Taste tradition with a classic German dinner in a lively Bavarian Beer Hall in Munich. See the fairy-tale turrets of Neuschwanstein Castle and explore the opulent royal hallways and chambers of this regal storybook palace with the expertise of the local specialist. Witness an exclusive handicraft demonstration at the local market stall and see how the decorations were made hundred years ago. Sample traditional Weisswurst breakfast from a Bavarian Benedictine brewery in Salzburg
Get into the Christmas spirit with this unforgettably festive journey through Austria, France and Germany. On this winter wonderland trip, stroll through Munich’s streets, snow crunching underfoot as you take in the famous markets. Soak up the sights and sounds, warm up with a spiced gluhwein or sample some roasted chestnuts in Salzburg – the perfect accompaniment to a cinnamon baked apple. Take a trip out into the countryside for a closer look at the historic Neuschwanstein Castle and have a traditional Weisswurst breakfast at the monk-run Ettal Abbey. Shop for handicrafts and gifts in Vienna, and take a little piece of this incredible Christmas adventure with you when you leave.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 2
Welcome to Strasbourg, France. The city combines lovely gothic buildings that sit alongside canals, with the sleek modern architecture of a centre of European governance. The atmospheric heart of the city lies on a small island surrounded by river and canal, with a magnificent sandstone cathedral providing a focal point. Your winter adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to give to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. As complimentary arrival transfer is included on this trip, you will be picked up from the Strasbourg airport and taken to our centrally located hotel. In the evening, head out for an included dinner at a traditional restaurant to get know your group and the city a little better.
Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend the meeting. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Today, take a walking tour of Strasbourg. Discover the beautifully intricate Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame, whose spire soars above the low medieval houses below. The interior is equally spectacular – wonderful stained-glass windows, elaborate stonework, and graceful statues – and where a huge and complex astronomical clock provides daily shows. From partway up its 142-metre spire there are great sweeping views of the Rhine River. Later, enjoy a gluehwein (mulled wine) tasting and some traditional local food after the walk. Then you’ll hop aboard a train from Strasbourg to Munich in the afternoon (approximately 4 hours), then transfer to your hotel. Bavaria’s capital is famous for myriad reasons, and beer is right up there with the best of them! The beer hall is a traditional setting for imbibing Munich’s famous brew and has long been a tradition of city dwellers. Luckily these beer halls can be found right across town. There is an opportunity not to be missed for an evening’s dinner (at your own expense) in a traditional Bavarian beer hall.
This morning, take a leader led walking tour of Munich – this cosmopolitan metropolis houses an extraordinary array of sights for those interested in art, architecture, history, music and, of course, Christmas markets. Make your first stop at some of the famous Munich Christmas markets. There are 20 different such markets in Munich and you'll be introduced to the best of them, such as the Kripperlmarkt. Held here since the mid-18th century, the name means ‘Crib Market’. Here you can buy everything you might need to create your own authentic nativity scene. Woodcarvers from across the country offer beautifully carved figures and there are countless other handmade decorations on offer. On one of the stall you will stop to enjoy an exclusive demonstration. Witness how the handicrafts are made in the original way, cultivated from the centuries. For something a bit different, there's the Tollwood Christmas Market, Munich's vibrant multicultural festival. At this ‘market of ideas’, there’s an eclectic mix of bars, exhibitions, arts, events, and organic food. Music lovers will be able to get into the festive spirit with a special alpine Christmas Market concert from the balcony of Munich's town hall, which takes places every day while the Christmas markets are on. Sip on a mug of gluehwein, grab a grilled sausage and browse the markets full of toys, woodcarvings, candles and decorations, and get swept away in the incredibly festive atmosphere.
