ake in all the spectacular sights from Image Tours’ signature Heart of Europe Circle Tour, including medieval villages and scenic mountain vistas, while adding Rome, Pisa, Florence, Tuscany, an extra night in Paris, and two nights in London. You will see it all on the Grand Tour!
During your first week experience the old world charm and scenic beauty of the Dutch Lowlands, with pristine examples of canals, bridges and windmills; Flemish Antwerp, known for its convivial atmosphere and outdoor cafes; the legendary Rhine River where you’ll glide past endearing villages, medieval fortresses, and hillside vineyards on an upstream pleasure cruise; Heidelberg, idyllically situated on the Neckar River and dominated by the ruins of Heidelberg castle; Rothenburg, a beautifully preserved medieval village surrounded by the original town walls and without a single modern building in sight; Munich, the elegant capital of Bavaria; and Innsbruck, capital of Tyrol and two-time host of the Winter Olympics.
The second week is focused on romantic Italy featuring Venice, famous for its colorful gondoliers and magnificent St. Mark’s Square; Verona, of Romeo & Juliet fame; Rome, an energetic, modern metropolis that is proudly protective of its abundant historical sites including the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and Pantheon; Pisa, home to the intriguing Leaning Tower; Florence, with its countless sculptures and architectural masterpieces; and the Tuscan countryside which is painted with golden rolling hills, olive groves and sleepy villages.
Your final week includes the Swiss Lake District, where snow-capped peaks emerge in the distance while palm trees greet you along the shores of Lake Lugano; two nights in fabulous Paris, rich in history, art and architecture; and a high speed Eurostar train ride under the English Channel for a two night stay in the electric, history-laden London.
Today brings the beginning of a new adventure . . . anticipation heightens as you realize that your trip of a lifetime is about to begin! Refer to ‘Preparing for your Departure’ in your Trip Documents for easy check-in procedures. Take time to relax on your transatlantic flight with the assurance that Image Tours has taken care of all the details.
Upon arrival, clear passport control and collect your luggage. Refer to your “Arrival Instructions” page in your Trip Documents for directions on where and when to meet your tour manager. Board your deluxe motor coach for a pleasant drive through the neatly-groomed Dutch Lowlands. Much of the Dutch countryside is at or below sea level and is characterized by canals, dikes and windmills. Your two-night stay in Holland will introduce you to Dutch “gezelligheid,” a kind, convivial, comfortable feeling which you will experience in the days ahead. This evening, enjoy the “Welcome to Europe/ Get-acquainted” dinner at your Rotterdam area hotel. (Dinner)
Today’s visit to Delft provides a charming introduction to your Dutch experience. Prepare to be captivated by the picturesque streets lined with medieval buildings, characteristic canals, friendly cafés offering Dutch pancakes, and inviting shops selling the famous Delft Blue earthenware. Communicating will not be a problem as English is widely spoken throughout the Netherlands (Holland). Continue to the vibrant city of Amsterdam to shop and admire the fascinating architecture in the area surrounding the Royal Palace and main square. Return to the Rotterdam area for an included dinner. (Breakfast, Dinner)
This morning, make your way to the Belgian province (state) of Flanders and its capital, Antwerp, known for its convivial atmosphere and cozy outdoor cafés. Be sure to try a Belgian waffle. There are also fine lace and irresistible chocolate shops on the Grote Markt, the city’s attractive main square. For many, the next stop at the Margraten American Military Cemetery is an emotional experience. The graves of over 8,000 American servicemen stand in everlasting memory to the sacrifices of World War II. For the location of specific graves, visit the website www.abmc.gov. Your hotel this evening is conveniently situated in Maastricht, near the converging borders of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. (Breakfast, Dinner)
In Germany, some of your travel will be on the Autobahn, the first state-of-the-art superhighway system, which was expanded by Hitler. Near Koblenz, leave the Autobahn and wind through the Rhine River Valley to Boppard. A pleasure boat awaits you for an upstream cruise on the Rhine River. You will glide past medieval fortresses, quaint villages, and hillside vineyards known for producing the distinctive Rhine wines. Continue to Heidelberg, situated on the Neckar River and dominated by the ruins of Heidelberg Castle. This renowned university town is considered by many to embody the spirit of Germany. Your tour manager will accompany you on a walking tour of the Old Town. Following your visit to Heidelberg, proceed to your hotel in the neighboring village of Schriesheim for an included dinner. (Breakfast, Dinner)
