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Grand Imperial Cities

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12 days From £2,495 £2,395 per person
4.6 stars(118 reviews)
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Explore the splendid grandeur and fascinating history of four of central Europe’s most spectacular capital cities

Save up to £400

Save up to £400 per booking on July-October 2024 holidays, when you book by 29th February 2024.

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Save up to £200pp

Save up to £200pp on selected 2024 last-minute holidays, when you book by 29th February 2024.

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Mobility Rating 3

2024 Tour code: HUC24

About the tour

Discover the culture and history of four of Europe's grandest cities on a magnificent holiday to Vienna, Budapest, Prague and Berlin.

Explore the astonishing architecture of noble Vienna on a tour of Habsburg palaces, including the summer residence of Schönbrunn, and taste apfelstrudel after experiencing a strudel-making show.

Savour the delights of Hungary's dignified capital, Budapest, during an evening cruise on the Danube with panoramic views of the illuminated Parliament building and majestic Buda Castle, before travelling on an enchanting woodland railway operated by schoolchildren.

Experience the delights of beautiful Prague, from the historic castle and gothic cathedral to the ethereal Charles Bridge and fascinating astronomical clock.

Visit welcoming Berlin, a spirited hub of colourful counterculture that acknowledges its troubled past through poignant and emotive landmarks and memorials.

Unforgettable Experiences

Enjoy a tour of elegant Vienna and Schönbrunn Palace
Enjoy a tour of elegant Vienna and Schönbrunn Palace
Uncover the grandeur of this noble imperial city on a tour of the majestic Ringstrasse’s architecture and enjoying Viennese coffeehouse culture. Then visit the Schönbrunn Palace, the Habsburg’s summer residence, and learn how to make apple strudel.
Experience the beauty of Budapest on an evening Danube cruise
Experience the beauty of Budapest on an evening Danube cruise
See the sparkling Danube from a new perspective as you enjoy an evening cruise while Budapest’s majestic illuminated buildings cast a magical glow on the river.
Take a charming woodland train ride through the Buda Hills
Take a charming woodland train ride through the Buda Hills
Board the unique Children’s Railway and experience a wonderful journey in open carriages operated by schoolchildren.
Discover medieval Prague and its enchanting sights
Discover medieval Prague and its enchanting sights
Tour the Czech capital and view spellbinding locations including the largest medieval castle complex in Europe, magnificent churches and the renowned astronomical clock.
Uncover the turbulent past of vibrant Berlin
Uncover the turbulent past of vibrant Berlin
Explore the German capital, discovering reminders of a recent past that shaped Europe throughout the 20th century while unearthing a modern, friendly and creative city.

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - From London to Frankfurt

We meet our fellow travellers this morning at London St Pancras International, ready to board the Eurostar to Brussels. Our journey continues from the Belgian capital to Frankfurt, arriving in early evening.

This bustling city on the Main river is one of the most important in Germany. Perhaps surprisingly for a global financial and business hub, its medieval Old Town retains a quaint atmosphere, dappled with half-timbered buildings. Many are huddled around its picturesque central square, Römerberg. The focus here is the historic Römer, which has acted as the city hall for more than 600 years. Comprising three buildings, the distinctive crow-stepped gables and balcony add extra charm to a delightful square.

After checking into our hotel, we enjoy our first three-course dinner together.

Please Note - For departures 25/04/2024, 14/06/2024, 24/06/2024 and 13/09/2024 you will overnight in Nuremberg.

Includes
  • Dinner
  • Eurostar Light Meal
Day 2 – Vienna Calling

This morning, we travel by train across Bavaria, encountering the beautiful Danube for the first time at historic Regensburg. This majestic river guides us towards Austria and its grand capital, Vienna. Arriving in the afternoon, we have time to explore at our leisure after checking into our hotel.

