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Rick Steves
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Rick Steves advocates smart, affordable, perspective-broadening travel. As host and writer of the popular public television series Rick Steves' Europe, and best-selling author of over 50 European travel books, he encourages Americans to travel as "temporary locals." He helps American travelers connect much more intimately and authentically with Europe — and Europeans — for a fraction of what mainstream tourists pay.

Over the past 20 years, Rick has hosted over 100 travel shows for public television, and numerous pledge specials (raising millions of dollars for local stations). His Rick Steves' Europe TV series is carried by over 300 stations, reaching 95 percent of U.S. markets. Rick has also created two award-winning specials for public television: Rick Steves' European Christmas and the ground-breaking Rick Steves' Iran. Rick writes and co-produces his television programs through his company, Back Door Productions.

Rick Steves also hosts a weekly public radio program, Travel with Rick Steves. With a broader approach to travel everywhere, in each hour-long program Rick interviews guest travel expert, followed by listener call-ins. Travel with Rick Steves airs across the country and has spawned a popular podcast. Rick has also created a series of audio walking tour podcasts for museums and neighborhoods in Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice, London and Athens.

Rick self-published the first edition of his travel skills book, Europe Through the Back Door (now updated annually), in 1980. He has also written more than 50 other country, city and regional guidebooks, phrase books, and "snapshot" guides. For several years, Rick Steves' Italy has been the bestselling international guidebook sold in the U.S. In 2009, Rick tackled a new genre of travel writing with Travel as a Political Act, reflecting on how a life of travel has broadened his own perspectives, and travel can be a significant force for peace and understanding in the world. Rick's books are published by Avalon Travel, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

In addition to his guidebooks, TV and radio work, Rick is a syndicated newspaper columnist with the Tribune Media Services. He appears frequently on television, radio, and online as the leading authority on European travel.

Rick took his first trip to Europe in 1969, visiting piano factories with his father, a piano importer. By the time he reached 18, Rick jokes, "I realized I didn't need my parents to travel!" He began traveling on his own, funding his trips by teaching piano lessons. In 1976, he started Europe Through the Back Door (ETBD), a business which has grown from a one-man operation to a company with a well-traveled staff of 80 full-time employees. ETBD offers free travel information through its travel center, website (www.ricksteves.com), European Railpass Guide, and free travel newsletters. ETBD also runs a successful European tour program with more than 450 departures — attracting around 11,000 travelers — annually.

Rick is outspoken on the need for Americans to fit better into our planet by broadening their perspectives through travel. He is also committed to his own neighborhood. He's an active member of the Lutheran church (and has hosted the ELCA's national video productions). He's a board member of NORML (The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). And Rick has provided his local YWCA with a 24-unit apartment building with which to house homeless mothers.

Rick Steves spends about a third of every year in Europe, researching guidebooks, filming TV shows, and making new discoveries for travelers. Rick was divorced in March, 2010. He lives and works in his hometown of Edmonds, Washington, where his office window overlooks his old junior high school.

Entries by Rick Steves

Cathedrals, Palaces, Towers: A Full Day in Paris

(0) Comments | Posted June 23, 2014 | 5:29 PM

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Joe--as he's done well over a hundred times before with our groups--drove masterfully from Amsterdam to Rome and up to Paris and was adored by all. After getting us to Paris, Joe had a five-hour drive back to his home in Belgium, where...

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Métro Lesson

(0) Comments | Posted June 23, 2014 | 5:16 PM

Paris is the finale of our Best of Europe in 21 Days tour. And our first order of business (after checking in at the hotel) is getting our group comfortable with perhaps the world's greatest subway system, Le Métro. This little video clip, taken as we were passing a group of Russian troubadours, captures the energy of being underground with the...

