Features // Europe

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…

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…

Kaffee and kuchen in a Viennese kaffeehaus, Austria
Kaffee and kuchen in a Viennese kaffeehaus, Austria

As refined as afternoon tea and as sacred as the Japanese tea ceremony, Kaffee und Kuchen – coffee and cake – is the most civilized of Viennese rituals. It is not an experience to be rushed, and should you try, the archetypal grumpy Viennese waiter will surely sabotage your efforts. Kaffee und Kuchen is as much a cultural as…

Top five British children’s museums
Top five British children’s museums

Britain’s museums and galleries have upped their game, now entertaining and enthralling young visitors as well as educating them. Where “don’t touch” used to be a common command, these days children are positively encouraged to interact, often involving some mind-blowing hands-on displays. Here are some of our favourites. Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Great…

10 unusual types of transport
10 unusual types of transport

Getting around abroad doesn’t have to be all about cars, trains, buses and bikes. From cruising Peru’s Lake Titicaca on a boat made of reeds to flying down the streets of Madeira in a wicker toboggan or taking an odd horse-drawn carriage in Pakistan, there are so many unusual types of travel to be tried.…

Navigating a Swedish smorgasbord, Sweden
Navigating a Swedish smorgasbord, Sweden

Offhand, how many different ways can you think of to prepare herring or salmon? The two fish are staples of the smörgåsbord and, at last count, there were well over 120 varieties being used in restaurants and kitchens across Sweden. The Swedish smörgåsbord (literally “buttered table”) is a massive all-you-can-eat buffet where you can sample…

Tear gas in Taksim Square – Turkey in turmoil?
Tear gas in Taksim Square – Turkey in turmoil?

Tim Chester recounts his experiences travelling through Turkey a month ago – including a brief encounter with tear gas – and explains how the current situation doesn’t reflect the country as a whole. Nothing prepares you for your first faceful of tear gas. It dismantles three of your senses at once, knocking out sight, smell…

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…

Five top British music holidays
Five top British music holidays

Britain is a nation bursting with song. While this most musical of islands has nurtured numerous world-class singers and bands, it almost bursts with festivals and concerts all year round. Here’s five favourite escapes for music fans. Add yours below. Shetland’s legendary folk festival Despite a surprisingly diverse live music scene, Shetland is best known…

Ten weird and wonderful British competitions
Ten weird and wonderful British competitions

The British appetite for all things eccentric – particularly anything with a competitive element – ensures that on any given weekend you can find a bunch of people who lead otherwise sensible lives in a damp field somewhere snorkelling through bog water, racing pigs or chucking around black puddings. Here are the best ones to…

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…

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.…

Travel bargains for 2012
Travel bargains for 2012

This article was originally posted in February 2012 Tourism is a lifeline for so many countries, but economic crisis, civil unrest or natural disasters can suddenly pull the plug on visitor numbers. And this can be a great time to experience these countries: often many areas are still safe, locals will usually be delighted to…

Top five crime-related holiday experiences
Top five crime-related holiday experiences

Go behind bars in Liepaja, Latvia The best place to book yourself in for a bit of rough treatment is the former naval prison in Karosta. Formerly used as a punishment block for unruly sailors, the grim-looking red-brick prison is now the venue for “Behind Bars” a two-hour interactive performance that involves being herded at…

10 essential dolphin and whale-watching trips
10 essential dolphin and whale-watching trips

From whales in Iceland to the pink penguins of Hong Kong harbour, here’s ten of our favourite holidays for seeing whales and dolphins, taken from the pages of travel bible Great Escapes. Let us know your own below. Whale-watching off the coast of Iceland Iceland’s waters are blessed with large numbers of almost every kind…

Top holiday ideas for thrill seekers
Top holiday ideas for thrill seekers

If you like your holidays with a pinch – or even liberal lashings – of adrenalin, then you may want to check one of these life-changing experiences out. Taken from the pages of Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth, here’s ten ultimate trips for thrill seekers. Sand-skiing in the dunes, Qatar Launching yourself…

Into the valley: hearing a Welsh choir
Into the valley: hearing a Welsh choir

The road into Senghenydd from the imposing Welsh castle town of Caerphilly snakes along the side of a steep slope that drops into a rocky valley below. Lined with red-toned terraced houses constructed from local stone, the village almost clings to the hillside, and though coal mining died out here long ago, the landscape still…

The best places to visit in Europe in 2012
The best places to visit in Europe in 2012

London might get all the press as the world floods in for the Olympics, but elsewhere in Europe plenty of intriguing destinations are on the rise, either due to special events planned for this year or new attractions that are just beginning to draw visitors. So what are Europe’s best holiday ideas in 2012? We’ve…

