Guide to the Travel Guides
Best for: Treasure hunters
Signature strength: Expert advice from art historians, emphasizing a region's history and culture
For instance: The Rome book has essays on iconic artists, reproductions of their greatest works, and a thorough survey of the Vatican's riches.
—By Alexis Soloski
Signature strength: Lavish, intricately detailed illustrations
For instance: Istanbul's Topkapi Palace and St. Petersburg's Hermitage get the show-don't-tell treatment, with cutaways and floor plans of major sights.
Signature strength: Background on local arts and literature
For instance: The London guide features elegantly written pieces on the Bloomsbury group and musicians who've lived and worked in the Mayfair neighborhood (Handel and Hendrix both).
Signature strength: Reports on high-end hotels and exclusive restaurants
For instance: You'll find mouthwatering accounts of Paris patisseries, plus practical advice on tipping and restaurant dress codes.
Signature strength: The lowdown on social customs and etiquette, for the traveler who wants to pass for a local
For instance: The Costa Rica guide notes that you shouldn't wear shorts in the cities—who knew?