Features // Europe

Five top isolated retreats
Five top isolated retreats

Whether we dwell in city centre or suburb, we nearly all dream of escaping the humdrum and finding somewhere truly off the grid. As the world shrinks, more and more places that promise isolation find their offerings increasingly crowded. Here’s five destinations, drawn from Rough Guides’ Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth, that…

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…

12 top destinations for art holidays in Britain
12 top destinations for art holidays in Britain

If you fancy indulging your inner artist on your next British break, try one of these excellent galleries and art spaces across Britain. The Baltic, Newcastle Towering over the Tyne is Baltic, Gateshead’s striking contemporary art centre. Still emblazoned with the words Baltic Flour Mills, this uncompromisingly modernist building has just as much presence as…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Which weird foods have you tried?
Which weird foods have you tried?

From rotten eggs in China to Canadian jellied moose nose, we’ve found some of the weirdest foods of the world, and showcased them in a rather stomach-churning gallery for your viewing pleasure. But now we want to know what weird foods you love, hate or have been brave enough to sample on your travels. It seems our…

The tale of St John of Nepomuk, Czech Republic
The tale of St John of Nepomuk, Czech Republic

As you shuffle along with your fellow tourists round the chancel of Prague’s main cathedral, there’s not a lot to see beyond the remains of a few medieval Czech kings with unpronounceable names – Břetislav, Spytihněv, Bořivoj. That is, until you find your way virtually barred by a giant silver tomb, which looks for all the world as…

Introducing the Rough Guide to Vintage London
Introducing the Rough Guide to Vintage London

Rough Guides has muted its orange and blue tones for the release of The Rough Guide to Vintage London, a comprehensive guide to vintage shopping, culture and lifestyle in London. Whether you’re looking for a retro bicycle, Mod cafe, a fifties frock, or just somewhere a bit different to go for Friday night drinks then The Rough…

Joining the truffle train in Buzet, Croatia
Joining the truffle train in Buzet, Croatia

Even the most committed of culinary explorers often find the truffle an acquired taste. Part nut, part mushroom, part sweaty sock, the subtle but insistent flavour of this subterranean fungus inspires something approaching gastronomic hysteria among its army of admirers. Nowhere is truffle worship more fervent than in the Croatian province of Istria, a beautiful…

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…

Paris – an interactive movie guide
Paris – an interactive movie guide

For a century, Paris has been the Hollywood’s go-to city for a dose of foreign intrigue & Old World charm, while European filmmakers have embraced it with a passion to leave the rest of us swooning. A byword for European sophistication, café culture & romantic escape, the City of Light offers iconic landmarks, Grands Boulevards…

10 great places to go walking in Scotland
10 great places to go walking in Scotland

Billy Connolly famously said that “there are two seasons in Scotland: June and winter”. Yet anyone who loves walking in this hauntingly beautiful country knows that even the weather can’t spoil the bleak majesty of its ancient landscape. It’s the rain, wind, sleet, snow, sun, and constantly changing light bursting from vast, shifting northern skies…

6 enticing alternatives to Italy’s big sights
6 enticing alternatives to Italy’s big sights

You’ve hiked the Cinque Terre, gondola’d down Venice’s Grand Canal and got Renaissance art fatigue in Florence’s Uffizi. So what’s next? Italophile Natasha Foges picks six less-known places that offer all the charm of Italy‘s big sights. If you like Lake Como try… Lake Iseo Of the six Italian Lakes, it’s Garda and Como –…

Britain’s top music festivals
Britain’s top music festivals

From Marc Bolan and free milk to stadium rave and boutique festivals, this damp isle has long been a fine place for a party. It may have nothing quite as hot as Valencia’s Benicassim or as far-out as Nevada’s Burning Man, but this wild bunch – from Butlins-brewed indie to Wiltshire-based world music, with stopoffs…

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…

Essential outdoor pursuits across the UK
Essential outdoor pursuits across the UK

If you like your holidays with a dash of exercise, or perhaps even liberal lashings of adrenalin and white knuckle thrills, one of these excursions may appeal. From deep sea diving to Scottish skiing – via a quick go at zorbing in Dorchester – here’s a few essential outdoor pursuits on offer across Britain. Tackling…

