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Grand Imperial Cities

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4.6 stars(36 reviews)
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Four 'must-see' cities on one rail tour

13 days From £2,295 per person

2022 Tour code: HUC22

About the tour

Discover the culture and history of Europe's grandest cities, Vienna, Budapest, Prague and Berlin. With guided tours, delicious local favours and unique experiences, including a railway run entirely by school children, this once turbulent region is brought to life as you journey across four countries.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - London and Frankfurt

From London St Pancras, we take the Eurostar to Brussels, continuing to Frankfurt for the night.

Includes
  • Dinner
  • Eurostar Meal (First Class only)
Day 2 – Vienna

We board a train for the journey south through Germany, crossing the Austrian border on our way to Vienna, the magnificent city of Mozart. We spend the next three nights in the Austrian capital.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3 – Discovering Vienna

A guided tour showcases the Imperial architecture of the Ringstrasse - a wide avenue that encircles the Old City- as well as the impressive Hofburg Palace, built by the indomitable Hapsburgs. We also see the impressive Opera House and Vienna's grand Parliament building. Afterwards, we make our way to spectacular Schönbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Imperial family, sitting down to a slice of cake and cup of Austrian coffee in an elegant café followed by free time to stroll through Schönbrunn's elaborate gardens and immaculate state rooms.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 4 - Exploring Vienna

You're free to keep sightseeing at your own pace today. Vienna's glorious Gothic cathedral, the Stephansdom, is located at the very centre of the city. This Gothic masterpiece is famed for its stunning tiled roof, patterned with brightly coloured chevrons and Viennese eagles, and by climbing the 553 steps to the top, you'll be rewarded with one of the best views of the city. Alternatively, a ride on the giant Ferris wheel in the Prater Gardens offers a more laid back way to drink in Vienna's skyline. After a busy day, why not pop into one of the many al fresco eateries for a slice of delicious Austrian sachertorte.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 5 – Budapest

We travel to Budapest, experiencing this city of two halves from a unique perspective this evening. The flatter, lively region of Pest looks across the water to its older, historical neighbour, the hilly Buda, which rises up away from the banks of the river. The city was once the joint capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and tonight, after dinner at a traditional restaurant, we embark on an illuminated night-time tour by coach. Tracing the Danube south, our evening is filled with stunning views of the city after dark, including the famous Szechenyi Chain Bridge and spectacular Gellert Hill.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6 – Guided tour of Budapest

A guided coach tour introduces us to Budapest's other main sights by day. We pass impressive buildings and monuments on both sides of the Danube, including the Neo-Gothic Parliament building, designed to look like the Palace of Westminster, Budapest Castle, Matthias Church and the more modern Fishermen's Bastion. Later, we enjoy a ride on the Children's Railway, a service operated by Hungarian schoolchildren that runs through the woods set in the hills above Buda and offers magnificent views of the greenery which surrounds the city.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 7 – Budapest

With a free day, you might like to unwind with a visit to one of the public yet ornate bath houses dotted around the city, such as the Art Deco Gellért thermal baths. For something slightly different, you could visit Statue Park, known locally as Szoborpark and located in a quiet suburb of Buda. Described as a 'Communist theme park', it contains a large statue of Lenin and Cubist statues of Marx and Engels. This evening, why not pay a visit to one of Budapest's popular ruin bars?

