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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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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I’m in Portugal and just kicking off a great season of travel. It just makes me happy to be away from the media and into the arms of human reality — good people in distant lands, doing well. I don’t understand endorphins, but I think mine must be doing flip flops when I’m mixing it up with other cultures and other peoples. Someone gathered together twenty years of me having fun working in Europe in an amusing video clip. As you watch this, think of how the good in this world vastly overwhelms the bad. That’s something to be thankful for and to never forget.

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Rick Steves Europe Tours guide Sarah MurdochThis is the season of updating our guidebooks, and we’re committed to visiting each place in each book in person. Of course, with about 40 guidebooks covering all of Europe, that’s way too much for one person, so I have a team of hard-working travel experts in Europe with me fanning out to update each book. One of our top tour guides and researchers, Sarah Murdoch, writes a great travel blog (with a smart, woman’s take on real travel). I recommend checking out her recent “day in the life of a Rick Steves guidebook researcher” post.

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Every young child knows that it’s nice to share. But grown-up travelers find it fun, cost-effective, and educational, too.

One of my favorite travel splurges is hiring a local guide to show me their hometown. I find that a private guide helps me make the most of my time while enhancing my appreciation of a place. I recommend the best of these guides in my books. But I realize that not everybody can afford to hire their own guide for the day.

That’s why, a few years ago, I had the brainstorm to work with great guides to assemble “shared tours” for groups of my readers — letting good travelers split the cost of a great tour, and giving a great guide more work.

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The first place I tried this was in Sevilla, Spain, where Concepción Delgao and I worked together to come up with the perfect two-hour walking tour. For the last several years, Rick Steves readers have been happy to show up each morning at 10:30 (except Sundays…Concepción’s day off) and chip €15 apiece into the communal hat in exchange for a top-notch tour. Thousands of my readers have taken advantage of this…and Concepción couldn’t be happier.

Later, I teamed up with Annie Adair — an American expat married to an Italian — in the Tuscan hill town of Volterra. We created a similar tour that lets Annie and her colleague Claudia show off the best one-hour walk of Volterra for just €10 a head (meets Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings at 6:00 p.m., and Wednesday mornings at 12:30).When I was in Volterra last summer, I just had to check out how the tour was working. I met up with Claudia, as we explain in our book. It was a slow night, so we waited to see if the required-minimum three Rick Steves travelers would show up. Sure enough, at the stroke of 6, a family arrived for the tour…and we all enjoyed a great guided walk together.

Vincenzo, an ambitious entrepreneur based in Naples, runs Mondo Guide. I have long regretted that Naples, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast — three of Southern Italy’s best experiences — were so challenging to see on your own, but so expensive to do with a private guide. Vincenzo and I hatched a plan to offer shared tours, tailored for my readers, for these three itineraries. Vincenzo designed a website to make signing up easy, and for the last two years, thousands of my readers have had a better (and more cost-effective) experience in this part of Italy. New for 2016, Mondo has added two more shared tours for my readers: A private boat trip from Sorrento to the Isle of Capri (a romantic and efficient alternative to the crowded public ferries); and thoughtfully designed shore excursions for cruise passengers arriving in Naples and Salerno.

In each of these cases, shared tours are a win-win-win. My readers are happy because they get to split the cost of a talented local guide’s personal attention. The guides are happy because they get more business (and, they tell me, they find my readers great to work with). And I’m happy because everyone else is happy.

Helping travelers maximize their experience in Europe, while minimizing the cost, is our mission. Shared tours like these are just one of many ways we enjoy our work at Rick Steves’ Europe. Happy travels!

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I love how Europeans embrace their culture with such expertise, passion, and abandon. This quick video clip demonstrates what I mean: After a busy day of showing me around, my Portuguese guide, Alex Almeida, is up against a cork wall enjoying what she calls “heaven in a glass” — a 55-year-old white port. This is the kind of pure cultural joy we experience as we get to know different lands and different people. Thanks, Alex, for sharing what I’m sure is a life-long memory.

 


This is Day 2 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 just flew to Europe — as I have every year at this time since the 1980s — to kick off another spring of exploring, checking, learning, tasting, and sipping. This photo features an amazing plate of Portuguese taste treats — my “Welcome to Lisbon” meal  — at a new wine bar I discovered. Oh, baby, I’m in for some good eating the next couple of months!

Landing in Lisbon, I avoided the long line and aggressive cabbies at the arrivals level and (trying out a tip I share in my Portugal guidebook) went up to the departures curb…where I hopped into a cab just dropping off his passengers. He took me to my hotel for exactly what the meter read: €8 (about $10). Our dollar’s strong, and Lisbon is a deal — especially when you learn from your experience.

Starting today, I’ll be posting entries nearly daily for the next hundred or so days, reporting on my experiences and lessons learned. On this trip, I’ll be in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, and Romania, spending about two-thirds of that time alone researching my guidebooks, and the other third with my crew making new TV shows.

I hope you enjoy stowing away with me for a hundred posts in a hundred days. Please share this post with your traveling friends and let them know that 2016 promises to be a great year of travel. I’d love to have them come along, too.

Happy travels!

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From time to time, we share a random video clip to fuel your travel dreams. Join us today as we explore the art and architecture that was used as Soviet propaganda in East Berlin.

Watch my complete TV episode about Berlin on our website.

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