17 Day Luxury European Explorer
17 Day Trip exploring Western Europe's finest cities, experience some of the world's best cultural highlights and stunning scenery, try your hand at Italian cooking, see a delicious black forest cake demonstration and sample some robust red wines whilst learning of their origin
Our adventure map
Day by day
First day Depart from London by Eurostar for Brussels
After a warm welcome from your Tour Director, transfer to London's St. Pancras Station to step aboard the high-speed Eurostar. Your comfortable two hour rail journey takes you via the historic Channel Tunnel to Brussels. From here, it's a comfortable drive past the port of Antwerp into The Netherlands. See the first of the windmills on your way to lively Amsterdam. Alternatively, join at the Amsterdam hotel. Later, join your Tour Director for a Welcome Reception and an opportunity to mingle and get to know each other over a pleasant evening of dinner and wine.
Second Day its Amsterdam, City of Canals
In the morning, drive past Dam Square, the Royal Palace, Mint Tower and nearby floating flower market. Visit one of the great diamond houses for a demonstration of diamond cutting and polishing, a chance to wear a fortune in diamonds and dream. The rest of the day is at leisure. Perhaps take an optional trip into the Dutch countryside or to the Keukenhof gardens? The evening is free to dine in the popular restaurants, or maybe visit the Sailors' Quarter?
Third Day Visit Castles of the Rhine then Wiesbaden
Leave Amsterdam today, en route for Germany. Pass the border town of Arnhem, renowned for its Rhine Bridge, the object of bitter fighting at the end of WWII. Continue via the former West German capital of Bonn to the romantic Rhine Gorge. At the quaint wine village of Boppard, board a delightful cruise past fortified towns and leafy vineyards. Pass the twin strongholds of the ‘Enemy Brothers', the Cat and Mouse castles and hear the legend of the Loreley Rock, where sailors are said to have perished on a Siren's call. Then on to your stately hotel, an original 1486 fixture in Wiesbaden's famed spa culture.
Fourth day Drive to Heidelberg, the Black Forest and on to Lucerne
This morning, your first stop is Heidelberg, the city of the Student Prince, dominated by its red sandstone castle. Then take the scenic route along the Rhine Valley to the ancient city of Freiburg. Climb into the heart of the Black Forest and stop awhile in one of the centres of the wood-carving industry to meet skilled masters of the trade who still make cuckoo clocks by hand. Followed by a real treat for those with a sweet tooth, witness an authentic Black Forest cake making demonstration and tasting.
Delicious chocolate cake, sour cherries, jam, kirsch, topped off with whipped cream - a truly luscious Germanic delight. Continue past Lake Titisee and over the Swiss border to Schaffhausen. Here, witness the Rhine river as it thunders over the falls with an awe-inspiring roar. Drive on past geranium-covered wooden chalets en route to the lakeside resort of Lucerne. Your charming hotel is located in the historic old town; close to the pedestrian zone, Jesuit Church and landmark covered bridges.
Fifth Day See Lucerne's Lions and Dragons
After a restful night's sleep, embark on a thrilling trip by cable car and cogwheel railway to the summit of Mount Pilatus. In medieval times, it was believed that dragons lived in these rugged clefts, but now the only amazing sights are over the snow-capped Jungfrau and Eiger peaks. Afterwards, head back to Lucerne and see the sorrowful sculpture of a wounded lion, commemorating the brave Swiss guards who lost their lives defending King Louis XVI during the French Revolution. Then time to stroll along lakeside promenades, shop for fine watches or delicious chocolate. Tonight, enjoy a selection of ambience and local cuisine offered on your Dine-Around evening.
Sixth Day Through the St. Gotthard Tunnel to Venice, Queen of the Adriatic
This morning, journey through scenic Swiss countryside, passing through the Saint Gotthard Tunnel, one of the longest road tunnels in the world, and arriving in 'Bella Italia'. Head onwards to glorious Venice, known for over a thousand years as ‘La Serenissima'.
