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There’s nothing quite like a trip to Europe. You can experience hundreds of years of history, art, architecture, and culture all in one trip. And in the spring and fall, you can add in spring flowers or blazing branches of red and gold.
Picture yourself strolling along a Dutch windmill in the height of spring tulip season. Or exploring Vienna on a crisp, bright fall morning. There are so many reasons why we think you should plan an off-season trip to Europe, but here are a few of them.
Yes, that’s right. Traveling in the off-season has immediate rewards to your pocket, leaving you more money to spend on having fun! Outside of peak season, many airlines and hotels will have great specials saving you hundreds of dollars on the basics. You might even get discounts on the ground, like happy hours and meal specials at restaurants.
Do you think anyone goes all the way to Europe to stand in line? Obviously not, but in summer, it’s a necessity. In spring and fall—when the vast crowds are much smaller—you can expect lines to be shorter at all major attractions.
You might even experience the rare pleasure of a relatively empty flight on your way over, giving you more room to spread out. Public transport should also be less pressured, allowing you to travel in much more comfort once at your destination.
And, without the crowds, your photos are bound to turn out better. Rather than rushing from place to place, trying to find a gap to take a photo without a crowd of tourists in it, you can take your time. Your photo albums will thank you.
There are many beautiful places in the world, but Europe in spring and fall is something special. In spring, flowers bloom and birds sing, adding a riot of color to every scene. In fall, the landscape appears to blaze with the vibrant reds and golds of the fall foliage.
Experience Holland in tulip season during spring or Germany during Oktoberfest for the most incredible display of color you’ve ever laid eyes on. In Prague, fall is also one of their least rainy seasons! That means you can enjoy seeing the sights and their incredible fall leaves at the same time. Head up to Prague’s Pet?ín Hill for the best views of the city in all its fall majesty.
Our tours generally travel as a group, taking guests from place to place by motorcoach. But any road travel will subject you to traffic. In summer, there can be loads of traffic, clogging up the major sights, as well as making transfers between cities much longer. In the off-season—once all the families and kids are back at school—there’s far less traffic.
Open roads mean more time exploring and more time to enjoy the unique feel of each destination. Less traffic also puts everyone into a better mood, from the locals to the tour operators and visitors. It’s generally just nicer for everyone!
If going to the beach, watersports and all-night partying is your thing, then summer is the right time to visit. But if you’d rather take a hike or explore the cobbled streets of a village, cooler temperatures will make it a lot more comfortable.
Before and after summer, you’ll have the pleasure of exploring your destinations in much more comfort. And since the temperatures haven’t dropped that far, you can still enjoy an ice cream or a glass of white wine.
One of the key reasons we travel is to experience other cultures. In the summer, Europeans tend to flee the popular tourist spots, leaving them to the hordes of visitors. In fact, August is one of the most popular times to holiday for most Europeans, including shop and restaurant owners.
Once the crowds vanish, the locals return and you can experience a much more authentic version of these European destinations. Enjoy a walk through one of Vienna’s many parks with locals walking their dogs and enjoying the last of the day’s light. See groups of men sitting outside cafes on the street enjoying a coffee together.
After the heat of summer, the European cultural calendar explodes. No matter what you enjoy—from theater and music to food and drink festivals—there’s something happening.
Experience the original Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, or one of the many vinobraní (wine festivals) held in Prague in September. In Amsterdam, you can enjoy walking through the many art galleries and museums, and even take in a few shows at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival from 5-15 September. The smaller towns tend to schedule local festivals and markets in spring and fall, adding the delight of stumbling upon a special local event which will often become the highlight of your trip.
When the crowds have died down, everyone can breathe. This means that rather than trying to shuffle you along so the next in line can get in the door, you’re given a lot more attention. From the waiter at the local restaurant who shares insider information with you or the shopkeeper who helps you find just the right gift; there’s no end to the delights that less pressure brings.
Take advantage of this by chatting with your hotel concierge or the host at the restaurant. After all, the locals have a much better understanding of their city and you can learn so much by just asking.
From flying and public transport to traffic and queues, there’s just no end to the things that are easier when there are fewer people around. Head out early in the year and experience the joy of spring blooming all over the continent. Or, take advantage of the clear, crisp weather and even the odd Indian summer day, and tour Europe in the fall.
In one trip, you can experience the delights of a cheese factory, a boat ride and enjoy the medieval architecture of Maastricht. Cruise down the Rhine, and learn more about Nuremberg and Rothenburg. Enjoy the Oktoberfest atmosphere in Munich’s Hofbrauhaus and visit an Alpine village. See the city of Vienna, where the Sound of Music was set and experience beautiful Starom?stské nám?stí (Old Town Square) in Prague.
Can you picture yourself strolling down the canal yet? If you’re ready to start planning your trip to Europe, take a look at our Heart of Europe tour and make it a reality. Not quite ready? Sign up for our brochure and we’ll send it through to you free of charge. Just think of it as food for daydreams.
There are so many incredible reasons to visit Europe—there are 27 countries in the European Union alone, all remarkably different yet closely connected and easy to navigate. Is it any wonder that it’s on the bucket-list of so many? A trip to Europe is something everyone should do at least once. Escorted tours are the perfect option for your trip overseas, for a number of reasons. Here’s what you need to know about taking a guided tour of Europe.
