This trip from Paris to Amsterdam is paced to give you a quick taste of Europe. Enjoy two-night stays in Paris, Rome, Venice, and Amsterdam, with guided sightseeing in all major cities, like Paris, Florence, Rome, Venice, and Amsterdam. Start with a special welcome dinner with wine at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, followed by a cruise on the Seine River to get a first impression of the “City of Light”. Continue to Switzerland, and stay overnight in German-speaking Lucerne and Italian-speaking Lugano. In Italy, take pictures of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant in Florence to try out Tuscan specialties, and admire Michelangelo’s David. Visit St. Peter’s, the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, and more in Rome; enjoy a private boat cruise and visits to St. Mark’s Basilica and Doges’ Palace with its Bridge of Sighs in Venice; and stop in Ferrara and Innsbruck. Stay overnight in Munich, and enjoy a stein of beer or spätzi at the famous Hofbräuhaus, dating back to 1589. Visit medieval Rothenburg, stay overnight at the Rhine River, and cruise past the many castles. Stop in Cologne to admire the cathedral and end in Amsterdam, where a canal cruise is the perfect way to see the 17th-century city.
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DAY 1Arrive in Paris, France
Welcome to Paris! At 6 pm, meet your Tour Director and traveling companions for a special welcome dinner with wine near the Eiffel Tower, followed by a CRUISE on the Seine River for a first impression of this splendid city. (Dinner)
Morning guided sightseeing features Paris’ main highlights like the Arc de Triomphe, Opéra, Champs-Elysées, and more. For a panoramic view, take the elevator to the second floor of the EIFFEL TOWER. Choose from our optional excursions: the lavish Palace and Gardens of Versailles, and tonight, dinner and a show at the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret as a proper “Au revoir, Paris.” (Breakfast)
DAY 3Paris–Lucerne, Switzerland
Drive past Fontainebleau Forest and enter Burgundy. Enjoy views of beautiful castles and vineyards on your way to the Swiss Alps. In picture-book Lucerne, admire Thorwaldsen’s emotional LION MONUMENT, dedicated to the fallen Swiss Guards who protected the Royal House of France at the time of the French Revolution, then walk through the Old Town and cross the famous covered CHAPEL BRIDGE to the Jesuit Church. (Breakfast, Dinner)
“The Lion of Lucerne” (Lowendenkmal) is a compelling statue in the north section of Old Town dedicated to the 42 members of the Swiss Guard who were assigned to protect Louis the XVI, Maria Antoinette and their family at the Royal Palace. When the Tuileries was stormed on August 10, 1792 by rioting Parisians at the start of the French Revolution, the king ordered the soldiers to lay down their arms. They were subsequently slaughtered by the crowd and the royal family was captured. Louis had made a big mistake. In 1821 Danish sculpture Berthel Thorwaldsen finished the sculpture, a 30-foot likeness of a wounded and dying lion with a broken lance in its heart and his paw resting atop the fleur-de-lys shield of the Bourbon king. The Latin inscription translated “To the bravery and fidelity of the Swiss.”
Morning at leisure. Why not climb Mount Pilatus? Later, admire the towering majesty of the Swiss Alps and St. Gotthard on the way to subtropical Lugano in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. To truly appreciate splendid Lake Lugano, an exciting optional boat ride followed by dinner at a traditional “grotto” restaurant, is available. (Breakfast)
DAY 5Lugano–Pisa, Italy–Florence
Pass the commercial capital of Milan and turn towards the Mediterranean Sea. Arrive in Pisa, and marvel at its amazing Leaning Tower. In nearby Florence, enjoy time to explore the many gold and leather shops on Piazza Santa Croce before joining your special dinner with Tuscan specialties and wine at restaurant Finisterrae. (Breakfast, Dinner)
"It was the most perfect experiment in the history of science. Holding both a cannon ball and a small musket ball, the 30-something Pisa native Galileo Galilei scaled the steps of his city’s famous Leaning Tower, and held them dramatically over the edge. Eight stories below, the town’s most learned scholars and priests were gathered as observers. They watched as the two balls dropped to the ground at the same speed – disproving, with a single stroke, the ancient idea that objects fall at different rates depending on their weight and size. This archaic concept, which had been espoused by the ancient Greek author Aristotle, had been accepted without question for more than 2,000 years, Galileo’s great innovation was to put it to a practical test of observation. Unfortunately, this famous story is probably not true. Galileo never wrote about it himself – it was recounted in a late biography penned by his secretary, Vincenzo Viviani. Most historians now believe that it was Galileo’s imaginative disciples who invented the Leaning Tower tale in order to make the theory so clear that even a child could understand it. "