A guide to the best pubs in Edinburgh
A guide to the best pubs in Edinburgh

From historic bars pouring the finest whiskies to gastropubs serving up gourmet burgers, Edinburgh has a drinking den to satisfy every craving. There are some world-class establishments here but also plenty of duds. Follow our guide (and steer clear of the Grassmarket) for the best night out the Scottish capital has to offer. Best for…

Navigating Portugal’s Lake Alqueva
Navigating Portugal’s Lake Alqueva

Equipped with her compass, Helen Abramson goes treasure hunting on manmade Lake Alqueva and discovers the joys of GPS during a geocaching adventure. On the map, Lake Alqueva appears as a fierce artery, stretching out into countless capillaries offering countless opportunities to get lost. I feel prepared though; I’ve brought my compass. I’ll be staying…

Six great treehouses – monkey business optional
Six great treehouses – monkey business optional

B&Bs and traditional hotels are all very well, but sometimes is fun to get in the foliage and live like a monkey for a few days. Here’s a few of our favourite treehouses around the world. Where’s your favourite? Keycamp, Northern France Choose between three treehouses at Keycamp’s family-friendly French campsites – at Carnac and…

Exploring the Brecon Beacons in a Twizy: a foodie’s tour
Exploring the Brecon Beacons in a Twizy: a foodie’s 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…

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…

Video: The Rough Guide to Vintage London
Video: The Rough Guide to Vintage London

From gramophones to bright pink dresses to Art Deco lighting, you can find it all here in London. As part of the Rough Guide to Vintage London we took to the streets, armed with cameras, to capture the vintage way of life here in the city. We took a trip to 328 Portobello Road where Glen Hargrave, owner…

The top ten places to explore British history
The top ten places to explore British history

From Jersey up to Hadrian’s Wall and beyond, Britain is packed full of historic sites worth exploring. Here’s a few suggestions for reliving the nation’s long history, from Arthurian legends to its more recent nuclear past. Soaking up the Saxon past at Sutton Hoo When unearthed more than seventy years ago, the burial mounds at…

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…

Behold the northern lights, Sweden
Behold the northern lights, Sweden

They appear as shimmering arcs and waves of light, often blue or green in colour, which seem to sweep their way across the dark skies. During the darkest months of the year, the northern lights, or aurora borealis, are visible in the night sky all across northern Sweden. Until you see the light displays yourself,…

Customs and immigration – your experiences
Customs and immigration – your experiences

You’ve been sitting for the last few hours in a cramped chair next to (or rather half under) someone else’s child, you’re tired and you can’t sleep because the child’s feet are digging in to your side. But at least you’re starting your holiday. We all know the feeling – you’re exhausted from travel but kept…

Responsible travel – a green stay in Amsterdam
Responsible travel – a green stay in Amsterdam

Minimise your footprint in Amsterdam with our green guide to the city, taken from travel bible Great Escapes. Pedal your way around Amsterdam has an excellent network of trams, metro and buses, but cycling is usually the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to travel around the city. Nearly all the cycling lanes are separate from…

Arrivals: a travel news round up (September 16)
Arrivals: a travel news round up (September 16)

Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers casts an eye over the big travel topics and unpicks the top stories of the week. Thousands apply for one-way trip to Mars More than 200,000 people have applied for the chance to help colonise Mars. Just four of the applicants will be picked for the first one-way mission being…

Hitting Ibiza’s closing parties
Hitting Ibiza’s closing parties

Ibiza’s summer clubbing season is an orgy of hedonism, full of beats, late nights and frazzled young things. It reaches a messy climax in September, when the main club promoters and venues host a series of seratonin-sapping parties to round things off and extract a few final euros from their battered punters. These end-of-season events…

Wet & wild – twelve watery adventures across Britain
Wet & wild – twelve watery adventures across Britain