This morning, travel to the storybook town of Rothenburg, a beautifully preserved medieval village surrounded by the original town walls. When you see the narrow cobblestone streets, distinctive inns, and charming shop fronts, it feels as if you are walking into a fairy tale. During your free time, climb to the top of the Town Hall Bell Tower for a bird’s-eye view of the city, walk atop the old city walls, check out the Medieval Criminal Museum which exhibits tools of punishment from more draconian times, or stroll through the castle gardens overlooking the River Tauber. Delightful shopping awaits you at Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Weihnachtsdorf, a sprawling, year-round Christmas shop. Your afternoon journey leads south on the Romantic Road. This area is rich in unspoiled countryside, ancient castles and untouched villages. Tonight, your dinner at the hotel in Adelsried will be enlivened by accordion music. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Munich, the elegant capital of Bavaria, lies 60 kilometers (37½ miles) east. Step out for free time at the Marienplatz, a pedestrianonly zone where historic buildings are cleverly interspersed with modern store fronts. The focal point of the square is the Rathaus (Town Hall) with its captivating Glockenspiel (clock tower). For lunch, consider the Hofbräuhaus, a one-of-a-kind beer hall which exudes an Oktoberfest atmosphere year-round. After lunch, head south to the Austrian border and travel along the Inn River as it winds its way through the Alps. In the Imperial City of Innsbruck, capital of Tyrol and two-time host of the Winter Olympics, see the Imperial Church, Golden Roof, Maria Theresia Boulevard and Triumphal Arch. Innsbruck owes its architectural beauty to Maximilian I, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1493 to 1519. A short distance from Innsbruck lies the Tyrolean Village where you will spend the next two nights in a chalet-style hotel. (Breakfast, Dinner)
The peaceful villages tucked in the valleys around Innsbruck provide the perfect location for a relaxing day. If you would like to return to Innsbruck today, hotel staff can assist with taxi or public transportation information. Another choice is the optional Bavarian Palace excursion. Try a local restaurant for your independent dinner or join the optional Tyrolean Show & Dinner excursion for an evening of authentic Austrian food folklore, music and dancing. (Breakfast)
Enter Italy via the Europa Bruecke (Bridge), a remarkable feat of mountain highway engineering through the Dolomites, a mountain range known for its reddish appearance. After the customary morning break, you are in for a special treat as you descend to Italy’s largest lake, beautiful Lake Garda. In some places, the rocky cliffside rises straight up from the water. Its sheltered location gives the area a subtropical climate rich in vegetation, including oleander bushes, olive groves, fruit trees and grape vines. An extended stop affords ample time to stroll along the lakefront, browse the markets and enjoy Italian ice cream (gelato). From here, it’s a short ride to your hotel in the legendary city of Verona, made famous by Shakespeare’s tragic love story of ‘Romeo & Juliet’. During your independent dinner, experience an authentic Italian meal at one of Verona’s many fine restaurants. (Breakfast)
Today features a full-day visit to the romantic city of Venice, famous for its canals, bridges, colorful gondoliers, and the magnificent St. Mark’s Square. All transportation is done exclusively over water. So, like the Venetians, you’ll take a boat ride to the center of Venice. A guided walking tour follows, ending with a visit to a glass-blowing workshop where highly skilled artisans craft anything from delicate figurines to grand, multi-colored chandeliers. If you have your heart set on gliding through the canals, the cost is about $45 per person based on six people per gondola. The day provides ample time to marvel at the architecture of the San Marco Basilica, Doge’s Palace and Clock Tower. Have dinner at a pizzeria or join your tour manager at a typical Venetian restaurant for the optional Venice Dinner excursion. After a memorable day of sightseeing, return to your hotel in Verona. (Breakfast)
The countryside is painted with golden rolling hills, olive groves and sleepy villages as you travel south on the Italian Autostrada del Sol (Highway of the Sun). In the early afternoon make a stop at a charming provincial village before continuing to Rome. La Citta Eterna (The Eternal City) bursts with history, while at the same time being vibrant and modern. Dinner is served shortly after your arrival at your Rome area hotel. (Breakfast, Dinner)
The entire day is devoted to the wonders of Rome. This is an energetic, modern metropolis, yet proudly protective of its abundant historical sites, crowned by the Colosseum (Roman Arena) which dates back to 80 A.D. During the city bus tour, see some of Rome’s most famous landmarks such as the Arch of Constantine, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and Pantheon.The afternoon is free for individual pursuits. The tour manager will offer an optional ‘Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel’ excursion to the Vatican City, including the stunning St. Peter’s Basilica. Choose from an abundance of restaurants for an independent dining experience, or join the optional ‘Rome Dinner’ excursion. (Breakfast)
Return to Rome for further exploration this morning. The best way to see more of this marvelous city is on foot. Sip a cappuccino at the Spanish Steps, stroll through the Piazza Navona, visit the market vendors at the Campo de Fiori, or take in one of Rome’s many museums. Another possibility is the optional Colosseum excursion, offering a guided tour of the interior. After an independent lunch, take the Autostrada north into Tuscany where you will spend two nights in the delightful spa resort town of Montecatini-Terme. (Breakfast, Dinner)
