Reading Your Way into Your Next Vacation: The Europe Edition

One can never be too prepared to embark on a new adventure somewhere in the world. Our blog post Getting Ready for the Big Trip shows some of the unique ways we like to prepare for our journeys.  One of my favorites is to find books set in the places we plan to visit – not history books but fictional books. Then I get a good story and learn about the place we are visiting at the same time.  This is especially great for kids who may not have the frame of reference yet to develop an expectation of the place they are visiting.  Not only does it help them to get excited about a trip they probably don’t yet understand, it also helps them to be more engaged when they arrive.  There are countless incredible travel books out there for all ages.   Especially in places like England and France.  We haven’t read them all but we’ve read some pretty good ones and now we’ve rounded them up for you and your kids below in our Europe Edition.  Soon to come, the South America Edition.


  • The Diary of Melanie Martin – by Carol Weston – tweenage Melanie goes to Italy with her family.  For KIDS and TWEENS.
  • Under the Tuscan Sun – by Frances Mayes – set in Tuscany where author buys and restores a Tuscan villa. Can be for TEENS.
  • Beautiful Ruins – by Jess Walter – set in Cinque Terra in the early 60’s and in Hollywood 50 years later
  • The Enchanted April – by Elizabeth von Arnim – set in Portofino and tells the story of several women spending a month on vacation there.
  • A Room With a View – by E.M. Forster – set in Florence, and Surrey, England where an Englishwoman falls in love on holiday in Italy.
  • Angels & Demons – by Dan Brown – set in Rome – adventure, intrigue and wit creates a war between science and religion.



  • The DaVinci Code – by Dan Brown – set in Paris – a murder in the Louvre starts an international murder mystery.
  • The Royal Diaries – Marie Antoinette – by Kathryn Lansky – set in Paris and Versailles, these are the diaries of Marie Antoinette – great for KIDS and TEENs
  • Just One Day – by Gayle Forman – set in Paris – post HS girls goes on a 3-week European tour and has a magical 24 hrs in Paris. For TEENs.
  • A Year in Provence – by Peter Mayle – set in Southern France -Peter buys a 200 yr old farmhouse in Provence.
  • Lessons in French – by Hilary Reyl – set in Paris -story about a Yale graduate’s year in Paris as an assistant to a legendary American photographer. For TEENs too.
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog – by Muriel Barbery – set in Paris – explores the upstairs-downstairs goings-on of a posh Parisian apartment building.
  • A Moveable Feast – by Ernest Hemingway – Ernest Hemingway’s classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s.  A classic.
  • The Paris Wife – by Paula McLain – read in conjunction with A Moveable Feast – same story but told from the prospective of Hadley Richardson, his wife.


  • Winter in Madrid – by CJ Sansom – set in Madrid post Spanish civil war
  • I, Juan de Pareja – by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino – set in Sevilla and tells the story of the slave of the famous painter Velazquez.  For KIDS and TEENS!
  • SASS Spain or Shine – by Michelle Jellan – set in San Sebastian and tells the story of a college student studying abroad.  A good series to follow For TWEENS and TEENS!
  • The Time in Between – by María Dueñas – set in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War and WWII
  • Driving Over Lemons – An Optimist in Spain- by Chris Stewart –  set in Andalucia – about Americans who buy an isolated sheep farm in the Alpujarra Mountains.  Can be for TEENS.
  • The Sun Also Rises – by Ernest Hemingway – set in Paris and in Pamplona, Spain – about 2 characters during the post WWI generation
  • Don Quijote – by Miguel de Cervantes – An adventure set in 16th century Spain


  • Londoners – by Craig Taylor – a portrait of modern day London that is as rich and lively as the city itself.  Stories, gripes, memories and dreams of the city.
  • Madeline in London – by Ludwig Bemelmans – Follow the adventures of Madeline and her friends as they visit a friend in London.  For KIDs.
  • Notes from a Small Island – by Bill Bryson – witty and detailed observations of life in a variety of towns and villages of England.
  • Harry Potter series – J.K Rowling – This very famous series of books about wizards is set in London.  Great for TWEENs and TEENs.
  • Love, Nina – by Nina Stibbe – Nina Stibbe moved to London in 1982, hired as a nanny to the sons of London Review of Books editor Mary-Kay Wilmers and her ex-husband, director Stephan Frears.  Also good for TEENs.
  • Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf – A day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares to host a party in her affluent Westminster home.
  • Tunnel Vision – Keith Lowe – On the eve of his wedding, Andy makes a drunken bet that he can travel through every single Tube station in a single day.  Great study on the Tube!


