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Pocket guides vs Map vs App

Hi, will be traveling to Europe soon and wondering what people have found the most useful for a map of cities. I would like to have the map in advance so I can mark on it. I have read some reviews that Rick Steves pocket guides with fold out maps are not adequate for navigating by foot. Any recommendations for specific maps (lonely planet, streetwise, etc)? Has anyone had much luck with downloadable map apps for iPhone? Thank you!

Posted by
19182 posts

I've bought a couple of Streetwise maps but haven't used them yet. The company has reportedly gone bankrupt, so you may have difficulty finding the Streetwise maps you want. However, there are some other lines of water-resistant city maps available. You can find them on Amazon and similar websites and (to a lesser degree) at a large bookstore.

I prefer a physical map (which I'm not worried some thief might want to snatch out of my hand or I might inadvertently drop), but I pre-load Ulmon's CityMaps2GoPro maps on both my smartphone and my tablet. That's an invaluable back-up if:

  • I arrive in a smaller city on a day-trip at a time when the tourist office is closed.
  • I have trouble getting myself oriented when I walk out of the bus or train station on arrival.
  • I find myself in a twisty-turny historic district that's short on street signs.

There have been plenty of times when I was grateful to be able to summon the "You are here" dot on an electronic map.

Posted by
6752 posts

I have often used many Streetwise maps and like them. I mark places in ink. They hold up well as they are plastic coated.

Posted by
11 posts

Are the streetwise maps fairly compact? I looked on Amazon and found maps from National Geographic, Lonely planet, Popout, etc. Any one have experience with these? Any one have luck printing a google map image?

Posted by
2516 posts

For me, I like an offline app. I use citymaps2go but there are others - just make sure you can download your map and it works offline, so you don't eat up data and rack up $$$$.

Here's why I prefer the app: I can see where I am in real time - marked by a blue dot. I can follow my progress to make sure I didn't make a wrong turn - this is super helpful in places where the streets are small and poorly labeled. I can also mark places I want to go on the app, and make my own notes.
That way I can see that, for example, I am a block away from Patisserie Pierre and read my note that it is the best bakery in town and is famous for its macaroons. If I see that I am a block from it, you can bet I will head over - but I might forget about it if I didn't see my mark and note.
I also do this for sights - and I have visited many sights that weren't my top priority so I wouldn't make a special trip, but if I'm next door I will pop in. An example is the many churches in Rome that aren't the most famous or popular. I may note that a certain church has an alterpiece by a famous artist, then if I happen to see I am nearby I will go in for a few minutes, see the highlight I noted and whatever else is there, and be on my way

Posted by
782 posts

I use the City maps to 2 Go app and it works perfectly, we were in London one night and decided to walk to the British Museum because they were open till 10:00 pm that night and we navigated in the dark with no problems due to the blinking dot on the screen showing you where you are and where your going. I've really found this app useful in Venice were the streets go every which way and for finding bridges to go from one island to the next.

Posted by
19182 posts

Sara, when I stopped by a Barnes and Noble to look at the city maps a few months ago, I noticed that one brand (unfortunately don't remember which) had what I would call a sort of funky map design. I think the markings for highlighted sights were out-of-scale (large) or something; it was almost cartoonish. I much prefer a traditional map. So my advice is not to order something online if you can't see what at least a segment of the map itself looks like. Don't buy just on the basis of a photo of the cover.

Posted by
45 posts

Hi Mira, the one question I have regarding pinning or making notes in citymap2go is what devise are you using? I can only download the app to my phone but find it hard to create a personalized map using only my phone. Is that how you have done it--just using the app on your phone?

Posted by
11 posts

I downloaded the free versions of several cities on my iPhone and have found them useful so far for marking sites I want to see, restaurants and hotel location. I am excited to see how they work out while we are there. Thank you!

Posted by
314 posts

Check used bookstores for older travel books and maps. Good thing about European cities is that the streets don't change, nor do the locations of monuments and museums! That can be your scratch copy, mark it up to your heart's content.

Posted by
6857 posts

Ask the hotel for a free map. If no free map get on the internet on your mobile device and access Google maps put in the town where you are at take a screen shot of the map. That is what I did on my last trip from Amsterdam to Rotterdam to Aachen to Verona to Vicenza to Venice to Milan.

Posted by
314 posts

I like the suggestions here to use the CityMaps2Go app, because you can add your own markings. I do that with the map that comes in my guidebook, or I'll take a free one I get at the tourist centre when I arrive in a city. As I'm planning a trip I'll compile a list of not just museums I want to see, but shops that have to do with my interests and hobbies, bookstores, and cafes and restaurants. I take the time to add those to a map so that if I'm walking between two sights and can see that I'm a street over from a great used bookstore, I won't forget to go check it out. I've also printed Google Maps sections on 11x17 paper and mark those up, either before printing or after.