You may think it’s much cheaper and easier to DIY your tour of Europe. But it’s not as easy as it looks and you may spend a lot of hours searching for the best hotels, attractions, flights, and restaurants—in seven different countries. An experienced travel operator works with local experts. They’re the people who know the perfect places for a great view, delicious dinner, or hidden gem. You don’t have to waste your time researching the can’t-miss attractions, mouthwatering dishes, or paging through TripAdvisor to find that one off-the-beaten-path place with the most breathtaking views.
Better still, your guide usually speaks the native language too—very helpful since the European Union has over 20 official languages! A guided tour through Europe includes accommodations, most meals, and transfers during your whole tour. It even includes tips for waiters, bagboys and other service providers —everyone except your driver and guide. It’s helpful for budgeting because you can simply book the tour and your flights, and you’re done. At the same time, it saves you both time and money because your tour operator (that’s us!) can get the best deals at restaurants, accommodations, and transfers since we travel with a group and have a personal relationship with most of the places we visit.
We’ll take care of the details so you can spend your time at destinations and not researching your next mode of transportation.
Unlike many travel destinations that lose their luster during certain times of the year, Europe is a year-round destination—its major cities are always bustling and welcoming to visitors. That being said, however, some seasons are definitely better than others, depending on your travel goals.
Summer is peak season; usually, the months of mid-June to August are busiest, but the weather is sunny and the days are long. It’s a great time to visit, but the crowds will be a bit larger.Of course, if you’re visiting southern Europe, the temperatures can get rather high—sweltering even. And many southern European cities in France and Italy practically shut down during the “holiday” month of August.
We like to schedule our guided Europe tours during “shoulder” seasons, April and May in the spring and September and October in the fall. The weather is mild, there are fewer crowds to contend with, and those in the tourism industry are happy to welcome visitors.
The winter months are the off-season in Europe and there are a few advantages to traveling then—lower airfares chief among them. But you need to be prepared for unpredictable weather, including rain, snow, drizzle, and cold...and the days are very short.
Our best packing advice? The most important items are your passport, tickets, and a credit card. Anything else can be bought at your destination! While we take care of your tickets, you should make sure to have (or update) your passport, check with your bank that you can use your card abroad (and let them know you’re going to Europe, before they block your card!), and be sure to get travel insurance.
A good outlet adaptor is key—you won’t be able to plug in your electronics and devices without one. These are inexpensive and easy to buy. Bring a power strip to make sure you can plug in all your electronics in your hotel room! It never hurts to know some key phrases like please, thank you, excuse me, how much, where is. A few words in German, Dutch, French, and Italian will go a long way on our most popular tours. Danke, dankjewel, merci, grazie!
It’s becoming easier and easier to stay online while traveling the world. WiFi hotspots are easy to find all over Europe, and you can use different WiFi messaging and communications apps to stay in touch. WhatsApp provides free texting and voice and video calls. Contact your cell phone provider about short term international data and calling plans before leaving for Europe though. If you will use your phone for photos, consider increasing your memory and taking a USB battery pack.
Packing for your guided tour of Europe really isn’t that different from any other vacation. You’ll want to pack light—a single suitcase—since most tour coaches and airlines limit you to one bag. Some other packing tips to consider:
Most of your expenses are included with an escorted tour, but be sure to bring some extra cash for souvenirs, shopping, beverages and individual meals, or if you want to join an optional excursion. As for tips—most of them are included in your tour. During independent meals, the general rule at restaurants in Europe is 5% to 10%, depending on the level of service.
Don’t forget to leave some space in your suitcase if you plan to buy keepsakes and souvenirs. Do follow the tour itinerary and listen to your tour manager for departure times; it’s hard to miss the bus if you do. Just in case, carry your passport and your accommodation address and contact information with you at all times.
Just so you know: stops are usually followed by some free time for independent sightseeing and frequent stops are planned to stretch your legs and go to the toilet.
Wondering what it actually looks like on a guided tour? Your transport will be a motor coach with heating and air conditioning, and there’s an enclosed portable toilet for emergencies. These are comfortable buses with big windows, so you won’t miss a thing while riding through stunning landscapes. Our partner hotels are typically 3 or 4-star hotels and inns with amenities such as a private bathroom with toilet, sink, and shower; free WiFi; breakfast buffet; and a tv with a few English channels. You can check the list of hotels for your tour on our website.
With a guided tour, most of your itinerary is set. You know which city you’ll be in on each day and even most of the sights and attractions you’ll see on those days. When you make a sightseeing stop, your tour manager will typically indicate points of interest while on the motor coach and/or with a walking tour, followed by 45 minutes to 2 hours for independent sightseeing, depending on the location. We also offer optional excursions that you can add to your itinerary, so you can see even more of your destination.
For example, with our 15-day Heart of Europe tour through Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, you can choose to explore Salzburg’s treasures, discover the Venetian lagoon, travel to the top of Mt. Stanserhorn in the world’s only open-top cable car in Switzerland, experience a typical Parisian evening, and take a panoramic tour of Amsterdam’s canals on top of the already planned sights and attractions.
If you want, you can also add days to your trip before or after the tour. Just let us know when you book your tour, so we can help planning your trip and find you the best hotels and flights.
You’re back at home—now what? Make sure to reach out to fellow travelers you exchanged information with. It’s so great when friendships blossom on tour. Sometimes new friends even book a future tour together! A trip like this is memorable, but it’s nice to have some physical reminders of your guided tour of Europe. Create a photo album with your favorite pictures, put together a box with some photos and souvenirs your brought home, or journal your favorite memories.
