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Grand Imperial Cities

You are viewing the 2024 itinerary. Select your departure year
11 days From $2,695 per person
4.8 stars(8 reviews)

Explore the splendid grandeur and fascinating history of four of Central Europe’s most spectacular capital cities.

Travel among a group of like-minded travelers led by a professional tour manager

Mobility Rating 3

2024 Tour code: HUC24

About the tour

This carefully curated vacation reveals the richness and history of four of Europe's most magnificent cities. Embark on a breathtaking journey through Vienna's grandeur, Budapest's charm, Prague's medieval allure, and Berlin's vibrant contrasts. See the sites, feel the history and enjoy exciting extras along the way, as you make your way through these former Habsburg and Prussian cities.

From guided tours through imperial palaces to an enchanting river cruise and leisurely strolls along picturesque streets, each day brings a new chapter to this unforgettable adventure. Marvel at architectural splendors, savor local cuisines, and immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of European culture.


What’s included


Day 1 – Vienna Calling

You arrive in Austria's grand capital, Vienna, today. After checking into our hotel, spend the rest of the day exploring your new surroundings. As the former capital of the Habsburg Empire, Vienna has stately Baroque buildings at every turn. Heading north from the 14th-century Augustinian Church, you reach Josefsplatz, an opulent square honoring Emperor Franz Josef II. Bordered by elegant Baroque halls, it features the recognizable Palais Pallavicini from the film noir, The Third Man.

Moving on to Herrengasse reveals palatial Renaissance and Baroque residences, such as the stucco Palais Daun-Kinsky, showcasing the grandeur of noble families from the 17th and 18th centuries. We regroup in the evening to enjoy a meal at a local Austrian restaurant.

Overnight Vienna.

  • Dinner
Day 2 – Discovering elegant Vienna

Today, we embark on a guided tour that showcases the imperial architecture of this glorious city, including the Ringstrasse - a grand boulevard that encircles the Old City. Numerous impressive buildings line the road, including the Neo-Renaissance Vienna State Opera topped by bronze statues, and the sweeping entrance to the Neoclassical Austrian Parliament.

The centerpiece of this influential avenue is the Hofburg Palace, which symbolizes the importance of the Habsburgs who ruled from here between 1273 and 1918. Expanded over the centuries by various emperors, the fascinating building showcases preeminent examples of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance architecture.

Our next stop is the imperial family's summer residence on the outskirts of Vienna. The sprawling Schönbrunn Palace overlooks extensive decorative gardens, at the end of which is a 200ft hill topped with an 18th-century gloriette. We enjoy a guided tour of the palace's immaculate staterooms which ends with an apfelstrudel show, followed by a hot drink and strudel. We then have some free time to stroll through Schönbrunn's elaborate gardens.

The rest of the day is spent at leisure, either putting our newly acquired knowledge to use or relaxing in one of the city's sizable green spaces. This evening, you are free to choose your own dinner and may wish to indulge in tasty local specialties such as a Wiener schnitzel with a beer or a glass of chilled Grüner Veltliner wine.

Overnight Vienna.

  • Breakfast
Day 3 – Spectacular views and café culture in Vienna

You're free to continue sightseeing at your own pace today. Near the Hofburg, you'll find the Spanish Riding School, home to the incredible Lipizzan dancing horses, although pre-booking is required for performances. Vienna's glorious medieval cathedral, St. Stephen's Cathedral, is in the beating heart of the city. This Gothic masterpiece is famed for its stunning tiled roof, patterned with brightly colored chevrons and Viennese eagles. By climbing to the top, you'll be rewarded with one of the best views of the city.

For a more laid-back way to enjoy Vienna's skyline, head across the Danube Canal to the Prater Gardens. In this vast park, you can ride the Wiener Riesenrad - a giant Ferris wheel that was the tallest in the world for much of the 20th century and, like many places in Vienna, also featured prominently in The Third Man.

Between sightseeing, choose your own dinner with plenty of opportunities to enjoy a typical Viennese coffeehouse experience. These elegant cafés are renowned for their 'gemütlichkeit' - warmth and friendliness - and serve a range of coffees from the melange to the cream-topped einspänner, along with an enticing selection of pastries and cakes, including the delicious Sachertorte. Dating from 1873, Café Landtmann on the Ringstrasse is the city's oldest, while the nearby Café Central was a favored location of the Viennese intellectual set, including Sigmund Freud.

