[This is an excerpt from our soon-to-be-released Frommer's Europe on $70 a Day. Read on to find out what recently opened, what's changed, and what's hot for your trip in the year to come.]
Planning an Affordable Trip to Europe
Of course, the biggest news across Europe is the switch from most national currencies to the euro (€) common currency. Twelve countries are currently part of the euro zone: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. Though the euro introduction went off without a major hitch, there has been a prolonged period of flux in pricing as European merchants get used to the new currency. As they were still ironing out details when we went to press, rates quoted in this book may be a little off.
Amsterdam & Environs
After some delay, Amsterdam's new Noord-Zuid (North-South) Metro line, should be open in 2003. If it is, it'll make the city's Metro more useful for getting around the center.
You now can reserve hotel rooms in Amsterdam through the VVV tourist office's Amsterdam Reservation Center (tel. 0777/000-888; email@example.com).
Athens & Delphi
Rumors continue to circulate that Olympic Airways will announce bankruptcy. Thus far, the airline has managed to pull itself back from the brink, though it has cut back considerably on scheduled flights. Virgin Atlantic closed its Athens office due to the decline in business after the terrorist attacks on the United States; at press time, the company had no plans to resume its London-Athens service.
In January 2002, Greek telephone codes changed. It is now necessary to dial "0" after the old area code.
The Athens Metro continues to open new stations; pick up a Metro map at the main Syntagma (Constitution) Square station.
Work on Athens's Archaeological Park, linking all the major sites with a pedestrian walkway, continues. For now, you can enjoy strolling on newly pedestrianized Dionissiou Areopayitou Boulevard.
Bear in mind that Athens's legendary Grande Bretagne Hotel and the Athens's Hilton are both closed until at least 2003 for extensive renovations in preparation for the August 2004 Olympics.
The famous Zonar's cafe on Panepistimiou St. Closed in 2001 and is being replaced by a chic mini-mall.
The museum at Eleusis, closed since the earthquake of 1999, was scheduled at press time to reopen in 2002.
The 4th century B.C. Temple of Zeus at Nenea, Peloponnese, is being restored; excavators have begun work to raise several of the temple's fallen columns.
Barcelona & Environs
Reports of the death of the Transbordador Aeri, the 1929 aerial cable car that runs hundreds of feet above the Port, were premature. Construction projects may still spell its dismantling, but not yet.
Barcelona continues its fascination with Spain's great culinary invention, tapas. Lately, the focus is on a Basque version called pintxos in which slices of bread are topped with a variety of fish, meats, cheeses, pickles, eggs, and combinations thereof. Euskal Etxea, Placeta Montcada 1-3 (tel. 93/310-2185) started the fad, and has spawned a slightly classier annex, Nou Euskal Etxea Berri, next door at no. 5.
The new "Articket" provides discounted admission to six important museums and galleries including the Fundació Antoni Tàpies and the Fundació Joan Miró.
The bargain Bus Turístic now runs year-round, on two routes, with a total of 24 stops. Passengers can get on and off when they wish, re-boarding another bus later and continuing the tour. An all-day ticket is only $12.50.
Berlin & Potsdam
A new tourist office, Tourist Info Café, has opened in the heart of former East Berlin, on Alexanderplatz at the base of the TV Tower.
Pension Fischer, in business for 28 years, has closed its doors. Luckily, two new budget options have opened theirs: Aletto Jugendhotel, Grunewaldstrasse 33 (tel. 030/21 96 66 31) and Hotel Transit Loft, Greifswalder Strasse 219 (tel. 030/48 49 37 73).
Ty Breizh Savoie Rire, one of Berlin's most eccentric French restaurants, has moved to a location near Charlottenburg Palace, Tegeler Weg 104 (tel. 030/34 56 01 55).
The Deutsches Historisches Museum, undergoing renovation with an addition by I.M. Pei, won't be open until some time in 2003. Until then, temporary exhibits relating to German history are being staged across the street at Kronprinzenpalais, Unter den Linden 3 (tel. 030/20 30 40), with free admission.
Although not as well known as Dachau (outside Munich), Sachsenhausen was also the site of an infamous World War II concentration camp. Tours of the camp are offered by The Original Berlin Walks (tel. 030/301 91 94) April to October.
