The joy of discovering Europe. It could be the most luxurious and memorable holiday experience of your life. First Class Hotels and Finest Restaurants, Vehicle, Chauffeur-guide all at your disposal. Your choice with no limits, no restrictions and no time frames within the designed itinerary any time of day. Wherever & Whenever you wish to go your Chauffeur-guide and luxury vehicle are at your disposal each step of the way. Already perfectly planned, with the exotic and the overlooked destinations of Europe, you still have the chance to re-design or re-adjust your itinerary according to your whim or desire. This is your unique and highly customized tour deep in the fascinating timeless beauty of a European journey.
Welcome to the capital of France! Your chauffeur-guide will meet you at the Arrivals Hall. If you have no further needs at the airport we head into town to your hotel, with a chance to check in and freshen up before we start to explore the city. The exact balance of the first day of course depends on your arrival time. We can adjust the schedule as you need. As a historic major European capital city the list of things to see and do is extensive. The Louvre, Notre-Dame, Montmartre, Sacre-Coeur, Orsay Museum, Arc de Triomphe, Place de Concorde are some of the most famous sights but you do not have to visit them all. Palaces and gardens, museums and squares, in consultation with your chauffeur-guide you will see those you want. For the end of the day dinners, bars, concerts and clubs may appeal, but we could build the plan around an evening visit to the Eiffel Tower, for the views across the city by night, but this does require advance reservations.
If there is some unfinished sightseeing we could delay our departure from Paris, but we could begin today’s journey with a visit to the Palace of Versailles, then we continue on our way to Poitiers. Sights on the way could include seeing the cathedral of Chartres and the medieval town of Tours. The battle of Poitiers (1356) was the second of the three great victories by the English over the French in the Hundred Years War. Poitiers is an old university town with a picturesque medieval centre sitting between the curve of the river and the railway station with some pedestrian zones for strolling. Several notable religious buildings are dating from the 12th century, There is also the 4th century baptistry with its pool. Just near Poitiers is the theme park Futuroscope based on multimedia techniques (sometimes closed in the off season).
There is a wide range of dining available, from simple to sophisticated, including Michelin rated establishments.
Today our first stop is Cognac, it is not only a type of Brandy but also a French town. Best known for its distilled drink, but also known for its glass works and barrel production. Many of the big name Cognac houses have visitor centres. It is best to have a reservation. The town is historic and has a medieval quarter. Perhaps suitable for a lunch stop.
From Cognac we continue to Bordeaux. Renowned for its wines, it is a city with great character and history of its own. Just 50km from the Bay of Biscay coast, it lies on the confluence of the Garonne and the Dordogne, where they form the Gironde. In the city itself its nice to see the central square called Place de la Bourse and the historic big bell called Grosse Cloche. For those with an interest in wine, it is possible to visit a vineyard, winery or even a wine warehouse, in which tastings could be involved.
For the evening, being Bordeaux, a lot revolves around its wine, but there is far more. It is renowned for its boisterous nightlife in part due to the large student population. There is a wide range of restaurants, from basic to Michelin rankings. A delicacy of the region is the oysters, and for something a little sweeter the little cakes called Cannelé.
Today we will follow the Bordeaux river Garonne upstream inland to Toulouse, bringing us nearer to Spain and the Mediterranean Sea. Toulouse is the 4th biggest city in France and an important industrial hub, but we should not forget that it is steeped in history with the 13th century university the 4th largest in France. It has the nickname The Pink City due to its pink coloured brickwork. We make a little orientation tour of the city, and then look at what draws your attention. Particularly of interest may be the Augustine Museum, the Basilica and the Cathedral. For lighter entertainment there is a theme park of space exploration, Cité de l’espace.
Although less famous for its wines Cahors, Gaillac and Fronton are typical local wines with Chateau de Candie estate owned by the city, and Armagnac is the brandy of the region. Less the wines, more the food, it is a major Foie Gras production region, even a breed of goose is called Toulouse. The delicacies to look out for: duck and goose, Foie Gras, Saucisse de Toulouse (pork sausage), Cassoulet (casserole), Garbure(stew), Croquant biscuits, Violet (flowers) in some salads or sweets.
