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.
This morning, make the most of your time and discover the gems of this great city. Then it is time to say “arrivederci” to your friends as your tour finishes after lunch.