Overnight Vienna.

  • Breakfast
Day 4 – To Budapest, the ‘Pearl of the Danube’

This morning, we bid a fond farewell to Austria and continue our adventure by heading eastwards into Hungary. Arriving in Budapest in the early afternoon, we embark on a guided coach tour. The Hungarian capital was formed when three cities merged. The flatter, lively Pest on the eastern bank of the Danube looks out across the water to the historical and hilly Buda, while the quieter Óbuda sits to the north.

On the tour, we explore this fantastic and fascinating city as we view impressive buildings and monuments on both sides of the Danube, taking in landmarks like the iconic Országház and the Neo-Gothic Parliament building. Castle Hill, with its significant Baroque castle and the nearby Matthias Church, offers a glimpse into the city's rich history. The Gothic Matthias Church stands behind the Fisherman's Bastion, a 19th-century structure providing stunning views of the river and Pest.

In the early evening, we travel to Óbuda for dinner in a traditional restaurant that, combined with its serene surroundings, gives the feeling of being in a pleasant Hungarian village. After dinner, we enjoy a highlight of the holiday as we sail down the Danube on an evening cruise before returning to our hotel on a quiet street on the Pest side. The cruise is one of the best ways to see this beautiful city as the sights we saw during the day, including the spectacular Parliament building, are now illuminated, casting a magical glow across the delightful Danube.

Overnight Budapest.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 5 – An enchanting journey through the Buda Hills

After breakfast, we travel to Széchenyihegy in the Buda Hills for a charming rail journey that winds through beautiful forests on the narrow-gauge Children's Railway. Perfectly turned out in immaculate red, white, and blue uniforms, Hungarian schoolchildren carry out all the roles you would expect from a railway, except for driving the trains.

In open carriages, the children sell and check tickets, salute trains as they leave the stations, and blow their whistles with vigor. The intention of the seven-mile railway was to teach children additional skills and encourage them to take up careers in travel, and it's a delightful way to spend 40 minutes. At the end of the line in Hűvösvölgy, we return to our hotel and have the rest of the day at leisure.

You could unwind with a visit to one of the ornate spas dotted around the city, such as the Art Deco Gellért thermal baths or the Neo-Baroque Széchenyi medicinal baths near Heroes Square. For something slightly different, you could visit Statue Park, known locally as Szoborpark and located in a quiet suburb of Buda. Described as a 'Communist theme park,' it contains a large statue of Lenin and Cubist statues of Marx and Engels. This evening, you could take a stroll along the Danube and eat at one of the riverside restaurants or experience one of Budapest's lively 'ruin bars.'

Overnight Budapest.

  • Breakfast
Day 6 – Budapest to Prague: From the Danube to Vltava

We say goodbye to Budapest and Hungary this morning as we board the train to Prague. Following the course of the Danube, we enjoy great views of the beautiful Danube Bend and the hilltop Visegrád citadel before heading inland through the plains of southern Slovakia.

In the Czech Republic, now known as Czechia to locals, we travel through Brno before arriving in regal Prague in the late afternoon. Dubbed 'The City of a Hundred Spires', the copper-domed churches of this majestic capital shimmer beside the winding Vltava river. We check into our stylish, modern hotel in the cosmopolitan Smíchov area of Prague. The country is renowned for its brewing, and this district is home to its second-largest brewery, Staropramen.

Overnight Prague.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7 – Touring beautiful and historic Prague

Waking up in glorious Prague, this morning we embark on a guided walking tour through the narrow streets of the historic Old Town, discovering some of the city's most famous sights. We start at Prague Castle, Europe's largest medieval complex dating back to the 9th century. Bursting with history, the most eye-catching building is the huge Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, adorned with golden mosaics depicting the Last Judgment and a beautiful rose window.

Behind a 17th-century red Baroque facade lies St. George's Basilica, one of Prague's oldest buildings from 920 AD. At the north-eastern edge of the complex is the charmingly quaint Golden Lane whose colorful medieval houses were occupied by defenders of the castle and artisans such as goldsmiths.

