Nobody does midsummer like the Swedes. They down tools and head for their summer houses on the coast for a family gathering lubricated by beer, herring and shots of the local firewater. Whether you’re a builder or a banker, it’s the one day of the year that everyone casts aside their daily routine and goes back to the land.

So if you want to party like a Swede, then head west. The best place to join the midsummer festivities is around Gothenburg and the Bohuslan coast, the archipelago of some 8000 midnight-sun islands.

Swedish Midsummer’s Eve falls on Friday, June 19 this year but how best to join in the fun? Here is an essential guide to surviving midsummer in Sweden.

Step 1: escape to the country

Most Gothenburgers escape the city for their midsummer fun, heading to the family summer house on one of the islands or staying in a cottage by a lake to get close to nature.

If you hire a car, it’s a ninety-minute drive north from Gothenburg through a bucolic landscape of grazing pasture and produce-yielding farmland to reach the central-archipelago island of Tjorn.

Alternatively, you can hire a bike and ride out of Gothenburg along the harbour, picking up a ferry at the terminal at Saltholmen to island hop around the nearer southern archipelago. It’s a two-hour jaunt through some of Gothenburg’s most interesting districts, such as historic Haga and bohemian Majorna to reach the coast. Download a map of the cycle route here.

Vrångö island, the Gothenburg archipelago, SwedenImage by Emil Fagander

Step 2: make your own Krans

The symbol of midsummer is the krans, a headband of summer flowers entwined around soft birch branches. Children head out to the fields in the morning to gather fresh flowers and no midsummer outfit is complete without your very own personalised crown.

Villa Sjotorp, a romantic, lakeside estate turned chic country hotel in the village of Ljungskile, hosts an annual midsummer banquet. The festivities begin with a class in making your own krans, followed by a traditional Swedish fika, an afternoon snack of fresh coffee and pastries.

According to popular Swedish folklore, you should place the headband under your pillow that night to dream of your future lover.

Midsummer in Sweden, krans_MG_8339 via photopin (license)

Step 3: learn the frog dance

By mid afternoon crowds are gathering in parks and on village greens around West Sweden to watch the annual midsummer dance around the maypole.

The spectacle blends elements of ancient German and British folklore but, while the phallic maypole and spiritual embracing of warming rays both feature heavily, you’ll be relieved to hear the event is a strictly Morris Dancing-free zone.

Children in traditional dresses clutch their parents’ hands while local teenagers, resplendent in their finest summer garb, exchange flirtatious glances as the accordion player strikes up a rousing chorus of folk tunes.

But beware: casual bystanders may be dragged into the ensuing series of line-dancing style displays, culminating with the quintessential midsummer routine — the squatting frog dance.

Midsummer in SwedenIMG_4609 via photopin (license)

Step 4: eat a fish supper

After the build up of the afternoon, it’s time get down to the serious business that evening of celebrating with traditional food and drink.

The essential three-course supper includes a starter of three types of herring, served with crème fraîche and new potatoes, followed by cuts of beef, chicken and lamb, served with tomato salad and a deliciously tangy smoked mayonnaise. There are fresh strawberries to finish.

Fresh strawberries – midsummer in Sweden

Most dinners are small family occasions but you can get a flavour of the festivities at Gabriel, the seafood restaurant located in Gothenburg ‘Fish Church’ seafood market, or at Villa Sjotorp.

Traditionally, the first tasty new potatoes and strawberries of the season are used to prepare the extensive spread.

Step 5: take a midnight swim

Midsummer is also about being together with families or friends reuniting for one weekend of the year. And, by the time the lights softens and the fresh breeze of summer blows across the al-fresco gathering, the schnapps will be in full flow.

By this point expect dancing on the jetty by the lakeside or on the ocean-washed beach and hearty singalongs to traditional folk tunes played on the accordion. It’s a rare moment in time when nobody has a care in the world and all feels right in life.

Midsummer in SwedenSummer Sunset via photopin (license)

“For me, midsummer has elements of light, nature, family and nostalgia. It’s a special night,” explains Bibban Ryden, of Gothenburg-based tour company Kulturbåtarna, who organise island-hopping cruises around the archipelago.

“I may no longer be young but, come midnight,” she smiles cheekily, “I’m still ready for skinny dipping.”

Featured image by Midsummer at Öland via photopin (license). Explore more of Sweden with the Rough Guide to SwedenCompare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

While the American lobster is found all along the east coast of North America, from Newfoundland to North Carolina, it is most commonly associated with Maine, where the crustacean is abundant and devoured in a number of dishes and numerous restaurants.

Maine’s lobster industry contributes more than $1 billion to the state’s economy – 2014 saw an epic haul of more than 120 million pounds. The lobsters are 100 percent hand-harvested by more than 5600 lobstermen who use small day boats to retrieve one trap at a time, the better to protect their quality and the marine habitat.

Visitors to the state can enjoy lobsters in any number of ways; the state’s most creative chefs apply the protein into wickedly inventive concoctions, while dozens of rustic lobster pounds offer a classic, straightforward experience that hasn’t changed for decades. Here’s a look at the best places to enjoy Maine’s most famous food.

Young’s Lobster Pound, Belfast

Those who have never experienced a proper lobster pound should head straight to quiet Belfast, where Young’s Lobster Pound offers a quintessential experience. Visitors peruse giant tanks and have a variety of lobster sizes to choose from. Once their lobster is steamed-to-order, guests grab a seat on a picnic bench and enjoy water views.

Lobster rolls, Camden Harbour Inn, MaineImage courtesy of Camden Harbour Inn

Red’s Eats, Wiscasset

One of Maine’s most famous lobster rolls can be found in the tiny town of Wiscasset, where Red’s Eats – a family-run business that has been nestled at the riverfront since 1938 – lures a steady stream of foodies in search of lobster heaven. Each roll is stuffed with the meat of more than one whole lobster; whole claws are placed at each end of the roll and an entire split lobster tail rests on top. Each roll comes with hot drawn butter and/or mayonnaise on the side.