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 8 – Prague

We depart Budapest by train, travelling through Slovakia to the Czech Republic and arriving in Prague for a three-night stay amid the copper-domed churches of 'The City of a Hundred Spires'

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 9 – Touring Prague

A guided walking tour through the narrow streets of Prague's Old Town reveals some of the city's most famous sights. We begin at Hradcany Castle, the largest medieval complex in Europe, before strolling across the 14th-century Charles Bridge to admire the 75 statues built along its walls as well as views of the Gothic spires of St Vitus' Cathedral in the distance. We also stop at the city's renowned astronomical clock. Dating back to medieval times, it's one of the oldest working pieces of its time, showing the relative positions of the sun, moon, earth and zodiac constellations.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 10 – Prague at leisure

Enjoy a free day to continue getting to know Prague better. Gourmet restaurants, cocktail bars and trendy cafés are easy to find. If you're looking for something more authentic, you can feast on pork and dumplings washed down with beer in a traditional pub, or 'hospody', ahead of a leisurely amble along the Vltava River or a gentle cruise through the city, perhaps the most relaxing way to see the sights.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 11 – Berlin

Catching the train from Prague, we travel through the Bohemian countryside into Germany, following the route of the River Elbe to Berlin for two nights. On arrival, we set out on a guided walking tour of Germany's capital to uncover its fascinating history, contrasted with the city's vibrant present. We see the remains of the Berlin Wall, a poignant reminder of the city's turbulent past that's now decorated with colourful street art, and the Brandenburg Gate. A spectacular 18th-century neoclassical monument, this is the city's oldest surviving gate and is a symbol of unity in Germany.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 12 – Discovering Berlin

Your day is free to keep sightseeing. You could visit the Reichstag and Checkpoint Charlie, which details the history of the Berlin Wall, or head to Potsdam, home to the Baroque flower gardens of Park Sanssouci. Alternatively, you may like to visit the imposing Opera House, home of the world-famous Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, or the Pergamon Museum, featuring a wealth of wonderful exhibits, including life-size replicas of Ishtar Gate and the Altar of Zeus. Perhaps take a stroll through Berlin's Old Quarter en route to Charlottenburg Palace, the only remaining royal residence from the Hohenzollern dynasty. Make sure you also find the time to try a Bratwurst or pretzel for an authentic taste of German cuisine.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 13 – London

We travel by rail to Brussels after checking out of our hotel. Here, we join the Eurostar to London St Pancras.

Includes
  • Breakfast
  • Eurostar Meal (First Class only)

Additional information

Info - Travel Options

We offer a Standard Class and First Class rail options for departures on this tour. You can find out which class each departure is by clicking on the information button in the pricing grid.

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.

Hotels

NH Collection Berlin Mitte am Checkpoint Charlie

NH Collection Berlin Mitte am Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin

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Three Corners Lifestyle Hotel, Budapest

Three Corners Lifestyle Hotel, Budapest

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The Harmonie, Vienna

The Harmonie, Vienna

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Lindner Hotel, Prague

Lindner Hotel, Prague

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Trains

Eurostar
Thalys
The Children's Railway

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Upgrades

London Hotels
UK rail connections

Reviews

4.6 stars4.6 / 5 · 36 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (25)
  2. 4 stars
    (9)
  3. 3 stars
    (2)
  4. 2 stars
    (0)
  5. 1 star
    (0)

