Lonely Planet Europe

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Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Europe is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Tour French chateaux, take boat trips to Greek beaches, hike past Bulgarian monasteries and glug Spanish wine; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Europe and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Europe Travel Guide:

  • Colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and 3-6 week itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, art, literature, cinema, landscapes
  • Useful features including Need to Know, If You Like, Month by Month
  • Over 200 maps
  • Covers Austria, Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scandinavia, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Europe is perfect for experiencing all the continent has to offer on a wide range of budgets.

  • Looking to make the most of your budget for a longer, multi-country trip? Check out Lonely Planet Europe on a shoestring, a comprehensive guide for connecting with the cultures and exploring both top sights and roads less travelled.
  • Looking for just the highlights? Check out Discover Europe, a photo-rich guide that focuses on the top experiences.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Alexis Averbuck, Carolyn Bain, Mark Baker, Kerry Christiani, Marc Di Duca, Peter Dragicevech, Mark Elliott, Steve Fallon, Emilie Filou, Duncan Garwood, Anthony Ham, Catherine Le Nevez, Jessica Lee, Tom Masters, Anja Mutic, Sally O'Brien, Becky Ohlsen, Simon Richmond, Andrea Schulte-Peevers, Tamara Sheward, Helena Smith, Andy Symington, Luke Waterson and Neil Wilson.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

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Albania

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Albania has natural beauty in such abundance that you might wonder why it's taken a full 20 years for the country to take off as a tourist destination after the end of a particularly brutal strain of communism in 1991. So backward was Albania when it emerged blinking into the bright light of freedom that it needed two decades just to catch up with the rest of Eastern Europe. Now that it arguably has done so, Albania offers a remarkable array of unique attractions, not least due to this very isolation: ancient mountain behaviour codes, forgotten archaeological sites and villages where time seems to have stood still are all on the menu. With its stunning mountain scenery, a thriving capital in Tirana and beaches to rival anywhere else in the Mediterranean, Albania has become the sleeper hit of the Balkans. But hurry here, as word is well and truly out.

AJun Enjoy the perfect Mediterranean climate and deserted beaches.

AAug Albania's beaches may be packed, but this is a great time to explore the mountains.

 

Austria

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For such a small country, Austria has made it big. This is, after all, the land where Mozart was born, Strauss taught the world to waltz and Julie Andrews grabbed the spotlight with her twirling entrance in The Sound of Music. This is where the Habsburgs built their 600-year empire, and where past glories still shine in the resplendent baroque palaces and chandelier-lit coffee houses of Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg. This is a perfectionist of a country and whatever it does – mountains, classical music, new media, castles, cake, you name it – it does exceedingly well.

Beyond its grandiose cities, Austria's allure lies outdoors. And whether you're schussing down the legendary slopes of Kitzbühel, climbing high in the Alps of Tyrol or pedalling along the banks of the sprightly Danube, you'll find the kind of inspiring landscapes that no well-orchestrated symphony, camera lens or singing nun could ever quite do justice to.

AJul & Aug Alpine hiking in Tyrol, lake swimming in Salzkammergut and lots of summer festivals.

 

Belarus

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Eastern Europe’s outcast, Belarus (Беларус) lies at the edge of the region and seems determined to avoid integration with the rest of the continent at all costs. Taking its lead from the Soviet Union rather than the European Union, this little-visited dictatorship may seem like a strange choice for travellers, but its isolation lies at the heart of its appeal.

While the rest of Eastern Europe has charged headlong into capitalism, Belarus allows the chance to visit a Europe with minimal advertising and no litter or graffiti. Outside the monumental Stalinist capital of Minsk, Belarus offers a simple yet pleasing landscape of cornflower fields, thick forests and picturesque villages. The country also offers two excellent national parks and is home to Europe’s largest mammal, the zoobr (or European bison). While travellers will always be subject to curiosity, they’ll also be on the receiving end of warm hospitality and genuine welcome.