As the former capital of the Habsburg Empire, Vienna is a great city to wander round, with stately Baroque buildings appearing around almost every corner. Strolling northerly from the 14th-century Augustinian Church with its grand altar and close connection to the Habsburgs, you enter Josefsplatz. This opulent square was named in honour of Emperor Franz Josef II and is lined on three sides by elegant Baroque halls. On the other side is the Palais Pallavicini, one of many locations still recognisable from the classic film noir, The Third Man. Continuing onto Herrengasse, you can encounter the palatial Renaissance and Baroque residences of noble families from the 17th and 18th centuries, including the stucco Palais Daun-Kinsky.

We regroup in the evening to enjoy a meal at a local Austrian restaurant.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3 – Discovering elegant Vienna

Today, we embark on a guided tour that showcases the imperial architecture of this glorious city, including the Ringstrasse - a grand boulevard that encircles the Old City. Numerous impressive buildings line the road, including the Neo-Renaissance Vienna State Opera topped by bronze statues, and the sweeping entrance to the Neoclassical Austrian Parliament.

The centrepiece of this influential avenue is the Hofburg Palace, which symbolises the importance of the Habsburgs who ruled from here between 1273 and 1918. The Habsburgs were one of the most important families in Europe for centuries and ruled over most of east and central Europe, plus Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and parts of Italy and France, as leaders of the Holy Roman Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire. Expanded over the centuries by various emperors, the fascinating Hofburg showcases preeminent examples of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture.

Our next stop is the imperial family's summer residence on the outskirts of Vienna. The sprawling Schönbrunn Palace overlooks extensive decorative gardens, at the end of which is a 200ft hill topped with an 18th-century gloriette. We enjoy a guided tour of the palace's immaculate state rooms which ends with an apfelstrudel show, followed by a hot drink and strudel. We then have some free time to stroll through Schönbrunn's elaborate gardens.

The rest of the day is spent at leisure either putting our newly acquired knowledge to use or relaxing in one of the city's sizeable green spaces. This evening, you are free to choose your own dinner and may wish to indulge in tasty local specialities such as a Wiener schnitzel with a beer or a glass of chilled Grüner Veltliner wine.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 4 - Spectacular views and café culture in Vienna

You're free to continue sightseeing at your own pace today. Near to the Hofburg you will find the Spanish Riding School, home to the incredible Lipizzan dancing horses, although pre-booking is required for performances. Vienna's glorious medieval cathedral, St Stephen's Cathedral, is in the beating heart of the city. This Gothic masterpiece is famed for its stunning tiled roof, patterned with brightly coloured chevrons and Viennese eagles. By climbing to the top, you'll be rewarded with one of the best views of the city.

For a more laid-back way to enjoy Vienna's skyline, head across the Danube Canal to the Prater gardens. In this vast park, you can ride the Wiener Riesenrad - a giant Ferris wheel that was the tallest in the world for much of the 20th century and, like many places in Vienna, also featured prominently in The Third Man.

Between sightseeing you are free to choose your own dinner - and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a typical Viennese coffeehouse experience. These elegant cafés are renowned for their 'gemütlichkeit' - warmth and friendliness - and serve a range of coffees from the melange to the cream-topped einspänner, along with an enticing selection of pastries and cakes, including the delicious Sachertorte. Dating from 1873, Café Landtmann on the Ringstrasse is the city's oldest, while the nearby Café Central was a favoured location of the Viennese intellectual set, including Sigmund Freud.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 5 – To Budapest, the ‘Pearl of the Danube’

This morning we bid a fond farewell to Austria and continue our adventure by heading eastwards into Hungary. Arriving in Budapest in the early afternoon we embark on a guided coach tour. The Hungarian capital was formed when three cities merged. The flatter, lively Pest on the eastern bank of the Danube looks out across the water to the historical and hilly Buda, while the quieter Óbuda sits to the north.