Yorkshire’s overlooked oddities
Yorkshire’s overlooked oddities

Yorkshire boasts a wealth of big-hitting tourist attractions, but hidden away there are a few entertaining oddities which would be a shame to miss. Here, in no particular order, are ten of the best. The Teapottery Housed on an industrial estate just outside Leyburn, the Teapottery calls itself, with justification, the “home of eccentric teapots”.…

Island-hopping on the Aegean, Greece
Island-hopping on the Aegean, Greece

There’s an indefinable scent that, in an instant, brings the Greek islands vividly to mind. A mixture, perhaps, of thyme-covered slopes cooling overnight and the more prosaic smells of the port, of fish and octopus, overlaid with the diesel exhaust of the ferry that’s carrying you there. A moment at night when you can sense approaching land but not…

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…

A new side to the Czech Republic – five marvels of Moravia
A new side to the Czech Republic – five marvels of Moravia

The word’s been out for some time now: the Czech Republic does not begin and end with Prague. A little further over to the east, for example, the region of Moravia stands out for having all the rural Czech hallmarks you could possibly hope for – while at the same time still being within easy reach of…

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…

The best places to visit in November
The best places to visit in November

As the Northern Hemisphere is getting colder in November, below the equator things are hotting up as spring gets ready to give way to summer. The cooling temperatures aren’t all bad however, as the temperature in Egypt and India becomes far more bearable, and autumn in South Korea is a sight to behold. Check out…

Heading into deepest mafia country, Italy
Heading into deepest mafia country, Italy

The deep south, toe-end region of Aspromonte is still considered by many Italians to be out of bounds. For it is here, among the thick forests, crenellated mountain peaks and tumbledown villages, that the n’drangheta, or Calabrian mafia, based their empire until the 1990s. The organisation had its origins in landless nineteenth-century peasant workers who…

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…

Six up-and-coming destinations to consider
Six up-and-coming destinations to consider

Sometimes visiting the world’s best-known destinations can be a little tiring – so many people, piling in and out of attractions, keen to see, do and experience the same things. Almost anywhere can feel like a tourist trap at the wrong time of year. So if you’ve decided to spend your next trip feeling a…

Watching the hurling at Croke Park, Ireland
Watching the hurling at Croke Park, Ireland

The player leaps like a basketball star through a crowd of desperate opponents and flailing sticks. Barely visible to the naked eye, the arcing ball somehow lodges in his upstretched palm. Dropping to the ground, he shimmies his way out of trouble, the ball now delicately balanced on the flat end of his hurley, then…

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…

Top ten unusual places to stay in Britain
Top ten unusual places to stay in Britain

From ornate Victorian water towers to wave-battered houses in the sea, Britain in bursting with unusual places to stay. Try one from this list below, and you’ll refuse to stay in a Travelodge ever again. La Rosa, Whitby, North Yorkshire Way before the “glamping” revolution, a campsite near Whitby started putting people up in vintage…

A gourmet guide to Croatia
A gourmet guide to Croatia

Croatia’s growing popularity as a tourist destination hasn’t led to a levelling down of gastronomic standards; on the contrary it has had the effect of tweaking them upwards. The rediscovery of regional recipes, a boutique approach to wine production, and a flair for combining creativity with tradition are the main themes of Croatia’s burgeoning foodie…

Top five independent British cinemas
Top five independent British cinemas

If you’re feeling a little tired of the oversized popcorn, super-saccharine soda, impersonal nature and all-round lack of charm at your local multiplex, perhaps one of these singular establishments might tickle your fancy. Support independent cinema at some of Britain’s finest… The Electric Cinema, Birmingham The unprepossessing exterior, sandwiched between a couple of Chinese restaurants, belies…

Five of the world’s best clubs
Five of the world’s best clubs

Tired of your local nightclub? Bored of trekking to the same venue every Saturday night? Then try one of these awesome experiences from Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth, as witnessed by Rough Guides writers all over the world. Techno and turbo-folk: having a blast in Belgrade Belgrade has every right to proclaim…

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,…

Paying respects to Lenin, Moscow
Paying respects to Lenin, Moscow

One of Moscow’s unforgettable highlights is a visit to the father of the Russian revolution: Vladmir Lenin. Adam Bennett depicts his encounter with the dogmatic politician who was embalmed and preserved over 80 years ago. Staring into the bulletproof glass that separates me from the legendary Russian leader, I am surprised to see he’s still…

