European Inspiration (Winter)
Check-in to your hotel after 2pm and the remainder of the day is free to relax before meeting your fellow travellers for your Kickstart meeting this evening. Afterwards why not grab some dinner at one of the local restaurants or take a short walk to explore nearby Covent Garden
London to Amsterdam
Meet up with your Contiki team before we hit the road and take a ferry past the White Cliffs of Dover. Next stop: the buzzing, free-wheeling city of Amsterdam. Check out Amsterdam’s eye-opening Red Light District, where the creative and wacky come together on narrow cobbled streets, 24/7. Get some pointers on the city’s hot spots from your Tour Manager and head into town for a fun night out.
In an intro into Dutch culture, see how clogs are made and try some of the famous Dutch Edam at a cheese farm. There’s free time this afternoon to experience Amsterdam’s coffee shops, museums and quirky, cool boutiques. Wander along the canals and past gabled houses or experience Amsterdam’s multi-ethnic cuisine. Tonight, treat yourself to a feast at a rice table dinner with the group in a popular restaurant. With this fun way to eat, you’ll be served loads of dishes from colonial times. On an optional evening canal cruise, there’s a chance to get to know the group, unwind with a few drinks and uncover Amsterdam at water level as you drift past the city lights. Get some pointers on the city’s hot spots from your Tour Manager and head into town for a fun night out.
Amsterdam to Berlin
Motor down the autobahn and get ready for a dose of über-cool Berlin. 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 funky town has had such a troubled past. On arrival your Tour 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.
Today 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 Tour 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.
Berlin to Prague
Heading south, 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 Tour 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 river side 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 your Tour Manager. 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. 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.
More 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. Choose a lunch cruise on the Vltava River, which runs through the heart of Prague, and take in stunning views of the city from the water. 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. 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.
Prague to Munich
This morning, remember one of history’s darkest moments with a sobering stop at the Dachau concentration camp memorial. Learn more at the museum and walk through the remaining living quarters. Afterwards we travel to the home of the world-famous Oktoberfest, Munich - a city that blends traditional Bavarian culture and modern lifestyle. Explore the heart of Munich’s old town with the crew, and head to Marienplatz. It’s a central gathering spot famous for the Glockenspiel - a Gothic clock, complete with 32 dancing figures and 43 chiming bells. Then, get a taste of tradition at a typical beer hall. Park yourself at a long wooden table, order yourself some hearty local food, like roasted pork knuckle, and quench your thirst with a stein of one of Germany’s 5000 brews.
Use your free time to discover more of Munich. Get off the beaten track and onto Munich’s side streets with our Local Guide on a walking tour around the city – it’s a great way to see the sights. Otherwise head back to the old town and hunt around the little shops on the pedestrian-only lanes or for a change of scene, head to the university area. With shaded streets, buzzing pavement cafes and cute bookstores, it’s a great way to spend a chilled-out afternoon.
Munich to Venice
Wind through the Bavarian Alps and over the Brenner Pass to Venice. But first, pull into Innsbruck, a down-to-earth student city. Walk around the medieval streets of the old town, grab some lunch, and check out Innsbruck’s landmark Golden Roof and Royal Palace. Make sure you catch a glimpse of the impressive Olympic Ski Jump, used in both the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics. Next up - Venice!
Known as the “floating city”, Venice is packed with character, crammed with hidden lanes and linked by a network of canals. The group travels on our private boat through the waters of the lagoon to visit the city’s historical heart. The limestone Bridge of Sighs, the Gothic arches of the Doge’s Palace and the expanse of St. Mark’s Square (pigeons and all!) show off 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 unforgettable!
Venice to Rome
This morning, it’s your chance to splash some cash, with our stop at Barberino Designer Outlet mall for our exclusive Italian fashion experience. You can use this opportunity to get some gear to show off to your friends at home. This outlet mall is amazing, with your chance to pick up some designer fashion at incredible prices. With between 30%-70% off regular retail, the savings are epic, and because you’re with Contiki you’ll get up to an additional 10% off! From labels like Missoni, Bose, Dolce & Gabbana to name a few – there’s going to be plenty to tempt you today. Please note: For departures in Winter 2014/15, tours will stop at smaller traditional Italian cities en route With no doubt lots of bags in hand, we’ll hit the road en route to the ancient city of Rome. Stylish Rome oozes energy and overflows with relics from another age. Our special access coach tour gets you right into the thriving atmosphere of this living timeline as your Tour 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 our Local Guide’s inside knowledge with an optional guided tour of the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Then check out Rome’s imperial glory by visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum. 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 Tour 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.
Rome to Florence
Next up: Umbria’s many vineyards. Before arriving in Florence, we’ll stop off for a wine tasting in the rustic hills of the gorgeous Tuscan countryside, known for its iconic cypress trees and olive oil. In an historic 16th century villa, the group will see a working winery, complete with its old cellar and vats. Here you can learn more about the region’s wines as you taste a glass or two of the local wine. The scene-stealing Duomo Cathedral rises above Florence, which serves up frescoes, markets and priceless art. Before dinner, walk along the River Arno with your Tour Manager, take in the atmosphere and head into the heart of Florence, where you can sit back and relax Tuscan style with a glass of Chianti wine.
Jump start the day uncovering this open-air museum. 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 a fantastic Tuscan country setting. Then keep it moving with a night out and get your groove on at Florence’s biggest nightclub.
Florence to Lucerne
En route north, stop by Pisa and get up close to the famous Leaning Tower before we 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 Tour Manager can give you pointers on where to pick up the best-priced watches that Switzerland is so famous for.
Get above the clouds with an optional excursion up Mt. Pilatus. You can see massive mountain ranges with a bird’s-eye view over this spectacular region.
Lucerne to Paris
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 ‘Tour of Illuminations’, which shows off the French capital’s transformation into the “City of Lights”. Lamp-lit bridges and cool little cafés give us a real taste of Paris’ romance. Your Tour Manager will fill you in on the world’s most-recognised monuments, like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.
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. Then, get a stunning view of the entire city with included entry to the top of the Eiffel Tower. 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 cafés. Tonight is the last night with your friends, so make it special. Treat yourself to the full Parisian experience with a cabaret show, 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 tour ends. Or choose to take a complimentary transfer to central London & extend your stay.