My co-author and frequent collaborator, Cameron Hewitt, is well-traveled, smart, and insightful. And, while he and I are in perfect sync in our travel styles and priorities, he gives voice to the next generation of "Rick Steves travelers." Join me in enjoying his reports right here. —Rick

2019 Discovery: Berlin’s Kreuzberg, Germany

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Crowds got you down? This post is part of a series of 10 European Discoveries for 2019 — off-the-beaten-path gems where you can escape the tourist rut and find a corner of Europe all your own.

Kreuzberg has long been known as Berlin’s “Turkish immigrant neighborhood.” But it’s also so much more. Once surrounded on three sides by the Berlin Wall — ground zero for squatters, draft dodgers, punks, and protesters — Kreuzberg is now at the vanguard of Berlin gentrification. Wall? What wall?

Chasing down leads for our Rick Steves Berlin guidebook, I discovered that Kreuzberg is made up of many micro-neighborhoods called Kieze, each with its own distinct personality. Ride the U-Bahn to Kottbusser Tor (“Kotti” to Berliners) on a Tuesday or Friday and stroll to the riverside Turkish Market, a commotion of sights, sounds, and smells reminiscent of an Istanbul bazaar: vibrant rugs, piles of olives, aromatic teas, and sizzling food carts, along with everyday items like clothes and kitchenware. From there, simply explore.

Just across the canal, the Graefekiez lives at the perfect intersection of foodie, yuppie, and affordable; the nearby Paul-Lincke-Ufer embankment is home to some of Berlin’s most cutting-edge restaurants. A few blocks away, Markthalle Neun is Berlin’s super-trendy food hall, with stalls selling gourmet tapas, tofu sandwiches, and Berlin-style meatballs (Buletten). The Bergmannkiez features a swanky shopping zone, a lively market hall, and famous Gemüse Kebab and Currywurst stands with lines around the block. And the Wrangelkiez is jammed with creative bars and restaurants, from microbrews to traditional Georgian food.

You could have a fun and varied visit to Berlin without ever leaving Kreuzberg.


The second edition of our Rick Steves Berlin guidebook — hot off the press —includes a brand-new self-guided walking tour of Kreuzberg.

For nine more suggestions on where to get away from the crowds, check out my 10 European Discoveries for 2019.

2019 Discovery: Isle of Skye, Scotland

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Crowds got you down? This post is part of a series of 10 European Discoveries for 2019 — off-the-beaten-path gems where you can escape the tourist rut and find a corner of Europe all your own.

Most visitors to the Scottish Highlands do a predictable two- or three-day loop, hitting Inverness, Loch Ness, Glencoe, Oban, and maybe a few Outlander sights. But adding another couple of days buys you time for dramatically scenic, fun-to-explore Skye. While not quite “undiscovered,” the Isle of Skye demands — and rewards — a little extra effort to reach.

Settle into the village of Portree, with its rainbow-painted harbor, and use it as a home base for road-tripping across the isle. The Trotternish Peninsula, with dragon’s-tooth mossy mountains that have inspired sci-fi movies, is speckled with sleepy crofting communities whose humble stone cottages face million-dollar sea views. Talisker Distillery offers tours and dispenses peaty drams of whisky. Dunvegan Castle provides an intimate peek inside the lived-in home of an aristocratic clan that’s seen better days. Peat bogs, iconic views of bald Scottish mountains, and hiking areas with names like “The Fairy Glen” and “The Fairy Pools” round out Skye’s appeal.

If I had to choose just one place to get an idyllic taste of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, Skye would win by a mile.


Planning a trip to Scotland? Here’s how to get ready:

1) Check out my top 10 tips for traveling in Scotland
2) Pick up a copy of our Rick Steves Scotland guidebook.
3) Watch Rick’s three brand-new TV episodes on Scotland: Glasgow and Scottish Passions, Scotland’s Highlands, and Scotland’s Islands.

And for nine more suggestions on where to get away from the crowds, check out my 10 European Discoveries for 2019.

2019 Discovery: The “Dutch Corridor”: Leiden, Delft, and Rotterdam, Netherlands

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Crowds got you down? This post is part of a series of 10 European Discoveries for 2019 — off-the-beaten-path gems where you can escape the tourist rut and find a corner of Europe all your own.

I love Amsterdam. But it’s a shame that so many travelers to the Netherlands visit only its most famous and hedonistic city. (Plus, Amsterdam has gotten so crowded that it’s becoming the poster child for “overtourism.”) Some of my favorite Dutch trips have used Amsterdam as a launch pad for touring a string of towns that line up just to the south.

Hop on the train at Amsterdam Centraal Station, and in about half an hour, you can hop off in Leiden — a charming, sleepy, historic university town that feels like Amsterdam without the tourist-baiting sleaze. Strolling Leiden’s dreamy canals, it’s easy to understand how this little burg could be called home by both Rembrandt and the Pilgrims (just before they shipped out to the New World).

