This wonderful tour visits some of the most fascinating and beautiful sights, straddling the banks of the majestic river Rhine, itself one of Europe’s most picturesque rivers. Firstly we visit Aachen, originally a Roman spa town and administrative centre of one of the most northerly parts of their empire. Then it shot to prominence as Charlemagne’s capital of the Holy Roman Empire, which at its height dominated much of present day France, Spain, Belgium and even parts of Germany and Italy! Today there is a wealth of history on display. Then it’s on to the most picturesque stretch of the Rhine valley, its gorge. Vine-covered hillsides crowned by half-ruined castles on seemingly every summit, with picturesque halftimbered houses and picture postcard villages such as Boppard and St Goar nestle on every sweeping bend on this majestic river. Next we have Heidelberg, one of the most romantic cities you will find anywhere: from its once great castle to the romantic cobbled streets of the historic old city, it has a charm and atmosphere, which has lured distinguished visitors for centuries. At Strasbourg we cross the river like millions before us, both in peace and war, to this symbol of reconciliation and seat of the European Parliament. The city is a delight with its centre largely unchanged since the 14th century, a mosaic of winding alleys and lanes lined with quirkily crooked, half-timbered houses. During periods of its history Strasbourg has been both German and French, and today you can see this influence in its language, cuisine and appearance, creating a truly individual city. Then to Colmar, almost embarrassingly perfect - a typically quaint medieval Alsatian town, which provides a suitable finale to this wonderful tour.
- Return rail connections available on selected dates from more than 30 regional stations
- Return standard class Eurostar and TGV (French high-speed train)
- Six nights three-star or four-star accommodation, plus two dinners
- Visit to Aachen – capital of Charlemagne
- Tour the romantic Rhine River valley
- Guided tour of baroque Heidelberg, seat of one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious universities
- Visit to the Black Forest
- Tour of the scenic wine road in Alsace
- Guided tour of Strasbourg, one of France’s most beautiful cities
- Visit to Colmar, one of the most perfectly preserved medieval towns in France
- Escorted by our experienced tour manager
- The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. In Germany "twin" rooms are often a double bed with two mattresses and individual bed linen. Single rooms are subject to availability at a supplement of £185 per person. The holiday includes return standard class Eurostar, TGV and coach transport as mentioned, six nights bed and breakfast accommodation and two dinners as mentioned, all tours as mentioned, services of a Riviera tour manager.
- Please note there is a £10, £20, £25or £50 supplement for certain regional stations.
We take the Eurostar service from London St. Pancras International (exact time will be given on travel documents), arriving in Brussels approximately 2 hours later. A coach soon takes us over the German border to the picturesque cathedral city of Aachen situated in an amphitheatre of scenic wooded hills. We stay one night with dinner at the three-star centrally located Ibis.
This morning we enjoy some time in Aachen during which we will see the cathedral, some of which dates from the 8th century and you cannot fail to be awe-struck. It dominates the city in every sense: it is one of the most outstanding cathedrals in Europe, built with huge amounts of fine marble in the Byzantine style from the eastern Roman Empire, similar to that found in Istanbul today. The treasure house is incredible, containing many outstanding relics of medieval times including a throne from which over thirty princes were crowned King of Germania, plus a huge chandelier given by Frederick Barbarossa one of the most famous Germans of all time and a shrine containing the remains of Charlemagne himself. (Please note that access into the cathedral is very restricted during the services. Therefore on Saturdays and Sundays it is unlikely you will be able to see inside.) During the afternoon we enter the ruggedly scenic Rhine gorge so beautifully depicted on countless travel posters! We weave our way along the valley through fairy-tale villages, dominated by imposing castles crowing the hillsides, formally occupied by robber-barons extracting tolls from misfortunate river users. We see the Lorelei Rock, from which, according to legend, mermaids lured unsuspecting sailors to their deaths with their enchanting song. The scenic, vine covered valley sides plunge into the swirling waters below which combined with the craggy shoreline creates the river of so many poets’ dreams. We continue our journey to the delightful town of Heppenheim and our hotel for two nights, the modern three-star Park Inn. Heppenheim is gorgeously medieval, not particularly famous for anything, but so beautifully typical of rural central Europe, you are sure to love it.
