Haggling Over Pyramid Ratings in Our Guidebooks

Our guidebooks have been evolving with annual updates since the first edition of Europe Through the Back Door in 1980. I’m in the midst of month three of my annual four months of guidebook research. But even with four focused months of travel annually, I can’t begin to cover all our chapters. Now I have the joy of a trusted team of writers and researchers that help us meet our goal of covering all of Europe with the best and most lovingly updated guidebooks in print.

Lots of my favorite places have been favorites for literally decades, and we need to constantly reconsider old loves. Last week, I received this thoughtful email from my valued co-author and lead researcher, Cameron Hewitt, who recently returned from a trip to Germany and Britain. He suggested that I reconsider the number of stars (or “pyramids” in our jargon) I awarded to various sights. If you’ve seen our guidebooks, you know how this works:
Each sight gets a rating, from zero pyramids to three pyramids (Δ Δ Δ). As we explain in our books, these ratings mean the following:

Δ Δ Δ  Don’t miss

Δ Δ   Try hard to see

Δ   Worthwhile if you can make it

zero Δ Worth knowing about

These pyramids (like Michelin stars) are carefully and sparingly awarded. They have a real impact on travelers’ itinerary priorities, and we take them very seriously. I agreed with all of Cameron’s suggestions. And, for the upcoming 2014 editions, we have added or subtracted stars for these sights for the reasons explained.



5 Replies to “Haggling Over Pyramid Ratings in Our Guidebooks”

  1. My wife and I were in York last year and were perplexed by the Castle Museum’s high rating. Within 5 minutes I literally felt that the only thing worse than paying so much for admission was feeling compelled to see the rest of the displays. Unfortunately, my wife didn’t share my perspective so too much valuable time was wasted. I think giving it even one pyramid is too generous.

  2. My wife and I also went to the York Castle Museum and were both totally unimpressed. I agree it should only be one pyramid. Two is way too generous.

  3. I have traveled to Rothenburg twice with friends and family. I understand the change in ratings for the attractions listed above. I hope that your readers don’t misunderstand and think that Rothenburg is losing its appeal. Whenever my travel group gets together we often talk about our stay and what a wonderful city Rothenburg is to explore. The city is very beautiful and charming. It’s almost magical. I like to schedule Rothenburg between 2 busy tourist stops. It’s a great place to recharge with just enough things to see but at a leisurely pace. The last time we visited the Imperial City Museum which we thought was actually under rated in your guidebook. At any rate, Rothenburg is a do not miss destination. I highly recommend to stay at a hotel with the walled city, evening strolls after dinner or with the Night Watchman are wonderful.

  4. Totally agree with your downgrade of the York history museum. It was a puzzlement to us why you had stressed it, after we raced to get there in time to see it. While the rest of York is as interesting as you say in urging a visit to the city, I would add Castle Howard and maybe one of the nearby ruined abbeys.

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