We’ll depart in the morning, reaching the Czech border in the early afternoon and Prague by dusk. Commonly referred to as Zlata Praha, or Golden Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic is a resplendent vision of Old World glory.
Overnight in Prague
Your Prague adventure begins with a spectacular walk along the coronation path of the kings and queens of old Bohemia. We’ll start at the top of Castle Hill in the Hradcany District and then visit Prague Castle, official residence of the president of the republic, and according to Guinness Book of World Records, the largest ancient castle in the world. Fees for the castle also include admission to Golden Lane, a street of 11 historic houses situated inside the castle complex, and the imposing St. Vitus Cathedral. Crossing the Charles Bridge, we’ll enter the old quarter and see the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square, which has played host to both uprisings and executions, and remains the political and cultural heart of the city to this day. After lunch in the square, we will make the scenic transfer from Prague to the hotel in or near the Slovakian capital of Bratislava.
Overnight in Bratislava
After breakfast we’ll depart for Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Major attractions on our tour include Heroes’ Square, featuring statues of the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and other important national leaders, as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; the Hungarian Parliament Building; Elisabeth Bridge; Fisherman’s Bastion; and Matthias Church. You will then have the option of joining the scenic Danube River cruise.
Overnight in Budapest
Today’s itinerary is devoted to Vienna, the capital of Austria. There we’ll visit Schonbrunn Palace, former summer residence of the Imperial family and preferred living quarters of Empress Maria Theresa; Stadtpark (City Park), home of the gilded bronze statue of Johann Strauss; the Austrian Parliament Building; the world-famous Vienna State Opera; and Hofburg Palace. After a stroll along the Kartnerstrasse we’ll arrive at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Tickets for a Viennese Waltz concert may also be arranged (at your own expense).
Overnight in Vienna
After breakfast, we’ll head up into the Alps to fabled Mondsee, a town situated on the shores of Lake Mondsee, home to the medieval Mondsee Abbey. The cloister church was used as the site for the wedding in The Sound of Music. After arriving in Munich, we’ll visit Marienplatz, a central square in the city center, and New Town Hall, which has continuously housed the city council, the mayor’s office, and part of the the administrative body since 1874. Our hotel for the evening will be in Munich or a neighboring city.
Overnight in Munich
After breakfast we’ll take the mountain roads farther into Switzerland, slowly winding our way up to the snow-capped giants of the Alps. Once in Engelberg, we’ll take the gondola 45 minutes up to Mount Titlis, 10,623 feet above sea level. We’ll go inside a glacier cave and stroll across the Titlis Cliff Walk, Europe’s highest suspension bridge. You may opt to have your lunch at one of the several dining options at the peak. Afterwards we’ll drive to picturesque Lucerne to see the Lion Monument and venture into the narrow alleyways to find the perfect souvenir. Shops selling Swiss watches are also in abundance here. We’ll spend the night in Lucerne or a neighboring city.
Overnight in Lucerne
After breakfast, we’ll head south to the design and couture-conscious city of Milan. On our tour of the city you will see Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the oldest shopping arcade in the world; the legendary opera house La Scala; the storied Sforza Castle; and the ostentatious Gothic of Milan Cathedral. Then it’s off to Venice, the city of over 150 canals spanned by over 400 bridges. We’ll stay overnight in Venice or a neighboring city.
Overnight in Venice
After breakfast, we’ll take you through this fascinating city of ornate palaces, lyrical waterways, captivating churches and impressive architecture. In San Marco Square you’ll see the Basilica di San Marco, one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture, and the Bridge of Sighs connecting the old prison to the interrogation rooms in Doge’s Palace. Afterwards, you’ll get a chance to see some traditional Venetian craftwork at a demonstration by Murano glassblowers. An optional gondola ride on the Grand Canal will put the finishing touch on a glorious day in Venice. Accommodations in the evening will either be in Rome or a neighboring city.
