Check in to your hotel and head straight out into the Spanish capital. Get ready for Madrid’s high energy lifestyle. Moving to a whole lot of different beats, Madrid is packed with diverse barrios (neighbourhoods), lively plazas and a healthy nightlife. Later, meet up with your fellow travellers and your Tour Manager, who knows Madrid’s ins and outs.
This morning, get inspired as your Tour Manager opens up Madrid’s monumental heart with a look at its bustling centre, complete with the Gran Via, the Plaza de Espana and Puerta del Sol. Then, step into the largest palace in Europe with our Local Guide and experience a slice of the royal lifestyle as our expert shows you through the Royal Palace’s lavish rooms. If there’s a state function happening, we’ll head to the world-famous Prado Museum instead. In your free time, snack on the local favourite, churros (Spain’s version of the doughnut) or grab a chilled cerveza (beer) and put your feet up. Otherwise there’s time to explore more of Madrid’s arty side and to visit its world class galleries, like the Reina Sofia National Art Museum. There’s also a chance to explore the Valley of the Fallen where our Local Guide will tell you the story about the bloody Spanish Civil War and give you the background on heroic battles. Relax with an evening siesta and head out with the group later for an optional traditional Spanish tapas dinner (a feast of plate-sized nibbles) in the heart of the city, right on the famous Plaza Mayor. This city never sleeps, so get some pointers on the city’s hot spots, head to a little wine bar or check out some traditional salsa.
Chill out on the coach, grab your MP3 and watch the world go by. Heading towards the coast, we roll on to the Baroque city of Zaragoza, set on the banks of the Rio Ebro. Check out the town’s fantastic cathedral, with its colourfully tiled cupolas and towers. For lunch, you could grab a table in the casco (old town), order a traditional Spanish tortilla and take in the unique, historic architecture and atmosphere. Next up: dynamic Barcelona. A sizzling, festive capital any night of the week, Barcelona is all about action. First stop though: Montjuic. The hilltop has full-blown vistas of the city and it’s where we stop to check out the 1992 Olympic Games complex. Afterwards, get a look into Spanish architect Gaudi’s wild imagination with his Art Nouveau masterpiece, the Sagrada Família church. In Spain fiesta time starts late, so settle in at one of Barcelona’s many outdoor squares to enjoy a glass of sangria before a fun night out exploring the city’s nightlife with your new friends.
Today there’s free time to discover more of Barcelona’s creative core. Pick up some quirky buys in the side streets or hit the big label shops on Plaça de Catalunya. Take in all of Barcelona’s buzzing street life on the tree-lined La Rambla – a boulevard packed with street performers, artists, shops and stalls. Other ideas for your afternoon off include hanging out in the colourful gardens of Parc Güell. For lunch, there’s plenty of delicious local seafood to try as well as Spain’s signature dish, paella. Finish off an unforgettable time in this hot city and get into the local flavours with tonight’s optional flamenco dance show and dinner, including sangria. Afterwards, get the low down on Barcelona’s hottest spots and maybe hit the pumping clubs of Port Olympico by the water.
Unwind on the coach and take in the rustic beauty of Provence, known for its pretty landscapes of lavender, sunflowers and wild herbs. A night in Avignon means you’ll get a real taste of the Provencal lifestyle and look into the town’s Roman heritage. Wander through the cobbled streets or relax with a glass of pastis (aniseed liqueur) within the city’s walls. Learn about the city’s past as a spiritual superpower when you see the impressive Papal Palace.
Drop by stunning Aix-en-Provence for lunch and check out the historic Cours Mirabeau, the town’s lively central area, busy with cafes, fountains and people. Then it’s back on the road to the rugged coast line of the stunning Côte d’Azur. Follow the beautiful sapphire waters past the movie-star glamour of Cannes (famous for its annual film festival), to sunny Nice. En route there’s a stop at the home of the French perfume industry, Fragonard perfumery. Learn about how perfume is made and some of its more surprising ingredients. It’s also a chance to pick up a bottle or 2 at great prices. Tonight get a taste of the high life in Monaco, the glamourous principality packed into just 1.92km2 and home to the Formula 1. Indulge in a bit of glitz with the group by opting for a typically French 4-course meal just a few doors down from the Royal Palace. Get the inside story on the royal family and their place of residence from your Tour Manager. Try your luck at a casino later on!
In your free time live a bit of the lifestyle with a visit to the local markets. Try out the region’s produce like lavender honey, aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and mouth-watering rosé wine. Window shop the chic boutiques or spend the afternoon relaxing in one of the many cafés.
Today, journey to the national park and UNESCO World Heritage site of Cinque Terre, where colourful coastal villages dot 18km of ragged cliffs and old walled vineyards reach the water’s edge. As we cruise (if the weather holds) and train along the coast, take in the atmospheric scenes and watch the locals fishing along the shore. Rub shoulders with the rich and famous in Portovenere and check out picture-perfect Monterosso. Some ideas for your free time in the area include walking the legendary Via dell’Amore (Lover’s Lane) for amazing sea views. If you want to just chill out and get into the good life, grab a table at a beachfront cafe and try some mouthwatering pesto or foccacia bread.
This morning, take advantage of free time in Pisa and get up close to its most famous monument, the Leaning Tower. Roll on to Renaissance Florence. The scene-stealing Duomo Cathedral rises above Florence, which serves up frescoes, markets and priceless art. After 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. 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 pretty Tuscan country setting. Then keep it moving with a night out and get your groove on at Florence’s biggest club.
Today, we get out into the fabulous Tuscan countryside, known for its iconic cypress trees and delicious olive oil. Spend the morning in San Gimignano, the stunning hill-top town that is often dubbed “Medieval Manhattan”. Dotted with ancient towers, San Gimignano serves up sweeping views over the region’s rolling hills. Explore the village and pick up some local specialities like wild-boar salami or percorino cheese. Next up: vibrant Rome. Stylish Rome oozes energy and overflows with relics from another age. Get into the thriving atmosphere of this living timeline as your Tour Manager shows you the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Piazza Venezia 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!). 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 and uncover the remains of an ancient empire with a fantastic optional tour of the Roman Forum and Colosseum. Then check-out the smallest country in the world and home to the Pope, the Vatican City. There’s included entry and our Local Guide to show you St Peter’s Basilica and Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel. Take off into the city and absorb the atmosphere, as Vespas flash past timeworn monuments that are surrounded by fountains, pizzerias, cafés and bars. 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. Before you hit the shops, let your Tour Manager point you in the right direction with some tips on the best buys. Make your last night on tour special by hooking up with your friends for an optional dinner. In a typical Roman restaurant, you’ll enjoy an authentic Italian experience, complete with an opera singer, live music and pasta. But don’t stop there – afterwards dive into Rome’s night action with your buddies and finish up your travels with a night to remember.
The tour ends after breakfast and it’s time to say “arrivederci” to your new friends.