Seventh Day its Venice and the Magic of ‘La Serenissima’
Even for the experienced traveller, there can be no better joy than waking-up in Venice. Admire the skill of glass-blowers, mask makers and gondola builders on a visit to a traditional arts centre. Then cruise by private launch over to St Mark's Square. Turn the corner and the marble arcades of Piazza San Marco come into view. To your right stands the pale pink Doges' Palace, from where prisoners would take their last look at freedom as they crossed the 'Bridge of Sighs'. Beyond that, the dazzling domes of St. Mark's Basilica. Round the bell tower to see the rest of the square, "the most beautiful drawing room in Europe.” according to Napoleon. Then board a gondola for a serenade through the romantic canals accompanied by musicians. The afternoon is at leisure. Perhaps take a lagoon cruise to the colourful island of Burano - a photographers' paradise, famous for its lace and leaning campanile?
Eighth Day Across the Apennines to the Eternal City of Rome
Bid farewell to the unique city of Venice, and follow the smooth highway across the fertile valley of the River Po past the university city of Bologna. Now climb high into the wild Apennine mountains, crossing the wartime German "Gothic Line" to enter the peaceful landscapes of Tuscany. En route, hear an informative tutorial about the famous Chianti wines that make this region so famous. Continue along the valley of the River Tiber to the 'Eternal City'. By night, Rome's monuments, squares and churches take on a different character, so maybe head for the illuminated Piazza Navona this evening?
Ninth Day Sample Papal and Imperial Rome
In the morning, you are joined by a local expert who guides you through the superb Vatican Museums culminating beneath Michelangelo's famous ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Your VIP visit includes fast-track entry and the Bramante Staircase, a part of the Vatican closed to the general public. Next door, in St Peter's Basilica, see another Michelangelo masterpiece, the Pieta, as well as the splendid dome, completed after his death. Now cross the River Tiber to see the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire, the Colosseum and see the Forum. Later, there is time for shopping or sightseeing at your leisure.
Tenth Day Travel to Hilltop Orvieto and on to Florence
Join the smooth autostrada northwards through the Province of Umbria. Stop in the Umbrian hilltop town of Orvieto; its Cathedral is one of Italy's most celebrated buildings. Take in the flavours of the region, learn about the ingredients and Italian food culture at Zeppelin Restaurant. Join a master chef for a fascinating live cooking demonstration. This is followed by a delicious lunch accompanied with a glass of the Orvieto Classico wine - a magical culinary experience! Then classic Tuscan scenery surrounds you on your way to Florence.
Eleventh Day Exploring Renaissance Florence
After a restful night's sleep, get ready to be immersed in the riches of the Renaissance. With your local expert, view the magnificent cathedral dedicated to St. Mary of the Flowers, Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise" adorning the Baptistery. Next stop is Signoria Square, political heart of the city and still an open-air gallery of Renaissance Masterpieces with time to gaze at statues such as Neptune and David. The area around Santa Croce Basilica is famous for its leather work, so a demonstration of this ancient art rounds off your sightseeing. Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Montepulciano - the wines of Tuscany are famous the world over. During your stay, sample some of these robust reds and learn about their origin. At night, make the most of warm summer evenings by following the locals to the buzzing covered markets for rustic Florentine dishes. Alternatively, dine alfresco with crisp table-top linen and crystal glassware; whichever way you choose, you can't go wrong. Afterwards, maybe try the ice-cream at a famous gelato shop off Piazza Santa Croce? Buon Appetito!
Twelfth Day On to Pisa, Monaco and Nice
Your first stop today is Pisa, to see the incredible leaning tower, from which Galileo is said to have conducted experiments on velocity and gravity. See also the splendid Cathedral and Baptistry, decorated with mosaics and designs in solid marble. Now join the 'Highway of the Flowers' along the enchanting Italian Riviera, with fine views over the Mediterranean and popular resorts such as Viareggio and Rapallo. Numerous tunnels take you through the Ligurian Alps, past Genoa, birthplace of Christopher Columbus, and on to the French border. Stop in Monaco to see the harbour, Monte Carlo Casino and drive along part of the Grand Prix circuit before continuing to elegant Nice.
Thirteenth Day Exploring the Cote d’Azur
After a restful night, unlock the secrets of the French perfume industry with a visit to a perfumery, where fragrance experts waft exclusive scents from stoppered bottles. Back in Nice, you are at leisure. Stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, or try the refreshing local rosé wine and salade nicoise in the Old Town.