The Camden Harbour Inn, Camden

Operated by a pair of Dutchmen, the Camden Harbour Inn resides in the idyllic town of Camden. Guests of this decorated, Relais & Chateaux property stay in-house to enjoy the lauded restaurant Natalie’s. The kitchen puts the classic lobster roll on its head by offering offbeat varieties such as a tempura lobster roll with miso aioli and a traditional option with tart citrus aioli. Natalie’s offers perhaps the state’s standout lobster experience: a four-course lobster tasting menu.

The Black Point Inn, Scarborough

The Black Point Inn has been an institution in quiet Scarborough since the late 1800s. The inn offers a pair of dining options: the casual Chart Room and the classy Point Restaurant. When guests are able to tear themselves away from the dramatic views of the Atlantic ocean, they can enjoy classic preparations of fresh local lobster.

Lobster roll, Chebeague Island Inn – best lobster in MaineImage courtesy of the Chebeague Island Inn

Chebeague Island Inn, Casco Bay

Situated along the shores of Casco Bay, the Chebeague Island Inn can only be reached by ferry. The inn puts an earthy twist on a traditional lobster roll by using seaweed-infused butter. Guests looking for a more immersive lobster experience can opt for the “Lucky Lobstering” package. The two-hour excursion around the bay allows visitors to catch their own lobster and then enjoy the fresh catch back at the hotel with all the fixings and wine pairings.

Union Restaurant, Portland

Portland – the state’s biggest city and culinary hub – offers a dizzying array of dining options for lobster lovers. Those looking to get the most out of the city, which has often been named the American small city with the best dining scene, can stay at the the Autograph Collection’s Press Hotel, which is housed in the city’s old newspaper building. The in-house Union Restaurant offers a stylish spot in which to enjoy local lobster. Executive chef Josh Berry serves an upscale lobster roll featuring house-made lemon mayo and “snipped” chives.

Café Miranda, Rockland

In the scenic town of Rockland, Cafe Miranda lures foodies looking for an unparalleled lobster experience. Chef/owner Kerry Altiero is a big fan of Maine Lobster, incorporating it in unique dishes throughout the year. Altiero’s standout “Vacation in your Mouth” dish puts a spicy spin on mild, sweet lobster meat by adding chilli peppers, scallions, lime, Thai fish sauce, cilantro, kimchi flakes, black sesame seeds and more.

MC Perkins Cove, Maine USAImage by Patrick McNamara

Hugo’s, Portland

One of the state’s most decorated restaurants, Hugo’s has been a mainstay of the Portland dining scene since 1988. Guests enjoy inventive lobster preparations such as a lobster sashimi, which comes to life thanks to sea beans, ginger, scallions and fried garlic.

MC Perkins Cove, Ogunquit

Two of the state’s most famous chefs, Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, have won plaudits for their creative lobster dishes at MC Perkins Cove in the popular tourist town of Ogunquit. The chefs surprise diners with inventive creations such as lobster shortcake with rum vanilla sauce, and lobster in a “paper bag” with fresh green curry, lime, and coconut.

Eventide Oyster Co., Portland

In Portland, the trendy Eventide Oyster Co. wins raves for its lobster roll, prepared with a choice of hollandaise, homemade mayo, or the crowd favourite, brown butter vinaigrette. The fresh Maine lobster meat is served on a Chinese-style steamed bun.

Bite into Maine, lobster shack – best lobster in MaineImage by John Ewing

Bite into Maine, Cape Elizabeth

In Cape Elizabeth’s popular Fort Williams Park, Bite into Maine is a “Maine-centric mobile eatery.” Parked in the shadow of one of the state’s most famous lighthouses, the Portland Head Light, the food truck offers three styles of lobster rolls: “Maine” with light mayonnaise and fresh chives, “Connecticut” with hot butter, and “picnic” with coleslaw, hot butter, celery salt, wasabi, curry and chipotle.

Bob’s Clam Hut, Kittery

Located in the shopping haven of Kittery, Bob’s Clam Hut has been offering a classic seafood shack experience since 1956. The friendly restaurant serves up award-winning lobster rolls packed with fresh local lobster. Those looking for a more refined experience can cross the street, where Robert’s Maine Grill offers a welcoming environment for enjoying locally-caught lobster meat and views of picturesque Spruce Creek.

Robert Maine Grill and Bob's Clam Hut, best lobster in MaineImage courtesy of Bob’s Clam Hut

The White Barn Inn, Kennebunk

In the coastal town of Kennebunk, the White Barn Inn provides out-of-towners with an upscale home-away-from-home. The classy, timber-frame barn wows guests with its eponymous, in-house restaurant, where smoked lobster is served with paprika butter sauce on corn puree. The key to this dish is the presentation; the plate is covered and filled with applewood smoke, which is then released at the table in front of the guest to enliven the senses.


Lobster fans not content with a dining experience can seek out one of the many lobster-centric community gatherings and festivals held throughout the year. The biggest of them all, the Maine Lobster Festival, is held in Rockland every year in late July/early August. This year’s festival, the 68th annual gathering, will see some 20,000 pounds of lobster consumed, plus lots of fun events such as a lobster crate race, lobster cooking contest, and the coronation of the Maine Sea Goddess.

Explore more of Maine with the Rough Guide to the USA.  Compare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Looking through the Rough Guides photography archive, one kind of shot stands out again and again: pictures captured at sunrise. Sure, there’s nothing more tempting than sleeping in until noon while you’re on holiday. But if you can bring yourself to brave the odd early morning, you’ll discover a magical world as dawn breaks. From misty views atop Victoria Peak in Hong Kong to dreamy sunrise reflections on Ko Samui in Thailand, these are some of our favourite images.

