Leave London behind and travel through the Kent countryside to Dover where all that separates you from France is a short ferry ride to Calais. It's just a hop from there to Paris, the 'City of Lights'. Don't hold back and dive right into its history, culture and culinary delights, from the iconic Eiffel Tower to croque-monsieurs, lazing on the banks of the Seine, museums and monuments. This evening, the glittering French capital lights up and you'll see it in all its glory if you choose to join an Optional Experience, including a cruise on the Seine and a scenic drive stopping at all the best photo spots.
Enjoy a sightseeing tour with your Travel Director. Views will include the Champs Élysées, Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. Then, discover the city at your leisure. There's time to shop for artwork and savour some local specialties before a real highlight this evening - an optional dinner and cabaret performance.
Journey to the Loire Valley and view the enchanting fairy-tale Château d'Amboise where Leonardo da Vinci is said to be buried. Next up, head to 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.
The beach is on the agenda today, so get your hat and sunglasses ready for a trip to the glamorous seaside town of Biarritz. From the gentle waves of the Atlantic, to the running of the bulls, your next stop is the Spanish city of Pamplona, the capital of the old Kingdom of Navarre. Join a Local Specialist on an Optional Experience and see the city's ancient city walls and Plaza del Castillo, the heart of the city where markets, tournaments and even bullfighting has taken place. A special treat will see you savour tapas and sangria at Hemingway's favourite watering hole.
Your journey continues further into Spain. Arriving in Madrid, you'll encounter a graceful capital that was spruced up several centuries ago thanks to King Charles III. Head onto the streets to watch this football-mad metropolis come to life. Your Local Specialist will share all the secrets behind some of the city's most iconic sights. Head up the Gran Vía, slicing through the heart of Madrid, and see the Cibeles Fountain and Paseo de la Castellana. Admire the Royal Palace and Retiro Park, originally created as a retreat for the Royal Family. Later, enjoy dinner at your hotel.
The legacy of 'Madrid's Best Mayor' can be seen on the city's streets. 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.
Journey through the hills of Aragon and Catalonia to the sun-kissed shores of Barcelona. See street performers, artists and shoppers line the lively La Rambla, admire the fanciful façades of Spanish Art Nouveau architect Antoni Gaudí and stroll through the shadowy lanes of the Gothic quarter. 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.
This is your chance to get fully acquainted with Barcelona. Head to the Gothic Quarter or seek out more of the Art Nouveau works of Gaudí. Consider joining an Optional Experience to Montserrat with its hidden monastery, home to the revered La Moreneta. A special flamenco Optional Experience this evening could see you mesmerised by the intoxicating sights of colourful twirling skirts and the clapping sounds of castanets.
Say adios to the Costa Dourada as you venture across Spain and Provence before arriving in the glamorous French Riviera. Keep your cameras at the ready as you drive along its elegant boulevards and attempt to capture the sophistication that seems to ooze from every corner.
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 pool, perhaps you'll want to join your fellow travellers for an optional exploration of 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.
Continue along the shimmering Mediterranean coast to the Principality of Monaco. Then cross the Italian border and visit the town of Pisa, where you won't need to resist peer pressure to snap a few strategic photos featuring you and its extraordinary 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 have an evening on your own to explore the treasures left behind by the Medici dynasty and famous artists like da Vinci and Michelangelo.
No expense was spared to exalt the glory of Florence through art and architecture and you'll see first-hand how this city paved its way to a modern age. Maybe visit some of the city's iconic sights, including its Ponte Vecchio, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto's Bell Tower and the Baptistery. An Optional Experience could see you explore the Renaissance treasures of Florence, including the Santa Croce church, where celebrated masters Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli are buried. Learn about the quality and workmanship of one of this city's historic industries at a demonstration of Florentine leathercraft. Next head to Rome, the 'Eternal City' where you'll see reminders of an ancient world, a holy empire and the Renaissance around every turn.
Take a moment. Standing in St. Peter's Square, you'll be in the midst of the world's holiest Catholic shrines - where Christians have worshipped since the fourth century. This expansive place of pilgrimage and prayer gives way to the lofty vaults of St. Peter's Basilica. Your Local Specialist will reveal the treasures and talents of Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini who all had a hand in the church's construction. Continue across the Tiber River to Ancient Rome and imagine a time when soldiers and senators created a city that became the centre of the world. Its foundations still stand today as a testament to its former might and you'll have an opportunity to view its iconic ancient sites before spending time on your own exploring or join an Optional Experience through the city's piazzas.