Leaving the castle, we stroll across the 14th-century Charles Bridge, admiring the 75 statues built along its walls with the spires of St. Vitus Cathedral as a backdrop. We follow the ornately decorated facades of grand buildings to the Old Town Square, the focal point of Prague life since the 12th century. One of the most fascinating features of the square is the renowned astronomical clock. Installed in 1410, it's one of the oldest working pieces of its type.

The rest of the afternoon is free for you to continue exploring the charming streets of Prague's Old Town at your leisure. Wandering through the winding lanes, wonderfully picturesque buildings greet you around corners, often containing interesting and curious museums - such as the Czech Beer Museum, the Museum of Fantastic Illusions, and Speculum Alchemiae, set in an old alchemist's workshop.

This evening, you could stop at one of the city's many fine eateries for some hearty and delicious Czech food, maybe with a portion of the popular potato dumplings (bramborové knedlíky) and a glass of frothy beer.

Overnight Prague.

  • Breakfast
  • Day 8: Breakfast
  • Day 9: Breakfast
Day 8 – Prague at leisure: History, religion and culture

Enjoy a free day uncovering more wonders of the Czech capital. Split up into many districts, Prague's center offers a magnificent choice. For a relaxing way to see the sights, you could take a gentle cruise on the Vltava.

With its Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunić-designed Dancing House, which undulates and twists, and Cubist architecture scattered around the city, Prague has a taste for the quirky and fantastical. This is reflected in the works of one of its favorite sons, writer Franz Kafka. There are a number of statues of Kafka in Prague, including a rotating, kinetic representation of his head, and one inspired by his short story 'Description of a Struggle' near the Spanish Synagogue.

With an exterior evoking Andalucía's Alhambra, the Spanish Synagogue is appropriately named. Inside, the mind-blowingly ornate decorations are influenced by Moorish design. This is just one of the beautiful locations in Josefov, Prague's thought-provoking Jewish Quarter which relays the long history of Jewish Prague. On a stroll around Josefov, you can expect to uncover many buildings that have their own stories to tell, including the Old New Synagogue, which is the oldest active synagogue in Europe.

After seeing the sights, gourmet restaurants, cocktail bars, and trendy cafés are easy to find. If you're looking for something more authentic, you can feast on pork and dumplings washed down with beer in a traditional pub, or 'hospody', down one of the Old Town's many charming lanes.

Overnight Prague.

  • Breakfast
Day 9 – Arrival in Berlin, a city of contrast

This morning we leave Prague by train bound for the German capital. The route follows the River Elbe out of the Czech Republic, passing some remarkable scenery on the border with Germany as we enter a wonderful wilderness of sandstone cliffs blanketed by rich forests that takes us most of the way to elegant Dresden. On the Czech side, this is called Bohemian Switzerland, while the Germans refer to it as Saxon Switzerland - both due to its impressive landscape being perceived as similar to stunning Swiss scenery.

We arrive in Berlin in mid-afternoon and, after checking in to our hotel, we view the city's sights with a tour guide. The tour uncovers the fascinating history of Berlin, contrasting it with the city's vibrant present. With our knowledgeable guide, we visit iconic landmarks, including the remains of the historic Berlin Wall and the famous Brandenburg Gate, as well as other fascinating treasures that Berlin has to offer.

Overnight Berlin.

  • Breakfast
Day 10 – Discovering Berlin at leisure

Your day is free to continue exploring this friendly and fascinating city awash with sights. Visiting the Norman Foster-designed glass dome and roof terrace of the Reichstag is possible with prior registration and offers spectacular views of Berlin.

In the old East Berlin, the East Side Gallery is a long stretch of the Wall beside the Spree River now decorated in colorful street art. To the north of the city is Bernauer Strasse, along which the Berlin Wall used to run. Many of the modern buildings now have street art referencing this, and the Berlin Wall Memorial can be visited at the western end of the street. Viewing the Wall in this location is incredibly poignant as it brings home how loved ones and neighbors were separated for nearly 30 years.

Elsewhere, Museum Island comprises a number of captivating galleries and museums, including the Pergamon Museum which houses ancient antiquities from Rome, Greece, Babylon, and Persia. Alternatively, you could wander through the extensive Tiergarten to Berlin Zoo or the Bauhaus Archive. Further out, Charlottenburg Palace is the only remaining royal residence from the Hohenzollern dynasty, while Potsdam is home to the Baroque flower gardens of Park Sanssouci.