Dawn breaks over the horizon pool at The Tongsai Bay Hotel, Ko Samui, Thailand

Tongsai Bay Hotel, Ko Samui, Thailand

Morning mist on the Mae Hong Son loop, Thailand

Morning Mist on the Mae Hong Son loop, Thailand

An early morning in Hong Kong, as seen from Victoria Peak

View from Victoria Peak, China, Hong Kong

Dawn breaks over Monument Valley, Arizona, USA

Monument Valley, Arizona, USA

Sunrise reflections on Naknek Lake in Alaska’s Katmai National Park

Naknek Lake, Katmai National Park, Alaska

Spectacular colours on Playa Lucia at sunrise, Puerto Rico

Playa Lucia, Puerto Rico

Chinese fishing nets silhouetted as the sun rises, Kochi, Kerala, India

Chinese fishing nets, Cochin (Kochi), Kerala, India

A peaceful Grand Canyon, as seen from Bright Angel Point, Arizona, USA

Grand Canyon, Angel Point, Arizona, USA

Early morning cloudscape over Puerto Viejo, Limon Province, Costa Rica

Cloudscape Puerto Viejo, Limon Province, Costa Rica

Sunrise at Kazan Gorge (Cazanele Dunarii) on the Danube River, Romania

Kazan Gorge (Cazanele Dunarii), Romania

Looking out over the water at dawn, Copenhagen, Denmark

Dawn, Copenhagen, Denmark

A calm start to the day in Mariehamn, Åland, Finland

Mariehamn, Aland, Finland

Gulls circle a life guard post on South Beach, Miami

South Beach, Miami, at sunrise

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Picturesque Wales has long drawn holidaymakers to its unspoilt countryside, rugged mountainous terrain and long, lonely coastline. Whether you’re after a dream-like hike or scenic drive, beautiful views aren’t hard to find. Here are some of our authors’ favourites – walks, nature reserves, beaches, railway journeys and much more – taken from new Rough Guide to Wales.

Wye Valley wonder

Walking or driving through the Wye Valley, especially near Tintern’s towering ruins, it’s easy to see why Wordsworth was so inspired.

Tintern Abbey, Wye Valley, Walesphoto credit: tintern abbey hdr arty via photopin (license)

Styles and starry skies

A vast area of rocky moors, Brecon Beacons National Park is not just perfect walking country – it’s also one of the world’s first “dark sky reserves”.

Brecon Beacons, Walesphoto credit: IMG_7253 via photopin (license)

The end of the world

The Llŷn Peninsula excels in escapism, whether the panorama from the summit of Tre’r Ceiri or the lovely seaside village of Aberdaron.

Llyn Peninsula , Walesphoto credit: Sun going down over the Llyn Peninsula, North Wales via photopin (license)

Snowdonia’s finest scramble

Snowdon’s splendid, but the north ridge of Tryfan gives wonderful exposure and views, and the scramble up borders on rock-climbing.

Snowdon, Walesphoto credit: SANY0400.JPG via photopin (license)

Coastal escapes

You can’t beat the glorious views of Worms Head and Rhossili Bay from the head of the Gower Peninsula.

Rhossili, Walesphoto credit: Rhossili via photopin (license)

On the rails

Hop aboard Ffestiniog Railway, the finest of Wales’s narrow-gauge railways, which climbs 13 miles from the coast into the heart of the mountains.

Ffestiniog Railway, Walesphoto credit: Ffestiniog Railway at Ddaullt via photopin (license)

Wales at its wildest

Covering 240 square miles, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park encompasses wooded estuaries, rocky cliffs and isolated beaches

Pembrokeshire Coast National Parkphoto credit: Wooltack Point – Pembrokeshire via photopin (license)

Skeletal grandeur

Newport’s Transporter Bridge, a remarkable feat of engineering, was described as “A giant with the might of Hercules and the grace of Apollo when it opened in 1906.

Transporter Bridge, Newport, Walesphoto credit: Transporter Bridge via photopin (license)

Small-town splendour

There’s a superb view across the Menai Strait to the Snowdonian mountains in Beaumaris, plus a picture-postcard castle and lovely Georgian townscape.

View from Beaumaris, Walesphoto credit: nature-trail-lighthouse-110.jpg via photopin (license)

Flocks away

Gigrin Farm is one of the best places in Europe to watch red kites feeding. As many as five hundred of the magnificent birds descend at any one time – a fantastic sight.

Gigrin Farm, Walesphoto credit: Red Kites – Gigrin Farm via photopin (license)

A pass to the past

An ancient drovers’ road, the magnificent Abergwesyn Pass twists its way through the forests and valleys of the Cambrian Mountains.

Abergwesyn Pass, Walesphoto credit: Llyn Brianne via photopin (license)

Explore more of Wales with The Rough Guide to WalesCompare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

From the new Pocket Rough Guide, we’ve selected some of our favourite tips for seeing Paris on a budget.

A trip to Paris, famous as the most romantic of destinations, is one of those lifetime musts. Long the beating heart of European civilization, it remains one of the world’s most refined yet passionate cities. Yet despite its reputation as an expensive place to visit, there are many places that can be enjoyed without splashing the cash, from engrossing museums to good-value restaurants. Here’s our pick of the best free things to do, affordable eats and budget beds.

The free sights

Musée Carnavalet
One of the city’s best free museums is the Musée Carnavalet. Set in two beautiful Renaissance mansions, it charts the history
 of Paris from its origins up to the belle époque through a huge and extraordinary collection of paintings, sculptures, decorative arts and archeological finds. The attractive formal gardens are worth a visit in themselves.

Maison de Victor Hugo
Among the many celebrities who made their homes in Place des Vosges was Victor Hugo; his house, at no. 6, where he wrote much of Les Misérables, is now a museum, the Maison de Victor Hugo. Here, his life is evoked through a sparse collection of memorabilia, portraits and photographs that convey an idea of his prodigious creativity.

