Rick Steves Travel Blog: Blog Gone Europe

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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Leaving the tranquility of the English countryside behind, London offers Christmas fun fit for a queen and streets twinkling with joy. This is the only time we’ve ever filmed with a sound technician. We knew music is a big part of Christmas, we’d be privileged to film at wonderful concerts throughout Europe, and we wanted to get the music just right. Our sound guys did a marvelous job, and music was a big part of the program (even giving us the bonus of a great Christmas CD as a souvenir).

If you can’t see the video below, watch it on YouTube.

You can watch my full hour-long Christmas special here.


Last weekend, we packed nearly our entire staff onto a party boat and sailed the Puget Sound for our annual Christmas party. The views were breathtaking…and so was the dancing. I just have to say, this holiday season, I’m thankful that I have a staff here at Rick Steves’ Europe that I enjoy taking out for a peaceful little dinner cruise (or even something a bit more upbeat). We’re letting our hair down here in the off-season, and ready for the best year ever for touring in 2015. Merry Christmas!



Merry Christmas! To celebrate the season, I’m sharing clips, extras and behind-the-scenes notes from Rick Steves’ European Christmas.

Writing the Rick Steves’ European Christmas script was a fun challenge, and I needed to tap my Europeans friends not just to be good tour guides, but to take us into their homes to be there with their families as they celebrated. England came through royally. Maddy Thomas (who runs my favorite minibus tours from Bath into the countryside) has a lovely family and delighted our crew with kindergartners singing in ancient churches, crusty blokes playing gruff Father Christmas, and an intimate afternoon with her kids and husband preparing the figgy pudding and mincemeat pies for a fairy-tale English Christmas.

If you can’t see the video below, watch it on YouTube.


Merry Christmas! To celebrate the season, I’m sharing clips, extras and behind-the-scenes notes from Rick Steves’ European Christmas.

While each European country gives Christmas its own special twist, they all follow the same story of how the son of God was born on earth, as told in the Bible and illustrated over the centuries by great artists. In this segment, we begin where the Christmas story does: with the Annunciation of Mary and the birth of Christ.

The tour guide in me was determined to cover the biblical story of Christmas while explaining related holidays and traditions and meeting the locals. Over the next few days, in this “12 Days of European Christmas” series, we’ll learn about Epiphany, Advent wreaths, the origin of St. Nicholas, the pagan roots of so many Christian traditions, and all those fascinating cultural differences. For example, German Christmas tree lots were just opening up on December 22, as most Germans don’t put up trees until Christmas Eve. We’ll celebrate the holiday with Umbrian peasants, trendy Norwegians, Victorian English, dirndl-clad Tiroleans, and Burgundian monks, all of whom contribute to how their community celebrates Christmas.

If you can’t see the video below, watch it on YouTube.



I have a lot of fun and rewarding projects on my desk – and one that I am particularly passionate about is our free app, “Rick Steves Audio Europe™.”

Why am I so in love with this thing? Because it’s packed with practical information (both self-guided audio tours of Europe’s greatest cities, galleries, and museums, and the very best of our radio interviews organized in country-specific playlists) that will make people’s trips more meaningful. It’s free. And tens of thousands of travelers are using it. Any time I drop into the Pantheon in Rome, St. Mark’s in Venice, or Versailles outside of Paris, I see travelers using our app. They’re having a great time immersed in the cultural wonder of the sight…and I am literally in their ear (my voice is anyway).

Each year we add to the material already available with Rick Steves Audio Europe, and last week we spliced in 26 new radio interviews.

Learn how to download the app (it’s free and easy) at www.ricksteves.com/audioeurope. It is such a treat for me to be able to interview such beautiful minds and inspirational travelers and an even bigger treat to be able to share these conversations (so beautifully edited by my radio production team) with you.

New radio interviews spliced into all the existing ones on the Rick Steves Audio Europe app include:


Britain (Beyond London): Isles of Britain, Scottish Hebrides, Scottish Secession: Before the Vote

Eastern Europe: Adriatic Coast, Albania, Prague’s Coronation Way

France (Beyond Paris): Discovery of France, French Riviera Highlights

France (Paris): French Impressionism, How Paris Became Paris, Paris Day Trips

General Europe: Class of 1500, European Education, European Media, Challenges for European Women

Germany/Austria: Swiss Mix, Walking Vienna

Greece/East Mediterranean: Greek Islands

Ireland: Faeries of Ireland

Italy: Italian Rails II, Italy – North vs. South II

Netherlands/Belgium: Amsterdam by Bike, Amsterdam Update

Portugal: Portugal’s Algarve

Spain: Live Like a Spaniard

Turkey: Cruising the Bosphorus


Each year, we host a tour guides’ summit for a week here in Seattle. About a hundred of our guides gather to train, brainstorm, and celebrate. Ideas — both great and crazy — are generated. Last year, our Turkish guides proposed my favorite idea: “Let’s host a Best of Turkey tour exclusively for the Rick Steves guides this winter!” I loved it. Our Turkish tour partners arranged the bus and hotels, and we subsidized it so it was really cheap for our guides. The first 25 guides to sign up were on. Needless to say, it sold out quickly.

Our 2014 Best of Turkey “Guides’ Tour” just wrapped up last week, and it was a huge success. But it was more than just fun. Our guides got to experience a country many of them didn’t know before (our Best of Turkey itinerary is one of my personal favorites), and they had the experience of actually being a tour member. Several are raving about the value of a professional guide actually following another guide in a new and at times overwhelming country for 13 days. We hope to make this an annual off-season vacation for our hardworking guides. Together in 2014, they successfully guided about 800 tours on 35 itineraries with 19,900 tour members. I think they deserve a chance to kick back and let someone else do the guiding for a change.