Overnight Berlin.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 11 – Tour conclusion

This morning, our vacation comes to an end. Travelling home, look back on our time across four of Europe's most impressive cities. Whether it was Vienna with its classical grandeur, Budapest with its beautiful buildings lining the Danube, the medieval charm of Prague, or the rejuvenated and vibrant Berlin, these four locations have given us a multitude of memories.

  • Breakfast

Additional information

Pricing Plans

We offer a Standard Class and First Class rail options for departures on this tour. You can select your class using the dates and prices tool.

Departure times

Departure times vary based on selected rail vacation. This information will be provided in your final documents. For more information please speak with your rail specialist.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular vacation with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.


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4.8 stars4.8 / 5 · 8 reviews

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  5. 1 star


3 stars

Submitted 10 Oct 2023

I would rate this tour lower because of the hotel rooms (see below). However, I am giving it a 3 star rating because we did enjoy the cities, the food at the hotels, and the tour guide. In my opinion none of the hotel rooms made for an enjoyable European experience with any kind of view at all. The rooms all seemed to be a standard room and definitely small with hardly any space to put our bags. The tour should offer better rooms and information on room upgrades. The cities included in the tour were good to see although Vienna and Prague were filled with thousands of tourists making getting around uncomfortable. The train ride from Budapest to Prague was around seven hours and unfortunately used up nearly an entire tour day. It would have been much better to stop in Bratislava for a night, which would have broken that trip up into two shorter train travel days and given us the opportunity to see the capital of Slovakia. The tour guide provided good guidance to our group and was very nice to talk with about the tour. The Vienna hotel did not provide us two separate beds as we had requested. The front desk staff acknowledged that our request was in their room notes but said that they made a mistake. After an hour of waiting in the lobby they gave us a room which we thought would have two beds. However, when we got to the elevator they came and told us that they had to put us in another room. This room is incredibly small with a double bed. They said that they couldn’t do anything to change our room and would make a note to tell a manager tomorrow to see if they could fix it. There was construction work being done on the street outside our room with jack hammers being used until 10:00 PM. Then there were construction trucks moving equipment outside for another hour. There were also bright construction lights on the street outside our room all night that shown through our room curtains making it seem like daylight in our room. The jack hammer work began again the next morning at 6:45 AM. I would expect that the tour program be informed of construction work being done near the hotels that they use and select other hotels to ensure that this type of problem does not occur. We were moved to another room the second day; however, the room was in the back of the hotel with one window that faced a solid wall. Even though it was quiet the room itself had only 16 inches of space between the bed and the walls on all sides. The air conditioning was controlled by the hotel and set at 70.5 degrees, which was uncomfortable for us to sleep. We still were not provided separate beds as requested. The hotel room in Budapest was adequate in size and most likely the entry level room in size by looking at the room floor plan. The room window faced the top floor court yard wall and roof and was adjacent to the noisy top floor outdoor pool. We did get separate beds as requested. The hotel room in Prague was again a small room per the room floor plan. It had one window that looked out at the room over the hotel lobby, which was far from attractive. We did NOT get separate beds as requested. The hotel room in Berlin was a small standard room that looked out to the wall of rooms in the adjoining wing of the hotel. We did get separate beds as requested.

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5 stars

Submitted 25 Sep 2023

This tour was so well organized! Everything went like clockwork. Everyone was great to tour with.

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5 stars

Submitted 17 Jun 2023

The tour was well organised, with an excellent manager, Chris Read, and knowledgeable and engaging guides. There was a balanced mix of organised guides and free time and the.accommodation was superb.

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Bill Brecht

5 stars

Submitted 30 May 2023

Some of the European hotels are not turning A/C on. It was very uncomfortable in several of the hotels. Our guide was excellent.

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5 stars

Submitted 21 May 2023

The trip was flawless from beginning to end! It exceeded our expectations! Hotels, tours and travel were wonderful!

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5 stars

Submitted 17 May 2023

The tour was well organized with a wonderful guide, hotels were lovely and breakfast daily at the hotels was extensive. My only negative comment was the location of the hotel in Budapest, it was in a less than desirable area, however as previously mentioned the hotel itself was lovely. The day of free exploration perfectly accompanied the first day with local tour guides. We had a terrific experience and would definitely do it again!

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