Petit Palais
at the same time as its larger neighbour the Grand Palais,
 the Petit Palais is hardly “petit” but certainly palatial, with beautiful spiral wrought-iron staircases and a grand gallery on the lines of Versailles’ Hall
of Mirrors. The Musée des Beaux Arts housed here has
 an extensive range of paintings and sculpture and decorative artworks, plus there are free lunchtime classical concerts on Thursdays.

Final resting place of a host of French and foreign notables, Père-Lachaise  covers some 116 acres, making it one of the world’s largest cemeteries. It’s surely also one of the most atmospheric – an eerie yet beautiful haven and the resting place of (among others) Molière, Chopin and ex-Doors singer Jim Morrison.

Pere Lachaise, Paris

The best views

Pont Neuf
The “new bridge” is actually the oldest in the city, and, with its stone arches, arguably the loveliest. There are few better places to watch the Seine flow than this link between the Ile de la Cité, and the right and left banks of the river.

On the buses 
 Paris by bus is enjoyable and inexpensive; try the #29 from
Gare St-Lazare, which goes
past the Opera Garnier, through the Marais, and on to Bastille.

Parc de Belleville
Absorbed into Paris in the 1860s and subsequently built
up with high-rise blocks to house migrants from rural areas and the ex-colonies, Belleville might not exactly be “belle”, but it’s an interesting side of the city. Well worth the trip out is the Parc de Belleville, which with its terraces and waterfalls, offers get great views across the city, especially at sunset.

There’s no charge to visit this Parisian landmark, but the real draw is the view from the terrace. Looking out from 
the steps that cascade down Montmartre’s steep hill, the silvery roofs of Paris seem to spread to the horizon.

France, Paris, Montmartre, Sacre-Coeur, view of cityscape from church

Getting outdoors

Jardin des Tuileries
No trip to Paris is complete without a saunter along the chestnut-tree-lined alleys of the Jardin des Tuileries, admiring the grand vistas, formal flower beds and fountains. This is the French formal garden par excellence.

Jardin du Luxembourg
Fronting onto rue de Vaugirard, the Jardin du Luxembourg is the chief green space of the Left Bank, its atmosphere
a beguiling mixture of the formal and the relaxed. These gardens are filled with people playing tennis or chess and couples strolling round the elegant lawns.

Promenade Plantée
This disused railway line, now an elevated walkway planted with trees and flowers, is a great way to see a little-known part of eastern Paris. Starting near the beginning of avenue Daumesnil, just south of the Bastille opera house, it takes you
to the Parc de Reuilly, then descends to ground level and continues nearly as far as the périphérique.

Bois de Boulogne
The Bois de Boulogne was designed by Baron Haussmann and supposedly modelled on London’s Hyde Park – though it’s a very French interpretation. You should avoid it at night, but by day it’s an extremely pleasant spot for a stroll. The best, and wildest, part for walking is towards the southwest corner.

France, Paris, St-Germain, Jardin du Luxembourg

Affordable meals

Bistrot des Victoires
If you’re in the mood for something traditional, stop off at Bistrot des Victoires, a charming old-fashioned bistrot serving staples like confit de canard and poulet rôti for around €10. 

Breizh Café
This Breton café serves arguably the best crêpes in the city, with traditional fillings like ham and cheese, as well as more exotic options such as smoked herring, which you can wash down with one of twenty different ciders.

La Fourmi
This artfully distressed, high-ceilinged café-bar in Montmartre can usually be found full of Parisian bohos sipping coffee and cocktails. Come during the day for light meals or at night for drinks.

L’As du Fallafel
For a cheap and filling lunch, get a takeaway from L’As du Fallafel in the Marais’ Jewish Quarter. The sign above the doorway reads “Toujours imité, jamais égalé” (“always copied, but never equalled”), a boast that few would challenge, given the queues outside.

The Marais, Place Des Vosges, Rue des Rosiers, Fast Food, l'As du Fallafel

Budget beds

Hotel Bonséjour Montmartre
Set on a quiet, untouristy street on the slopes of Montmartre, footsteps away from great neighbourhood bars and restaurants, this hotel is
 a steal. The simple, old-fashioned clean room are a serious bargain.

Mama Shelter
One of the most talked-about hotels in Paris, Philippe Starck-designed Mama Shelter justifies the hype. Yet it’s also extremely good value. The industrial-chic theme includes arty graffiti motifs on the carpets and ceilings, swanky bathrooms, iMacs and decorative superhero masks.

St Christopher’s Paris
We reckon St Christopher’s two massive hostels are among the best in Europe. Try the original branch overlooking the waters of the Bassin de la Villette where there’s a great bar, inexpensive restaurant, and free internet access.

Pocket Rough Guide ParisGet the full Pocket Rough Guide to Paris for a complete guide to the city. Compare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Taken from the new Pocket Rough Guide, this is our pick of the best pubs in London

London is a very big city. In fact, it’s the largest capital in the European Union, stretching for more than thirty miles from east to west, and with a population of just over eight million. Ethnically and linguistically, it’s also Europe’s most diverse metropolis, offering cultural and culinary delights from right across the globe.

If you want to get under the city’s skin, there’s only one place to do it. Found on just about every street corner, the pub remains one of the nation’s most enduring social institutions and its popularity in London sees no sign of waning. The City has probably the best choice of long-established drinking holes, while in Soho and the East End you’ll find a wide choice of bars and clubs alongside good-old fashioned pubs. For a riverside drink, head for the South Bank or Docklands, and for a lazy Sunday afternoon mosey on up to Hampstead or down to Greenwich.