C Pipe-Wolferstan

4 stars

Submitted 23/May

I already much prefer travelling by train than aeroplane. I have a particular problem, being tall, with finding a seat with sufficient leg room. Also there sees to be a lot less waiting around in railway stations than there is in airports. Our tour director, Jon Cockerell, looked after us very well, giving us appropriate briefings and answering questions, and sorting things out when they went wrong. The guides in each city were very good with the exception of the one in Prague, but at least she was able to guide us to a good restaurant. Some of the information from the Prague guide was a little “long winded” and more up to date information would have been useful. The tour should also been renamed as a tour of Prague castle finishing it the town square rather than a Prague city tour. Perhaps the guide in Prague should have remembered to turn her microphone off while she was walking from one point on the tour to the next. The other guides (especially the one in Budapest) were prepared to “go the extra mile” and find the answers to questions. The advance luggage facility was very helpful so we didn’t have to carry our luggage between the first and fourth capital. The hotels in Frankfurt, Vienna and Budapest were very good. Prague: The Castle Hotel was quite good thought on the second evening there was only one rather eccentric waiter serving in the restaurant, who was also having to run the bar. All hotels so far were able to arrange to have our luggage outside our rooms by the time we arrived. However the last hotel, Checkpoint Charlie did not, and were causing difficulties about our luggage which arrived before we did. They claimed that they didn’t have room to store our luggage, which apparently they did. The breakfast staff at this hotel were good but the desk staff and at the bar were somewhat offhand and unhelpful. I would not recommend any friends to stay at that hotel. [I also had trouble with an unfriendly pianist who didn’t like me touching “his” piano]. I appreciate that hotels must be chosen for reasons of fair pricing but I would not recommend using this hotel again. Tipping: Tips and gratuities. We tipped out tour guides in each city accordingly. I also tipped hotel staff (except in Berlin) We both feel that high level tipping is an unwelcome import from the U.S.A and we do not like being “told” how much to tip. I was a little puzzled by your recommendation to tip our tour director by at least £5 per day and wonder if it might have been better to charge us a little more for the tour and leave supplementary tips to our discretion. A minimum £70 tip seems quite a lot. I appreciated having a “free day” in each city as being older I found the tour, particularly the days with walking guided tours, fairly tiring and the free day enabled me to catch up, so to speak, while more energetic members could visit whatever attractions appealed to them. I would certainly consider going on a similar tour as long as it was sufficiently leisurely. I also appreciated the opportunity for a quick visit to Cologne Cathedral during our return journey while Jon (and a weary tour member) guarded our cases. Charles Pipe-Wolferstan Pictures: 1. The sleek Eurostar Engine 2. Pho Ga in Xinh Xinh, Linienstr., my favourite Berlin cafe. 3. The curious pedestrian signals, the little man with the hat.

Collected by Trustpilot

David

5 stars

Submitted 20/May

A great way to have an introduction to these four vibrant cities each with its own characteristics - from the grandeur of Vienna to the splendour of Budapest Parliament building, the beautiful time-warp which is Prague and the vibrant modern city which is Berlin whose main railway station alone is worth the visit! The scenery from the train, apart from that between Prague and Berlin is unremarkable so a bit of a disappointment. In our experience it is a trademark of GRJ that the hotels are all situated within easy walking distance of the city centres. A new, very useful, addition is that the cases are taken separately between hotels which makes getting on and off trains a pleasure. There is a good balance between the organised city tours and free time. Inevitably the traveller is left wanting to return to explore in greater depth. Certainly a tour not to be missed!

Collected by Trustpilot

Iris McLean

5 stars

Submitted 19/May

Super European Rail trip encompassing beautiful and interesting cities with amazing experiences, great food, superb hotels and an excellent Tour Manager. Perfect for our Golden Wedding!

Collected by Trustpilot

Ms A Townsend

5 stars

Submitted 11 Oct 2019

Excellent service and value for money. A full action packed holiday with lots to see and do. We experienced a problem with the trains one day and our agent was superb dealing with everything in an efficient and professional manner. This is our 5th hol with GRJ and would definitely use them again

Collected by Great Rail Journeys

Mr P Dennett

4 stars

Submitted 03 Oct 2019

Continental Hotel in Budapest was not up to standard - Very cramped room. Sticking in the "punting" trip on our way to Berlin was a complete waste of time - why would I want to spend 6 hours sitting on a motor coach. We should have gone straight to Berlin by train and that would mean we'd have arrived at the hotel in good time. Arrived at the Maritim Berlin late to be greeted by a lobby full of conference attendees; our bags NOT in our room and the restaurant closed - total chaos! Every other parts of the holiday was 5+.

Collected by Great Rail Journeys

Dub

4 stars

Submitted 15 Nov 2018

We had a great time. We would liked more free time. Our tours were ok, but I had a hard time understanding the women tour speakers.

Collected by Great Rail Journeys

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Europe by Rail 2022

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Grand Imperial Cities

Four 'must-see' cities on one rail tour

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