AJun–Aug Come to Belarus to escape the crowds elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

 

Belgium & Luxembourg

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Stereotypes of comic books, chips and sublime chocolates are just the start in eccentric little Belgium, its self-deprecating people have quietly spent centuries producing some of Europe's finest art and architecture. Bilingual Brussels is the dynamic yet personable EU capital, but also sports what's arguably the world's most beautiful city square. Flat, Flemish Flanders has many other alluring medieval cities, all easily linked by regular train hops. In hilly, French-speaking Wallonia, the attractions are contrastingly rural – castle villages, outdoor activities and extensive cave systems. Independent Luxembourg, the EU's richest country, is compact and hilly with its own wealth of castle villages. The grand duchy's capital city is famed for banking but also sports a fairytale Unesco-listed historic old town. And from the brilliant beers of Belgium to the sparkling wines of Luxembourg's Moselle Valley, there's plenty to lubricate some of Europe's best dining. Welcome to the good life.

 

Bosnia & Hercegovina

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This craggily beautiful land retains some lingering scars from the heartbreaking civil war in the 1990s. But today visitors will more likely remember Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH) for its deep, unassuming human warmth and for the intriguing East-meets-West atmosphere born of fascinatingly blended Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian histories.

Major drawcards are the reincarnated antique centres of Sarajevo and Mostar, where rebuilt historical buildings counterpoint fashionable bars and wi-fi–equipped cafes. Fascinating Sarajevo is an architectural gem, with countless minarets amid the tile-roofed houses that rise steeply up its river flanks. Mostar is world famous for its extraordinary arc of 16th-century stone bridge, photogenically flanked by cute mill-house restaurants. The town is set at the heart of Hercegovina's sun-baked wine country, with waterfalls, a riverside sufi-house and an Ottoman fortress all nearby.

AApr–Jun & Oct Beat the heat, especially when exploring in Hercegovina from Mostar.

 

Britain

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Few places cram so much history, heritage and scenery into such a compact space as Britain. Twelve hours is all you'll need to travel from one end to the other, but you could spend a lifetime exploring – from the ancient relics of Stonehenge and Avebury, to the great medieval cathedrals of Westminster and Canterbury, and the magnificent country houses of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard.

In fact, Britain isn't really one country at all, but three. While they haven't always been easy bedfellows, the contrasts between England, Wales and Scotland make this a rewarding place to visit. With a wealth of rolling countryside, stately cities, world-class museums and national parks to explore, Britain really is one of Europe's most unmissable destinations. And despite what you may have heard, it doesn't rain all the time – but even so, a umbrella and a raincoat will certainly come in handy.

AEaster–May Fewer crowds, especially in popular spots like Bath, York and Edinburgh.

 

Bulgaria

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There’s a lot to love about Bulgaria: just ask the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Turks, all of whom fought to claim it as their own. Billed as the oldest nation on the continent – it preceded ancient Greece by at least 1500 years – Bulgaria is rich with ancient treasure: stories abound of locals planting gardens only to have them ripped up by archaeologists after a turn of the spade unearthed priceless antiquities. The past has been preserved to remarkable effect; everything from Thracian tombs and Hellenic hoards to Roman ruins and medieval fortresses are easily accessible.

Centuries later, this Balkan beauty still beguiles, with a come-hither coastline, voluptuous mountain ranges and lush, fertile valleys laden with vines and roses. Plovdiv is the European Capital of Culture for 2019, Sofia has cool cred to rival any major metropolis, and the lively resorts of the Black Sea coast teem with modern-day pleasure pilgrims.

AFeb Pop your cork at Melnik's Golden Grape Festival.

 

Croatia

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If your Mediterranean fantasies feature balmy days by sapphire waters in the shade of ancient walled towns, Croatia is the place to turn them into reality.

The extraordinary Adriatic coastline, speckled with 1244 islands and strewn with historic towns, is Croatia’s main attraction. The standout is Dubrovnik, its remarkable Old Town ringed by mighty defensive walls. Coastal Split showcases Diocletian’s Palace, one of the world’s most impressive Roman monuments, where dozens of bars, restaurants and shops thrive amid the old walls. In the heart-shaped peninsula of Istria, Rovinj is a charm-packed fishing port with narrow cobbled streets. The Adriatic isles hold much varied appeal, from glitzy Hvar Town on its namesake island to the secluded naturist coves of the Pakleni Islands just offshore.

Away from the coast, Zagreb, Croatia’s lovely capital, has a booming cafe culture and art scene, while Plitvice Lakes National Park offers a verdant maze of turquoise lakes and cascading waterfalls.