The Lamb & Flag

This tiny old pub is hidden away down an alley between Garrick Street and Floral Street in Covent Garden. Among its claims to fame is that the Poet Laureate, John Dryden, was beaten up here in 1679 by a group of thugs who were most probably hired by his rival poet, the Earl of Rochester.
33 Rose St  

The Salisbury

This flamboyant and superbly preserved late-Victorian pub offers an escape from the crowds a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square. The interior is replete with bronze nymphs, etched and engraved windows, red-leather seating and a fine lincrusta ceiling, while a wide range of ales is on offer behind the bar.
90 St Martin’s Lane 

The Salisbury Pub London

The Red Lion

Not what you’d expect to find in St James’s, the exclusive little enclave sandwiched between St James’s Park and Piccadilly, this glorious old Victorian gin palace has elegant etched mirrors and lots of polished wood. They offer a commendable range of ales, with seasonal selections that change every few weeks.
2 Duke of York St

The Dog & Duck

For a slice of old Soho, you can’t do better than this tiny pub. The Dog & Duck retains much of its old character and its original decor, with beautiful Victorian tiling and mosaics, plus a good range of real ales. A real West End treat.
18 Bateman St

The Lamb

For refreshment after a trip to the British Museum, walk a few minutes east to The Lamb. This marvellously well-preserved Victorian pub in a pretty street boasts mirrors, polished wood and “snob” screens, plus intriguing old photos. The excellent Young’s ales round things off splendidly.
94 Lamb’s Conduit St

London, Bloomsbury, The Lamb, pub facade

Jerusalem Tavern

This converted Georgian coffee house – a short walk from Smithfield Market – has a frontage dating to 1810, meaning the building retains much of its original character. Better still, the excellent draught beers are from St Peter’s Brewery in Suffolk.
55 Britton St

The Three Kings

Tucked away north of Clerkenwell Green, just a quick stumble from the Jerusalem Tavern, lies another of London’s gems. This atmospheric pub has a delightfully eclectic interior and two small rooms upstairs that are perfect for long occupation.
7 Clerkenwell Close

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

seventeenth-century watering hole – famous chiefly because of patrons such as Dickens and Dr Johnson – with several snug, dark-panelled rooms and real fires. Popular with tourists, but by no means exclusively so. It’s hidden down an alleyway off Fleet Street, so look out for the sign.
Wine Office Court, 145 Fleet St

England, London, Fleet Street, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Prospect of Whitby

Steeped in history, this Docklands venue is perhaps London’s most famous riverside pub, with a pewter bar, flagstone floor, ancient timber beams and stacks of maritime memorabilia. Decent beers and terrific views too.
57 Wapping Wall

Royal Oak

The Royal Oak is a lovingly restored Victorian boozer that eschews jukeboxes and one-armed bandits, opting simply for a superb stock of real ales (mild, pale and old) from Harveys Brewery in Sussex and some good old-fashioned pub grub.
44 Tabard St 

Royal Oak Pub London

The Holly Bush

For drinking in north London, try this lovely old pub, with a cosy real fire in winter and a charming wooden interior, tucked away in the steep backstreets of Hampstead village. There are some fine ales on offer, plus decent food (particularly the sausages and pies) – note that it can get mobbed at weekends.
22 Holly Mount 

Trafalgar Tavern

Frequented by the likes of Dickens (and mentioned in Our Mutual Friend), William Thackeray and Wilkie Collins, this Regency-style inn is a firm tourist favourite in Greenwich – with its riverside position and good snacks, it’s easy to see why.
5 Park Row 

Pocket Rough Guide London


Explore more of London with the Pocket Rough GuideCompare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Manchester is Britain’s new cultural capital. No, really. The city may have been built on the heavy industry of the Industrial Revolution but since the 2002 Commonwealth Games, it has re-invented itself as a world capital of the arts.

Today Manchester dominates the headlines with a slew of galleries, venues and festivals. It’s home to some of the UK’s most forward-thinking developments, one of the coolest music scenes and a fast-expanding range of great hotels and restaurants. Then there’s Russell T. Davies’ new Channel Four series, Cucumber, set along Canal Street in Manchester’s Gay Village, and the Royal Exchange Theatre’s Hamlet, set to be screened in cinemas across the UK.

Is there any doubt that Manchester is starting to take centre stage in the UK? David Atkinson makes the case for why the city is the UK’s cultural hotspot.

1. It has the most intriguing art gallery

The Whitworth Gallery recently re-opened to the public following a £15m redevelopment. The new building features a glass-promenade gallery overlooking the new Art Garden in Whitworth Park. The opening show, a solo exhibition from the respected contemporary artist Cornelia Parker, runs until summer, while the permanent collection showcases the gallery’s eclectic range of fine art, textiles and wallpapers.

2. It’s about to get the country’s top arts centre

HOME, the city’s new multi-artform centre opens on the 21st May with a funfair theme for the opening weekend. The £25m development includes a 500-seat theatre, flexible studio space and five cinema screens. It will commission, produce and present a programme of contemporary theatre, film and visual art, drawing on resources of the former Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company, both of which have evolved into the HOME project.

HOME, ManchesterImage courtesy of

3. It hosts the most dynamic festival

The bi-annual Manchester International Festival (MIF) kicks off in July with 18 days of premieres, performances and events. The festival, described by The New Yorker as “probably the most radical and important arts festival today” puts Manchester on the international stage. One of this year’s cornerstone events is the premiere of, a new musical inspired by Lewis Carroll’s iconic Alice in Wonderlandwhich turns 150 this year – with music by Damon Albarn.

4. It’s home to some of the best libraries

Manchester always had a rich literacy legacy – from Karl Marx observing working life in the mid nineteenth century to the UK’s current Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy via the punk poetry of John Cooper Clarke. Manchester Central Library, reopened last March as a living-room space for the city. The nearby Portico Library is a Neo-Classical gem with a dusty-tome-filled Reading Room and Chetham’s Library is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world.

Central Library, ManchesterImage courtesy of

5. It has the coolest music scene

Manchester has brought us bands from Joy Division to Elbow and the city’s best record shop, Piccadilly Records, remains the lynchpin of the Manchester music scene. For live bands, pick of the venues is The Deaf Institute a three-floor independent operation at the heart of studentland where you can catch bands on the way to stadium slots and cool new comedians, while supping on craft beers and tucking into tasty burgers.