Britain’s top five steam railways
Britain’s top five steam railways

Is it the fact that the British invented them? Or that children know Thomas and Percy better than their own parents? Or that peaked caps, billowing steam and The Railway Children bring a strange quiver to grown men’s hearts? Whatever the reason, there’s something about the British and their steam railway heritage that only a…

Britain’s top ten beaches
Britain’s top ten beaches

There’s a lot of coastline wrapped around this isle – over ten thousand miles of it, in fact. Factor in Britain’s astonishing variety of landscapes and you have a country whose beaches range from epic strands to tiny notches chipped from cliffs, wilderness islands to prim Edwardian resorts. Here’s ten of the best beaches in…

London – an interactive movie guide
London – an interactive movie guide

Be it the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, or the neon headache that is Piccadilly Circus, film directors have blown countless reels of stock on London’s iconic sights. One legacy of the Big Smoke’s 2000-year history is an array of buildings and vistas that lend themselves to the cinematic treatment, from flicks that deal in…

A day at The Eden Project, Cornwall
A day at The Eden Project, Cornwall

Home to over a million plants and more than five thousand different species from around the world, the iconic “biomes” (gigantic greenhouses) at the Eden Project are the focus of the UK’s premier green attraction. Built on the site of a former clay quarry, the Rainforest Biome houses plants from tropical islands, Malaysia, West Africa…

Painting the town red at La Tomatina in Spain
Painting the town red at La Tomatina in Spain

On the last Wednesday of every August, 130,000 kilos of over-ripe tomatoes are hurled around the alleyways of Buñol until the tiny town’s streets are ankle deep in squelching fruit. What started in the 1940s as an impromptu food fight between friends has turned into one of the most bizarre and downright infantile fiestas on…

Top cooking breaks
Top cooking breaks

Some say that the best way to discover a country is through its food. For the epicurious, cooking vacations give you the chance to delve deeper into a country’s cuisine beyond its restaurants and markets. You’ll get a crash course in local produce at a food market then dive straight into the kitchen with a…

The world’s best bars
The world’s best bars

If you’re bored of your local pub, why not try one of these drinking holes around the world? From kava in Fiji to caipirinhas in Rio, via the most remote beer in the world, we’ve rounded up some unique drinking experiences in our quest for the best bars in the world. Well someone had to do…

Fire festivals around the world
Fire festivals around the world

A great fire festival should be on everybody’s bucket list. Here we rundown some of the greats… Guy Fawkes Night, UK “Remember, remember the fifth of November – gunpowder, treason and plot” – a rhyme Brits have grown up reciting in the run-up to Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night).…

Three magical days on the Rota Vicentina
Three magical days on the Rota Vicentina

Neil McQuillian explores a new network of trails in Portugal My ankle rolled to the side and I tumbled over. Our guide, José Granja, came across to check I was OK. “You know, you need to taste the floor,” he said, peering at me as we set off again. “I fell off my bike once,…

The best contemporary British public art
The best contemporary British public art

Of course Britain has more than its fair share of world-class art galleries and exhibitions, but sometimes it’s more interesting to find artwork out and about in public spaces. Here’s a few of our favourite al fresco pieces, drawn from travel bible Make The Most Of Your Time In Britain. The Angel of the North,…

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…

Adventure sports in the Pyrenees
Adventure sports in the Pyrenees

Rough Guides editor Helen Abramson does what she loves most, seeking out adrenalin sports in the stunning Pyrenees region around the town of Sort, Catalunya. The Pyrenees lend themselves well to outdoor activities. Sort, on the northwest tip of Catalunya, has a reputation as a handy base, where you’re never far from some of the…

Five top Welsh castles
Five top Welsh castles

Few sites evoke such a sense of awe and history as a crumbling castle. Here, from the pages of Make The Most Of Your Time In Britain, we pick five favourites. Let us know your top castles below. Conwy Castle For sheer grey-stone solidity, nothing beats Conwy Castle with its eight massive round towers arranged…

Schloss Neuschwanstein – the fairy-tale castle
Schloss Neuschwanstein – the fairy-tale castle

If you could only visit one castle in the world, then Schloss Neuschwanstein must be it. Boldly perched on a rocky outcrop high above the Bavarian village of Hohenschwangau, the schloss lords it over some of the most spectacular countryside in the country. It looks every bit the storybook castle, a forest of capped grey…

Twelve things we learnt at Edinburgh’s festivals
Twelve things we learnt at Edinburgh’s festivals

If you’re thinking of heading to Edinburgh for the festivals during August, there’s one thing you need to bring: time. Come loaded with lots of it, as much as you can, because it runs out quickly and you’ll head home lamenting the hundreds of treats you missed. A weekend is the bare minimum, a week…

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