On the tour, we get to understand this fantastic and fascinating city as we view impressive buildings and monuments on both sides of the Danube, including the iconic Országház, the Neo-Gothic Parliament building - a stunning symmetrical structure that pierces the sky with white and red spires. Castle Hill, rising high over the Danube, contains many of the city's most important and historic sights, including the huge Baroque castle. Nearby Matthias Church was constructed in the late 13th century after the invading Mongol hordes destroyed the previous church. Today, this Gothic church with a soaring tower stands behind the Fisherman's Bastion, a swirling late 19th-century structure with smooth circular towers providing incredible views of the river and Pest.

In the early evening, we travel to Óbuda for dinner in a traditional restaurant that, combined with its serene surroundings, gives the feeling of being in a pleasant Hungarian village.

After dinner, we embark on a highlight of the holiday as we sail down the Danube on an evening cruise, before returning to our hotel on a quiet street on the Pest side. The cruise is one of the best ways to see this beautiful city as the sights we saw during the day, including the spectacular Parliament building, are now illuminated, casting a magical glow across the adorable Danube.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6 – An enchanting journey through the Buda Hills

After breakfast, we travel to Széchenyihegy in the Buda Hills for an utterly charming rail journey that winds through beautiful forests on the narrow-gauge Children's Railway. Perfectly turned out in immaculate red, white and blue uniforms, Hungarian schoolchildren carry out all the roles you would expect from a railway, except for driving the trains. In open carriages, the children sell and check tickets, salute trains as they leave the stations and blow their whistles with vigour. The intention of the seven-mile railway was to teach children additional skills and encourage them to take up careers in travel, and it's a delightful way to spend 40 minutes.

At the end of the line in Hűvösvölgy, we return to our hotel and have the rest of the day at leisure. You might like to unwind with a visit to one of the ornate spas dotted around the city, such as the Art Deco Gellért thermal baths or the Neo-Baroque Széchenyi medicinal baths near Heroes Square. 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, you could take a stroll along the Danube and eat at one of the riverside restaurants, or experience one of Budapest's lively 'ruin bars'.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 7 – Budapest to Prague: From the Danube to Vltava

We say goodbye to Budapest and Hungary this morning as we board the train to Prague. Following the course of the Danube, we enjoy great views of the entrancing Danube Bend and the hilltop Visegrád citadel before heading inland through the plains of southern Slovakia.

In the Czech Republic, now known as Czechia to locals, we travel through Brno before arriving in regal Prague in late afternoon. Dubbed 'The City of a Hundred Spires', the copper-domed churches of this majestic capital shimmer beside the winding Vltava river. We check into our stylish, modern hotel in the cosmopolitan Smíchov area of Prague. The country is renowned for its brewing and this district is home to its second largest brewery, Staropramen.

This evening, we enjoy dinner in the hotel ready to explore this majestic city tomorrow.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 8 – Touring beautiful and historic Prague

Waking up in glorious Prague, this morning we embark on a guided walking tour through the narrow streets of the historic Old Town, discovering some of the city's most famous sights.

We begin at Prague Castle, which, dating from the 9th century, is the largest medieval complex in Europe. Bursting with history, the most eye-catching building is the huge Gothic St Vitus Cathedral. The south entrance is adorned with golden mosaics depicting the Last Judgement, while the beautiful rose window casts violet and blue hues inside. Behind a 17th-century red Baroque façade is one of Prague's oldest buildings, St George's Basilica, reputedly dating from 920 AD. At the north-eastern edge of the complex is the charmingly quaint Golden Lane. The diminutive and colourful medieval houses were occupied by defenders of the castle and artisans such as goldsmiths, who gave the street its name.

Leaving the castle, we stroll across the ethereal 14th-century Charles Bridge, admiring the 75 statues built along its walls with the spires of St Vitus Cathedral as a backdrop. This gorgeous medieval stone arch bridge was the only means of crossing the river until 1841 and remains popular to this day. We follow the ornately decorated façades of grand buildings to the Old Town Square, the focal point of Prague life since the 12th century. One of the most fascinating features of the square is the renowned astronomical clock. Installed in 1410, it's one of the oldest working pieces of its type.