6. It’s one of the best places for urban living

Looking for cool bars, trendy boutiques and lots of independent-spirited places to soak up the urban-cool vibe? Look no further than the Northern Quarter, the city’s thriving off-duty hub. Try North Tea Power for café-culture, surviving old faves like Afflecks Palace for vintage and vinyl, and Dry Bar for beers and bands.

Shops and cafes in the Northern Quarter in ManchesterImage courtesy of

7. It celebrates industrial heritage

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, the family home of the Cranford author, reopened last year after a three-year project to restore the Grade II-listed Regency villa. Gaskell documented Manchester’s burgeoning industrial revolution from her writing desk at 84 Plymouth Grove after the family moved to the house in 1850 and her views contrasted starkly with the ideals of the Victorian era.

8. It has some fantastic places to stay 

With over 6,500 hotel rooms in the city centre, places to crash range from bijou boutique hotels to homely hostels. The Radisson Blu Edwardian, the former Free Trade Hall where The Sex Pistols invented punk in 1976, is now synonymous with urban cool while The Lowry, Manchester’s first five-star property, remains the place to see and be seen. 

Lowry ManchesterImage courtesy of

9. It’s home to boundary-pushing chefs

The restaurant scene has exploded, with the Manchester Food & Drink Festival now a cornerstone of the foodie diary. Simon Rogan of Michelin-stared L’Enclume fame is currently cooking up a storm at The French in the Midland Hotel. Other highlights include Cloud 23, the panorama bar at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate, for fancy cocktails, and The Briton’s Protection, one of Manchester’s favourite traditional boozers, for local ales and spoken-word nights.

10. It’s about to get some serious investment

The government announced a £78m cash injection into Manchester’s creative economy in last year’s Autumn Statement. The cornerstone of plans for the ‘northern powerhouse’ is The Factory, a new artist-led, creative hub on a site to the west of the city centre that was previously home to Coronation Street. The Factory, a homage to Manchester’s legendary Factory Records, will combine an array of arts spaces with a permanent home for the Manchester International Festival. It’s due to open 2019.

Explore more of the region with the Rough Guide to Britain. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. Compare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Wherever your itinerary takes you, travel in Myanmar (Burma) is sure to provide a wealth of new experiences – whether you’re air-kissing at your waiter in a city teahouse or witnessing your first nat ceremony. To mark the release of our first guide to the country, co-author Jo James shares fourteen of her essential things to do in Myanmar.

Breakfast in a Burmese teahouse

From Yangon’s traffic-choked streets to dusty village lanes, Myanmar’s teahouses are local institutions. Enthusiastic tea boys dodge between the tables, slopping tea into saucers and serving up deep-fried snacks. Patrons air kiss loudly to attract the staff’s attention, their eyes on the football match on TV and their minds on teashop gossip. Stop for a bowl of mohinga – the nation’s favourite noodle soup, or refuel with a char kway (a Chinese-style doughnut) dunked in a delicious cup of sweet, milky tea.

Float down the Irrawaddy

The Irrawaddy River curls south from foothills of the Himalayas, unfurling past Mandalay and Bagan’s temple-covered plain before spilling its silt-rich waters into the Andaman Sea. Myanmar’s most important waterway is plied by everything from luxury teak-decked steamers to ponderous government ferries and leaking speedboats. Climb aboard your vessel of choice and float downstream to see a slice of riverside life – and remember to keep an eye out for rare Irrawaddy dolphins.

A sailing boat on the Irrawaddy, Myanmar, Burma

Relive the Raj

From streets lined with peeling colonial-era buildings and afternoon tea at The Strand in Yangon, to ghostly locations from George Orwell’s novel Burmese Days in Katha, echoes of British Burma reverberate in a handful of places around Myanmar. Nowhere are these echoes louder than in Pyin Oo Lwin, a former hill station, where horse-drawn carriages trundle past mouldering teakwood mansions and a bell cast for George V’s Silver Jubilee still chimes from the town’s Purcell Tower.

Revive yourself with tealeaf salad

Enthusiastic tea drinkers, the Burmese are one of the few cultures to eat tea as well, in the form of lahpet thouq or tealeaf salad. Fried garlic and broad beans, chopped tomato and whole green chillies are added to piles of deep green, slightly pickled tealeaves, creating something like pesto with a strong caffeine kick – a popular pick-me-up for sleepy students and flagging sightseers alike.

Explore Buddhism’s quirky side

Myanmar’s Theravada Buddhism is shot through with a thick vein of mystery and magic, with enough offbeat sights and stories to revive the interest of the most jaded temple-goer. Climb to the Golden Rock, a precarious gold-crusted boulder held in place for centuries by a few strands of Buddha’s hair, meet alchemist monks searching for the secret to eternal life at Hpa-An’s crag-top pagoda and clamber through the insides of a vast concrete Buddha outside Mawlamyine.

Golden Rock, MyanmarImage by Jo James

Join a nat ceremony

Transvestite natkadaws ply a middle-aged lady with whisky as she gyrates to music from a traditional orchestra. Members of the audience tuck 1,000-kyat notes into her clothing to propitiate the nat who has possessed her. Although Myanmar’s native belief system – that the world is suffused by a collection of unruly nats who require frequent mollification with alcohol, music and money – contrasts sharply with Buddhism’s emphasis on restraint and quiet reflection, many Burmese people happily believe in both. Catch the country’s largest nat ceremony in Taungbyone each August, or head to Mount Popa, Myanmar’s most important centre of nat worship.

Take your time on a Burmese train

Journeys on Myanmar’s antiquated narrow-gauge rail network are often uncomfortable and comically bouncy, and timing is unpredictable in the extreme. However, in exchange for risking a bruised bum and a late arrival, train travellers are rewarded with a fantastic chance to interact with local people, from friendly fellow passengers and holidaying monks, to the poised ladies who sway down the aisle selling snacks from trays balanced precariously on their heads.

