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09 Europe: What guidebooks are available?


This article is from the Europe FAQ, by Yves Bellefeuille yan@storm.ca with help from Martin Rich M.G.Rich@city.ac.uk.

09 Europe: What guidebooks are available?

(Thanks to Jeri Dansky <danskyj@earthlink.net> for helping with this

There isn't a single best guidebook: different books address different
needs. Some are designed for budget travellers while some focus on the
more affluent. Some provide lots of practical information, while others
focus on the attractions. Some try to combine different types of
information; some are more focused.

Books within the same series may vary in quality, as they are often
written by different people. However, here are some comments on the main
guidebook series.

Good guides for major cities. Helpful for self-guided walking tours.
Organized by street and block, so you know what restaurants and
stores are near the tourist sights. Good details on major sights and
museums. Accommodations and restaurants are not intended for budget

Good for sights, including finding little known points of interest. No
information on hotels or restaurants.

Blue Guides
Good for those who want detailed information on museums and on
historical and archaeological sights. Sometimes considered dry reading.

Not often mentioned; has been recommended for Estonia, Latvia, and

Very good for historical and cultural perspectives. Well written and

Greats Eats/Great Sleeps
(formerly called Cheap Eats/Cheap Sleeps)
Not always cheap (by some people's standards), but good values, which
explains the name change. Detailed and accurate.

Dorling Kindersley (DK) Eyewitness
Beautiful books. Good for figuring out what sights to see and also
useful as a souvenir, but has rather little actual information.
Includes neighbourhood maps and museum floor plans. Not the book for
hotel recommendations. Heavy to travel with.

General purpose, mainstream guidebook with information on sights,
restaurants and hotels. Too upscale for some; certainly not for budget
travellers. Some strong praise for the restaurant recommendations. The
feature "If you have one day...", "If you have three days...", etc., is
useful for travel planning. Not strong on historical background.

All-around guidebook with information on major sights, restaurants,
hotels. Some have been quite pleased with the hotel and restaurant
recommendations. Not strong on historical background.

Gault Millau
Covers hotels and restaurants in France. Less reliable than Michelin Red
Guide -- some say it's much less reliable -- but nicely written, and can
be useful as a check to confirm restaurant recommendations listed in

Guide du routard
For the back-pack and budget traveller; has a fresh and somewhat
opinionated writing style. Very useful for budget lodgings.

Insight Guides
Good for getting the flavour of a place.

Karen Brown
For those willing to spend more money. Some say they've found memorable
lodgings through these books; others say they've found the descriptions

Similar to DK Eyewitness (and apparently the inspiration for that
series) in that both are beautiful, very visually focused books. Knopf
has somewhat better background information. For reasonably affluent

Knopf Citymap Guides
Lists restaurants, cafes, shopping and sights, with some hotel
suggestions and other miscellaneous information useful for tourists.

Let's Go
Student written guides for budget travellers. Considerable information
on budget accommodation, restaurants, and public transport -- as well as
things like laundromats. Good background information on history and
culture, although not extensive.

Lonely Planet
Notable for amount of information crammed into one book. Strong on the
practical stuff: accommodation, restaurants, public transport,
laundromats, bookstores with English language books. Lots of maps, but
some find them too sketchy. Lacking in historical information. The
colourful writing that marked this series is a thing of the past. Covers
a range of prices; used to be focused on the budget traveller, but have
moved somewhat upscale over time.

Michelin Green
Detailed information on sites, with a star rating system (3 stars: worth
a journey; 2 stars: worth a detour; 1 star: interesting) that many find
useful in planning a trip.

Michelin Red
Hotel and restaurant recommendations. Some find them too upscale. Others
point to the non-starred but "good food at moderate prices" listings as
a way of balancing price and quality.

Rick Steves
People are very passionate about Rick Steves: they tend to really like
him or really dislike him. These are not comprehensive guidebooks for
the countries covered, but focus on Rick's perception of the highlights.
Very opinionated. Seem largely intended to help inexperienced
travellers, beyond their student years, who would like to try
independent travel. Some object to the pace he recommends. Some have
noted that hotels he recommends tend to be full -- with other people
using his guidebooks.

Rough Guides
These guides usually get good marks for general background and
historical and cultural perspective. A number of people note that they
use them to decide where to go, but don't use them for hotel or
restaurant recommendations. There have been vehement complaints about
inaccuracies. A number of people find the books to have a condescending
attitude which was quite annoying.

Time Out
Well-regarded guides to specific cities, with useful information on
restaurants, cafes, and other "hang-outs".

Touring Club Italiano
The hardcover regional red guides ("Guide rosse") cover the visual arts
and architecture nearly exhaustively, and provide historical
introductions with separate sections on the history of arts and crafts.
Notable features of local cuisine are sometimes covered in some detail,
but no recommendations for hotels or restaurants are given. There are
also cheaper red guides ("Guide rosse economiche") and still cheaper
green guides ("Guide verdi"). As the price goes down, the amount of
detail decreases. The "Guida rapide" does have hotel and restaurant
recommendations, but has little information on attractions.


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