The rest of the afternoon is free for you to continue exploring the charming streets of Prague's Old Town at your leisure. Wandering through the winding lanes, wonderfully picturesque buildings greet you round corners, often containing interesting and curious museums - such as the Czech Beer Museum, the Museum of Fantastic Illusions, and Speculum Alchemiae, set in an old alchemist's workshop.

This evening, you might wish to stop at one of the city's many fine eateries for some hearty and delicious Czech food, maybe with a portion of the almost ubiquitous and welcome potato dumplings (bramborové knedlíky) and a glass of frothy beer.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 9 – Prague at your leisure: History, religion and culture

Enjoy a free day uncovering more wonders of the Czech capital. Split up into many districts, Prague's centre offers a magnificent array of options. For a relaxing way to see the sights, you may wish to take a gentle cruise on the Vltava.

With its Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunić-designed Dancing House, which undulates and twists, and Cubist architecture scattered around the city, Prague has a taste for the quirky and fantastical. This is reflected in the works of one of its favourite sons, writer Franz Kafka. There are a number of statues of Kafka in Prague, including a rotating, kinetic representation of his head, and one inspired by his short story 'Description of a Struggle' near the Spanish Synagogue.

With an exterior evoking Andalucía's Alhambra, the Spanish Synagogue is appropriately named. Inside, the mind-blowingly ornate decorations are influenced by Moorish design. This is just one of the beautiful locations in Josefov, Prague's thought-provoking Jewish Quarter which relays the long history of Jewish Prague. On a stroll round Josefov, you can expect to uncover many buildings that have their own stories to tell, including the Old New Synagogue, which is the oldest active synagogue in Europe.

After seeing the sights, 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', down one of the Old Town's many charming lanes.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 10 – Arrival in Berlin, a city of contrast

This morning we leave Prague by train bound for the German capital. The route follows the River Elbe out of the Czech Republic, passing some remarkable scenery on the border with Germany as we enter a wonderful wilderness of sandstone cliffs blanketed by rich forests that takes us most of the way to elegant Dresden. On the Czech side, this is called Bohemian Switzerland, while the Germans refer to it as Saxon Switzerland - both due to its impressive landscape being perceived as similar to stunning Swiss scenery.

We arrive in Berlin in mid-afternoon and, after checking in to our hotel, we view the city's sights with a tour guide. The tour uncovers the fascinating history of Berlin, contrasting it with the city's vibrant present. Berlin is aware of its turbulent past and does not shy away from pointing it out in the hope that it is never repeated.

Our first stops are near our hotel and quickly signify how much this city has changed in the past few decades. There are reminders scattered across Berlin, some more prominent than others. In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall was constructed to stop East Germans fleeing to the west. The most famous crossing between the two cities was Checkpoint Charlie, next to which now stands a large portrait of Jeff Harper, one of the last Allied soldiers in Berlin in 1994.

We get our first view of the Berlin Wall shortly after as a large length remains outside the Topography of Terror museum, located in the former headquarters of the SS and Gestapo. Berlin's past presents a number of emotive moments as we explore solemn reminders of a history that engulfed Europe in the 20th century. The route of the Berlin Wall is still marked today by a double row of cobblestones laid into the streets. Our powerful tour concludes at the Brandenburg Gate - a spectacular 18th-century Neoclassical monument that is the city's oldest surviving gate and now a symbol of unity.

You might also find time to try a bratwurst or pretzel for an authentic taste of German cuisine, or a currywurst - a favourite of Berliners. You are also free to enjoy dinner on your own tonight, and Berlin boasts an impressive range of restaurants catering for all tastes.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 11 – Discovering Berlin at your leisure

Your day is free for you to continue exploring this friendly and fascinating city awash with sights in whatever way you would like. Visiting the Norman Foster-designed glass dome and roof terrace of the Reichstag is possible with prior registration and offers spectacular views of Berlin.