Today we descend upon the mediterranean coast. For a spot of nature before reaching Beziers there is the Narbonne National Park. Beziers itself is one of the oldest cities in France, predating Roman and Celtic eras. With such varied history as being a retirement settlement for Roman soldiers, shipping wine to Rome during the empire, occupied by the Moors, ruled by Viscounts and a 13th century massacre of its entire population (20 000) by papal order! It has 2 arenas, the remains of the Roman arena and a Spanish style arena from 1905 still in use for concerts and the August bull fights. Béziers hosts the famous Feria de Béziers, centred on bullfighting, every August. From Beziers on to Sete, known as the Venice of Languedoc due to its network of canals, Sete has its own very strong cultural identity, traditions, cuisine and dialect. The Festival of St. Louis is a week long festival in August for the tradition of Water Jousting.
From Sete we continue to Montpelier, the 13th-century Université de Montpellier contributes to a large student population and a cutting-edge cultural scene. A great place to stroll, eat, drink, and people watch. It is the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, Languedoc and Roussillon are both respected wine names.
As we leave Montpellier heading east for Aix we are passing the Rhone delta and its Nation Park of the Camargue with its horses and its bird watching especially Flamingoes. Arriving in Aix, the city of a thousand fountains, founded in 123 BC, don’t miss the a natural hot water fountain dating back to Roman times. Famous for its opera festival since 1948. The Cours Mirabeau is a central promenade lined with trees, cafes and fountains. The cathedral is on the site of a Roman forum with parts dating from the 5th century onwards including attractive cloisters. Before reaching Cannes we would be passing Frejus, another place rich in Roman ruins.
Cannes dates from the 2nd centrury BC and its history was tied up with the little Lerin islands just off the coast. There are stories of monks and pirates, plenty of instability. Today Cannes is best known for its fancy hotels, flashy cars and the annual film festival. It is in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. All things Provençal are things from Provence. Côtes de Provence is one the big wines of the region. A lot of rose wine comes from Provence.
We leave the coast for a trip to the hills in search of heavenly fragrances… The town of Grasse used to be specialised in tanning hides but for the last few centuries is has been the world captal of perfumes, and in recent decades diversifying into food flavourings. Old names in perfume such as Galimard, Molinard and Fragonard began here and today offer tours of their production processes. Beyond the perfume industry sights include the cathedral and the Saracen Tower.
We then return to the coast to stay in Nice, with perhaps an evening excursion to see the lights and gambling tables of Monaco.
Nice is the 5th largest city of France, 2nd largest on the French mediterranean coast. It dates from about 350 BC with a checkered history sometimes not being a part of France. Interesting sights would include the Promade of the English and its Hotel Negresco and several nice squares.
Monaco is a small independant principality between Nice and the Italian border, ruled by the Grimaldi family. It is a city-state, its old quarter is Monte Carlo. It is best known for glitzy casinos, luxury hotels, the yacht-lined harbour and the Grand Prix motor race. It is easily accessible from Nice.
Bouillabaisse is a classic French mediterranean seafood stew, Soupe de Poisson is just a traditional fish soup that can be very good too. Ratatouille is a traditional vegetable stew.
Pastis was made famous by Paul Ricard in 1932, a popular Aniseed flavoured drink in France.
Now its time to say Au Revoir! – Goodbye to France, and Caio – hello to Italy. We follow the Mediterranean coast over the border into Liguria. Following the Riviera we come to the port town Savona. From the 13th to 16th centuries there were 2 important monasteries, so it was quite a centre of religion. In addition to palaces, churches and cathedral, there is a Cistine Chapel, towers and a fortress. The sailor-explorer Christopher Columbus lived many years in Savona.
Just further along the coastline we come to the port city Genoa, the capital of Liguria.
It was the birth place of Columbus and the musician Paganini. In addition to the attractive old squares and narrow streets, several of the old protective city walls are still standing. The symbols of the city are the old lighthouse and the fountain in Piazza De Ferrari. For the cuisine the sea food is noteworthy, but most important is the basil paste called Pesto.
