Check-in to the hostel and head straight out into Vienna to get a feel for the city's style - there's the imperial grandeur of Schönbrunn Palace, the elegantly ornate State Opera House and St. Stephen's Cathedral - a Gothic masterpiece. Later, meet up with your Tour Manager and get to know your fellow Contiki travellers over dinner.
We hit the road this morning and travel to Krakow. En route we'll make a sobering stop at Auschwitz where you can learn all about the history & significance of this place steeped in history. On arrival, get in the know on Krakow. Founded in the 13th century, the former capital of Poland is famous for its silver mining heritage.
Left relatively untouched after World War II, Krakow is jam-packed with monuments and cultural treasures like turn-of-the-century buildings, museums, an impressive castle and the Jewish Quarter. This morning, get a taste of this stunning city as you visit the massive Market Square - the buzzing heart of Poland's oldest university town. Learn about the medieval design of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed centre, which serves up a mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Your Trip Manager will spill all their insider knowledge on the area and take you further into the city's history. In your free time look into Poland's culture at the Royal Castle on Wawel Hill, once the spiritual and political heart of the country, the site is now filled with tombs, chapels and a bizarre collection of prehistoric animal parts. Later head to Schindler's Museum, Cloth Hall and hit the maze of covered stalls selling crafts and souvenirs or rummage through the local boutiques in the surrounding streets to pick up some great treasures you won't find at home. Choose our fantastic ME Time optional to the famous Wieliczka salt mines, where you'll head underground into a labyrinth of tunnels and learn about the oldest mine in the world.
Continue south, past traditional villages and stunning alpine scenery. We stop for lunch in the heart of Slovakia, in pretty Banská Bystrica. Try some regional specialties like mutton and sauerkraut or smoked meats in the city's pedestrian-only centre. It's back on the coach for some time to re-charge your batteries. Pop in your iPod or chill with a book as we make our way towards our next destination, Budapest, then check out the city sites as we take a driving tour through the city where east literally meets west. Later, to get a another take on Budapest from the water, jump on board tonight's optional cruise, and see the city aglow from the water as you feast on a buffet full of local specialties.
Free time today means a chance to get around Budapest at your own pace. If you're after something different, treat yourself to a truly local experience: a spa. With outdoor thermal waters, Art Nouveau architecture and treatments, this is the perfect way to unwind. For more of Budapest's outdoor lifestyle, visit St Margaret Island in the heart of the city, a favourite among the city's residents with its gardens, fountains, pools and ruins.
Say your farwells to Hungary today, we're off to Slovenia's capital. On arrival your Trip Manager will get you in on the know on this town, known as the economic & social hub of Slovenia. After you've got your bearings there's time to explore your way. Find a cute little spot for some people watching, hit the shops or grab your camera & explore.
Today we're onto what's known as the “floating city”, Venice, packed with character, crammed with hidden lanes and linked by a network of canals. Jump on our private boat and travel through the waters of the lagoon to visit the city's historical heart. The limestone Bridge of Sighs, the gothic arches of Doge's Palace and the expanse of St. Mark's Square (pigeons and all!) show Venice's unique beauty and way of life. Take some time to explore the floating city and lose yourself in the backstreets. There's an optional walking tour where you can discover the labyrinth of interweaving lanes, waterways, palaces, piazzi and markets with our Local Guide. You'll see historic monuments, hidden treasures and the Rialto market - a local favourite for food shopping. Maybe grab a table on St. Mark's Square and eat some delicious Italian food al fresco. Cap off the day with an optional gondola ride & share this amazing experience with your friends - seeing Venice from on the water is an unforgettable experience & a must-do.
Criss-cross the Apennine Mountains on the road to Rome. Stylish Rome oozes energy and overflows with relics from another age. Our special access coach trip gets you right into the thriving atmosphere of this living timeline as your Trip Manager shows you the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia. Continue on foot to check out the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Honour tradition at the Trevi Fountain and throw a coin in the fountain's waters (it's meant to improve your chances of returning to Rome!) or maybe hang out with your new friends at the Spanish Steps, sit back with a few slices of pizza and people watch.
Today take off into the city and absorb the atmosphere, as Vespas flash past timeworn monuments that are surrounded by fountains, pizzerias, cafés and bars. Before you hit the shops, let your Trip Manager point you in the right direction with some tips on the best buys. In your free time, live the local lifestyle by indulging in a long lunch on a paved piazza or knock back a shot of espresso at the bar, like the Romans do.
Today we'll be passing Umbria's rustic hills and many vineyards. Travel past the iconic cypress trees of this olive oil producing region, to the Renaissance city of Florence.
Jump start the day uncovering this open-air museum and its UNESCO World Heritage city centre. Our Local Guide gives you the inside track as the group learns about Florence's cultural beginnings and explores streets crammed with artworks from masters like Michelangelo. Then take a look into a skillful demonstration of Florentine leather making and understand this region's traditional art. With bargains and bustle, the city's markets are a great place to hang out. Grab a gelato and enjoy this gorgeous city. Tonight, there's a choice of a group dinner - an authentic Tuscan feast. Try regional dishes in the heart of Florence. Then keep it moving with a night out and get your groove on at Florence's biggest club.
En route north, catch a glimpse of stunning Lake Como as we make our way into the massive Swiss Alps and head to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Alpine town of Lucerne. With covered wooden bridges, cobbled lanes and quaint buildings, Lucerne's centre is perfect to explore on foot. Also to stock up on lots of genuine Swiss chocolate! Your Trip Manager can give you pointers on where to pick up the best-priced watches that Switzerland is so famous for. After the stop in Lucerne we'll make our way to Lauterbrunnen- our stop for the next two nights.
It's a change of pace amongst Switzerland's massive Alps. Take in the amazing views from your chalet window. Opt to visit Jungfrau Mountain, head up the sheer slopes of this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site on a cog rail to Europe's highest railway station, and step out onto the “roof” of Europe for spine-tingling views. Back at the chalet, make the most of the genuine underground 'Bomb Shelter' and party it up with friends at the bar there.
With down-time on the coach, plug in your MP3, chill out to some music and chat with friends while travelling through the scenic wine producing region of Burgundy. Tonight, the group kick starts Paris with the “Paris by Night”, which shows off the French capital's transformation into the 'City of Lights'. Lamp-lit bridges and cool little cafes give us a real taste of Paris' romance. Your Trip Manager will fill you in on the world's most recognised monuments, like the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower.
Next up: Fragonard! This perfumery has an elegant interior and is a unique setting for a look into the history of perfume. It's also a chance to pick up some French perfume at great prices. This town is loaded with possibilities. Discover its many bistros, museums, tree-lined avenues and diverse quartiers (neighbourhoods). Get a feel for French flair by window shopping on the Left Bank. Step into the Notre Dame or explore the endless galleries of the Louvre, where you can get up close to the famous Mona Lisa. In your free time, try indulging in some delicious pastries and relax in one of Paris' many city parks. Tonight is the last night with your friends, so make it special. Treat yourself to the full Parisian night out, starting with an optional dinner in an atmospheric restaurant. Then sign up for an authentic cabaret experience, complete with can-can girls, dinner and Champagne. But don't stop there - afterwards hit the clubs and finish up your travels with a big Parisian night out.
This morning after breakfast we transfer you to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (estimated arrival 10:00am) where your trip ends. Or choose to take a complimentary transfer to central London & extend your stay.