 

Czech Republic

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Since the fall of communism in 1989 and the opening up of Central and Eastern Europe, Prague has evolved into one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations. The city offers an intact medieval core that transports you back 500 years. The 14th-century Charles Bridge, traversing two historic neighbourhoods, is one of the continent’s most beautiful sights. The city is not just about history. It’s a vital urban centre with a rich array of cultural offerings. Outside the capital, castles and palaces abound – including the audacious hilltop chateau at Český Krumlov – which illuminate the stories of powerful dynasties whose influence was felt throughout Europe.

AMay Prague comes alive with festivals from classical music to fringe arts.

AJul Karlovy Vary shows off its arty side at the sleepy spa town’s annual film festival.

ADec Prague's Christmas Market draws visitors from around the world.

 

Denmark

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Denmark is the bridge between Scandinavia and northern Europe. To the rest of Scandinavia, the Danes are chilled, frivolous party animals, with relatively liberal, progressive attitudes. Their culture, food, architecture and appetite for conspicuous consumption owe as much, if not more, to their German neighbours to the south than to their former colonies (Sweden, Norway and Iceland) to the north.

Packed with intriguing museums, shops, bars, nightlife and award-winning restaurants, Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, is one of the hippest, most accessible cities in Europe. And while Danish cities such as Odense and Aarhus harbour their own urbane drawcards, Denmark’s other chief appeal lies in its photogenic countryside, sweeping coastline and historic sights.

AJun & Jul Long days, buzzing beachside towns, Copenhagen Jazz and A-list rock fest Roskilde.

ASep & Oct Fewer crowds, golden landscapes and snug nights by crackling open fires.

 

Estonia

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Estonia doesn’t have to struggle to find a point of difference; it’s completely unique. It shares a similar geography and history with Latvia and Lithuania, but it’s culturally very different. Its closest ethnic and linguistic buddy is Finland, yet although they both may love to get naked together in the sauna, 50 years of Soviet rule have separated the two. For the past 300 years Estonia has been linked to Russia, but the two states have as much in common as a barn swallow and a bear (their respective national symbols).

In recent decades, and with a new-found confidence, Estonia has crept from under the Soviet blanket and leapt into the arms of Europe. The love affair is mutual: Europe has fallen for the chocolate-box allure of Tallinn and its Unesco-protected Old Town, while travellers seeking something different are tapping into Estonia's captivating blend of Eastern European and Nordic appeal.

AApr & May See the country shake off winter’s gloom.

 

Finland

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There’s something pure, vital and exciting in the Finnish air; an invitation to get out and active year-round. How about a post-sauna dip through the ice, under the majestic aurora borealis (Northern Lights), after whooshing across the snow behind a team of huskies, for an inspiring winter's day? Hiking or canoeing under the midnight sun through pine forests populated by wolves and bears isn’t your typical tanning-oil summer either.

Although socially and economically in the vanguard of nations, large parts of Finland remain gloriously remote; trendsetting modern Helsinki is counterbalanced by vast forested wildernesses.

Nordic peace in lakeside cottages, summer sunshine on convivial beer terraces, avant-garde design, dark melodies and cafes with home-baking aromas are other facets of Suomi seduction. As are the independent, loyal and welcoming Finns, who do their own thing and are much the better for it.

AMar–Apr There’s still plenty of snow, but enough daylight to enjoy winter sports.

 

France

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France has so much to entice travellers – renowned gastronomy, iconic sights, splendid art heritage, a fabulous outdoors. You could sample it all in a week, but you'll invariably feel as though you've only scratched the surface of this big country.

Visiting France is certainly about seeing the big sights, but it's just as much about savouring life's little pleasures: a stroll through an elegant city square, a coffee on a sunny pavement terrace, a meal that lasts well into the afternoon or night, a scenic drive punctuated with photo stops and impromptu farm or vineyard visits. The French are big on their art de vivre (art of living) and you should embrace it too.

ADec–Mar Christmas markets in Alsace, snow-packed action in the Alps and truffles in the south.

AApr–Jun France at springtime best, with good weather and no crowds.

ASep Cooling temperatures, abundant local produce and the vendange (grape harvest).

 

Germany

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Prepare for a roller coaster of feasts, treats and temptations as you take in Germany's soul-stirring scenery, spirit-lifting culture, old and bold architecture, big-city beauties, romantic castles and towns with half-timbered buildings.

