Tour begins: 5:30 PM, Budapest. Welcome to Budapest, Hungary's capital city. A transfer is included from the Ferenc Liszt International Airport or Keleti train station directly to the riverboat on the Danube River in Budapest; embarkation begins anytime after 4:00 PM. Enjoy a welcome briefing and a leisurely dinner as you settle into your floating hotel for a two-week cruise on the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers.
Both sides of Budapest on the Danube
Standing on opposite banks of the Danube, Budapest's two distinct sections - Buda and Pest - were once independent cities that were linked together in the mid-19th century by the construction of the Chain Bridge to become a single city, today Hungary's capital. Explore both sides of the city on a guided tour featuring a mix of architectural masterpieces and monuments including Heroes' Square, dominated by statues of leaders from Hungarian history and surrounded by museums and stately embassy buildings; the Gothic-Revival home of the Hungarian Parliament, an iconic feature of the Budapest skyline along the Danube; Fishermen's Bastion, standing watch over the river; and the bustling Covered Market, a showcase of Hungarian specialties, from food to crafts. Spend the afternoon cruising past picturesque landscapes along the Danube en route to Slovakia and join us tonight for our welcome reception and dinner.
Bratislava & an Grand Evening in Vienna
An ancient city with a modern pulse, Slovakia's dynamic capital is home to an Old Town brimming with life - and devoid of cars - along with one of the youngest populations of any city in Europe today. Our local expert shares insider anecdotes about Bratislava before you join a walking tour of the cobblestoned city center, the perfect place for ambling. Seventeen centuries of Slovak history are eloquently chronicled in its 13th-century Old Town Hall, Baroque Habsburg-era palaces, the Opera House, Slovak Philharmonic Hall, and St. Martin's Cathedral, site of the coronation of many Hungarian royals. Cruise this afternoon to Vienna, enjoying the passing scenery and shipboard activities. Tonight, nothing quite compares to the royal treatment you'll experience at a Tauck Exclusive - our private evening in the Palais Ferstel, a 19th-century palace in the heart of the city. Welcome champagne precedes dinner and a live musical performance.
A visit to Schönbrunn Palace or the Hofburg
Wake up in Vienna, evoking quintessential images of Old World Europe. Sightseeing today includes your choice of guided visits to the Habsburgs' illustrious Schönbrunn Palace, an architectural masterpiece and Austrian cultural treasure, or a tour of the Hofburg - another former Habsburg royal palace that today is Austria's official presidential residence - including the Sisi Museum and the Imperial Apartments. Spend the remainder of the day as you please in Vienna.
Discover the Wachau Valley & Melk Abbey
Go ashore in Dürnstein this morning for a choice of activities. You can either go for a walk through the village with your Tauck Director followed, if you like, by a hike to the hilltop ruins of Kuenringerburg - the castle where England's King Richard the Lionhearted was held for ransom during the Crusades - or take a bicycle ride* in the vineyard-covered Wachau Valley. Later, cruise to Melk for a guided visit to its 900-year-old Benedictine abbey, where both its Baroque architecture and river views impress. Return to your riverboat late afternoon; onboard ship tonight, you'll be entertained by a talented musical group.
A bit of Baroque in Passau and cruising the Danube
After crossing the border from Austria to Germany, dock in the Bavarian town of Passau on the Danube and Inn rivers, whose history dates back to the days of the Roman empire. A walking tour reveals the Baroque treasures of this lovely riverside town, known for its stained glass and its many churches - including St. Stephan's Cathedral, home to the largest pipe organ outside of the U.S., and the biggest cathedral organ in the world (may not be available on all departures). Your Budapest to Amsterdam river cruise continues to Regensburg.
A visit to Regensburg mixes ancient times and today
Growing from a Roman encampment on the Danube into a cultural and trading center, the quintessential Bavarian town of Regensburg boasts more than 1,400 original historic buildings. Walking here is a delight and is the best and only way to view the sights up-close. A local guide will lead the way as you see the town's 12th-century Steinerne Brücke ("stone bridge," in continuous service for 800 years), the 15th-century Altes Rathaus (Town Hall), the towering Dom St. Peter, and the remains of the Roman wall. A guided visit inside St. Emmeram Palace, the royal residence for the Thurn und Taxis dynasty for close to 200 years, reveals a revival of historic styles from the past: the Romanesque-Gothic cloister from its days as a Benedictine abbey, a neo-Renaissance marble staircase and gilded throne room, a medley of Rococo design, a Baroque library, and more. This afternoon, choose among free time in Regensburg, a leisurely afternoon aboard ship, or a bicycle ride along the river to Kelheim.