In the old East Berlin, the East Side Gallery is a long stretch of the Wall beside the Spree river now decorated in colourful street art. To the north of the city is Bernauer Strasse, along which the Berlin Wall used to run. Many of the modern buildings now have street art referencing this, and the Berlin Wall Memorial can be visited at the western end of the street. Viewing the Wall in this location is incredibly poignant as it brings home how loved ones and neighbours were separated for nearly 30 years.

Elsewhere, Museum Island comprises a number of captivating galleries and museums, including the Pergamon Museum which houses ancient antiquities from Rome, Greek, Babylon and Persia. Alternatively, you could wander through the extensive Tiergarten to Berlin Zoo or the Bauhaus Archive.

Further out, Charlottenburg Palace is the only remaining royal residence from the Hohenzollern dynasty, while Potsdam is home to the Baroque flower gardens of Park Sanssouci.

This evening, we have dinner at a local restaurant.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 12 – Homeward bound

This morning, we transfer to Berlin's main railway station to begin our journey home. Travelling across Germany to Cologne, we can look back on this amazing holiday to four of Europe's most impressive cities. Whether it was Vienna with its classical grandeur, Budapest with its beautiful buildings lining the Danube, the medieval charm of Prague, or the rejuvenated and vibrant Berlin, these four locations have given us a multitude of memories.

Boarding the Eurostar in Brussels, we arrive in London St Pancras International in the evening and say farewell to our fellow travelling companions and new friends who have shared these unforgettable experiences with us.

Includes
  • Breakfast
  • Eurostar Light Meal

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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Continental Hotel, Budapest

Continental Hotel, Budapest

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Three Corners Lifestyle Hotel, Budapest

Three Corners Lifestyle Hotel, Budapest

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Vienna House Andel's Prague

Vienna House Andel's Prague, Prague

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Mooons Hotel, Vienna

Mooons Hotel, Vienna

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Trains

Eurostar
Thalys
The Children's Railway

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Upgrades

London Hotels
UK rail connections
Door to door luggage service

Reviews

4.6 stars4.6 / 5 · 118 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (77)
  2. 4 stars
    (33)
  3. 3 stars
    (7)
  4. 2 stars
    (1)
  5. 1 star
    (0)

Joanne Hulbert

5 stars

Submitted 28 Oct 2023

All round great experience. Tour Manager (Kevin) was great, organised and prepared. The cities were great, just the right split between guided and free time. Have already recommended to others.

Collected by Trustpilot

J Wright

5 stars

Submitted 28 Oct 2023

This trip was just what I was hoping for. The four capital cities were all completely different and equally interesting to explore. The connecting trains were generally on time or close to being so. The tour manager, Kevin, was truly excellent and provided everything we needed with a smile. The luggage handling all worked fine. This was our third trip with GRJ and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them.

Collected by Trustpilot

Mrs Camille Driver

5 stars

Submitted 26 Oct 2023

We had a wonderful time with a wonderful and very knowledgable tour manager

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DW

4 stars

Submitted 24 Oct 2023

Wonderful cities, excellently organised.

Collected by Trustpilot

P Levison

5 stars

Submitted 24 Oct 2023

This was a very well organised trip taking in 4 major European cities with excellent accommodation at each with a well planned railway schedule. The pace of the trip was quite intense but benefitted from the ability to have an orientation tour at each location prior to a free day to follow up on specific sights. Our tour manager Charles was excellent and his enthusiasm for local history and his engagement with the group was a real bonus. Previous reviews of this holiday were critical of the luggage shipping option provided by Sherpr. Despite the criticisms we used the service. It was problem free and negated the need to carry additional luggage on the trains. Sherpr arranged collection of the case 9 days before departure and it arrived in the hotel in Vienna 2 days before we arrived. The return shipment was also fine arriving 6 days after we departed Berlin. I would wholeheartedly recommend using the service. FedEx was the carrier Sherpr used for us and we could track luggage throughout its journey.

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C Banbury

5 stars

Submitted 24 Oct 2023

Beautiful cities, pleasant train journeys, brilliant tour manager

Collected by Trustpilot

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