Experience the charm, sophistication and elegant feel of Central Europe on this 15-day classical exploration from Vienna to Budapest. Bask in the tradition of vivacious Vienna, discover the hidden fairy tale gem of Cesky Krumlov, Czech Prague off your list and be one with nature in Slovakia’s Tatra Mountains. Learn a thing or two in historic Krakow and round off your central crusade with time spent braving Budapest. With an expert leader to lead the way and plenty of time to explore at your own pace, get the low-down on some of the highlights of Europe’s centre – medieval architecture, rolling countryside and varied cuisine all await.
Day 1 - Vienna
Welcome to Vienna, Austria. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you do happen to arrive early, why not walk around to get your bearings or, better yet, take a spin on the famous Prater Ferris Wheel nearby for a bird’s eye view. Your base for the next couple of nights is Magdas Hotel – a social enterprise dedicated to supporting refugees in a united and compassionate workplace in Vienna. Magdas employs staff from across the world, so expect to hear many accents from a range of backgrounds. The hotel itself is an eclectic mix of styles, décor and furniture, and used to house a homeless shelter before being renovated for its current purpose. Be sure to check out your surroundings and have a chat to some of the staff! After your important meeting, why not use tonight to get you know your travel pals over some dinner.
Day 2 - Vienna
Join your leader for a walk through the city's compact centre this morning (approximately 2 hours). Stop at the gothic St Stephen’s Cathedral, wander past the neo-classical Graben and have a look at the Hofburg Palace. Continue along the Ringstrasse and then finish your orientation walk of the city at the State Opera House – one of the world's most important opera houses and the heart of classical Viennese culture. This afternoon is then free for you to keep on checking out the sights of the city. Art lovers have a so much choice when it comes to museums, such as the Albertina, located in the Museum Quarter. Otherwise, you might like to head out to Schoenbrunn for a guided audio tour of the grand summer palace, designed by Empress Maria Theresa. Tonight is also all yours too – it might mean snatching a last-minute ticket to an opera performance or getting some of your crew together for a twilight picnic in one of the city’s many parks.
Day 3 - Cesky Krumlov
Depart Vienna by minivan in the morning and cross the border into the Czech Republic (approximately 3.5 hours). Your next stop is the southern Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov. This picturesque medieval town dates back to the 13th century and looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. Cesky Krumlov means 'crooked meadow', and that makes sense because it’s situated on a tight bend of the Vltava River. Swap a vehicle for two wheels on a cycling trip this afternoon across rolling hills and through tiny hamlets (approximately 2-2.5 hours). If you have time later on, you could explore the city's castle and its fabulous masquerade hall, or climb the central tower for panoramic views over the town.
Day 4 - Cesky Krumlov
Today is a free for you to enjoy as you please. Perhaps take an optional guided walking tour of the town, which lets you in on the mysteries that lie behind every shopfront and house on the crooked laneways. For those who want a bit more culture, you could visit the Egon Schiele Art Centrum and browse the gallery that's dedicated to the Austrian painter. If you’re after something more active, jump into a canoe and check out the town from a different perspective – on the Vltava River.
Day 5 - Prague
Leave Cesky Krumlov in your dust and travel by bus to Prague (approximately 4 hours). On arrival into Prague, head out on an orientation walk with your leader so you can get your bearings of the local neighbourhood. For your free afternoon and evening, why not discover another great side of Prague – its music! The city has one of the longest-standing and respected jazz scenes in Europe, with jazz clubs playing into the early hours of the morning. Otherwise, have a wander along Charles Bridge or Old Town Square for some magical photo opportunities.
Day 6 - Prague
Today is free to explore Prague. The city offers many possibilities, so perhaps take a walk around the Jewish Quarter and pay your respects at the Gothic-inspired Old Jewish Cemetery. This is Europe's oldest surviving Jewish cemetery, with 12,000 tombstones and 100,000 graves. There is also the Museum of Communism, which details the struggles of many European countries and their political rule in the 19th and 20th centuries. Tonight, be sure to check back in with your group and perhaps organise some dinner and drinks in one of the city’s renowned beer halls – it’s a perfect way to Czech off another day in Prague.
Day 7 - Prague
You have one more free day in Prague as there is so much to see. You might like to spend some time this morning at Prague Castle – the biggest castle in the Czech Republic – where you'll find the famous St Vitus Cathedral and colourful alleyway of the Golden Lane. Otherwise, a bike tour through the city is a great way to see a lot of the sights and attractions in a short period of time, plus you’ll work off some of that hearty Czech cuisine you’ve been digging into. Or hop on one of the Urban Adventures on offer. If you can make time, why not take a day trip out of town and visit the medieval Kutna Hora – if you do get there, the Bone Church (Sedlec Ossuary) is a particularly unique experience.