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Rick Toasts Kid Travelers

(0) Comments | Posted June 20, 2014 | 4:49 PM

We took our kids out of school every May for many years, and I always considered it good parenting, great education, and a bonus for the adult tour members to have kids as part of the group. Having Annaleise and Brogan on this tour was, for me, particularly fun. It reminded me of the joy of a parent who is introducing a child to the broader world (and the wide-eyed wonder I traveled with on my first schoolboy trip in 1969). Annaleise and Brogan were great travelers, and it just seemed right to raise a glass to our youngest travel partners (FYI--this video starts in the middle of my...

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Welcome to France

(0) Comments | Posted June 20, 2014 | 2:51 PM

Our Best of Europe in 21 Days tour is a carefully balanced design of intense big cities and relaxed small towns. It starts easy in Holland and finishes with a cultural bang in France. As a tour guide, a favorite challenge is to prep...

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Fondue Fun in Switzerland

(0) Comments | Posted June 19, 2014 | 5:33 PM

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In Switzerland, it seems the traditional lifestyles have retreated to the high country, where they survive with an impressive vigor. That was clear when Otto, whose family runs the Hotel Stechelberg (which our groups love), gave us a lesson in...

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Hiking in the Alps

(0) Comments | Posted June 19, 2014 | 5:17 PM

One of the highlights of our Best of Europe in 21 Days tour was our group hike. As this was pretty demanding--and there was a concern about snow on the trails this early in the season--only the fittest of our group participated. For me, it was a joy...

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Into the Swiss Alps

(0) Comments | Posted June 18, 2014 | 4:47 PM


For over 30 years I've been taking groups into the gondolas high in the Alps. Whether filled with skiers in the winter or hikers in the summer, there's a happy energy in that glass-and-steel bubble of mountain joy--especially when the Swiss Alps are out in all their glory. (Since the gondola is packed, I'm speaking softly. Turn on the YouTube captions if you can't hear me.)

The Schilthornbahn takes us effortlessly (in four stages) to the 10,000-foot summit of the Schilthorn in the Berner Oberland. For about $50 per person (there's a double discount for the group rate and for an early morning departure) we ride up and down. Sure that's a lot of money. But when you're surrounded by cut-glass peaks and breathing fresh mountain air, it's one of Europe's great deals. From a value point of view, remember that--all over the Alps--early lifts are discounted and, because of weather patterns, the early birds enjoy the crispest views. The lesson: Pay less and see more by ascending early.

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On our tours, we do whatever we can to save time. For example, room numbers are assigned on the bus as we approach our hotel. Today, we gave the mic to 12-year-old Annaleise who made sure each tour member knew exactly where they were sleeping.

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On a Best of Europe in 21 Days tour, we get two days in the Swiss Alps--and the weather is critical. I remember in the early, youth-hostel days of our tour company, we'd wait until morning before deciding if we'd ride the expensive lift to the top of the Schilthorn in the Berner Oberland. It depended on the weather. I'd wake up at the crack of dawn. If it was cloudy, I'd go back to bed--and we'd all sleep in. If the weather was good, I'd wake everyone up, and we were off for the summit. Any guide knows it often clouds up by late morning. Today, we caught the early gondola, were blessed with glorious weather, and enjoyed this view from 10,000 feet.

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Tour groups love group shots. I find the regimented "short people in front," soccer-team-type photos boring. And, invariably, the stranger you pick to take the photograph frames it crazily, and the shot is too much feet and sky. Lately, my antidote to that is a group selfie. For some reason, as we all try to crowd into the shot (and I hold the camera high to make our chins seem nice and tight), everyone looks as happy as we...

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Cinque Terre Lemon Festival--Anything But Sour

(0) Comments | Posted June 18, 2014 | 4:33 PM

The Cinque Terre towns love their festivals, and we hit Monterosso during its lemon festival. The town was decked out in lemons and rather than sour, the mood was happy as can be.

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Monterosso's little main piazza was a multi-generational dance floor...

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Looking Good for the AARP

(0) Comments | Posted June 18, 2014 | 4:25 PM

Occasionally a publication wants to run an article about my work and they need a photo of me. While I always offer them fine shots from our press department, many have their own specs. I'll be featured with some travel tips in July's "AARP Bulletin," and they hired a Danish...

