Rick Steves Reveals How To Match Your European Vacation Destination To Your Interests

Ahh, Europe! A dynamic network of many nations rich in cultural, historical, and culinary treasures! One of its most coveted qualities is the complexity of its countries, curated to resonate with a diversity of passions and interests. From picturesque coastlines perfect for summertime beach combing and the snow-capped Alps to bustling metropolitan capitals, Europe has it all! With 50 different countries spread across this dazzling continent, narrowing down travel plans to just one or two can be overwhelming. Fortunately, Rick Steves has a few tips for travelers sorting out their European bucket list.

As a travel expert specializing in navigating Europe, Steves knows a thing or two about curating the perfect European getaway. He recommends matching your travel interests to the country you're visiting to enhance your trip and get the most out of the journey. Whether you're a culinary connoisseur, an esteemed art critic, or desperate for fresh countryside air, there's a European city to meet every desire. 

Researching the province you're considering is perhaps the most crucial step in the pre-planning process and often reveals some unique and surprising facts about the region. If a culture-rich nation is what you're seeking, Europe boasts more than 400 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (per EaseMyTrip), making historical landmarks an almost casual sighting. Regardless of what you're seeking, Steves has curated a list of some of his favorite and most popular cities that speak to the tastes of travelers around the globe.

For the art lover, history buff, and urban dweller

If stepping back into the Renaissance era is the primary goal during your European travels, Florence takes the crown with this one, according to Steves. The birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is famous for its extravagant gilded mansions, Gothic-style cathedrals, and wealthy patrons, like the Medici family, who played a central role during the Renaissance period. You can't leave Florence without perusing the iconic Renaissance art galleries that make up the heart of this city. Steves recommends the Florence Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, and the Museum of San Marco

France might be the No. 1 most visited city in Europe, with 79 million tourists visiting the country in 2022, per SchengenVisa. However, don't let the Eiffel Tower and Louvre overshadow the nation's northern regions, which are just as captivating. Normandy, France, is Steves' leading destination for history buffs seeking a glimpse of the country's wealth of WWII history. Travelers can access many historical remnants scattered around this French region that testify to chief WWII events, including D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. The Rouen Cathedral and Honfleur's Ste. Catherine Church are just a few architectural remains that speak to this French region's turbulent past. 

It's hard to compete with some of Europe's leading cities that have captured the attention of travelers. According to Steves, Paris, Rome, London, and Madrid embody the feel of a quintessential urban oasis. They do this perfectly without distracting from the traditional European charm found throughout each province.

For the outdoor adventurer and social drinker

Few things compare to the rolling hillsides and lush meadows dotted with grazing sheep found in Cotswold, England. Spanning across the scenic counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, and Somerset, Cotswold is known for its abundance of fairytale cottages, old-fashioned picket fences, and colorful street markets. Given its stunning landscape, Cotswold is considered an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, protected under European conservation laws. Unsurprisingly, this dreamy part of England is Steve's top recommendation for travelers who crave England's unspoiled landscapes and unhurried lifestyles. 

The port city of Tangier in northeastern Morocco is an underrated yet breathtaking destination, with a constant salty sea breeze wafting off the ocean's surface. Though geographically in Africa, it's just 9 miles from Spain; it's a slow-paced, delightful town often missed by travelers eager to visit the urban capital of Madrid. Once a bustling trading center, Tangier has a vibrant history and a picturesque landscape, offering visitors a little bit of everything. For travelers interested in bypassing traditional European hot spots, Steves recommends this rural retreat tucked away from busy city life. 

The art of beer-making is central to Belgium's heritage, making it the ideal destination for travelers thirsty for brew-tasting tours. With nearly 1,500 types of beer produced in this nation, Belgium's beer culture is included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. According to Steves, Belgium is perfect for both nightlife enthusiasts and beer connoisseurs eager for the best of the batch.