A typical episode features Rick traveling to a specific region of a country and starting in a major city, like London, Paris, Munich, or Venice. He visits the major tourism sites like museums and landmarks, often joined by a local travel guide he knows. Then he travels to the countryside and smaller towns, giving a much wider view of the destination. Along the way, he chats with the locals and samples meals and drinks that the area might be known for.
The show is intended to inspire its viewers into taking their own vacations to Europe, and, to that end, his company sells tours of Europe as well as guidebooks reflecting Rick's philosophy on travel. In addition to the TV show, Rick Steves also hosts a radio program that is heard on NPR stations, and a website with travel tips and videos (including clips from the series).
This show contains examples of:
- Artifact Title: In some more recent installments, Rick has traveled outside of Europe, specifically to the Middle East and Africa.
- Christmas Episode: "Rick Steves' European Christmas," which focuses on the different Christmas traditions observed throughout Europe.
- Christianity is Catholic: Averted. Rick takes tours of not only Roman Catholic cathedrals, but Protestant and Orthodox churches as well, showing the unique architecture of each one. One episode has him touring sites relating to his Lutheran faith.
- Clip Show: "Why We Travel," produced after the COVID-19 Pandemic prevented the production of regular episodes.
- Cruise Episode: One special has Rick taking a cruise across the Mediterranean, discussing the pros and cons of cruising as he sails from Barcelona to Athens with stops in the French Rivera and Florence.
- Food Porn: Any shot of the local meals that Rick tries is bound to make you hungry.
- Going Native: Rick always endeavors to become a "temporary local" in the place that he's visiting, and he encourages you, the viewer, to do the same in your own travels.
- Hilarious Outtakes: Nearly every episode ends with these played alongside the credits. One episode features Rick chasing after his departing train.
- Precision F-Strike: During one of the Florence episodes, Rick Steves, who otherwise never curses on the show, mentions Medici art being Phrase Catchers of sorts, very frequently attracting the comment "Damn, those Medici are good!"
- Rail Enthusiast: Given how well-connected and punctual European railways are, it's no surprise that Rick often spends much of his time getting to places by train.
- Scenery Porn: From Cinque Terre to the Swiss Alps to Norwegian fjords, get ready for some absolutely gorgeous landscapes.
- Sequel Series: The show follows an older series, Travels in Europe with Rick Steves, which aired from 1991 to 1998.
- Signing-Off Catchphrase: "I'm Rick Steves, and until next time, keep on traveling." This is usually followed by "goodbye" in the language of whichever country he's in.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Rick is on the idealistic side of things, nearly always being cheerful and positive about the place that he's currently visiting. The only exceptions are when a more somber tone is really, really warranted, such as when he's visiting Auschwitz for example.
- Star of Bethlehem: Rick's European Christmas video prominently features the moon on Christmas Eve, as the various countries he visited host their final traditions before Christmas Day, appearing like the aforementioned star.
- Subverted Catchphrase: Rick begins the episode "Germany's Fascist Story" with his signature catchphrase, welcoming the viewer to more of the best of Europe. He pauses, drops his smile, and clarifies, in a more somber tone, that this episode is about the worst of Europe.
- Sweet Tooth: Rick samples at least one local cake or dessert each episode.
- Travelogue Show: The show is all about Rick traveling across Europe and talking about the local culture and history. Sometimes, he'll be joined by a local tour guide, invariably introduced with the Catchphrase, "we're joined by my friend and fellow tour guide [insert name]."
- Very Special Episode:
- "Germany's Fascist Story," in which Rick tours many of the places that were important in the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. This includes Munich, where Hitler unsuccessfully staged a coup in 1923; Nuremberg, the site of the massive Nazi rallies; Berchtesgaden, Hitler's alpine retreat; and Berlin, where the Nazis cemented their hold on power and where Hitler ultimately killed himself while the city was besieged by the Soviets. Rick also talks about how fragile democracy is, and that it's always one charismatic, all-powerful leader away from being lost if people take it for granted. He ends the episode with the advice "travel thoughtfully." Also, this episode's credits play without the usual Hilarious Outtakes. The full-length special "Fascism in Europe" also covers how the ideology impacted Italy.
- "Ethiopia: A Development Story" is focused mainly on spotlighting the plight of poor people in developing countries, and it too features credits without the usual Hilarious Outtakes. And no, Ethiopia is not in Europe.
- "We hope you enjoyed this look at the vast and unique landscape of TV Tropes. I'm Rick Steves. Until next time, keep on traveling. Au revoir."