The top travel coffee table books to gift

A pile of books on a coffee table with a red cup and saucer

by Emma Marshall

2020 has without a doubt been a tough year.  A year of hard times for many and a time when we need to look forward to hopefully better times in 2021.

If you’re like me and love travelling, this forward look will include dreaming of the places that you next want to visit when the pandemic is all over.  Or you might know an avid traveller and be wondering what to gift them for Christmas to inspire them for the year ahead. 

If you fall in either of these categories, then there are some wonderful travel coffee table books to choose from. 

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Read on for my suggestions, or click here to explore more.

Why travel coffee table books?

An image of a pile of travel coffee table books
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Why travel coffee table books and not standard travel guide books? 

For me, I turn to a standard guide book or blog post when I know where I’m going.  When I don’t know where I’m going, I want inspiration. 

I want a round-up of potential choices that I can dip in and out of. I want information, tips and advice. And least, but by no means least, I want some stunning photos to flick through and whet my appetite.

Travel coffee table books fulfil all of these criteria. 

Specifically designed to lay around your home and be a resource that you can flick through time and time again, they’re the perfect way to flag new destinations, broaden your horizons and get your brain cells in the mood for the next trip away.

Ideas for travel coffee table books

An image of book, mugs and binoculars, along with the start of a written travel plan
Image: © Andrea Migliarini/ Dreamstime.com

I have collated my favourite suggestions below.  These cover worldwide bucket list suggestions, weekends away in Europe, and places to witness our extraordinary natural environment.

I have focused here on relatively more affordable books.

You can, however, click here for a whole range of travel coffee table books if you want to widen your search.

The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World

I absolutely love this Lonely Planet guide and treated myself to a copy for Christmas last year! It would be great for anyone planning a trip or as a coffee table book.

The information is presented alphabetically, country by country. There is a double page spread of top things to see and do in each country, and the best time to visit. There’s also a random fact about every country.

For example – in the words of the book itself – did you know that “Finns are renowned for being quiet – there’s an old joke that they invented text messaging so they wouldn’t have to speak to each other”?

Or that the bikini is named after the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands? This was where, in 1946, the first peacetime atomic bomb was detonated.

The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World
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Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List 2: The Best Places on the Planet

Recently updated in October 2020, this Lonely Planet coffee table book literally ranks what it views as the top 500 places on the planet. 

In their own words, it covers “the most thrilling, memorable and most interesting places on the planet…ranked…in order of their brilliance”.

There are 200 extra entries in this updated edition which includes such sites and sights as Lake Bled, Victoria Falls, the D-Day beaches, Hoi An old town in Vietnam, Ireland’s Ring of Kerry and Chernobyl.

Reflecting more recent issues for some travellers, the criteria for inclusion in the top 500 list now includes sustainable tourism management.

Ultimate Travel List 2: The Best Places on the Planet ...Ranked
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Where To Go When: Travel Adventures for Every Month

Featuring over 100 different places and sharing information on which places to visit in which month, this DK Eyewitness book is a perfect resource for anyone planning future trips. 

For example, for January, there are 10 suggestions to choose from, including St. Petersburg in Russia, Ethiopia, Thailand and Costa Rica. 

The 336 page book also contains some beautiful pictures to whet your appetite. The Sunday Express magazine is quoted as saying that “This gorgeous coffee table book should give you all the inspiration you need”

Where To Go When: Travel Adventures for Every Month
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101 Weekends in Europe

This book from Robin Barton is definitely my kind of guidebook, given my love of short breaks. 

The 160-page paperback is a great one to put on the coffee table and dip in and out of. 

But its slimmer 160 pages means it’s also a book you can slip into your carry-on bag and read for inspiration on the plane. 

It covers more than 30 different countries across eastern and western Europe.

101 Weekends in Europe
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Europe’s Best Trips: 38 Amazing Road Trips

Another product from the Lonely Planet, this is a great resource if you’re looking to plan a road trip, be that a short break or longer holiday. 