Fourteenth Day Through Provence to Avignon and on to Beaune
Journey via the Provencal countryside which inspired impressionists such as Van Gogh and Cezanne. Stop in the old papal city of Avignon, perhaps enjoy lunch in the shadow of the Palace of the Popes, before following the picturesque Rhône Valley north. Leave the South and cross into Northern France and the renowned Burgundy wine-growing district, passing vineyards bearing such renowned names as Meursault and Pommard. Stay in medieval Beaune where your hotel is located across the road from the entrance to the historic old town.
Fifteenth Day On to Paris for a ‘Diner de Célébration’
Head northwards to Paris, one of Europe's liveliest cities. On arrival, after checking into your hotel, enjoy time to relax. Tonight, make for the Latin Quarter, an area long associated with artists, intellectuals and a bohemian way of life! Enjoy a ‘Diner de Célébration' served with wine at a Parisian bistro celebrated for its cuisine.
Sixteenth Day A Free Day in Paris
Today, sightseeing with a local expert takes you by the Île de la Cité to see Notre Dame Cathedral. Continue past the imposing façades of the Louvre and splendid Opera House. See the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde and drive along the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Next, venture into the 'Metro de Paris' to admire its Art Nouveau inspired architecture and enjoy a short journey through the Paris metropolitan area aboard its rapid transit system. Now ascend to the viewing platforms of the Eiffel Tower for spectacular views of the city.
Seventeenth Day Au revoir Paris
Transfers arrive Charles de Gaulle Airport at 8am and 10am hours.
Relax on the smooth high-speed Eurostar train from London via the historic Channel Tunnel to Brussels.
Learn how 400 years of craftsmanship and tradition has perfected the art of diamond-polishing in Amsterdam.
Watch medieval hilltop castles, sleepy villages and vineyards slip by as you enjoy a scenic cruise in Rhine Valley.
A cake making demonstration and tasting in Black Forest.
Embark upon a cogwheel rail journey to the summit offering spectacular panoramic views of Mount Pilatus.
Visit an artisan showroom and workshop in Venice to see master craftsmen honouring age-old Venetian crafts and enjoy the tune of accompanying musicians, you are serenaded through the atmospheric canals by gondola, past water-lapped doorways and Rococo palaces.
Enjoy VIP fast-track entry to the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and privileged behind-the-scenes access to the Bramante staircase in Rome.
Learn what to look for in a local vino rosso and what foods to pair it with - useful information when ordering Florentine cuisine.
The secrets of perfume making are revealed during a guided tour of a perfume laboratory in Nice.
Enjoy an exciting journey on the 'Métro de Paris'. Ascend to the viewing platforms of the Eiffel Tower for spectacular views of the city.
You are offered a selection of restaurants to choose from on your Dine Around evening in Lucerne
At a restaurant in the medieval heart of Orvieto, explore the art of Italian cooking with Chef Lorenzo and master the art of making fresh pasta by hand. This is followed by lunch and a glass of Orvieto Classico wine.
Rendezvous with your friends for a Celebration Dinner with wine in a typical Parisian bistro. Bon Appétit!
Welcome Reception, 16 Buffet Breakfasts, 1 Dine-Around, 1 Highlight Lunch and 4 three-course table d'hôte Dinners or Buffets, plus tea or coffee and 1 Celebration Dinner.
Hotels and Locations
Lucerne: The historic Hotel Wilden Mann has a charming old world ambience.
Most Insight tours already include a host of bonus highlights and comprehensive sightseeing. There may also be an exciting array of Optional Experiences which will turn an already amazing experience into the trip of a lifetime! These are entirely optional and can be booked through your Tour Director/Local Representative at the commencement of your tour. Please note, many Optional Experiences are operated by independent third party suppliers, not Insight Vacations. The Optionals and pricing listed here are a guideline only and subject to change.
Where you stay
All hotels included in your tour package are hand-picked, of an outstanding standard and far better value than if booked individually. Our valued travel partners who organise these tours also own the Red Carnation Hotel Group and where possible Red Carnation Hotels are used and please see our link for further details.
Guarantees, Bonds and Awards
- This tour is run by our outstanding travel partners who are multi-award winning Globe Best Tour operator in the world 2013, 2014 and 2015.
- Tours are fully bonded, protected and guaranteed and you pay the operator directly when booking.
- ABTA, IATA and ATOL protected
- Part of the Trade Right Foundation
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