Features // Europe

Calling in the heavies at the Highland Games
Calling in the heavies at the Highland Games

Throughout Scotland, not just in the Highlands, summer signals the onset of the Highland Games, from the smallest village get-togethers to the Giant Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, which draws a crowd of 10,000. Urbanites might blanch at the idea of al fresco Scottish country dancing, but with dog trials, tractors, fudge stalls and more cute animals than you…

Standing at the heart of Mother Russia
Standing at the heart of Mother Russia

Stand in the middle of Moscow’s Red Square and in a 360-degree turn, the turbulent past and present of Russia is encapsulated in one fell swoop: flagships of Orthodox Christianity, Tsarist autocracy, communist dictatorship and rampant consumerism confront each other before your eyes. Red Square, is, well, red-ish, but its name actually derives from an old Russian word for…

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…

St Petersburg’s White Nights
St Petersburg’s White Nights

Imagine spending all day sightseeing, taking a shower and a nap, and then looking out of the window to see the sky as bright as midday. Your body kicks into overdrive, and the whole day seems to lie ahead of you. The streets throng with people toting guitars and bottles of champagne or vodka; naval…

The world’s best speakeasies
The world’s best speakeasies

Why party with the masses when you can steal away with others in-the-know at an underground speakeasy, or find yourself a key to the best secret bar in the city? We know them all, but luckily for you, we’re not very good at keeping secrets; here is a BarChick rundown of the best places for…

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…

Taking a ride through Lisbon’s historic quarters
Taking a ride through Lisbon’s historic quarters

Just as you should arrive in Venice on a boat, it is best to arrive in Lisbon on a tram, from the point where many people leave it for good: at Prazeres, by the city’s picturesque main cemetery. Get a taxi to the suburban terminus of tram 28 for one of the most atmospheric public-transport…

Clearing your calendar for bacalhau, Portugal
Clearing your calendar for bacalhau, Portugal

On Lisbon’s Rua do Arsenal, whole window displays are lined with what looks like crinkly grey cardboard. The smell is far from alluring, but from these humble slabs of cod the Portuguese are able to conjure up an alleged 365 different recipes for bacalhau, one for each day of the year. Reassuringly, none of this mummified fish dates back…

Heart of stone: losing yourself in deepest Iberia
Heart of stone: losing yourself in deepest Iberia

The Beira Baixa is a land of burning plains and granite visions, isolated in one of the most remote corners of Western Europe, where the Spanish border blurs under a broiling sun. Here, if you search hard enough, you’ll find at least two of the most startling medieval villages in Europe: Monsanto – Mon Sanctus…

Party in the sun at Boom, Portugal
Party in the sun at Boom, Portugal

Twenty thousand revellers each year come to Boom, Europe’s greatest outdoor dance-music festival, which takes place for a week over the August full moon on a lakeside ranch about 60km from Lisbon. In true summer-of-love fashion it combines non-stop dance music with eco-idealism: here you’ll find sustainability workshops, recycling and composting bins, a permaculture garden…

Hiking in the Tatras, Poland
Hiking in the Tatras, Poland

The country’s traditional attractions – Warsaw’s lively old town and Kraków’s gorgeous squares – are worthwhile stops, but it’s easy to forget that there is another Poland, a genuine wilderness of high (and often snowbound) peaks, populated by lynx and bears. The Tatras Mountains are as beautiful as any national park in Europe, and their…

The best places to visit in January
The best places to visit in January

January doesn’t have to be that depressing, post-Christmas comedown month we’re all used to. There’s so much going on across the world, so whether it’s celebrating Australia Day in the sunshine or bagging bargains at the January sales in London, there are plenty of ways to banish those post-holiday blues. Here are our top places…

Rough Guides readers around the world
Rough Guides readers around the world

[<a href="//storify.com/RoughGuides/where-you-are-in-the-world" target="_blank">View the story "Where you are in the world" on Storify</a>]

Crossing cultural boundaries in Krakow
Crossing cultural boundaries in Krakow

Poland’s oldest football team, Cracovia Kraków, serves as a metaphor for the multicultural history of the city. During the interwar years, Cracovia was nicknamed the “Yids” because significant members of Kraków’s Jewish community were on both the terraces and the team sheet. It also happened to be the favourite team of local boy Karol Wojtyła, who would later become…

A to B by cross-country ski, Norway
A to B by cross-country ski, Norway

With 30,000km of marked trails, Norway is the true home of cross-country skiing, the original and most effective means of getting yourself across snowbound winter landscapes. And it’s easier and less daunting to learn than the more popular downhill variety (well, more popular outside Scandinavia – here, everyone is a cross-country skier from the age…

