Day 1 - Madrid
Welcome to Madrid, Spain. The sassy central capital is known for its elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks, but it also pulsates with energy, and is without doubt a vibrant city. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at either 6 or 7pm, depending on common area availability. Please double check with reception to confirm the time and place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance, passport details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive on time, you may wish to arrive early. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). As there's limited time for sightseeing in Madrid, we recommend arriving a few days early. Perhaps while away the hours along the Paseo del Arte, or Art Walk, for an expansive history of Western art. Start with the Museo del Prado, then discover modern Spanish masters, including Picasso and Dali, in the Museo Reina Sofia. Finish at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which displays eight centuries of European painting. After the welcome meeting, perhaps get into the mind of a Madrileño with some tapas and Rioja.
Day 2 - Madrid
Today is free to discover Madrid. The city is renowned for its rich repositories of European art, while the heart of old Hapsburg Madrid is the portico-lined Plaza Mayor, and nearby is the baroque Royal Palace and Armoury. This stylish, cosmopolitan city is also well known for world-class restaurants, shopping and nightlife, so take some time to uncover these wonders. Take a break in the Real Jardin Botanico, a garden wonderland dating from the 18th century. Maybe simply people watch while you enjoy a coffee in one of the atmospheric streets and squares around the famous Plaza Mayor. You could also join an Urban Adventure to get a deeper insight into the city through its food and its markets. Sports fans, if you're lucky enough for your trip to fall on match day, you can don a white t-shirt and head to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to watch the mighty Real Madrid. At night, head out to Chueca, Plaza Dos de Mayo or Plaza Santa Ana, where the pulse of the city will lead you from bar to bar on a night out you are sure to remember.
Day 3 - Cuenca
Today travel by bus to charming Cuenca (approximately 2.5 hours). The town is located literary on the edge of deep gorges created by two rivers: Jucar and Huecar. On arrival, venture out on an orientation walk around this historic World Heritage fortress city. The old part of this city is an outstanding medieval development built on steep mountainsides, with many casa colgadas (hanging houses) that are literally on the cliff edge. Like many towns in Spain, it was occupied for a period of time by the Muslim Moors who built the original fortress. Afterwards, use your free time getting to know the city. Perhaps visit the impressive 12th-century gothic Cathedral, or venture out to the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art, located in the casa colgadas, whose front balconies protrude into the gorge. There is wonderful art all over the town, with a number of abstract artists making Cuenca their home in the 1960s. Evening is a great opportunity to gather together with the group and enjoy a dinner in this picturesque town, with the old city beautifully brushed with light from a series of high-powered lamps suspended half-way up the rock.
Day 4 - Valencia
Take a train and head east to the coastal town of Valencia (approximately 4 hours). It's known for being the Spanish gateway to the Mediterranean, with a big port, beautiful beaches, restaurants and a beach promenade along the waterfront. The old town is set back from the seafront through, and in the centre you will find the beautiful monuments and historical buildings. Busy markets, clean beaches, spectacular mountains and a fascinating mix of old town and new town makes up the best of Valencia. Over the next couple of days, you have a lot of free time to wander around the city and see the sights. Explore the colourful stalls of the Mercado Central, and this evening perhaps head out to bar-hop and eat tapas in the Ciutat Vella (old town).
Day 5 - Valencia
Take today to explore. Possibly visit the 13th-century cathedral, which houses what's claimed to be the Holy Grail, and climb the 207 steps of the Miguelete tower for the best views of the city. The Museum of the Fallas is another unique option, which contains a history of the Valencia Fire Festival in the form of giant papier mache figures. There are also many fine parks and gardens, or you may want to head to the beach of Playa de la Malvarrosa to soak up some sun. To try the paella that Valencia is famous for (rabbit and chicken), do as the locals do and head to the restaurant area of Las Arenas for a hearty and reasonably priced lunch. Valencia is also built with separate cycle paths, so it's really easy to get around. Perhaps rent a bike from one of the many bike stations dotted around the city. Cycle through the park that runs through the centre of the city to the impressively designed Museu de les Ciencies Príncipe Felipe (Arts and Science Museum). Tonight, maybe head south to Ruzafa, one of the city’s coolest areas.
