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Your experience of a lifetime begins in the free-thinking capital of the Netherlands. Immerse yourself in Amsterdam's gezelligheid as you soak up the buzz of the city's canals, gabled houses and festive squares. There's no better way to see the capital than from its waterways, so choose an Optional Experience in a glass-topped boat winding through Amsterdam's historic canal ring.
Your first stop today is the main cultural centre of the Rhineland and home to the impressive Cologne Cathedral which looms high above the city's skyline. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and one of the country's most-visited landmarks. Suitably inspired by its spires, you'll board a lazy river cruise down the Rhine past terraced vineyards and fairy-tale castles.
Your first stop today is Munich where you can admire the Glockenspiel in the Marienplatz and the Hofbräuhaus. Continue along the Inn Valley to the Austrian Tyrol and its capital, Innsbruck, where you can 'ooh and aah' at the impressive ski jump and view the famed Golden Roof, constructed from 2,657 copper tiles. Admire the fascinating crystal installations and browse for precious gifts and souvenirs at the Swarovski Crystal Worlds Store. This evening, an Optional Experience could see you enjoy a lively evening of entertainment during a traditional Tyrolean evening.
Journey through alpine landscapes crossing the Brenner Pass into Italy. Venice bewitches in all her Byzantine glory, softening even the hardest of hearts with her opulence. Highlights include a cruise on a private launch to St. Mark's Square and views of the magnificent St. Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace. The talents of master craftsmen are the star of the show later as you visit their glassblowing workshop to see them craft the most exquisite works of art. There's even time for an optional Gondola and Grand Canal cruise - grand palazzi, churches and ornate bridges line your journey.
Cross the Veneto plain into Tuscany, travelling through Umbria to Lazio and eventually the 'Eternal City'. If Rome was a person, she would be confident, alluring and complex. You'll get to know her, and her quirks, over the next two days as you continue to explore Italy. You'll find reminders of an ancient world, a holy empire and the Renaissance around every turn. You could choose to join a Local Specialist for an optional guided stroll through Rome's piazze. Linger in your favourite square, or perhaps enjoy a scoop or three of the local gelato and soak up the effervescent energy of a city that knows how to enjoy life.
You could spend a lifetime exploring Rome and just scratch the surface, but with your Local Specialist on hand you'll dive right into the city's heart and soul. Head to Vatican City to watch the pigeons and people tread on holy ground, then visit St. Peter's Basilica and see Michelangelo's priceless 'Pietà'. Skip the long queues and choose an Optional Experience to the Vatican Museums. Continue your tour across the Tiber to the Colosseum and other ancient sites, following in the footsteps of Julius Caesar. The rest of the day is yours to explore Rome your way. Consider an optional local dinner followed by a scenic tour of the city by night.
Life mimics art in the idyllic Umbrian and Tuscan landscapes you've seen in countless films, photographs and works of art. Experience it yourself as your journey heads north to the Renaissance city of Florence. Soak up every detail as you admire the city skyline from Piazzale Michelangelo. There's time to explore Piazza della Signoria, the Duomo and Giotto's Bell Tower or shop for the bespoke Italian leather goods and fine gold jewellery for which Florence is justifiably famous. You could choose instead to join an Optional Experience revealing the Renaissance heritage of a city which attracted artists, physicists, astronomers and philosophers like Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo.
There's no better backdrop than the Apennines as you wind your way north past Milan and the Swiss border. Press your nose to the window, drinking in the beauty of the St. Gotthard Pass in the Swiss Alps, then continue to Lake Lucerne. You'll want to put the 'heart' of Switzerland in your pocket and take its history, culture and epic landscapes with you, but for now be contented with an Optional Experience that will see you dive into Swiss folklore and food - fondue anyone?
Turn the page to a land of fairy-tale landscapes and medieval history. You have a full day to see the sights and explore Lucerne, starting with a morning orientation including the Chapel Bridge and the Jesuit Church. No visit to Lucerne is complete without a visit to the Lion Monument, built to commemorate the brave Swiss Guards who died defending Louis XVI during the French Revolution. You may be tempted to do some souvenir shopping, but an Optional Experience into the mountains will be hard to resist. Ascend Mount Pilatus by a cog-wheel railway then embark on a scenic lake cruise.
It doesn't get more idyllic than the French countryside and you'll soak it all up as you continue through the vineyards of celebrated wine regions before arriving in Paris. The 'City of Lights' shines brightly this evening and it will sparkle even more should you choose to join an Optional Experience to cruise down the Seine, seeing the glittering skyline from the water.
Audrey Hepburn described it best when she said: 'Paris is always a good idea.' We're sure you'll agree. Hit its grand boulevards on a city sightseeing tour with your Travel Director when you'll see the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, and Champs Élysées then spend the rest of the day discovering the city on your terms. Don't resist the urge to tread in the footsteps of Picasso and Dalí and visit Montmartre this afternoon, exploring its maze of streets and Artist's Square. There's time to shop for artwork and savour some local specialties before considering a real highlight this evening - an optional dinner and cabaret performance.
Say farewell to your Travel Director and travelling companions at the end of an amazing holiday. Find out more about your free airport transfer at costsavertour.com/freetransfers.
Prices shown are per person based on two people sharing a twin room. To request a personalized travel quote, click "Request Quote" and a Travel Specialist will send your custom quote including airfare if requested.
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