For now, London bids you safe travels as you continue south through the Kent countryside to Dover and then on by ferry to Calais. Next stop is Paris, another capital that doesn't hold back and doesn't expect you to either. Take a walk through its grand past, dynamic present and exciting future, from the maze of streets that once nurtured great artists in Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower. You could choose to join an Optional Experience cruise on the Seine, admiring the illuminated skyline at night.
Put the joy in joie de vivre and embrace the beauty and elegance of Paris on a sightseeing tour with your Travel Director. See the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Élysées, then spend the rest of the day discovering the city on your terms. There's time to take a leisurely stroll down the Seine or hit the shops. Tonight, the colourful Can-Can dancers entice you with their remarkable outfits should you choose to join an Optional Experience cabaret show.
Wind your way through the French countryside to the city of Tours, the gateway to the Loire Valley. In its car-free centre you'll discover a fascinating medieval heart, reflected in its timber-framed houses and Renaissance mansions. Your next stop is the wine capital of Bordeaux, whose stunning Garonne riverfront and Age of Enlightenment history and architecture have made it one of France's most visited cities. Join your travel companions for dinner at your hotel.
Lather up, the beach is the agenda today at the resort town of Biarritz on the Atlantic coast, where European royals once sunned themselves. Watch surfers catch the perfect wave then travel to Pamplona, the capital of the old Kingdom of Navarre. The city is famous for the San Fermín festival, commonly known as the Running of the Bulls. Join a Local Specialist on an Optional Experience and see the city's ancient walls and Plaza del Castillo, the heart of the city where markets and tournaments have taken place. A special treat will see you savour tapas and sangria at Hemingway's favourite watering hole.
Traverse the splendid landscapes to Madrid, Europe's highest capital. It won't take long for Madrid to get under your skin. This graceful capital was spruced up several centuries ago thanks to King Charles III and it remains an elegant city to this day. Your Local Specialist will reveal all the sights, including the Royal Palace and Retiro Park, originally built as a retreat for the royal family. When the sun sets, head out onto the streets to watch this football-mad metropolis come to life. You'll soon discover why the city's vibrant nightlife keeps its hot-blooded residents up all hours of the night.
The legacy of 'Madrid's Best Mayor' can be seen on the city's streets: The Cibeles Fountain, imposing Puerto de Alcalá and even the forerunner of the Prado Museum, which today houses one of the greatest collections of European art, featuring such masters as Velázquez, Rubens, Goya and El Bosco. You'll have a full free day to uncover his many gifts or consider joining an Optional Experience to Toledo, the 'City of Three Cultures'. Explore the influences of Christians, Muslims and Jews when you join a Local Specialist for a captivating walking tour. Then return to Madrid for a second chance to discover the city's vibrant nightlife, with an optional dinner and discover an old and new Madrid.
Wind your way through Catalonia's sprawling vineyards to the sun-kissed shores of Barcelona. Your Local Specialist will reveal some of the city's key highlights this afternoon including Gaudí's ornate La Sagrada Família and the Plaça de Catalunya. See street performers, artists and shoppers line the lively La Rambla and soak up the most inspiring panoramas of the city from the top of Montjuïc. The effervescent capital of Catalunya lights up at night, so resist the urge to retire early and hit the town with your new friends.
This is your chance to get fully acquainted with Barcelona. You'll have a free day to see the fanciful façades of Spanish Art Nouveau architect Antoni Gaudí, stroll through the shadowy lanes of the Gothic quarter or perhaps join an Optional Experience to the monastery in the mountains of Montserrat to see the beloved Black Madonna. After a busy day of sightseeing, maybe join an Optional Experience to see the whirling skirts and fiery passion of a flamenco show with dinner. This foot-tapping extravaganza is not to be missed.
The shimmering Mediterranean coastline stretches ahead. Keep your cameras at the ready as you drive along elegant boulevards and attempt to capture the sophistication that seems to ooze from every corner. You'll stop in Arles with its honey-coloured façades, Roman ruins and Camargue culture. See first-hand where Van Gogh sought inspiration for his masterpieces, then continue to the French Riviera.
Oh là là! A full free day on the French Riviera. There's no shame in spending the day sprawled out on a sun lounger with a cocktail, but if you can pull yourself away from the sun you'll want to join your fellow travellers for an Optional Experience to Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Life is rather idyllic in this enchanting walled hill-town and, like some of its famous residents, you'll want to linger here a little longer, but the sun-kissed promenades of Nice beckon. You never know who you might spot seated in those sleek Ferraris and private yachts that dot the French Riviera.
Follow the French Riveira to the glamorous Principality of Monaco. Your next stop is Pisa where you'll be tempted to snap a few photos featuring you and its Leaning Tower. Admire the Romanesque Square of Miracles in all its striped marble glory. Its structures are said to symbolise the three main stages of human life - the Baptistery (birth), the Cathedral (life) and the Camposanto (death). Then continue to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance where you'll enjoy dinner at your hotel.
See how Florence has paved its way to a modern age when you embark on an orientation tour through its historic centre. Learn about the quality and workmanship of one of this city's historic industries at a demonstration of Florentine leathercraft. Perhaps, savour views of the façades of Ponte Vecchio, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto's Bell Tower and the Baptistery. On your own, maybe visit the Piazza della Signoria, the city's main square where many of the political and artistic treasures of the city can be seen, then head to Rome, the 'Eternal City'. You could choose to join a Local Specialist for a guided stroll through Rome's piazze. Linger at a piazza enjoying a scoop or three of the local gelato and soak up the effervescent energy of a city that knows how to enjoy life.
