Grand Imperial Cities - Fascinating grand imperial cities and high-speed intercity train journeys showcase the turbulent history of Central Europe.
Grand Imperial Cities
Fascinating grand imperial cities and high-speed intercity train journeys showcase the turbulent history of Central Europe. Discover what turned these former Habsburg and Prussian cities into four of Europe's greatest destinations.
First Class rail travel throughout (Standard Premier Class on Eurostar journeys with meals and drinks)
12 nights' hotel accommodation with breakfast each day
A city tour of Vienna
A guided tour of Schönbrunn Palace
A city tour of Budapest
A journey on the Children's Railway in Budapest
An evening dinner cruise on the Danube
An evening coach tour of Budapest's illuminated city sights
A full-day tour of Prague
A introductory sightseeing tour of Berlin
Services of a professional Tour Manager throughout
Vienna including a city tour
Budapest including a city tour
The Children's Railway
Dinner boat cruise on the Danube
Prague including a guided tour
Berlin including a city tour
Days 1-2 - Eurostar and First Class rail to Vienna
We begin our voyage through eastern Europe on the Eurostar from St Pancras International to Brussels, travelling in Standard Premier Class, with a light meal and drinks served on board. We continue from Brussels in First Class to the beautiful city of Cologne, where we spend tonight. We continue travelling south through Germany on Day 2, passing through some of Germany's magnificent cities, including Bonn, Frankfurt and Nuremberg as we make our way south towards the Austrian border. Our direct service takes us to Vienna, the magnificent city of Mozart, where we spend the next three nights at the Rainer's Hotel. Vienna was the birthplace of classical music and home of the Hapsburg Empire. Grand Baroque architecture can be seen wherever you look and a contemporary modern European capital has emerged from the city's imperial past. (Day 1-E,D; Day 2-B,D)
Day 3 - Glorious Vienna & Schönbrunn Palace
This morning we enjoy a city tour of Vienna, taking in the city's imperial architecture on the famous Ringstrasse - a wide avenue that encircles the Old City of Vienna. Our tour takes us past many of Vienna's finest ornate buildings including the impressive Hofburg Palace, a vast complex of buildings which demonstrates the awesome power and wealth commanded by the Hapsburgs, who used the palace as their ruling headquarters for six centuries. We pass the impressive Opera House, one of the leading opera venues in the world, as well as the grand Parliament Building. Later today we visit spectacular Schönbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Imperial family, situated within beautifully landscaped parkland. We enjoy a guided tour of the palace, followed by time to stroll through its acres of elaborate and beautifully kept formal gardens. (B,D)
Day 4 - A day at leisure in Vienna
Today you are free to explore at your own pace. Vienna's glorious Gothic cathedral, the Stephansdom, is located at the very centre of the city. By climbing the 553 steps to the top of the cathedral you will be rewarded with one of the best views of the city. Alternatively, a ride on the giant Ferris wheel in Prater Gardens, a former Imperial hunting ground, offers a more laid-back way to achieve a superb view across the city. An evening at leisure gives you chance to absorb the city's wonderful night-time atmosphere. (B)
Day 5 - Scenic rail journey to Budapest
We leave Vienna mid-morning, travelling by rail in First Class south-east across the border into Hungary. Our destination is Budapest, a city of two halves divided by the mighty River Danube and sewn together by a collection of beautiful, elegant bridges including the famous Szechenyi Chain Bridge, the first permanent crossing to link the two halves of the city. The flatter, lively region of Pest looks across the water to its older, historical neighbour, the hilly Buda which rises up away from the banks of the river. Budapest was once the joint capital of the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire. The city and its buildings have been restored to their very best in what is now one of Europe's finest, grandest and most picturesque cities. We spend the next three nights here at the Hotel Zara Continental, located close to the city centre. You have some time this afternoon to begin your exploration of Budapest at leisure before we dine together in a local restaurant in the city centre. (B,D)
Day 6 - Budapest and the Children’s Railway
This morning we enjoy a guided coach tour, introducing us to the main sights of Budapest. We pass impressive buildings and monuments on both sides of the Danube, including the vast, neo-Gothic Parliament building which was designed to resemble the Palace of Westminster, the magnificent State Opera House and St Stephen's Basilica, Budapest Castle, Fishermen's Bastion and Matthias Church. Later we enjoy a ride on the Children's Railway, a service operated by Hungarian schoolchildren who consider it a great honour to be chosen to help run it. The line runs through beautiful woodland in the hills above Buda and presents wonderful views of the city. (B)
Day 7 - At leisure and an evening cruise
