12 Books to Read Before Traveling to Europe (The Best Ones)

European travel books are incredible, whether the best funny travel books, the best Europe travel books, or even a Europe guide book. There are so many books to read before traveling to Europe.

But you’re human. You only have so much time. 

So you only want the essentials. The books that have you eating baguettes in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and clinking glasses at Oktoberfest.

So, here are the best travel books about Europe you should read before your trip.

Enjoy.

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. I was not paid to provide these books, they are of my own choosing. However, I do earn a small commission if you’re gracious enough to buy using the link in this article. If you do, thank you in advance!

1. Neither Here Nor There — Bill Bryson

Neither Here Nor There

This is one of the first travel books I read of Bryson’s and books set in Europe. And his writing style hooked me from the get.

As a student twenty years before, Bryson had gone on an extended European vacation. Now, he was back to retrace his steps.

Beginning in Hammerfest (the northernmost point in Europe), he makes his way to Istanbul; across the entire continent of Europe.

Along his way, he travels through big and small cities alike — the City of Light (Paris), Florence, Hamburg, and Copenhagen. 

But, throughout it all, he provides his excellent wit and humor.

A “laugh-out-loud” funny book type. Avoid reading Neither Here Nor There on the subway to not appear insane to other passengers.

You can buy it from Amazon here.

2. Walking the Woods and the Water — Nick Hunt

Walking the Woods and the Water

In 2011, a young man named Nick Hunt caught a ferry to the Hook of Holland. He had his mind set on one thing.

Walking and backpacking across the European continent, the same way Patrick Leigh Fermor had done nearly 80 years before.

Using Fermor’s book as his travel guide, he walked across Holland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

I would love to have seen his Fitbit.

Along the way, he learns about cultures now past but the friendliness that remains. And ultimately, he learns a bit about himself.

Walking the Woods and the Water is great for those who like a bit of adventure travel in Europe mixed in.

You can buy it from Amazon here.

3. Europe: A History — Norman Davies

Europe: A History

Veering away from the travel genre and into history with this next book.

Europe: A History is considered one of the best works on Europe by people who know far more history than I do.

Beginning in the Ice Age, through numerous empires, World Wars, and more, this is the book to read if you want to learn about Europe and how it came to be.

Reviews mention how they appreciated the author, including all countries in Europe and not just the Western part.

Be warned, though. It’s a thick book with almost 1,400 pages. If you also need a self-defense weapon, two birds with one stone here.

Ready to impress Europeans with your European history? Here you go.

You can buy the book from Amazon here.

4. Homage to Catalonia — George Orwell

Homage to Catalonia

Want one of the most important events in Spanish history based on someone’s real life? Homage to Catalonia is that book.

Recounting his experiences of the Spanish Civil War, Orwell describes a grim story of hope and betrayal.

The book is an excellent insight into the story of the average Spanish men and women who fought alongside Orwell and how the war impacted their lives.

From his near-death from a bullet to being betrayed by his allies, this true story is excellent from start to finish.

You can buy the book from Amazon here.

5. For Whom the Bell Tolls — Ernest Hemingway

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Did you say you wanted double Spanish Civil War? This historical fiction book was written by none other than Ernest Hemingway.

The story of a young Robert Jordan is based on Hemingway’s experiences as a reporter abroad during the Spanish Civil War.

He is an American volunteer fighting in the International Brigades to defend the Spanish Republic.

Following him through the action and eventually when he and a Spanish girl fall in love, Jordan experiences every part of the war.

Hemingway has many great works, and this is one of them.

You can buy the book from Amazon here.

6. Under the Tuscan Sun — Frances Mayes

Under the Tuscan Sun

Interested in visiting Tuscany? Allow Frances Mayes to transport you there with his look at the traditions, cuisine, and daily life of the region.

The story begins when Frances Mayes decides to restore an abandoned villa in the countryside of Tuscany.  But there’s so much more to this villa.

Old and fading frescoes in her dining room, an overgrown vineyard in her garden, and the lovely people of Tuscany.

Offering a unique look into the region with a firsthand account, Under the Tuscan Sun is an excellent read before a trip to Italy.

