- Learn about life under Communist rule in East Berlin
- Marvel at the jagged Bastei rocks and the breathtaking bridge between them
- Bike through the Bohemian countryside, stopping in at the best local vineyards
- Take in Budapest's architectural splendor from the comfort of a Danube cruise
- Explore the charming villages on Lake Balatan's shores
|Arrive in Berlin (Germany), Afternoon Beer Tour
|Explore Berlin, Afternoon Tour of East Berlin
|Drive to Dresden, Elbe River Cruise
|Saxon National Park & Bastei Bridge, Drive to Prague (Czech Republic)
|Bike Tour of Prague's Historic Sites or Karlštejn Castle
|Bohemian Countryside & Vineyard Tour
|Morning E-Bike Tour of Prague's Hidden Gems, Drive to Brno
|Brno Walking Tour, Drive to Vienna (Austria), Musikverein Dinner & Concert
|Alpine Day Trip to Hallstatt
|Tour Vienna's Museums, Drive to Bratislava (Slovakia), Food & Beer Tour
|Drive to Budapest (Hungary), Danube Dinner Cruise
|Budapest Market Hall Tour & Cooking Class
|Day Trip to Balaton Lake, Tapolca & Tihany
Day 1: Arrive in Berlin (Germany), Afternoon Beer Tour
Welcome to Berlin! Transfer from the airport to your inner-city accommodation, then pop out for a stroll and get acquainted with this colorful city. Start with the Kreuzberg district, Berlin's countercultural heart. Home to a diverse immigrant community, you'll find great spots to try international food wherever you look. This district is the perfect place to see some of Berlin's most famous street art and is also home to the Viktoriapark, an attractive green space complete with a waterfall.
In the afternoon, continue to the adjoining borough, Friedrichshain, one of Berlin's hippest spots. Here, you'll kick off a tour of the city's best beer venues, both famous and off the beaten path. Wrap your taste buds around fruity, hoppy, sour, and complex beers as you listen to an entertaining history of Berlin's beer culture. Along the way, you'll pop into a nano-brewery and chat to the brewer over a beer. Once the tour is over, grab some dinner and relax for a few hours. If you're keen to explore Berlin's nightlife, head back to the Kreuzberg district later.
Day 2: Explore Berlin, Afternoon Tour of East Berlin
This morning, explore some of Berlin's highlights. Take a tour of the Reichstag and its famous glass dome, stroll through the Tiergarten, the city's green lung, or head to one of its well-known shopping districts. For a mix of big brands and luxury shopping, try the Kurfürstendamm boulevard. Although no longer the largest shopping district, it remains one of the most atmospheric. Discover boutique stores on the ground floors of the elegant side street apartment buildings, or stop at one of the many cafés on the main avenue and watch the world go by.
In the afternoon, take a fascinating walking tour of East Berlin. Learn about daily life under Communist rule as you tour landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall Memorial, the Stasi Museum, and Alexanderplatz. You'll see the "Palace of Tears," the site of many enforced family farewells, explore communist housing of the era, and learn about the civilian spy network and the growing discontent with the Communist regime. You'll also get a sense of the divisions between East and West Berlin that still linger today.
Day 3: Drive to Dresden, Elbe River Cruise
After breakfast, pick up your rental car and take a 2.5-hour drive south to Dresden. Once you've arrived at your accommodation and settled in, explore the city. If you're an art fan, you'll want to visit the Albertinum Modern Art Gallery, where you'll find Rodin's sculpture, "The Thinker." History buffs should stop by the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), a symbol of the city's rebirth after the World War II bombing. Visit the world-famous Opera House, or lose yourself in the terraces, gardens, and museums of the Zwinger Palace.
Take a break for lunch, and then see this magnificent city from the water, with a relaxing boat trip along the River Elbe. Sail by the Baroque buildings that shape its distinctive skyline—landmarks like the Opera House, Royal Palace, Zwinger Palace, Cathedral, and Frauenkirche. As you pass, your guide will discuss the monuments' history and architecture. Cruise under the "Blue Wonder" bridge and take in views of the impressive Albrechtsberg Palace and the Czech Republic countryside before returning to Dresden for the night.
Day 4: Saxon National Park & Bastei Bridge, Drive to Prague (Czech Republic)
Today, you'll drive to your next destination, the Czech Republic's fabled city of Prague. However, you'll spend most of your day at an impressive stop-off, the Saxon Switzerland National Park. Just an hour's drive from Dresden, you'll find a landscape of pristine forest and astonishing rock formations.
Pick up a map at the visitor's center, lace up your boots, and get hiking. One of the park's main highlights, the Bastei Bridge, is also on one of its most accessible hikes. Suitable for all fitness levels, this 1.5-hour loop will take you to a fairy-tale rock formation and stone bridge. Explore the bridge, take a few photos, and find a scenic spot to picnic—it won't be difficult!
