The Golden Eagle Danube Express - The Central European and Transylvania
Visit some of Europe's most beautiful cities on board the Danube Express.
Combining the romance of historic medieval settlements with the architectural splendour of some of Europe’s most beautiful cities, this exclusive rail cruise through the diverse and dramatic landscapes of Southern Europe, promises to be truly unforgettable.
Highlights and Inclusions
- 6 nights aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express in a private sleeping compartment
- Hotel accommodations for 7 nights
- All meals aboard the train
- Shop in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar
- Visit Kazanlak's Shipka Memorial Church
- Tour of Bran Castle and walking tour of Sighisoara
- See a spectacular Puszta horse show
- Visit to Festetics Palace in Kesztheley
- Boat cruise on Lake Balaton
- City tour of Vienna including the Vienna Opera House and St. Stephen's Cathedral
- Budapest city tour including the Royal Palace and St. Mathias Church
- Prague city tour including the Old Town Square, Charles Bridge and Jewish Grotto
- Roundtrip airport/hotel and rail station/hotel transfers
Day 1- Istanbul
Arrive into Istanbul where you will be met and transferred to the iconic five-star Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah, for a two-night stay. The hotel was built in 1892 to cater for guests taking the Orient Express and it was here that Agatha Christie wrote her famous book ‘Murder on the Orient Express'. A fitting Grand Hotel to start our tour. Today is at leisure for all guests to explore this wonderful city, or relax at this luxurious hotel and spa. This evening we will enjoy a welcome reception dinner, giving you the opportunity to meet your fellow travelers.
Day 2- Istanbul
This fabled city that spans Asia and Europe deserves an extended stay so over the next two days we will see how old meets new, east meets west when we visit Istanbul's must-see historic sites.
One of the most famous monuments in both the Turkish and Islamic worlds, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (the Blue Mosque) is a superb creation in the classical Ottoman style and features six towering minarets and 260 windows illuminating its vast main chamber, which is decorated with more than 20,000 Iznik tiles.
Now a museum, Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century by the Emperor Justinian, and was one of the largest basilicas in the Christian world. After the Ottoman conquest, it was converted to a mosque and is today one of the most magnificent museums in the world. Take a moment to linger here to admire the fine Byzantine architecture.
The largest and oldest palace in the world and primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1853, Topkapi is the crown jewel of the Ottoman Empire. With its treasury and exotic buildings overlooking the Golden Horn, your visit to Topkapi promises to be a truly fascinating experience.
Day 3- Istanbul
Following a leisurely breakfast we visit the Grand Bazaar which is one of the world's largest covered markets, with 58 streets and over 4,000 shops. In operation since the 14th century the bazaar is especially known for its jewellery, leather, pottery, spices and carpets. The Egyptian Market or Spice Bazaar will also be visited on the Golden Horn
Late afternoon we join our private train, The Golden Eagle Danube Express, to begin our long-awaited rail adventure to Budapest.
Note: Continuing engineering works associated with the new Bosporus tunnel could mean that the train starts on the outskirts of Istanbul.
Day 4- Kazanlak & Veliko Tarnovo
We arrive before breakfast in Kazanlak, situated in the Valley of the Roses, which produces rose oil prized by perfumers worldwide. Here we visit the Shipka Memorial Church and a Thracian tomb with vaulted brickwork dating back to the 4th century BC.
We take lunch onboard during the climb over the Shipka Pass, site of a famous battle in 1878 when the combined forces of Russia and Bulgaria crushed the army of the Ottoman Empire, and travel onwards to Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria's ancient capital. Nestled in a magnificent mountain setting, the stone houses seem perched, one above the other, on the steep banks of the Yantra River. A tour includes the superbly preserved medieval Tsarevets Hill and Castle and there is free time to wander through the ancient city.
Relax in the Lounge Car before dinner is served as our train continues through the scenic landscape as we head across the Romanian border.
Day 5- Brasov & Sighisoara
Overnight the train twists and turns as it climbs over the Carpathian Mountains and threads its way through the dramatic landscape with crystal clear mountain streams. This morning we arrive into Brasov for a tour of Bran Castle. Popularly known as Dracula's Castle, this beautiful 14th century building is situated amongst stunning mountain scenery. We return to the train for lunch as we continue onto Sighisoara for a walking tour of the town's main highlights. A World Heritage site rumored to be the birthplace of Dracula, it is one of the best-preserved fortified medieval towns in Europe. Burgher houses and ornate churches line its cobbled streets. Dinner is served as our train continues onto Hungary and across the Great Hungarian Plain.
Day 6- Kecskemét & Budapest
This morning we get the opportunity to explore Kecskemét, a fascinating city at the geographical centre of Hungary before the train heads, steam-hauled, to Lajosmizse for a spectacular ‘Puszta' horse show. We then arrive late afternoon at the romantic and historic Hungarian capital, Budapest, located on the banks of the magnificent Danube, where we will enjoy a two-night stay in the five-star Four Seasons Gresham Palace hotel.
Day 7- Budapest
Budapest is actually two cities separated by the Danube. The old city of Buda and the imposing Royal Palace, dominates the city with stunning views across the Danube to the commercial heart of Pest. Our city tour includes the Royal Palace, St. Mathias Church and a panoramic view of the city from Gellert Hill. We will also see the Citadel, the Opera House, St Stephen's Cathedral, Heroes Square and the City Park.
Day 8- Budapest
Today is at leisure where you can stroll along the banks of the Danube, visit the historic Great Market Hall with its endless variety of delicious foods and wines or head to one of the city's famous thermal baths for a rejuvenating dip.
