Explore timeless towns and romantic railways
Join us as we ride on vintage steam trains through wild landscapes and romantic gorges to discover charming towns with timber-framed houses and cobbled lanes. Wernigerode, a beautiful town amidst the mountains, provides an excellent base for this wonderful rail holiday.
We depart from St Pancras International by Eurostar to Brussels, travelling in First Class, with a light meal and drinks served on board. Our journey continues by highspeed train to Cologne for an overnight stay. After dinner in the hotel, perhaps take a stroll through Cologne's Old Town, which has been lovingly and carefully restored to its pre-war appearance. You can admire the pretty pastel-coloured houses, as the narrow streets wind down towards the Rhine Promenade. Alternatively, perhaps visit a traditional Cologne 'brauhaus' for a 'kölsch', a lovely way to round up the day.
After breakfast we join the train across northern Germany to Hanover. Here, we meet our coach which takes us through the Harz Mountains. We continue through the magnificent landscape of the Harz region to the stunningly beautiful town of Wernigerode, we are greeted by mulled wine on arrival and stay for five nights at the HKK Hotel Wernigerode. The Harz Mountain range is an area of undulating forests peppered with pretty lakes. Such terrain is ideally suited to narrow-gauge railways and a network was built in the pioneering days of the railway. Today the Harz Mountains system offers a wonderful public transport service and steam-hauled tourist trains with beautifully restored vintage rolling stock.
This morning we travel by Standard Class rail to medieval Goslar, nestled at the foot of the Harz Mountains. Older than Berlin, this former Free Imperial city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is crammed full of fantastic, historic architecture, including half-timbered houses dating back to the early 16th century. We take a guided tour of the picturesque town, discovering some fine examples of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. After the tour, you have some free time to continue exploring independently; perhaps visit the Kaiserpfalz. Built at the beginning of the 11th century after silver had been discovered in the area, the grand Kaiserpfalz is a delight to explore. The impressive building, designed primarily as a summer residence, is now the largest Romanesque palace in all of Europe. Alternatively, you could visit the Rammelsberg Mining Museum, which provides a fascinating look into the industrial history of Goslar. The mine here was in operation for an unbroken period of over 1000 years. At its height the operation had the largest deposits of copper, lead and zinc in the world. The energy for this vast mining system was provided by the Upper Harz water management system. This impressive system was first constructed in the Middle Ages by Cistercian monks and later dramatically expanded. The entire area now has UNESCO World Heritage status, and showcases the industrial heritage of this region of Germany in superb fashion.
Today we embark on a scenic rail journey on the Brocken Railway to the summit of Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains at 3,743 feet (1,141m). We enjoy stunning panoramic views of the Upper Harz National Park as we wind our way up the mountain to the terminus, Brockenbahnhof, the highest narrow-gauge railway station in Germany. This towering summit has long been associated with dark forces, perhaps most famously in Goethe's Faust, and during the Cold War Brocken was a military base used for border surveillance. Until the fall of the Berlin Wall, the mountain was off limits to all but the Soviet army. Given its altitude, Brocken Mountain was the perfect location for the world's first television antennae and today it offers one of Europe's most spectacular lookout points, commanding wonderful views of the sloping treelined hillsides below.
You are free to explore Wernigerode today. A particular highlight of this beautiful town is the grand Wernigerode Castle. Sat upon a hill, this is a building straight from the pages of fantasy. Constructed on the site of an old medieval fortress, it was rebuilt into it's current Neo- Romantic style in the 19th century.
Our excursion today is to the beautifully preserved town of Quedlinburg. Here we take a guided walking tour, following which we have the opportunity to explore at our own pace. Here you can discover the cobbled streets, passing a fine collection of medieval timberframed buildings and Romanesque architecture in the Old Town, which has UNESCO World Heritage status. Considered to be one of the best-preserved medieval and renaissance towns in Europe, it offers a wealth of history and culture, whilst also having a modern flair and fabulous examples of Art Nouveau architecture. The Burgberg "castle mountain", an imperial stronghold dating from as early as the 10th century, and the Romanesque Collegiate Church are also both well worth a visit. This afternoon we embark on a wonderfully scenic journey on the historic Selke Valley Railway, whose terminus is now in Quedlinburg. The quaint railway is arguably the region's best-kept secret. The route ascends into the Harz Mountains through a varied landscape. This metre-gauge railway was dismantled by the Soviets at the end of World War II, but was then subsequently rebuilt as far as Gernrode in the post-war years. With reunification the Selke Valley Railway, or Selketalbahn, was acquired by the Harz Mountain Railways and the line finally extended to Quedlinburg, allowing greater tourist access to this nostalgic journey though dense forests and mountains.
This morning we transfer by coach to Hanover to rejoin the fantastic high-speed First Class service to Cologne, where we change trains and continue on the service to Brussels. On arrival in the Belgian capital we connect with the onward Eurostar service to London St Pancras International, where our tour concludes.
Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Explore timeless towns and romantic railways