After breakfast and a short drive, you will be standing in front of the intriguing Leaning Tower of Pisa. Next, travel to Florence for a guided walking tour of the piazzas (town squares), with their countless sculptures and architectural masterpieces. After shopping for leather goods at the markets or for jewelry on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, treat yourself to an Italian pizza. In the evening, Montecatini-Terme welcomes you back with its pastel-tinted buildings and streets lined with palm trees. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Travel north toward the unsurpassed splendor of the Italian and Swiss lake districts. Crossing the border, Switzerland greets you with the contrast of snow-capped peaks as the background to the palm tree-lined Lake Lugano. Often referred to as the Rio de Janeiro of the Old Continent, Lugano is the perfect spot for a lunch break. In the afternoon, the 11-mile-long St. Gotthard Tunnel takes you from the Italian to the German-speaking region. Spend the night in one of the cozy villages in the Swiss Alps. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Traveling through William Tell country, you descend upon Lake Lucerne. The soaring peaks of Rigi, Stanserhorn and Pilatus, standing guard over this vast water basin, create one of the most imposing sights in Europe. Today’s first stop is in the old mountain village of Stans with an optional ‘Swiss Mountain’ excursion by funicular and cable car. Next, motor along the lake to the city of Lucerne, where you will see the Old Town Wall and famous Lion Monument. The rest of the day is yours to explore the Old Town, visit the Swiss Transport Museum, or relax on one of the lovely lakeshore promenades. Lucerne is a shopper’s paradise; enjoy browsing through displays of wood-carved music boxes, delicate Swiss lace, delicious chocolates and Switzerland’s world famous watches. Before returning to your hotel, the tour manager will offer an optional Swiss Lake Boat Ride excursion. (Breakfast, Dinner)
The church bells usher in another glorious day. Follow the Swiss Autobahn to Basel, strategically located where Switzerland, Germany and France meet, and the Rhine River becomes navigable. The mountains give way to hilltop villages and rustic vineyards. By mid-day, arrive in Beaune, the center of Burgundy wine country and one of the best preserved medieval cities in this area. During your free time, visit the intriguing Hospices Museum with its striking façade. Built in the 15th century as a hospital for the destitute, the museum houses items used in hospitals in the Middle Ages, as well as an impressive collection of furniture, pottery, paintings and tapestries. Dinner is independent this evening, providing the opportunity to visit a wine cellar and to sample the regional cuisine. (Breakfast)
Around lunch time you will arrive in Paris … La Ville Lumière (The City of Light). Begin your introduction to Paris in the Montmartre district, where Paris looks as it does in old paintings and artists still display their works. Here you may also visit the impressive Sacré-Coeur Basilica and take in the spectacular views over Paris. Proceed to the hotel in the late afternoon. This evening, dine independently at one of Paris’ many restaurants or join your tour manager on an optional Paris Evening excursion, with dinner at a characteristic French bistro located in the heart of Paris. (Breakfast)
A full free day to continue your exploration of Paris. A great way to begin your sightseeing is by joining the optional Seine River Cruise excursion, providing unsurpassed views of some of the city’s major landmarks. During your free time, your tour manager will direct you to the principal sights, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, Louvre Museum (open daily except Tuesdays), Eiffel Tower, Opera (Palais Garnier), famous Galeries Lafayette department store, and Champs-Élysées. Shopping enthusiasts will be thrilled with the fashionable boutiques and department stores. Continue your exploration into the evening, or if your visit to Paris is incomplete without experiencing a nightclub, consider the optional Paris Dinner & Cabaret Show excursion. (Breakfast)
After breakfast, take the high-speed Eurostar train under the English Channel and into London in less than three hours. A motor coach and local guide welcome you and point out London’s famous landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, the Royal Parks and Buckingham Palace. After your introduction to London, transfer to your hotel for check-in, followed by a “Farewell Dinner.” (Breakfast, Dinner)
Spend the day pursuing personal interests. In the morning, the tour manager will offer an optional ‘Tower of London’ excursion.If you wish to see the Changing of the Guard, check with the hotel because performances are limited to late mornings on select dates posted one month in advance and subject to special events or weather.The ideal way to tour London is by double-decker hop-on/ hop-off day pass (approximately £38), giving you access to popular attractions at over 90 stops! Stop at the famous Harrods department store or view the spectacular collection of paintings at the National Gallery. London offers many independent dining and entertainment opportunities, or join your tour manager for an optional ‘London Dinner & Theatre’ excursion. (Breakfast)
Transfer to the London airport for the return flight home. (Breakfast)