Back on the train, and just 20 minutes later, you’re pulling into Delft — the hometown of Vermeer, exquisite blue pottery, and one of the biggest, stateliest squares in the Netherlands, crowned by the burial church of the Orange dynasty. Delft’s canals — wider and more workaday — are another fine place for a quintessential Dutch stroll.

And finally, just 10 minutes farther is Rotterdam — the urban, modernist counterpoint to time-passed Leiden and Delft. Rotterdam, constructed almost entirely after WWII, is the Dutch answer to Manhattan. Join an architectural bike tour to make sure you see all of Rotterdam’s wildly creative experimental architecture, from its unique “Cube Houses” development to the buildings nicknamed “The Pencil” and “The Manhole Cover”.

For a day — or several days — of Dutch contrasts, invest just one hour in riding this train from downtown Amsterdam.


Want to expand your horizons beyond Amsterdam? Be sure to check out this episode of Rick Steves’ Europe, and pick up a copy of the Rick Steves Amsterdam and Netherlands guidebook. (Or leave the planning to us, and explore the Low Countries on a Rick Steves tour.)

2019 Discovery: Ukraine

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Crowds got you down? This post is part of a series of 10 European Discoveries for 2019 — off-the-beaten-path gems where you can escape the tourist rut and find a corner of Europe all your own.

I visited Ukraine this year for the first time. Planning the trip felt like taking my medicine — one of the last big European countries to check off my list. But once I arrived, Ukraine was a revelation.

Lovely Lviv — with its cobbled old town, Baroque churches, thriving coffee culture, kitschy theme restaurants, and cozy main square — is a time capsule from a simpler age of tourism. It’s lively with Polish, German, and Ukrainian tourists…but virtually no Americans.

The capital, Kiev, feels like a more manageable, more colorful Moscow on a human scale — a mix of stately Soviet Gothic architecture, vibrant Art Nouveau townhouses, lush parks with stirring views, and gold-domed Orthodox churches on every corner. And from Kiev, it’s an easy day trip to one of the most powerful and thought-provoking sites anywhere in Europe: Chernobyl.

Throughout my visit, Ukraine continually surprised me with its shockingly low prices (a high-end dinner for two for $25, an Uber ride across town for $4), its unexpected sophistication, its sense of burgeoning national pride, and its fully-ready-for-prime-time confidence.

How can such a huge country (Europe’s second-biggest) be so overlooked by travelers? Beats me. But for now, I am more than happy to be in on this particular secret.


I recently shared this post about the experience of visiting Chernobyl, and I’ll be sharing more about Ukraine in the coming weeks. To make sure you don’t miss anything, be sure to follow me on Facebook — and check out my 10 European Discoveries for 2019 for nine more suggestions on where to get away from the crowds.

2019 Discovery: Lisbon’s Chiado District, Portugal

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Crowds got you down? This post is part of a series of 10 European Discoveries for 2019 — off-the-beaten-path gems where you can escape the tourist rut and find a corner of Europe all your own.

Exploring Lisbon recently to beef up the coverage in our Rick Steves Portugal guidebook, I was struck by the energy and bustle of this up-and-coming capital. But, like in a lot of popular cities, it seems that most of Lisbon’s tourists are concentrated in just a few small areas: the Baixa (the flat “downtown,” facing the harbor) and the Bairro Alto (the hilly “uptown,” with fado bars and nightclubs). Tucked right between these zones is a steep, upscale residential zone called the Chiado.

The Chiado swirls like a peaceful eddy, surrounded on all sides by the churn of tourism. It has diamond-in-the-rough Art Nouveau storefronts; breezy, tree-shaded squares with inviting al fresco kiosk cafés (a Lisbon specialty); some of Lisbon’s most enticing foodie finds (such as various outposts of celebrity chef José Avillez;  and Manteigaria,  where you can slurp up heavenly, hot-from-the-oven pastéis de nata custard pastries that you’ve just watched them bake); and Lisbon’s most appealing shopping zone, around the Príncipe Real Garden (don’t miss Embaixada, a mall of trendy designers filling a fanciful Neo-Moorish palace). And just downhill is one of Europe’s best market halls, the Mercado da Ribeira, divided in half between old-school fishmongers and greengrocers, and cutting-edge restauranteurs and street-food stalls.

The next time I go to Lisbon, there’s no doubt I’ll hang my hat in the Chiado.


Planning a trip to Portugal? The new season of Rick Steves’ Europe features two episodes about Portugal that you can now stream online for free: Portugal’s Heartland and Lisbon. You can pick up a copy of our Portugal guidebook here — or leave the planning to us and explore Portugal on a Rick Steves tour.

And for nine more suggestions on where to get away from the crowds, be sure to check out my 10 European Discoveries for 2019.