The Main-Danube Canal to Nürnberg
When it opened in the 1990s, the Main-Danube Canal made navigation between the North Sea and Black Sea possible. Hear insights about the canal this morning. Choose between guided excursions this afternoon. On an insider visit to the Courthouse (still active, so your visit is subject to availability), learn about the infamous trials, the Zeppelinfeld rally grounds and the Documentation Center - or take a walking tour through Nürnberg's medieval ramparts to the Imperial Castle and the old city (including the house of 16th-century painter Albrecht Dürer, and St. Sebaldus Church).
An Old Town walking tour or bicycling in Bamberg
Perched atop seven hills, Bamberg is home to a magnificent, four-towered Romanesque cathedral from the 13th century; see it, along with more of this charming medieval city's unique architecture and colorful gardens, when you choose between a walking tour of Old Town with your Tauck Director or a bicycle ride through town.
Würzburg or Rothenburg & a wine tasting
Arrive this morning in charming Würzburg; you have two choices of sightseeing today. Accompanied by a local guide, explore Würzburg - see the ornate Alte Mainbrücke, a bridge over the River Main, and visit the town's 18th-century Residenz, a lavish palace where the town's prince bishops lived in the 18th century; today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Get a taste of life in the palace in Würzburg when you sample some excellent Franconian wines in the wine cellar of the Residenz, a Baroque masterpiece. Alternatively, depart for Rothenburg; nestled on Germany's "Romantic Road," it lives up to its reputation as Europe's "most perfect fairy-tale town." View its Gothic cathedral, towered walls and gabled houses on a walking tour, followed by time at leisure. Spend the evening aboard the riverboat following an early evening departure.
Pleasures of a day cruising the Main...
It is no wonder that river cruising was the favored pastime of royalty throughout the centuries... and you'll revel in the experience on a full day cruise along the picturesque Main. Fortified towns with towering cathedrals dot the lush landscapes along the riverbank... and you'll take pleasure in all that you'll see, learn and savor today. Perhaps you'll visit the spa... or the fitness center... practice your putting on the putting green... or savor a little quiet time in the plunge pool...
Cruise to Rüdesheim for a little musical magic
Relax and enjoy your riverboat's amenities as you cruise along the Main River, as it transforms into the Rhine River, to the wine-making town of Rüdesheim, part of the Rhine Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ride a mini train or walk to lunch in town, followed by either a visit to Siegfried's Mechanisches Musikkabinett - an eclectic museum displaying one of the world's largest collections of mechanical musical instruments in a centuries-old castle - or a bicycle excursion along the river. This afternoon, your Budapest to Amsterdam river cruise meanders through the scenic Lorelei Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, en route to Köln (Cologne).
Köln, a.k.a. Cologne
First up today - a morning visit to Köln (Cologne). Originally founded by the Romans, it is one of the oldest settlements in Germany. Your choices today include a leisurely guided tour of the city or an active walking tour, followed by free time; a visit inside the city's great twin-spired Gothic cathedral, Kölner Dom, is included (subject to availability). Return to the riverboat to sail to Amsterdam; your day concludes with the Chef's signature dinner onboard in the Compass Rose.
Great art, a canal cruise and more in Amsterdam
Amsterdam... the name itself conjures up images of the Dutch capital's myriad cultural treasures, from gabled houses, markets and cafés to awe-inspiring museums housing a treasure trove of world-famous art - and it's all yours to enjoy today. Your guided tour of the famed Rijksmuseum is really inspiring - a firsthand look at Rembrandt's masterpiece The Night Watch is like meeting the artist himself, and you'll love seeing acclaimed works by other well-known "Old Dutch Masters" including Vermeer and Hals. See the city's network of concentric, tree-lined 17th-century canals and view of Amsterdam's blend of architectural styles - they date all the way back to medieval times - on a private sightseeing cruise by canal boat; you'll get a unique taste of daily life in this easygoing city today. A farewell dinner makes your last night on the riverboat memorable.
Tour ends: Amsterdam. Disembark in Amsterdam; a transfer is included from the riverboat to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport or Central Station. Allow 3 hours for departure flight check-in. A transfer will also be provided to the airport for guests enjoying a stay at Tauck's selected Amsterdam hotel following their cruise.