You can buy the book from Amazon here.

7. Travels with Epicurus — Daniel Klein

Travels with Epicurus

Daniel Klein takes off to the small Greek island of Hydra. Here, he hopes to discover the secrets of old age by following the teachings of his friends, ancient philosophers, and more.

Along the way, he learns more about life’s simple pleasures, how to appreciate getting older, and its importance to life.

Part travelogue, part guide, this book is excellent before any trips to Europe, especially if you’re looking for books set in Greece.

It’s also a great gift around the holidays! So, keep this one in mind come gift-giving season.

You can buy it from Amazon here.

8. Illyrian Spring — Ann Bridge

Illyrian Spring

Time travel to the past here, Illyrian Spring takes place in the 1930s. 

The story centers around a famous painter named Lady Kilmichael. Feeling sad, unwanted, and searching for something new, she leaves her husband and daughter to go on a painting trip to the Dalmatian Coast in Yugoslavia (present-day Croatia).

While there, she meets a young and unhappy man named Nicholas, who loves to paint, but is forbidden to do it by his family.

A deep travel book, and an interesting love story, Illyrian Spring is one of the best books to read before traveling to Europe.

You can buy it from Amazon here.

9. An Irreverent Curiosity — David Farley

An Irreverent Curiosity

What do you do when your town’s most prized possession goes missing? Or, better yet, what do you do when your town’s prized relic is…the foreskin of Jesus?

Travel writer David Farley moved to Calcata, Italy, to find the answer to this question.

Following a foreskin trail that blamed Satanists, priests, and even the Vatican for the foreskin’s disappearance, Farley learns more about the history and culture of this small town.

As well as about one of the strangest stories in Christianity’s history.

An excellent book for a good laugh on the plane ride to Europe.

You can buy it from Amazon here.

10. My Family and Other Animals — Gerald Durrell

My Family and Other Animals

Gerald Durrell is part of an unusual family. So, when they decide to up and move to the sunny Greek island of Corfu, it was nothing out of the ordinary.

My Family and Other Animals is Durrell’s recounting of those adventures on Corfu. Involving a wide cast of animals — puppies, ladybugs, bats, scorpions, toads, and much more — the story is a great story of Durrell’s family.

Greece lovers rejoice! There are two Greek-related books on this list!

You can buy it from Amazon here.

11. For the Love of Europe — Rick Steves

For the Love of Europe

It’s pretty hard not to stumble upon Rick Steves during your European travel research.

The guy is basically a guru of everything Europe.

So, one of his books has to be on this list, and For the Love of Europe is that book.

In this 416-page book, you get 100 of Rick’s best memories — collected across four decades of travel — in Europe.

From dancing at Turkish circumcision parties, wandering ruined castles, enjoying hikes along alpine ridges, and wandering around famous cities like Rome. Rick Steves has done it all in Europe and wants to bring you along with him.

As a bonus, you even get a map of Europe to follow Rick’s travels and plan out your own.

You can buy it from Amazon here.

12. Lonely Planet Europe

Lonely Planet Europe is one of the great books to read before traveling to Europe to plan your trip

A guidebook had to be included here somewhere.

They’re such fantastic resources. Hotel and restaurant recommendations to save you time and money, helpful background information, and useful phrases are all in this book.

Personally, I never used to use guidebooks. And what a mistake I was making. I’ve converted to the guidebook life, and I’m never returning.

Pick this up (or any European guidebook for that matter) before your trip. You’ll find it very useful.

You can buy it from Amazon here.

Conclusion

One thing you may have noticed about this list is that there are no New York Times (NY Times) best sellers.

Many travel-related books don’t make it into lists of best sellers, but they are still fantastic books. Sure to inspire wanderlust, excitement, and a bit of learning.

Each book is a solid choice for your upcoming trip. So, I hope you enjoy these as you prepare!


1 thought on “12 Books to Read Before Traveling to Europe (The Best Ones)”

  1. Everything is very open with a cldar clarification oof the issues.
    It was truly informative. Yoour website iss very helpful.
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