You may also wish to join our fully included Freedom of Choice wine tasting tour to Eger. Situated in the northeast, the town is rich in historic monuments and famous for its wines such as Bull's Blood. The fortress of Eger, now a protected historic monument, is the site of the István Dobó Castle Museum. The tour includes a visit to the former cellar system of the Archbishop of Eger. Here in this cellar, wines from the vineyards from around Eger were stored. We will taste some of the local wine.
This evening we will enjoy a beautiful dinner cruise along the Danube.
Day 9- Budapest & Keszthely
After breakfast join The Golden Eagle - Danube Express at Nugyati station after a reception in the Imperial Waiting Room and head to Keszthely on the western shore of Lake Balaton. The train is scheduled to be steam-hauled for the first part of our journey.
At Kesztheley there is a visit to the Festetics Palace, a beautiful Baroque palace built on castle ruins in 1745 and expanded 150 years later. We'll also take a relaxing boat cruise on the calm waters of Lake Balaton. We re-join the train early evening and have dinner on board as the train heads for Austria.
Day 10- Vienna & Bratislava
We have a full day to savour the captivating Baroque elegance of romantic Vienna. Our tour of Austria's capital city includes the impressive Vienna Opera House, the majestic Ringstrasse and the awe inspiring St Stephen's Cathedral. This afternoon is free to stroll along the Kartnerstrasse, sample Vienna's famous cakes in the historic coffee houses or join a tour to the Imperial Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens.
Alternatively you can re-board the train for lunch and travel the short distance from Vienna across what was the ‘Iron Curtain' to Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia. Our tour includes the medieval Old Town (Starý Mesto) where we stroll through the cobbled streets of 18th century pastel buildings and the stunning Bratislava Castle perched high above the city on a hill overlooking the Danube. Close to the castle set amongst the many hillside luxury villas is the imposing Soviet War Memorial at Slavín as we learn about the city's strategic position situated just behind the Iron Curtain.
Day 11- Krakow
Once a royal capital with an extraordinary history, and now a lively university town with fashionable bars and restaurants, Krakow is a fascinating city with beautiful monuments and an exuberant atmosphere. Highlights of the city include Wawel Hill, home to the Wawel Castle, an impressive blend of Gothic original architecture and a Renaissance Palace and Rynek Glówny, known as the Main Market Square, it is Europe's largest medieval square. You can explore the city at your leisure in the afternoon and perhaps make the trip across the River Vistula to Podgórze, site of the Jewish Ghetto in Krakow and home to the Schindler factory - much of the film 'Schindler's List' was filmed here. On our day in Krakow we also offer a number of touring options as part of our Freedom of Choice programme outside of the city environs. Close to Krakow is Auschwitz-Birkenau, now a poignant museum was the largest of the Nazi concentration camps during World War Two where an estimated 1 million people perished.
Alternatively, you can choose to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines, a unique venue full of chambers excavated and sculpted in rock salt. Descend the 360 steps in to the mines and be amazed at the devotion of the miners who carved the incredible Chapel of Salt, a well-deserved place on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Day 12- Prague
A morning arrival into Prague after breakfast where we leave The Golden Eagle Danube Express and spend time to enjoy one of Europe's most magnificent cities. We will stay at the luxurious five-star Four Seasons hotel for two nights, renowned for its unique architectural structure and its enviable location, just steps from the historic Charles Bridge.
Prague is one of the most beautifully preserved cities in Europe. It spans the Vltava River and is dominated by the 9th century Prague Castle, a stunning sight that can be seen almost anywhere in the city. Our tour takes in the Old Town Square with its many historic buildings and Astronomical Clock, the historic 14th century Charles Bridge and the Jewish Ghetto.
Day 13- Prague
This morning in Prague is at leisure for you to discover the hidden treasures of this wonderful city. Stroll the medieval cobbled streets, relax in the ancient squares and admire the many architectural treasures of this ‘City of a Hundred Spires'. After lunch we join a vintage tram to travel through the city and Wenceslas Square, then up the hill to Prague Castle, the largest medieval complex in Europe and the gothic St. Vitus Cathedral. The castle and its surrounding architectural gems occupy a hillside overlooking the city and river. Our tour includes the delightful Golden Lane and the Changing of the Guard at the castle entrance.
You have the option to join our Freedom of Choice tour to Municipal House, originally built to be an administrative and cultural centre. Located just inside the Old Town it was built on the area once occupied by the former Royal Court before it moved to Prague Castle. We'll have a Czech afternoon tea here and then visit its beautiful concert hall.
Day 14- Prague
Following breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for onward flight departures. There is also an option to extend your stay in Prague for additional nights to explore more of this fascinating city.
Train and Hotel Accommodations
Hotel accommodations are at the Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah and Four Seasons Gresham Palace hotel.
Accommodations aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express are available in Heritage Class and Deluxe Class. Heritage cabins are 33 square foot private compartments that include a full length couch for daytime seating (converting into an upper and lower berth in the evening), a large picture window, clothes hanging storage and power outlets, and remote controlled air-conditioning. Toilet and shower facilities are located at opposite ends of the Heritage cars. Deluxe cabins are 83 square foot private compartments that include a private en suite bathroom with cubicle shower, two armchairs and a free standing chair for daytime seating (converting to two beds for the evening), a large picture window, full length wardrobe and power outlets, and remote controlled air-conditioning.
Hotel accommodations are based on availability; substitutes will similar in quality and amenities.
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