Bern & The Best Of The Berner Oberland
After undergoing massive renovations early in 2002, Kreuz, Zeughausgasse 39-41 (tel. 031/329-9595), is one of the best of the moderately priced hotels of the Swiss capital.
More and more frugal travelers are discovering the combined French/Swiss cuisine served at Frohsinn, Münstergasse 54 (tel. 031/331-37-68), in the shadow of Bern's clock tower.
When night falls, Temple, Aarbergergasse 61 (tel. 031/311-50-41), is now biggest and best know dance club in the city. The new Jackpot Spielcasino, Kornhausstrasse 3 (tel. 031/333-10-10), is the only place in Bern to gamble.
In the resort of Interlaken, Pizpaz, Bahnhotstrasse 1 (tel. 033/822-25-33), is increasingly known for its inexpensive Italian food and the best pizzas in the area.
Belgium & Bruges
When making a telephone call in Belgium, you must now always dial the area code, even if you're calling from inside the same area.
The garden of the Mont des Arts, in the heart of Brussels, has been given a facelift. This ornamental assemblage of trees, plants, and fountains now has a children's play area, along with new paths, benches, and access points.
The U.S. owners of the Walibi children's theme park, have changed the name from the much-loved (if baffling) Walibi to Six Parks Belgium (tel. 010/42-15-00). To boost the thrill/price ratio, the company has added new white-knuckle rides.
The Belgian Parliament has made legal the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal consumption--5 grams (.175 oz.) For persons over 16. The new law does not legalize the sale of the drug.
Ghent's great Guido Meerschaut seafood restaurant has moved out of town to the village of Sint-Martens-Latem. Another fine restaurant, the Auberge de Fonteyne, has closed while its old guild headquarters setting is being renovated, and it's not clear whether the restaurant will reopen when the work finishes. And a couple of the city's top restaurants have had name changes: The Ghost is now the Bistro-Grill Crypte (Korenlei 24; tel. 09/225-07-27); and the Oranjerie is now called 't Klok Huys (Corduwaniersstraat 8; tel. 09/223-42-41).
Budapest & Lake Balaton
Inflation in Hungary continues to run at a 10% to 15% annual rate, but the strong U.S. dollar combined with the ever-declining Hungarian forint means that the prices of many goods and services has remained fairly constant for dollar-wielding visitors.
The Ferihegy I airport has been turned over to NATO for exclusive military use. The adjacent Ferihegy II now handles all civilian flights.
Although a new law requires all restaurants to maintain a nonsmoking section, few comply.
A number of new cafes and bistros have opened in recent years, enlivening Budapest nightlife. Most can be found along Andrássy ut between Oktogon and Deák tér.
Budapest's wonderful 100-year-old merry-go-round, in the city amusement park, was recently restored to its original, delightful grandeur.
Copenhagen & Environs
In 2002 the city of Copenhagen launched its first Metro or Subway line, carrying passengers east to west or west to east across the vast expanse of the city. Although not complete, this new system makes getting around the Danish capital easier.
Dublin & Environs
Though South of the Liffey is the traditionally hipper place to hang out, the Northside has been pulling street cred with the fashionable set lately, especially since the opening of the sleek Morrison Hotel (Ormond Quay, Dublin 1; tel. 01/887-2400), with its white-hot restaurant, Halo, and ultra-hip nightclub, Lobo.
The much-loved Ariel House, a terrific little B&B in Dublin's Ballsbridge neighborhood, sadly is up for sale.
Another relative newcomer to the Northside is the Irish Music Hall of Fame, which opened on Middle Abbey Street and gives an exhaustive look at the country's music scene.
Speaking of music, fans of Dublin-based U2 should make a point of visiting the band's recording studio on Hanover Quay while they still can. The city plans to demolish the riverside building but fans and lawyers are fighting the plans. Meanwhile, the city also plans to develop a 2-billion-euro ($1.78-billion), 24-acre complex incorporating shops, restaurants, pubs, and apartments in the studio's up-and-coming Docks area. The whole matter has caused much public debate, and probably won't be resolved in the near future.
