Features // Europe

Conquering Mount Olympus, Greece
Conquering Mount Olympus, Greece

Work off that moussaka with a hike up the most monumental of the Greek mountains – Mount Olympus. Soaring to 2920m, the mountain is swathed in mysticism and majesty, mainly due to its reputation as the home of the Ancient Greek gods. Reaching the peak isn’t something you can achieve in an afternoon – you’ll…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Solving the mysteries of Pompeii, Italy
Solving the mysteries of Pompeii, Italy

Pity the poor folk picking through the rubble of the Forum in Rome. To make the most of the ruins there you have to use your imagination. In the ancient Roman resort town of Pompeii, however, it’s a little easier. Pompeii was famously buried by Vesuvius in 79 AD, and the result is perhaps the…

Skiing the Streif, Austria
Skiing the Streif, Austria

It never looked this icy on TV. And it certainly never looked this steep. But then cameras have a way of warping reality: they make people look ever so slightly bigger; and they make downhill-skiing runs look a lot, lot tamer. And Kitzbühel’s “Streif” is far from tame. A legendary downhill course that makes up…

Art after dark: an evening in the Louvre, France
Art after dark: an evening in the Louvre, France

If getting up close to the Mona Lisa was never easy, in the wake of Da Vinci Code fever it’s now almost as challenging as the puzzle at the heart of Dan Brown’s blockbuster. But come on a Wednesday or Friday evening for one of the Louvre’s late openings, and you’ll find things considerably quieter.…

20 great beaches in France
20 great beaches in France

Thanks to its three long stretches of coastline, France has plenty of great beaches. From upmarket resorts to the secluded calanques (coves) and beaches steeped with historical significance, there are a variety of opportunities for fans of the sand. Our selection of 20 top beaches was taken from the latest Rough Guide to France. Barneville, Barneville-Carteret,…

Britain’s top five surfing spots
Britain’s top five surfing spots

There are times when Britain’s wet and windy climate comes in very handy – such as, for instance, when you’re a surfer. All that wind and wet blowing in off the surrounding seas produces surprisingly consistent and varied surf year-round, and thanks to the combination of Gulf Stream warmth and high-tech wet suits conditions are…

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 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…

Exploring the Brecon Beacons in a Twizy: An Eco Tour
Exploring the Brecon Beacons in a Twizy: An Eco Tour

A new green initiative has been launched in the Brecon Beacons. The Eco Travel Network was established by local researchers and business owners to offer a pool of electric vehicles to visitors who want to explore the region while keeping their carbon footprint low. These Renault Twizys carry two people and run on batteries that can be…

The 20 best beaches in Turkey
The 20 best beaches in Turkey

Beach holidays in Turkey are often synonymous with (mostly) British tourists occupying row after row of sun loungers, rowdy club nights and expensive all-inclusive resorts. However, using public transport, or your own car, you can get to some of the best beaches in Turkey in no time. Meet the loggerhead turtles who bury their eggs…

The best places to visit in October
The best places to visit in October

As autumn looms in the north and spring is blossoming in the south, October is a beautiful month around the world. From the last of that European sunshine, to the wacky festivities of Halloween in the USA, here are the best places to go for holidays in October. Browse and buy leading art, London, UK…

Five fantastic eco experiences across Britain
Five fantastic eco experiences across Britain

Whether seeking a dose of The Good Life or wanting to do your bit to keep Britain a green and pleasant land, connecting with the environment can help revive the spirit of even the weariest urban dweller. Spend some quality time in the countryside and nurture self-sufficiency skills for a brave new eco-world. Wwoofing in…

Five beautiful British places of worship
Five beautiful British places of worship

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of Britain’s most beautiful buildings are places of worship. Head to one of these five architectural wonders and prepare to drop to your knees in awe, if not necessarily in supplication. Ely Cathedral, Ely Ely Cathedral (pictured above) was created to invoke a sense of awe. Constructed over two hundred years, it’s…

Getting seriously active in the Ardennes, Belgium
Getting seriously active in the Ardennes, Belgium

Home of the EU, and for most people Europe’s most boring country, Belgium is hardly the most obvious choice for an activity holiday. Yet the thickly wooded hills of its southernmost region, the Ardennes, are one of the country’s biggest surprises: sharply scenic, with peaks of exposed limestone, criss-crossed with waymarked footpaths, busy with wildlife,…

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.…

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”.…

Our expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Lisbon
Our expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Lisbon

Heading to the Portuguese capital this year? Whether you want rich history or shops galore, these are the best areas to stay in Lisbon according to our expert. Best for the historic centre: Baixa and Chiado Lisbon’s Baixa, or ‘downtown’, is an appealing oblong of handsome buildings flanked by the squares of Rossio, Figueira and the…

The great British seaside: how Margate got cool
The great British seaside: how Margate got cool

Not all that long ago Margate was a forlorn seaside town rejected by even the bucket-and-spade brigade. In a sad story echoed across England, the already struggling high street was devastated by the opening of an out-of-town shopping centre; pubs and restaurants were closing, and the future of this once thriving seaside resort looked grim.…

Joining the Gilles at Binche Carnival, Belgium
Joining the Gilles at Binche Carnival, Belgium