With so much to see and do, you could explore Rome for an eternity without getting bored. Join an Optional Experience to Michelangelo's famous Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums or start your day the Italian way - slow and relaxed. Join a Local Specialist and stand in St. Peter's Square, sharing your space with devoted pilgrims and pigeons. Visit St. Peter's Basilica and view Michelangelo's greatest work, the sorrowful Pietà. Cross the Tiber next, to view the mighty Colosseum and the countless other ancient sites which featured prominently in the days of the powerful Roman Empire. Later you'll have some time to explore on your own or join a light-hearted Optional Experience revealing all the flavours that would make any Italian mamma proud.
The Bay of Naples beckons and you'll head south past the Abbey of Monte Cassino, the site of fierce battles during World War II, to Napoli. Arrive just in time to spend the afternoon taking an optional drive along the picture-perfect Amalfi Coast, with a visit to the artist hub of Positano and its pastel-hued houses that seem to tumble into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Alternatively, spend the rest of your day rubbing shoulders with the feisty Neopolitans in search of the city's best Margherita pizza. Its ingredients reflect the red, white and green of Italy's flag - could there be anything more patriotic?
Make the most of your stay in the Bay of Naples and join an expert for an Optional Experience to the excavations of Pompeii. See how this Roman town was frozen in time when Mount Vesuvius erupted. Later, travel to the port of Ancona where you'll board your overnight ferry to Greece.
Touch Greek soil for the first time in Patras, continuing by coach to Athens. The Greek capital was once the centre of the world and for several days it will be yours. Evidence of the city's former status as the 'Cradle of Western Civilisation' can be seen around every turn, so lace up your walking shoes and pound the pavements in search of the artistry, architecture and archaeological treasures that have made Athens a popular stop for history lovers. Perhaps, join your new friends for an Optional Experience at a taverna evening including dancing and drinks.
Ask your Travel Director for advice on how best to spend your free day. The day is yours to explore the place where it all began - the literature, art and laws that have shaped western civilisation as we know it today.
Join an Optional Experience to Delphi today. Walk the Sacred Way to the Temple of Apollo - the same path that Alexander the Great once trod demanding to hear that he would conquer the entire ancient world. Your Local Specialist will reveal the ancient site's captivating history and some of the Oracle's prophecies, many of which would eventually come true. You'll also discover Delphi's fame as the host of the Pythian Games, dedicated to Apollo and the arts. You could choose instead to take a relaxing trip to the southernmost tip of mainland Greece to see the fifth-century B.C Temple of Poseidon at Sounion.
Get your final fix of Athens today with a free day to get some last-minute souvenir shopping done. Maybe choose one of the Optional Experiences that could see you visit ancient Mycenae with its Royal Palace and Tomb of Agamemnon, or take a one-day cruise to the islands of Aegina, Poros and Hydra.
Today you'll come face-to-face with the impressive ancient backdrop that has followed you throughout your stay in Athens - the Acropolis. A Local Specialist joins you for a sightseeing tour through what remains of the ancient citadel, including the Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena. View the Panathinaiko Olympic Stadium, the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian's Arch, stopping at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to admire the curiously clad Evzone guards. In Patras, board your ship for an overnight cruise to Ancona.
Cross the Adriatic bound for Italy. After lunch onboard you'll arrive in Ancona and travel to Bologna, where you'll spend the night before travelling on to Venice.
Journey to the charismatic calle of Venice, once a maritime powerhouse and republic whose influences can be seen across the Eastern Mediterranean. The exquisite art of glassblowing for which Venice is justifiably famous is your introduction to the 'Queen of the Adriatic'. You'll see master craftsmen engaged in the centuries-old craft that their forefathers passed down from generation to generation. Later, maybe choose an optional Gondola ride - grand palazzi, churches and ornate bridges lining your journey. There's a further opportunity later to visit the colourful fisherman's island of Burano for an optional meal with drinks.
Journey through alpine landscapes, crossing the Brenner Pass into Innsbruck, the capital of the Tyrol. Marvel at Hofburg Palace and Golden Roof, gilded in the 16th century by Emperor Maximilian to mark his wedding. Admire the fascinating crystal installations and browse for precious gifts and souvenirs at the Swarovski Crystal Worlds Store.
Cross the Austrian border to Liechtenstein for a brief stop in its tiny capital, Vaduz. Earn your bragging rights by visiting one of the world's smallest countries before continuing into Switzerland. Head to its heart, the Lucerne Region where your very own 'Grand Tour' of Europe will see you savouring the Swiss countryside should you choose to join an Optional Experience including a horse-drawn carriage to a local working farm.
Travel into Lucerne where your orientation will reveal the Chapel Bridge and Lion Monument, hewn from rock to commemorate the sacrifice made by the Swiss Guard who died defending Louis XVI during the French Revolution. You'll have some time to explore the city your way, perhaps with some retail therapy.
Marvel at the mighty Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen before crossing the border into Germany. Pass through the Black Forest, straight out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, then continue to Heidelberg with its red sandstone castle, one of the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. The soul-stirring landscapes of the Rhineland is your final stop for the day.
You'd be forgiven for wanting to jump ship and stay forever as you cruise down the Rhine River, passing medieval villages on its shores, steep vineyards and storybook castles. The Rhine Valley has enchanted painters and writers for centuries and you'll see it in all its glory on board your leisurely river cruise. Your journey culminates in the free-thinking Dutch capital of Amsterdam where tonight you could choose to explore the cityscape from its labyrinthine waterways on an optional canal cruise after enjoying a delicious meal in a historic Dutch house.
After breakfast say goodbye to Amsterdam, your Travel Director and companions at the end of your memorable European holiday. Find out more about your free airport transfer at costsavertour.com/freetransfers.