Discover European class and grandeur on this Lonely Planet Experience from Madrid to Berlin. Enjoy all things arty – from Madrid’s inspiring Art Walk to Barcelona’s internationally renowned galleries and museums. Be captivated by Cuenca’s Old City, mosey round the markets of Valencia and get lost in the convoluted streets of Barcelona’s gothic quarter. Cruise through France’s canvas-perfect Provence region, stopping to admire Avignon before continuing on to Paris. Taste chocolate and beer in Belgium and Luxembourg, and perhaps learn how to pair the two, discover why Amsterdam captures the hearts of all who visit, and finish in Germany’s fascinating capital – Berlin. Steeped in history and architectural brilliance, this three-week adventure combines sights and cultural experiences that reflect old-world Europe and define modern European culture.
Day 1 - Madrid
Welcome to Madrid, the sassy central capital of Spain known for its elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 or 7 pm, depending on common area availability. After the welcome meeting, perhaps get into the mind of a Madrileno with some tapas and Rioja.
Day 2 - Madrid
Today is free for you to discover Madrid. Perhaps begin in the heart of Old Madrid with a stroll along the portico-lined Plaza Mayor. After that maybe take a break in the Real Jardin Botanico, a garden wonderland dating from the 18th century, or by sitting with a coffee in one of the atmospheric streets and squares around the famous Plaza Mayor. If you’re after something a little more structured, you could join a locally-guided Urban Adventure to get a deeper insight into the city through its tapas. At night, maybe follow the crowds to Chueca, Plaza Dos de Mayo or Plaza Santa Ana, where the pulse of the city will lead you from bar to bar.
Day 3 - Cuenca
Today travel by train to charming Cuenca (approximately 3 hours), located on the edge of deep gorges created by two rivers: Jucar and Huecar. On arrival, venture out on an orientation walk around this historic World Heritage-listed fortress city. The Old Town of this city is an outstanding medieval development built on steep mountainsides, with many casa colgadas (hanging houses) that are literally on the cliff edge. After the orientation walk, use your free time getting to know the city. Perhaps visit the impressive 12th-century gothic cathedral. Evening is a great opportunity to gather together with the group and enjoy a dinner and see the Old City beautifully brushed with light from a series of high-powered lamps suspended half-way up the rock.
Day 4 - Valencia
Board a train east to the coastal town of Valencia (approximately 4 hours). It's known for being the Spanish gateway to the Mediterranean, with a big port, beautiful beaches, restaurants and a beach promenade along the waterfront. On arrival you are free to begin exploring at your own pace. Perhaps head to the Old Town, where you will find beautiful monuments and historical buildings, or (if weather permits) soak up some sun on the beach. The colourful stalls of the Mercado Central are a great place to grab some fresh produce to snack on during the day while you explore.
Day 5 - Valencia
Enjoy another free day in Valencia. History buffs might want to check out the 13th-century Valencia Cathedral, which houses what legend says is the Holy Grail. Or maybe climb the 207 steps of the Miguelete tower for the best views of the city. After something different? The Museum of the Fallas contains a history of the Valencia Fire Festival in the form of giant papier mache figures (and entry is inexpensive, which is a bonus). To try the paella that Valencia is famous for (made with rabbit and chicken), ask your leader to point you towards the Las Arenas area for a hearty and reasonably priced lunch. Cycle paths and cheap bike hire make for another great way to explore, so active types might consider biking the park (a former river) that runs through the centre of the city.
Day 6 - Barcelona
Take the train up the coast to Barcelona (approximately 4 hours), a quirky city with a ground-breaking art scene, Gothic architecture, superb dining and a non-stop nightlife. Arrive in the afternoon. Maybe wander the labyrinthine streets of the old Gothic Quarter and navigate your way through the throngs of tourists along La Rambla, Barcelona's famous tree-lined boulevard. There are plenty of museums to choose from, so perhaps spend some time in the National Art Museum of Catalonia or the Museum of City History to brush up on your local knowledge. Take the funicular to the top of Montjuic or Tibidabo for panoramic views of Barcelona and the harbour. The heart of Catalonia prides itself on being a gastronomic centre, so tonight make sure to follow your leaders advice on where to get a taste of the culinary action.
Day 7 - Barcelona
You’re free today to partake in some of the optional activities on offer or relax. In the morning perhaps head to the stalls of Santa Catarina Market, a huge trove of local produce beneath a colourful, undulating roof. The city is famous for its architecture designed in the unique Catalan Modernista style. The master of this movement was Antonio Gaudi, whose eccentric creations are dotted all over the city. A visit to Gaudi's masterpiece, the modern basilica of La Sagrada Familia, is a must, even if it's just to see the outside. Gaudi worked on this hugely ambitious project for decades until his death and it remains under constant construction. For more insight into the artist, head to Parc Guell, a surreal landscaped area also designed by the artist.
Day 8 - Barcelona
Enjoy another free day to explore Barcelona at your leisure. Set out to discover more of Barcelona in detail. With great restaurants, art galleries, shopping and nightlife on offer, Barcelona is a world-class city with colour and style at every turn. Keep in mind there will be another meeting tonight to welcome new travellers joining you for the next stage of your adventure.
Day 9 - Barcelona
Today is yet another free day for you to explore at your own pace. There are plenty of optional activities to choose from. Speak to your leader if you’re having trouble deciding where to spend your time today.