Your guided walking tour features a visit to Michelangelo’s celebrated David in the ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS. Also admire the magnificent cathedral, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistry’s heavy bronze “Gate of Paradise,” and visit sculpture-studded SIGNORIA SQUARE. Continue to the “Eternal City.” (Breakfast)
La Piazza Della Signoria
"What’s the best vantage point to ponder the most illustrious town square in Florence, the Signoria? An outdoor table in the venerable Caffè Rivoire – preferably over a delicious, if not painfully expensive cioccolata con pane, a dark and mud-thick hot chocolate. Late at night, when the crowds have gone, you can search the long shadows and imagine that very little has changed here since the 1400s. The Signoria is the most elegant sculpture garden in Europe. Masterpieces include the splendid Neptune Fountain by Ammannati, Hercules and Cacus by Bandinelli and a precise copy of Michelangelo’s David, all strategically poised in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. This grand public space has been the centerpiece of Florence since the 15th Century, the golden age when the city was established as the most beautiful in Europe. Eminent merchants in their ostentatious finery met here to discuss business in the midst of Florence’s raucous daily life."
Morning guided sightseeing features visits to the VATICAN MUSEUMS and SISTINE CHAPEL, monumental ST. PETER’S SQUARE and BASILICA, the COLOSSEUM and the ROMAN FORUM. To make the most of your stay, join our optional Roman Highlights excursion and see the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and the sites and squares of medieval Rome made famous in the movie Angels and Demons. (Breakfast)
The Roman Forum
"Visitors can be a little confused by the Roman Forum; at first glance, it is a rather lifeless array of marble fragments. But we must remember that in ancient times, this space was far more than the temples and monuments whose ruins we can explore today. It was filled with bustling, noisy life as the popular crossroads of the city – the predecessor, in fact, of the modern Italian piazza. Every morning at dawn, average Romans would escape their cramped, dark apartment blocks (called insulae, or “islands”) and spent their days outdoors. "
"In the early 1500s, Rome was full of neglected ruins from the days of the ancient Empire, which still contained artworks buried amongst the rubble. The Renaissance had seen a sudden growth of interest in all things classical, and the popes – cultivated men who were in touch with the intellectual currents of the day – were the richest art collectors in Italy. They began offering substantial cash rewards for any sculptures, until Rome was scoured by freelance treasure hunters on the hunt for pagan masterpieces. The most dramatic discovery occurred in 1506, when a Roman father-and-son team of excavators reported a promising find near the ruined Baths of Titus. The artist Michelangelo himself excitedly hurried over to help with the work, followed by the pope’s official agent, Guiliano da Sangallo. When the excavators brushed away the dirt of 1,000 years, they found an enormous marble sculpture, perfectly intact, of a muscular Trojan hero being attacked by giant snakes. Guilano cried out in amazement, “This is the very Laocoön described by (the ancient Roman author) Pliny!” The sculpture was carted off to the Vatican Museum."
"Rome is one of the most filmed cities on earth, with its signature set location being the Fontana di Trevi, or Trevi Fountain, a romantic, 85-foot-high baroque masterpiece depicting the god of the sea, Neptune, and his Tritons. Not surprisingly, the best time to visit Fontana di Trevi is late at night, when the crowds have gone, the din of Rome’s traffic has died and floodlights dance magically on the water. In fact, the whole centro storico takes on a calm, timeless aspect after dark, and it is well worth stretching your legs after dinner on your own Fellini-esque promenade."
