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…

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,…

An historic hideaway in the city of Bath
An historic hideaway in the city of Bath

Lottie Gross takes a step back in time and finds the perfect historical retreat in the city of Bath. The year is 1723. My name is George Wade MP and I’ve just returned from London after a stressful week in the House of Commons. It’s late on a Saturday morning and I’m nursing a cup…

Ten great literary journeys
Ten great literary journeys

From India to Italy to the USA, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, we’ve all travelled the world at some point in time through the captivating words of our favourite novels. Some will take you into the depths of the African jungles, and others plonk you right in the middle of the wide, empty ocean. It’s…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Arrivals: a travel news round-up
Arrivals: a travel news round-up

Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers casts an eye over the big travel topics and unpicks the top stories of the week. More tourists welcome, but heavy planes are not Climbers could soon be getting their crampons into five additional Nepalese peaks over 8,000m. Currently, just eight of the country’s highest mountains are accessible, but overcrowding…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Where to try an Olympic sport in Britain
Where to try an Olympic sport in Britain

With London 2012 and memories of the summer Olympics still resonating around the world, you may be tempted to try some of the various sports and disciplines yourselves. Here’s five spots that offer top training for the next Olympic games. Archery The perfect place for a taste of archery is undoubtedly Sherwood Forest, legendary home…

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…

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…

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…

Nuclear disaster: Chernobyl today
Nuclear disaster: Chernobyl today

Chernobyl and the nearby city of Pripyat have been abandoned for over 20 years. Old Soviet symbols still adorn the buildings, and textbooks remain open on desks at the local school. The worst nuclear disaster in history left 52,000 residents homeless – never to return again. Today, the site is a popular tourist attraction: enter…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

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…

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…

The best places to visit in May
The best places to visit in May

May is the perfect time to travel in the northern hemisphere. With the weather warming up, fewer tourists and lower prices than the peak summer months, the beaches of the Caribbean and the Med are prime targets, but there’s plenty going on elsewhere. From New Orleans jazz to a whale shark festival in Australia, here…

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…

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…

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…

An Interview with Pico Iyer
An Interview with Pico Iyer

British-born, with Indian parents and a childhood spent in California, Pico Iyer is one of the most respected travel writers today. Tim Chester asks Pico about lessons learned, packing and the evolution of travel.  Could you single out the first formative experience that sparked your love for travel? I was lucky in that I was…

Iceland: top 10 hot pools to take a dip
Iceland: top 10 hot pools to take a dip

The Icelandic tradition of bathing outdoors in volcanically heated pools dates right back to Viking times. A few of these old pools survive today – often sited in spectacular locations – whilst almost all settlements, however tiny, have installed geothermally-heated swimming pools with accompanying hot tubs. It’s probably not how you planned spending time in…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Discovering Green Glasgow
Discovering Green Glasgow

Despite its industrial heritage Glasgow is actually one of the greenest cities in Europe, writes Helen Ochyra. Clip clop. I am travelling at nineteenth-century speeds along the main road of a country estate. On one side are formal gardens, planted with shaped hedges in lush greens, on the other, open fields dotted with dun-coloured Highland cattle.…

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…

Exploring Matera’s cavernous dwellings in Italy
Exploring Matera’s cavernous dwellings in Italy

Italy’s southern region of Basilicata is home to one of the country’s most distinctive towns: Matera. It’s a fascinating place, not least for its unique topography and intriguing history as a Mediterranean troglodyte settlement. Thanks to its biblical, otherworldly feel, it’s been used as the setting for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ too. Rough Guides…

Alternative eating in Hackney, London
Alternative eating in Hackney, London

The East London borough of Hackney is booming, particularly with regard to new restaurants, cafés, bars and speciality delis. Alongside long-established Vietnamese and Turkish eateries you’ll now find a Swedish corner café, a Ghanaian pop-up and even a farmyard bistro. A funky restaurant aesthetic has emerged, characterized by bare bulbs, monastic wooden benches and fresh local…

The World Outgames, Antwerp
The World Outgames, Antwerp

From synchronised swimming to same-sex dancing, the World Outgames is an Olympic-style competition with a difference – it’s one of two sporting competitions held by the world’s gay community. In August Antwerp played host to the third ever World Outgames, and Rough Guides writer Michael Turnbull went along to discover more about the city’s LGBT community. The…

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…

The best places to go in spring
The best places to go in spring

From the shores of Morocco’s Atlantic coast to the post-Mardi Gras partying in New Orleans, our editors give you their picks for the best places to go in spring time: Cornwall, England Becca Hallett, Editorial Assistant: Cornwall has plenty of activities to help burn off all the delicious seasonal food available, like a wander among…

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…

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.…

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…

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