The hippest new shopping destination is the Old City neighborhood, just west of Temple Bar. The area is particularly good for fashion and smart, craft-based housewares. Cafes and hip eateries pop up here like daisies.
Check out the Liffey City's first conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, the ultracool Aya, on Clarendon Street, and don't miss a meal at the Mediterranean-inspired Eden (tel. 01/670-5372), on Meeting House Square, in Temple Bar.
Edinburgh & Environs
In the life of this edition, a new Scottish Parliament building is set to open, the first in nearly 3 centuries. Still tied to England in larger global matters, Scotland will forge its own destiny in local matters, all of which will be debated in this new structure going up at the foot of the Royal Mile, adjacent to the Palace of Holyroodhouse of Mary Queen of Scots fame. Visitors can check the status of the building's opening upon arrival in Edinburgh.
The other major new attraction is the opening of the Dean Gallery, 73 Belford Rd. (tel. 0131/624-6200), across from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. This museum offers the most extensive showcase of Dada and Surrealism in the north of Britain.
Florence & The Best Of Tuscany
Florence has begun fleecing tourists, there's no other way to put it. The tourist office now charges (albeit pocket change) for most of its basic handouts and maps, and San Lorenzo has become the second Florentine church to charge admission ($2.25). The city has also hidden price increases in the euro switchover (bus tickets that in lire cost the equivalent of 68¢ in euros cost 90¢). So far, it's all small potatoes, but it's still a disturbing trend.
Rising rents forced Pensione Burchianti out of the palazzo where it welcomed travelers for over 100 years; luckily, the palazzo next-door had a floor available full of 17th century frescoes. The reincarnated Burchianti was almost set to open at press time.
Florence's nightlife scene is undergoing a quiet upheaval; many tried-and-true clubs and bars have shuttered their doors or completely changed their format, while new places have arisen to take their place.
The biggest news in Tuscany, perhaps all of Italy, is the reopening of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The admission is a whopping $13 (and you have to book in advance), but now that the lean has been brought back a few inches and the foundations properly shored up, you can once again climb to the top of this famously tilting tower.
Lisbon & Environs
Seemingly endless construction on the central downtown plaza, Rossio, and the adjacent Praça da Figueira is finally complete. Fountains are running, buildings have been scrubbed down, and the distinctive mosaic sidewalks restored.
A restored Renaissance palace is now the home of the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, rua das Janelas Verdes, (tel. 21/391-2800). It displays mostly Portuguese paintings from the early 16th to late 18th centuries. The Museu Nacional dos Coches, praça Alfonso de Albuquerque (tel. 21/361-0850) has returned to Belém from a temporary stay at the Parque das Nações, while this facility was being rehabbed.
The Brazilian food phenomenon called rodizio--a stunning extravaganza that features huge quantities of skewered beef, pork, lamb, and fowl--has arrived in the motherland, specifically at Porcão, rua Cintura do Porto de Lisboa (tel. 21/393-2090). Skip lunch. Additional oddities and delectables from the former colonies are on the card at Sua Excelência, rua do Conde 34 (tel. 21/390-3614). Here, sample Angolan chicken cooked in palm oil, prawns piri-piri, and "little jacks", small fish eaten whole.
London, Bath & Environs
London's big dining development has been the huge increase in quality take-away places. Villier's Street, leading from The Strand to The River is now a cornucopia of nicely priced sandwich bars and, should the weather be smiling upon you, you can take your purchase to the delightful Embankment Gardens (at the end of Villier's St.).
Top museums that were charging entrance (the V&A and the Museum of London) have now abolished admissions, except for special exhibitions.
The Museum of London (tel. 020/7600-3699; www.museumoflondon.org.uk) opened its World City Gallery and announced plans to open a new London Before London Gallery in late 2002, where you will be able to study the peoples who lived in the London area before the coming of the Romans.
Somerset House (www.somerset-house.org.uk) just gets better. Not only is it home to the breathtaking Hermitage Rooms, but also, in December and January an Ice Rink, is open to all in the spectacular courtyard. Tickets cost £8 (11€, $12) adults and £6 (8€, $9), children.
And finally, parting is proving such sweet sorrow as (at press time) The Royal Shakespeare Company prepares to move out of its London headquarters at the Barbican Centre.