Send your favorite photos to our photo contest email address and your picture may end up in next year’s brochure or shared on the Image Tours Facebook page (follow us to see pictures our guests took on tour).
Ready to make new friends and great memories? Get in touch today to find your next guided tour in Europe.
Who says the only capital cities to visit in Europe are London, Paris, and Rome? Travel off the “beaten path” and see the capitals of Central Europe for a deep-dive into the continent’s history and culture.
These more obscure cities of the Old Continent have seen the rise of many famous figures as well as important historical events. You’ll love learning all about the unique cultures and peoples, who make Central Europe a thriving region.
Here’s a look at five capital cities and their surrounding towns that are must-sees in Central Europe:
Germany’s capital city, Berlin, is most known for its World War II history and the Berlin Wall. But since Ronald Reagan famously told “Mr. Gorbachev” to “tear down this wall,” Berlin has become a buzzing metropolis waiting to be explored.
Sightseeing highlights of Berlin include the grand Reichstag Building, magnificent Brandenburg Gate, and the site of Checkpoint Charlie, the best known Berlin Wall crossing point. Definitely stop by Kurfürstendamm Avenue, affectionately called Ku’damm, for a look at the bombed tower of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a reminder of World War II.
During your tour of the city, be sure to stop in one of the world-class restaurants for fantastic food and beverages. You can’t miss out on trying traditional German fare, like schnitzel, bratwurst, and beer.
Outside of Berlin lie towns known for their religious history. Ever heard of Martin Luther, the religious reformer? Of course you have. He nailed the 95 Theses to a chapel door in Wittenberg, which isn’t too far from Berlin. Eisenach’s Wartburg Castle was Luther’s hiding place after becoming a wanted man by the Catholic Church.
Eisenach is also the birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach, and to continue with the music theme, visit Leipzig, the birthplace of Richard Wagner and last home to Bach. There, you can visit the grave of the “Toccata and Fugue” composer.
Krakow is probably one of those cities you’ve heard of, but don’t really know much about. And that’s okay! There’s no time like the present to discover Poland’s gem.
Many centuries ago, Krakow was actually a major trade centre, but after the capital was moved to Warsaw, the city deteriorated. Poland lost its control of Krakow for over a century—it remained under Austria’s rule from 1795 to 1918.
Krakow did not escape World War II. The city was under Nazi control for many years, and over 55,000 Jews were taken from the city to Auschwitz, the horrific concentration camp. After the War, Poland once again gained Krakow. The city became an industrial mecca and helped bolster the country’s economy after the fall of communism in Poland.
These days, Krakow is a vibrant city full of art, architecture, and science. If architecture is your thing, be sure to head to the Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Get a taste of Polish culture with a visit to salt mines just outside of Krakow, followed by a delicious dinner. Art enthusiasts should head to the National Museum for a look at famous paintings, sculptures, and more.
Budapest, known as “the Queen of the Danube,” is actually split into two parts across the River. Buda is on the west bank, and Pest is on the east bank. The sections are connected by many bridges across the Danube, creating Budapest. And between the two of them, there is so much to see and do.
In Buda, have your camera at the ready while visiting Castle Hill. The Old Town is covered with beautiful buildings and the Royal Palace is a stunning sight. Fisherman’s Bastion is arguably the most photographed spot in Buda. Its seven spectacular spires tower over the side of the Danube.
Pest, the larger section of the city, holds much of the modern-day culture. Here, the Hungarian Parliament resides. Music is a huge part of the capital’s make-up. Swing by the Vigadó (romantic concert hall) for ornate architecture and a possible performance. Pest is also home to the National Theatre, Neo-Renaissance State Opera House, and Franz Liszt Academy of Music. And for even more examples of architecture, stop by Gresham Palace for a fine example of the Art Nouveau style.
Nothing compares to a cruise down the Danube for breathtaking views of the city. With Buda on one side and Pest on the other, is there really a better way to take in Hungary’s capital?
Austria may be famous in the United States for The Sound of Music, but while visiting Vienna, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the country and its capital.
Certainly the “can’t miss” site in Vienna is St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The massive house of worship is a gorgeous and grand spectacle in the city center. Another breathtaking building is the Vienna Opera House.
Just outside of Vienna is Schonbrunn Palace. Think of it as Vienna’s version of Versaille. It was originally constructed as a hunting lodge, and then become a Habsburg summer residence. Wouldn’t that be the life?
Looking for something to do? Head to Museumsquartier for your pick of different museums. There is something for everyone here, including art museums, children’s museums, and a natural history museum.
The best way to ensure you see all you desire in Vienna (or anywhere abroad for that matter) is by booking your tour well in advance. A little planning ahead can take your trip from great to fantastic.
The final capital of Central Europe to see is Prague, the Czech Republic’s pride on the Vltava River. Despite destruction occurring all around it in World War II, Prague mostly remained intact, which adds to the city’s popularity as a travel destination in the 21st Century.
Begin your tour of Prague with Staromestské námesti, the most photographed square in the whole capital. Head next to the Old Town Hall and Church of St. Nicholas for traditional Czech architecture.
The remarkable Charles Bridge takes you across the Vltava River to Malá Strana and the Prague Castle. Visiting these historic sights transport you from reality into a fairytale, if only for a minute or two.
Don’t miss out on your opportunity to see the exceptional capitals of Central Europe, get in touch to start planning the adventure of a lifetime today.
Paris...Rome...Berlin...Vienna. When you tell your friends you’re going to Europe, those are the cities that come to mind.
