There are too many countries in Europe to cover all the guidebooks available. If you are just visiting one or two countries such as Spain or Italy, you will find either the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide to a very high standard, and many other guides to boot (although many are not aimed at independent travellers). If you want quick facts and good budget recommendations go for Let's Go guides. Considering the expense of travel within Western Europe and the huge number of things to see and do in any large city many travellers tend to restrict their travels within small hubs (e.g. London, Prague, Paris, Rome) and in which case mini-city guides might be a better resource and are normally of a high standard.
For travel at large, Let's Go, Lonely Planet and Rough Guide have large books that cover pretty much the whole region (many include Turkey and Morocco). All of these guides sell (the Let's Go version I understand to be the world's best selling guide) on their scope of coverage rather than their quality or depth. Don't be surprised if you roll up at an important historical town to only find one paragraph in your guide.
If you do use one of these guides, plan to supplement it where you spend the majority of your time. Several publishers are now bringing out regional guides covering more specific regions such as Eastern Europe (Let's Go being the best in this region) or Central Europe. If you plan to travel off the beaten track in Europe to places such as Albania prepare to struggle for in depth, in date information.
Read more reviews, get info and of course buy any book on this page. Remember the beauty of Amazon is that you can buy books for research and send them back when you are done or if they don't fit what you require. Using Amazon links really helps support this site - please click here to see why.
Learn more about the various different publishers of guidebooks: their strengths, weaknesses and general background.
If you are visiting various cities in Eastern Europe, don't forget the excellent (and free) 'In your pocket' city guides.
A book kind of like this site, but based on Europe. Essential planning advice.
Pitched as advice on Trip Planning, Packing, Hostels and Lodging, Transportation. This is a more detailed before you go book with a Europe focus. Covers pretty much everything you need to know about planning a trip with budget-minded travelers in mind. Lots of information and more detailed, yet with less clarity than the Rough Guide version.
From the website of the same name (this is essentially a printed version of the site). Absolutely everything you need to know about travelling by train in Europe - one of the most rewarding and under-rated experiences you can ever hope to have. Leave the budget airlines in the sky, pack an inter-rail pass, a Thomas Cook rail map, and a copy of Mark Smith's book; then climb aboard to explore a continent and its people on the rails.
Guide yearly fully revised and updated, provides the latest information on fares, schedules, and pass options, as well as detailed information on more than ninety specific rail excursions. Practical information, step-by-step directions, and advice on where to go and what to see and do, and complemented by the inclusion of eighteen maps.
Published: 40th edition (November, 2015)
As with all of these Europe complete guides it's a case of too little about too much. Europe is just too big to cram into one book. If you are really 'doing' Europe on a one-off trip, it would direct you to the best things to see; and certainly it was helpful in pointing out places. If you like Rough Guides, would rather not have the very popular Lonely Planet and really want one of these type of guides, this is the one for you. What we like best about RG and this book is it gives critical reviews. It points out the tourist traps that Frommer's, LP and Fodor's rarely do.
Published: 4th edition (March, 2014)
The LP series of books are normally quite good, but don't think this is a definitive guide. There have been definite improvements over the previous edition with new version. Most importantly, this book now covers ALL European countries, including little-visited Belarus and Ukraine. It has basic coverage of European Russia, too. There are errors and some information is purely opinion. Having said this, the guide of great use where backed up by a second source. Its weight (somewhere near a kilo) is a small drawback, but photocopying the required pages is a simple way around this. It could use better maps in most situations, but we aren't buying it to cart around the city anyway. If you are only buying one book to travel Europe cheaply, it will suffice.
Published: 9th edition (October, 2016)
Aimed 100% at student and more over American college students. Without a doubt, if you are looking simply to party around Europe, this is your most helpful tool. Lonely Planet and of course Rough Guide offer a slightly different perspective, and allow you to more fully enjoy your trip abroad. Let's Go is up to date and not much worse that the LP and RG, but just too little information about too much and the Let's Go format really struggles without having room to put some reflection behind its normal quirky comments. However if you are on a real budget it's not a bad option and its format is easy to use with a simple approach. Personally, I would use two guides minimum to cover what this tries to cover in one. There is a Western and Eastern Europe version of this.
Published: (December, 2015)
This guide covers Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. Many emails have recommended this guide over other Western European ones.
Published: (October, 2015)
One of the better LPs. Still widely used, but so are most guides in Italy. Italy is a varied and vast country which is hard to sum up in one book... but this certainly makes a good attempt. I found it very useful when visiting cities and sourcing food and accommodation. The recommendations are excellent. Just lacking a little when getting into the areas which are off the beaten track but will give a very good indication of what is on offer when visiting Italy. Great if you plan on just hitting the cities of Italy. Not so good if you plan on going to the lakes or mountains. Pathetically little information given on the Lakes District.
Published: (February 2016)
A typical RG, great read and very informative, but since the book is a guide and usually only parts of it are actually read the layout and indexing could be organised better. Contents are informative and useful in particular related to Barcelona. Very clear and improved maps in new version.
Published: (March 2015)
Bulgakov talks about post revolution Russia, market economy, the great war, philosophy, human nature and his personal experiences in his last years in the most interesting fashion; subtle and humorous. A bit strange, sometimes a little hard work, but if you want to read 'a Russian' this is a good and easy place to start.
A blow-by-blow account of the birth of modern Germany on November 9th 1989, when, at an otherwise dull press conference in East Berlin, a government spokesman said that a new law permitting East Germans more freedom to travel would go into effect immediately. It changed Europe for ever.
This is probably Bryson's best book. Notes from a small island about the UK is funny, sharp and easy to relate to for anyone who has spent any length of time in the UK. The book gets off to a flying start with fascinating conversations with old men on the complexity of B roads and travelling through the English countryside through Upton Dumpton past The Buggered Ploughmen and onto some other insane place. The book is well written and Bryson never fails to get his witty humour in but never fails to leave out the facts. Again, be warned that this UK travelogue just goes on and on and if you are not a fan of travelogues you are going to get bored after a hundred pages or so.
Set in eastern Europe and Switzerland post World War Two, this is a work of considerable confidence and control that follows the differently connected lives of a group of people as they fall in love and fall into line, disperse and return. It's all about how our lives are all about making mistakes and never being able to do things again. It's often philosophical and yet very readable.
As you probably know this book focuses not only on the actions of Schindler, but the moral issues surrounding the Holocaust. Keneally's use of certain anecdotes gives internal views of the concentration camps. The book is moving and compelling because of its sheer sadness. The aim is not so much to learn but to understand, and Keneally writes fluently. Thoroughly gripping, but emotionally provoking, stories plunge readers into war-time Germany. The book's power comes from its startling simplicity; the plot allows us to feel shame, anger, bitterness and happiness all at once with its recital of the atmosphere of the concentration camps.
If you want to recommend a book or reckon that something has been left out, please get in touch.
"As often as possible, do what others are not doing: Go off-season instead of on, go in bad weather instead of good, walk when others ride, laugh when others cry..."