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Paris, Rome, and London are all classic first-time Eurotrip destinations. But for savvy or returning travelers, Eastern European cities — think: Prague, Budapest, and Tallinn, among offers — offer just as much beauty and history, but at cheaper prices and in fewer crowds. Although communism clothed much of the area a few decades ago, the region has largely shed that attire and now welcomes travelers with eclectic mixes of medieval architecture and preserved fortresses alongside Soviet era blocks and 21st century designs. With so many nations to discover, here’s where to start:
A Segway tour is a great way to get an overview of a new city or region. You’ll cover more ground than you would on foot, and your guide can teach you about the local history, suggest restaurants, and refer you to other great tours in the area. Plus, Segways are just fun to ride. Here are 10 awesome Segway tours to add to your bucket list.
Chicago: Several companies operate in Chicago, but Absolutely Chicago Segway offers a few unique options in addition to the standard tour past Grant Park, the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and Soldier Field. We like the Chicago Gangster tour ($65) featuring the hangouts of Al Capone and other wise guys and the Chicago Haunted Tour ($65) that glides you past haunted hotels, murder sites, and even a morgue. If you are in town during Halloween, the guides dress up as ghouls for the haunted tour.
Whatever happened to the good ol’ days, when hotel bars served as an oasis for road-weary travelers? A place to mingle with your fellow vagrants and meaninglessly converse about the weather? These days, hotel bars are often just impersonal TV viewing rooms serving overpriced Budweisers and poorly-poured Guinnesses.
Well, except for the five hotels listed below. Priding themselves on perfect pints, these ale-loving properties charm guests with decades-old brewing traditions, and a staff of knowledgeable bartenders eager to share the secrets of their craft: Read more
East-bound Europeans will be happy about the launch of El Al’s new low-cost carrier, UP. Based out of Tel Aviv, the offshoot airline will directly compete with Europe’s budget airlines like EasyJet, which offers service to Israel for as low as 68 EUR (about $93) each way. That’s more expensive than the fares offered on UP, which will start at just $69 each way.
Beyond price, frequency of service is a key part of UP’s strategy: a total of 50 flights per week will shuttle between Tel Aviv and Berlin, Kiev, Prague, Budapest, and Larnaca, some of Europe’s most popular hubs.
And here’s our favorite part: A new low-cost carrier in Europe can mean cheaper flight options for U.S. travelers heading to the region. Opting for a layover in Europe, and a switch to a budget carrier once you get there, can really save. And the difference in price can far outweigh the inconvenience of connecting in another airport. As El Al’s new low-cost carrier augments service to Tel Aviv, we’re wondering: could UP offer a new solution for U.S. travelers trying to get to Israel more affordably? Read more
Is the summer heat getting to you yet? There’s relief to be found at one of these public pools in Europe. Whether it’s panoramic views of the Mediterranean, or a 295-foot-high bungee jump you’re after, these 10 municipal water parks are guaranteed to add a little excitement to your summer getaway.
1. Lava Pools, Madeira, Portugal
Naturally-occurring volcanic rock has formed a series of tiny, stunningly beautiful pools on the northwestern coast of Madeira in Portugal. These ocean-filled ‘lava pools’ are the main attraction in the village of Porto Moniz, located about an hour north of Madeira’s capital, Funchal. Despite the wild geography, the area around the pools contains tourist-friendly amenities like changing rooms, lockers, showers, a restaurant, and a team of lifeguards. Entrance fee: $2.60. Read more
Eurostar recently tested service between London and Aix-en-Provence. Later this year, the TGV will begin running a direct service between Paris and Barcelona, and, starting in 2016, a new Deutsche Bahn route through the Channel Tunnel will link London to Amsterdam, Cologne, and Frankfurt. Ditching Europe’s budget airlines in favor of its railways is beginning to look more attractive. Not only is rail travel throughout Europe often as quick as, if not quicker than flying, it also has the bonus of spectacular scenery along the way.
