Features // Europe

Centro: delve into the heart of Portugal
Centro: delve into the heart of Portugal

In search of a more authentic Portuguese experience, Olivia Rawes escaped the Algarve to discover Centro: a quiet, charming region at the heart of Portugal. Baking hot sun, packed beaches, busy restaurants and beautifully manicured golf courses – for myself, and for the millions of holidaymakers who flock to the Algarve each summer, this was…

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…

The most overrated destinations in the world
The most overrated destinations in the world

Have you ever been somewhere really hyped up and just found it a bit average? Bundled yourself off somewhere on the recommendations of friends, forum users or travel mags to find it’s just a bit, well, meh? Every regular traveller tends to have one place that didn’t stand up to expectations, and for me it…

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…

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…

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 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…

Delving into Kelvedon Hatch: a secret nuclear bunker
Delving into Kelvedon Hatch: a secret nuclear bunker

From 1947 until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, secret bunkers sprung up across Europe in an effort to protect capitalist and communist states from potential nuclear attacks. Adam Bennett explores a secret metropolitan bunker in the Essex village of Kelvedon Hatch. During the Cold War, the prospect of a nuclear attack was…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

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,…

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 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…

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…

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…

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…

Soviet Exhibitionism in Moscow, Russia
Soviet Exhibitionism in Moscow, Russia

For a taste of all the Soviet Union once promised and an illustration of what it has come to, there’s nowhere better than the all-Russian Exhibition Centre, known by its acronym VDNKh. This enormous park in northeast Moscow is a glorious illustration of Soviet hubris, an exuberant cultural mix ’n’ match vision of a world…

The Friedrichsbad: the best baths in Baden-Baden
The Friedrichsbad: the best baths in Baden-Baden

Time does strange things in southwest Germany. Even before Einstein hit on his Theory of Relativity in Ülm, Mark Twain had realized something was up after taking to the waters in the smart spa town of Baden-Baden. “Here at the Friedrichsbad,” he wrote, ”you lose track of time within ten minutes and track of the world within twenty.”…

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…

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…

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…

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…

The least friendly countries for tourists?
The least friendly countries for tourists?

Whether you’re on a weekend away or a month-long adventure, being made to feel unwelcome by rude or unpleasant locals can make or break a holiday. So, if you don’t want to be shunned by waitresses and dismissed by taxi drivers, then Pakistan and Russia are apparently not for you. Following an HSBC poll on the…

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…

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,…

Ischia: how to escape the crowds in Italy
Ischia: how to escape the crowds in Italy

While updating the forthcoming Rough Guide to Naples & the Amalfi Coast, Natasha Foges explains why Ischia is such a great escape from the tourist throngs of Capri.  It started as far back as the first century BC, when the Emperor Augustus gazed out on the Bay of Naples and decided to give his island,…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Interactive Map: 20 best places to pitch your tent
Interactive Map: 20 best places to pitch your tent

Picking the best place to pitch up for the night is an art that requires precision. Rocky terrain makes for an uncomfortable sleep; hard ground means battling with those tent pegs; and soft spots mean you might fly away. Put all these concerns aside for a moment though, and imagine waking up in the shadow…

Tread the Plitvice boardwalks, Croatia
Tread the Plitvice boardwalks, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park, some 80km from the Adriatic, is Croatia’s most enticing natural attraction. Like a colossal water garden, this 8km string of sixteen crystal-clear, turquoise lakes descends through some of Europe’s most primeval forests (complete with brown bears, if you know where to look), connected by rushing waterfalls and linked by footpaths, wooden…

The top ten best ever British hikes
The top ten best ever British hikes

Our green and boggy isle may be small, but one thing’s for certain: it’s home to some of the most magnificent landscapes in Europe, if not the world. Sure, our much lamented climate means you’ll likely get a soaking or three (four if you’re in Scotland), but with everything from coastal strolls to fearsome scrambles,…

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…

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”…

An exhilarating ride through Lisbon’s backstreets
An exhilarating ride through Lisbon’s backstreets

On a city tour with a difference, Matthew Hancock explores Portugal’s capital in an old Jeep to find the best things to do in Lisbon. I’ve always been averse to city tours. It’s the cheesy commentaries and obvious itineraries that put me off, but the prospect of taking part in a ‘safari’ in an aged Portuguese…

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…

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…

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,…

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…

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…

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,…

Trekking to Door Mountain, Iceland
Trekking to Door Mountain, Iceland

At the wild and sparsely inhabited eastern edge of Iceland, the granite crag of Dyrfjoll towers above the natural amphitheatre known as Stórurð (the Elves’ Bowl). One edge is sharp and steep, the other a flattened tabletop, and in between, the giant square gap that earns the whole its name: Door Mountain. Hewn by a glacier millions of years…

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