunts that will not break your budget. Here is a…

Ten things to do in Dublin for free
Ten things to do in Dublin for free

Dublin is no longer the budget-sapping city it once was. These days, it’s possible to while away a weekend in its leafy parks, crumbling churches and relic-packed museums without spending much beyond food and accommodation – and, of course, the occasional pint of Guinness. Watch hurling An ancient sport resembling a pumped-up mishmash of hockey,…

The top 20 best beaches in Italy
The top 20 best beaches in Italy

Once you’ve finished shopping in busy Milan or scaling volcanoes at Mt Vesuvius, Italian beaches are often a glorious escape, but with an increasing number of hotels charging for access to the sands, it’s hard to know where to spend your money. Here’s our breakdown of some of the best beaches in Italy that are…

Ten free things to do in Paris
Ten free things to do in Paris

For anyone planning a weekend break in Paris and attempting to find accommodation below €100 per person per night – and most likely failing – it’s pretty obvious that the capital of France is an expensive place to visit. An iconic city like this, though, with its intricate history, remarkable architecture and extraordinarily rich culture…

Ten things to do in Barcelona for free
Ten things to do in Barcelona for free

There’s a lot of things to do in Barcelona, Spain’s second city: the dark, twisting streets of the Barri Gòtic; the cool and sophisticated La Ribera district filled with designer shops and fashionable bars; the enticing beaches and über-modern seafront area – all topped off by some seriously unusual architecture, an integral part of Catalan’s…

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…

Vienna remembers the Great War
Vienna remembers the Great War

If there is one European city that seems particularly focused on the World War I centenary then it is the Austrian capital Vienna, where a host of war-themed exhibitions will be opening over the course of the year. Such attention may come as something as a surprise when one considers that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was…

Scaling the Swiss Alps the easy way
Scaling the Swiss Alps the easy way

Among the imposing Swiss alps near Verbier, Helen Ochyra finds the easy and hard ways to scale these incredible mountains. I am cycling up a mountain and it feels like the easiest thing in the world. I am making my way up to La Chaux, high above Verbier in Switzerland, a place most people reach…

Your top packing tips
Your top packing tips

Packing: we all know the usual suspects – the sun cream, hand sanitizer, baby wipes and first aid kits – that are essential to a successful trip and a recent survey by Columbus Direct found that Brits cannot leave home without their smartphone, book or ebook reader, or sunglasses. But when we asked you what one…

Defying gravity on the Semmering Railway
Defying gravity on the Semmering Railway

You don’t need a train spotter to tell you that the Semmering Railway is a little bit special. Running 42km between the towns of Gloggnitz and Murzzuschlag, the line – a World Heritage Site – winds through the last surge of the eastern Austrian Alps before they taper off into the Hungarian plains. Of course,…

Travel Traumas – share your memories
Travel Traumas – share your memories

This week we’re asking you to share your own travel traumas, those memories from a life travelling you’d perhaps rather forget. Or at least when you learnt a valuable lesson or two. Here Gemma Smyth recounts her hungry odyssey on a Greek train. Share your experiences below… It’s nearing midnight and I’ve been waiting most…

Five eccentric and uniquely British experiences
Five eccentric and uniquely British experiences

Britain has always tended towards the bonkers. This eccentric isle harbours all manner of strange customs and weird rites if you know where to find them. Here’s five of our favourite unusual activities; share your own below. The Chap Olympiad Those who didn’t excel in the athletic arts back when they were in short trousers…

Ten essential British foodie experiences
Ten essential British foodie experiences

Get ready to add another notch on that belt as we reveal ten of our favourite foodie experiences across the UK. Let us know your top food destinations below. Witnessing oyster adulation on the Kent coast Dedicating a week-long festival to the humble oyster might seem a tough act to pull off. But Whitstable, now…

The best food in the world – and where to eat it
The best food in the world – and where to eat it

Prepare for some serious stomach growls as we reveal 20 of our favourite foodie experiences around the world. These picks, taken from the pages of Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth, are some of the finest ways to truly eat authentic dishes in the countries that do them best. If you’re looking for…

Ten perfect birdwatching trips
Ten perfect birdwatching trips

Few travel moments illicit such a thrill as catching sight of a rare or beautiful bird emerging from its natural habitat. Here are a few of our favourite birdwatching holidays, from pigeons in Mauritius, to birds of paradise in New Guinea. Live among the birds of prey at Dadia, Greece As you begin the hour-long…

Ten great things to do in the Cotswolds
Ten great things to do in the Cotswolds

Characterised by rolling views of green countryside and English pubs, hotels and shops, a trip to the Cotswolds shows off a delightfully relaxed side of Britain. It’s the perfect place to simmer down the pace of life and get close to nature, but it’s not just bracing country walks on offer. From kid-friendly farm centres…

Why Glasgow is great for cycling
Why Glasgow is great for cycling

In anticipation of this year’s Commonwealth Games, Meera Dattani finds out how to explore Glasgow on a bike. There are no brakes. The gears are fixed. Your shoes are clipped into the pedals and don’t clip out with ease. You’re essentially attached to your bike. Then there’s the bigger question of how do you slow…

Five top British castles and palaces
Five top British castles and palaces

Step back in time and enjoy some spectacular British castles and palaces in our pick of the bunch from Make The Most Of Your Time In Britain… Warwick Castle, Warwick On the surface, Warwick Castle looks like an ideal place to spend a genteel, quintessentially English day out. The wonderfully restored medieval castle, built in…