Today is free for you to explore Budapest at leisure, an excellent opportunity for you to view some of the city's main sights or simply stroll through historic streets, appreciating the magnificent architecture and old world grandeur. Tonight we experience the city from a different perspective with a dinner cruise on the Danube and an evening coach tour taking in the illuminated city sights, including Heroes' Square, Vajdahunyad Castle, the Chain Bridge and spectacular views of the city from Gellert Hill. (B,D)
Day 8 - First Class rail from Budapest to Prague
We depart Budapest this morning by train, travelling in First Class through Slovakia and the city of Bratislava to the Czech Republic. We arrive in Prague this afternoon for three nights at the Mövenpick Hotel. The hotel enjoys a panoramic view of 'the city of a hundred spires', where copper-domed churches line the banks of the River Vltava and where architectural styles from across Europe blend together to create one of the continent's most beautiful cities. Prague is a true city of music, where orchestral concerts and organ recitals take place almost every night, where church bells ring throughout the day, and where violin music spills into the streets from restaurants and pubs every evening. (B,D)
Days 9-10 - Sightseeing in Prague
During a full-day tour through the narrow streets of the Old Town, we discover some of Prague's most famous sights. We begin at Hradcany Castle, the largest medieval complex in Europe, which enjoys spectacular views across Prague. We also pass the Gothic spires of St Vitus' Cathedral and walk across the 14th century Charles Bridge, which has 75 statues along its walls. On Day 10 you are free to explore at leisure, with countless options available for you to visit in this remarkable city. Stroll through the streets admiring the city's rich architectural heritage, perhaps visiting the peacocks that wander through the Baroque splendour of the Wallenstein Gardens. (Day 9-B,D; Day 10-B)
Days 11-12 - To Berlin
This morning we leave Prague, heading northwards through the Bohemian countryside into Germany, tracing the winding route of the River Elbe through a region known as Saxon Switzerland on our way to Berlin. Here we stay for two nights at the Maritim Hotel Berlin. En route to the hotel there will be an introductory sightseeing tour of this fascinating city. Berlin's cityscape and monuments bear witness to the rise of the kingdom of Prussia, German nationhood, the cruel and lasting partition of the city and the optimism of reunification. Day 12 is free for you to explore the many fantastic sights of Berlin individually, including the imposing Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the remains of the Berlin Wall and the moving Holocaust Memorial. (Day 11-B,D; Day 12-B)
Day 13 - Berlin to London
Our morning departure to Brussels, via Cologne, connects with the Eurostar service to St Pancras International. A light meal and drinks are served on board before we arrive. (B,E)
Eurostar is the high-speed rail service directly linking the UK to France and Belgium via the Channel Tunnel. It started operating in 1994, providing convenient city centre to city centre services.
Maritim Hotel, Berlin: The 4-star Maritim Hotel Berlin is situated close to Potzdamer Platz and not far from all the main sights of central Berlin, such as the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. Designed in the style of the 'golden 20's' the hotel marries classic ambience with modern comforts. Facilities include a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, saunas, solarium and fitness room. The rooms come with individual climate control, a telephone, television, minibar and a hairdryer.
The Maritim Hotel won Great Rail Journeys' Silver Award in the 'Best German Hotel' category in 2010.
Continental Hotel Zara, Budapest: The new 4-star Continental Hotel Zara in Budapest is located in the downtown area of the city. The hotel has a restaurant, bar, indoor and outdoor pool, jacuzzi and spa. Rooms are decorated in an art deco style and feature individually controlled air conditioning, a telephone, television, minibar, safe and hairdryer.
Mövenpick Hotel, Prague: The 4-star Mövenpick Hotel in Prague is situated just outside the city centre. It is a short walk from the nearest metro station, which has regular, direct trains to the historic heart of Prague. The main building (where our rooms are located) is connected to the executive wing at the top of Smichov Hill by cable car. The hotel has two restaurants, a lobby bar serving a selection of snacks, a gift shop, fitness centre, sauna and steam room. The rooms are air conditioned and have a telephone, television and a minibar.
In 2010 the Mövenpick Hotel won Great Rail Journeys' Silver Award in the category of 'Best Hotel in the Poland, Hungary, Russia & Czech Republic region'.
Rainer's Hotel, Vienna: Our base in Vienna is the newly opened 4-star Rainer's Hotel, located to the historic centre of the city. Vienna's central sights and attractions are easily accessible by local public transport. The hotel occupies a beautifully-restored and renovated factory building; behind the original, preserved façade of the building is a modern and contemporary interior. The hotel has a restaurant with a summer outdoor dining terrace, a modern bar/lounge and a fitness centre. Rooms have air-conditioning, minibar, TV and DVD player, telephone, safe, hairdryer and tea/coffee making facilities.