Check-in to the hotel and head straight out into Berlin to get a feel for the city's style before meeting up with your Trip Manager and getting to know your Contiki travellers over dinner. Tonight, your Trip Manager will peel back the layers of history and point out the lesser-known details of Berlin's troubled past on an orientation tour of the city. With two nights in this historical hot spot, you've got time to find out what makes Germany's capital one of the most cutting-edge cities in the world. It's hard to believe that this trend-setting town has had such a troubled past.
This morning, why not join a local guide for a tour? Learn about the East/West split at the Berlin Wall and check out the controversial Reichstag (German Parliament) as well as Tiergarten (one the world's biggest parks). You'll also visit Checkpoint Charlie, where many East Berliners tried to escape to the West, and be reminded of Germany's darker past at the Brandenburg Gate. With free time, get inspired by Berlin's creative scene and check out its galleries and street art. As a world forerunner in contemporary art, Berlin's walls are covered in cutouts and graffiti. Shopping-wise, this town has it all and is right up there defining style. Berlin is great for small boutiques, funky fashions and one-of-a-kind buys. Your Trip Manager knows Berlin's ins and outs, so get some pointers before you splurge. Do as the Berliners do and grab a currywurst (a local favourite) and kick back at a Bierkeller (German beer house). Experience the world of espionage in an optional evening Eye Spy Berlin tour with our Local Guide, and enjoy a fascinating look into the Stasi (what was once the East German Secret Police). Then top off your time in Berlin with some of your new friends and explore the city's legendary nightlife. With cool cocktail bars and some of the best techno clubs in the world, there are heaps of fun choices.
After checking out the East Side Gallery (the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall) we are heading south and we roll on to the region of Dresden, often dubbed ‘Florence of the North' because of its beauty. This town completely rebuilt itself after being flattened in World War II. Your Trip Manager will show you Dresden's signature buildings, like the Opera House, the domed Frauenkirche, the Royal Residence - once home to the Saxon Kings - and the massive Zwinger Palace, where the royals went to party! Lunchtime! Go local and hang out in a riverside beer garden, order some hearty German dishes with regional specialities like sour roast and potato soup. Then we head over the border and into the Czech Republic to Prague. Prague is a beautiful and atmospheric city. It's also pretty compact, so it's best explored on foot. Get straight into Prague's historic heart with our Local Guide. You'll walk together over the landmark Charles Bridge, through Hrad?any Castle, the home of the original Bohemian Kings and to the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral along the way. The Czech capital has a really mixed past so look out for signs of the Holy Roman Empire, the Bohemian Empire, the Nazis and the Communists. With a night off, spend some time in the picturesque Old Town Square, where historic buildings and churches surround cafés that spill out onto the pavement. With some world-famous Czech pilsner in hand, park yourself at a table, people-watch and try out some of the traditional local dumplings.
Have a go on two wheels and discover Prague with our Local Guide, who knows all the city's ins and outs. Exploring by bike is the perfect way to get an overview of this compact city, as you can hit the back alleys and side streets of the old town. Free time means you can get deeper into Prague's Old Town in your own time. The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a jumble of little lanes, alleys and courtyards. Slow the pace down and give yourself a chance to uncover its hidden treasures. This is also the spot to pick up some famous Bohemian glass, beads or garnet and amber jewellery. For a bit of folklore and tradition, choose a Czech evening optional for a fun night with the group where you'll see traditional dancing and taste local food. By night, Prague is loaded with all types of music, from jazz bars and hip DJs to opera. There is something for everyone, so make the most of it with the group, and finish your time off in Prague with a night to remember.
We hit the road this morning and travel to Vienna, via World Heritage-listed Kutná Hora. Founded in the 13th century, this was once the second most important town in Bohemia, famous for its silver mining heritage. Maybe choose the visit the chilling Sedlec Ossuary - a small chapel containing the bones of over 40 000 people, arranged artistically to form the decorations and furnishings inside! Your Trip Manager starts Vienna off by introducing the group to the city's historical heritage. There's the imperial grandeur of Schönbrunn Palace, the elegantly ornate State Opera House and St. Stephen's Cathedral - a Gothic masterpiece.