After lunch, try another of the park's well-marked routes. Popular trails include the Malerweg, the Pfaffenstein Loop, and the Schwedenlöcher Trail. The paths are well marked—several take only an hour or two and are at an easy or intermediate level. Later in the afternoon, hop in the car and drive just over 1.5 hours to Prague. Check in to your accommodation, then head out for dinner—the city is known for its hearty meat dishes and stews, but you'll also find plenty of international offerings and tasty street food.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Bike Tour of Prague's Historic Sights or Karlštejn Castle
Enjoy a hearty breakfast, then head out for a city bike tour. You'll see all the significant must-sees, like the Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square with its captivating astronomical clock and postcard-pretty Church of Our Lady Before Tyn. Take a tour of the UNESCO World Heritage site, Prague Castle. Built in 880 CE, this is the world's largest coherent castle complex and is a fascinating blend of architectural styles. Be sure to visit the nearby Strahov Monastery for an impressive collection of art and artifacts.
Alternatively, take a self-guided GPS bike tour through the city's outskirts and into the surrounding countryside to Karlštejn Castle. Ride across 22 miles (36 km) of flat terrain through attractive countryside and villages until you reach Karlštejyn village. Break for lunch, then make your way to the castle. This Gothic monument was built in 1348 by Charles IV and is one of the Czech Republic's finest. Tour the amply-furnished imperial residence or peek into the ornate chapels. Climb the Great Tower for the ultimate view of your surroundings. After your tour, take a relaxing train ride back into Prague with your bike and drop it off at the office.
Day 6: Bohemian Countryside & Vineyard Tour
Today, take a trip out of town on an off-the-beaten-path tour of the Czech countryside through dramatic volcanic landscapes and picturesque villages. Stop off at the finest Bohemian vineyards and enjoy an a la carte lunch and wine tasting.
Learn from the locals and experience their daily life as they teach you about Czech culture and winemaking traditions. Get familiar with the distinctive bouquet that characterizes the grapes grown on this volcanic soil, and enjoy the relaxed pace of the tour. It's not all wine, though—along the way, you'll also explore a medieval castle and discover a hidden Jewish cemetery before you return to the city.
Day 7: Half-Day E-Bike Tour of Prague's Hidden Gems, Drive to Brno
Hop back on a bike this morning for a half-day tour of Prague from a different perspective. Avoid the crowds and head to the lesser-known parts of the city on a guided tour designed to show off it's hidden gems. With fantastic views of the historic parts of the city, there'll be some great photo opportunities, and you'll also get to stop off at several monuments for a closer look. Your guide will teach you a little about Prague's history while you enjoy a leisurely ride along the banks of the Vltava River, stopping en route for a refreshing local beer and snacks.
In the afternoon, it's time to get back in your car and drive about 2.5 hours southeast to your next destination, the thriving, modern city of Brno. Known as a center of education and innovation, you'll find a lively café culture and art scene and superb examples of both historic and modernist architecture. Check in to your accommodation, then head out for a wander. There are plenty of trendy restaurants to choose from, whether you're after traditional or modern fare, and if you're in the mood for a night out, there's a plethora of pubs and hip cocktail bars thanks to the city's youthful population.
Day 8: Brno Walking Tour, Drive to Vienna (Austria), Musikverein Dinner & Concert
Spend your morning on a private walking tour of the city. Discover the Old Town (don't forget to make a wish at the Parnas Fountain), and linger in the beautifully ornate Cathedral. Wander through the city's fabulous parks and view its impressive architectural heritage up close. Keep your eye out for the quirky bullet-shaped astronomical clock. Built to commemorate an unlikely military victory effectively won by Brno's citizens putting the town clock forward an hour to noon, it releases a single marble every day at 11 am—catch it, and it's yours.
Grab a bite to eat when the tour finishes, then hit the road for a two-hour drive south to Vienna. Check into your accommodation and freshen up for an evening of elegance at one of the world's finest concert halls. Begin with a three-course dinner at the Restaurant Bristol (housed in the historic Hotel Bristol), then step back in time to 17th-century Austria at the Musikverein as you listen to the Vienna Mozart Orchestra play selections from the composer's most famous symphonies and operas in full costume.
Day 9: Alpine Day Trip to Hallstatt
Leave the driving to somebody else today and relax on a guided day trip through the Austrian countryside to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hallstatt. Home to fewer than 1,000 people, this small settlement is famous in a big way for its pastel 16th-century houses and dramatic Alpine surroundings. Linger over a delicious traditional Austrian lunch before taking a 1.5-hour guided walking tour. As you wander its picturesque streets and stroll along the lake shore, your guide will give you an overview of the town's history. For the best photos, walk to the northern viewpoint.
After your tour, explore the town at your leisure. Poke your nose into the Museum to view an astounding array of relics from the world's oldest salt mine and an Iron Age burial ground, both nearby. To see the town from a different perspective, take the funicular to the Skywalk for panoramic views over the township and the wider Alpine region. If time allows, you'll also find an entrance to the salt mine nearby. Later in the afternoon, meet your guide for the return trip to Vienna.
