on February 19, 2004
I have chosen to rate 6 guides for Europe. I think there are a variety of guides. In general there are four "layers" of detail in the books on the market. There are the (1) Europe guides (reviewed here), (2) the single country guides, (3) the city guides and then (4) a variety of specialty guides such as Eurail rail guides, hiking, budget Europe, camping, restaurants, wine country, mountains, gay and lesbian guides, etc. At my bookstore there are 3 large racks of books on Europe. I have selected 6 of what seems to be the best selling guides or guides that I thought might be of general interest, and gave them my own personal ranking - just for category (1) - Europe overview. Five are very popular, one less so.
What I am looking for is a quick overview - not every tiny detail. Europe is too big and you should by a guide on France if you are going mainly to France. I think the books with photos are better since they allow you to get a better idea of the places that you might want to visit - while you plan the trip. A picture is worth 1000 words. So one might want to buy the guide before calling a travel agent.
First Choice - Good Pick
Eyewitness Europe by DK - $21.
It is 800 pages long and ranks about 11,400 on the Amazon.com sales ranking. It has all the basic stuff such as maps, food guides, accommodations, places to see, travel tips, culture, museums, history, etc. plus it has outstanding visuals. Many excellent color photos and maps. It is a good introduction and overview and makes for a beautiful souvenir. Just an outstanding and beautiful book.
Second Choice - Good Pick.
Michelin The Green Guide - Europe, 2e - $14.
This is not a popular book on Amazon.com. It rates a distant 344,544 on the sales rank and is just 540 pages long. But is very much like the DK guide. It gives an excellent overview and introduction with many photos. It is excellent for planning a trip and it is not a big book. It is a well made book with a tough and durable cover, easy to carry 5 x 9" x 0.9" thick and with lots of detail, many maps and photos. Some of the other guides are 1.85" thick.
Tied For Third - Okay Not Great
Lonely Planet Western Europe Sixth Edition ($19.59) and Lets Go 2004:Europe ($17.49)
These two are more general books with lots of text and maps. In many ways these books are similar but the latter book covers more countries. The first is 1150 pages and ranks 7,246 in Amazon.com sales, while the second book is just under 1100 pages and ranks 3,173 in sales, and is one of the more popular guides. These books include lots of detail - but unfortunately with just a limited number of photos. These two books have more detail than the first two books - but almost no photos in comparison. For myself I would like to have more photos, and even with 1100 pages one will have to buy a country book so skip these thick heavy books - I would buy one of the shorter books above (DK or Michelin) plus a country book such as Eyewitness France or Michelin Guide France etc. Lonely Planet has a series including the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe similar to this western Europe version. Both books are very thick close to 2" thick. In theory you could buy three Europe guides from Lonely Planet.
Fourth Place - Skip This Book
Rick Steve's Best of Europe 2004 - $17.47
This book uses an informal approach written by one person - Rick Steve - to take you through some of the more interesting places in Europe. The way I view this book is that it is like sitting down with a friend and he lays out the key things to see and do and then makes hand sketches of different cities etc. Having said that, the book is detailed and long - being 1200 pages long and ranks 5,352. on theAmazon.com sales ranking.
The book contains a lot of text description of interesting things to see with hand sketches and hand drawn maps to give a friendly feel - all in black and white. It includes walking tours with comments plus places to eat and hotels. It does not contain a lot of maps or any photos. He does not present lists of accommodations and restaurants. He pre-screens those and gives just a limited selection on where to stay and where to dine. There is definitely some novelty factor in the presentation. Also it is another thick book.
Fifth and Last - Does Not Compete
Frommer Europe 2004 - $16.09
This is a "conventional" travel book that covers most of Europe in 1070 pages and ranks 8,361 on the Amazon.com sales ranking. As a bonus it includes a Eurail map that detached from the back cover. The book is written by a team of authors (committee).
It is a guide to Europe. It does not plan your trip but rather goes from places to places in a formula approach giving a summary of things to see, a local map, and it lists places of interest, some history, restaurants, entertainment, and accommodations. It is a comprehensive approach - somewhat - formal and lacks any photos, i.e.: no photos, just text and some maps. That is why I rate it last. Thick but mainly just text. It is similar but not as good as the third ranking pair.
My humble opinion. Jack in Toronto