Madrid & Environs
Sleek, minimalist, and monochromatic, the brand-new Campomanes, Campomanes 4 (tel. 91/548-8548) is a welcome addition to the capital's inexpensive lodging stock. Doubles start at 67€ ($75).
At press time, three of Madrid's smaller museums were closed for renovations: Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Museo Sorolla, and Museo Romántico. Check to see if they've re-opened before setting out.
Two upper-echelon restaurants, on the scene for years, have introduced special low-cost (for them) meals that are a great opportunity to sample the high life. The chef-owners of El Olivo, General Gallegos 1 (tel. 91/359-1535) and La Gamella, Alfonso XII 4 (tel. 91/532-4509) are restlessly creative, with menu surprises every visit.
Munich & Neuschwanstein
The successful Euro Youth Hotel opened a second location in spring 2002, at Schillerstrasse 19 (tel. 089/59 90 88 71), with similar affordable prices.
At press time, The Pinakothek der Moderne, Barer Strasse 40 (tel. 089/238 05 0), was scheduled to open in autumn 2002. Open hours and admission prices have not yet been set but are expected to be in line with the other two Pinakothek museums (5€, $4.45).
The Antikensammlungen, Königsplatz 1 (tel. 089/59 83 59), with its collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities, was scheduled at press time to open by July 2002, after several years of renovation.
Kunstpark Ost, Munich's largest entertainment complex for 20-somethings, will close its doors January 2003.
Nice & the Cote d'Azur
Construction is in full swing at the airport but the only disruption to passengers is the location of the car-rental lots, which are no longer within walking distance. (You'll need to take a shuttle bus.)
There is now a direct Express bus from the airport to the Train Station--look for bus no. 99 marked GARE SNCF.
There's an excellent new budget hotel in Nice just a few steps from the beach. Opened in mid 2001, Hotel Le Lido offers 7 sparkling rooms furnished in a contemporary style with kitchenette.
An excellent new choice for an affordable lunch on the sand is Bambou Plage, just below the Promenade des Anglais. The new, charming Chez Juliette in Vieux Nice has a bargain three-course menu (15€, $13) that emphasizes Provençale ingredients. Cannes's oldest restaurant, Auberge Provençale, in operation since 1860, has revamped its menu and now offers an excellent 3-course fixed-price menu for 23€ ($20).
Musée Massena, still closed for renovations, may possibly reopen in the fall of 2003 (although it's more likely to be a little later).
Paris & The Best Of The Ile De France
Sabena, which offered low fares to Paris (the catch was a layover in Brussels), stopped operations in 2001.
Now a century old, the Paris Métro is refurbishing some 200 of its nearly 300 stations. Work is expected to be complete in 2003.
Hôtel des Bains (tel. 01/43-20-85-27) occupies the premises of what used to be public baths, and is one of Paris's best budget hotel "secrets," located in the heart of Montparnasse.
The Center for Nature Discovery, Garden in Memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, is the official site devoted to Paris's favorite princess, who died in the city on Aug. 31, 1997. The small park, at 21 rue des Blancs-Manteaux in the Marais, is devoted to teaching children about nature and gardening.
After nearly 3 years of renovations, the Musée de l'Orangerie (Jardin des Tuileries, 1e; tel. 01/42-97-48-16), whose highlight is the two oval rooms wrapped nearly 360 degrees with Monet's Nymphéas, the water lily series painted especially for the Orangerie, was scheduled at press time to open late 2002.
Cleaning work continues on the Grand Foyer of the Opéra Garnier, place de l'Opéra, 9e (tel. 08/92-69-78-68) but some renovations are complete: Boxes and walls are now lined with flowing red damask; the gilt is scrubbed and gleaming; the ceiling painting (by Marc Chagall) is clean; and a new air-conditioning system is in place.
Prague & the Best of Bohemia
In September 2002, the whole Czech telecommunication system is digitalized virtually overnight. Extra digits were added to all numbers so they have each 9 digits and no prefixes. In Prague, a "2" will be added at the front of every 8-digit number.
The latest addition to Prague's thin list of luxury hotels is Four Seasons Hotel, Veleslavínova 2a, Praha 1. (tel. 22142 7000).