This morning we visit nearby Heidelberg enjoying a guided walking tour of this wonderful city, which positively flaunts its beauty. Its setting is second to none, nestling by the picturesque river Neckar, in a valley dominated by its imposing castle, high on a wooded hillside – a real-life fulfilment of the perfect medieval German landscape! The town itself is a maze of historic, baroque and gabled buildings lining the river with its romantic old-town behind. Adding to this, its 14th century university, one of the most prestigious in Europe lends Heidelberg that genteel atmosphere rather similar to that of Oxford or Cambridge. During the 19th century it was the centre of Germany’s Romantic Movement, on the route of ‘The Grand Tour’ and visited, amongst many others, by the artist Turner who captured its splendours for eternity. During our guided walk we see the principal sights, but Heidelberg’s greatest monument is simply the city itself. During the afternoon, you are free to explore as you wish, before returning to our hotel.
This morning we take the drive south visiting Baden-Baden a famous spa resort since Roman times. Reaching its peak during the 19th century, it was much frequented by Europe’s aristocracy of the day. Today it still has a regency feel, rather like Bath or Cheltenham. Immediately on leaving the town we enter the Black Forest, following the classic ‘High Road’, experiencing some of central Europe’s most stunning scenery. With its rugged valleys full of white-water rivers and cascading waterfalls, rolling hillsides covered with huge, densely packed pine trees, this is the Black Forest exactly as you would expect it to be. We visit the archetypical village of Sasbachwalden full of chalet-style houses, with their gentle loping roofs, large verandas and balconies crammed with flowers. Surrounded by their large manicured gardens this is as close to a genuine picture-postcard as you can get. We then cross the frontier into France, staying three nights in picturesque Strasbourg at the four-star, centrally located Hotel Mercure. Strasbourg abounds with good quality restaurants so we have included dinner on the first evening only. The hotel is superbly situated at the edge of the historic old town allowing you to explore this beautiful city with ease.
France’s region of Alsace has managed to preserve the best of its past wonderfully, with old stone and half-timbered villages studded throughout the rolling countryside, with the forested hills of the Vosges forming the attractive backdrop. The region takes great pride in its traditions with many still speaking the French, almost German-sounding dialect so synonymous with Alsace. Like most things here the cuisine is unique too and the wines are simply world-class: light, flowery, almost spicy, the Riesling and Gewürztraminer can accompany almost any food. Capital of it all is Strasbourg, now famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, as one of the centres of the European Union. But far more attractive is its 16th century old town, so beautifully bisected by picturesque canals. This morning we will have a walking tour of this unique and cosmopolitan city, situated midway between Paris and Prague. The 11th century cathedral is stunning and there are several museums, one of which includes works by Rodin. This afternoon is free for you to explore as you wish.
Just south of Strasbourg lies a picturesque wine route, virtually an open-air museum of romantic medieval villages, cobbled streets and Renaissance chateaux strung like pearls on a necklace, with rolling hills providing the perfect backdrop: it does not get much better than this! We enjoy a scenic drive and a tasting of some of Alsace’s fine wines, soon arriving in Colmar, the best- preserved city in eastern France. Originally the centre of the wine trade, much of it dates from the 6th century. Bisected by canals, it is a maze of former merchants’ houses, antique shops, plus a monastery. The former wine exchange and the cathedral quarter is surrounded by pastel coloured half-timbered houses, displaying the intricate wrought-iron hanging signs so typical of this area of Europe. Sit, enjoy a coffee, watch the world go by or just wander where your feet take you – simply delightful!
This morning at the appropriate time we take the TGV (France’s famous high-speed train) to Paris, connecting with the Eurostar service to London St. Pancras International. In order to facilitate the easy changing of trains, your tour manager will accompany you throughout.