Today you will head into the countryside and visit the imposing Neuschwanstein Castle (approximately 2 hours). This is the castle that fairy-tale dreams are made of. If you only ever visit one castle, then this should surely be on top of the list – especially when dramatically draped in a fresh coat of pristine winter snow. You’ll get a closer look at this incredible structure with a guided tour – perhaps choose to complete the storybook experience with a horse-drawn carriage ride to and from the castle. This theatrical nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace sits atop a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau. The palace was built by ‘Mad’ King Ludwig II, a shy and reclusive ruler who sought grand fantasies and seclusion in this spectacular section of countryside. In 1886, only 7 weeks after Ludwig II’s death, the palace was opened to the public, who could now see the staggering opulence in chambers like the Hagia Sophia-inspired Byzantine throne room and the stunning Singer’s Hall. Tonight you’ll stay at the picturesque Eibsee Hotel, family own and run hotel which overlooks Lake Eibsee and offers the snow-capped Alps as a backdrop to your dinner. Location of this place is equally magical as location of Neuschwanstein Castle, so perhaps take an advantage, and finish your fairy-tale day with a short walk along the banks of Eibsee Lake.
Travel to Salzburg in the morning (approximately 3 hours), stopping en route to visit the beautiful Ettal Abbey. Founded in the 14th century, the abbey is still a working monastery, and while much of it is not open to the public, the impressive Baroque basilica has a viewable dome coved in gorgeous frescos. The abbey also continues the beer brewing tradition that’s been in operation since 1609, one of only a handful of Bavarian breweries that are still operated by Benedictine monks. Maybe taste one of their beers, strictly brewed using nothing but grown malt and hops, and clear, pure water from the Bavarian Alps. After you arrive in Salzburg, take an afternoon walk around a city that’s quintessential Austria – all crisp mountain air and fine baroque architecture. Built on the fortune of its famous salt mines, Salzburg is the birthplace of the fairy-tale legend of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, home to the hills from the Sound of Music, and purveyor of absolutely everything Mozart. Perhaps pay a visit to his birthplace in Mozart House, sample a Mozartkugel (a little sweet of marzipan, nougat and dark chocolate), and then spend the evening at the Christmas Market. Spicy gluehwein, roasted chestnuts, toasted almonds and cinnamon-brushed baked apples are all on the menu.
Enjoy a free morning in Salzburg. You could hop on the cable railway from the Old Town to Hohensalzburg Fortress and look out across the city, explore the cathedral, quickly dive into the Salzburg museum and see its Archaeology and Medieval Collection, or visit the Mirabell Palace and Gardens (most famous for hosting early Mozart concerts, and for its part in The Sound of Music). Of course there are the Christmas markets at Hellbrunn Palace, Mirabell Square and Sterngarten, while in the Altstadt (Old City) children ice-skate around a statue of Mozart and the smell of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine fills the air. In the afternoon board a train bound for Vienna (approximately 2.5 hours), before taking a taxi to your hotel. The evening is spent at your leisure. Just walking around the streets you can feel the refined air that lingers from when Vienna was the centre of a vast empire. You could head to Spittelberg, where restaurants, cafes, bars and galleries combine to bring the city’s love of food, wine and art together.
Today is free for you to enjoy Vienna and countless possibilities it has to offer. Perhaps set off on your own walking tour of Vienna, passing grand buildings and parks. You'll see many monuments dedicated to famous composers and historical figures. Maybe visit the striking Hofburg Palace, or seek out exceptional city views from the Prater Ferris Wheel or up the 343 steps to the top of the tower of St Stephen's Cathedral. Art enthusiasts can choose from a number of famed museums, from the Albertina to the vast array found in the Museum Quarter. You should also visit the Leopold, home to an important Egon Schiele collection as well as major works by Oskar Kokoschka and Gustav Klimt. Take a short walk over to Belvedere Palace to see Klimt's famous painting 'The Kiss' or the Secession Building (a classic example of Viennese Art Nouveau architecture) to see his panorama 'Beethoven Frieze', inspired by the composer's Ninth Symphony. Later in the afternoon, head to the Christmas markets in front of the City Hall and make sure you indulge in some delicious festive food. Browse the markets, sip on Christmas punch and snack on some freshly baked cinnamon biscuits. This evening, perhaps gather together your fellow festive friends for a farewell dinner as this adventure through the winter markets of Europe comes to an end.
Your adventure comes to an end today. There are no more activities planned and you're free to depart the accommodation at any time.