Arrivals day in Venice where you will be met and transferred to the luxurious five-star Danieli hotel for a two-night stay. The legendary hotel enjoys a spectacular location and is only a short stroll from St Mark’s Square, the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Today is at leisure for all guests to explore this wonderful city. This evening we will enjoy a welcome reception and dinner, giving you the opportunity to meet your fellow travelers.
Venice is a truly captivating city of romance; its unrivalled beauty takes away the breath of first time visitors and regulars alike. Today we will have the opportunity to take a walking tour around the highlights of this spectacular city. Walk through the winding lanes beside the Grand Canal to St Mark’s Square, which for 1,000 years was the heart of Venetian life. We also see St Mark’s Basilica and stroll through the Rialto Market.
Spend the rest of the day exploring this magnificent city. For a truly iconic experience, take a gondola ride (additional charge) in the Basin of St. Mark’s and along the Grand Canal followed by a short stroll through the artists’ district of Dorsoduro, where we will stop to take in the city’s most breath-taking views from the Academia Bridge, before returning to your hotel.
This morning our private train, the Golden Eagle Danube Express, is ready to receive us at Santa Lucia station on the Grand Canal. Late morning (11.30am) the train will thread its way out Santa Lucia station onto the 3-mile causeway over the Venice Lagoon and on to our first stop at the Italian port city of Trieste, for an afternoon tour. We stop at the vast Piazza Unita d’Italia, the main town square, and can climb the hill to the famous Church of San Giusto built around a medieval complex that dates backs to the 13th century. We will go inside the church for a close-up view of the splendid Byzantine-style architecture enriched with precious mosaics.
Today we enjoy a visit to the beautiful capital city of Ljubljana, a delightful combination of ancient architecture and a youthful culture with visits to Preseren Square, Three Bridges and Dragon Bridge.
We then travel out of the city to visit 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.
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. Sarajevo suffered from the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. 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 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 a local 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.
Plovdiv is 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 many sights in the charming Old Town including its ancient theatres, medieval walls and Ottoman baths.
We arrive late afternoon in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria’s ancient capital. Nestled in a magnificent mountain setting, the stone houses seem perched, one above the other, on the steep banks of the Yantra River. A tour includes the superbly preserved medieval Tsarevets Hill and Castle and there is free time to wander through the ancient city.
Overnight the train twists and turns as it climbs over the Carpathian Mountains and threads its way through the dramatic landscape with crystal clear mountain streams. This morning we arrive into Brasov for a tour of Bran Castle. Popularly known as Dracula’s Castle, this beautiful 14th century building is situated amongst stunning mountain scenery.
We return to the train for lunch as we continue onto Sighisoara for a walking tour of the town’s main highlights. A World Heritage site rumored to be the birthplace of Dracula, it is one of the best-preserved fortified medieval towns in Europe. Burgher houses and ornate churches line its cobbled streets. Dinner is served as our train continues onto Hungary and across the Great Hungarian Plain.
This morning we get the opportunity to explore Kecskemét, a fascinating city at the geographical centre of Hungary before the train heads to Lajosmizse for a spectacular ‘Puszta’ horse show.
We then arrive late afternoon at the romantic and historic Hungarian capital, Budapest, located on the banks of the magnificent Danube. Here we enjoy a drinks reception in the Royal Waiting Room at Budapest Nyugati station before transferring for a two-night stay at the five-star Four Seasons Gresham Palace, located centrally, opposite the renowned Chain Bridge, a unique art nouveau landmark which combines historical elegance with ultra-modern comforts.
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 today includes the Royal Palace, St. Mathias Church and a panoramic view of the city from Gellert Hill. We will also see the 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.
Following breakfast in the hotel you will be transferred to the airport for onward departure transfers. There is also an option to extend your stay in Budapest for additional nights to explore more of this fascinating city.