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The perfect introduction to Europe is none other than Amsterdam, the historic, yet edgy Dutch capital. There’s time for a quick orientation through its UNESCO-listed historic centre, characterised by concentric belts of canals or Grachtengordel. Take to the waterways and join an Optional Experience canal cruise in a glass-topped boat. This is a mesmerising way to see this old-world capital and its iconic sights.
You’ll see the towering spires of Cologne Cathedral above the rest of the city skyline when you journey east into Germany. This imposing Gothic church is one of the largest in the world and is said to house the Shrine of the Three Kings. Head to Boppard next where you’ll board your river cruise down the Rhine. Watch the soul-stirring scenery of the Rhine Valley unfold – quaint villages, terraced vineyards and medieval castles line your route. Arrive later at your hotel in the Rhineland where you’ll join your travel companions for dinner.
Ascend to the heavens, crossing the Fern Pass in the Tyrolean Alps. The scenery defies imagination and you’ll arrive in Innsbruck in time to explore the city on your own. Wander through the Old Town and see the Hofburg Palace, St. Jakob’s Cathedral and the Golden Roof, covered with over 2,657 fire-gilded tiles in the 16th century by Emperor Maximilian to mark his wedding. Admire the fascinating crystal installations and browse for precious gifts and souvenirs at the Swarovski Crystal Worlds Store.
Hit all the right notes today as you visit two cities whose heritage are inextricably linked to music. Take a stroll through Salzburg’s Mirabell Gardens, where the von Trapp children once sang ‘Do-Re-Mi’ in ‘The Sound of Music’. See sights that featured in the life of Mozart then head to Vienna, where famous composers rose to musical fame. Don’t resist the urge to join an optional Viennese concert of classical music and feel as inspired as the great masters of music once were to share their genius.
A free morning could see you discover why the streets of Vienna are paved with culture or consider a guided visit to Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Habsburgs, whose lasting legacy can be seen across their dynastic capital. Your Local Specialist will reveal all the sights of this imperial city later today. View the Parliament, the Vienna Opera House, the Hofburg and City Hall before enjoying some time on your own. You’ll need no excuse to embrace the locals’ love of the good life as you indulge in the city’s kafee culture with a heavenly slice of Sachertorte to tame your chocoholic tendencies.
From one elegant city to another, you’ll continue through the Austrian Lake District and into Italy. Your final destination today is Venice, once a maritime powerhouse and republic, whose influences can be seen across the Eastern Mediterranean. The Winged Lion of St. Mark stands watch over the city and you’ll see this enduring symbol of Venice over the next few days. You’ll arrive just in time for an optional Gondola and Grand Canal cruise – grand palazzi, churches and ornate bridges lining your journey.
Board your private launch and cruise to St. Mark's Square, the gateway to the city. Admire the ornate Doge's Palace, the Basilica of St. Mark and the Bridge of Sighs, whose bittersweet views once elicited sighs from prisoners who were unlikely to see their beloved city ever again. There's time on your own to explore the city before we witness the talents of master craftsmen during a visit to their glassblowing workshop, a MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience. Maybe join an Optional Experience to the vibrant rainbow-coloured façades of Burano Island, which beckon to resident fishermen seeking a safe beacon for their return journey home through the lagoon's thick fog.
Tread in the footsteps of ancient Romans as you cross the fertile Po Plain and cross the Apennine mountains to Rome. The 'Eternal City' has captivated travellers for centuries and you’ll not be disappointed. There’s time to join an optional sightseeing tour of Rome’s famous piazzas and fountains, including such highlights as Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. Later make your way back to your favourite square and follow your nose for the best pasta in town.
There’s no better way to see Rome than to dive right in, which is what you’ll do when you meet your Local Specialist for a sightseeing tour that begins in Vatican City. The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica looms over the expansive St. Peter’s Square – the impressive backdrop for time spent learning about the world’s smallest country. See Michelangelo’s mournful Pietà up close and consider an Optional Experience that will reveal the artistry and heritage of the famous Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums. Continue to Ancient Rome, to view the mighty Colosseum, followed by some time to explore on your own. Later tonight, consider joining an optional dinner in a favourite local restaurant.
No expense was spared to exalt the glory of Florence through art and architecture and you’ll see first-hand how this city paved its way to a modern age. For the best panoramic shots of the city’s skyline, head to Piazzale Michelangelo, then spend some time exploring on your own, squeezing in some of the landmarks that make Florence a Renaissance beauty. Perhaps, see Ponte Vecchio, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Baptistery. This evening, there’s a choice of Optional Experiences featuring traditional cuisine in exquisite Tuscan surrounds.
Skirt the Italian Lake District, heading north this morning into Switzerland. You won’t be able to tear your eyes from the soul-stirring scenery as you pass Lake Lugano and head over the snow-capped mountains that fringe the St. Gotthard route. This is the land of cowbells, cheese, chocolate and cable cars and you’ll arrive in the Lucerne region just in time to experience it first-hand if you join an optional folklore and fondue evening.
Take a step back in time when you join your Travel Director for an orientation tour, exploring the Old Town, the ancient wooden Chapel Bridge and Lion Monument. The mournful, mortally wounded lion hewn from rock commemorates the sacrifice made by the Swiss Guards who died defending Louis XVI during the French Revolution. You’ll have some time to explore the city your way, perhaps with some retail therapy. You could choose to ascend to the alpine heavens instead, joining an optional scenic cruise across Lake Lucerne, then travel by railway and cable car into the mountains for exhilarating views.
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 and see the glittering skyline from the water.
Hit Paris's grand boulevards on a city sightseeing tour with your Travel Director. See the Arc de Triomphe 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 during an optional visit to 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 a real highlight this evening – an optional dinner and Can-Can cabaret performance.
After breakfast say farewell to your fellow travellers. Find out more about your free airport transfer at costsavertour.com/freetransfers. Your coach returns for Paris to London, you are welcome to use this complimentary transfer.
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