Woman on train, Myanmar, Burma

Try thanaka

Each morning Burmese women and children daub their cheeks with powdery yellow swipes of thanaka, a natural sunblock and cosmetic made from the ground bark of the wood apple tree, with its sandalwood-like fragrance. However you feel about its beautifying abilities – that tawny shade of yellow isn’t for everyone – freshly applied thanaka is wonderfully cooling, and makes your face smell great for hours.

Rock a longyi

Once you’ve sorted out your thanaka, the natural next step is to get yourself a longyi – a tube of fabric worn by men and women across Myanmar. The male version (a paso) is often nattily checked or striped, and tied with a knot in front, while the female version (a htamein) is more richly patterned, and tucked into a fold around the waist. Pick out your favourite design and take it to a tailor, who will sew it up for you and you’re all set – just ensure that it’s tied tightly enough to avoid any inadvertent flashing…

Nurture a jaggery addiction

Irregular, caramel-coloured lumps of jaggery are one of the great pleasures of a Burmese meal. Made from boiled toddy palm sap and jokingly called “Burmese chocolate”, jaggery is exceedingly addictive whether plain or flavoured with coconut shreds and sesame seeds. However unhappy it might make your dentist back home, cultivating a serious jaggery habit is certainly healthier than Myanmar’s other great tooth-rotting pastime – chewing kwoon-ya, lip-staining little parcels of betel nut, tobacco and slaked lime.

Jaggery, Burma, MyamarImage by Jo James

Get tipsy on toddy

All over Myanmar, you’ll see spindly bamboo ladders disappearing into spiky palmyra palm trees – a sure sign that a toddy tapper is at work nearby. The palm’s sweet, white sap ferments naturally into toddy, a cloudy, lightly alcoholic beverage also called palm wine or tan-ye. Myanmar’s only home-grown alcoholic drink (Mandalay Brewery’s “anti-aging” spirulina beer notwithstanding), toddy is only available from low-key village bars close to where it’s made, making it an unmistakable taste of the Burmese countryside.

Sample village life

Take to the hills in Shan State and trek along the now-classic Kalaw to Inle Lake route, or head north to explore the less-visited area around Hsipaw and Kyaukme. Whichever hike you choose, you’ll have the opportunity to stay overnight in Shan and Palaung villages along each trail – something that isn’t yet possible elsewhere in Myanmar – and to experience rural life first-hand, with roosters for alarm clocks and water buffalo for trail mates.

Country life, Myanmar, BurmaImage by Jo James

Go to market

Barefoot porters pad down crowded aisles shouldering crates of limes, stallholders lean against sacks of onions lazily smoking cheroots, while prospective buyers prod green mangoes and examine glistening fish. Go for a stroll through any messy morning market and you’ll discover something new, from the novel (Burmese herbal shampoo) and delicious (crispy bein moun pancakes smeared with jaggery syrup), to the malodorous (shapely piles of ngapi fish paste speared with smoking incense sticks).

Get wet during Thingyan

While in theory, Thingyan – the week-long Burmese New Year festival – is a time to solemnly reaffirm one’s Buddhist beliefs, to the outside observer it seems more like a raucous, countrywide water fight. As temperatures soar each April, everyday life grinds to a halt and children and teenagers take to the streets to soak each other and passers-by (foreigners are singled out with particular relish) with buckets and out-sized water pistols. Festivities reach fever pitch in Mandalay, where streets are lined with makeshift stages from which revellers hose down passing motorists to a booming soundtrack of local hits.

Rough Guide to Myanmar Burma cover


Explore more of Myanmar with the new Rough GuideCompare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

We’ve just published a brand new Pocket Rough Guide to New York City, and thought we’d share a sneak preview. Want to shun the crowds? Here are five places to explore hidden New York. 

No superlative, no cliché does New York City justice. It may not serve as the official capital of the US or even of New York State, but it’s the undisputed capital of the world in many regards. High finance, media, art, architecture, food, fashion, popular culture, urban style, street life… it’s all here, in plenitude and peak form.

Best of all for visitors (and residents), you don’t have to look too hard for any of it. Often the sights, both big and small, are just staring you right in the face: the money fortresses of Wall Street; the raised torch of the Statue of Liberty; the iconic Empire State Building; the hype and hustle of Times Square; Fifth Avenue’s foot traffic; the proud lions of the Public Library. But if you want to see a different side to NYC, you’ll need to look further.

Red Hook

This off-the-beaten-path waterfront Brooklyn neighbourhood, a former shipping centre, was once one of the more rough-and-tumble in the city, but now holds artists’ galleries, unique restaurants, converted warehouses and, to some folks’ chagrin, twin giants in IKEA and Fairway. Cut off from the subway system, Red Hook can be reached by water taxi or bus, a worthwhile venture to hit the Red Hook Ball Fields on summer weekends, where you can sample Latin American street food and watch soccer, or to take in fabulous views of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan from the piers, while snacking on a Key Lime Pie from Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies – the best key lime pie in the northeast.

Red Hook, Brooklyn

Governors Island

Until the mid-1990s, Governors Island was the largest and most expensively run Coast-guard installation in the world, but today it’s being developed into a leafy historical park, the island’s bucolic village greens and colonial architecture reminiscent of a New England college campus. Many of the buildings are being restored as art galleries and craft stores, and the Historic Landmark District at the northern end is managed by the National Park Service. Ferries arrive at Soissons Dock, where you’ll find the small visitors’ centre. From here it’s a short stroll up to the solid walls of Fort Jay, completed in 1794, and the nearby shady lanes of Nolan Park, home to some beautifully preserved Neoclassical and Federal-style mansions. Other highlights include Castle Williams, a circular fort completed in 1811, but there are also plenty of green spaces in which to lounge in the sun, an artificial beach in the summer, and a breezy promenade with stellar views of Manhattan.