Our favorite European rail journeys are not necessarily the fastest, but they are some of the most memorable.
The Bergen Line: Bergen to Oslo, Norway
Traveling along the 231-mile-long highest mainline railway line in Northern Europe offers you a front row seat for some of Norway’s most spectacular landscapes; think dramatic fjords, lush forests, and crystalline waterfalls. If you have the time, take the branch line that runs from Myrdal to Flåm, a village at the inner end of Aurlansfjord, an arm of Sognefjord, Norway’s biggest fjord. This 12-mile route takes around one hour and climbs more than 2,838 feet making it the steepest standard-gauge railway in Europe. Read more
No matter where we call home, we share one thing in common: gathering around the table to break bread and crack open a bottle or two. Sometimes when the conversation and local liquor get flowing, the result is a big old headache the following morning.
Approaches to alleviating the hangover vary by destination. Some are healthy, some are indulgent, and some are plain crazy – while others turn to a cheeky afternoon drink as the ultimate cure. Here are five hangover cures from around the globe. Read more
It’s been just about a dozen years since I first earned my traveler’s stripes out on that well-trodden European backpacking, budget-crunching circuit, and while that rite-of-passage trip was right on in just about every way, I’ve been lamenting missing out on a pit stop in storied Prague pretty much ever since. Fast forward to 2012, and I’ve found myself out here once again, Eurail pass in hand, backpack on back, and budget top of mind, but this time, with a firm eye on the Prague prize.
The one caveat? While I’ve managed to tuck away a few more fun-funding dollars on this go-around, I’ve found myself with an only slightly higher-than-hostel budget, coupled with disproportionately high-end tastes. I set out on a mission: Relive the glory days of my budget-crunching college hosteling days, without sacrificing style or privacy. Read more
On this season of ABC’s reality series The Bachelorette, single mom Emily Maynard and her bachelor suitors have jetted off to four amazing and romantic destinations over the past several weeks: Bermuda, London, Dubrovnik, and Prague (shown at left). I have been to each place several times – and loved them all – so I decided to create a quiz to help you figure out which of the four destinations is best for your next romantic getaway. Answer the 10 questions that follow (write down the letters you choose on a piece of paper) and then read on to find out where you should consider heading to next. (They’re all great . . . just completely different!)
As far as 2012 travel trends go, river cruising is right up there, so there’s no surprise that the gays are all over it. And although it may be one of seven LGBT tour operators chartering groups aboard European riverboats this summer, newly founded Brand g is the only one that wants you to experience it for free. Contest time!
Launched just in time for Valentine’s Day, as well as the heartening strides made for gay marriage in Washington State and the repeal of Prop 8 in California, the “Share The Love” contest is encouraging adventurers to share their same-sex love story, or for friends to nominate their favorite LGBT couples, for the chance to win two spots on its 10-day Danube River Cruise, which includes a 2-night stay in Prague and port calls in Nuremberg, the Bavarian forest, Salzburg, Linz, Melk, Vienna, Slovakia, and Budapest. Read more
Spring usually means the arrival of warmer weather, blooming flowers, and higher airfare to Europe. Fortunately, KLM is breaking tradition and slashing rates on flights to London, Venice, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Rome, Barcelona, Helsinki, Oslo, Prague, Madrid, Zurich, and Stockholm! This sale coincides with the start of festival season in Europe, so why not pop over to Budapest for the Palinka food and wine festival, Barcelona or Madrid for May Day fiestas, and Stockholm for the popcorn film festival? Fly now through May 15 from Chicago, New York, Dallas, or San Francisco for rates as low as $278 one-way.
Sample Fares (O/W)
• New York City – Barcelona: $278+
• Dallas – Amsterdam: $313+
• Chicago – London: $336+
• Miami-Budapest: $374+
• Washington – Oslo: $379+
• Houston – Venice: $384+
• San Francisco – Madrid: $419+
THE VALUE: Fares to Europe in April and May are often close to $500 each way, so this sale saves you an average of $400 round-trip.
