Arrivals day in Budapest, where you will be met and transferred to the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace for a two-night stay. Enjoy a welcome reception dinner in the elegant surrounds of this art nouveau landmark where you can meet your fellow travellers on this highly anticipated journey.
Budapest is actually two cities separated by the Danube. The old city of Buda and the imposing Royal Palace, dominates the city with stunning views across the Danube to the commercial heart of Pest. Our city tour includes the Royal Palace, St. Mathias Church and a panoramic view of the city from Gellert Hill. We will also see the Parliament Buildings, Citadel, the Opera House, St Stephen’s Cathedral, Heroes Square and the City Park.
The rest of the day is at leisure where you can stroll along the banks of the Danube, visit the historic Great Market Hall with its endless variety of delicious foods and wines or head to one of the city’s famous thermal baths for a rejuvenating dip. Alternatively, you can relax at the hotel and indulge in the hotel’s luxurious spa with infinity-edge pool or make use of the state-of-the-art fitness centre.
We enjoy a morning drinks reception in the impressive Royal Waiting Room at Budapest Nyugati station before boarding the Golden Eagle Danube Express for our departure. Settle in to your cabin as we head to Keszthely on the western shore of Lake Balaton.
At Keszthely we take a tour of the Festetics Palace, a beautiful Baroque palace built on castle ruins in 1745 and expanded 150 years later. In addition, we will enjoy a relaxing boat cruise on the calm waters of Lake Balaton.
Today we enjoy a full day in the beautiful Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana as well as visiting the surrounding region. We begin at Predjama Castle, perched on a cliff high above the beautiful Inner Carniola region. Explore the chambers and stairwells and learn about the castle’s most famous resident, Erazem of Predjama. Then, we continue to Postojna Cave as we ride a mini-train deep into the famous cave and tour the ethereal network of stalactites, stalagmites and caverns.
From here we return to the city and discover Ljubljana, a delightful combination of ancient architecture and a youthful culture. Our afternoon tour includes visits to Preseren Square, Three Bridges and Dragon Bridge.
Early morning arrival into the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo which is an intriguing blend of Eastern and Western culture; it has mosques and minarets, an ancient bazaar and an atmospheric old Turkish quarter. Discover the city’s poignant history through a truly absorbing tour as we visit the location of the assassination of the Heir-Apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, that triggered the First World War and the more recent horrors of the Balkan War. The scars of war are still evident as we travel past war-torn buildings and we make a special visit to the Tunnel Museum under Sarajevo Airport. Your guide, who lived through the 1992-1996 conflict, brings to life in touching fashion the struggles the citizens of Sarajevo faced during the siege of the city.
Following a light lunch, this afternoon we travel along a very scenic railway line to the historic city of Mostar, the crossroads of many civilizations, cultures and three religions. Mostar was one of the most important cities of the Ottoman Empire. The town’s renowned stone arch bridge linking the Christian and Muslim areas was re-built in the summer of 2004. We also visit Turkish House and the mosque before walking through the narrow, bazaar streets, where you can shop for traditional souvenirs and handicrafts.
Arrive this morning in the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Located at the strategic meeting point of the Danube and Sava Rivers, this truly cosmopolitan city has fortifications dating from Celtic times, medieval tombs and Turkish baths.
We spend a full day here and our comprehensive morning city tour passes the Belgrade Fortress, Town Hall, Republic Square, Knez Mihajlova Street, the main shopping area, and includes a visit to Tito’s memorial and St. Sava Church, the largest orthodox church in the Balkans. In the afternoon after a traditional lunch in a local restaurant we visit the excellent Tesla Museum which honours the life and works of the mechanical engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla. He is best known for many revolutionary contributions in the field of electricity and magnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The second largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia, ‘The City of Seven Hills’ is one of the oldest cities in Europe with more than 200 known archaeological sites. We spend the morning here exploring the Roman Forum and Amphitheatre and visiting the charming Old Town including its medieval walls and Ottoman baths. We enjoy lunch on the train as we travel the short distance from Plovdiv to Sofia.
The site of Bulgaria’s modern capital, at the foot of Mt Vitosha, Sofia was first occupied by the Thracian tribe of Serdi. On our afternoon tour we will visit sections of the Roman wall, admire the ancient church of St George, the golden domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Turkish Bashi Mosque.
This morning we arrive into the city of Thessaloniki, situated around an arc of coastline at the top of the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean. We soak up the atmosphere of this vibrant city by heading to see the 15th century White Tower, the emblem of the city before heading out into Central Macedonia to sample local cuisine and wine.
Later, we will head to the coast to enjoy scenery from the water and to learn more about the region’s former place in the Ottoman Empire.
An early afternoon arrival into Athens on day 9, our final stop for the Golden Eagle Danube Express.
We spend 2 nights at the Hotel Grande Bretagne. With breathtaking views of the fabled Acropolis, Syntagma Square and the Parliament, Lycabettus Hill or the original Olympic Stadium, the award-winning 5-star hotel offers an unrivalled perspective of Athens' mythical history. Situated right in the heart of the city since 1874, the landmark hotel is within walking distance of exclusive shopping areas, museums and the business district.
There is much to reveal on our city tour of Athens. The stunning Acropolis and its museum whisk us back to a time of expansion and empire. Following an al fresco lunch at a local taverna, we head in the afternoon to the coast. We pass the affluent beach towns of Glyfada, Vouliagmeni and Varkiza on our way to Cape Sounion where the marble pillars of the Temple of Poseidon are silhouetted in the late afternoon sun.
We enjoy an elegant Farewell Dinner overlooking the Acropolis from the hotel Roof Garden, a fitting end to a memorable rail journey.
Following breakfast in the hotel you will be transferred to the airport for onward departures. There is also an option to extend your stay in Athens for additional nights to explore more of this fascinating city.