But Europe is so much more than international capitals and major tourist destinations. To really know and understand the Continent, you need to explore the cities that don’t make the guidebooks. The underappreciated destinations that tell the story of Western Civilization.
If you’re planning a trip to Europe this year, don’t overlook the charms of these underrated destinations.
Back in the Middle Ages, long before Munich and Berlin were household names, Rothenburg was the place to be in Germany. Today, Rothenburg is a picture-perfect example of Germany’s influence in medieval Europe.
Beautifully preserved city squares, in-tact city walls, storybook lookout towers, half-timbered store fronts, centuries-old churches, and the idyllic Tauber Valley are just a few of Rothenburg’s charms. It’s like stepping back in history when you walk its cobblestone streets.
If you’re touring Germany, Rothenburg connects you with its glorious past.
Altstadt von Innsbruck, or Old Town, is one of the main attractions of this amazing Austrian city. You might connect it with the Olympics, but Innsbruck has been a destination in its own right for hundreds of years. Buildings in the town center date back 500 years.
Don’t miss St. James Cathedral with its gold and marble altar, the bronze statues in the Hofkirche, the elegant Imperial Palace, the Golden Roof, and the world-famous Swarovski Crystal Worlds.
Any tour of Europe that skips Verona will leave you wanting more.
Verona lives in history as the place where Juliet gave her life for love—you can even see Juliet’s balcony, her tomb, and the gate through which Romeo made his way to Mantua.
But even if you’re not a lover of romance, you’ll appreciate Verona and its magnificent Roman architecture. The Bard set “Taming of the Shrew” and “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” in this underappreciated Italian town. If you love Shakespeare, you can’t miss Verona.
Whatever you’ve imagined about the beauty of Swiss villages pales in comparison to Engelberg. Surrounded by the Alps and centered on a monastery, Engelberg is everything you want from your trip to Switzerland.
To fully experience Engelberg, spend the night and, in the morning, open your window to the awe-inspiring mountain views. Visit the Cheese Factory, tour the Abbey, hike along the village paths or take a cable car to Titlis.
Bring your camera—this is a place you’ll never want to forget.
Pastel half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets, and a fabulous story that dates back to the 12th century Count of Champagne—Troyes is where history, romance, and sparkling wine collide.
Sip the Champagne, nibble on brioche, and don’t miss andouillette, the local sausage-wine-and-onion delicacy with origins dating back to the court of Louis II and his coronation in the Troyes cathedral.
Everyone eats cheese and baguettes in Paris...but how many people have had andouillette and Champagne in Troyes?
Antwerp is where the past and the future collide—in a beautiful way. The market square, or Grote Markt, is an homage to 16th-century Europe, and the city’s 12th-century Cathedral of Our Lady is the biggest Gothic edifice in Europe’s lowlands. In contrast, there are modern structures such as the Palace of Justice and the avant-garde Port House with its gigantic diamond-shaped monument.
Did you know two-thirds of the world’s diamonds pass through Antwerp?
If you’re looking for the ultimate European experience, don’t miss Antwerp—and do indulge in Belgian delicacies. Who doesn’t love Belgian waffles and Belgian chocolate?
If your first thought when you hear the word “Delft” is the beautiful blue-and-white pottery, you’re not alone. Delftware is a highlight of the pedestrian shopping areas.
But when you’re done dishware shopping, leave some time to explore the city’s amazing canal system, its world-renowned museums, and of course, the tulips in season. The many cafes offer opportunities to try Dutch treats such as endless adaptations of pancakes.
Delft is an unexpected joy in the heart of northern Europe.
The Rhine is famous for its wine regions, but the Rieslings of Rudesheim steal the show. Rudesheim’s grapes date back to 1st-century Romans and their knowledge of viticulture. Today, some 3 million oenophiles make their way to Rudesheim each year to sample the incredible sweet and dry wines.
Take a cable car to the hilltop Niederwald Monument or a boat ride on the Rhine River for picturesque views of the vineyards. The festive atmosphere of the charming shops, taverns, and restaurants along the Drosselgasse contribute to a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Rudesheim.
There’s something for everyone in Europe. Whether your passion is history, geography, culture, or cuisine, you’ll find something that excites you in our favorite European cities—and we’d love to help you explore.
Get in touch today to see how easy it is to picture yourself on a guided tour of Europe this year.
Ever wish you could go backpacking through Europe without the backpacking part?
It’s possible to see the most magnificent places throughout the Old Continent with transportation and lodgings provided—all you have to do is go!
Here is the ideal itinerary for 22 days in Europe to see the ultimate sights:
The moment you’ve been waiting for months and months has finally arrived! Your international flight to Europe is about to touch down in Holland.
Your first full day in Europe begins with a drive through the Dutch Lowlands. Because the majority of the Dutch countryside is at or below sea level, you will see many dikes, canals, and windmills throughout the green heart of Holland.
You’re going to love the Dutch “gezelligheid,” a kind, convivial, comfortable feeling—it’s everything you imagined Holland would be.
It’s all about the canals, cafes, and ceramics during your day-trip to Delft! As you walk through the picturesque streets, medieval architecture is everywhere you look. Corner cafes offering Dutch pancakes lure you in with their sweet smells.
Be sure to stop and admire the charming canals that wind their way through the city.
In any store, you’re all but sure to find the famous blue Delftware pottery. Pick some up for your dining room at home to remind you of this charming city.
