Travel with a local edge. Your leader knows how to navigate the Paris metro, the coolest neighbourhoods in Budapest and (most importantly) where to find the best pizza in Rome.. Spend the day exploring the 13th-century Czech town Cesky Krumlov, where an impressive castle overlooks a small city of charming squares and cobbled lanes.. What’s most impressive about Rome is how its most sought after attractions are so accessible. Wander around with your leader and stumble upon the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Vatican with ease.. Now one of the world’s most artistic and exciting cities, Berlin has a complex and fascinating history. See the graffitied fragments of the wall that once divided the city, but now unites with art.
Elaborate architecture, diverse cuisine and history on every street – the charm of Europe deserves all the praise it gets. From the brash elegance of Madrid to the soft-hued landscapes of Avignon, the beer and bar cultures of Brussels and Berlin to the ancient mysteries of Rome, this 43-day Lonely Planet Experience takes in the icons of the world’s most-visited region. Discover cities where life flows around – and on top of – some of the world’s great architectural and artistic monuments. With plenty of time to ramble and explore at your own pace, this trip is perfect for travellers who want a local to introduce them to Europe, with some independence on the side.
Breakfast Included: 23 Lunches Included: Dinner Included:
Welcome to Madrid, the sassy central capital of Spain known for its elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 or 7 pm, depending on common area availability. After the welcome meeting, perhaps get into the mind of a Madrileno with some tapas and Rioja.
Today is free for you to discover Madrid. Perhaps begin in the heart of Old Madrid with a stroll along the portico-lined Plaza Mayor. After that maybe take a break in the Real Jardin Botanico, a garden wonderland dating from the 18th century, or by sitting with a coffee in one of the atmospheric streets and squares around the famous Plaza Mayor. If you’re after something a little more structured, you could join a locally-guided Urban Adventure to get a deeper insight into the city through its tapas. At night, maybe follow the crowds to Chueca, Plaza Dos de Mayo or Plaza Santa Ana, where the pulse of the city will lead you from bar to bar.
Today travel by train to charming Cuenca (approximately 3 hours), located on the edge of deep gorges created by two rivers: Jucar and Huecar. On arrival, venture out on an orientation walk around this historic World Heritage-listed fortress city. The Old Town of this city is an outstanding medieval development built on steep mountainsides, with many casa colgadas (hanging houses) that are literally on the cliff edge. After the orientation walk, use your free time getting to know the city. Perhaps visit the impressive 12th-century gothic cathedral. Evening is a great opportunity to gather together with the group and enjoy a dinner and see the Old City beautifully brushed with light from a series of high-powered lamps suspended half-way up the rock.
Board a train east to the coastal town of Valencia (approximately 4 hours). It's known for being the Spanish gateway to the Mediterranean, with a big port, beautiful beaches, restaurants and a beach promenade along the waterfront. On arrival you are free to begin exploring at your own pace. Perhaps head to the Old Town, where you will find beautiful monuments and historical buildings, or (if weather permits) soak up some sun on the beach. The colourful stalls of the Mercado Central are a great place to grab some fresh produce to snack on during the day while you explore.
Enjoy another free day in Valencia. History buffs might want to check out the 13th-century Valencia Cathedral, which houses what legend says is the Holy Grail. Or maybe climb the 207 steps of the Miguelete tower for the best views of the city. After something different? The Museum of the Fallas contains a history of the Valencia Fire Festival in the form of giant papier mache figures (and entry is inexpensive, which is a bonus). To try the paella that Valencia is famous for (made with rabbit and chicken), ask your leader to point you towards the Las Arenas area for a hearty and reasonably priced lunch. Cycle paths and cheap bike hire make for another great way to explore, so active types might consider biking the park (a former river) that runs through the centre of the city.
Take the train up the coast to Barcelona (approximately 4 hours), a quirky city with a ground-breaking art scene, Gothic architecture, superb dining and a non-stop nightlife. Arrive in the afternoon. Maybe wander the labyrinthine streets of the old Gothic Quarter and navigate your way through the throngs of tourists along La Rambla, Barcelona's famous tree-lined boulevard. There are plenty of museums to choose from, so perhaps spend some time in the National Art Museum of Catalonia or the Museum of City History to brush up on your local knowledge. Take the funicular to the top of Montjuic or Tibidabo for panoramic views of Barcelona and the harbour. The heart of Catalonia prides itself on being a gastronomic centre, so tonight make sure to follow your leaders advice on where to get a taste of the culinary action.
You’re free today to partake in some of the optional activities on offer or relax. In the morning perhaps head to the stalls of Santa Catarina Market, a huge trove of local produce beneath a colourful, undulating roof. The city is famous for its architecture designed in the unique Catalan Modernista style. The master of this movement was Antonio Gaudi, whose eccentric creations are dotted all over the city. A visit to Gaudi's masterpiece, the modern basilica of La Sagrada Familia, is a must, even if it's just to see the outside. Gaudi worked on this hugely ambitious project for decades until his death and it remains under constant construction. For more insight into the artist, head to Parc Guell, a surreal landscaped area also designed by the artist.
Today is free for you to enjoy as you please. Set out to discover more of Barcelona in detail. With great restaurants, art galleries, shopping and nightlife on offer, Barcelona is a world-class city exuding confidence and style through every pore. You might want to consult your Lonely Planet app to see what it suggests to do here!
Today is free for you to explore at your own pace. There are plenty of optional activities to choose from. Perhaps take the funicular to the top of Montjuic or Tibidabo for panoramic views of the harbour or visit Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Basilica – possibly the most iconic landmark in Barcelona. Speak to your leader if you’re having trouble deciding where to spend your time today.
Take the train to Avignon in southwest France (approximately 5–6 hours). This journey is quite spectacular, so make sure you’re ready for photos and try to nab a window seat. With mountain hideaways and emerald vineyards, the Mediterranean coastline folds into table-top mountains where fields of lavender and wildflower cover the landscape. On arrival into Avignon, check in to your hotel and then take a walk around a walled city that was once home to French popes for more than a century.
There are no scheduled activities today, so you can explore the local sites at your own pace with help from the optional activities list. Maybe comb the city's impressive collection of art, visit the grand Palais des Papes (Pope's Palace) or cross the iconic bridge of Pont St-Benezet. You could even hire a bike to see more of this picturesque valley and head to one of the city's amazing bakeries. There are also are many small local bistros that serve up great regional cuisine – why not get some of your travel pals together for a French-inspired feast.
Travel north on a train to France’s cosmopolitan capital Paris (around 3–4 hours). Rich in museums, art galleries, monuments, fashion and delicious food, Paris offers a wealth of major sights and things to do. On arrival into the city, check in to the hotel and then explore at your leisure. Wandering around the Champs-Elysees, the student-filled Latin Quarter, or bohemian Montmartre will give you a good feel for the city. There is so much to do in Paris that it might be a good idea to make a plan before you arrive, so you can get to see all you want!