THE CATCH: Taxes and fees are not included, and these one-way prices are based on round-trip purchases.
THE DETAILS: Click here to book your flight with KLM.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the best hotel deals in Europe.
British Airways’ Europe air fare sale is the perfect way to spend that languishing Christmas bonus. Starting from just $397, round-trip flights span the breadth of Western Europe from Paris to Madrid to Frankfurt and more, departing from over 15 major U.S. cities on both coasts, with the lowest rates on routes from the Boston, New York, and Philadelphia heading to London and Edinburgh. Reserve your seat by January 27, and soak in Athens’ mild climate and Carnival celebrations or stroll through Florence’s art galleries and cathedrals unhindered by the crowds of summer, all the while paying half the rate of non-discounted flights.
Sample Round-Trip Fares (Before Taxes):
- New York-London: $397
- Boston-Edinburgh: $397
- Houston-London: $472
- Philadelphia-Madrid: $498
- New York-Rome: $519
- Philadelphia-Munich: $530
- Chicago-Amsterdam: $565
- Boston-Prague: $577
- Miami-Milan: $579
- Orlando-Rome: $579
- Washington, D.C.-Barcelona: $549
- Los Angeles-Milan: $649
- Las Vegas-Paris: $656
- Baltimore-Athens: $676
- And more!
THE VALUE: Save over 50 percent on regular airfare.
THE CATCH: The climate is similar to the States, so don’t expect to get too far away from the chill.
THE DETAILS: Visit www.travelocity.com to book your flight by January 27! Travel January 25 through April 12.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Visit our Savvy Flyer blog before you take off for up-to-date advice and news from the skies.
Fresh from the land of Kafka, Pilsner, Absinthe, and Bel Ami comes some pretty spectacular news: the first-ever Prague Pride (PraguePride.com) has been scheduled for August 18-21, 2011 pending police and city hall approvals. Sure it’s near a year away, but that’s the only weekend left in Europe’s summer without a conflicting Pride, so mark your calendars now. Because if my recent visit to the Czech Republic for the 11th Annual Mezipatra Queer Film Festival (Mezipatra.cz) was any indication, gay life is thriving. Prague, long a beacon for backpackers and culture vultures thanks to its über-romantic Old Town is also a haven for LGBT folk of the Central and Eastern European region thanks to a basically agnostic society and a sense of nationalism that makes it easier to be gay than non-Czech.
Prague’s newest hotel/hostel opened for business today. The 94-room, smartly designed Mosaic House offers “green”-minded travelers an eco- and cost-friendly option in the heart of the Nové M?sto (New Town) area, just steps from the famous Charles Bridge. Built in 1935, the revamped structure was outfitted with energy-efficient lighting, low-flow toilets, automatic room temperature controls based on the number of people in the room, and the Czech Republic’s first gray water recycling unit (meaning shower water is filtered for reuse). Even the oil used to fry up hamburgers at its restaurant serves an exalted eco-purpose: it fuels the property’s airport shuttle busses! Doubles start at around $50.
For more trip-planning information, visit our Prague Travel Guide.
Sometimes I discover the best hotels while off duty. Actually, I can’t even take credit for this one; my parents took a chance and booked this Prague gem after hastily scanning a few booking sites in search of well-located rooms under $300 (my recommendations were fully booked). They lucked out. What they ended up with was this extravagantly cozy boutique hotel, housed in an old mansion in Mala Strana (I prefer this side of the Charles Bridge – it’s a little quieter but the Old Town is just a 15-minute walk away). It was hard not to be romanced by the Alchymist Residence Nosticova, what, with all its gothic charms, beamed ceilings, chandeliers, and luscious décor, especially in what I called the Versace-fabulous restaurant (think Italian extravagance to the max). I stayed nearby in a supposedly cool, contemporary hotel. I wanted to bunk with them! Read more
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