Heart of Europe® Circle Tour
15-day tour featuring Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium and Holland
- Accommodations in Superior Tourist Class or First Class Hotels
- 13 Breakfasts and 9 Dinners in addition to any in-flight meals
- Tour Manager for the duration of the tour in Europe
- Land Transportation in Europe by deluxe, air-conditioned motor coach
- Baggage Handling at hotels
- Confirmation Packet including out Touroclopedia® trip preparation booklet
- Trip Documents with luggage tags, final details, and helpful travel tips
Departures offered March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October
DAY 1 – Overnight flight to Europe. Today brings the beginning of a new adventure…anticipation heightens as you realize that your trip of a lifetime is about to begin! Refer to ‘Preparing for your Departure’ in your Trip Documents for easy check-in procedures. Take time to relax on your trans-Atlantic flight with the assurance that Image Tours has taken care of all the details.
DAY 2 – GERMANY..Arrival at Frankfurt Airport – Heidelburg – Schriesheim. As morning arrives, the European coastline comes into view and your plane soon touches down at the Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport. Disembark, clear passport control, claim your suitcase, and pass through customs. Communicating is no problem, as English is widely spoken in the airport. Refer to your ‘Arrival Instructions’ page in your Trip Documents for directions on where and when to meet your tour manager. Board your deluxe motor coach for a pleasant drive through the countryside of central Germany, to your hotel in the village of Schriesheim. One German word you must learn is ‘gemuetlichkeit’ which expresses the feeling of comfort, coziness, and leisure that you will experience in the days ahead. This afternoon, the tour manager will invite you on a visit to the town of Heidelberg, idyllically situated on the Neckar River and dominated by the ruins of Heidelberg Castle. This renowned university town is considered by many to embody the spirit of Germany. This evening, enjoy the ‘Welcome to Europe/Get acquainted’ dinner at the hotel.
DAY 3 – GERMANY..Medieval Rothenburg – Romantic Road – Adelsried. This morning, enjoy a leisurely, scenic ride to the storybook town of Rothenburg, a beautifully-preserved, medieval village surrounded by the original town walls and without a single modern building in sight. When you see the narrow cobblestone streets, distinctive inns, and quaint shop fronts, it might feel as if you are walking into a fairy tale. During your free time, climb to the top of the town hall Bell Tower for a bird’s-eye view of the city, walk atop the old city walls surrounding the town, check out the Medieval Criminal Museum which exhibits tools of punishment from more draconian times, or stroll through the castle gardens overlooking the River Tauber. Delightful shopping awaits you at Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Weihnachtsdorf, a sprawling, year-round Christmas shop. Your afternoon journey leads south on the ‘Romantic Road’. This area is rich in unspoiled countryside, ancient castles, and untouched villages. Enjoy dinner tonight, enlivened by accordion music, at your hotel in Adelsried. Try a stein of Paulaner Pilsner (beer), a glass of Liebfrau Milch (wine), or a refreshing glass of Apfelsaft (apple juice).
DAY 4 – GERMANY..Munich & AUSTRIA..Imperial City of Innsbruck – Tyrolean Village. Munich, the elegant capital of Bavaria, lies 60 kilometers (37.5 miles) east. You will enter the city via the Olympic Village, the Bohemian district of Schwabing, and Karlsplatz. Step out for free time at the Marienplatz, a pedestrian-only zone where historic buildings are cleverly interspersed with modern store fronts. The focal point of the square is the Rathaus (Town Hall) with its captivating Glockenspiel clock tower. For lunch, consider the Hofbräuhaus, a one-of-a-kind beer hall, with excludes an ‘Oktoberfest’ atmosphere year-round. After lunch, head south to the Austrian border and travel along the Inn River as it winds its way through the Austrian Alps to the Imperial City of Innsbruck, capital of Tyrol and two-time host of the Winter Olympics. Bisected by the Inn River and surrounded by mountains, Innsbruck is a stunning setting. See the Imperial Church, the Golden Roof – built in 1500 for royalty to view entertainment in the square below – the Maria Thompson Boulevard and the Triumphal Arch. Innsbruck ownes much of its beauty to Maximilian I, who ruled 500 years ago (and became Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire). A short distance from Innsbruck lies the Tyrolean village where you will spend the next two nights in a chalet-style hotel.