This 596 page travel coffee table book contains suggestions for road trips in a variety of European countries. It covers different durations, and includes maps and selected highlights for the various areas. 

Depending which type of traveller you are – culture vulture, outdoor trekker or foodie etc – you can hone in on specific things to do as part of your road trip.

Europe's Best Trips: 38 Amazing Road Trips
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Natural Wonders of the World

With a foreword by the naturalist Chris Packman, this book is a great way to learn about the world through the natural environment rather than purely by destination.

As well as more general information – for example, on the structure of the earth and plate tectonics – there are sections relating to the different continents and their natural features. This includes mountains and volcanoes; rivers, lakes, and oceans; glacial features; and grasslands, plains and tundra.

There’s also information on places such as the Rocky Mountains, the UK’s Giant’s Causeway, California’s Giant Forest and Asia’s Mount Everest. 

As you might expect, this 440 page book also includes some amazing images.

Natural Wonders of the World
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Ultimate Journeys for Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent

This National Geographic book is authored by Mike and Anne Howard who we’re told are officially the “World’s Longest Honeymooners “ (comprising five years and seven continents).

This 272 page paperback book contains advice and tips, hotel reviews and recommendations for trips, and covers all budgets and ages. 

If you want to emulate this type of trip (or turn green with envy!) this book is right up your street.

Ultimate Journeys for Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent
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Food Trails: Plan 52 Perfect Weekends in the World’s Tastiest Destinations

This one is for foodies and a reminder that one of the ways we experience the different places we visit is through food. 

It sets out 52 foodie “trails” for 52 weekends with suggestions of what to eat and where to go for this.

This includes shops, restaurants and food markets. If you choose to explore a particular foodie destination, then you’ll also get information on where to stay and what events take place there. 

All the major continents are covered in this wonderful 320 page book.

Food Trails: Plan 52 Perfect Weekends in the World's Tastiest Destinations
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prettycitylondon: Discovering London’s Beautiful Places

This one is for anyone thinking of visiting London, or anyone who already lives in London and wants to explore some areas off the beaten track off and bag some great photos in the process. 

It makes suggestions by area and the best places by season. 

In the words of the author Siobhan Ferguson, “it is about the pretty, it is about the charm – but most of all it is about a London that is there for all to enjoy”.

This book comes in at 224 pages.

prettycitylondon: Discovering London's Beautiful Places
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National Geographic Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s most amazing places

This National Geographic hardcover book is gorgeous and is a perfect gift for the intrepid traveller.

Covering 320 pages, it contains stunning images of its shortlisted destinations and bills itself as a “photographic tour of the world’s most spectacular destinations” .

Alongside this, you get a wealth of information to help you plan a trip: when to go, things to take account of when planning, and useful websites for further information. There are also top tips for “unforgettable experiences”.

It’s a definite one to put on the coffee table for guests to flick through. 

Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World's Most Amazing Places
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Around the World in 80 Days

So my last entry isn’t strictly speaking a travel coffee table book. But I’ve recently relived the TV series from the 1980s and recalled just how fascinating this adventure was. It’s a perfect book to dip into and a great gift for anyone who loves travelling.

The book documents actor Michael Palin’s challenge – to emulate Phileas Fogg’s epic 1872 journey to go around the world in 80 days. So to travel in the 1980s without resorting to any form of air travel.

Palin starts off by riding on the Orient Express to Venice. He sails through the Corinth Canal in Greece, and then travels through other places, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan before reaching America. From here he takes a boat back to England.

It’s a perfect read to entice you to explore more of the world. And to remind yourself of all the different ways we can travel.

Michael Palin's Around the World in 80 Days
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You can also buy the DVD of this epic trip here.

Michael Palin has subsequently challenged himself with other adventures which you can read about and watch here.

More ideas for travel coffee table books

For more ideas for travel coffee table books, click here.

Or for travel guide books in general, click here.

Ideas for short breaks

For ideas for short breaks you can take – both in Europe and worldwide – you may be interested in some of my recent posts:

For more ideas, check out my website.

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