In these photos, you’ll see 25 Rick Steves’ guides (from 12 different countries) enjoying our Best of Turkey tour — riding balloons, sipping tea, getting a flaming shave (extremely close), sitting on a carpet in a mosque with an imam, exploring ancient sites, doing some sexy window shopping, trying out some woolen winter gear — all while following the expert guidance of Mert Taner.

If you are a Rick Steves tour alum, perhaps you can spot your own tour guide: Toni (France tours), Mark (England), Virginie (France), Tricia (Italy), Chris (France), Nina (Italy), Susanna (Spain), Daniela (Switzerland), Sarah (Italy), Jamie (Italy), Nina (Holland), Don (Italy), Andrea (Germany), Etelka (Czech Republic), Martin (France), Stephanie (Netherlands), Gillian (England), Virginia (Italy), Eszter (Estonia), Cary (Germany), Federico (Spain), Colin (Scotland), Nicole (Sweden), and Anastasia (Greece). Do you see your guide?

All of these guides — and about a hundred more — will converge on our offices next month as we kick off our 2015 season of tours. This annual event, a tour guide summit/tour alumni reunion/”Test Drive a Tour Guide” series of lectures, all happens the weekend of January 16-17. For all of the details, click here.

Guides selfie


(Photo: Bread for the World)

(Photo: Bread for the World)

Hooray! Together we beat our goal of raising $200,000 for Bread for the World. As promised, I’m matching your $100,000 of contributions. 

While the news these days seems to stress the bad, together this holiday season we’ve helped a lot of people. And that’s very good news.

As you know, I’m a fan of “advocacy” to complement charity. Advocacy is speaking up for the voiceless in the halls of power. Big shots (whether oligarchs in Moscow or industrialists in Washington DC) routinely shape the priorities of governments around the world. And, in a world with so much wealth yet with such a huge gap between the haves and have-nots, poor people struggle to be heard.

My hunch and hope was that this Christmas we could talk a thousand of you into joining me to raise money to help Bread for the World speak up for these voiceless in Washington DC. So far we’ve done even better, as well over a thousand of you have donated.

Collectively, you’ve raised $143,800 — exceeding my $100,000 match. And today I’ll fill out a personal check to Bread for the World for $100,000. Together we’ve raised $243,800 to empower Bread’s work.

Let’s see if we can hit the $250,000 mark — just 62 more of you are needed! (Please share this post with your friends.) There’s still time (until December 10) to join us and get your thank you gifts — our European Christmas three-pack (DVD, CD, and book) or my Travel as a Political Act book — before Christmas. Click here to join us!

Our initiative will help Bread for the World continue to maintain a “circle of protection” that shelters the neediest Americans from necessary cuts as we get our national budget in order.

By the way, my friends at Bread are thrilled with this, send their thanks, and share their determination to honor your gifts by working hard and smart to transform this contribution into effective action. To learn more about Bread’s impressive work, visit www.bread.org.

Giving like this in partnership with caring travelers like you makes my work even more gratifying than it already is. Thanks, Happy Holidays, and Merry Christmas to all.


In the 1980s, hotel sinks didn’t have stoppers in the drains. Why? To stop backpackers from washing their clothes in the room. To get around this, we produced a sink stopper (a little orange rubber mat about 4 inches across) with our hippie logo on it. Lay this in the bottom of your sink, and the water fills up so you can do your wash. sink-web

Back then, trying to be really efficient and personable at the same time, I photocopied a pile of postcards with my handwritten note thanking people for their feedback. It was by reacting to all that feedback that our company evolved to be what it is today. And for that, I thank all of you who plugged your sinks with the Europe Through the Back Door sink stopper, and wrote to us about both your travel needs and your travel dreams. Today, even though our lives are quite different, our mission remains the same: to help you travel better.

Happy travels!





We have just announced our crazy Black Friday blowout on our new Season 8 DVD set – all 12 shows plus our Holy Land DVD for $12.49. This is a huge savings and a great gift for any traveler on your list. 

The highlights for me are:

- Get up to date on Berlin, the fastest changing city in Europe.
- See the Cinque Terre, fully recovered after their devastating flood
- Delve into the amazing Dutch countryside — far from Amsterdam.
- Leave Europe for lots of powerful material in Turkey and the Middle East.

You’ll get both the joyful travel episodes on Israel and Palestine and the hour-long Holy Land special which takes you into the settlements, refugee camps, onto the Golan Heights, and much more and also comes with two hours of fascinating interviews with the most interesting people we met in Israel and Palestine.

And, you’ll get two entire episodes on Turkey (the meat of our popular Turkey tour.) That’s a lot of Turkey! Good news — you can just sit back and watch it — without having to eat it. Thanksgiving!

Don’t miss this exciting holiday DVD blowout with 7 hours of new programming, plus 2 hours of DVD extras!


Happy Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving I’m caught up in a fun little movement, inspired by Pope Francis, that we do more than just be thankful and pray for hungry people…but that we raise awareness and actually do something to fight hunger. And, as you may know, I’m a big fan of advocacy—encouraging our government to embrace programs that tackle poverty and hunger head on. (Just this last week we raised $250,000, with your help, to empower Bread for the World for this work — more on that in a future post.)

This fun little video clip is in response to a #ShareYourPlate challenge from Rev. David Beckmann (president of Bread for the World). I share this in hopes that you’ll share it with your network and perhaps make a cooking video or related photo of your own to help raise awareness of hunger during our annual festival of Thanksgiving. (Post your clip on Facebook or Twitter and tag it #ShareYourPlate.) This season I have lots to be thankful for — including your participation.