DAY 5 – AUSTRIA..Tyrolean Village near Innsbruck. The peaceful villages, tucked in the valleys around Innsbruck, provide the perfect location for a relaxing day. Frescoed and flower-adorned chalets create an idyllic atmosphere as you walk through town observing daily life in Austria. Viewed from an outdoor cafe or along one of the numerous hiking paths, the Tyrolean Alps present breathtaking scenery. For further exploration, trams or trains offer easy and direct transportation between the villages and Innsbruck. Another choice is the full-day optional Bavarian Palace excursion, which includes a guided tour of the extravagant Inderhof Palace and access to the elaborate gardens. Try a local restaurant for your independent dinner or join the optional Tyrolean Show and Dinner for an evening of authentic Australian folklore, music and dancing.
DAY 6 – ITALY..Brenner Pass – Dolomite Mountains – Lake Garda – Verona – Bussolengo. It’s only a short distance to the Italian border. Enter Italy via the Europa Bruecke (Bridge), a remarkable feat of the mountain highways engineering through the alluring Dolomites, a mountain range known for its reddish appearance. Italy is the cradle of European civilization, art, architecture and music. It remains one of the most romantic countries in the world. After the customary morning break, you are in for a special treat as you descend to Lake Garda. In some places, the rocky shores seem to rise straight up from the lake. Its sheltered location gives the area a subtropical climate rich in vegetation, including colorful oleander bushes, olive groves, fruit trees, and grape vines which produce some of the famous Italian wines. An extended stop affords ample opportunity to stroll along the lakefront, browse the quaint markets, and enjoy an Italian ice cream (gelato). From here, it’s a short ride to the legendary city of Verona, made famous by Shakespeare’s tragic love story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Walk with your tour manager to Juliet’s balcony and to the Verona Arena. During an independent dinner in Verona, experience an authentic Italian mean before transferring to your hotel in nearby Bussolengo.
DAY 7 – ITALY..Bussolengo near Verona. This day is yours to do as you please. Spend the day studying the fascinating architecture and browsing the fashionable shops of Verona, or relax along the shores of Lake Garda, sipping a Campari or cappuccino. Direct bus connections are available to either location and the hotel concierge can provide schedules and offer additional assistance. Another choice for today is to join the optional excursion to Venice, famous for its canals and bridges, colorful gondoliers, magnificent St. Mark’s Square, and engaging outdoor vendors. The Venice excursion includes dinner at a typical Venetian restaurant. After a memorable day of sightseeing, return to Bussolengo to spend the night.
DAY 8 – SWITZERLAND..Lake Lugano – Gotthard Pass – Lake Lucerne Region. Travel north towards the unsurpassed splendor of the Italian and Swiss lake districts. As you enter Switzerland, snow-capped mountains emerge in the distance while palm tree-lines streets greet you along Lake Lugano. Often referred to as the “Rio de Janeiro of the Old Continent,” Lugano is the perfect spot for a lunch break. In the afternoon, the 11-mile-long St. Gotthard Tunnel takes you from the Italian section of Switzerland into the German section. Traveling through William Tell country, you descend upon Lake Lucerne. The soaring peaks of Rigi, Stanserhorn, and Pilatus, standing guard over this vast water basin, create one of the most imposing sights in Europe. Your hotel resides in one of the scenic villages in the Lake Lucerne Region.
DAY 9 – SWITZERLAND..Village of Stans – Lucerne – Lake Lucerne Region. Today’s first stop is the old mountain village of Stans with an optional Swiss Mountain excursion by funicular and cable car for thrilling panoramic views of the Swiss Lake District. Next, motor along the lake to the city of Lucerne, where you will see the Old Town Wall and famous Lion Monument. This inspiring stone carving, hewn out of this natural rock, commemorates the herotic death of Swiss soldiers who defended Louis the XVI during the French Revolution. The rest of the day is yours to explore the Old Town, visit the Swiss Transport Museum (the largest of its type in Europe), or relax on one of the lovely lakeshore promenades. Lucerne is also a shopper’s paradise. You will enjoy browsing through displays of wood-carved music boxes, delicate Swiss lace, delicious chocolates and…Switzerland’s world famous watches. Before returning to your hotel, the tour manager will offer an optional Swiss Lake Boat Ride excursion.