  • Angela’s Ashes – by Frank McCourt – A memoir of an Irish family’s struggles during the Great Depression.  Good for TEENs too.
  • Circle of Friends – by Maeve Binchy – two kids who grow up in a small town in Ireland and head off to a university in Dublin.  Good for TEENs too.
  • A Secret Map of Ireland – by Rosita Boland – Author visits each of the counties on the island and brings back unusual tales of Ireland.
  • The Spinning Heart – by Donal Ryan – A modern day look at Ireland after the financial collapse.



  • My Dam Life – Three Years in Holland – by Sean Condon – Australian humorist talks about his life in Amsterdam.
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl– by Anne Frank – diary of a 13yr old girl who flees her home in Amsterdam with her family and goes into hiding during Nazi occupation of Holland.  For TWEENs and TEENs too.
  • Just One Year – by Gayle Forman – Follow up to Just One Day (see Paris).  Set in Amsterdam, India and Mexico.  For TEENs.


  • Out Stealing Horses – by Per Petterson set in the Norwegian countryside with some history of the Nazi occupation
  • Beatles – by Lars Saabye Christensen – 4 Beatles fans grow up in Oslo in the 60’s and 70’s.
  • The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell – the author lives in Denmark for a year to try to uncover the formula for Danish happiness.
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry – The story of Danish Resistance smuggling the entire Jewish population of Denmark to Sweden.  For TWEENS
  • 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window – by Jonas Jonasson – On his 100th birthday, Allan Karlsson breaks out of his old age home to live his last days in a life of adventure.
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series – by Steig Larsson – set in Sweden this trilogy starring Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander will have you at the edge of your seat.
  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren – The beloved story of a spunky young girl and her hilarious escapades.  For KIDS
  • Let the Right One In – by John Ajvide Lindqvist – set in a Stockholm suburb, 12 yr old Oskar is being bullied and his friend Eli helps him out. Oskar doesn’t know Eli is a vampire.  For TEENs?.
  • Tales from Moominvalley by Tove Jansson – The Moomins are beloved Swedish characters who have come to be associated with female empowerment.  For KIDS, TWEENS and TEENs



  • The Year of the Hare – Arto Passilinna – a jaded journalist rescues an injured hare and travels around Finland with it peeking out of his backpack
  • Purge by Sofi Oksanen – a feminist and social commentator, Sofi writes about the hidden aspects of life in Soviet Estonia.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – set in 19th century St. Petersburg about a woman who falls into a scandalous affair.
  • The Suitcase by Sergei Dovlatov – When Sergei emigrated to the US from St. Petersburg in ’79 he was allowed to bring one suitcase.  Each chapter in the book is dedicated to an item in the suitcase and the story to go with it.
  • A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles – Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin.
  • Catherine the Great – Portrait of a Woman – Robert K. Massie – the extraordinary story of a German Princess who transformed herself into empress of Russia





  • Prague: A Novel – by Arthur Phillips – despite its title, this novel follows five American expats who come to Budapest in the early 1990s to seek their fortune
  • The Good Master – by Kate Seredy -a girl from Budapest who spends summers with her cousin on his father’s ranch in Hungary.  For TWEENs and TEENs.


  • The Painted Kiss – by Elizabeth Hickey – set in Vienna and reimagines the relationship between Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge, the woman who posed for his masterpiece The Kiss, and whose name he uttered with his dying breath.
  • The story of the Trapp family singers – by Maria Augusta Trapp -Baroness Maria Augusta Trapp tells the story of her romance with the baron, their escape from Nazi-occupied Austria, and their life in America. For TEENs too.


  • The Book Thief – by Markus Zusak – a foster girl living outside of Munich steals books and shares them during Nazi Germany.  For TWEENs and TEENs too.
  • Cafe Berlin – by Harold Nebenzal – a portrayal of the feverish, decadent world of Berlin clubgoers in the months leading up to the Nazi rise to power.
  • Sophie Scholl and the White Rose – by Jud Newborn and Annette Dumbach – a true story set in Munich of German resistance to the Third Reich
  • The Innocent: A Novel – by Ian McEwan – psychological thriller set in Berlin during the Cold War
  • SASS The Sound of Munich – by Suzanne Nelson – another semester abroad story – great for Tween and Teens.





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