Heart of Europe

Day 1: Depart North America
Tour members gather for the overnight transatlantic flights to Budapest.

Day 2: Arrive in Budapest
On arrival, we will be met by our tour director and enjoy a brief  panoramic tour introducing us to this charming city, as we proceed to our hotel, Hotel Radisson Beke, our home for the next three nights. With the remainder of the afternoon at leisure, we can take some time to relax and refresh ourselves. This evening we will enjoy our welcome dinner with an opportunity to enjoy Hungarian cuisine. (D)

Day 3: Budapest
We start the exploration of the Habsburg Empire with a tour of the city, or should we say cities – Buda and Pest. This is a city that both crackles with energy and soothes with its loveliness, a city that clearly sparks a passion for music in its citizenry. Our local specialist leads us through Heroes Square, adorned with seven massive, powerful statues of Magyar chieftains, and to archaeological excavations dating from the Roman era. This evening enjoy a typical Hungarian dinner and Gypsy music. (B,D)

Day 4: Budapest
For a historical overview, the morning will begin with a visit to the Budapest Museum of History, which houses exhibits from early pagan times through Hungary’s recent liberation from the failed experiment of communism. Enjoy a free afternoon with opportunities to explore further on our own. (B,D)

Day 5: Budapest and Vienna
After a morning visit in Szentendre (a picturesque fishing village which is home to a harmonious mix of Hungarians, Croats and Serbs whose families were expelled from Serbia by the Turks in the 17th century), we continue along the Danube to the romantic Danube bend, one of the most interesting Hungarian stretches of the legendary river, where we explore the ruins of King Matthias’s Renaissance Palace and Estergom with its impressive cathedral. This afternoon we continue into Vienna where we will spend three nights in the comfortable Hotel Atlanta. (B,D)

Day 6: Vienna
Vienna’s Ringstrasse was the Habsburg state boulevard, created by Emperor Franz Joseph to showcase the wealth and importance of the Empire. Here we see Austria’s magnificent state buildings, including the historic parliament, city hall, the university plus the national theater and museums. Our city exploration continues past the Imperial Palace, a stately structure that evolved over the centuries and is now home to Austria’s president. We also visit Schönbrunn Palace, summer home of the imperial family and a superb example of Austrian Baroque. In the evening enjoy dinner and a concert in the Orangery of the Palace Schönbrunn. (B,D)

Day 7: Vienna
Today we take a musical journey through the city of Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, Haydn and Strauss. Discover why this city inspired such great compositions on a „musical walk“ among memorials to the great Viennese composers, followed by a tour of the State Opera (if available, depending on performance schedules) or a visit to the House of Music. (B,D)

Day 8: Vienna and Salzburg
On our scenic journey to Salzburg takes us through the beautiful Wachau Valley. We then follow the Danube River Valley en route to the monastery of Melk which we will visit. Later we continue through the Lake District of the Salzkammergut, the former imperial summer residence and favourite hunting ground of the Hapsburg rulers to Salzburg, the city of Mozart and the Sound of Music. Although Salzburg was a very late addition to the Habsburg Empire (1815), the city played an important role as a cultural centre. Hotel Untersberg (3 nights) (B,D)

Day 9: Salzburg
Following a lecture on the life and times of the Habsburg Empire by a local historian, we will set off on our guided city stroll through the centre – a pedestrian zone where we many historic sites related to Mozart. Salzburg which is also known as the “Rome of the North” has many magnificent monuments from both the Baroque and Renaissance periods. Designated as a World Cultural Heritage Site, Salzburg was ruled for centuries by Prince Archbishops. Highlights of our walk will include Mozart’s birthplace, St Peter’s Church, Salzburg Cathedral and the Fortress of Hohensalzburg. (B,D)

Day 10Salzburg
This the morning we will journey into the countryside to visit the salt mine of Hallein, which has been worked for over 2000 years by Celtic tribes. Salt has been the most important source of income for the Salzburg Prince and the Archbishops. The collection in the Keltenmuseum in Hallein traces the history of the region from the early Celtic period to the rule of the Habsburgs. This evening we are in for a special treat – our Mozart Dinner during which young musicians perform and introduce us into the musical world of Mozart. (B,D)

Day 11: Salzburg and Prague
Our journey to Prague takes us through southern Bohemia, a picturesque landscape of endless rolling hills dotted with historic cities and villages. En route we make a stop at the UNESCO site of Cesky Krumlov, one of the best preserved medieval cities in the world. On arrival in Prague we check in to the Prague Moevenpick Hotel, our home for the next three nights. Later our tour manager will introduce us to the old city on an exploration walk. (B,D)

Day 12: Prague
This historic city of golden stone and architectural grace offers a mix of Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo treasures. Today we will have our first views of the city and its treasures and a discussion of Prague’s history. We explore the castle of Prague, which dates back to the 8th century, when Slavonic tribes built the first fortifications here. Then stroll through the Lesser Town to view its churches and palaces, many of them used today for cultural events, ministerial offices, embassies and art galleries. (B,D)

Day 13: Prague
Crossing the historic Charles Bridge, we enter the Jewish Quarter, where we visit the Jewish Museum, an impressive memorial to one of the Czech Republic’s defining cultures, and the famous Prague cemetery, home to more than 40,000 graves. Narrow lanes and generous squares are characteristic of the Old Town, where we meander through Wenceslav Square and tour the Estate Theater, site of the first performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. (B,D)

Day 14: Prague and North America
All too soon our journey exploring the many facets of the Habsburg dynasty draws to a close as we transfer to the airport for our return flights to our homes. (B)