Day 1 - London
Welcome to the Big Smoke! If you arrive early, why not board a double decker bus and see Oxford Street, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Tower Bridge, or the newest addition to the London Skyline: The Shard. If the sun's out, hit up Hampstead Heath for some people-watching or chillax with a pint in a beer garden.
Day 2 - Paris
Rise and shine – it's an early start this morning as you head to London’s St Pancras Station to catch the famous Eurostar Train through the tunnel to France (approximately 2 hours 40 minutes). Now you can cross the Channel Tunnel off the ol' bucket list. You'll be in France’s capital Paris before you know it. Put on your walking shoes and explore stunning Paris. Along with many, many pigeons, Paris is of course a city of beautiful architecture, beautiful people and all the cheese you can possibly handle.
Day 3 - Paris
Croissant, boulangerie, fromage, tres bon. See? Anyone can speak French. Don your beret and stroll the streets of gay Paree – ooh la la! You haven't lived until you've had a picnic by the Seine with a nice big chunk of Brie. And make sure you don't miss out on the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, the Centre Pompidou or the Rodin Museum. Icons like the Eiffel Tower or Sacre Coeur need no introduction. Be prepared for some weird looks as you declare ‘Paris, je t’aime!’.
Day 4 - Bruges
Another day, another train. This time to the beautiful Belgian city of Bruges (approximately 3 hours 15 minutes). It's called Bruges because of the multitude of bridges that are found in this city. It also happens to be the epitomy of European gorgeousness, with cobbled lanes, meandering canals, a chocolate museum and plenty of beer varieties to taste.
Day 5 - Bruges
Bruges is the place to be if you like beautiful medieval buildings, piano accordion music and hot chips. The awesome Groeninge Museum is highly recommended if you're the chin-stroking, art-appreciating type or a secret nerd for the Renaissance.
Day 6 - Amsterdam
Travel to Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands (approximately 4 hours, depending on connections). Perhaps give your feet a break and see this city by bike. This is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, so get involved! But watch yourself when cycling alongside those dreamy canals – an estimated 25,000 people end up going in each year.
Day 7 - Amsterdam
Today it might be time to discover some tasty Dutch treats. Practice getting gezellig (that means friendly, cozy and/or convivial) in a cafe with a little (read: big) pilsener and a bowl of bitterballen (deep-fried balls of yum). Make sure you make time for some of these great places while you're in Amsterdam: the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, the famous Rijksmuseum and the Heineken Museum. Or, for a different look at the city, take a canal tour.
Day 8 - Berlin
Welcome to Berlin, where beer is cheaper than water. The train trip here is a little longer than the others (approximately 6.5 hours). Here you'll find one helluva nightlife, a thriving arts scene and festivals galore. Join your leader for a visit and a snack at Markthalle 9 in iconic Kreuzberg (currywurst anyone?). If you can peel yourself away from the city's nocturnal party schedule, and for a historic perspective, make sure you check out the Checkpoint Charlie museum. It's got some seriously amazing tales (and photos) of high-stakes civilian escape missions during the Berlin Wall era.
Day 9-10 - Berlin
Day 11 - Berlin / Overnight Train
This morning, perhaps visit Mauerpark, which literally translates to Wall Park as it sits on the former Death Strip of the Berlin Wall. If the weather is nice the atmosphere is truly Berlin. In nearby Kastanienallee's pubs beer is cheaper than water. In the early afternoon, you'll board a train to Szczecin in Poland, where you’ll connect to your overnight train bound for Krakow. Don’t be late!
Day 12 - Krakow
Possibly the best-known Polish city, Krakow was the residence of Polish kings from the 11th to the 17th centuries, and its old town is a World Heritage-listed site. Which means you have some exploring to do! Take a stroll around Wawel Castle which sits on top of a hill next to the Vistula River. It provides a magnificent backdrop to Krakow. Rynek Glowny, the town square, dates back to the 13th century, and is surrounded by awesome buildings, with the Cloth Hall as the centrepiece. There will be plenty of time to explore the city, so visit St Mary's Church, shop for amber or crafts, or just walk around with your jaw agape at all the old-world glory of the place. Find out why Mariacki Hejnal (the trumpeter on top of St Mary's Church) sounds like his tune is cut in half. Sample Obwarzanki while doing that. What’s Obwarzanki? Well, you'll find out.
Day 13 - Krakow
If you want to tear yourself from the magical Main Square, venture out of town to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines, a deep underground network of tunnels and chambers that goes some 135 metres below. The Blessed Kinga Chapel is a highlight not to be missed, with all its fancy salt chandeliers and carvings. You might want to take a day trip to learn more about the history of World War II at Auschwitz (Oswiecim) and Birkenau concentration camps and museums, sites where some of the worst atrocities were perpetrated (it's confronting, but important). A visit to Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter in Krakow, could be a great idea after visiting Oswiecim. Krakow has many cellar restaurants and pubs and a thriving cultural scene too, so head to the streets, dip into some awesome street food and never leave Krakow without trying some Pierogi. Ask locals (or your leader!), they’ll tell you where to go!
Day 14 - Prague
Next up, journey to Prague. It's kind of a lengthy trip (approximately 7 hours), so try to nab a window seat and get cosy. This city is a wonderland of architecture, with buildings from the Middle Ages all the way through to the modern avant-garde. They don't call it the 'City of a Hundred Spires' for nothing. Check out the Gehry-designed Dancing Building (also called the Fred and Ginger Building) on the banks of the Vltava. Don't miss Prague Castle, because it's not only the biggest castle in the Czech Republic, but it is oh-so-pretty too. It's where you'll find the famous St Vitus Cathedral and Golden Lane. A walk through the Jewish Quarter is also a must. Hip literary types can visit the resting place of Franz Kafka. Afterwards, why not take a seat in one of Prague's underground bars and sip some absinthe or a Pilsner. Some of the best fun in Prague is had after the sun goes down, when the magic of the Old Town really comes alive.
