Biography

Rick Steves advocates smart independent travel. As host, writer and producer of the popular public television series Rick Steves' Europe, ...

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Rick Steves

Rick Steves

Rick Steves' Europe

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The Dingle Peninsula: Pure Ireland

The Dingle Peninsula: Pure Ireland

October 28, 2014

In Ireland, you drive on the left. For that reason, I take my time in a car there, especially when doing a do-si-do up and over scenic mountain roads. I slowly weave down the dramatic Conor Pass, spilling out into the rugged Dingle Peninsula. My Irish dreams have long been set in this lush spot. I last wrote about Dingle five years ago and recently went back for a long-overdue visit. I'm excited to be enveloped again by 40 shades of Irish spring green.

  • Top 10 European tourist traps

    October 21, 2014

    I love Europe, but my responsibility as a travel writer is not to just rave about everything, but to also help overwhelmed travelers sort through the superlatives and smartly allocate their limited vacation time. So here -- in no particular order -- are my top 10 tourist traps.

  • Sensory Amsterdam

    October 14, 2014

    Good travelers travel with all their senses, taking in a place's sights, sounds, and flavors to get the full experience. So, this past summer in Amsterdam, I engaged all my senses to connect with the culture.

  • History comes alive in modern Athens

    October 7, 2014

    Once famous for its sprawl, noise, graffiti and pollution, Athens has been cleaning up its act. New driving laws, along with a marvelous subway system, have made the city less congested. While it used to turn my hanky black in a day, the air now seems much cleaner. And while before, it felt as though there was one blade of grass for each of the city's three million cars, today it's much more people-friendly, with welcoming pedestrian streets and squares filled with benches, inviting cafes and grassy parks with shade-giving trees.

  • Playful Padua

    September 30, 2014

    I'm in Padua (just half an hour from Venice, but a world away), and I really like this town. Padua's museums and churches hold their own in Italy's artistic big league; its hotels are reasonably priced and the city doesn't feel touristy.

  • When to splurge in Europe

    September 23, 2014

    I've always been a fan of budget travel tips. For 30 years I've written and lectured about ways to stowaway, picnic and get special deals to be able to afford international travel. My feeling has long been that "you experience more by spending less." While that's still true, over the years I've realized that you can also justify splurges as good values when you consider the experience gained and the time saved.

  • Exploring Frankfurt, Germany's hub

    September 16, 2014

    Though it's often avoided by tourists (who use only the city's airport), Frankfurt's modern energy makes it a unique and entertaining city. Linking the wine-and-castles stretch of the Rhine to the north with the fairy-tale Romantic Road to the south, Frankfurt is just a 12-minute train ride from its airport, and even a two- or three-hour visit can make a powerful impression.

  • Scotland's independent streak

    September 9, 2014

    My fondest memories of travels in Scotland are in the pubs with folk bands stomping the paint off the floor as locals came together with the same twinkles in their eyes. This is an example of a time when I really feel I'm in Scotland instead of Britain. Home of kilts, bagpipes, whisky, golf, and haggis, go-its-own-way Scotland boasts a culture that stands apart from the rest of its British brethren.

  • Roamin' through Roman ruins in Provence

    September 2, 2014

    Deep in the south of France, Provence offers an almost predictable palette of travel experiences: oceans of vineyards, fields of scented lavender, adorable villages, and intoxicating bouillabaisse. But the area is also crammed with ancient history -- the Roman ruins here are some of the best anywhere. Many scholars claim the best-preserved Roman buildings are not in Italy, but in France.

  • Cycling through Stockholm

    August 26, 2014

    Stockholm is one of Europe's most beautiful cities. One-third water, one-third parks, one-third city, on the sea, surrounded by woods, bubbling with energy and history, Sweden's stunning capital is green, clean, and underrated.

  • Swiss bliss: Hiking the Swiss Alps

    August 20, 2014

    This year, a highlight of my European summer was the day I spent hiking in the Berner Oberland region of the Swiss Alps. I was with a wonderful group of traveling friends, all eager for a ramble in the high country.

  • Communicating in Italy

    August 12, 2014

    I am terrible at foreign languages. Despite traveling to Europe four months a year, I can barely put a sentence together anywhere east or south of England. But with some creative communication, I manage just fine to write guidebooks, produce TV shows and simply enjoy Europe on vacation. But nowhere do I have more fun communicating than in Italy.

  • Evolving Lisbon -- trolleys, fado and Old World color

    August 5, 2014

    Portugal's capital city of Lisbon feels to me like Europe's San Francisco -- it has rattling trolleys, a famous suspension bridge, a heritage dominated by a horrific earthquake, and lots of fog. And like San Francisco, it's a charming mix of now and then.

