Call to book01904 521 936
Tour Search

Italian Christmas & Austrian New Year

13 days From £3,595 per person
4.2 stars(11 reviews)

A magical festive holiday which combines two of Europe’s most delightful destinations – Lake Garda where we stay over Christmas, and the charming city of Innsbruck, a seasonal favourite

2024 Tour code: IGX25

About the tour

Celebrate a fabulous festive period in two of Europe's most spectacular winter destinations. Shimmering Lake Garda at Christmas is truly enchanting, while beautiful Innsbruck is the perfect place to enjoy fantastic New Year's celebrations.

This wonderful seasonal escape includes day trips to historic Verona and timeless Venice, two wonderful heritage rail journeys, a visit to a local vineyard for a tour and tasting, and free time in delightful Sirmione, a lakeside town with a captivating medieval castle.


What’s included


Day 1 – London to Turin: Crossing the Alps to Italy

We meet our Tour Manager and group at London St Pancras this morning before joining the Eurostar to Paris. Travelling in Standard Premier Class we enjoy a light meal served at our seats. In Paris we change for the First Class service direct to Turin, on a scenic journey which passes the Alps, as we travel in comfort to the handsome Italian city of Turin. Here we spend the night in a hotel in the heart of the city's historic centre.

The city has a dignified ambience and an artistic, cultural and epicurean heritage. We enjoy our first dinner together at our hotel restaurant this evening. 

  • Dinner
  • Eurostar Meal
Day 2 – Through northern Italy to Lake Garda

After breakfast at our hotel, there's a full morning and time over lunch to explore handsome Turin at leisure. This dignified city is an important centre of business, finance and technology, and is also a showcase of Baroque, Renaissance and modern architecture. Fringed by the Italian Alps, the city's wide boulevards and grand public squares are lined with enticing cafés and bars. Just a short walk from our hotel is a stylish pedestrianised shopping district. Our hotel, the NH Lingotto Congress, has a surprising history which reflects the city's heritage. Housed in the old Fiat Factory the hotel still has the Fiat test track on its roof.

In the mid-afternoon we continue our journey by rail into northern Italy, passing through Milan on our way south to Peschiera del Garda then by coach to the lakeside town of Bardolino, on beautiful Lake Garda, where we check into our 4-Star lakefront hotel for five nights. We are welcomed with a glass of prosecco before sitting down to a three-course dinner. 

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3 - Christmas Eve in Sirmione, the ‘Pearl of Lake Garda’

On Christmas Eve morning we travel to the enchanting lakeside town of Sirmione where there's free time for you to look around. Located at the southern end of Lake Garda, where the lakefront is almost sea-like, this medieval town is a pleasure to discover, bursting with history and charm. The town is entered via a drawbridge, over a water-filled moat, which surrounds the imposing Rocca Scaligera, a beautifully preserved 13th-century castle. You may like to visit the castle for a view from its ramparts, or take a stroll through the lovely old quarter - where you could enjoy a coffee, a glass of wine and a light lunch at one of the characterful cafés or trattorias. Alternatively, you may like to visit the Grotte di Catullo, the remains of one of the largest Roman villas in Italy.

We return to our hotel in Bardolino in the afternoon, where there is time to relax and maybe enjoy the superb facilities, before we celebrate Christmas Eve with a gala dinner at our hotel in the evening. 

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 4 – Celebrating Christmas Day on Lake Garda

Christmas Day is a time for relaxation and celebration, and we have a free morning after breakfast to enjoy as we wish. You may like to build up an appetite for lunch with a short walk beside Lake Garda, close to our hotel. A gentle stroll could take you to the small nearby village of Cisano, where pastel-coloured buildings gather round a small square on the delightful lakefront. Alternatively, you may like to visit the centre of beautiful Bardolino - about 20 minutes away on foot - where grand, tiled avenues open onto incredible views of Lake Garda.

For the ultimate in relaxation, our spa hotel offers excellent facilities including thermal baths, swimming pools, a sauna and a beauty spa. In the early afternoon, we gather to celebrate Christmas together over a festive lunch. There's then the option of a laid-back afternoon before this evening's festivities begin.

A three-course dinner tonight leads into an evening of live music as we get into the Christmas spirit in our wonderful surroundings.

  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5 - Raise a glass on a Boxing Day wine tasting

Following a leisurely breakfast, we enjoy a delightful Boxing Day excursion by coach to the Franciacorta wine region. This area is known particularly for its sparkling wines, and we visit a local winery for a tour that teaches us all about the production process, followed by an expert-led tasting of the vineyard's different vintages accompanied by local specialities. 

