Your Danube and Vienna river cruise begins with a two-night hotel stay in the heart of Prague and gets underway at 6:15 PM at the InterContinental Prague. A transfer is included from Prague Vaclav Havel International Airport or the Prague Hlavni Nadrazi Train Station to InterContinental Prague, your five star luxury hotel on the bank of the Vltava River, in the heart of this uniquely beautiful Bohemian city. If you explore on your own a little today, you might be interested in taking a walking tour of Old Town. Be sure to view the Astronomical Clock, a marvel of medieval engineering whose large ornamental dials tell the position of astral bodies and the calendar month (it can even tell Babylonian time), and announces the hour with allegorical figures in a ritual mechanical dance. Return to the hotel for a welcome reception and dinner in the hotel's gourmet rooftop restaurant, with panoramic views of the city, illuminated at night.
A day well spent in Prague
Immerse yourself in Prague's stunning, eclectic architecture: cobblestone streets lined with impeccably restored Baroque palaces, Art Nouveau townhouses, Romanesque churches, and Gothic towers and castles. You have a choice of walking tours in the city center this morning. One 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 (subject to time and availability); and the Infant of Prague. Alternatively, you may choose a walking tour that includes a brief history of Jewish Prague, with a tour of the Spanish Synagogue; a visit to the Kafka Museum, a treasure house of documents, photographs and interactive exhibits dedicated to writer Franz Kafka and his dark imaginary visions; a boat ride on the Vltava River; and 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 the Castle District and embark your riverboat
Explore Prague's Castle District (Hradcany) - rich with palaces, churches and monasteries, rising on a hill where Prague Castle presides over the city - with a choice of tours today. One tour featuring the highlights of Hradcany includes the Golden Lane, an alleyway of small pastel houses where 16th Century goldsmiths (and, according to legend, alchemists) once resided; the Loreto Sanctuary (subject to time and availability), dedicated to the life of the Virgin Mary, a church of lavish design and art treasures; St. Vitus Cathedral; and of course, magnificent Prague Castle itself. Another tour focuses on the story of Prague Castle itself; once the seat of Holy Roman emperors and 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. On this choice you'll explore the Castle complex including the Cathedral; St. George Basilica; and a permanent exhibition in the oldest part of the Old Royal Palace. After some time on your own in Prague, journey to Straubing, Germany, where your riverboat awaits.
Historic insights in Nürnberg or Regensburg
Greet your first day on the beautiful Danube River with a choice of sightseeing excursions - one of which is a visit to historic Munich, where you'll join your local guide to visit the BMW Museum, portions of Munich's Olympic Park, Marienplatz and more. Alternatively, you can choose a guided walking tour of colorful Regensburg, where sightseeing includes the Dom (cathedral), 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 can have lunch in town; those who stay in Regensburg return to the ship this afternoon for time at leisure; tonight, sail for Passau.
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, cafes, romantic cobblestone lanes and riverfront promenades. This 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. See St. Stephen's Cathedral; view 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. Later, you'll have some free time to, if you wish, join your Tauck Director for a brisk walk to a hilltop fortress, or attend a public concert on the famous organ of St. Stephen's Cathedral, when available. Enjoy the chef's signature dinner tonight as you cruise to Linz, Austria; arrive after dinner, with an onboard concert by classical group Donau 3Klang.
Cesky Krumlov & 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, 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 40 buildings and palaces of medieval, Renaissance and Rococo designs, plus numerous courtyards and gardens. Then, a special 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. You will return to Linz late in the afternoon to reboard your riverboat, where cocktails and dinner aboard ship are in line for this evening.
Wines of the Wachau Valley
Arrive in Grein this morning for 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; this is wine country famous for its Reislings and Grüner Veltliners - as a Tauck Exclusive, enjoy a wine tasting event in the town of Weissenkirchen en route to your overnight at anchor in Dürnstein.
Dürnstein and beyond... dream castles and abbeys
This morning, your riverboat docks in Dürnstein, which offers you a choice of unforgettable sightseeing excursions. You may visit the lofty, lavish monastery at Göttweig Abbey, a mountaintop Benedictine retreat with Baroque architectural features as stunning as the views... then descend to the Tulln plain to encounter Graffenegg Castle, a 19th-century count's madly romantic vision of a medieval castle. Or explore the picture-perfect Austrian village of Dürnstein on a guided walking tour, with free time on your own - maybe a climb up to the brooding ruins of Kuenringerburg Castle high above the town. And a third possibility is a challenging bicycling excursion (not suitable for beginners) through the Wachau Valley, starting and ending in Dürnstein. Rejoin the boat for lunch, and set off on a leisurely, breathtakingly scenic river cruise to Bratislava; enjoy local entertainment in the lounge after dinner tonight.
A day of choice in and around Bratislava, Slovakia
A choice of three activities await this morning in or near Bratislava, Slovakia's visually intriguing capital city. One is a walking tour of the cobblestoned, vehicle-free historic center of Bratislava; medieval, Baroque and modern architecture mix as you visit sites that include the 13th-century Old Town Hall, Baroque Habsburg-era palaces, the Opera House, Slovak Philharmonic Hall, St. Michael's Gate, St. Martin's Cathedral, and the Primate's Palace, where you'll view rare 17th-century British tapestries. Another is an active, extended tour of Bratislava and environs including the Slavin War Memorial, Bratislava Castle, St. Michael's Gate, and a walking tour of Old Town. Or, a third choice is 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; during your visit, enjoy a falconry demonstration. Prior to departure this afternoon, our local expert offers inside information and anecdotes on Bratislava. Back aboard ship, have lunch and settle in for an afternoon at leisure (including an onboard Majolica pottery demonstration) before the riverboat departs for Vienna. Join us this evening for the Captain's farewell reception followed by dinner.
Imperial Vienna & a night at the Palace
You have three morning sightseeing choices today, all preceded by a tour of Vienna's landmark sights: visits to the Museum of Fine Arts (the Kunsthistoriches - founded by the Habsburgs in the 19th Century to exhibit their vast, eclectic art collection, the museum is a work of art itself); the House of Music (Haus der Musik), featuring imaginative interactive exhibits on famous composers (where you can actually "conduct" the Vienna Philharmonic); or remarkable Belvedere Palace. Have lunch in a heuriger (wine tavern) featuring traditional local cuisine and music, then arrive at your 5-star luxury hotel, ideally located near the Vienna State Opera. Join us this evening at Palais Pallavicini for a Tauck Exclusive - a gala evening of dining and musical performances in elegant Viennese style. The sumptuous surroundings of 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 (Orson Welles) apartment in the classic film The Third Man.
The Vienna Woods or Schönbrunn Palace & free time in Vienna
Your final full day in incredible Vienna office two choices of sightseeing. One includes a visit to the early 20th-century Kirche am Steinhof (Church of St. Leopold), designed by Otto Wagner and considered among the most significant Art Nouveau churches in the world, plus a drive through the legendary Vienna Woods - a 28-mile expanse of forest where Viennese go to escape the pressures of the city - to the famed hilltop Kahlenberg Lookout, offering spectacular views of the entire city of Vienna. Alternatively, you may join us for a visit to Schönbrunn Castle, once the summer residence of the Habsburgs, where you'll visit the gardens and tour the palace. The remainder of the day in Vienna is free to spend as you wish.
Tour ends: Vienna. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from The Grand Hotel Wien to Vienna International Airport and Vienna Westbahnhof; you should allow a minimum of three hours for flight check-in at the airport.