The best places to visit in August
The best places to visit in August

With festival season in full swing, August offers no end of opportunities to party, from the off-the-wall Burning Man to the arty Edinburgh Festival; but there are plenty of options for chilled-out breaks too. Here are our tips for the best places to visit in August: Bike the Black Forest, Germany The Black Forest may…

Joining the festivities on Norwegian National Day
Joining the festivities on Norwegian National Day

The seventeenth of May is just another day to most people, but in Oslo (and all across Norway for that matter) it’s an eagerly anticipated annual event: Norwegian National Day. A celebration of the signing of the Norwegian Constitution, National Day is a joyous and rather rambunctious affair. It has the usual parades, bands, street…

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…

Plunging from mountain to fjord on the Flamsbana
Plunging from mountain to fjord on the Flamsbana

The brakes grind then release and you’re off, squeaking and squealing down a roller-coaster-like track for what might just be the train ride of your life. This is the Flåmsbana, a shiny, pine-green pleasure train that plunges nearly a kilometre in a mere fifty minutes. The unforgettable ride takes you from the heady frozen heights of the Norwegian mountains…

Cycling in the Dutch countryside
Cycling in the Dutch countryside

If you like the idea of cycling, but would rather cut off both arms and legs than bike up a mountain, then perhaps The Netherlands is the perfect place for you – especially if you’re also scared of traffic. The most cycle-friendly country in the world, Holland has a fantastically well-integrated network of cycle paths…

Eight facts about British travellers
Eight facts about British travellers

We’re tweeting mad, blessed with a hint of thriftiness and we don’t trust our friends as much as strangers – this week’s World Travel Market Industry Report revealed the following interesting facts about UK travellers: 1. 39% of UK travellers will only consider short haul holidays next year With the UK’s aviation tax increasing again…

Should term-time holidays be banned?
Should term-time holidays be banned?

Recent new rules have stopped teachers allowing children to have time off school for family holidays, meaning parents are now completely restricted to travelling during peak times. A campaign hosted by 38 Degrees calls for this ban to be reversed, as many believe it criminalizes those who want an “affordable family holiday”. The campaign petition,…

Street life photography: Turkey, Georgia & Iraq
Street life photography: Turkey, Georgia & Iraq

On a journey through Turkey, Georgia and Kurdish Iraq, photographer Jake Threadgould captured some of the unique people and stories through his series of street life photography. Backgammon players, Sinop, Turkey The clacking of plastic tokens and the trickle of dice on polished wooden boards is a ubiquitous soundtrack around many of Turkey’s cafes and…

The world’s best bars with a view
The world’s best bars with a view

Wondering where in the world you can get a gorgeous view served up with your cocktail? Not to worry – Hannah Lodge from BarChick.com has done the hard work for you, rounding up the world’s best bars with a view. Sky Bar, Bangkok Sky Bar is the highest open-air drinking establishment in the world, so…

The best places to visit in June
The best places to visit in June

Whether you’re after beaches, culture or countryside, June’s glorious weather and long days make it the perfect month to travel in Europe. Elsewhere, wildlife enthusiasts can spot whales in Iceland or bears in Yellowstone, while the World Cup will be in full swing in Brazil. In a bumper round-up, Helen Abramson and Eleanor Aldridge run…

Six spooky things to do in Dublin
Six spooky things to do in Dublin

Last weekend vampires of every shape and size could be spotted lurking the cobbled streets of Dublin during the Bram Stoker Festival. Yet this annual fright-fest just claws at the surface of one of the world’s most gloriously gothic cities. Here are six fun but freaky things to do in Dublin. With thanks to Orla…

11 tips for travelling in Greece
11 tips for travelling in Greece

The good news for travellers to Greece is this: ignore the crisis headlines. Away from the grim scenes in central Athens, life goes on as normal; there’s little sign of impending doom, instead it’s consistent blue skies, clear water and good cheer. These tips are the accumulated wisdom of avid Hellenophile Marc Perry, after three trips…

Alternative things to do in Brighton
Alternative things to do in Brighton

Fear, exhaustion, love and mournfulness: these are just a few of the twists and turns I experienced on the emotional rollercoaster that my weekend in Brighton proved to be. Fear, because I watched a strange girl playing music on a handsaw; exhaustion, because I danced for almost four hours solid to possibly the greatest mash-up…

Wine tasting in the Loire Valley
Wine tasting in the Loire Valley

It is hard to believe the Loire valley lies just an hour from Paris. Peppered with storybook châteaux and sleepy riverside villages, this bucolic region is one of the most captivating in France. But while the castles and scenery have won the valley a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List, its wines remain under-appreciated.…

Top 9 articles for American readers in 2013
Top 9 articles for American readers in 2013