Head to Antwerp, Belgium today. For lunch, sample Belgian waffles at one of the colorful cafes while admiring the guild houses surrounding the main square. If you’re a chocolate fan, you won’t be able to resist the endless selection in the chocolate shops.
Heading toward Germany, the stop at Margraten American Military Cemetery is an emotional one. The graves of over 8,000 American servicemen from World War II are here. Pay your respects to the men who fought for liberty and justice for all.
Willkommen in Deutschland! Welcome to Germany! Glide down the Rhine River past quaint villages, medieval fortresses, and hillside vineyards known for their distinctive wines.
The village of Heidelberg and its castle exude the spirit of Germany. Explore the Old Town and imagine yourself in the days of knights and squires.
Nothing compares to the romantic hamlet of Rothenberg. This medieval village is straight out of a storybook.
Walk the cobblestone streets, hear the sounds of the bell tower, and stop in the many shops, including Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Weihnachtsdorf where it’s Christmas year-round.
The Medieval Criminal Museum is a must. Learn about the different devices of torture and tools of punishment from more draconian times—then lighten up as you travel the Romantic Road (one of the Top 10 Road Trips in Europe!).
Even if you aren’t in Germany at the end of September (when Oktoberfest is celebrated), you can still enjoy the experience of drinking German beer and eating schnitzel to your heart’s content.
The Hofbräuhaus is one of a kind beer hall where the celebration of Oktoberfest goes on all year long. Be sure to try the traditional foods and hoppy beers during your visit.
Austria’s Innsbruck is one of those European cities you will fall in love with. The Imperial City (as it’s known) has hosted the Winter Olympics twice, has incredible mountain views, and is an architectural beauty thanks to Maximilian I, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1493 to 1519.
Be sure to check out the Bavarian Palace or Tyrolean Show and Dinner to get immersed in Innsbruck’s culture.
Italy lies on the other side of the Alps, a country full of history, culture, and excellent food and wine.
To the north is Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake. Its sheltered location in the Dolomites gives the area a subtropical climate rich in vegetation, including oleander bushes, olive groves, fruit trees, and grapevines.
Stroll along the lakefront, visit the shops, and grab a snack at a cafe. Gelato (Italian ice cream) is a wonderful way to cool off on a warm summer’s day.
Italy’s city on the water has so much more to offer than just gondola rides—but you should definitely take one anyway. Then stroll around St. Mark’s Square, marvel at St. Mark’s Basilica and the Clock Tower, and take plenty of pictures of the amazing Venetian architecture.
For a special treat, let us arrange a private dinner with wine and dessert to end your adventure in the City of Love.
While today is primarily a “travel day,” no time is wasted as you wander through the hillside of Italy. Vineyards and olive groves sprawl across the tranquil landscape. Your journey takes you on the Autostrada del Sol (Highway of the Sun).
Ah, Roma. This is where it all began—a city full of the history of Western world. Visit the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and a few of the major temples. Conjure your inner Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck with a trip to the Trevi Fountain.
Then take a tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. You can’t miss the Michelangelo masterpiece, The Creation of Adam.
It’s a free day in one of the most delicious cities in the world.
Visit the markets, sip espresso at a cafe, grab a slice of pizza from a street vendor, and try the gelato. Do a little shopping, walk the Spanish Steps, make the most of your day.
True story: The Leaning Tower of Pisa started to shift when the builders hit the third story—they built on soil too soft to support it! Be sure to grab a picture to show your friends back home.
Then it’s on to Florence in the heart of Tuscany. Enjoy a guided walking tour of the various piazzas (town squares) complete with countless sculptures and architectural masterpieces. Shopping is fantastic in Florence—markets full of leather goods and jewelry at Ponte Vecchio Bridge never disappoint.
Can you believe there are palm trees just across the Swiss border? At Lake Lugano, you can take a picture with leafy palm trees and snow-capped mountains in the background. The town of Lugano is known for its international banking and tourist industry. The affluent vacation here during their summer holiday.
Architecturally, the town is Italian but within Swiss borders. You’ll enjoy walking through the “Rio de Janeiro of the Old Continent” on your first day in Switzerland.
Surrounding Lucerne and its lake of the same name are many mountains, including the mighty Rigi, Stanserhorn, and Pilatus. But if the breathtaking views aren’t enough to make Lucerne a must on your European “bucket list,” perhaps the shopping and Swiss chocolates will.
Swiss lace, watches, and wood-carved music boxes are all superb souvenirs to take home to loved ones (or keep for yourself!). Don’t forget to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and admire the gorgeous mountains one last time.
For your first day in France, spend some time in Beaune, a well-preserved medieval town in the French countryside. Burgundy is famous for its wines, which you can sample during an independent dinner.
Visit the Hospices Museum. Once a hospital during the 15th Century, these buildings now house items used in the hospital during the Middle Ages as well as a collection of furniture, paintings, pottery, and tapestries.
You’ll never forget your first look at Paris — the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc de Triomphe, the wide, tree-lined Champs Elysees, and the incredible masterpieces at the Louvre.
It’s the ultimate destination for history buffs, art aficionados, eager epicures, and incurable romantics. Dig in!
One of the best ways to get up close and personal with Paris is a scenic Seine River Cruise.
You’ll see a whole new side of the city as you glide along the water. The Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower are especially impressive from your perch on the boat.
Keep your camera handy!
The Channel Tunnel takes you from Paris to London, your last city on the tour — and what an incredible city it is!