Day 10 - Avignon
Take the train to Avignon in southwest France (approximately 5–6 hours). This journey is quite spectacular, so make sure you’re ready for photos and try to nab a window seat. With mountain hideaways and emerald vineyards, the Mediterranean coastline folds into table-top mountains where fields of lavender and wildflower cover the landscape. On arrival into Avignon, check in to your hotel and then take a walk around a walled city that was once home to French popes for more than a century.
Day 11 - Avignon
There are no scheduled activities today, so you can explore the local sites at your own pace with help from the optional activities list. Maybe comb the city's impressive collection of art, visit the grand Palais des Papes (Pope's Palace) or cross the iconic bridge of Pont St-Benezet. You could even hire a bike to see more of this picturesque valley and head to one of the city's amazing bakeries. There are also are many small local bistros that serve up great regional cuisine – why not get some of your travel pals together for a French-inspired feast.
Day 12 - Paris
Travel north on a train to France’s cosmopolitan capital Paris (around 3–4 hours). Rich in museums, art galleries, monuments, fashion and delicious food, Paris offers a wealth of major sights and things to do. On arrival into the city, check in to the hotel and then explore at your leisure. Wandering around the Champs-Elysees, the student-filled Latin Quarter, or bohemian Montmartre will give you a good feel for the city. There is so much to do in Paris that it might be a good idea to make a plan before you arrive, so you can get to see all you want!
Day 13 - Paris
Enjoy another free day to discover the pleasures of Paris at your own pace. The Tuileries, Plantes and Jardin du Luxembourg are all excellent places to enjoy a simple baguette with cheese. Or perhaps explore the world-famous Louvre, where you can see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Maybe climb the Eiffel Tower – or take the lift – for some impressive aerial views of Paris. When night falls, Marais is a great district for trendy bars and eateries, while Bastille is well-known for its clubs.
Day 14 - Paris
Another free day in Paris? Oui oui! There is still plenty to discover, including the ‘other’ museums like the Museum of Comparative Anatomy and Paleontology. Or maybe hit the streets for the best graffiti-viewing at Canal St Martin in the tenth arrondissement – an eclectic neighbourhood full of wonderful restaurants and artistic shops. In the evening, you could visit the quai along the left bank of Port St Bernard, which comes alive with people strolling, picnicking and dancing.
Day 15 - Luxembourg City
Take the train from Paris to Luxembourg City (approximately 2 hours). One of the smallest countries in the EU, Luxembourg is full of historical charm and natural beauty. Check in to the hotel on arrival and then head out into the city's World Heritage-listed Old Town, which is perched high above the narrow valleys of the Alzette and Petrusse rivers. Stroll along the promenade of Chemin de la Corniche – said to be 'Europe's most beautiful balcony'. The rest of your day is free for you do to whatever you want. Perhaps take a guided tour of the 16th-century turreted Palais Grand-Ducal, which is home to the Grand Duke.
Day 16 - Brussels
Leave Luxembourg behind and jump on a train to Brussels (around 3.5 hours), where you can explore at your own pace on arrival. Maybe wander down to the Manneken Pis (Little Peeing Man) – an iconic symbol of Belgium. If you’re interested in music, a must-see place is The Musical Instrument Museum. Three floors of musical instruments coming from every corner of the world and hundreds of years of musical history in one place. If you feel like a night out, Ilot Sacre is a great place to find good food and fun bars.
Day 17 - Brussels
Enjoy another free day in Brussels. Perhaps visit the iconic Atomium – a silver structure built in 1958 for Brussels World’s Fair. If you want to explore further afield, you could choose to take a day trip to Antwerp or Bruges. As always, chat to your leader for advice – it’s why they’re here!
Day 18 - Amsterdam
New day, new country! Cross another border as you travel by bus to the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam (approximately 3 hours). The best way to get your head around this city is to do as locals do – cycle. Amsterdam is a network of canals, bridges and parks perfect for exploring on a bike. If you’re an art-lover, Amsterdam is home to plenty of museums. One of its best is the Rijksmuseum, which houses one of Rembrandt’s most famous works – 'The Night Watch'. Alternatively, head to the Van Gogh Museum, which comprises nearly every painting, sketch, print, etching and piece of correspondence that Vincent van Gogh ever produced, including 'Sunflowers'.
Day 19 - Amsterdam
Enjoy another day to explore at your own pace in Amsterdam. You could visit Anne Frank's House – the former hiding place of the famous child diarist and seven others during WWII has been preserved as a museum. Or perhaps visit the De Waag, a 15th-century building on Nieuwmarkt square first constructed as a gate for the city’s fortified walls.
Day 20 - Amsterdam
With yet another free day, why not get to know the secrets of its food and drink? For a snack, pannekoeken will go down a treat – sometimes sweet, sometimes savoury, but always delicious! You could order some salty fries, taste some of the rich cheeses on offer, or discover their café culture. A popular activity is to bask in the glory of liquid sunshine – visit the best bars, breweries and beer halls of this brew-loving city. From a place where nuns used to brew ales, to the mothership of Dutch beer brewing – the original Heineken building – get out to see and taste the Netherlands’ strong beer history.
Day 21 - Berlin
Take the train to Berlin (approximately 6.5 hours). Berlin is huge, with plenty of impressive sites and a great bar scene. There’s the Brandenburg Gate, remnants of the Berlin Wall, the dominating Reichstag building and popular Checkpoint Charlie. There are also a couple of unique memorials like the Jewish memorial and the Topography of Terror, both of which are well worth your time.
Day 22 - Berlin
There are no activities planned for today and your tour comes to an end after breakfast. If you’d like to spend more time in Berlin, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability). Please speak to an Intrepid booking agent for more information.