Day 6 - Barcelona
Today take the train up the coast to Barcelona (approximately 3.5 hours). Barcelona's quirky character and fabulous Catalan cuisine mixes seamlessly with a groundbreaking art scene, Gothic architecture, superb dining and a non-stop nightlife, making it a city you won't soon forget. In the afternoon, there are plenty of options to keep you busy. Wander the labyrinthine streets of the old Gothic Quarter and navigate your way through the throngs of tourists along La Rambla, Barcelona's famous tree-lined boulevard. Perhaps pay a visit to the Picasso Museum, the National Art Museum of Catalonia or the Museum of City History to brush up on your local knowledge. Take the funicular to the top of Montjuic or Tibidabo for panoramic views of Barcelona and the harbour. The heart of Catalonia prides itself as a gastronomic centre and so this evening perhaps head out to taste the reputation for yourself. Take a tapas crawl through rustic Catalan dishes in the funky neighbourhood of El Born.
Day 7 - Barcelona
Your second day here is free to partake in some of the optional activities on offer in Barcelona. In the morning perhaps head to the stalls of Santa Catarina Market, a huge trove of local produce beneath a colourful, undulating roof, and hang out with the locals. The city is famous for its architecture, from its impressive gothic main cathedral to the houses, concert halls, palaces and basilicas designed in the unique Catalan Modernista style. The master of this movement was Antonio Gaudi, who's eccentric creations are dotted all over the city. A visit to Gaudi's masterpiece, the modern cathedral of La Sagrada Familia, is a must, even if it's just to see the outside. Gaudi worked on this hugely ambitious project for decades until his death, and it remains in constant construction. Perhaps check out the Neo-Gothic mansion of Guell Palace, or the wave-inspired structure of Casa Battlo. For more insight into the artist himself, head to the Gaudi House Museum inside Parc Guell. For something a little different, perhaps have a poke around the Old Santa Creu Hospital. For your final night, perhaps finish the day with a sip of red wine from a porro – a traditional glass pitcher.
Day 8 - Barcelona
Today is free for you to enjoy as you please. Set out to discover more of Barcelona in detail. With great restaurants, art galleries, shopping and nightlife on offer, Barcelona is a world-class city exuding confidence and style through every pore.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Day 9 - Barcelona
Perhaps use your free time today to go on a tapas tour or explore the outskirts of the city with its sleepy villages and olive groves. Unearth the city's groundbreaking art scene, Gothic architecture, amazing cuisine, Catalan identity, beach vibe and proud character. Visit the labyrinthine streets of the old Gothic Quarter, the Picasso Museum, wander the tree-lined pedestrian boulevard of La Rambla or take the funicular to the top of Montjuic or Tibidabo for panoramic views of Barcelona and the harbour. Gaudi's bizarre La Sagrada Familia Cathedral is possibly the most iconic landmark, along with the Camp Nou. Both the cathedral and the football stadium provide guided tours at an additional charge.
Day 10 - Avignon
Take to the fields of Provence on the train to Avignon, south-west France (approximately 5-6 hours). This journey is idyllic, so make sure you have a camera ready. With mountain hideaways and emerald vineyards, the Mediterranean coastline of Provence folds into tabletop mountains where fields of lavender and wildflower cover the landscape. On arrival into Avignon, check in to your hotel and then take a walk around this walled city that was once home to French popes for more than a century.
Day 11 - Avignon
Today use your free time here wisely, as there are lots of sights and activities to keep you busy. Comb the city's impressive collection of art, visit the grand Palais des Papes (Pope's Palace) and cross the iconic bridge of Pont St-Benezet. Perhaps hire a bike to see more of this picturesque valley and head to one of the city's amazing bakeries. You can even put a baguette in your basket. In the evenings, there are many small French bistros that serve up great cuisine that's native to the region.
Day 12 - Paris
Travel north on the train to France's cosmopolitan capital, Paris, which should take around three to four hours. Rich in museums, art galleries, monuments, fashion and delicious food, Paris offers a wealth of major sights and things to do. On arrival into the city, check in to the hotel and then you're free to do as you wish. Wandering around the Champs-Elysees, the student-filled Latin Quarter and the bohemian Montmartre will give you a good feel for the city. There is so much to do in Paris that it might be a good idea to make a plan before you arrive.