Taking place in February or March, the four-hundred-year-old Binche Carnival is a magic combination of the country’s national preoccupation with beer – outdoor beer tents are stacked high with a huge variety of Belgian brews – and a bizarre tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages. The spectacular March of the Gilles is a…

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).…

Eat your way round Britain – 5 protected British foods
Eat your way round Britain – 5 protected British foods

They may not be as internationally renowned as Parma ham, Greek feta, or champagne, but Britain boasts an increasing range of tasty regional produce  whose “unique heritage, character and reputation” is protected by the EU. Here are five of the best. Herefordshire cider Cider’s come a long way since the days of The Wurzels, and…

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…

Expert Q&A – all your Scandinavian travel questions answered
Expert Q&A – all your Scandinavian travel questions answered

We recently ran a live Q&A with one of our Scandinavian experts Steve Vickers. Steve is based in Sweden and has contributed to numerous Rough Guides, from Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth to Europe On A Budget, Laos, Thailand and more. Launch the story below for all sorts of Scandinavian travel advice…

Soothe your troubles at the Hotel Gellert, Hungary
Soothe your troubles at the Hotel Gellert, Hungary

You might be impressed by the stately location of the Hotel Gellert, just over the “Liberty Bridge” on the western bank of the Danube, anchoring the old section of Buda. You might enjoy this picturesque scene especially after dark (and you’ll certainly feel compelled to take pictures) on your way back across the bridge from…

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…

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…

Emilia-Romagna: Tuscany without the crowds
Emilia-Romagna: Tuscany without the crowds

Blame Frances Mayes. Ever since she penned Under the Tuscan Sun twenty years ago the region has seen an unstoppable influx of English and American tourists descend on the area, which has left neighbouring regions, with just as much to offer, decidedly in the shade. Emilia-Romagna, home to an officially designated ‘Food Valley’, the majority…

Doing penance in the Sistine Chapel, Italy
Doing penance in the Sistine Chapel, Italy

You’ve seen them a thousand times before you even get there. Michelangelo’s ceiling and wall frescoes of the Sistine Chapel are perhaps the most recognizable pieces of art in the world, reproduced so much that they’ve become part of the visual furniture of our lives. Getting to this enormous work isn’t easy; indeed, it’s almost an act of…

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…

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…

Five great nostalgia trips around Britain
Five great nostalgia trips around Britain

Britain has a lot of history, and heritage coming out of its ears, but it’s not all stately homes, worthy-but-dull museums and nerd-heavy battle re-enactments. The booming nostalgia industry throws up some fantastic participatory experiences. Here’s five of our faves. Beamish, County Durham Britain’s best open-air museum puts you right in the middle of daily…

Losing yourself in Connemara, Ireland
Losing yourself in Connemara, Ireland

On the far western edge of Europe, the starkly beautiful region of Connemara is a great place to get lost. Cut off from the rest of Ireland by the 25-mile barrier of Lough Corrib, the lie of the land at first looks simple, with two statuesque mountain ranges, the Maam Turks and the Twelve Bens, bordered by the…

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…

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…

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 go in September
The best places to go in September

As the summer holiday season winds down, September is the perfect time to get an off-peak deal or some late sun. Here are our choices for the best places to go on holiday in September. Add your own trip ideas below. Surfing in North Devon, UK For surfers steering board-laden camper vans down North Devon’s…

Cities which aren’t the capital – but should be
Cities which aren’t the capital – but should be

Predictably, our first visit to a country will often focus on its capital city. Not only does this mean everybody sees the same old stuff, but this blind focus on the capital can also mean other great cities go unappreciated. So here we present five cities we think are worthy of – and sadly lacking…

Champagne tasting in Epernay, France
Champagne tasting in Epernay, France

Champagne is an exclusive drink, in all senses of the word, what with its upmarket associations and the fact that it can be made only from the grapes grown in the Champagne region of northern France. The centre of champagne production is Épernay, a town that’s made much of its association with the fizzy stuff, and where all…

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…

Classical drama at Epidavros theatre, Greece
Classical drama at Epidavros theatre, Greece

There’s no better place to experience classical drama than the ancient theatre at Epidavros, just outside the pretty harbour town of Nafplio in the Greek Peloponnese. Dating back to the fourth century BC, it seats 14,000 people and is known above all for its extraordinary acoustics – as guides regularly demonstrate, you can hear a…

La Tomatina: the greatest tomato fight on Earth
La Tomatina: the greatest tomato fight on Earth

“You are the smartest person I know.” The girl seemed serious in her praise, but I couldn’t help but doubt her accuracy – after all, I was wedged in the middle of a crowd of 45,000 other people, waiting to throw tomatoes around for an hour, and she was talking about the fact that I’d…

The ruin pubs of Budapest
The ruin pubs of Budapest

John Malathronas goes on a “tipsy tour” of the ruin pubs of Budapest.  One of the crazes in Budapest over the past few years has been ruin pubs. At £1.50 a pint they won’t ruin you financially, although by the end of a long evening they may well have ruined your plans for an early…

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,…

A first time guide to Edinburgh’s festivals
A first time guide to Edinburgh’s festivals

At any time of the year, Edinburgh is a city of culture, books, and tradition – but in August, thanks to a variety of festivals, all three are amplified to full volume. From the hundreds of theatre, comedy and cabaret shows of the Edinburgh Fringe festival, through the pomp of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, to…

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