Today is yours to chill out Austrian style. The city is known for its tasty coffee & the food here is amazing, so make sure you sit yourself down for a Viennese coffee, some succulent strudel & make sure you people watch. Some places to try are Hummel for a truly local feel, Kaffee Alt Wien for some Bohemian vibes & Café Benno. The architecture in Vienna is beautiful, so take time to wander around the city, visit some of the many museums found here - like the Vienna Museum of Art, the Wien Museum or hit the streets & splash some cash at the awesome shops & malls. Tonight, head out for a last night in Vienna as tomorrow, we're off to the city of two halves, Budapest.
Cruise through Slovakia and pause for lunch in quaint Bratislava. We'll then head into the compact, user-friendly old town and check out its medieval castle. Try some of the regional specialties like treska (cold fish salad) or some local cheeses. Next, we hit the road and travel to the “Paris of the East”, Budapest. With two cities rolled into one, this exotic town has a bit of everything. Buda and Pest sit on different sides of the river, but bring together the stunning buildings and atmosphere that make Budapest so romantic. Get an in-depth insight into Budapest on a sightseeing tour with our Local Guide this afternoon. On the Buda side of the river, from the Fisherman's Bastion, you'll get a full-blown view of the city and learn about Budapest's history in a nutshell! Check out the colourful Church of St. Matthias, the Royal Palace and the Chain Bridge. Your Local Guide knows all about Budapest's bumpy history and will tell you more with a visit to the Liberation Monument. 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 means a chance to get around Budapest at your own pace with the public transport tickets that your Trip Manager will give you. 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, it's a short bus ride to visit St Margaret Island, a favourite among the city's residents with its gardens, fountains, pools and ruins. Launch into Budapest's nightlife and live it up like the locals by heading to a beerhouse, a riverside bar or a happening club.
Continue north, past traditional villages and stunning 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. Leave Slovakia behind as we make our way to Poland with two nights in Krakow.
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, 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. In the afternoon your Local Guide will spill all their insider knowledge on the area and take you further into the city's history. You'll also walk around 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. 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. Later, maybe head to the 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.
This morning, we make a sobering stop at Auschwitz, the most infamous former Nazi concentration camp, where the group will learn about one of history's darkest moments. Then visit Poland's holy hotspot in Cz?stochowa. We'll make a stop at the still functioning 14th century Jasna Góra monastery, where the famous "Black Madonna" is kept. Get up close to the portrait and discover why this place attracts so many pilgrims. Back on the coach, journey on to budding Warsaw. See how Poland's capital started up again from scratch after World War II and see how it's looking to the future. Get a feel for the city's buzzing café scene, relax with a drink, order some pierogi (Polish dumplings) and soak up the vibes of this energetic city.
Go back in time as our Local Guide gives you a crash-course in Warsaw's troubled history. You'll see Warsaw's Ghetto, Chopin's park, as well as the Old Town. Hear how this town has been all about survival, being literally reduced to rubble, and how Warsaw then picked up the pieces, using these ruins to rebuild the city. Check out St. John's Cathedral and the Royal Palace, which was blown-up during World War II. Free time means a chance to get to know Warsaw's modern, festive side. Relax in Lazienki Park, a favourite haunt with the locals, or dip into the city's many museums, galleries and theatres. Get some hints on what to explore from your Trip Manager. Tonight, we have a special farewell dinner together: a traditional Polish feast near the famous Royal Route - the road leading to the former King's residence. Feast on a three-course meal and toast your travels with the crew and your new friends. The choice of clubs, live music and bars here is mind-blowing, so it'll be a fun night out!
The tour ends after breakfast in Warsaw and it's time to say farewell to your new friends. Otherwise catch a free transfer back to Berlin where your tour ends upon arrival.