The best and worst of Europe
Norway’s Stavanger, famous for nearby fjords and its status as an oil boomtown, is a large port that’s about as thrilling as...well, put it this way: Emigrants left it in droves to move to the wilds of Minnesota. Your time is better spent at Sognefjord, Norway’s most spectacular fjord. The most boring countryside is Sweden’s (yes, I'm Norwegian).
Europe's most scenic train ride is the Glacier Express across southern Switzerland. The most scenic boat ride is from Stockholm to Helsinki — countless islands and blondes. Europe's most underrated sight is Rome's ancient seaport, Ostia Antica, and its most misunderstood wine is Portugal's vinho verde (green wine).
Honeymooners should try these tiny towns: Beilstein on Germany's Mosel River; Hallstatt on Austria's Lake Hallstatt; Varenna on Italy's Lake Como; Ærøskøbing on an island in south Denmark; and Gimmelwald, high in the Swiss Alps.
The most pleasing French château is Vaux-le-Vicomte, near Paris. The best Gothic interior is found in Paris' Sainte-Chapelle church. The top two medieval castle interiors are Germany's Burg Eltz on the Mosel River, and northern Italy's Reifenstein. Lisbon, Oslo, Stockholm, Brussels, and Budapest are Europe's most underrated big cities.
I'll close with a lightning round of "ultimates" (what travel writer can resist?): the ultimate medieval walled town in Germany (Rothenburg), prehistoric stone fortress in Ireland (Dún Aenghus), Riviera port town (Vernazza), hike in England's Lake District (Catbells above Keswick), neighborhood pub in London (The Anglesea Arms), castle in North Wales (nope, I still can't pick just one)...and pedestrian market street in Paris (Rue Cler).
Having stuck my neck out to say all this, I must add that it's always fun — and necessary — to reassess opinions (mine have certainly changed over the years). These are just my personal feelings after more than 100 months of European travel. As you sort through these "bests" and "worsts," go ahead and disagree. Don't let any travel writer limit your freedom to find your own ultimates.
Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow his blog on Facebook.
News Photo Galleriesview all
- 90701Oklahoma weather: Severe storm updates
- 63579Oklahoma tornadoes: 'It took it all'
- 37826Oklahoma sucker-punched by second round of twisters
- 34889Oklahoma State football: Limiting Wes Lunt's transfer options makes Mike Gundy look bad
- 13810Oklahoma City tornado so large, may not be recognized, officials say
- 12671Oklahoma weather: Crews work to clear storm damage in Oklahoma City as the state braces for severe weather Sunday.
- 12126Several kids pulled out of Oklahoma school rubble alive