Arrive Vienna, and attend a special night at a palace
Tour begins: 5:30 PM, Vienna. A transfer is included from Vienna International Airport or the Vienna Westbahnof train station to the Grand Hotel Wien, your five-star luxury hotel in the heart of the city. Settle in, then join us at a Viennese palace for a festive evening of cocktails and dining followed by a concert; the sumptuous surroundings of the Palais Pallavicini (built in 1784) with its ornate decor and magnificent state rooms will transport you to another time - in fact, the palace facade is famous in another cultural reference... as the location of Harry Lime's apartment in Orson Welles' classic film The Third Man.
A day in Imperial Vienna
Begin the day with a tour of the city's fabulous landmarks, then take your choice of awe-inspiring museum tours: visit the Belvedere, an opulent 18th-century palace and former residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy, housing masterpieces from the Medieval to Art Nouveau and Modern (including works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Shiele); the Fine Arts Museum (founded by the Habsburgs in the 19th Century to exhibit their vast, eclectic art collection - the museum is a work of art itself); or the House of Music, featuring imaginative interactive exhibits on famous composers (where you can actually "conduct" the Vienna Philharmonic). The afternoon and evening are free for you to dine and explore on your own.
In the Viennese style... the Vienna Woods and Vienna
Depart your hotel for an excursion to the Vienna Woods, the vast forest park on the city outskirts that inspired Strauss's "Tales," now a green retreat where Viennese go to escape the urban bustle, and immerse themselves in nature and traditional culture... which includes drinking and dining at the area's vineyards. Many of the wineries have cozy taverns (heurigers) attached to them where regional delicacies are served, Viennese music is played, and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. Indulge in the pleasures of a heuriger lunch in the woods, like a Viennese native, then head back to the city to board your riverboat. Join the crew this evening for a welcome reception and dinner as the ship departs for Bratislava, with entertainment by a Slovak musical troupe.
A day of choice in and around Bratislava, Slovakia
Take a walking tour of the city's cobblestoned, vehicle-free historic center; medieval, Baroque and modern architecture mix in this visually intriguing city as you visit sites that include the 13th-century Old Town Hall, Baroque Habsburg-era palaces, the Opera House, Slovak Philharmonic Hall, Michael's Gate, St. Martin's Cathedral, and the Primate's Palace where you'll view rare 17th-century British tapestries. Your day in Bratislava ends with free time to explore on your own. Or, take an excursion to the countryside, lush with vineyards, for a wine-tasting and a visit to Cerveny Kamen Castle. Dating back to the 13th century, "The Red Stone Castle" is one of the best-preserved castles in Slovakia, boasting historical furnishings and artwork. Prior to our departure this afternoon, our local expert offers inside information and anecdotes on Bratislava. Slovakia's capital. Back aboard ship, lunch and settle in for an afternoon at leisure before the riverboat sails for Krems, Austria.
Castles, abbeys and picture-perfect Dürnstein
This morning, your riverboat docks in Krems, which offers you a choice of unforgettable sightseeing excursions: visit the lofty, lavish monastery at Göttweig Abbey, a mountaintop Benedictine retreat with Baroque architectural features as stunning as the views; the grandiose design of this abbey was intended to rival Escorial, the residence of the king of Spain... then descend to the Tulln plain to encounter Graffenegg Castle, a 19th-century count's madly romantic vision of a medieval castle, complete with fairy-tale turrets and towers, balconies, and gargoyles. Or you can stay aboard the riverboat and sail to the picture-perfect Austrian village of Dürnstein, for a guided walking tour. Enjoy free time to explore, and if you're game, climb to the brooding ruins of Kuenringerburg Castle high above the town, where Richard the Lionhearted was once held for ransom in the 12th century. Return to the boat, and set off on a leisurely, scenic river cruise through the Wachau Valley. You'll spy vineyards, castles, ancient hilltop ruins and monasteries as you sail; this is wine country famous for its Reislings and Grüner Veltliners, which you will get a chance to sample at a Tauck Exclusive wine tasting event in the town of Weissenkirchen.
Wines of the Wachau Valley
Spend a glorious morning sailing the Danube! Arrive in Grein, where you'll have a choice of sightseeing activities. A walking tour of the village includes views of the Grein Theatre, since 1791 the oldest operating theatre in Austria, the historic town square, and St. Giles Parish Church; if you wish, you can visit Greinburg Castle, which is an imposing 15th-century palace with a gracious arcaded courtyard. Alternatively, take a guided tour of nearby Mauthausen Memorial, site of an infamous World War II-era concentration camp. This afternoon, cruise the lush landscapes of the Wachau Valley, with its rolling vineyards, fairy-tale castles, ancient hilltop ruins and monasteries. After free time on your own, return to the riverboat for dinner aboard ship.