In Ferrara, walk through the impressive Este Castle to the marble cathedral and browse through the attractive little shops. Tonight, in Venice, why not try out local specialties at one of the city’s fine restaurants? (Breakfast)
Enter Venice in style by PRIVATE BOAT. Highlights of your walking tour with a Local Guide are ST. MARK’S SQUARE and its basilica, lavish DOGES’ PALACE and the BRIDGE OF SIGHS. Also watch skilled GLASSBLOWERS fashion their delicate objects. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Bridge of Sighs
"The world’s most poetically-named bridge, Il Ponte dei Sospiri, the Bridge of Sighs, was built in 1614 so that prisoners of the Venetian state could be transferred in secret from the Doge’s Palace to the so-called Nuovi Prigioni, or New Prisons. The wistful name was actually conceived by the English poet Lord Byron in the early 1800s that imagined the horror of prisoners taking their last glimpse of Venice before going underground to captivity. "
DAY 10Venice–Innsbruck, Austria–Munich, Germany
Across spectacular Brenner Pass, through the Tyrolean Alps to Innsbruck, where a pleasant stroll through quaint medieval lanes takes you to Emperor Maximilian’s GOLDEN ROOF. Continue to Munich, Germany’s “Secret Capital.” Visit MARIENPLATZ with its Old and New Town Halls, and enjoy a Stein of beer at the famous HOFBRÄUHAUS, dating back to 1589. Free time for dinner before going to your hotel. (Breakfast)
"Munich, Germany's Secret Capital"
"Munich is the only German metropolis that seems to have everything – wealth, beauty, prominence, fame. Some even call it Germany’s “secret capital.” Unlike Berlin, which some dub “architecturally challenged,” Munich bursts with historical buildings reconstructed after the devastation of World War II. Its grand Residenz, the former home of Bavarian kings, dominates the city center, which also boasts the flamboyant, gilded Cuvillié Theater. Nearby, the neo-gothic Neues Rathaus gives a medieval touch to the Marienplatz, the heart of Munich. "
Marvel at the Olympic Stadium and its 1,000-foot-high Television Tower, before continuing through the Swabian Jura and part of the Romantic Road to picturesque Rothenburg for a walk through this walled town, famous for Christmas ornaments. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Watch Tower along the Romantic Road
"Roses and candlelight dinners weren’t top-of-mind when the German tourism experts invented the Romantic Road, a route through western Bavaria starting in baroque Würzburg in the north and ending in Füssen near the Austrian border. The name came from the German Romantics, who formed an early 19th century school of philosophy, literature and art that prized beauty and the emotions over the rationalist thinking of the Enlightenment. For the visitor to the Romantic Road, that means sitting back and simply enjoying the beauty of the dozen medieval and baroque towns along the route."
DAY 12Rhineland–Cologne–Amsterdam, Holland
Enjoy a romantic RHINE CRUISE past castle-crested hills and terraced vineyards. In Cologne, visit the awesome twin-spired gothic CATHEDRAL before traveling to Amsterdam, capital of Holland. (Breakfast, Dinner)
A Short Wine Guide
"Historically, Germany’s wine has suffered with an “inferiority complex” fueled by the reputation of wine powerhouses France and Italy. And in modern times, they’ve tacked of “how to compete with a Bordeaux or a Chianti” by improving quality, while keep prices reasonable. Finally, German vintners are starting to reap the rewards. The world famous Riesling region, centered on the Rhine and its tributaries and in eastern Germany near Dresden, is the biggest success story to come out of Germany’s 13 wine growing regions. White grapes form 80 percent of the harvest, but reds are on the rise, as well as the general reputation of German wines."
A Local Guide shows you the 700-year-old city, including Dam Square with the Royal Palace. Highlight is a CANAL CRUISE past patrician mansions and humpback bridges, followed by a visit to a major DIAMOND CENTER. Join an optional excursion that includes a visit to a working windmill and dinner in the pretty fishing village of Volendam—the best way to say Tot Ziens to Holland. (Breakfast)
Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (Breakfast)
Motorcoach with free Wi-Fi; Seine River cruise; private boat ride in Venice, Rhine River cruise; canal cruise in Amsterdam
PARIS Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel (F)LUCERNE Ameron Flora (F)LUGANO Novotel Lugano Paradiso (F)FLORENCE Hilton Garden Inn (F)ROME Crowne Plaza St. Peter’s (SF)VENICE Plaza (F) at MestreMUNICH Holiday Inn Munich City Centre (F)RHINELAND NH Bingen (F) at Bingen am RheinAMSTERDAM NH Carlton (F)
Full buffet breakfast; 6 three-course dinners, including special dinners with wine in Paris and Florence
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UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The following UNESCO World Heritage Sites can be seen or visited on the Continental Introduction:
- Paris Banks of the Seine
- Cologne Cathedral
- Upper Middle Rhine Valley
- Vatican City
- Ferrara, City of the Renaissance
- Historic Centre of Florence
- Historic Centre of Rome
- Venice and its Lagoon
- 17th Century Canal Ring Area of Amsterdam