Essential Central Europe

Travel Partner: Exeter International

Duration | 10 Days

Destination | Central Europe

Starting Price | $7,070


There are few places in the world that travelers find as enchantingly historical as Central Europe. Its old-world feel and history, wonderfully friendly people, and mouth-watering food makes it a bucket list destination for many. Spend a few days in Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary getting to know each, behind the scenes and through the eyes of locals with Exeter’s expert guides.

Day 1 – Budapest

Overnight – Aria Hotel

Upon arrival into Budapest, your Exeter International driver will be waiting for you outside of customs and baggage claim. You will be transferred to the historic and perfectly located hotel, in the center of Pest. On the way to the hotel, you will see sights of historical significance, including St. Stephen’s Basilica, a cross between Neo- Classical and Renaissance-style architecture completed in the late 19th century.

Over the centuries, Budapest flourished as a crossroads where East meets West in the heart of Europe. Ancient cultures such as the Magyars, the Mongols and the Turks have all left an indelible mark on this magical city. Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River, are characterized by an assortment of monuments, elegant streets, wine taverns, coffee houses and Turkish baths. Upon arrival at your hotel, enjoy the rest of your day at leisure.

An evening view of the Chain bridge in Budapest Hungary

Day 2 – Budapest

Overnight – Aria Hotel

This morning your private guide will take you to the magnificent House of Parliament, which is the country’s largest building and the symbol of Budapest. Here you will have the opportunity to see the dome, which boasts an elaborate design of Neo-Gothic gilding. Inside the building, the stunning interiors combine sweeping grand staircases, original frescoes, paintings and sculptures. For most, the highlight of this visit is the viewing of the crown jewels of Hungary. One of the most notable items in the collection is the Holy Crown of Hungary, the only crown known today with the “holy” attribute and dating from the 11th century. This crown has had quite a history – seized by the U.S. Army in 1945, it was held in Fort Knox until 1978, when it was returned to Hungary. Tours of Parliament are at a pre-set time and you must walk through with a larger group and a Parliament guide.

Next, drive across the lovely 19th-century Chain Bridge to the Budapest Funicular (vertical rail car), which will take you up the side of Buda’s historic Royal Palace, the former Hapsburg palace during the 19-century and rebuilt in the Neo-Classical style after it was destroyed during World War II.

A stroll through the castle area, known as Várhegy, will take you to the Fisherman’s Bastion for the most impressive views over Pest, across the Danube. Here you’ll see Matyas Church, a Neo-Gothic reconstruction dating from 1874 where many organ and choral concerts can be heard. The entire cobble-stoned area, lined with cafés and small shops, is perfect for spending the remainder of the afternoon.

Day 3 – Budapest

Overnight – Aria Hotel

Today, explore the beauty of Central Pest with your guide. Prior to visiting the Jewish Quarter, your guide will take you to the Budapest Market Hall. Built by Eiffel in the 19th century, the covered market boasts soaring metal columns, high walkways and beautiful produce shops. More than being a place where one can purchase handcrafted and typical Hungarian souvenirs, it’s a market where locals go to purchase their produce and meats – a meeting place for many and a place where you can enjoy authentic local flavor.

Next, your guide will take you to the Great Budapest Synagogue, the Jewish Museum, and the Holocaust Memorial. Since the 19th century, Budapest’s Jewish community became well integrated into Hungarian society and three synagogues were built. In 1944, a ghetto was created in Pest, which was later followed by the deportation of thousands of Jews. You can walk through part of the former Jewish neighborhood to see an old synagogue on Rumbach Street.

From here, your guide will take you to the Great Synagogue, the largest of the three previously mentioned and impressive in its Byzantine and Moorish style architecture. You can also visit the Jewish Museum that is part of the synagogue, and afterwards, walk over to the Holocaust Memorial. The sculpture of a weeping willow was designed in memory of the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who died under the Nazis in World War II. Enjoy this afternoon at your leisure to explore independently.

This evening, your driver will meet you for the short journey to the river port. Tonight, you will see Budapest at its most beautiful – from the waters of the Danube with all the monuments lit in thousands of white lights. Enjoy all of this from a luxury private boat with your own skipper.

Day 4 – Vienna

Overnight – Hotel Sans Souci Wien

This morning, ride the express train in First-Class to Vienna. Early afternoon arrival into Vienna and your hotel, located in the center of the city. The remainder of the day will be at leisure. Vienna is a city whose history stretches back over 2,000 years. Originally a Celtic Settlement, it became part of the Roman Empire in 15 BC. The Romans were forced to leave the region during the fourth century as northern tribes regained their foothold in Eastern Europe. By 1155, the Babenbergs declared Vienna a “civitas” indicating that it was developing into a well-ordered community. From this time forward, Vienna grew under the influence of the Byzantium Empire, the Orient, Martin Luther, the threat of the Turks, Emperor Franz Joseph, Maria Theresa, Richard the Lion Heart, Karl Marx, and a host of other fascinating events and people, creating one of the world’s great cultural centers.

Day 5 – Vienna

Overnight – Hotel Sans Souci Wien

This morning your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby. Vienna is a wonderful city to see on foot, as most major sights are located very close together. During your walk this morning with your guide, you will see the soaring St. Stephens Cathedral with its unusual colored ceramic tile roof. Your guide will take you through the interior of the cathedral and, if you have the energy, you can climb to the top of the steeple for a spectacular view over central Vienna!

