A rich heritage with vibrant contemporary culture is found across Central Europe. Some stories are vivid and easily discovered as you explore cities and palaces from forgotten times. Others are hidden, but will be uncovered alongside your private guide and through immersive experiences. On this 10-day trip across Europe, you will find centuries of enthralling history as you explore three countries and five cities. Warsaw is wonderfully cultural, Krakow is pure charm, Prague brings artistic indulgence,...
Warsaw – An Inspiring Introduction in a City of Old and New
The Polish capital is itself a celebration of resilience, reborn and redefined on many occasions through its long history. There is no dwelling on the past here, but instead delight in the contrasts that the different eras have created. Unlike most Central European cities, the focus is not on a main square. Instead, Warsaw is a jigsaw puzzle of architectural styles and neighborhoods. Gothic churches mingle with futuristic design as old royal palaces are entirely distinct from Stalin’s 1950s Palace of Culture and Science. There is energy to the streets, and on this first evening you can just take a stroll and appreciate how beautifully everything comes together. You will be staying in Srodmiescie, the most central inner city area that has been restored to reflect its early medieval style.
Warsaw – From Royal Legacy to Communism and War History
With a day spent in Warsaw, you can join the dots between eras. Lush parks cover the southern outskirts of the city, and you can wander past the trees to find glamorous palaces as their whitewashed facades only hint at the ornamental treasures inside. Wilanow Palace and Potocki Palace bring understanding as to the country Poland once was, while the old Jewish Ghetto shows what it became just before the war. A city block has been left untouched, and this helps you feel what took place here only 80 years ago. Gaze inside Nozyk Synagogue and find solace at the genocide memorial, before walking past the most outrageous of all Warsaw’s buildings, the one built by Stalin. Being in and around Srodmiescie is best in the evenings so you can just walk around without a plan, heading into the old cathedrals and welcoming restaurants at your leisure.
Krakow – Central Europe’s Most Beautiful Small City
On Krakow’s main square the houses are red, yellow and green. Romanesque churches are slung low down narrow streets, while Gothic and Baroque churches rise artistically around Rynek Glowny. You will have traveled through forest and parkland before the train cut through old city walls to the spectacular central square. This city has always been Poland’s cultural hub, yet it is not overbearing. With most of the day to explore, you will be able to see all of the key highlights without having to rush. Start on the square, and then dip into the churches where stunning altarpieces and surreal stained glass will slow the pace and bring your gaze upwards.
Comparing St Mary’s Church with the 11th-century St Adalbert's Church and the Baroque Church of St Anne will give you a sense of the city’s history. The Palace of the Bishops of Krakow is Renaissance in style, and entirely different from Wawel Castle. Turn again to explore the smaller squares of the city where you can smell the dumplings and hear choir songs escaping from small churches. As you explore, you can enjoy a full range of colors with each building a different hue in the city’s medieval heart. Despite huge destruction during the war, Krakow has been incredibly preserved and restored, so it still reflects its glory days, when it was the capital of Poland for some 531 years.
Krakow – Auschwitz, a Salt Mine, Then Wandering Cobbles and Colors
There is no romanticizing Auschwitz, as it is indeed a tough and harrowing tour that presses on many of your emotions. But it is essential viewing, as witnessing what took place increases your admiration for what has happened since. Wieliczka is far more light-hearted as salt shimmers vividly in enormous caverns, even in the underground gloom. Chambers lead to more chambers as natural salt sculptures decorate ceilings and floor. Put on a hard hat and explore, nature’s canvas an uplifting experience after the concentration camps. You will be back in Krakow by mid-afternoon, giving you lots of time to go out exploring. From cafe terraces to churches to stone sculptures around the castle, you can enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure.
Prague – Palaces and Wonders of the City on the Vltava
A city of bohemian fantasy and with fairytale design, Prague is the most iconic of all of Central Europe’s cities. Stone bridges reach effortlessly over the Vltava River as cathedral bells chime to tell the passing of time. Palaces glimmer softly along the water as a blackened bridge tower tells of the 14th century. There are great wonders to be found here, yet perhaps the greatest beauty lies in the vernacular. While Prague Castle and Charles Bridge are world-famous attractions, this is a city where almost every building is a work of art. The variety is breathtaking, and your local guide will help you to understand the eras as the streets are a fanciful mix of Roman, Baroque and Gothic.
Arrival by train allows you to experience the old station, as well as cut a path through the city’s neighborhoods. You will be staying in New Town, which is also very old, but not as old as the Old Town, at a small hotel along the river. On a three-hour walking tour you will connect with Prague, from the Cubist House of the Black Madonna to Tyn Church, and than St Vitus Cathedral and St George’s Basilica. Prague is a large old city, so there is a lot of walking to do. Rest your legs around sunset with a river cruise along the Vltava, watching the castle walls become illuminated as the clink of glasses drifts out from riverside bars.
Prague – Kutna Hora and a Rural Czech Experience
Skulls gaze at you, and you realize that there are many thousands around you. It is hard to tell in a chapel that is all bones, as human skeletons were piled up here for centuries before they were transformed into the ghoulish Sedlec Monastery. Bones are not purely decoration but the building’s very structure, with curves of tibias and femurs forming columns to keep up the roof. Other surreal heritage can be found in Kutna Hora, like St Barbara’s Church, which is a masterpiece of Gothic design from a time when extravagance was the norm. Back in the 15th century, Kutna Hora was the capital of the Bohemian kingdom, and walking around it feels as if the city has been frozen in that time.