Few countries have had as much impact on the world as Germany, which has given us the printing press, the automobile, aspirin and MP3 technology. This is the birthplace of Martin Luther, Albert Einstein and Karl Marx, of Bach, Beethoven, the Brothers Grimm and other heavyweights who have left their mark on human history.

Germany's story-book landscapes will also likely leave an even bigger imprint on your memories. There's something undeniably artistic in the way the scenery unfolds from the windswept maritime north to the off-the-charts splendour of the Alps. As much fun as it may be to rev up the engines on the autobahn, do slow down to better appreciate this complex and fascinating country.

AJun–Aug Warm summers cause Germans to shed their clothes; night never seems to come.

 

Greece Ελλάδα

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The alluring combination of history and ravishing beauty that has made Greece one of the most popular destinations on the planet always seems to beckon. Within easy reach of magnificent archaeological sites such as the Acropolis, Delphi, Delos and Knossos are breathtaking beaches and relaxed tavernas serving everything from ouzo to octopus. Hiking trails criss-cross Mt Olympus, the Zagorohoria and islands like Crete and Corfu.

Wanderers can island-hop to their heart's content (each island has its own character), while party types can enjoy pulsating nightlife in Greece's vibrant modern cities and on islands such as Mykonos and Santorini. Add welcoming locals with an enticing culture to the mix and it's easy to see why most visitors head home vowing to come back. Travellers to Greece inevitably end up with a favourite site they long to return to – get out there and find yours.

AMay & Jun Greece opens the shutters in time for Orthodox Easter; the best months to visit.

 

Hungary

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Hungary is just the place to kick off a European adventure. Lying virtually in the centre of the continent, this land of Franz Liszt and Béla Bartók, paprika-lashed dishes, superb wines and the romantic Danube River continues to enchant visitors. The allure of Budapest, once an imperial city, is immediate at first sight, and it also boasts the hottest nightlife in the region. Other cities, too, like Pécs, the warm heart of the south, and Eger, the wine capital of the north, have much to offer travellers, as does the sprawling countryside, particularly the Great Plain, where cowboys ride and cattle roam. And where else can you laze about in an open-air thermal spa while snow patches glisten around you? That’s at Hévíz at the western edge of Lake Balaton, continental Europe’s largest lake and Hungary’s 'inland sea’, which offers innumerable opportunities for rest and recreation. In Hungary you'll find all the excitement and fun of Western Europe – at half the cost.

AMay Spring is in full swing, meaning reliable weather, cool temperatures and flowers.

 

Iceland

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The energy is palpable on this magical island, where astonishing natural phenomena inspire the welcoming, creative locals and draw an increasing number of visitors in search of its untrammelled splendour. A vast volcanic laboratory, here the earth itself is restless and alive. Admire thundering waterfalls, glittering glaciers carving their way to black-sand beaches, explosive geysers, rumbling volcanoes and contorted lava fields.

In summer, permanent daylight energises the already zippy inhabitants of Iceland’s quaint capital, Reykjavík, with its wonderful cafe and bar scene. Fashion, design and music are woven into the city’s fabric, and the museums are tops. In winter, with luck, you may see the Northern Lights shimmering across the sky. Year-round, though, adventure tours abound, getting you up close and personal with sights and sounds that will stay with you for life.

AMay & Jun Prime birdwatching season happily coincides with the two driest months and fewer crowds.

 

Ireland

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Few countries have an image so plagued by cliché. From shamrocks and shillelaghs (Irish fighting sticks) to leprechauns and loveable rogues, there's a plethora of platitudes to wade through before you reach the real Ireland.

But it's well worth looking beyond the tourist tat, for the Emerald Isle is one of Europe's gems, a scenic extravaganza of lakes, mountains, sea and sky. From picture-postcard County Kerry to the rugged coastline of Northern Ireland (part of the UK, distinct from the Republic of Ireland), there are countless opportunities to get outdoors and explore, whether cycling the Causeway Coast or hiking the hills of Killarney and Connemara.

There are cultural pleasures too in the land of Joyce and Yeats, U2 and the Undertones. Dublin, Cork and Belfast all have world-class art galleries and museums, while you can enjoy foot-stomping traditional music in the bars of Galway and Killarney. So push aside the shamrocks and experience the real Ireland.

ALate Mar Spring flowers everywhere, landscape is greening, St Patrick's Day festivities beckon.

 

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