Ask any New Yorker who’s had to dodge masses of tourists on her way to her midtown office, or a Londoner squeezing onto the increasingly crowded Tube: cities remain popular vacation destinations. “City travel fits in with people’s fast-paced lives,” says Piers Pickard, managing director of publishing at Lonely Planet. “We’d all love to go to Australia for a month, but not everyone can afford the trip or take the time. Cities are fast-changing, and you can fit a great experience into a three-day trip.”
This season, Lonely Planet has new Pocket Guides—books that help travelers get the most out of short visits—to Austin, Miami, and Havana, and Brisbane and Hobart in Australia. And it has updated Pocket titles for several cities in the U.S. and other countries.
Pickard says that recent sales of the publisher’s city guides reflect the increased interest in urban vacations. Ride- and home-sharing services, he adds, have made it easier for visitors to explore neighborhoods outside of city centers for a more immersive experience.
Other publishers are also mindful of the travelers who are forgoing hotel stays in favor of booking a room via Airbnb or VRBO. Frommer’s has new and updated Easy Guides to New Orleans; New York; Washington, D.C.; Florence; Rome; Venice; and Paris coming out his fall. The books highlight relevant details about individual neighborhoods, to help readers decide what area of town they’d like to stay in, rather than choosing based on a hotel. The guide also helps visitors navigate rental sites.
“While we can’t review every room,” says Pauline Frommer, editorial director of the Frommer guidebooks, “we can warn people about the gotchas of renting apartments—and give advice on the perks.” One piece of advice: visitors to New York City should look across the Hudson River in Jersey City or Hoboken for short-term apartment stays, because N.Y.C. has been cracking down on illegal home rentals.
Moon Travel is also emphasizing urban experiences, with its new City Walks line. Launching in October with the tagline “See the city like a local,” the first guides cover New York, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, London, Paris, and Rome. The new series is aimed at millennials, who are driving the boom in city tourism, says Donna Galassi, v-p and associate publisher at Avalon Travel, which publishes Moon as well as Rick Steves guides.
“Travelers are hyperinformed because of all of the online content and blogs and user-generated reviews,” Galassi explains. “As travel publishers, we can curate content in a way that gives travelers more meaningful experiences.”
The books suggest meandering walks, and cafes and shops to stop in at along the way, emphasizing neighborhoods over tourist attractions. “These titles offer a different way to see popular marquee cities,” Galassi says. “The experience is about hanging out in a neighborhood. You are not sightseeing, although you’ll see plenty of sights along the way.”
Rick Steves Berlin, out in September, is a deep dive into a city that the travel website Culture Trip called “a millennial mecca.” “Rick said Berlin is one of the most dynamic and changing cities in Europe,” Galassi says, “so he decided to expand his coverage.” At 400 pages, the guide is double the length of last year’s Berlin Snapshot, which is going out of print to make way for the expanded title.
In addition to seeking new ways to experience perennial favorites such as New York, London, and Paris, travelers are also venturing to less familiar settings.
Several publishers mentioned Portugal as a popular destination. The Rough Guide to Portugal, for example, is Rough Guides’ bestselling guidebook of 2017 so far, and the Pocket Rough Guide Lisbon is the publisher’s fifth bestselling guide.
Next up: Porto. Visits to Portugal’s second city are 55 percent higher in 2017 than they were in 2016, according to the Portugal Tourist Board. “Porto is becoming more of a hot city to go to, and several new airlines have started flying there,” says Olivia Rawes, who edited Pocket Rough Guide Porto (Feb. 2018).
Herb Lester, which already had an annotated Lisbon map, has just released one of Porto. (For more about the publisher, see “Map Quest.”)
Emons Publishing’s 111 Places series highlights the must-sees in both major tourist cities and less-trafficked locales; the coming months bring guides to Sheffield, England; Baltimore; Minneapolis and St. Paul; and Queens, N.Y., written by resident experts.
“The idea is to help locals rediscover the place where they live,” says Karen Seiger, North America editor-in-chief at 111 Places, and also to help the visitor “live like a local.” The Queens guide (Dec.), for instance, is by borough resident Joe DiStefano, a food writer and local culinary tour guide. Journalist Elizabeth Foy Larsen, a Minnesota native, wrote the Twin Cities guide (Feb. 2018).
Drinking It All In
Sampling local food and drink is a key component of travel for many; some people even build their entire trip around gustatory pursuits.
“If someone is really into craft beer, that might lead to a trip to Brussels,” says Lisa Thomas, publisher and editorial director of adult books at National Geographic. “Then they’ll post photos on social media about all of the different types of crazy beer they’ve tried.”
To reach the target readership for Atlas of Beer by Nancy Hoalst-Pullen and Mark Patterson (Sept.), the publisher will market the book to consumers on Untapped, a social media site for beer enthusiasts. The title leads hop lovers to breweries, festivals, and pubs across six continents; Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver contributes the foreword and tasting tips.
Other publishers are also reaching out to thirsty travelers this season. Emons is releasing 111 London Pubs and Bars That You Shouldn’t Miss (Jan. 2018) by Laura Richards, drinks editor at Time Out London, who highlights breweries, wine bars, speakeasies, and more across the British capital.
In September, Phaidon follows Where Chefs Eat (2015), Where to Eat Pizza (2016), and March’s Where Bartenders Drink (2017) with a title for the morning after: Where to Drink Coffee includes recommendations from 150 baristas for 600 spots in 50 countries. The book’s author, Liz Clayton, says that, before arriving in a new city, the one thing a traveler must do is suss out the location of a city’s good coffee shops, because the people who work at the good restaurants, art galleries, record stores, and other venues all start their day there.
“Coffee places are both destinations and waypoints,” Clayton says. “When I go to a new town, I go straight to the good coffee place I’ve heard about, and within 10 minutes, I’m invited to a birthday party, I know where I’m eating dinner that night, and where the great music store is.”
The books in Hardie Grant’s Precincts series say right on the cover what readers will find inside: “the city’s best cultural hangouts, shops, bars and eateries.” September brings the pocket-size Kyoto Precincts and full-size Melbourne Precincts.
“People want unique experiences,” says Melissa Kayser, a publisher at Hardie Grant. “In the past people would spend their money on more material things—now a lot of people are using their disposable income for great experiences.”