Rick Steves' Travel Blog

I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

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We hear so much about Europe’s problems. Traveling here, I see its successes. Spain, with one of the most miserable economies in Europe, is now laced together by bullet trains so good that you hardly need to fly. Here’s a quick peek at the ride from Madrid to Barcelona — nonstop with speeds ranging from 250 to 300 kilometers per hour (around 180 mph). It’s so nice to zip from downtown to downtown without having to deal with airports in 2.5 hours. And my train ticket included subway rides on either end, which made it even better. On the plain in Spain, the AVE train puts you in the fast lane. (You may want to turn up the volume for this video — I’m whispering so I don’t disturb slumbering passengers.)


This is Day 11 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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My Spanish friends just love croquettes — croquetas in Spanish. To me they taste like soggy tater tots. But at Madrid’s Restaurante Palacio de Cibeles, when restaurateur Javier and tour guide Javier share with me their love for these morsels (and a little historic/cultural context), they suddenly become much tastier. As Javier reminds us: Life is good — especially with good food and good friends.


This is Day 10 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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Walking down Madrid’s delightful pedestrian boulevard enjoying the paseo with my local guide, Nygil Murrel, I learn some fun insights about Spain’s capital city.


This is Day 9 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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You know I love industrial-age market halls rejuvenated into trendy food circuses. Come along with me as I follow local Madrid guide, Nygil Murrel, on an appetizing stroll from cod, cheese, ham, and olives to “Spanish” French toast for dessert. We hear a lot about the struggling Spanish economy but here in the capital city, all I feel is energy.

 


This is Day 8 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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Fun phrases survive from the un-fun days of Spain’s fascist dictator, Francisco Franco. Standing in front of Madrid’s Royal Palace, local guide Nygil Murrel explains to me that, when a Spaniard suggests playing dumb to get away with something, he or she says you should “make yourself a Swede.”


This is Day 7 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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I love how you can return to a place in different seasons and in different weather, and it refreshes itself endlessly. Among my guides and researchers, Cameron Hewitt (co-author of many Rick Steves guidebooks) is evangelical about Slovenia. As if to make believers out of those who don’t fully appreciate what he considers the most under-appreciated corner of Europe, Cameron has put together an amazing collection of photos of one lake over 15 years. Check out Slovenia’s Lake Bled through the seasons on his blog now.

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By the way, if you enjoy Cameron’s take on Europe, be sure to “like” his Facebook page — he’s heading off to Europe in a couple of days and will be reporting from Italy’s Cinque Terre and Dolomites, Salzburg, and the Austrian Alps before meeting up with me and our TV crew in Bulgaria and Romania. Don’t miss out on Cameron’s keen insights.

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I’ve long wondered if royalty makes any sense in the 21st century and how modern Spaniards could embrace a king in 2016. Here, with my Madrid guide, Cristina, I share a few lessons she taught me.


This is Day 6 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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My favorite new eating place in Lisbon is a market turned into a food circus for foodies. The venerable Mercado da Ribeira hosts the Time Out Market. Here’s a quick stroll through a fun selection of fine places for a budget meal. You can enjoy €10 plates here with enthusiastic locals.

For a sneak peek at the 2017 edition of Rick Steves Portugal, here’s my guidebook writeup:

Gourmet Food Circus Mercado da Ribeira (a.k.a. Time Out Market): The big news on Lisbon’s eating scene is the transformation of the traditional farmers market at Cais do Sodré into a gourmet food circus. The boisterous and venerable market survives in one half of the industrial-age, iron-and-glass market hall, while the other half has been taken over by Time Out Magazine, which has invited a couple dozen quality restaurants to open stalls here. The produce and fish market is open from 7:00 to 13:00 (closed Sunday and no fish Monday), and the restaurants are open daily from 12:00 to 24:00. Join the young, trendy, hungry, and thirsty crowd grazing among a wide variety of options. Groups can split up to order and then share a table in the center — food-circus style. The north wall is a row of stalls run by five big-name Lisbon chefs (well worth consideration — enticing dinner plates for €10) but enjoy surveying the entire market: Honorato (fine burgers), O Prego da Peixaria (fish and steak sandwiches), Sea Me (famous for seafood), Aloma (in the west outer aisle for the best pastries), and Santini (the venerable Portuguese Italian ice cream). Get wine and beer from separate stalls in the center. You may find affordable percebes (barnacles) at several seafood stalls. Eating here on disposable plates and at long, noisy picnic tables is far from romantic, but the quality and prices are great. Mercado da Ribeira (like many locals, I resist calling this historic market by its new “Time Out” name) is conveniently served by the Metro (Cais do Sodré stop), tram 15E, and a ten-minute walk from Praça do Comércio. If heading to Belém, it’s a convenient stop before or after. If here for dinner, the crazy Pink Street lined with clubs and bars is lively late and just two blocks inland.

 


This is Day 5 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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Just as I was an expert picnicker as a young backpacker, I’m realizing older backpackers — who are packing a little extra taste and money — find themselves seeking out wine-bar “picnics,” delightful plates of fine local cheeses and meats to match the local wine. Wine bars are popular all over Mediterranean Europe these days. Here’s a video clip of one I really enjoyed in Lisbon. And, for a sneak peek at the 2017 edition of my Rick Steves Portugal guidebook, see the listing below. (I’ve added the listing for a wonderful new bakery that only serves the favorite local custard pie — which is two blocks away and provides a great and cheap capper to your “foodie’s picnic.”)

Lisbon Winery Wine Bar and Tapas is a new and casual little hole-in-the-wall with a passion for the best wines, cheeses, and meats — finger food served on a slab of wood or slate with a thoughtful explanation. Along with its quality local ingredients, it has cork walls, a 500-year-old cistern under glass flooring, and fado music playing; it’s a perfect storm of Portuguese culture. Alex, a sommelier, is evangelical about the wide variety of Portuguese wines and ports he serves and how they complement the tasty ingredients. Just tell him your budget and he’ll work within it. I recommend two people pay €20 each for a complete array of cheeses, meats, and wines (daily 12:00-24:00, Rua da Barroca 13 in Bairro Alto, tel. 218-260-132, www.lisbonwinery.com). Cap your experience by tossing a cork into the cistern.

Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata is simply the best place in town for Pastel de Nata — everyone’s favorite local pastry. The key here: they only serve one treat and constantly churn the lovable little €1 custard pies out of the oven. You eat it not reheated warm…but original “hot-out-of-the-oven” warm. While here, enjoy a look at the busy little kitchen (on Rua Loreto just off Praça Camões, daily until 24:00).

 


This is Day 4 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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From time to time, we share a random video clip to fuel your travel dreams. Join us today as we take an afternoon stroll down Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Street.

Watch my complete TV episode about Israel for free on my website.

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