Hit all the famous London landmarks — Big Ben, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square. London is the ultimate mix of old and new.
Today is your day to explore London however you like.
Maybe you’re into shopping—Harrods calling! Or perhaps the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London are at the top of your bucket list. Piccadilly Square has a “Times Square” feel to it if you’re ready for a little nightlife on your last evening in Europe.
After a roaring trip through Europe, it’s time to head home. But don’t be sad—it’s been an amazing three weeks and you have hundreds of pictures to prove it.
Can you see yourself experiencing the excitement of Europe? Get in touch today to start planning the trip of a lifetime.
People have lots of emotions when that last child leaves the nest. And not all of them are bad, by the way.
Many people find a lot of advantages in the Empty Nester lifestyle. In fact theres more freedom to come and go, more time to do the things they enjoy, and often, more money to spend on guilty pleasures and postponed plans like bucket-list travels.
If you’re an empty nester who has put off personal dreams for the needs of your kids, there’s something you should know.
Now is the perfect time to take that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe.
Here are five reasons why it’s going to be better than you ever imagined, now that you’re on your own.
If you’re used to taking trips with your kids, you are probably used to skipping the galleries and museums that tug at your soul because you know your kids won’t enjoy them.
You probably pretended you weren’t really interested in that botanical garden anyway, just to avoid a squabble.
As an empty nester in Europe, however, all that’s about to change.
Want to spend a day Toledo, Spain admiring the Cathedral and Synagogue followed by a sipping Sangria at a sidewalk café? Does your dream tour of Spain include hours spent wandering the Prado Museum.
Exploring the fascinating grounds of the Granada Alhambra, free from the mutters of “Can we leave now?”
If you’re an empty nester traveler, that dream is your reality. You can visit every single World War II memorial and battlefield that captures your interest without constantly worrying that your children are bored.
And if you’re doing the Big Three (Paris, London, and Rome), you can check off all those bucket-list sights you’ve only ever read about until now.
Think of the places you can visit; Notre Dame, the Louvre, Sacre Coeur, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, the British Museum, the Tate, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi Fountain, the Piazza Navona (the list goes on and on).
You’ve got all the time in the world to see things your way.
In fact, the travel advantages start before you even leave home. Imagine being able to choose an itinerary based around the cities and countries you and your partner really want to see.
If you’d rather skip the more traditional European hotspots in favor of a deep dive into the glorious countryside of the British Isles, it’s your choice.
You shouldn’t feel the least bit guilty about skipping the tourist attractions if you want.
Let’s face it, traveling, especially internationally, with kids often means looking for restaurants that serve boring American cuisine like burgers and chicken nuggets.
You may even find yourself lunching at McDonald’s when your kids turn up their noses at that charming fish and chips place on the Thames you want to try. That’s a tragedy when you’ve waited for years for your dream trip to Europe.
Traveling without kids, however, means you don’t have to account for their picky appetites. You can enjoy long, leisurely meals in true Italian style, as course after course—the primo, the secondo, the contorno, and the dolce—arrives at your table.
If you’re lucky enough to find a tour of a lovely Tuscan winery or sample a sip at a Munich biergarten—all the better. When you’re an empty nester, the sky is the limit when it comes to enjoying international cuisine.
Of course, you can’t overlook the sheer pleasure of waking up early and launching your day with nothing but a croissant and coffee.
Children need three squares a day, but you’re free to eat what you want when you want. And if that’s a bite on the go so you don’t miss a moment exploring, there’s no one to whimper, “I’m hungry.”
Best of all, perhaps, is that you can order even the most unusual dishes—think morcilla (blood sausage) in Spain, escargot (snails) in France, or gerookte paling (smoked eel) in Holland, for example. No one at the table will pull a face and call you weird.
Just one more reason it’s not so bad to travel without your kids.
Remember what is was like taking your children to the zoo? They could dawdle for hours at the monkey enclosure laughing at their antics, but they’d rush right by the exotic birds you love to watch without even a passing glance.
They were in charge of the pace.
As an empty nester in Europe, however, nothing is further from the truth. Imagine you’re on a guided tour of European capitals on the day you’re exploring Berlin. In just one day, you might—
There’s no space in that itinerary for dawdling or naps, something you have to consider traveling with kids.
And when that romantic dinner runs late in the night? Well, there’s no curfew for empty nesters. You can even go dancing in the moonlight when you’re done if it catches your fancy.
Empty nesters aren’t bound by the rigid schedules of children in school, when the only acceptable times to travel are winter break and summer vacation. Which are not the best times for visiting Europe, truth be told.
Of course, you could take two weeks in summer to visit Italy with the kids, but you’d have hot weather, large crowds, and higher airfare. You might even squeeze in a trip to London over Christmas break, if you don’t mind cold, wet weather and a crush of holiday shoppers.
Europe is really at its finest when most children are in school.
Springtime in Paris is the stuff of Hollywood love stories and Frank Sinatra songs. The cherry blossoms explode over the Ile de la Cite and the magnificent chestnut groves along the Champs Elysees erupt with sweetly scented flowers.
Holland is especially colorful at Tulip Time in April and early May, when the fields are bursting with colorful flowers.
And there’s nothing like autumn in Tuscany with its magnificent colors and fabulous weather. It’s the season of festivals and celebrating the harvest.
Truffles and porcini mushrooms, lush sweet grapes, and rich black olives and fresh-pressed oil are abundant in fall, making it the best time to visit for gastronomes.