From sailing to surfing, canoeing and coasteering, here’s our twelve favourite ways to get wet across Britain. Surfing the Severn Bore The Severn Bore (pictured above) is one of the longest and biggest tidal bores in the world. It’s a startling spectacle when you’re watching from the riverbank. If you’re actually in the river, it…

The best places to visit in April
The best places to visit in April

April is a fantastic month to travel. Spring in the northern hemisphere brings warmer weather, making it an excellent time to soak up the early sun in Marrakesh or take in the rhododendron displays in Sikkim. Over in Australia you can visit Uluru without the crowds, while California’s Coachella festival and Austria’s Snowbombing  provide partying aplenty.…

Best places to visit in July
Best places to visit in July

July doesn’t have to mean fighting for space on packed European beaches, dodging flocks of school children and gritting your teeth at peak prices. Winter in the southern hemisphere promises cheap flights and fantastic skiing, while elsewhere July is packed with unusual festivals, wild celebrations and some of nature’s most spectacular events, giving you a…

Great places within 30 minutes from London
Great places within 30 minutes from London

Rough Guides turns 30 this year, and to celebrate former publisher and RG founder Martin Dunford has rounded up some great places to visit no more than thirty minutes by public transport from London. For more on great things to do, see and consume throughout the UK, see Martin’s latest venture, http://www.coolplaces.co.uk St Albans, Hertfordshire Just…

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…

Twenty places to make you feel insignificant
Twenty places to make you feel insignificant

French novelist Gustave Flaubert once said: “Travelling makes one modest – you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world”. With this in mind, here are twenty daunting and spectacular places around the world that might make you feel a little small. Easter Island, Chile A trip to see Easter Island’s moai lined up on…

The 20 best beaches in Greece
The 20 best beaches in Greece

With thousands of islands to choose from, Greece can be an intimidating place to start looking for your next beach break. Don’t be put off though, as the nation has more than a lot to offer, whether you’re island-hopping or just looking for the perfect setting to unwind. From the busy, iconic bays to the…

Top ten things to do in Estonia
Top ten things to do in Estonia

From the cultured capital of Tallinn to the winter-playground that is Otepää, here are ten of our favourite things to do in Estonia.  Admire the beauty of Alatskivi Castle Originally dating back to the sixteenth century, Alatskivi Castle was rebuilt between 1876 and 1885 by Baron von Nolcken who was inspired by the royal residence…

Video: 24 of our favourite things about Ireland
Video: 24 of our favourite things about Ireland

Ireland is a beguiling place: there are craggy coastal cliffs, lively pubs and history abounds. These are our favourite things to do in Ireland. Explore more of the world in video with the Rough Guides YouTube channel >

7 European cities you’ve not been to but must visit
7 European cities you’ve not been to but must visit

We all know about the big European city breaks like Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam, but what about Maribor in Slovenia, Osijek in Croatia and Cadiz in Spain? If you’ve already been to all the big boys, or just want to venture off the well-beaten tourist track, it’s time to discover some seriously unsung cities. Here, we’ve picked…

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…

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.…

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…

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 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…

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…

Video: 24 things not to miss in Germany
Video: 24 things not to miss in Germany

Whether you’re dreaming of Berlin’s buzzing nightlife or want to write your own fairytales on the Romantic Road, you’ll find a wealth of exciting things to do and see in Germany. Here, we’ve picked 24 of our highlights. Explore more of the world in video with the Rough Guides YouTube channel >

How to see Paris on a budget
How to see Paris on a budget

From the new Pocket Rough Guide, we’ve selected some of our favourite tips for seeing Paris on a budget. A trip to Paris, famous as the most romantic of destinations, is one of those lifetime musts. Long the beating heart of European civilization, it remains one of the world’s most refined yet passionate cities. Yet…

Uncovering France’s hidden charms in the Dordogne
Uncovering France’s hidden charms in the Dordogne

During three weeks in the Dordogne and the Lot researching The Rough Guide to France, I clocked up over three thousand kilometres on the road – equivalent to driving from London to Istanbul – climbing up steep single-lane tracks to isolated hamlets, negotiating bizarre one-way systems, and zipping down empty country roads where every corner revealed…

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