Overnight in Rome
After breakfast we’ll head directly to St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, originally built by Constantine the Great in 324 AD, then reconstructed between 1506 and 1615 under the direction of several famous architects including Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo. You may also join the optional Sistine Chapel tour to view Michelangelo’s famous frescoes. Next you’ll see the famous Trevi Fountain, the lavish Baroque showpiece where people flock to throw coins into the water – an action which is said to ensure that you’ll return to the city again one day. After lunch, take a step even further back in time as you visit Italy’s unrivalled Roman relics. An optional guided tour of the Colosseum, built in AD 72, comes highly recommended. History comes to life as you imagine yourself witnessing gladiatorial combat inside the spectacular amphitheater. You may also choose to walk at your leisure around the outside to admire the facade of this ancient wonder. After the Colosseum, get up close to the nearby Arch of Constantine, which dates back to the fourth century AD, then spend some further free time enjoying Rome, sampling the rich and creamy delights of gelato. After some free time you can either visit Basilique Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs) near Piazza della Repubblica, or head directly to the nearby Mitsukoshi Department store for some serious shopping.
Overnight in Arezzo
On this day you will be introduced to the sights and sounds of Florence, the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. We’ll head up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a panoramic view of Florence, then to a local workshop to see how Florence’s fine leather goods are made. Afterwards, we’ll set out on foot to the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River, the Duomo, Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Uffizi, which houses one of the finest art collections in the world. At Pisa, our last stop of the day, you will be free to wander; be sure to have your camera ready when you enter the Square of Miracles and the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pisa Cathedral and Baptistery come into full view.
Overnight in Sanremo/ Savona
A breathtaking drive along one of the most sublime stretches of Mediterranean coastline awaits as we say goodbye to Italy and hello to Monaco. Our walking tour will take us first to the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, then on to the Courthouse, the Oceanographic Museum and Saint Nicholas Cathedral, the resting place of Grace Kelly. We’ll then travel to the Fragonard Perfume Factory to learn about the perfume-making process. At the end of the guided tour you will be able to purchase one of the fragrances for yourself. Next we’ll visit Nice for a sampling of the scrumptious local cuisine. We’ll stop over in Cannes to see the Palais des Festivals et des Congres, host of the city’s annual international film festival, and then make our way to Orange or Bollene to check in to the hotel.
Overnight in Orange/ Bollene
Take a well-earned rest today as you sit back and enjoy the rustic charm of the French countryside on our journey north to Paris, the Green Line terminus.
Overnight in Paris
After breakfast we’ll venture out of Paris and into the rolling countryside of Champagne, famous the world over for its sparkling white wine. A hefty dose of history, tradition and architecture is yours for the taking in Reims, where every king from the 11th century on was formally anointed. Our last stop on this day is Luxembourg, the world’s only remaining grand duchy. Highlights include the Adolphe Bridge, Place de la Constitution and the Alzette River Valley. We will stay overnight in Luxembourg or a neighboring city.
Overnight in Luxembourg
Our first stop is historic Trier, Germany’s oldest city and the former capital of the Western Roman Empire. Trier is also the hometown of Karl Marx, the father of Communist thought. We’ll visit his former residence, which now houses the Karl Marx Haus museum. After a lesson in ideology, we’ll make our way to Porta Nigra, the largest and most well-preserved Roman city gate north of the Alps. After an exciting morning in Trier, we’ll drive to Koblenz, the town located at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel Rivers. In the summertime you will have the option of joining a scenic river cruise on the Rhine. We’ll make a short stop in Ruedesheim to see the Niederwalddenkmal, a monument built in the late 19th century to commemorate the founding of the German Empire. Then it’s off to Frankfurt, the largest financial center in all of Europe. There you will see the Old Opera House (Alte Oper); Romerberg, the historic heart of Frankfurt; St. Paul’s Church, where Germany’s first united constitution was drafted by the freely-elected National Assembly; and Die Zeil, Germany’s busiest shopping street.