  • Pondering Britain's stone circles

    July 29, 2014

    Grand, centuries-old cathedrals distinguish Great Britain's cities and towns, providing spiritual nourishment to those who visit. These places of worship seem ancient almost beyond imagination. But long before Gothic cathedrals, long before recorded history even, Britain's stone circles were this land's sacred spots.

  • Being spontaneous in your travels

    July 22, 2014

    Twenty years ago, I was on a train heading to Rothenburg to update the ultimate medieval town in Germany for my guidebook. I knew the town well and was anticipating a happy homecoming. The cute lanes would be filled with my readers, who cheered me on. I loved going to Rothenburg.

  • Understanding French culture

    July 15, 2014

    I love France -- it is one of Europe's most diverse, tasty, and exciting countries. It brims with the good life and a special appreciation for culture, music, art, food, and wine.

  • Tips on tipping in Europe

    July 8, 2014

    Here's a tip. Don't stress over tipping.

  • A day visiting new and old in Salzburg

    July 1, 2014

    Recently, on one busy day, I revisited highlights and found new sights in Salzburg, a Baroque showpiece. Austria's fourth-largest city -- with 150,000 residents -- is divided into old and new. The Old Town, between the Salzach River and Salzburg's mini-mountain (Monchsberg), holds nearly all the charm and most of the tourists. The New Town, across the river, has the train station, a few sights and museums, and some good accommodations.

  • Touched by history: Meeting a witness to WWI assassination

    June 24, 2014

    Sometimes history punches you right in the face, and there's no time to duck. It happened to me when I was a teenager in Vienna, accompanying my parents on a business trip. My dad's local contact -- Dr. Radler -- piled us into his Mercedes for a Sunday morning spin. We sped to a Danube village in time to see the entire population -- kids in lederhosen, sturdy moms and dads, respected grandparents -- tumbling out of the onion-domed church, across the square, and into the wine garden.

  • Aarhus: Denmark's second city

    June 17, 2014

    Aarhus, Denmark's second-largest city, calls itself the "World's Smallest Big City." I'd argue it's more like the world's biggest little town: easy to handle and easy to like. A pleasant three-hour train ride from Copenhagen, Aarhus is well worth a stop.

  • The many layers of Istanbul

    June 10, 2014

    I first visited Istanbul in the 1970s. Some of my most vivid memories of that trip are of the colorful locals. Scruffy kids sold cherry juice and old men would grab huge cucumbers from wheeled carts, then peel, quarter and salt them to sell for pennies. While the 1970s magic in many places has been plowed under by modern affluence, today's Istanbul is every bit as rich and rewarding as it was back then.

  • Travel smart with your smartphone

    June 3, 2014

    I love all the technology that makes travel easier than ever. Even when you want to get away from it all, it makes sense to take your smartphone (or tablet) with you. You can keep in touch if you want to, plus you'll have instant access to resources that can enrich your trip. I wouldn't leave home without mine.

  • Going Dutch ... in Holland's polder country

    May 27, 2014

    Today my long-time Dutch friends, Hans and Marjet, are driving me to polder country -- the vast fields reclaimed from the sea where cows graze, tiny canals function as fences, and only church spires and windmills interrupt the horizon.

  • Highlands magic

    May 20, 2014

    Years ago, I met a dear man on a deserted roadside in the Scottish Highlands. I was scrambling to make a public television show, and as if placed there by heaven's Central Casting, this tender giant of a man was bag-piping to the birds, the passing clouds and the occasional motorist. He had picked a spot that seemed intentionally miles from nowhere. We stopped, and he graciously demonstrated his pipes, giving us a tour of that fascinating symbol of Scottish culture. I've never forgotten that wonderful chance meeting.

  • Europe's oddball museums broaden perspectives

    May 13, 2014

    You could spend a lifetime in Europe's grand museums -- the Louvre, the British Museum, and many others. But I also like to take in a destination's more idiosyncratic sights, getting a bead on the quirkier side of the local culture. It's my nature as a travel writer to look for the rustic, old-fashioned, and odd bits that fall through the cracks.

  • Eating in Spain: Sustenance for the soul

    May 6, 2014

    My guide, Roberto, met me at Madrid's airport, we rented a car and minutes later we were southbound on the freeway, immersed in the vastness of La Mancha. It's a tough terrain. A windmill -- weathered into a rough little useless nub -- still capped its blustery hill.