On the return to our hotel this afternoon, tea and coffee and a selection of small pastries and cakes awaits, then there's time to relax and refresh before we sit down to a gala dinner in the evening.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6 – Experience the timeless charm of Venice on a guided tour

This morning is yet another highlight of our festive holiday. After breakfast we take a train to the magical floating city of Venice. On arrival we enjoy a private boat transfer that takes us straight to the heart of Venice, St Mark's Square, for a guided walking tour of Venice's sumptuous attractions, including the Doge's Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, and the Rialto Bridge.

With some free time after our tour, you could take a traditional gondola ride through the winding network of canals or catch a water taxi to the island of Murano, famed for its age-old glass-blowing techniques. However, you may choose to simply walk beside the enchanting waterways, over tiny arched bridges and past Venetian palaces, soaking up the unique atmosphere of this timeless city. You could also warm up in a cosy café overlooking St Mark's Square, or along one of the streets which radiate out from here, with a cup of delicious cioccolata calda. 

A private boat transfer takes us back to the station to board our train, and we make the return journey back to Lake Garda. This evening we enjoy a three-course dinner at our Bardolino hotel.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7 – Tour historic Verona before crossing the Alps to Austria

Leaving Lake Garda behind after breakfast this morning, we are taken by coach to Verona, where we enjoy a guided tour of a city filled with Roman ruins, medieval buildings, Italian culture and romance - a city which is perhaps most famous as the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In this UNESCO World Heritage-listed city centre, we visit Juliet's iconic balcony and the Roman arena, an open-air venue still used for performances today. After our tour, there's free time which could lend itself to indulging in lunch in one of the many restaurants around Piazza Brà, Verona's main square.

In mid-afternoon, we board the train for a direct journey to Innsbruck in Austria. This spectacular route through the Alps reveals some magical wintry scenes as we leave Italy by the Brenner Pass. Our hotel in the Old Town of Innsbruck has outstanding views of the majestic snow-capped peaks of the Austrian Alps. We check in for five nights and sit down for a three-course dinner with tea and coffee included.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 8 - Experience the historic Zillertalbahn to charming Mayrhofen

Travelling on the Zillertalbahn* today, we set out on an atmospheric journey through the delightful Ziller Valley. The railway's distinctive red engine stands out against the snow-clad landscapes as we marvel at sights such as rushing Ziller river, enchanting Tyrolean towns that look as if they belong on a Christmas card and meadows blanketed in thick, fresh snow.

We arrive in Mayrhofen where you have free time to ride to the summit of Penken via a gondola cable car, walk the cobbled streets or visit the Ahorn Eagle's Stage, an observation point for alpine birds of prey. We take the return journey to our hotel and enjoy dinner together this evening.

*Please note this journey is steam-hauled when possible but on occasion may be replaced by modern diesel locomotives and railcars.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 9 - A free day to explore Innsbruck and its colourful baroque buildings

After a delicious hotel breakfast, enjoy a day at leisure to explore Innsbruck, perhaps taking a walk beside the Inn river or past the fountains and pavilion of the Innsbrucker Hofgarten, landscaped royal palace gardens which date from the early 15th century.

Innsbruck is a city of many delightful churches, including the baroque cathedral with its famous Madonna and Child painting by Lukas Cranach the Elder, as well as the gothic Hofkirche. Another notable architectural wonder in Innsbruck's Altstadt is the Golden Roof, a glorious copper-tiled roof built in 1500 to mark the occasion of the marriage of Maximilian I to Bianca Maria Sforza.

After sightseeing, you may like to relax and make the most of the superb spa and wellness facilities at our hotel before dinner this evening.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 10 – Ride the Stubaitalbahn on New Year’s Eve

Our New Year celebrations begin after breakfast, with a journey through the idyllic winter scenery of the Stubai Valley aboard the narrow-gauge Stubaitalbahn. From Innsbruck, our train winds up through gentle meadows, providing great views of the city below. Passing sleepy villages, the route then plunges into a landscape of icy forests and alpine meadows laden with snow, before winding its way down to the peaceful valley town of Fulpmes.

Back in Innsbruck, there's time to relax before the festivities get into full swing this evening with a fabulous gala dinner which includes wine.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 11 - See in the new year with a tour of picturesque Innsbruck 

We wake up on New Year's Day to a picturesque setting of wintry mountains overlooking the city. After breakfast, we enjoy a guided walking tour of beautiful Innsbruck, followed by a leisurely afternoon during which you can explore further.