What inspires you to travel? Whether you’re looking to save the world (one eco-lodge at a time), add new destinations to your travel bucket list, or just taste the finest Belgian beers, check out this rundown of our most inspiring ideas for US travelers on RoughGuides.com: 1. Top 20 Belgian beers Beer is big business…

Tracking bears in Transylvania, Romania
Tracking bears in Transylvania, Romania

Home to over 8,000 brown bears, the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania, Romania are one of Europe’s last frontiers. Greg Dickinson joined Romania’s leading wildlife guide in search of a bear. He was now just inches away from me. Sharp, feral fangs. Thick wires of hair covering every inch of his heavy frame. And not to forget the…

Top 9 destinations for American travelers in 2013
Top 9 destinations for American travelers in 2013

If you’re looking for the latest travel hot-spots, check out the top picks from US readers on RoughGuides.com. From Europe to Asia, the Americas, and Australia, here are the most popular overseas destinations for US travelers: 1. Netherlands No larger than the US state of Maryland, the Netherlands is a surprisingly diverse country for its size.…

Indian visas, Bitcoin, cheaper roaming – this week’s travel news
Indian visas, Bitcoin, cheaper roaming – this week’s travel news

Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers casts an eye over the big travel news topics and unpicks the top stories of the week. Indian visas could get easier India could be about to its expand its visa on arrival scheme to visitors from around 40 additional countries, including the UK. As it stands, tourists from less…

Snapshot: Bologna & Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Snapshot: Bologna & Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Visiting this charming, relatively little-visited region in the north is one of the best things to do in Italy. It has a wealth of attractions and activities to entertain, from majestic cathedrals and castles, to fine food and wine. Here are seven of our favourite highlights of Bologna & Emilia-Romagna: Bologna’s restaurants: a meal out in…

Box set travel – six ideas for a TV show pilgrimage
Box set travel – six ideas for a TV show pilgrimage

In the past, nobody ever based a holiday around popular TV show filming locations. Imagine how stupid you’d have to be to spend a miserable fortnight digging around inside all the bins in Brooklyn because you’d watched Sesame Street and wanted to see where Oscar the Grouch lived. But the recent rise in box set…

Airbnb: ten unusual places to stay
Airbnb: ten unusual places to stay

Tired of the usual bed-in-a-box hotel rooms? As Airbnb takes over the world we had a rummage for some unusual places to stay listed on the site. Owl house, Merseyside, UK  If you like owls, you’d be wise to check out this bird-like bolthole just outside Liverpool. Built at the bottom of a garden, the eco-friendly cabin has…

The best Parisian patisseries
The best Parisian patisseries

How long is a piece of string? Asking a Parisian to name their favourite patisserie has about as many answers, from the simple shop churning our baguettes next door to the designer cake emporium they’ll cross the city to visit. On every corner in every arondissement you will find someone selling freshly baked bread, decadent…

Arrivals: a travel news round up (Oct 10th)
Arrivals: a travel news round up (Oct 10th)

Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers casts an eye over the big travel topics and unpicks the top stories of the week. First route to the Philippines since 1998 Philippine Airlines is about to open a new route from the UK. The flights, from London Heathrow to Manila, will be the first direct link between the UK…

11 loos with great views
11 loos with great views

White, sometimes stained floor tiles and a plain, usually graffitied grey door: I think we can all agree, this is an accurate description of your average toilet – pretty boring, no? Have you ever been having a tinkle, twiddling your thumbs and thought to yourself: “You know what this toilet needs? A good view!” Well,…

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 HOLE…

Teen to embark on record setting South Pole trek
Teen to embark on record setting South Pole trek

As I walk my shoes stick to the icy ground. It’s refreshing at first – almost comforting to be so cosy inside my huge thermal jacket, and feel the contrast of the crisp air biting at my cheeks. I am standing in the ­minus-25-degree conditions of the South Pole, and I feel like I’m ready…

Going downhill fast: adventure sports in Wales
Going downhill fast: adventure sports in Wales

The recent opening of a £2m, state-of-the-art mountain bike centre has cemented the Welsh Valleys’ burgeoning reputation as an adventure sports hub. Rough Guides writer Shafik Meghji went downhill fast as he braved the Welsh mountain bike trails. As I approached Melted Welly, a winding trail down the 491-metre-high Gethin Mountain, my biggest concern was not…

Ten free things to do in Lisbon
Ten free things to do in Lisbon

With its stunning setting, sunny climate and an alluring mixture of old world charms and hip nightlife, it is no surprise that Lisbon has moved into the top league of city break destinations. Lisbon has always been one of the most affordable of Europe’s capitals, but its rise in popularity has also seen a hike…

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