Day 15 - Prague
Another day in Prague and so many possibilities. Discover the Bohemian Prague: extravagant, political, passionate, and fuelled with Czech Water. Learn how the Bohemian artists, writers, dissidents, and their mentality shaped the nation. Don’t forget to sample some of the best Czech beers and traditional and modern Czech snacks along the way. If you feel like going for a day trip out of the city, ask your leader to help you organise a trip to Kutna Hora’s Sedlec Ossuary, or The Church of Bones if you like, a small Roman Catholic chapel that contain the skeletons of between 40.000 and 70.000 people. Back in Prague remember that the nightlife in Prague is some of the best in Central Europe. Whether dance clubs, beer-halls or underground absinthe bars are your thing, there's something for everyone. The city also boasts one of Europe's most respected jazz scenes. If you find yourself out until the early hours in a jazz club, have a wander along Charles Bridge or the Old Town Square as the sun rises for magical photo opportunities.
Day 16 - Cesky Krumlov
Depart Prague and travel by train to the southern Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov (approximately 4 hours). This picturesque medieval town dates back to the 13th century and is straight out of a fairytale. Cesky Krumlov (pronounced 'Chess-key Kroom-love') means 'crooked meadow', which is befitting, since the town is nestled in a sharp bend of the Vltava River. It also comes complete with a castle on a hill towering over the cute little old town, which boasts a collection of beautiful old buildings and a confusion of cobbled alleyways. Check out the castle and its epic Masquerade Hall, or climb the tower for aerial views of the town. If the weather's fine and you have two or three hours up your sleeve, take a relaxing raft or canoe trip on the river that winds right through the centre of Cesky Krumlov. This is a classic summer pastime.
Day 17 - Ceske Budejovice / Vienna
Travel to Ceske Budejovice and join your leader for an orientation walk and optional lunch in this Bohemian town that is famous for the Budvar brewery (home of the original Budweiser beer). Alternatively choose to use your stop over to go on a quick brewery visit for a glimpse of the brewing tradition that has existed here for hundreds of years. Tours are operated every day at 2pm and the factory is located a short taxi ride away from the town centre. Discuss the options for this day beforehand with your tour leader. In the afternoon travel onward to Vienna (approx 5 hours).
Day 18 - Vienna
After a quick overview of what this great city has to offer your leader will take you to the famous Naschmarkt food and produce market, where you will have the option to try all sorts of weird and wonderful things. You will have the rest of the day free to explore Vienna at your own pace. You might like to head out to Schönbrunn for a guided audio tour of the summer palace designed by Empress Maria Theresa herself. Here, the Gloriette Monument boasts killer views of Vienna. The palace gardens are free to all visitors but there is a charge for entrance and tours of the palace. If you feel like watching dancing horses, catch a dressage show at the Spanish Riding School. Remember though, The Spanish Riding School doesn't operate throughout the summer months. After all this sightseeing you might like to indulge in a traditional Viennese coffee and Sacher torte, before capping off the evening with a spot of Mozart, Bach or Schubert in a concert hall. Notes: Skip the queues to Schönbrunn palace by booking tickets online. For the Spanish Riding School you will need to book tickets well in advance.
Day 19 - Budapest
Take a train from Vienna to Budapest (approximately 3 hours) and explore this exotic 'Pearl of the Danube'. Since the collapse of Communism, Budapest has experienced something of a renaissance. Glamourous and glitzy shops and restaurants sit alongside old-world architecture and groomed boulevards. Budapest is the perfect city to enjoy from the water. From here you'll be able to see the magnificent buildings that line the banks of the Danube River and the bridges linking Buda to Pest (who would have thought?). Cross the Chain Bridge for spectacular views of the Parliament Building and the Castle District. Make sure you head down to the river after dark to enjoy the floodlit spectacle. Head out to Statue Park to see all the communist monuments that were removed from the city streets after the fall of the Iron Curtain. One unmissable activity is to soak in the hot thermal baths. There are loads of these around the city centre and they range from classy and elegant to simple outdoor types. Some even have chess boards so you can exercise your brain while rejuvenating your body.
Day 20 - Budapest
Today is departure day and you can leave the accommodation at any time. If you would like to extend your stay in Budapest we are able to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Exploring the historical Buda castle is definitely worth an extended stay. Alternatively, why not join Geckos’ ‘Budapest to Venice by Rail’ trip, dropping you in Italy’s most beautiful city, or the ‘Budapest to Athens by Rail’ trip, taking in the highlights of the Balkans.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Meals Included: Breakfast: 9 Lunches: 0 Dinners: 0
Contrast the booming city of Paris with time to see the city's world famous sights - such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre - without having to rush
The beating heart of modern Germany, Berlin is packed with history, arts and culture. The city's poignant memorials serve not just to recognise the past, but to educate new generations into the future
Soak up the royal history of Krakow's Wawel Castle and step back in time with a stroll through its medieval main square
Immerse yourself in the history, architecture and bohemian vibes of the Czech Republic. Soak up the smooth sounds of jazz at a low-lit bar in Prague before stepping right into a fairytale of Cesky Krumlov
Escape city life on the peaceful shores of Lake Bled in Slovenia. Visit a church on the tiny island in the centre of the lake and treat yourself to a slice of Bled's famous cream cake
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