Now we leave the Riviera turning inland north to Milan, the industrial, financial and fashion capital of Italy. It is the capital of the Lombardy region, Italy’s 2nd largest city and hosts two major league soccer teams. The most famous sights include the gothic cathedral and the La Scala opera house. Milan is home to a lot of music including Verdi and art including Da Vinci.
Lombardy has some very good wines, and for the food, it is less pasta and olive oil, more rice and butter. Less seafood and tomato, more meat. Typical of Milan is Milanese, a thin breaded meat steak is a traditional Cotoletta alla milanese. Fine dining choices are extensive.
We leave behind the big city heading north into the Alps. Our first stop is at Como. It is the main town on the lake of the same name. It has a long history, lively streets, charming old town and a busy attractive waterfront. Sons of Como include writers Plini the Elder and Pliny the Younger, and the electricity pioneer Allessandro Volta from where the word Volt comes. If you like this lake, don’t feel surprised. You are in good company. In the 19th century the Austrian Empress Elisabeth fell for it, so too the composer Franz Liszt. In more recent times, characters such as Madonna and George Clooney, Richard Branson and Bruce Springsteen have spent time here.
Leaving Como we are right by the frontier and over we go, into Switzerland. Mendrisio is a small Swiss town in a wine producing region with some elegant historic buildings. An attraction in Mendrisio is FoxTown Factory Stores offering many well known brand names at reduced prices. Then we continue north, but not so far, to Lugano. It is a small city beside Lake Lugano, a beautiful resort town surrounded by mountains, with a car-free zone in the old town.
Sun, beach and water, mountains, moon and stars, dinner and music: these are the ingredients for a enchanting lakeside evening. Casinos, bars, night clubs and there are other options too.
From Lugano to Interlaken we first pass Locarno at the north end of Lake Maggiore, where the bungy jump from the 1995 Bond movie “Goldeneye” was filmed. Pierce Broznan plunged 220m – you can too. If you’d like to take the same jump you can, or just take a photo. Until Locarno we are very close to Italy, but now we penetrate deep into Switzerland. We are driving through high mountains with more lake views to Interlaken which means “between lakes” which it is. It lies between the Thum and Brienz lakes and has some very elegant buildings. It is our gateway to the Bernese Oberland – the highlands of the Bern region.
Our theme for today is cute Swiss villages, high mountains and waterfalls. Our villages are Grindelwald, Murren and Lauterbrunnen, our mountains may include Top of Europe Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn with its revolving mountaintop restaurant as seen in the 1969 Bond film “On her Majesty’s Secret Service”. There are glaciers and snow in plenty! The area is rich in waterfalls, but perhaps the most dramatic is the Trummelbach Falls actually inside the mountain. Please discuss with your chauffeur-guide which attractions are suited to your interests.
Today we visit the Swiss capital Bern with its medieval architecture in the old town, the Zytglogge clock tower and the Bear pit. Then we go on to the central Swiss city Lucerne to see its Chapel Bridge and the Lion of Lucerne, maybe take a scenic boat ride on the lake. It is often possible to attend a Folk Music evening here.
Our first stop is Zurich, a global centre for banking and finance, especially to see the old town and the lakeside. We are going to Schwangau in southern Bavaria. Our route takes us past Liechtenstein so we could pop into Vaduz for a tea break. It is a country, but more specifically a principality, ruled by a prince. The castle dominates the city. Next we cut across a corner of Austria, passing Bregenz, famous for its stage floating on Lake Constance and we are into Bavaria of Germany.
Schwangau is a village with two castles perched on hills. Many view points allow both to be seen. Schloss Hohenschwangau is the castle where King Ludwig of Bavaria grew up. Schloss Neuschwanstein was his project, and never fully completed due to lack of funds. The tour of Schloss Neuschwanstein needs to be booked in advance.
Today begins with the tour of Schloss Neuschwanstein, then we pass Fussen seeing its castle, cross a section of Austria and the town of Reutte, the lake Plansee and we cross back into Germany reaching the palace Schloss Linderhof, another project of King Ludwig, though this one was completed. It has a strong connection with the composer Richard Wagner. Next we visit the village of Oberammergau famous for its Passion play and the wall paintings, passing Ettal with its huge Benedictine monastery and Garmisch at the foot of Germany’s highest peak, the 2962m Zugspitz. Then we take the 955m Scharnitz Pass through the mountains into the Austrian state of Tyrol to Innsbruck. This is Austria’s 5th largest city with a beautiful old town and Imperial Palace. You don’t have to walk far to find the Golden Roof. The old town area is very attractive.