DAY 10 – FRANCE..Besancon – Auxerre/Troyes. The church bells usher in another glorious day. Follow the Swiss Autobahn to Basel, where Switzerland, Germany, and France meet and the Rhine River becomes navigable. The mountains give way to hilltop villages and rustic vineyards. Make a lunch stop in Besancon , with its charming historic centre and imposing hilltop citadel. Continue through the Burgundy wine region to Auxerre or Troyes, conveniently located for minimum travel time to Paris the next morning.
DAY 11 – FRANCE..Paris. My mid-morning, you will reach Paris,’Laville Lumiѐre’ (The City of Light). That a thrill it is to enter this vivacious city, rich in history, art and architecture. The motor coach will bring you to the Place de la Concorde, adjacent to the Louvre and the Champs-Élysées. Your tour manager will direct you to the location of the principal sights and stores, such as Notre Dame Cathedral, Eiffel Tower, the Opera, the famous Galleries Lafayette department store, and the even more famous Arc de Triomphe. Before beginning your free time, we suggest joining your tour manager for the optional Seine River Cruise excursion for unsurpassed views of some of the cities major sights. This afternoon provides time for individual sightseeing; visiting museums (the Louvre Museum is open every other day except Tuesday), exploring the interior of Notre Dame Cathedral, or shopping. At 4:30 p.m. transfer to the hotel. Spend this evening on your own or consider the optional Paris Evening excursion, with dinner at a characteristic French bistro located in the heart of Paris. Your brief taste to Paris is meant as an introduction to one of the great cities of the world and will certainly make a lasting impression.
DAY 12 – BELGIUM..Antwerp & HOLLAND..Lelystad. Travel North from Paris to the French/Belgian border. Entering Belgium, the French language will stay with you for another hour or so until you enter the Belgian province of Flanders where Flemish (similar to Dutch) is spoken. Enjoy a visit to the Flemish capital of Antwerp, known for its convivial atmosphere and outdoor cafés. It is also the world’s third busiest seaport. Join a short orientation walk and explore the old city center. Try irresistible Belgian waffles and chocolates. Shop for lace-trimmed handicrafts in the quaint streets surrounding the city’s attractive Grand Square. This afternoon, enter The Netherlands or Holland, a country with very strong historical ties to the United States. The western part of Holland was wrestled from the sea, and still today lies below sea level, protected from flooding by an intricate system of dikes and pumps. Netherlands literally means Lowlands. You will see examples of canals, bridges, and windmills on the way to your hotel in Lelystad, which itself is situated on reclaimed land known as Podler.
DAY 13 – HOLLAND.. Country Stay in Lelystad. This day is all yours to spend as you like. Many people in Holland are proficient in English, making it easy for you to get around. Consider taking advantage of Holland’s efficient bus and railway network to a myriad of interesting places, many of them less than an hour away. Bikes are available for rent in many cities. There’s also a full-day optional Grand Holland excursion, featuring a kaleidoscope overview of Holland, including the unique countryside, a picturesque Dutch village, and an afternoon in Amsterdam, one of the great cities of the world. Renowned for its impressive architecture and world famous museums that offer a window to the past, Amsterdam is also a vibrant, modern city with a wide range of shopping and food venues to suit every taste and pocketbook. In the evening, return to your hotel for dinner.
DAY 14 – GERMANY..Rhine Cruise – Rüdesheim. After a Dutch breakfast, you will return to Germany. Near Koblenz, where the Rhine and Mosel rivers converge, you will exit the German ‘Autobahn’ and follow the Rhine River to Boppard. Here, you will board a pleasure boat for an upstream cruise on one of Western Europe’s most important waterways. On your cruise, you will glide past endearing villages, medieval fortresses, and hillside vineyards known for producing the distinctive Rhine wines. Near the end of your cruise, you will pass by the Loreley Rock. Legend has it that the bewitching chant of a fair maiden sent boatmen crashing into the rock. Your hotel is located in the wine village of Rüdesheim. Known for its festive atmosphere, this is a fitting location for tonight’s ‘Farewell Dinner’.
DAY 15 – Daytime flight across the Atlantic, back to the U.S.A. Your journey of Europe’s scenic, cultural, and historic highlights has come full circle. You will forever remember the the many sights, sounds, and tastes from your adventure, as well as your newly-made friends. Transfer to the Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport for your return flight to the U.S.A. We sincerely hope that you will return and experience more of Europe’s treasures with Image Tours. Until then, Auf Wiedersehen!!!
Tours available March-October.
Itinerary Courtesy of Image Tours