Before visiting the Hofburg Palace, you’ll visit the Hapsburg Imperial Crypt in the Capuchin Church and have a quick introduction to the entire Hapsburg ruling family, before continuing. Afterwards, continue your walking tour of the Hofburg Palace complex. Your guide will take you into the lavish private living quarters of Empress Elizabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph from the 18th and 19th Centuries. Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) was the Austrian’s Princess Di and prior to entering the Imperial Apartments, there is an interesting exhibition of her life. When you exit the Hofburg, your guide will show you some of the most famous coffeehouses of Vienna, including Demel, located not far from the Hofburg. Demel is the perfect place to stop for a rest and a snack.

Day 6 – Vienna

Overnight – Hotel Sans Souci Wien

Today, meet your guide and board the local tram to head to the nearby Belvedere Palace and Gardens. This palace, built as the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy, is situated on a gently sloping hill. The two main palaces (upper and lower) are linked by formal French gardens and both now house wonderful art collections. Today you will focus on the Upper Belvedere, which holds a wonderful collection of 19th and 20th century art, including the best Klimt collection in the world.

In 2018 Vienna is celebrating Modernism, as four of its most important figures died 100 years ago – Klimt, Schiele, Otto Wagner and Koloman Moser. There will be special exhibitions along this theme across the city. If you’re interested in exploring further, ask your guide what exhibitions are occurring during your stay. Afterward, you might want to hop on the Ring Tram with your guide to take the short journey around the historic Ring that encircles Vienna. You’ll see all the most important buildings and monuments of the city in this one journey.

Later, your guide will take you to the Naschmarkt, not far from your hotel, for a glimpse into one of the best markets in Vienna. This market dates to the 16th century and now features a huge array of food, from fresh fruits and vegetables, to spices, bread and pastries. There are also several small restaurants featuring different cuisines – the perfect place to stop for an afternoon respite. Spend the rest of the evening exploring the city or take advantage of the many amenities your hotel has to offer.

Day 7 – Prague

Overnight – Aria Hotel

This morning your driver will transfer you to the train station for your express train to Prague in First class with a late afternoon arrival into Prague and your hotel in the city center. Perhaps more than any other city in Europe, Prague has kept its pre-modern charm. Spared the destruction of World War II, the ancient structures of the city still exist in their original state. Prague is a walking city as it was designed over many centuries for the pedestrian and the horse. The inner city lacks major avenues as found in Paris or Rome, giving the city its unique character.

Day 8 – Prague

Overnight – Aria Hotel

This morning your guide will meet you for an overview drive of some of Prague’s top sites. Drive by the famous Dancing House and through the historical area of Vysehrad, with its 10th century fort. You will also observe modern local Czech life with a drive through the bustling residential area of Vinohrady, once covered by vineyards and then head towards the Castle District and Hradčany.

Today, you have a VIP visit to the Strahov Monastery. Here, you will be invited into the two main halls of the library (the Philosophical Hall and the Theological Hall). These two halls are always viewed by the public through the narrow doorways at the end of each room, but you will be allowed to enter the rooms to walk among the ancient books and artifacts.

Included today will also be a visit to the Prague Castle complex. This castle, designed with courtyards inside of courtyards, is a fascinating view into the lives of the Czech monarchy. You might want to step into the towering and wonderfully Neo-Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral inside the complex. The castle complex and the cathedral are often crowded. Once in the castle territory, if the line is daunting, skip the cathedral to visit Lobkowicz Palace.

Enjoy the Lobkowicz Palace tour with audio guide recorded by Mr. William Lobkowicz himself, an American who reclaimed his lost family property. The tour will give you an insight into their life and their collection of paintings, decorative art, music scores (one with Mozart’s own handwritten notes), arms and armors. Don’t miss the original score of Beethoven’s Eroica!

Your day will end in the Malá Strana or Little Quarter, which is best known for the Wallenstein Palace and Church of St. Nicholas. Also, it is here in the Malá Strana that you will find many charming restaurants and unique shops full of Bohemian glass and the marionettes that are so famous in Prague.

Day 9 – Prague

Overnight – Aria Hotel

Today your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby and take you through Prague’s famous Jewish Quarter and the Old Town. Visit the historic synagogues, including the stunning Spanish Synagogue and the ancient Old-New Synagogue, which was built in the late 13th Century, making it the oldest synagogue still in use in Europe. While in the Jewish Quarter, you may decide to visit the Old Jewish Cemetery, founded in the late 15th Century and still corresponding to its original medieval size. Over the centuries, more than 100,000 people are believed to have been buried here.

Next, your guide will take you through Prague’s storybook Old Town. You’ll want to see the beautiful expanse of the Charles Bridge, but it’s a more magical experience to visit it very late or very early on your own, when it’s free of the souvenir stands and tourists. Your guide will give you a quick lesson of Prague’s history, evident in every building and small passage way of this 800-year-old city. Be sure not to miss the fairytale-like Old Town Hall Tower (1364) that stands above Old Town Square- you can even go to the top of the tower for a splendid view over the district.

Finally, you will enter New Town - which is new because it was only founded in 1348! Here you can visit Wenceslas Square, where demonstrations of civil discontent have taken place for centuries. At the top of the square, you will see the imposing building of the National Museum and the Monument to Saint Wenceslas, the patron of the Czech lands, by sculptor Josef Myslbek.

Day 10 – Prague

This morning, after check-out, your driver will meet you in the lobby of your hotel for your transfer to the airport to catch your onward flight.

Prices are per person, based on two people sharing. Room categories, dates of travel and changes to services will affect the price. Dollar conversions shown (if applicable) will fluctuate throughout the year. Contact the Andrew Harper Travel Office to customize this itinerary to fit your needs.

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