Day 13 - Paris
The Tuileries, Plantes and Jardin du Luxembourg are all excellent places to enjoy a simple baguette with cheese on summer days, or head to a cafe to have a coffee (the French drink it black) and watch the world go by. Explore the world-famous Louvre, where you can see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Join the Thinker in his eternal contemplation at the Rodin Museum. Visit the Musee d'Orsay, home to some of the most famous Impressionist paintings. Climb the Eiffel Tower (or take the lift) for some impressive aerial views of Paris. Study the Notre Dame Cathedral with its vast rose window and menacing gargoyles. The Paris restaurant scene and nightlife is also worth sinking your teeth into. Marais is a great district for trendy bars and eateries, while Bastille is well-known for its clubs.
Notes: To avoid queuing at the ticket windows of the Louvre you can buy your ticket in advance, but pre-sold tickets can't be collected at the Louvre. The ticket is valid every day except Tuesday (when the museum is closed) and certain bank holidays. Book your tickets at: louvre.fr.
Day 14 - Paris
Another day in Paris? There is still plenty to discover in this European city. Perhaps start ticking more museums or cathedrals of the list – you surely couldn’t have done them all yesterday. If you think you have, try Paris’ ‘other’ museums. The Museum of Comparative Anatomy and Paleontology provides an amazing look into a the world of 19th century science with rows and rows of animal skeletons marching shoulder to shoulder against walls lined with old wood and glass cabinets. Within the Jardin des Plantes where the museum resides there is also a botanical garden, zoo and an array of other natural history museums. Feeling like Art? Paris has a selection of world class street art sport. The best spot for a graffiti-viewing urban safari is the Canal St. Martin in the 10th arrondissement, one of the most exciting and up-and-coming areas in town. Chock-full of wonderful restaurants, artistic shops and great graffiti, the area is a great place for leisurely strolling. In the evening, on warm summer day, visit he quai along the left bank of Port St. Bernard. It comes alive with people strolling, picnicking and ballroom dancing. Sounds like a perfect place to finish of your Paris adventure.
Day 15 - Luxembourg
Cross the border from France on the train into Luxembourg City, which should take around two hours. As the second smallest country in the EU after the Vatican City, Luxembourg has transformed itself into a busy, successful and historical centre with ample of natural beauty. Check in to the hotel on arrival and then head out into the city's World Heritage listed Old Town, which is perched high above the narrow valleys of the Alzette and Petrusse rivers. Stroll along the promenade of Chemin de la Corniche, said to be 'Europe's most beautiful balcony', and take it all in. The city is also full of old and modern galleries and museums to explore, such as the Musee d'Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg (Luxembourg City History Museum). Perhaps take a guided tour of the turreted Palais Grand-Ducal (built in 1573), which is home to the Grand Duke. In the evening, possibly venture out with the group for a meal in this sophisticated setting.
Day 16 - Brussels
Leave Luxembourg behind and jump a train to Brussels, which should take you around three and a half hours. During your time in Brussels there are lots of sights to see, delicious foods to eat and culture to be discovered. It might be a good idea to start your journey at the medieval, cobblestone square of the Grand Palace. This area can only be accessed on foot and is surrounded by local markets, chocolate shops and expensive cafes and restaurants. From here, wander down to the Manneken Pis (Little Man Pee), which is an iconic symbol of Belgium. Visit the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula and then relax in the public Parc du Cinquantenaire. An evening in Brussels wouldn't be complete without a huge portion of moules-frites (mussels and fries) and a glass of Belgian beer. If you like a night out, Ilot Sacre is a great place to find good food and fun bars. The Delirium Cafe is the ideal spot for listening to live blues deep into the night.