The newest and most modern complex of cinemas is at Na Príkope 9/11, Praha 1 (tel. 22145 1214). The Slovansky Dum shopping and culture (and dining) center was reopened after major renovations.
Rome & Environs
The Palatine Hill and Colosseum are now covered on a single ticket. You can now climb all over the giant Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, which offers you great low panoramas of the Roman and Imperial Fori (plus, while standing on top of it, you can't actually see this white architectural monstrosity).
Salzburg & Innsbruck
Frau Hilde Radisch, who has been renting out rooms to international travelers for decades, has closed her home and gone into a much-deserved retirement. Pension Chiemsee, Chiemseegasse 5 (tel. 0662/84 42 08) has added private bathrooms to all its rooms. But with only six rooms and a great location in the old medieval town center, they're snapped up quickly.
The cable car to the Salzbergwer salt mines in Hallein has closed down. Bus service from Hallein train station to the mines is infrequent, so be sure to pick up a bus schedule from the Salzburger Land tourist counter in Salzburg before you go.
Seville & The Best Of Andalucia
Charm doesn't often come with low prices in Spanish hotels, but Amadeus, Farnesio 6 (tel. 95/450-1443) is a delightful exception, at the edge of the Barrio de Santa Cruz. Once a private home, it is fetchingly decorated with antiques and family pieces; from 57€ ($64) double.
Las Casas de los Mercaderes, Alvarez Quintero 9-13 (tel. 95/422-5858) is a new hotel in a converted 18th-century mansion. Its graceful atmosphere is enhanced by a good location between sights and shopping; from 77€ ($86) double.
In Cordoba, another winner is the new Mezquita, Plaza Santa Catalina 1 (tel. 95/747-5585), directly opposite the great Mosque. A building of uncertain age, its bedrooms and public spaces incorporate seemingly ancient columns and arches as well as genuinely old paintings for a grand effect.
The entrance of Granada's Alhambra has been moved to the north end of the complex, and the old ticket office, near the 14th Century Torre de la Justicia, has been closed. The new office has a running notice advising of the next available entrance period, but play it safe--ask the conserje (concierge) at your hotel to make a reservation a day or two in advance.
Stockholm & Environs
To live modestly in expensive Stockholm, it's best to seek lodgings in a private home at modest rates. (Remember, though, that bathrooms are often shared.) Two new agencies catering to this ever-growing market for B&Bs include Bed and Breakfast Agency Sweden, Mariatorget 8, 11848 Stockholm (tel. 08/643-80-28; fax 08/643-80-78; www.bba.nu) and Bed and Breakfast Service Stockholm, Sidenvägen 17, 17837 Ekerö (tel. 08/660-55-65; fax 08/663-32-22; www.bedbreakfast.a.se).
Venice & The Best Of The Veneto
Venice has instituted a Venice Card, covering admission to many major sights and city transportation that, they hope, will eventually become indispensable for visitors to the city (an effective ticket to town).
Giotto's frescoes in Padua's Scrovegni Chapel will have just emerged from a long restoration when this book hits the shelves. Also in Padua, the Majestic Toscanelli's sister hotel Leon Bianco is closing for the foreseeable future.
Vienna & Krems
Ticket prices for public transportation--including single tickets and Streifenkarte (strip tickets)--are slated to increase, but at press time officials were mum about the exact amount.
The new museumsquartier Wien, in line with its bid to become one of the largest museum complexes in the world, now boasts six museums (with a seventh, the Albertina, with the world's largest collection of graphic art, slated to open by the end of 2002), four restaurants (with a fifth on the way), shops, a dance theater, and art studios.
It has a corny name, but the new, 24-page brochure Feel Vienna, Feel Good: The Green & Sporty Metropolis is packed with useful information on jogging, hiking, biking, swimming, and other outdoor activities in parks and green spaces throughout Vienna. Pick up the free brochure at the Vienna Tourist Information office.
A new Music Mile "Hall of Fame" features imbedded plaques of more than 70 musicians, composers, and conductors with ties to Vienna along a route stretching from Theater an der Wien to Stephansplatz. An audio-guide is available for rent from three locations along the route, including Theater an der Wien and Stephansplatz.