Governors Islandphoto credit: IMG_2787 via photopin (license)

Irish Hunger Memorial

This haunting monument to the more than one million Irish people who starved to death during the Great Famine of 1845–1852 was designed by artist Brian Tolle in 2002. He transported an authentic famine-era stone cottage from County Mayo, and set it on a 25ft embankment overlooking the Hudson River. The passageway underneath echoes with haunting Irish folk songs, and there is a meandering path through the grassy garden. 

Irish hunger memorialphoto credit: Irish Famine Memorial_2012 05 04_0143 via photopin (license)

African Burial Ground National Monument

In 1991 construction workers uncovered the remains of 419 skeletons near Broadway, a tiny portion of an African burial ground that covered five blocks during the 1700s. After being examined, the skeletons were re-interred at this site in 2003, marked by seven grassy mounds and a highly polished black granite monument, a symbolic counterpoint to the infamous “gate of no return” on Gorée Island in Senegal. To learn more, walk around the corner to the visitor centre (look for the dedicated entrance). Videos, displays and replicas of the artefacts found here are used to recount the history of the site, and shed light on the brutal life of the city’s oft forgotten enslaved population. 

African Burial Ground National Monument

Strivers’ Row

On W 138th and 139th sts (between Adam Clayton Powell Jr and Frederick Douglass blvds), Strivers’ Row comprises some of New York’s most alluring architecture and three of the finest blocks of Renaissance-influenced rowhouses in Manhattan. Commissioned in 1891 during a housing boom, this dignified development within the burgeoning black community came to be the most desirable place for ambitious professionals to reside at the turn of the twentieth century – hence its name. Today it remains an extremely posh residence for professionals of all backgrounds.

Strivers' Row

Pocket Rough Guide New York City


Explore more of New York with the Pocket Rough GuideCompare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Co-author of the Rough Guide to India, Nick Edwards, explains why the trekking in Ladakh is among India’s finest.

Ladakh is quite unlike any other region of India, both geographically and culturally. A rugged and arid high-altitude desert, set between the mighty Karakoram and Great Himalaya ranges, its very name means “the land of high passes”. It is blessed with spectacular mountain scenery that contrasts with the cultivated ribbon of green surrounding the Indus River, which winds westwards through Ladakh from its source on the Tibetan Plateau.

The majority of people in India’s most sparsely populated area, the Mahayana Buddhist Ladakhis, live in and around the picturesque capital of Leh, itself located at a heady altitude of 3500m. Leh is the place where almost all visitors arrive, whether by air or road transportation, and is the best place to acclimatise. Wherever you decide to explore from here, there’s no doubt this is the prime trekking area in the Indian Himalaya. Here, we outline some of the highlights.

It’s rich with unusual wildlife

Having more in common with central Asia than the rest of the subcontinent, the region is blessed with some unusual creatures. Grazing animals such as the nimble ibex, the Tibetan wild ass and endangered Tibetan antelope, as well as various species of wild sheep and goats, can all be spotted on the craggy slopes or patches of rolling grasslands. One of the most adorable sights is the local marmot, often seen ruminating beside the trekking paths.

In the unlikely event you come in winter, you might be treated to a rare sighting of the majestic snow leopard, while the shaggy domesticated yak is a ubiquitous presence at any time of year.

There is also a perhaps surprisingly impressive diversity of birdlife, from the hoopoe and the Tibetan snowcock to the lammergeier and the golden eagle, with some resident species and others that migrate north from India for the summer.

Yak at Nubra Valley Leh Ladahk India

The hospitality is unrivalled

Despite often surviving at subsistence level, the Ladakhis have a reputation for hospitality and an innocent mixture of pride and good nature. The women are especially photogenic in their traditional dress, which they almost all wear: a thick woven kuntop robe, colourful shawls, plus elaborate jewellery and the unique perak hat perched above their braided pigtails.

You are guaranteed a warm welcome wherever your wanderings take you, and there is a constantly-developing network of homestays around Leh and along trekking routes, which will increase your contact with the locals and directly benefit them economically.

The monasteries are astonishingly picturesque

One of the most characteristic images of Ladakh is of scenic whitewashed monasteries balanced precariously atop craggy peaks at angles that sometimes seem to defy gravity. These atmospheric spots have been unbroken places of worship for over a millennium and are especially lively during their annual festivals. Many offer basic but unique accommodation but even if you don’t stay, they are worth visiting at any time.

There is nothing quite like sitting on your own in the main prayer hall, always a riot of colour with painted thangkas, murals and statues, and listening to the mesmeric chanting of a lone monk, or chancing upon a ceremony involving cacophonous percussion and rasping horns. Among the star monasteries are Tikse, Hemis, Spitok, Lamayuru and Alchi, which contains some of the most highly acclaimed murals in the world.

Monastery, Leh, Ladakh, India, Asia

There is something for everyone

One of the beauties of trekking in Ladakh is that you can easily choose a length of trek to suit the time you have available and the power of your lungs and leg muscles. You can do anything from fairly low key hikes over two or three days, between Leh and some of the surrounding monasteries, to something more ambitious.

Further up the scale, the five-day trek between Alchi and Lamayuru is bookended by those famous monasteries and offers splendid views of the Indus Valley. Alternatively, the six- to eight-day Markha Valley circuit, tucked below the impressive Stok-Kangri massif, contains various topographies and altitudes, while experienced wilderness seekers will be attracted by the ten- to twelve-day marathon across the Zanskar Range between Lamayuru and Padum.

Pangong Lake, Ladakh, India, Asia

It has the perfect climate

As Ladakh is untouched by the monsoon and there is very little precipitation throughout the year, it offers dry trekking conditions and superb views almost all the time. This is particularly true of the main summer season from June to September, when the rest of India is covered by the rains. During these months daytime temperatures can easily exceed 20ºC, although you should bear in mind that the mercury can plummet to below zero at the higher altitudes at night, even in summer, and that snow flurries often occur even in August on the higher passes.

Explore more of India with The Rough Guide to IndiaCompare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

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