Rick Steves' Europe Supplemental
This article appears in our Online Edition, December 2019
Hiding in a distant wing of Vienna's crowded Hofburg Palace, the Albertina Museum's 19th-century state rooms are usually empty. Photo by Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli

Seeing the top sights in Europe's big cities can be intense. It's hot, it's crowded, and your dream of having a quiet moment with the Mona Lisa is shared by around six million people every year.

The mission of my most recent trip to Europe was finding peace and tranquility in big cities that, in many ways, feel overrun with tourists. And it's surprisingly easy to do.

Many travelers stick to the most famous sights -- and I don't blame them...

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Rick Steves' Europe Supplemental
This article appears in our Online Edition, December 2019
Travelers who visit Paris in winter get to experience a less congested, more European Europe. Photo by Sandra Hundacker

Every time I travel to Europe in the off-season, I find myself enjoying a cool and comfy tranquility -- and not missing the heat and crowds that so often come with peak season. But even more than that, I enjoy catching Europe by surprise -- at its candid best, living everyday life. When I travel outside of the tourist season, Europe seems even more welcoming than normal.

Some of my warmest European memories have been gained while wearing a sweater in the...

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Rick Steves' Europe Supplemental
This article appears in our Online Edition, December 2019
The picture-perfect setting of the Cinque Terre villages (in this case, Riomaggiore) draws millions of tourists annually. Photo by Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli

When I first came to the Cinque Terre, then an isolated stretch of the Italian Riviera south of Genoa, it was a classic "back door": a string of five pastel-hued hamlets, gently and steadily carving a good life out of difficult seaside terrain. It was authentic, romantic, and without a tourist in sight. Fast-forward several decades ... and the once-sleepy villages are now on Instagram bucket lists and mobbed in high season by organized tours and cruise-ship excursions.

...

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Rick Steves' Europe
This article appears in our Print Edition, December 2019 -- Page 47
Coimbra University’s King João's Library, in Portugal, has a spectacular ceiling and is one of Europe’s best surviving Baroque libraries. Photo by Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli

When touring any city, it’s fun to drop in on the local university. But in Europe, universities can be essential sightseeing, as some are home to great architectural, artistic and cultural treasures.

• One of Europe’s top university sights is the Book of Kells, tucked away in the library of the venerable Trinity College in DUBLIN. This famous illuminated manuscript is a 1,200-year-old version of the four Gospels, elaborately inked and meticulously illustrated by...

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Rick Steves' Europe Supplemental
This article appears in our Online Edition, November 2019
St. Michael's Gate in Bratislava's old town is the last surviving tower of the city wall. Photo by Cameron Hewitt

Strung along the Danube River, three capital cities -- Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest -- make up a triangle of enjoyable urbanity at the heart of central Europe. Each of these capital cities shares a common Habsburg history, and thanks to their proximity -- only one or two hours apart by train -- combining all three into one trip is a breeze.

Vienna ranks at the top of my list of elegant European cities. Once the capital of the mighty Habsburg...

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Rick Steves' Europe Supplemental
This article appears in our Online Edition, November 2019
The Capuchin Crypt in Palermo, Sicily, displays mummified bodies - complete with clothing intended to remind the living that life is temporary. Photo by Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli

With Halloween and All Souls' Day approaching, I'd like to spook you with some of my favorite European cemeteries and crypts. Over the years, I've popped into a lot of burial grounds -- some peaceful and scenic, some eerie and evocative -- with all revealing compelling stories of the past. Some high-profile places -- such as the catacombs in Rome or Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris -- get a lot of press, so I've listed some...

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Rick Steves' Europe Supplemental
This article appears in our Online Edition, November 2019
Florence offers plenty of engaging cooking classes. After cooking your meal, you'll get to feast on your fresh creations. Photo by Rick Steves

Sampling Italian cuisine is sightseeing for your palate. The tour plan: Start with fresh ingredients and talented cooks, mix in a city's personality, and add a happy dining crowd. Experiencing Italy's cafés, cuisine, and wines is a joy, and in the heart of Tuscany, Florence offers a particularly satisfying spread.

Tuscan cuisine is hearty and simple farmer's food: grilled meats, high-quality seasonal vegetables, fresh herbs, prized olive oil, and...

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Rick Steves' Europe Supplemental
This article appears in our Online Edition, November 2019
The church inside Tomar's Convento de Cristo, designed at the height of Portugal's sea power, is covered with elaborate motifs. Photo by Rick Steves

With a rich culture, friendly people, affordable prices, and a salty setting on the edge of Europe, Portugal understandably makes a rewarding destination for travelers. Bustling Lisbon and the sunny Algarve coast are well known to tourists (for good reason), but quieter places also offer tantalizing tastes of Portuguese flavor.

About 90 miles northeast of Lisbon, just east of the pilgrimage site of Fátima, is lushly green Tomar -- a quaint town of about...

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