We cross the dramatic Apennine Mountains, bound for the charismatic calle of Venice, once a maritime powerhouse and republic whose influences can be seen across the Eastern Mediterranean. The Winged Lion of Venice remains an enduring symbol of the city and one you'll see repeatedly as you explore the city. You'll arrive just in time for an optional Gondola and Grand Canal cruise - grand palazzi, churches and ornate bridges lining your journey. This evening, enjoy dinner at your hotel.
The talents of master craftsmen are the star of the show this morning as we visit their glassblowing workshop to see them craft the most exquisite works of art. We take to the waters of the canal next and cruise by private launch to St. Mark's Square, the gateway to the city. Admire the ornate Doge's Palace, the Basilica of St. Mark and the Bridge of Sighs, whose bittersweet views once elicited sighs from prisoners who were unlikely to see their beloved city ever again. There's time on your own for a final exploration of the city or to join an Optional Experience to the vibrant rainbow-coloured façades of Burano Island, which beckon to resident fishermen seeking a safe beacon for their return journey home through the lagoon's thick fog.
We leave Italy behind, bound for the Austrian capital where art, architecture and above all music hit all the right notes for an inspiring evening in the former home of the Habsburgs. In a city where music literally surrounds you, famous composers like Mozart and Strauss rose to musical fame. Today, this 'City of Music' can carry more than a tune as you'll come to discover if you join an optional concert of Viennese classical music including some of the most acclaimed works of Strauss and Mozart.
A free morning could see you discover why the streets of Vienna are paved with culture or consider an optional guided visit to Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Habsburgs, whose lasting legacy can be seen across their dynastic capital. Your Local Specialist will reveal all the sights of this imperial city later today. View the Parliament, the Vienna Opera House, the Hofburg and City Hall before enjoying some time on your own. You'll need no excuse to embrace the locals' love of the good life as you indulge in the city's kafee culture with a heavenly slice of Sachertorte to tame your chocaholic tendencies. This evening, the melodies of a musical Vienna are the order of the day as you join an optional dinner followed by a concert of Strauss and Mozart masterpieces.
Continue to Salzburg, whose rich musical heritage is only part of its enduring appeal. Take a stroll through the Mirabell Gardens, where the von Trapp children once sang 'Do-Re-Mi' in 'The Sound of Music'. Then there's time to embark on your own exploration of this historic city. Wander through the Baroque-filled Old Town to the spiritual heart of Salzburg, the Cathedral where Mozart was baptised, then see his nearby birthplace on Getreidegasse, which has been turned into a museum documenting his life. The scenery through the Austrian Alps defies imagination and you'll arrive in Innsbruck in time to explore the city on your own. Admire the fascinating crystal installations and browse for precious gifts and souvenirs at the Swarovski Crystal Worlds Store. Wander through the Old Town and see the Hofburg Palace and the Golden Roof, gilded in the 16th century by Emperor Maximilian to mark his wedding.
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 you very own 'Grand Tour' of Europe will see you savouring the Swiss countryside should you choose to join an Optional Experience which includes a visit to a rural community and a horse and carriage ride.
Embark on an orientation tour of Lucerne with your Travel Director, exploring the Old Town, the ancient wooden Chapel Bridge and Lion Monument. The mournful, mortally wounded lion hewn from rock commemorates the sacrifice made by the Swiss Guards 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. You could choose to ascend to the alpine heavens instead, joining an optional scenic cruise across Lake Lucerne, then travelling by railway and cable car up into the mountains for exhilarating mountain views.
Travelling west through Germany, you'll stop in Heidelberg to view the ruins of Heidelberg Castle, one of the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps, as well as the Baroque-style Old Town with its bustling market squares and colourful façades. The soul-stirring landscapes of the Rhineland are our next stop and you'll have an opportunity to reminisce over your journey thus far during dinner at your hotel with your travel companions.
Keep your cameras at the ready as you head east into the lush landscapes of Germany. 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.
Enjoy an orientation of Amsterdam and spend the rest of the day exploring the city on foot, by bike or tram. Sit under the leafy canopy at Leidseplein indulging in Dutch beer and kroketten, hire a bike and hit the city's tree-lined streets or bask in the warm glow and gezelligheid of one of the city's renowned brown cafés. Leave the Dutch capital behind and venture to Volendam where the rich aromas and flavours of Dutch cheese will linger long after your encounter with local tradition.
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.