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

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Europe's powerful artistic experiences

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.

  • Conquering European bathrooms

    April 8, 2014

    European bathrooms can be quirky. Just keep an open mind, and remember that nothing beats a good bathroom story when you get home.

  • 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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