Dresden – A City of Endless Highlights
Dresden was once the world’s most beautiful Baroque city, but unfortunately, you can now only get a glimpse of its riches. Much of the old town was destroyed during the war, but it is slowly being restored, with stolen art returned to the palaces and galleries. A day is plenty to see the highlights, and you will begin at Zwinger Palace. Murals cover the palace walls and tell a 50-meter tale of Dresden’s history as the Saxony capital. Head inside and faces look at you from all angles, with both sculptures and paintings on a scale far larger than your last three cities; Raphael's Sistine Madonna is just one that has been recovered and returned. Continue the old city tour, taking in the Opera House and Frauenkirche, plus the ring of angels that are draped above the River Elbe. There is a gritty, alternative side to Dresden as well, and you will be able to wander the vintage and antique stores, with lots of colorful graffiti and pop-up bars.
Berlin – Following the Line of the Great Wall, Stepping Between East and West
There is no escaping the history in Berlin as the famous wall still snakes through the city, even if only a couple of small sections are still standing. Now it is just an indented brick on the ground for a mark to show what was east and what was west. The two sides are now united, coming together over the last decades to craft something new. Start your exploration at Checkpoint Charlie, where a tank still sits on the street, and there is a fascinating story from the Cold War. Besides a section of the original wall, you will find a city beach and a cocktail bar, your first example of how Berlin brings fun to what was once a traumatic place.
The city’s big grandeur stands in the west, such as the neoclassical wonder of Brandenburg Gate. It’s grandeur with tales to tell, particularly at the Reichstag Building and Unter den Linden nearby. Following the wall is the best one-day introduction to Germany’s capital, as you will find a city made up of many distinctive neighborhoods and appreciate both the differences and the similarities between the two sides. End in Tiergarten, a bustling area of pop-up art galleries and boutiques.
Berlin – Customizable Highlights of Berlin Private Tour
Your final day is left free and will be customized to your interests. You will be at the end of a 10-day Europe trip, so you may be wanting some downtime, Berlin style of course. You can shop on broad boulevards, check out atmospheric central districts, ride the train to cafes and parks. Potsdam is a good day trip, with grand 18th-century palaces stretching through a forested park, their rococo style unlike anything else you’ve seen in the last nine days.
Berlin is a city that grows on visitors. At first, you may find it a little overwhelming, especially the sense of freedom to the streets. By the second day, you will be used to some of the cultural quirks and accept that Berlin is different from everywhere else in Central Europe and beyond. Your guide can help you to plan your itinerary, as well as organize local activities and trips. Drive around the city in an Eastern European old-timer car, take a tour of the city’s premier art galleries, explore more World War II history and continue finding out why Berlin is a capital with many different sides.
Berlin – Departure
After five cities and three countries you will depart from Berlin and take home ten days of experiences and so many cultural legacies from across Central Europe.
- Wander along the line of the Great Wall to experience the contrasting highlights of Berlin
- Study the historical legacies left behind in Warsaw, from royal times to bombed-out Jewish ghettos
- Head into rural Czech to find a chapel made from bones
- Spend two days in Europe’s most sublime small cities, enjoying the colors and ambiance of Krakow, Poland
- Marvel at what remains of old Dresden, where ornate sculptures dominate ghoulish architecture
- Relax along the Vltava River while discovering the best of Prague
- Understand and experience some of Central Europe’s most important stories, such as the one at Auschwitz
- Travel mostly by train for a fast and convenient way to get around and see more of the three countries
The history of Central Europe is complex and compelling as empires have come and gone and cities have risen, and then fallen to ashes. War has been near omnipresent, and art has always taken a central role, as contemporary design is used to revamp and reinvent cities after unsettled times. Innumerable legacies have been left behind, and that is what this 10-day Europe trip is all about. Some legacies will startle you with beauty as you take in phenomenal castles or palaces along a river. Other traditions and stories are all around you, especially as each hotel you will stay in will be within the old part of a city. Still more are hidden, and only discovered as you go exploring with your local guide.
Central Europe is home to many legendary old cities, and this handcrafted tour includes five. You will travel to three different countries, although 60 years ago the same route would have all been in just one country, and a few hundred years ago the borders were also different entirely. You will travel by train, most journeys less than two hours and a chance to admire rural landscapes. Hotels will be handpicked for their central location, so you will not need public transport to spend your evenings in fine city squares and interesting old neighborhoods. Almost all tours are private and a couple of day trips will add new flavor to the trip, notably a dazzling Polish salt mine and a chapel of bones in the Czech Republic.
Fly first to Warsaw, Poland’s enigmatic capital. Eras blur together here, with legacies to royal medieval times meeting Jewish ghettos and Soviet monoliths. Warsaw is a city on the rise, an up and coming highlight of European travel. Zoom to Krakow and spend two nights in Europe’s most enchanting small city, a mishmash of cobbled squares and highly colorful townhouses. This is Poland’s cultural hub, and your guide will help you understand a thousand years of history. The next day, you will visit two contrasting places: Auschwitz-Birkenau is harrowing but unmissable, while the Wieliczka Salt Mine is a stunning meeting of nature’s power with man’s ingenuity.
Continue to Prague, where the experience revolves around the Vltava River. Both the old and the new sections of town are historical and overflow with architectural glories and long-distant stories. Spend a day soaking up the city’s charm, and then head to Kutna Hora the next day to see the surreal Sedlec Ossuary, which is constructed almost entirely from human bones. Dresden is on the railway line to Berlin, so make a stop to see how a once glorious city is faring after near decimation during World War II, and then find the meeting place of east and west as two days in Berlin bring you iconic stories as well as underground movements and messages of rebellion. Consider learning more about our travelers’ favorite European travel experiences by reading their Europe travel reviews.
$2,575 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
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- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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