isit eight countries with all the highlights of the Image Tours’ Heart of Europe Circle Tour included, plus a Eurostar train ride under the English Channel from Paris to London for a two-night stay in the exciting British capital.
Enjoy some of Europe’s most beloved countries as you visit the Dutch Lowlands, with pristine examples of canals, bridges and windmills; Flemish Antwerp, known for its convivial atmosphere and outdoor cafes; the 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; Innsbruck, capital of Tyrol and two-time host of the Winter Olympics; Verona, of Romeo & Juliet fame; Swiss Lake District, where snow-capped peaks emerge in the distance while palm trees greet you along the shores of Lake Lugano; Paris, rich in history, art and architecture; and London by way of the high speed Eurostar train under the English Channel.
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, disembark, 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 with your fellow tour members 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. Join a short orientation walk and explore the old city center. 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. Next, head for the hilly Ardennes region of eastern Belgium. For many, the 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 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, endearing 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 the neighboring village of Schriesheim for hotel check-in and 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, historic castles and quaint villages. Tonight, your dinner at the hotel in Adelsried will be enlivened by accordian music. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Munich, the elegant capital of Bavaria, lies 60 kilometers (37½ miles) to the east. Step out for free time at the Marienplatz, a pedestrian-only 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 to the Imperial City of Innsbruck, capital of Tyrol and two-time host of the Winter Olympics. Bisected by the Inn River and surrounded by mountains, Innsbruck is a stunning setting. See the Imperial Church, Golden Roof, Maria Theresia Boulevard and the Triumphal Arch. 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. Frescoed and flower-adorned chalets create an serene atmosphere as you walk through town. Viewed from an outdoor café or along one of the numerous hiking paths, the Tyrolean Alps present breathtaking scenery. If you would like to return to Innsbruck today, hotel staff can assist with taxi or public transportation information. Another choice is the full day optional Bavarian Palace excursion, which includes a guided tour of the extravagant Linderhof Palace. 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 sub-tropical climate rich in vegetation, including oleander bushes, olive groves and fruit trees. An extended stop affords ample opportunity to stroll along the lakefront, browse the markets, and enjoy Italian ice cream (gelato). From here, it’s a short ride to the legendary city of Verona, made famous by Shakespeare’s tragic love story of “Romeo & Juliet.” Experience an authentic Italian meal during your independent dinner in Verona before transferring to your hotel. (Breakfast)
Spend the day studying the fascinating architecture and browsing the fashionable shops of Verona, or relax along the shores of Lake Garda, sipping a Campari or cappuccino. Direct bus connections are available to either location and the hotel concierge can provide schedules and offer additional assistance. Another choice for today is to join the optional Venice excursion which includes dinner at a typical Venetian restaurant. Venice is famous for its canals, bridges, colorful gondolas and the magnificent St. Marks Square. After a memorable day of sightseeing, return to your hotel in Verona. (Breakfast)
Travel north towards 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. Your hotel resides in one of the scenic Swiss Alps villages. (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 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. After an orientation tour, enjoy time to explore the Old Town, or relax on one of the lovely lakeshore promenades. This afternoon, the mountains give way to hilltop hilltop villages and rustic vineyards as you travel into France. Pause in Besançon where you can sample regional cuisine and wines during an independent dinner. Continue to your hotel in Beaune, the center of Burgundy wine country and one of hte best preserved medieval cities in this area. (Breakfast)
A leisurely morning in Beaune provides the opportunity to walk the medieval streets, visit shops offering delicious mustards and wine, or spend time at 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. Arrive at your Paris hotel in the afternoon. Spend the evening in the Montmartre district, where Paris still looks as it does in old paintings and artists still display their works. Visit the impressive Sacré-Cœur Basilica and take in the spectacular views over Paris before choosing form one of the numerous bistros for your independent dinner. (Breakfast)
Enjoy a full day in Paris. Your tour manager will direct you to the principal sights, such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Louvre (open daily except Tuesdays), Opera (Palais Garnier), the famous Galeries Lafayette department store, and the Champs-Élysées. Before beginning your free time, we suggest joining your tour manager for the optional Seine River Cruise excursion for unsurpassed views of some of the major landmarks. For dinner tonight, venture out on your own or join the optional Paris Evening excursion, with dinner at a characteristic French bistro located in the heart of Paris. (Breakfast)
After breakfast, take the high-speed Eurostar train under the English Channel, arriving in 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 the 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 £38.00), 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)
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