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…

Eight spectacular walks across the UK
Eight spectacular walks across the UK

Britain is home to an almost endless number of world-class rambling routes. We’ve narrowed down the choice to eight of our favourite spots for a brisk walk or a challenging hike, but do add your own favourite picks below. Epping Forest One of the last remaining vestiges of the ancient woodland that once blanketed England,…

Eight amazing canoeing and kayaking trips
Eight amazing canoeing and kayaking trips

Kayaking with seals at Walvis Bay, Namibia Most people come to Swakopmund, a Bavarian-style town surreally out of place on the edge of the Namib Desert, to explore the vast dunes. Few who visit know that the sandy Atlantic shallows of nearby Walvis Bay are also home to 2500 cape fur seals – one of…

Ten top volunteer holidays
Ten top volunteer holidays

If you’ve been thinking of swapping the traditional beach and beers break for something a little more, well, useful this year, allow us to present ten inspiring options. Whether it’s monitoring fish in Tobago or cleaning elephants in Thailand, these breaks allow you to really put something back on your travels. Help conserve the Galápagos…

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…

Going coastal: 12 of Britain’s best seaside spots
Going coastal: 12 of Britain’s best seaside spots

With over 5000 miles of coastline on mainline Britain alone, it’s no wonder the nation has an almost endless array of watery destinations to explore. Here’s twelve spectacular spots that are very much worth a detour. The North Norfolk coast The North Norfolk Coastal Path allows you to explore an unusual semi-watery landscape, and to access…

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”…

Britain’s best gardens
Britain’s best gardens

From Kinross to Kent, Britain is home to all manner of beautiful gardens, ranging from wild and sprawling estates to compact, tidy arrangements. Here’s a few of our favourites, taken from Make The Most Of Your Time In Britain. Aberglasney Gardens Once a grand Carmarthenshire estate, Aberglasney fell on hard times during the twentieth century…

Top British holidays for children – part two
Top British holidays for children – part two

Kids – you’ve got to love them, but you’ve also got to keep them entertained. In the second part of our special guide to British breaks for children, we look at puppet theatres, model villages, and trusty Thomas the Tank Engine. Share your own ideas for kid-friendly holidays below. Revisit the Viking era in York…

Ten top places to stay in Portugal
Ten top places to stay in Portugal

From old forts to former hospital ships, ex convents to renovated theatres, Portugal has countless memorable places to stay. Matthew Hancock picks his favourites.   1) Forte de São João da Barra, Cabanas, Algarve If you thought the Algarve was overdeveloped, this stylishly-renovated seventeenth-century sea fort will make you think again. Sitting in an olive grove, it is just…

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…

Up and coming: Savamala, Belgrade
Up and coming: Savamala, Belgrade

On a walking tour through the city, travel writer Mary Novakovich discovers regeneration in one of Belgrade‘s oldest neighbourhoods, Savamala. From buzzing clubs to a new four-star hotel, Savamala is picking itself up after years of leaving its buildings to decay.  Heavy lorries rumble noisily past, adding to the dust rising from the road works…

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,…

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…

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…

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…

Seven spots for thrilling volcanic activity
Seven spots for thrilling volcanic activity

Hiking up a volcano and dunking in natural hot springs should be on everyone’s bucket list. If you’re yet to get up close and personal with lava, and the only geysers you’ve encountered are down the pub, might we suggest one of these memorable experiences? Hiking by Stromboli’s lava flows, Italy Stromboli is the most…

10 unexpected highlights of Croatia
10 unexpected highlights of Croatia

By now we all know what’s on the Croatia bucket list – the Plitvice Lakes National Park, Dubrovnik’s medieval walls, and at least one of Croatia’s growing roster of music festivals. However there’s a lot more to Croatia than meets the eye, so it’s well worth planning a few detours to take in some of…

Ten things to do in Copenhagen for free
Ten things to do in Copenhagen for free

Surrounded by sea, peppered with sleek and striking architecture, and populated by an attractive, laid-back bunch of Danes, Copenhagen tops the table for being Europe’s most relaxed city. But this enviable lifestyle comes at a cost – it’s also one of the most expensive cities you’ll ever come across.  With food and drink at eye-wateringly high…

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…

St Patrick’s Day, a different way
St Patrick’s Day, a different way

If you’re planning on celebrating your Irishness this next March (or getting yourself adopted for the day), the most obvious place to head is Dublin. But not everyone can get there – plus prices are high, half a million people descend on the capital for the parade, and it’s hard to find a place to…

Croatia’s best beachside campsites
Croatia’s best beachside campsites

Croatia’s growing popularity with independent travellers has given a new lease of life to the Adriatic camping scene, with a new breed of small, family-owned sites squeezing themselves into some beautiful corners of the country’s famously stunning coastline. Facilities are improving – nowadays you get things like wi-fi as well as hot water – but it’s…

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…

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…

Follow in the footsteps of kings at Bath Spa, England
Follow in the footsteps of kings at Bath Spa, England

For almost twenty years at the end of the last century, Britain’s most famous spa town had no thermal baths. The opening of the new Thermae Bath Spa in 2006, at the centre of this World Heritage City, was therefore a watershed in Bath’s history. Once the haunt of the Roman elite who founded the…

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