European Cities, Compact Guides with Large Pictures

“I want to travel in Europe. . . I’m only going to a graveyard, but it’s a most precious graveyard”
Dostoevski
Dos Jeronimos monastery in Lisbon, with spectacular Manueline stone carving, Portugal, Europe

Dos Jeronimos monastery in Lisbon, with spectacular Manueline stone carving. Photo by Adam Jones.

Europe Cities, no-holds-barred guides with large, real life pictures

Best Europe cities by month

Europe Driving Laws

Key laws in popular European countries

All drivers must have a full licence, registration documents for their vehicle and a certificate of motor insurance. Cars coming from right-hand drive UK must have beam converters for headlights.

The drink-drive law is generally tighter across Europe than it is in the UK. In most countries the limit is 50mg per 100ml of blood compared with British 80mg, but in Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic the limit is zero, and in Norway the limit is a minute mouthful at 10mg.

France

Drivers must now have at least one unused breathalyser (it’s wise to carry a spare in case you have to use one) displaying the French NF certification mark in the car.

To bring them into line with other Continental countries such as Germany and Italy, France has now banned speed-camera warning devices, as well as installing 400 more fixed cameras and taking down the signs alerting drivers to them.

It’s not just dedicated speed-camera detectors that are banned, either. If your satnav alerts you to speed cameras, you must disable that function.
Motorway speed limit: 130kph (110kph in the wet).
Drink-drive limit: 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
Other kit: warning triangle, reflective jackets, breathalyser.

Spain

The Spanish might have a reputation for being laid back, but that doesn’t apply to driving in their country. Indicating on motorways both before and after overtaking moves is enforced and there are on-the-spot fines if you don’t do it.
Motorway speed limit: 120kph.
Drink-drive limit: 50mg/100ml.
Other kit: two warning triangles, replacement light bulbs, reflective jackets, spare spectacles if you need glasses for driving.

Italy

Be careful when driving in town centres, particularly when they are ancient, because it is easy to stray into a Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL).

Traffic in these is either fully prohibited or limited to residents with permits. This is the most common law British tourists unwittingly break. And although it might be hard to believe, given the Italians’ reputation for being horn happy, sounding off is actually banned in built-up areas.
Motorway speed limit: 130kph (110kph in the wet and for dual carriageways).
Drink-drive limit: 50mg/100ml.
Other kit: warning triangle, replacement light bulbs, reflective jackets.

Germany

Mention the German Autobahn and most people think of motorways with no speed limit. Actually, only about a fifth of the Autobahn network is limit-free. The rest has speed limits that are strictly enforced by the police. In the unlikely event that you want to wash your car while on holiday in Germany, don’t do it on a public road. It’s against the law.
Motorway speed limit: No motorway speed limit unless shown, where it’s usually 130kph.
Drink-drive limit: 50mg/100ml.
Other kit: warning triangle.

Source: Telegraph Newspaper

Information on driving to France from the UK, hints and links on ferries, tolls, speeding controls, insurance.

Don’t Book fake apartments!

Take care when booking accommodation online in Europe cities. Online deals are easy to find these days and hotel booking sites usually efficient and good value.

BUT! there are fake apartment booking sites out there that will collect your hard-earned dough and disappear with it while you arrive at your perfectly located city-centre flat only to find other people legally in residence. These fake sites are well set up, copy/pasting logos and room photos from genuine sites and can be totally convincing.

How to avoid booking a fake?
• call the agency or apartment owner. Fakes often have phone numbers but they go to voice mail, so call and check status with a live person.
• check the agency/flat is registered with a local tourist office.
• pay by credit card to ensure you’re covered in the event of a rip-off.

Eurozone: 19 European countries use the euro (€) as currency

Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain.
11 other countries in the European Union do not use the euro: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Sweden, United Kingdom (soon to be ex-EU, is also known as UK, including ‘Great’ Britain, uses the sterling pound).

Azulejos tiling in a church cloister in Lisbon, Portugal

Azulejos tiling in a church cloister in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Jose Luiz Ribeiro.

What have Europe Cities got to offer you?

Architecture

This crammed and chaotic part of the world has a stunning variety of architectural styles, both public buildings and private.
From ParisEiffel Tower to the cramped but characterful canal side housing of Amsterdam, from Barcelona‘s melting Sagrada Familia to Venice’s decaying palazzos and from London’s Houses of Parliament to Vienna‘s backstreets.
And don’t forget some Europe cities flaunt amazing post-modern architecture too, ranging from Bilbao’s wacky Guggenheim museum to Berlin’s crystal Reichstag.

Casa Battlo, Barcelona, Spain

Casa Battlo, one of the best examples of grandmaster Gaudi’s incredible creativity, Barcelona, Spain

Walks

Fisherman

Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest, Hungary

Most European city centres are compact, reasonably well preserved and have developed car-free or car-limited pedestrian areas that make getting around the city centres a pleasure. And then there’s Venice. . .

History: 2, 000 years of brutal, fascinating history lurks behind the civilised facades of most Europe cities. World changing civilizations like ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, Napoleonic France, Victorian England, Turkey’s Ottoman Empire, Spain’s conquistadors and Germany’s Third Reich rose and fell in Europe – and the scars are still visible.

Culture

British Museum, London, England

London’s British Museum, one of the world’s best collections of exotica, and free to enter, England

The cultural heritage on show in every European city is staggering. Among the world beating museums and galleries are St Petersburg’s Hermitage, Paris’ Louvre, London’s British Museum, Madrid‘s Prado, Istanbul’s Topkapi palace, and Rome’s Vatican. In most cases the building housing these treasures are treasures themselves.

Cuisine: European cuisine has also given the world some everlasting icons. Taste the original pizza in Italy, caviar in Russia, roast beef in England, coffee in Vienna, croissants in France, sausage in Germany. Then go and have a McDonald’s if you must. . .

Style

The Duomo Baptistry ceiling in Florence (Firenze), Italy

The Duomo Baptistry ceiling in Florence (Firenze), Italy

Style and fashion are a dynamic part of everyday life in much of the Euro zone too. From London’s punk/grunge/whatever to Paris’ haut couture to Italian leather to Scandinavian minimalism, the creative process is constantly being pushed to the limit. Shopping in the right places in Euro cities will yield styles ranging from wild and wacky avant garde to perfect classical, though prices often require deep pockets.

Festivals

Nice Carnival float, Europe Cities

Nice Carnival float, France

Europe cities also offer a rich crop of strange and wonderful festivals, like the Bull Running in Pamplona (Spain), the masked Carnival in Venice (Italy), Scotland’s huge and crazy Edinburgh Festival, Salzburg’s prestigious music festival in Austria and, and. . .

Escape

Nice Carnival float, France

Picos de Europa, Spain

And when you’re tired of the cities, there’s plenty of interest in the countryside: castles and palaces and ancient ruins and mountains and lakes and sports of every description to refresh you before you go back to the cities.