When you’re an empty nester on vacation, you don’t have to miss a thing and you can stay as long as you like.
Even a three-week grand tour of the Heart of Europe® is possible.
Be honest, when you travel with kids, about 90% of your vacation budget is consumed on keeping them happy. Theme park tickets, silly souvenirs, and $6 sodas add up fast when you go to Disneyland.
As an empty nester, however, you can spoil yourself for a change.
Treat yourself to an opera in Vienna at the Vienna State Opera House followed by a luxurious dinner with fine wine and a sumptuous slice of sachertorte slathered in chocolate ganache.
Buy that one-of-a-kind Murano glass sculpture you can set on your mantle at home to remind you forever of your dream tour of Europe.
Take in the cabaret in Paris, a flamenco dance in Spain, a fado performance in Portugal or a theater production in London.
If you’re on a guided tour, go ahead and book that optional excursion to visit the Linderhof Palace in Bavaria or enjoy a Tyrolean Show. Marvel over the crown jewels in the Tower of London, glide along in a riverboat cruise on the Seine, or listen to a fascinating explanations of Pompeii.
Buy yourself something fabulous from a fashion house on the Rue Saint Honore or the Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris. Have your portrait drawn at the Tuileries outside the Louvre. Purchase a painting from a sidewalk artist or gallery.
Indulge your interests and, visit a vineyard, tour a sherry bodega, or learn how Waterford Crystal is made.
Treat your European tour like the once-in-a-lifetime adventure it is and enjoy every minute with yourself as the star. That’s something only an empty nester can do.
Europe is always a marvelous place to travel, with or without your family.
But empty nesters have the advantage. You can make it the trip you’ve always imagined and see everything you’ve always wanted to see. And you’ll have lovely memories to share with your kids once you get home (and maybe even a box of exquisite chocolates, too).
If you’re ready to plan your empty-nester European tour of a lifetime, get in touch today. Why not spend Paris in spring next year?
For hundreds of years since the Alhambra’s inception in the 9th century, the sprawling, fortified complex in Granada, Spain has fascinated both the privileged few who lived within its walls and the travelers from around the globe who now visit this spectacular sight.
Alhambra means “Red Castle” in Arabic, but it is more than just a castle. Located on the River Darro, the Alhambra is composed of five main sections: The Alcazaba served as the military stronghold; the highest ranking officials of the Court lived in the Alhambra Alta, the upper village; the Nasrid Palaces housed royalty throughout the Moorish period; the Charles V Palace was built for the Christian Emperors; and the gardens of El Generalife provided royalty a peaceful place to relax.
The various structures represent the finest of Muslim architecture during Spain’s medieval period. The Alcazaba fortress is the oldest and was built with several towers, such as the Torre de la Vela (Watch Tower). The Alhambra is known for its intricate water system of canals and fountains, some of which can still be seen today. The Nasrid Palaces contained multiple halls, chambers, and luxurious baths for the kings.
The construction of the Charles V Palace marked the end of the Alhambra’s Moorish period; however, the Christian Emperors did not alter any of the characteristics of the other existing parts, allowing present-day visitors to see the preserved and restored architecture in its original form. Walking to El Generalife lends a beautiful view of the Sierra Nevada and crowns an awe-filled excursion for any sightseer.
Miguel Angel Gomez Braojos, a guide at the Alhambra who has a long line of ancestry in the area, observes “Visitors are amazed by the good condition of the buildings and other features. With the Alhambra dating from the 9th century, travelers expect to be visiting ruins, but are delighted to find several full-standing buildings, towers and walls telling the history of this enduring site.” While guiding a group traveling with Image Tours, Miguel Angel endearingly tells them “The Alhambra is something unique in the world, a medieval Arabian palace built by Muslims and preserved by Christians for 500 years.”
The Alhambra is a stop on our 15-day SPAIN & PORTUGAL Tour, which also features Lisbon, Seville, Costa del Sol, Cordoba, Baeza, and Madrid. Our 2018 departures include May 10, September 6, and October 11. To see a detailed itinerary of this tour, click HERE.
To request a free 84-page Europe Tour Brochure that includes the Spain & Portugal Tour, contact your Travel Agent or click HERE and we will have one of our partner Travel Agents send you one right away.
Unless you are a Scandinavia-enthusiast, chances are you probably don’t know a whole lot about the northern European countries that gave us vikings, Thor, and lots of amazing fish dishes. But just because these countries aren’t showcased the same way that the United Kingdom, France, and Germany are doesn’t mean you should write them off.
The Scandinavian countries provide beautiful scenes that look like they are straight out of the movie Frozen (without having to hear that song 1,000 times during your trip!). And using a guided tour to see them is definitely the best way to travel the Nordic countries. In fact, here are 10 reasons why:
If you’ve never been to Scandinavia, chances are you aren’t too familiar with its history or the best sights to see. An escorted tour ensures you see all of the important monuments, castles, museums, etc., without having to take the time to do the research yourself.
Take the Hans Christian Andersen House in Odense, Denmark, for example. Many of his stories have inspired pop culture hits today such as The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, and The Snow Queen (read up on them all here). You should definitely visit if you’re traveling through Scandinavia, but without a tour operator, you might not even have known it existed.
Everyone has heard of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, but have you ever heard of Gamla Stan? Literally meaning “Old Town,” Gamla Stan dates back to the 13th century and is the birthplace of Stockholm. Walking down the ancient cobblestoned streets feels like you’ve been transported back in time. The colorful buildings lining the roads and water add to the quaint and tranquil atmosphere of this medieval town.