Special Tyrolean delicacies to look out for are ham, cheese and schnaps (Austrian brandy).
From Innsbruck it is a short drive to Wattens to visit the Swarovsky Crystal Worlds beside the factory. Then up the valley Zillertal through the 1500m Gerlos Pass taking us into the Pinzgau region of Salzburg state to Krimml to see the beautiful waterfalls. We head on down the Salzach valley to Zell-am-See, the capital of Pinzgau. Zell-am-See is the town beside the Zeller lake. It is a ski resort but popular in all seasons due to the beautiful scenery with the surrounding mountains.
Our first stop today is to visit the 3203m Mount Kitzsteinhorn, to play in the snow and from the viewing platforms view many other high peaks in fine weather, perhaps the Grossglockner too. Then we follow the Salzach downstream passing through Pongau we will see the World Cup Ski Jump slope at Bishopshofen then we come to Werfen. It is a small village, but before we see the village we see its castle. The 12th century fortress Festung Hohen Werfen is open for tours from April to October. Above the fortress in the towering rock face is the entrance to a cave. Not just any cave, this is a 42km cave system with glacial formations in the entrance section, known as the Eisriesenwelt (the Ice Giant World). The world’s largest known ice caves are open for tours from May to October. The cable car to access the Ice Cave and the fortress feature in the 1969 film “Where Eagles Dare”, and the fortress is seen as distant backdrop in the 1965 film “The Sound of Music”. Just further north down the valley we come to Golling, a small town in the Tennengau region of Salzburg state. It has its own little castle, a very pretty high street, the Aqua Salza spa centre, waterfalls and a hidden valley called Bluntautal.
From Golling looking west beyond the Salzach river we see a row of mountains. Up on high is the border, the far side is Bavaria of Germany, the town of Berchtesgaden, the Konigsee (King’s Lake) and Hitler’s Eagles Nest (open for tours from May to October). To reach it we go over the hill from Hallein passing the Bad Durrnberg Salt Mine, over the border into Bavaria to Obersalzberg. On a blue sky day it is worth while taking the Rossfeld toll road along the ridge.before dropping down to Obersalzberg. Obersalzberg is the start point for visiting the Eagles Nest. Beneath Obersalzberg is the Nazi bunker system nowadays a documentation centre suitable for guests interested in the 2nd World War.. Down in the valley is the town Berchtesgaden with its old pedestrian area and royal palace. Just up the valley is the jewel of Bavarian nature, the King’s Lake. Please discuss with your chauffeur-guide which attractions are suited to your interests.
From this area it is a short ride over the border back into Austria to arrive in Salzburg City. It is Austria’s 4th largest city, the birthplace of the composer Mozart and the production of the 1965 film “The Sound of Music”. Please be sure to make your chauffeur-guide aware of your level of interest in Mozart and the film “The Sound of Music”. As we come into Salzburg we could make a short visit to Hanger 7, which belongs to Red Bull, the Salzburg based energy drink company. It is an architectural wonder housing aircraft, cars and more. Then an orientation tour of the city. Between the fortress on the hill and the river is Old Town, very suitable for strolling. Concerts, Dinner Concerts and Puppet Shows can be arranged.