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Cinque Terre: A Burst of Riviera Magic

(0) Comments | Posted June 16, 2014 | 7:48 PM

On our Rick Steves Best of Europe in 21 Days tour, the meat of the itinerary is the middle week when we visit Venice, Florence, and Rome in rapid succession. After that, we are ready for our treasured "vacation from our vacation" on the Italian Riviera. We are...

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Rome's Hottest Neighborhood: Monti

(0) Comments | Posted June 9, 2014 | 5:21 PM

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On this trip, I'm grabbing extra time in Venice, Florence, and Rome to beef up our restaurant listings for our guidebooks. As things are in constant motion in Europe, it's important to keep our recommendations both up-to-date and fresh. The big news...

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Guide Work in Rome

(0) Comments | Posted June 9, 2014 | 4:21 PM

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With more than 600 Rick Steves tours a year, we have guides working all over Europe all the time. It's an amazing pool of talent, passion, and travel savvy. They have their own digital communication portal and are constantly rendezvousing,...

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Handling the Masses at the Vatican

(0) Comments | Posted June 6, 2014 | 5:51 PM

One of the big challenges for groups or individuals traveling in Italy is to handle the mob scenes at the Vatican Museum. There are a few sights in Europe (Versailles and the Vatican Museum come to mind) where there's almost no way to experience it without a constant and raging...

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Doing the Caesar Shuffle in Rome

(0) Comments | Posted June 6, 2014 | 5:42 PM

With just under two days in Rome, our Best of Europe in 21 Days tour needs to be very well designed. We do what I call the "Caesar Shuffle" upon arrival (Colosseum, Forum, Capitoline Hill, and Pantheon). We go together to Campo de' Fiori and disperse to find...

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Intense, Exciting Florence

(0) Comments | Posted June 6, 2014 | 5:36 PM

Our Best of Europe in 21 Days tour hits all the biggies: and one of those is certainly Florence. With just under two days each in Venice, Florence, Rome, and Paris, ever hour needs to be carefully planned. Hotels are central, restaurants are artfully chosen, and reservations are...

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Venetian Glassblowing

(0) Comments | Posted June 3, 2014 | 4:55 PM

While we all pride ourselves in getting away from the tourist clichés, as a tour operator I'm also excited about maximizing the classic experiences -- even if they are touristy. And in Venice, one of those is a glassblowing demonstration.

Any tour group is welcome to climb the stairs from...

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The Gondola Experience

(0) Comments | Posted June 3, 2014 | 4:52 PM

Another Venice cliché, which I absolutely love, is the gondola ride. Sure, it's expensive (about $160 for a 50-minute ride). But the cost (and romance) can be split by up to six people. While Venice is crowded, the gondoliers' Venice is a parallel world of dreamy tranquility as your vessel...

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Making Venice Magic

(0) Comments | Posted May 30, 2014 | 2:38 PM

My Best of Europe in 21 Days tour has left Austria and crossed through the Alps to Italy. Our first stop: Venice. During some of my free time, I'm taking the opportunity to spruce up my guidebooks. And organizing our travel information on Venice is one of my...

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Armin's Vision for Ehrenberg

(0) Comments | Posted May 28, 2014 | 5:15 PM

When I first hiked up to the Ehrenberg Castle ruins, it was overgrown with trees and entirely desolate. Today, it's more welcoming for adventurous travelers thanks to a local archaeologist, Armin Walch.

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Standing atop the Ehrenberg Castle ruins and surveying the valley,...

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The Ehrenberg Ruins

(0) Comments | Posted May 27, 2014 | 5:46 PM

Way back in my student travel days, I discovered a handful of completely offbeat sights and experiences like the Ehrenberg Castle ruins in Reutte (in Austria's Tirol), just across the border from the extremely popular and commercial "Mad" King Ludwig's castles. To this day, we carefully balance the sightseeing on...

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