It's only just over 60 years since the end of the Second World War but the transformation of Europe in that time is nothing short of staggering. The continent that tore itself apart, then built a physical and ideological barrier through it's heart before knocking it all down, may not be ready to embrace Churchill's vision of a 'United States of Europe' but 27 of it's nations are now members of a single trading market and 12 so far have signed up to a single currency. Such startling political developments have, inevitably, had a major impact on European travel. Passport and customs checks are a thing of the past at most borders, there's no need to change currency every time you leave home and air fares have been dropping faster than the temperature on a winter's night in St Petersburg.

It is now possible to fly from London to Naples for less than the cost of a pizza, see the best of the city and fly back in time for Sunday dinner. You can gaze in awe at Picasso's Guernica in Madrid one week and climb to the top of Norman Foster's Reichstag in Berlin the next; spend a night at the opera in Verona and a night on the tiles in Tallinn. Rome or Riga? Valencia or Venice? Bratislava or Brussels? Each has it's own appeal, whether it's museums and galleries stuffed with priceless treasures, delicious food, cheap booze or stunning architecture. There's so much choice it's hard to make one.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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