We head east into the Austrian lake district, known in German as Salzkammergut. The first lake is Fuschl, with the old hunting lodge of Schloss Fuschl at the west end, nowadays a luxury hotel. It is seen in the 1955 film Sissy as her childhood home. At the east end is the village of Fuschl and beside it the offices of Red Bull, quite a sight due to the architecture. When the second lake comes into view the scenery is spectacular with a handy spot to make a photo stop. This is the Wolfgangsee, Lake Wolfgang, taking the name of a bishop from the 10th century. Beneath us at the west end is the village St Gilgen where Mozart’s mother was born. We continue east with great views across the lake, seeing the Schafberg mountain with its old cog railway and the village of St Wolfgang with its church and the hotel White Horse Inn as is also the operetta name. Just beyond the Wolfgangsee we come to Bad Ischl where the Emperor Franz Josef had his summer residence, the Kaiser Villa, tours are possible, in winter by appointment. It is an old spa town. Just south from Bad Ischl is the lake Hallstattersee and the lakeside village Hallstatt, squeezed between the cliffs of the mountain and the lake. It is the World’s oldest salt mine village with celtic origins and the oldest salt mine. Then we pass Bad Ischl again and head north to pass our last lake the Traunsee, at the north end is the town Gmunden with its Brahms museum and ceramic works.
We then take a section of highway east through to Melk Abbey and the slow road following the Blue Danube river through Wachau valley passing little village such as Spitz, Durnstein and Krems. The Wachau is famous for apricots, grapes and wine. Durnstein holds the legend of Richard the Lion Heart. We come into Imperial Vienna from the north, via the viewpoint on Mount Kahlenberg looking over Austria’s capital city, then the traditional wine tavern district of Grinzing into the city centre.
We begin the day with a tour of the palace Schloss Schonbrunn, built for the Imperial family to escape from the city, but nowadays it is inside the enlarged city. There are differing lengths of tour, best booked in advance, and there are beautiful gardens and even the zoo, but once we can part from Schonbrunn we should spend our time around the central district, especially on or within the ring road, the line of the old city wall. Even the museums look like palaces but the special buildings more likely to catch your attention are the Parliament, Town Hall, the Opera House, and the Imperial Palace with its associated treasures. The Cathedral is inside the ring in the heart of the old town, a great place to stroll and window shop. There are many traditional cafes and super restaurants, but there is also the Naschmarkt snack market with a huge variety of diverse goodies to try whether traditional or local, foreign or exotic.
For the evening a concert or opera could be arranged.
We are heading east following the Danube on to Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. Hungary has a long history, often connected to its neighbours, especially Austria. It was a part of the Holy Roman Empire, then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and latterly the Soviet Union. There is much to see in Budapest so better not to delay but if temptation can not be resisted, there is the Designer Outlet Shopping Centre at Parndorf and nearby the largest Austrian lake of Neusiedlsee. Budapest is divided by the river Danube into Buda and Pest. We can start with Buda, up on the castle hill with views over the river, its bridges and the city from the Fisherman’s Bastion, a lovely area for sightseeing and strolling, and with a chance to have lunch before descending upon the river with its Chain Bridge and the Parliament building, and we take the classic old street Andrassy Avenue out to Heroes Square.
For the evening beyond the choice of Dinner or Concert there could be a Danube River boat cruise.
Today we are going from the Hungarian capital to the Czech capital via the Slovakian capital. Slovakia has not often experienced independance, often dominated by its neighbours the Holy Roman Empire, then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Hungary, and latterly the Soviet Union and the Czech Republic. Under the umbrella of the European Union it has been independant since the Velvet Divorce of 1993. Bratislava is another Danube river city, previously known as Pressburg or Poszony. We will make an orientation tour of Bratislava. Highlights include palaces and castles, churches, parks and squares.
Arriving in Prague we find it is another city split by a river, but this time the river is the Vltava. Again the castle is up on a hill, with the city on both sides of the river, and its nickname: the City of a Hundred Spires. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia. Though more often Innsbruck or Vienna, Prague was sometimes the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Todays main project is the castle on the hill which in itself has much to see, but after the castle there is plenty more to explore. The spiritual bridge of Prague is the Charles Bridge. The Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock are special sights to see.
For the evening beyond the choice of Dinner or Concert there could be a Vltava River boat cruise.
Today we leave the Czech Republic to enter Germany heading for Leipzig, on the way we will check out Dresden.
Dresden has a long history as the capital and royal residence for the Electors and Kings of Saxony, who for centuries furnished the city with cultural and artistic splendor. The city was known as the Jewel Box, because of its baroque and rococo city center. The controversial British and American bombing of Dresden in World War II towards the end of the war destroyed the entire city center. The bombing gutted the city, as it did for other major German cities. After the war restoration work has helped to reconstruct parts of the historic inner city. It lies on a curve of the river Elbe. The Opera House, Bruhl’s Terrace and the Zwinger Palace would be some of the key sights to show you.