Day 10: Tour Vienna's Museums, Drive to Bratislava (Slovakia), Food & Beer Tour
Devote the morning to exploring Vienna's fine array of museums. Art lovers should make a beeline for the Albertina, home to works by artists like Monet, Cézanne, Klimt, and Picasso. Follow this with a trip to the Kunsthistorisches Museum to see masterpieces spanning five millennia, from ancient Egypt to Rembrandt. If you're interested in psychoanalysis, visit the former home and office of Sigmund Freud to view the family's rooms and several interesting exhibitions.
Afterward, linger at the two Belvedere Palaces, masterpieces of Baroque architecture; make time to view the art collection (one of Austria's most valuable) and stroll through the attractive gardens. A tour of the Hofburg (Imperial Palace) is also in order—although it contains the official residence and office of Austria's president, the Imperial Apartments are open to the public, as are several exhibitions of historic treasures. Nearby, you can experience modern opulence at the luxury shopping area, Kohlmarkt, home to many famous Viennese jewelers and watchmakers.
Next, it's time to head over the border to Slovakia—spend the night in its capital, Bratislava, just over an hour's drive away. Once you've arrived and settled into your accommodation, feed your hunger and your curiosity with a food and beer tour. View several Old Town highlights as you stroll between cozy pubs and traditional restaurants, sampling delicious pork dishes, dumplings, and sauces, all washed down with superior local craft beers.
Day 11: Drive to Budapest (Hungary), Danube Dinner Cruise
Make the most of your morning in Bratislava. The quaint Old Town is the most famous attraction, so explore it a little further with a guided tour. If you're up for a challenge, climb to the top of the Michael's Gate Tower for a bird's-eye view. Pop into Bratislava Castle and visit the museum there to get a sense of the city's history, or take the elevator to the observation deck of the iconic "UFO" Bridge for panoramic views. Bratislava has a fabulous café scene, so be sure to linger over a delicious coffee before you head out on the road again.
Once you're refreshed, make the two-hour drive over the Hungarian border to Budapest. Hungary's capital is famous for its architectural variety and splendor, the stately beauty of the Danube that flows between Buda and Pest, and its fine cuisine. Once you've checked into your accommodation, take an evening dinner cruise on the river to enjoy the perfect introduction to its charms. As you sail past grand monuments like the Parliament Buildings, you'll be treated to a live display of folk music and dance and a delicious four-course menu. Afterward, head back to your accommodation for the evening.
Day 12: Budapest Market Hall Tour & Cooking Class
Rise bright and early this morning to meet your guide at the Central Market Hall for breakfast, then take a tour of the varied stalls. You'll find artisan cheese, local fruits and veggies, truffles, honey, homemade jams, and sausages. If you're short a souvenir or two, there are plenty for sale here. You'll be glad of your guide in this enormous hall! Afterward, you'll head to the cooking studio for an unhurried lesson in cooking a three-course Hungarian feast of your choice. While you work, you'll sample wines and snacks and learn about local culture and traditions.
The afternoon is yours to explore the city. Begin with the neo-Gothic Parliament Buildings and National Gallery, and be sure to make time for the nearby "Shoes on the Danube Bank" installation, a stirring memorial to the Jews who lost their lives here in World War II. Next, visit the Castle District (walk the Fishermen's Bastion for panoramic views over Pest) or explore the astonishing cave network beneath Buda. Now a museum, "Hospital in the Rock," lies in the caves beneath Buda Castle, and it was a fully functional hospital and vital refuge during World War II.
Day 13: Day Trip to Balaton Lake, Tapolca & Tihany
Today, you'll travel about 1.5 hours out of the city on a guided tour of Lake Balaton, a popular wine-growing and resort area. Bordered on one side by volcanic hills and on the other by easy plains, the striking blue-green waters of Central Europe's largest lake have long attracted visitors. Enjoy sampling the local wines, visiting one of the many spas, or taking a boat trip on the lake.
Your tour also includes two lakeside villages, Tihany and Tapolca. Sited on a peninsula of the same name, Tihany village is known as one of Hungary's most beautiful, with plenty of quaint, clay, thatched-roof houses. Here, you'll have the chance to taste local beers, sample numerous types of paprika at the Paprika House (you can't miss it—look for the abundant hanging peppers outside), and purchase locally-made ceramics. Head up to the church for panoramic lake views and experience the famous "Tihany Echo" for yourself.
Tapolca's most famous attraction is the 1.9-mile (3 km) cave system beneath the town center. Make your way through the exhibition and board your boat for a memorable trip through the cave. Take a walk around the main square, admiring the colorful medieval buildings—from here, it's a short walk to the attractive Mill Pond (stop and refresh yourself at one of the restaurants here) and the City Museum. There are several beautiful parks here, so take a leisurely stroll before returning to Budapest.
Day 14: Depart Budapest
Today marks the end of your European road trip. If time allows, take in a few more of the sights. Relax with a morning at the Széchenyi Baths thermal pools, or take a stroll through the adjacent City Park. This public park, itself a world first, is home to several major attractions: multiple museums, a zoo, a castle on an island, and several restaurants provide plenty to fill your day. When it's time, drive to Budapest Airport to return your rental car and catch your onward flight. Safe travels!
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