Day 8 - Gory Sowie
Heading north by train, arrive in the small town of Broumov from where you'll cross the Czech–Polish border. From here you'll be transferred in a private vehicle to a small village near to Gory Sowie (Owl Mountains). Today's travel time will be around 4 hours in total. On arrival, check in to your accommodation, situated at the foot of highest mountain in the range – Wielka Sowa, then visit a nearby underground city from the tragic times of the WWII. Osowka is a mysterious underground complex where people from concentration camps were forced to work in order to create huge systems of concrete corridors, fortifications and halls. As the work was kept in secret, until now there is many theories trying to explain what the underground city was meant to be used for. Find out yourself on an included guided visit this afternoon.
Day 9 - Krakow
Continue east today by private vehicle and head to Krakow (approximately 5 hours). Possibly the best known of all Poland's cities, Krakow was the residence of Polish kings from the 11th to the 17th centuries, and its Old Town is a World Heritage-listed site. Take part in a leader-led orientation walk with your group, and once you know your whereabouts, you could go and discover one of the biggest – and arguably most beautiful – medieval squares in Central Europe. Tonight is again all yours to do as you please – a good idea is to make your way to the Jewish Quarter for its laidback vibes and good food.
Day 10 - Krakow
Today, explore the city in your own time. Discover Wawel Royal Castle, which sits atop a hill next to the Vistula River. Check out the 13th-century town square of Rynek Glowny and get a glimpse inside St Mary's Basilica which features an extraordinary wood-carved Gothic altarpiece. There's also the lovely neo-Gothic St Francis' Basilica, which has some of Poland's best Art Nouveau. In Krakow, you will also find the second oldest university in Central Europe. Jagiellonian University counts Copernicus and Pope John Paul II among its alumni. If you can tear yourself away from Krakow, head out to the Wieliczka Salt Mines – a network of tunnels and chambers some 135 metres below the ground. This is a salt mine that was in operation for over 700 years and is a World Heritage-listed site. Today is also an opportune time to book in to visit the former Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, if this interests you. Be sure to book your tickets well in advance. At night, pull up a pew and indulge in a plate of pierogi and a few beers to say cheers to another day.
Day 11 - Tatra Mountains
Say farewell to Krakow today and travel by local buses through southern Poland to Zakopane where you will switch for private transport (approximately 5 hours total). The trip may be long and a little slow, but the scenery of rolling hills and tiny villages will keep your eyes occupied. Tatranska Lomnica is your destination in Slovakia. It's a small alpine resort at the base of the Vysoke Tatry (High Tatra) Mountains. The Tatras – the highest range of the Carpathians – stretch for about 60 kilometres across the Polish-Slovakian border and are a hiker’s dream. The evening is free for you to enjoy as you please, and perhaps the best way to do it is to sit back, relax and soak up the atmosphere of this beautiful mountainous region.
Day 12 - Tatra Mountains
This morning, head out on an included hike in the High Tatra Mountains. The most known route is about 6 kilometres in length and it is normally completed in 3 hours, including stops on the way. The route includes gradual hill ascents and descents and walking on gravel and uneven rocky surfaces with some slippery sections. The pace and distance will be decided on the day, depending on weather and group abilities – parts of it will involve travelling by funicular, gondola and electric train. During the walk, you may notice that some parts of the forest have been destroyed. This was the result of a tornado-like storm in 2004 that decimated approximately 10,000 hectares of timberland. In the afternoon, head back to the accommodation and enjoy the remainder of the day in this beautiful location.
Day 13 - Budapest
You have an early start today for the long journey to Budapest. As there won't be too much free time to explore on arrival, perhaps check in to the accommodation and then go for a brief walk around the neighbourhood to get your bearings. The grand architecture and boulevards, café culture and interesting laneways make this one of the truly great cities of Europe. Take the evening as an opportunity to relax after a long day of travelling. Visiting one of Budapest's many restaurants or eclectic ‘ruin’ bars in the Jewish Quarter is a sure-fire way to have a good night out with your crew.
Day 14 - Budapest
Today you have a full free day to explore Budapest. Known as 'The Pearl of the Danube', Budapest is a great city to enjoy from the water. Perhaps take a boat trip along the river or catch a funicular up to Buda Castle for spectacular views of the Parliament Building and the Pest side of the city. You could head to Statue Park to see the communist monuments that were removed from the city after the fall of the Iron Curtain. One unmissable activity is to soak in Budapest's hot thermal baths. The pools vary in temperature, and some even feature whirlpools or seats where you can enjoy a game of chess. You might like to take part in one of our Urban Adventure day tours. See urbanadventures.com for more information.
Day 15 - Budapest
Your adventure ends after breakfast today. There are no activities planned and you're free to depart the accommodation at any time, provided you comply with the hotel's check-out time.