With a remarkably picturesque medieval centre, the town is dotted with impressive buildings, particularly along Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse. Here, a shimmering golden Habsburg roof, the ornate Hölbling house and the imposing 14th-century watchtower look out over buildings with arched arcaded frontages. We gather this evening for a three-course dinner. 

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 12 – Travel through Germany to historic Cologne on the River Rhine

This morning, we board the train down the Inn valley to Munich, where we change trains and continue to Cologne. Passing through the historic cities of Augsburg and Ulm, and fairytale towns such as Schwäbisch Gmünd and Limberg and der Lahn, we then arrive at our Rhine-side destination of Cologne, dominated by its imposing, twin-spired Gothic cathedral. We check in to our overnight hotel, where we enjoy dinner. 

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 13 - Homeward bound

Our wonderful festive tour concludes today as, after our final breakfast together, we travel from Cologne to Brussels. From here we join our final train, the Eurostar, to London St Pancras.

Travelling in Standard Premier Class and enjoying a light meal onboard, we have a chance on our return journey to reflect on the wonderful sights we have seen in Italy and Austria. Arriving in London, we say farewell to our Tour Manager, travelling companions, and new friends.

  • Breakfast

Additional information

Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.

Departure times

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.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.


Hotel Caesius Spa Resort

Hotel Caesius Spa Resort, Bardolino

View hotel

Hotel Innsbruck, Innsbruck

Hotel Innsbruck, Innsbruck

View hotel


Stubai Valley Railway

Enhance your holiday


London Hotels
UK rail connections


4.2 stars4.2 / 5 · 11 reviews

  1. 5 stars
  2. 4 stars
  3. 3 stars
  4. 2 stars
  5. 1 star

Rowena Wolfe

5 stars

Submitted 18/Jan

Excellent food and hotels. Very well planned and, above all a great tour leader.

Collected by Trustpilot

E Edwards

5 stars

Submitted 10/Jan

The trip expertly run by rob the tour manager, the only problem we had was when we left Innsbruck. They decided to take off a carriage and 8 of team had to stand for 1 hour and 40 minutes. The tour manager tried everything to no avail. Apart from this it was excellent.

Collected by Trustpilot


4 stars

Submitted 16 Jan 2023

A mix up with the the coaches at Koln station after a long & tiring journey. We were first taken to the wrong hotel being used by GRJ. The train from Koln was routed down the so called scenic route of the River Rhine in December when we would have preferred a faster route vis Frankfurt. Why did we not have a direct service to Innsbruck, particularly as we had a real struggle to board our train in Munich. Why did the guide in Verona not take us to the amphitheatre in Verona and over ran her time marching around the city? The trip to Fulpmes would have been better on non-Xmas Day when hotels cafes etc would have been open?

Collected by Trustpilot


5 stars

Submitted 15 Jan 2023

I would say it came up to the GRJ standards. It visited some places I have seen before and some that I have not. I joined the trip because I have no family and friends who would contact me during the holiday season. However I am not sure that I would like to do it again. I think that maybe I would have liked a warmer climate, but not too warm. I have used the Baggageman before but I was not sure about the new company. I think possibly we have to blame Brexit for the details that had to be declared for the trip. I didn't realise that the name of the company was Sherpr and although I had a strange email telling me to set a password earlier on I had no idea what it was for so put it aside. I packed my case three weeks early ready for collection dates and was surprised to have a phone call telling me if I was going to take the advantage of luggage carrying I had about 24 hours to get cracking. Then I realised what the request for a password was all about. However, with a little help from the company and also GRJ I got it done. I was thankful that our luggage was taken on between hotels as I don't think I could have managed 2 cases. Rob told me that was what we would be doing when he rang me but in practise this did not happen. It was unfortunate that some cases did not arrive back at the end of the tour and one still hasn't. My case arrived on Thursday. It was damaged on the first leg of the journey, this was a worry but I have all back now. Don't think I shall be able to get the case repaired. It was such a simple thing and I have taken the case all over the world previous to this but that's it. Hope that these comments will help. I would have preferred the old way of filling in comments rather than just ticking boxes as they didn't always fit what I would have said but if that's progress so be it. Glenys

Collected by Trustpilot


4 stars

Submitted 10 Jan 2023

Great break over Christmas and New Year. Excellent facilities in Innsbruck. Desenzano hotel food not as good as has been in the past.

Collected by Trustpilot

Sheila O'Donnell

3 stars

Submitted 10 Jan 2023

Not one of Great Rails better organised trips

Collected by Trustpilot

Show all 11 reviews
Related inspiration from our journey blog