A day in Cesky Krumlov and lunch at a castle
Your boat remains docked in Linz while you embark on a full-day excursion through wine country to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Cesky Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an incredibly well-preserved medieval town in a landscape of exceptional beauty. Your walking tour includes Krumlov Castle, one of the largest castle complexes in Central Europe, embracing palaces of medieval, Renaissance and Rococo designs, plus courtyards and gardens. Then, a Tauck Exclusive - a private lunch at the Winter Riding School, a hall where 18th-century aristocrats exercised their horses in inclement weather, now a lavish venue for concerts, balls, and social events. Return to Linz late afternoon, where cocktails and dinner aboard your riverboat are in line for this evening.
Picturesque Passau, "City of 3 Rivers"
Once a Roman outpost at the confluence of three rivers, Passau is over 2,500 years old, a quintessential Bavarian town of pastel patrician houses, cafés, romantic cobblestone lanes and riverfront promenades. This is a town made for walking (many streets are closed to traffic) and your walking tour immerses you in its storybook mix of Roman, Italian Baroque and German Gothic architecture. Visit St. Stephan's Cathedral; its jaw-dropping Baroque interior includes statuary, frescoes and a massive pipe organ (the largest in Europe); view Bavaria's largest glockenspiel; see the hilltop fortress where Passau's prince-bishops once resided; and peruse the 14th-century Rathaus (Town Hall), adorned with murals commemorating scenes from the Nibelungenlied, an epic poem believed to have originated here in the 12th century. This afternoon, sail for the medieval town of Regensburg.
Historic insights in Munich or Regensburg
You'll have a choice of sightseeing excursions today - a trip to Munich, where you'll visit the BMW Museum, portions of the Olympic Park, Marienplatz and more. Alternatively, you can choose a guided walking tour of colorful Regensburg where sightseeing includes the Dom, the market, the town hall, and 12th-century Steinerne Brücke. You'll also have a guided visit to St. Emmeram Palace, royal residence of Thurn und Taxis, the family dynasty whose fortune began in the 16th century and is the largest in Germany today. The castle, formerly a Benedictine abbey, is lush with Baroque features and frescoes, from the throne room to the ballroom and magnificent library, with displays of splendid art treasures, weaponry and fine porcelain - you can't see it all, of course, since the family still lives here! Those who visit Munich have lunch in town; those who stay in Regensburg return to the ship this afternoon for lunch and time at leisure. Join us this evening for the ship's farewell reception and dinner.
A day well spent in Prague
Leave the riverboat in Regensburg this morning and journey by coach to Prague; your five star luxury hotel is on the bank of the Vltava River, in the heart of this uniquely beautiful Bohemian city with its wealth of impeccably restored Baroque palaces, Art Nouveau townhouses, Romanesque churches, and Gothic towers and palaces. A choice of walking tours in the city center includes "Lesser Town" (or the "Little Quarter," a picturesque, historic neighborhood near Prague Castle); iconic Charles Bridge, adorned with stone saints, that reaches across the Vltava River to link the Little Quarter with Old Town; Valdstejnska Garden (a palace garden renowned for its sculpture and exotic birds); the Church of St. Nicholas (an astonishing masterpiece of High Baroque architecture); the Infant of Prague; and see the Charles Bridge. Alternatively, visit the Kafka Museum, a treasure house of documents, photographs and interactive exhibits dedicated to writer Franz Kafka and his dark imaginary visions; get a brief history of Jewish Prague; and see the Charles Bridge. The rest of the afternoon and evening are free to explore Prague on your own; your hotel is in easy reach of attractions like the colorful Old Town Square (famous for its grand cafés), and Parizska Street, the city's famous shopping district.
Explore Prague's Castle District
Tour the Castle District (Hradcany), rich with palaces, churches and monasteries, rising on a hill where Prague Castle presides over the city. Your walking tour includes Golden Lane, an alleyway of small pastel houses where 16th Century goldsmiths (and, according to legend, alchemists) once resided; Rosenberg Castle (once a palace for unmarried noblewomen who lost their fortunes); the Loreto Sanctuary (subject to time and availability), dedicated to the life of the Virgin Mary, a church of lavish design and art treasures; and of course, magnificent Prague Castle itself. Once the seat of Holy Roman emperors, now the residence of the Czech president, this complex of palaces, defense towers, courtyards, gardens and museums surrounding St. Vitus Cathedral dates back to the 9th Century and features nearly every architectural style of the last one thousand years. The afternoon is free to lunch and explore on your own with perhaps a visit to the famous Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square, a marvel of medieval engineering that tells time and the positions of astral bodies. Join us this evening for a farewell dinner at the hotel.
Tour ends Prague, Czech Republic. Fly home anytime. Transfers are included from InterContinental Prague to Vaclav Havel International Airport or the Prague Hlavni Nadrazi Train Station. You should allow a minimum of three hours for flight check-in.