Day 17 - Brussels
Enjoy a free day in Brussel. Discover the town further, perhaps visit mini-Europe theme park featuring miniature replicas of European monuments and judge if they are similar to the original ones. By now, you have definitely seen a handful of those in reality. If you’re interested in music, the must-see place is The Musical Instrument Museum. Three floors of musical instruments coming from each side of the world and hundreds of years of musical history in one place. Alternatively, climb inside an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times its normal size. The Atomium - a strange looking structure built in 1958 for Brussels Worlds Fair, now became a permanent part of city’s landscape. Finish off your day in Delirium Café, a cosy basement bar, tucked away on a cobblestone backstreet in the heart of Brussels. Café has an inventory of over 2000 beers.
Day 18 - Amsterdam
Cross another border, as you travel into the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam (approximately three hours by bus with free WiFi). Best way to get your head around this city, is to do as locals do – cycle. Consider a half day tour of the city on two wheels. This will provide you with a good understanding of the layout of the city for the next couple of days. Amsterdam, a network of canals, bridges and parks is also spoilt for choice when it comes to museums. One of its best is the Rijksmuseum, whose most famous work is Rembrandt's 'The Night Watch'. Visit the Van Gogh Museum, which comprises nearly every painting, sketch, print, etching, and piece of correspondence that Vincent van Gogh ever produced, including 'Sunflowers'. After seeing the painted variety, wander through the real thing at the Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market).
Day 19 - Amsterdam
Another day in Amsterdam could easily be spent with history in mind. Visit Anne Frank's House, the former hiding place of Anne Frank and seven others during World War II, and the place where she wrote her now-famous diary, is today preserved as a museum. A visit here not only allows you to climb into the attic and learn about the history of those who hid there, but also challenges you to examine your views by posing modern ethical questions. Move on to De Waag (weigh house), 15th-century building on Nieuwmarkt square. As many of Amsterdam’s historic buildings have enjoyed multiple uses through the centuries, Dee Waag is no exception. Constructed first as a gate for the city's fortified walls, it was later transformed into a 'weigh house' where goods brought back by ships from overseas were weighed. In later years, it served as a guild house for local professions and has also been a museum, fire station and more. In its most recent incarnation, the Waag houses a well-received café-restaurant as well as space (the former anatomy theater) for various types of exhibits. The Waag is located in the Chinatown district of Amsterdam. Great place to go for Chinese food afterwards.
Day 20 - Amsterdam
Today is your last day in Amsterdam. Why not get to know the secrets of its cuisine? Perhaps find out why Dutch don't talk much about their food, unless it’s about pancakes! Pannekoeken are a traditional Dutch treat — sometimes sweet, sometimes savoury, but always delicious! Snack on salty fries, savouring rich cheeses and sip boozy spirits. Bask in the glory of liquid sunshine – visit the best bars, breweries and beer halls of this brew-loving city. From a place where nuns used to brew ales, to the mothership of Dutch beer brewing - the original Heineken building - see, and taste, the Netherlands strong brewing history.
Day 21 - Berlin
Leave Amsterdam behind and take the train into Germany for your final stop of the trip, Berlin (approximately 6.5 hours). As there's not too much free time to fully explore Berlin, it's recommended that you book an extra couple of days to give yourself more time. Our reservations team can help (subject to availability). If you're a bit daunted by the size of the city, there are countless bus tours that operate throughout Berlin and they're an ideal way to find your feet. There are many unique memorials and sites holding significance in Berlin's more recent history, which are all designed to provoke thought as well as commemorate. These include the Jewish Memorial, the empty shelves of Bebelplatz and the confronting Topography of Terror.
The Reichstag, designed by British architect Norman Foster, holds a special and symbolic meaning outside of its role as the home of parliament. The great glass dome that crowns the building also offers sweeping views over Berlin. Make sure you book your visit early in the morning, as queues can snake around the building for hours on end. Wander through the the Brandenburg Gate and witness the crumbling remnants of the Berlin Wall that are scattered all over the city. Checkpoint Charlie and its museum overlook the former border checkpoint dividing East and West, explaining how the city came to be divided overnight and its attempts to escape from behind the Iron Curtain. Berlin is a haven for good food, with a mix of classic German, Bavarian and Italian influences. Consider spending an evening celebrating life as the locals do - at a bar, lounge, nightclub or embracing some live music.
Day 22 - Berlin
There are no activities planned for the final day and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money