  • Renting a car for your European trip

    April 29, 2014

    Even with Europe's super-efficient public transportation system, there are times when it makes sense to rent a car. Having your own wheels is ideal for getting to more remote or rural places (that aren't covered as well by public transportation): England's Cotswolds, Norway's fjord country, Spain's Picos de Europa mountains, France's Normandy beaches, Tuscan hill towns...

  • England's cute and cozy Cotswolds

    April 22, 2014

    England's Cotswolds villages -- while just a couple of hours' drive away from London -- feel like a world apart. This tidy little region of characteristic old towns and gentle green hills is perfect for travelers looking to balance urban Britain with some thatched cuteness.

  • Europe's powerful artistic experiences

    April 15, 2014

    My TV crew and I often enjoy the rare privilege of filming inside Europe's great museums and palaces on days when they are closed to the public. For this honor, we sign up months in advance, often pay dearly, and never regret it. While the logistics of setting up shots can sometimes be a headache, this comes with the immense joy of being all alone with magnificent art. This past year I've been alone with Klimt's sultry Kiss in Vienna; I've stood silent and solitary before the mysterious Mona Lisa in Paris; and I've marveled at Leonardo's Last Supper in Milan and Michelangelo's David in Florence.

  • Iceland, a hot destination

    April 1, 2014

    Iceland's remote location and harsh climate aren't exactly welcoming. But its striking scenery, draped with glaciers and punctuated by craggy peaks and steamy geysers -- coupled with Icelandair's fare incentives -- make this destination increasingly attractive to adventurous travelers.

  • Berlin looks to the future, remembers its past

    March 25, 2014

    When I visited Berlin last summer to update my guidebook, I also scouted locations for a new TV show. I found the city as vibrant as ever -- with massive infrastructure projects in progress all around town. The cranes speckling the horizon in every direction put an end to the idea of filming anytime soon -- but the commotion is not a problem for visitors. If anything, seeing all the changes in the works made me eager to come back soon to see the Berlin of the future.

  • Cruising the northern seas

    March 18, 2014

    Cruising in Europe's Baltic or North Sea can satisfy even an independent traveler like me. Stepping off the gangway, I'm immersed in the vivid life of a different European city each day. I've toured some of the world's top museums, taken a Scandinavian-style coffee break while people-watching from a prime sidewalk cafe, lingered on a surprisingly sunny and sandy Baltic beach, and enjoyed some of Europe's most expensive cities on the cheap from my big ship home-base.

  • Why I love eating in Italy

    March 11, 2014

    When I'm in Italy, I generally only eat Italian food. I doubt there's another country in Europe (except France) that could hold my palate's interest so easily.

  • Reims: A bubbly day trip from Paris

    March 4, 2014

    France's bustling, modern Reims greets travelers with cellar doors wide open. As the capital of the Champagne region, it features a lively center, a historic cathedral, and, of course, Champagne tasting. And thanks to France's slick, high-speed rail, it's just 45 minutes from Paris -- making it an easy day trip.

  • Rome's inspiring Baroque sights

    February 25, 2014

    Rome is a showcase of Western civilization, layered with elements of the city's 2,000-year-old history. Among the traffic-choked 20th-century boulevards, you'll find marble ruins of ancient times, early Christian churches, grand Renaissance buildings and statues, and a wealth of Europe's most sumptuous, inspiring sights -- its Baroque treasures.

  • Glasgow: Scotland's second city

    February 18, 2014

    Lately, I've really been enjoying what I consider to be the "second cities" of Europe, such as Naples in Italy, Marseille in France and Hamburg in Germany. These places often have a rough, Industrial Age heritage and a rust-belt vibe that keeps them honest, unvarnished and nonconformist. Even though Glasgow is Scotland's largest and most populated city, I consider it to be that country's second city behind Edinburgh, which wins first place for its capital status and tourism appeal.

  • Navigating European airports

    February 11, 2014

    Sometimes I wonder why I lug my bag through airports, following my own recommendation to pack light enough to carry on and avoid checking any bags on international flights. It can be a drag, dragging your bag through airports. But when scrambling with last-minute changes in flight plans, those without checked bags are far more nimble. Over the years I've learned some tricks on dealing with European airports. Here are a few of them:

  • Dazzling St. Petersburg

    February 4, 2014

    The last time I visited St. Petersburg, in the 1990s, the Russian city was gray and depressing. But during a recent visit, I found a town that sparkles.

  • What's new in Germany for 2014

    January 28, 2014

    While Germany sits in the driver's seat of Europe's economy, it doesn't take a cultural backseat either. Here are a few of the latest developments:

  • What's new in Great Britain in 2014

    January 21, 2014

    For travelers, Great Britain is a work in progress, richly rewarding those who visit with up-to-date information. Here are a few important changes to be aware of for 2014.