Leipzig is the largest city in Saxony. It has been a trading centre since at least the time of the Holy Roman Empire. The Battle of Leipzig was a major battle of 1813, known as the Battle of Nations because it was so international. The coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden decisively defeated the French army of Napoleon. Napoleon’s army also contained Polish, German and Italian troops. Leipzig was once one of the major European centers of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing. The churches of St Thomas and St Nicholas, and the Pauliner all date from about the 12th century. The Monument to the Battle of the Nations would be a sight to show off. It is not on a major river but has many lakes. For the evening maybe we could get tickets for the Gwandhaus Concert Hall, or at one of the churches.
Today we go to Berlin. The capital of Prussia and Germany that from 1945 until 1989 was split between East and West Germany during the Soviet era. It is a world city of culture, politics, media, and science. The river Spree runs through the heart of the city to meet the river Havel on the west side. The Moltke Bridge and the Oberbaum Bridge, the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag Parliament building, Museum Island, Charlottenburg Palace and the Cathedral would be the main sights to show off. Some guests like to visit the Holocaust Memorial. The city is rich in gardens, parks and forests.
The choice for entertainment in the evening can be extensive. Dinners and concert may appeal. Sometimes there are Dinner Concerts in Prussian Period style at the Charlottenburg Palace. Berlin is renowned for its night clubs.
When we can tear ourselves away from Berlin, we are heading west to Hanover, the home of High German, on the river Leine, the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony. Dating from medieval times, it was ruled by princes or under their title as the dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg, later described as the Elector of Hanover. Nowadays we think of the British Royal family as the House of Windsor. Windsor is an adopted name. It was the House of Hanover. When the last Stewart Monach, Queen Anne died in 1714, the next in line to the throne was George the Elector of Hanover. From 1814 to 1866 it was the Kingdom of Hanover.
There are some splendid sights to see including the State Museum and The New Town Hall, and the Herrenhausen Gardens. There is a wide range of restaurants, traditional, luxury or Michelin starred, and some rock or classical concert events. Perhaps even the chance to hear the Lower Saxony State Orcherstra.
Today we leave Germany and enter The Netherlands to visit the capital Amsterdam, known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system and narrow houses with gabled facades. In the old centre is the scenic square known as Dam and nearby several historic buildings. A good way to enjoy this city is a canal cruise. For beer lovers a visit to the Heineken Experience may appeal. Other popular sights are Van Gogh and Rijks museums, the Rijks is spectacular even just from the outside. To see wooden houses and windmills we pop out to Zaanse Scans on the north side of town. The Royal family have three official palaces, one in Amsterdam and two in The Hague. As a leading city of European culture there is a great choice of entertainment, with street performers and live bands, night clubs and the famous red light district where you can see the working ladies showing off their wares, to concerts, opera and ballet.
On our way to Rotterdam between mid March until mid May it is possible to visit the Tulip Fields at Keukenhof, meaning the kitchen garden. We could drop by The Hague to see the miniature village of Madurodam, the Royal Palaces and the Peace Palace.
In Rotterdam we make a city orientaion tour with a chance to show off one of the world’s largest harbours. Then on to Antwerp. Antwerp is the World’s diamond centre with its historic city centre.
Then on to Brussels, the Belgian capital and the headquarters of the European Union, where you stay for the night, the last night of this epic trip. For evening entertainment Wining and Dining is a good option, Waffles and Beer are good, Chocolate tasting can be fun too, especially the hand made chocolates.
Depending on your departure time, we could take in a little sightseeing. The central Grand Place wirth its grand buildings from the 17th century, Mannequin Pis and the Atomium. Alternatively a little souvenir shopping, or just time at leisure. Your chauffeur-guide will take you to the airport, with your lugguage, souvenirs, photographs and memories to give you your send off. We have shown you a grand chunk of the best of Europe, perhaps some places caught your imagination to inspire you for a future trip. We trust you will be back soon.