While you may have thought to visit Stockholm, you might not have known about the charming suburb of Gamla Stan. Thanks to guided tours, missing out on beautiful and unique destinations is never a problem.
Imagine planning a trip to a European country. You want to make sure that wherever you go you will see the best of the best, right? Now imagine you are planning on visiting more than just one country. How about more than two? Three?
With a guided tour, not only will you see all the significant spots of Scandinavia, you can also see most of Northern Europe. In fact, it’s entirely possible to see a total of seven countries during your tour of Scandinavia and the Baltics.
Remember that trip you were planning yourself? Do you think you’d be able to cover seven different countries, seeing all that you want to in efficient amount of time? Don’t worry! The expert tour operators will handle all of that for you. All you need to do is pack your bags, hop on a plane, and enjoy Northern Europe!
Life is busy. It’s hard to commit to over a week of travel, let alone two! But life is also short. It’s important to live it to the fullest, which means getting away and embarking on eye-opening adventures. And while seeing the majority of Northern Europe is a possibility, it’s not necessarily for everyone.
Can’t commit to being away for more than two weeks, but still want to see the heart of Northern Europe? By dropping the Baltic countries, you can still see all of the superb sights Scandinavia has to offer in only 12 days. This way, you won’t feel rushed while touring all four countries, but will still be home in less than two weeks.
Let’s be honest—the best part about any vacation is taking a vacation from your healthy diet. You’re splurging on traveling to Europe, why not splurge on your calories for the trip too? And great news for the foodies—most of your meals are included on a guided tour!
Your tour company chooses hotels that serve daily breakfasts, usually buffet style (foodies rejoice!), that include a selection of breads, fruits, cold cuts, cereals, and more. Lunch is usually on your own, which is a fantastic time to explore the local cuisine for a smaller price than a dinner.
Speaking of dinner, while most are included with your tour, there are optional dinner excursions you can easily add on that also enhance the cultural experience. There could be no better way to immerse yourself in the Scandinavian experience than with a Viking Dinner. Enjoy an authentic, multi-course feast from the Iron Age, when Vikings ruled the seas. Food is prepared with spices that would have been brought to the Nordic countries during that time period, and each diner gets a glass of mead with their meal.
Crossing the North Sea might seem daunting if you’ve never been before—should you fly across or take a boat? If a boat, what ferry system should you use?
Plus English is not the native language of any of the countries you will be visiting, and while it is commonly spoken globally, is it really worth the risk to find a cabbie who has no idea where you want to go?
Let your tour service take care of all of your transportation needs (including airport transfers)! That way, you know you are using a safe and reliable service while abroad to travel through Scandinavia and the Baltics.
There’s a great possibility that if you travel Scandinavia on your own, you could find yourself in a restaurant where all you hear is this. While we all love the Swedish Chef, it might make for a better dining experience if you know exactly what it is you are ordering.
If traveling with a tour company, however, your tour operator will have planned to visit destinations with English-speakers, but if a situation arises where the local language is needed, your tour operator will help navigate any language barriers. It would be a shame to miss out on something spectacular simply because neither you nor anyone you are traveling knows the Nordic languages.
Let’s face it—traveling to Europe isn’t the same as a domestic trip. You are spending a lot of time and money on your tour of Scandinavia, so shouldn’t you invest wisely and hire the professionals?
Using a guided tour gives you the best value for your time abroad. Tour guides are professionals; they do this for a living. They will ensure you have the trip of a lifetime! How so? Your tour operator will know the history of a particular area, the best places to visit, and how to efficiently navigate the countries.
Don’t risk it—book a guided tour and protect your memories of a truly once-in-a-lifetime trip.
That age-old adage, “safety in numbers,” has stuck around for a reason. Pickpockets, thieves, and others of the like are more inclined to prey on the lone traveler or those traveling in pairs. With a group, there’s a greater chance of the perpetrator being caught or seen before they can even act.
The other good news? With a tour operator, there’s less of a chance that you’ll even be in an area where these sorts of crimes occur. Your tour company will choose reputable hotels in safe areas. If you were to book a hotel on your own, could you truly know that it was the “best” place to stay without ever having been there?
What could be worse than reaching the museum or monument you’ve most wanted to see and finding out they are about to close or they are too full to allow you in?
Tour groups reserve their spots way in advance to ensure admission to popular attractions—and they dedicate enough time in the schedule for travelers to fully appreciate them. Your tour operator may even be able to get you into these places before or after regular visiting hours for a private viewing! Wouldn’t that be amazing for the fascinating Viking Museum on the Bygdoy Peninsula of Oslo or the marvelous Skansen Open Air Museum in Stockholm!
Even the most prepared traveler can’t keep errant baggageman from losing their luggage. Should that catastrophe (because let’s face it, lost luggage is a catastrophe) happen to you on a guided tour, you are not alone.
Tour companies give you comfort because you know that if anything goes wrong, you’ve got someone on your side working to fix it. They are full of helpful travel tips and recommended travel insurance coverage for those just-in-case moments. For any need (lost luggage, forgotten toiletry, etc.), simply reach out to your tour operator and they will assist you in making things right! Traveling on your own means having to solve these problems—alone. Wouldn’t it be better to have someone in your corner?
If you are ready to broaden your horizons and travel the Nordic and Baltic countries of Europe, be sure to click here to get in touch with us today.