  • What's new in France in 2014

    January 14, 2014

    France is always working to show off its rich heritage in innovative ways. You'll see some impressive changes this year.

  • What's new in Italy in 2014

    January 7, 2014

    Even when it's hot, crowded, or on strike, Italy is lots of fun. More than any other Western European country, though, travelers to Italy need up-to-date information to travel smart, saving both time and money. Here are a few updates to help you make the most of Italy in 2014:

  • The intensity of Hebron, in the Palestinian Territories

    December 31, 2013

    Walking through the Hebron market, I dodged the head of a camel dangling from a chain. I love traveling through the Palestinian Territories. It's filled with vivid memories and startling moments. I had no idea the people of Hebron had a taste for camel. But I was told that people here appreciate a nice fresh camel steak because of their Bedouin heritage. And the butcher shops seem to follow that Bedouin tradition: They butcher whatever they have to sell and it hangs on their front porch until it's all gone.

  • Bethlehem's Mix of Christians and Muslims

    December 24, 2013

    This is the third article in a four-part series on Rick's recent trip to the Holy Land.

  • A pilgrimage to the Sea of Galilee

    December 17, 2013

    For years, my travels have caused me to think about organized religion. (When I got my history degree in college, one of my favorite classes was "History of the Christian Church.") And for years, I've believed that those who enjoy getting close to God should pack their spirituality along with them in their travels.

  • Fabled Jerusalem

    December 10, 2013

    Before Columbus, many maps of the world showed Jerusalem as the center of the world. Jerusalem -- holy, treasured, and long fought over by the three great monotheistic religions -- has been destroyed and rebuilt more than a dozen times. Its fabled old-town walls corral a tangle of colorful holy sites, and more than 30,000 residents -- most with a deep-seated reason to live so close to such hallowed ground.

  • Child's play in Europe

    December 3, 2013

    When parents tell me they're going to Europe and ask me where to take their kids, I'm sometimes tempted to answer, "To Grandma and Grandpa's on your way to the airport."

  • Collecting cultural souvenirs in Europe

    November 26, 2013

    With each trip I take, I make it a point to bring home cultural souvenirs -- gold nuggets of experiences I'll remember all my life. Whether it's sitting and talking with a Muslim at the Great Mosque of Granada in Spain, waving a flag at an Irish hurling match, or getting naked with Germans at a spa in Baden-Baden, it's experiences like these that give each trip that extra sparkle.

  • Chic and classy Milan

    November 19, 2013

    They say that for every church in Rome, there's a bank in Milan. The economic success of postwar Italy can be attributed, at least in part, to this city of bankers, publicists and pasta power-lunchers.

  • York, a time travel experience into old England

    November 12, 2013

    We have New York, but England has old York, one of the country's top tourist destinations outside of London. The town offers a captivating tour of historic sites mixed with an easygoing pedestrian ambience — all lassoed within its formidable medieval wall.

  • Flying Europe's low-cost airlines

    November 5, 2013

    These days "budget European travel" includes point-to-point flights within Europe. When I started traveling, no one spending their own money bought one-way air tickets within Europe. It was prohibitively expensive. Nowadays, before buying any long-distance train or bus ticket, I look into flying, and routinely, it's cheaper to fly than to make the trip on the ground — especially when you consider all the advantages of flying.

  • Warming up to Iceland

    October 29, 2013

    Iceland is trendy these days. Its powerful loneliness and mighty features can be ideal for exotic film locations — so parts of "Game of Thrones," "Batman Begins," "Prometheus," and the upcoming "Noah" were filmed here. Some of my readers have been nagging me to add it to our guidebooks and tours. But until this summer, I'd never visited.

  • Seville: A perpetual fiesta

    October 22, 2013

    Seville, the capital of Spain's southern Andalucia region, is as soulful a place as I've ever been. It's a wonderful-to-be-alive kind of town, buzzing with festivals, heat, color, guitars and castanets.

  • Orvieto — what an Italian hill town should be

    October 8, 2013

    Orvieto is one of the most striking, memorable and enjoyable hill towns in central Italy. Less than 90 minutes from Rome, Orvieto sits majestically high above the valley floor atop a big chunk of "tufo" volcanic stone, overlooking cypress-dotted Umbrian plains. A visit here will reward you with a delightful, perfectly preserved and virtually traffic-free world highlighted by a colorful-inside-and-out cathedral and some of Italy's best wine.

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