Seek tranquillity In Slovakia
Check into Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace
The Hungarian capital Budapest is the starting point for this interesting holiday to three of Eastern Europe’s most fascinating countries. Split in two by the River Danube, the hilly district of Buda faces flatter Pest. We’ll begin, therefore, where the views are.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge
After checking in and time for refreshment, you’ll take the scenic walk across the iconic Széchenyi Chain Bridge to the base of the city’s 19th century funicular which carries visitors up to Buda Castle.
The panoramic views at the top of the hill are fantastic, with the Danube and Pest laid out in front of you. You’ll be able to watch the changing of the guard and visit the National Gallery and Budapest History Museum as well as tour the castle.
We’ll also enjoy a wine-tasting at Faust Cellar occupying one of the area’s caves.
Strolling along the cobbles you’ll reach Fisherman’s bastion, from where there are excellent views to be had.
Dinner at Alabárdos Restaurant
Our recommendation for dinner is at the Alabárdos Restaurant, where you’ll be served excellent Hungarian food in the atmospheric surroundings of a 400 year old Gothic building.
We’ll begin this morning with a leisurely breakfast before heading to the hotel spa to enjoy a body wrap utilising the mineral-rich Hungarian Moor mud which helps detoxify and rebalance the skin.
Café Gerbeaud and the Central Market
Heading out, we’ll make a stop at one of Budapest’s most elegant cafés, the Art Nouveau Café Gerbeaud. After coffee and perhaps a pastry, you’ll be chauffeured to the city’s Central Market Hall. The architecture of this fabulous neo-Gothic building houses an eclectic range of stalls selling local produce and souvenirs. Nearby, Bálna (the Whale) is a new feature on the Budapest skyline and it’s where we’ll grab lunch. Crossing the river, after lunch we’ll make a beeline for the Gellért Hotel.
This Budapest landmark is popular with visitors for its thermal baths. There are over a hundred such baths across the city, including the popular Széchenyi baths but those at the Gellért are perhaps the ones with the most fabulous setting. The Art Nouveau building engenders a sense of luxury as you soak in the salt chamber or try out the steam room. Afterwards, we’ll return for dinner in the hotel’s relaxed brasserie.
Today we’ll depart for a private tour of the nearby artist’s town of Szentendre. Located on a bend of the River Danube a short drive north of Budapest, it has a quaint vibe. There are plenty of art galleries, little boutiques and picturesque corners to explore.
We’ll head into one of its restaurants to sample the national dish, goulash, for lunch before moving on to nearby Esztergom. Equally pretty, the town is dominated by a massive domed basilica which we’ll visit with a local guide. He’ll also explain a bit about St Stephen, the country’s first king, who was born here over a thousand years ago.
Classical music concert
Returning to the city, we’ll enjoy dinner followed by a classical music concert at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music.
Guided tour of Parliament building
It’s time to explore more of Budapest and the streets behind the hotel are packed with interesting landmarks, such as the St Stephen’s Basilica and the Hungarian State Opera Building. So long as the National Assembly isn’t in session, it’s possible to take a guided tour of the Hungarian parliament, covering the beautiful entrance hall and lobby, the old House of Lords and also a chance to view the Hungarian Crown Jewels.
Next, we’ll have a wander for a spot of window shopping along nearby Falk Miksa utca, dubbed Budapest’s Antiques Row. We’ll head for Andrassy Street where we’ll admire the elegant mansions before doubling back along Kiraly Street, nicknamed Design Street on account of its many designer boutiques. Returning to the hotel for a late lunch and check out, we’ll transfer you to Bratislava by car, a drive of between two and three hours depending on traffic.
Check into the Grand Hotel River Park
Our base tonight is the contemporary Grand Hotel River Park, a Luxury Collection Hotel, in which you’ll have a Danube Suite. We’ll dine at the hotel.
Walking tour of the Old Town
Bratislava is sometimes overlooked in favour of the region’s other capitals, but the Slovak capital has a charm all of its own. This morning, you’ll set off with a local guide for a walking tour of the compact and atmospheric old town. You’ll visit the castle, learn more about St Michael’s Tower, both of which provide a great view of the city, before moving on to landmarks such as Zichy’s, Mirbach’s and Pállfy's Palaces. You’ll see St Martin’s Cathedral and the Old Town Hall, linger in the many squares and stroll along cobbled streets. We’ll wind up at the Grassalkovich Palace, seat of government and known as the Slovak White House.
Boat trip along the Danube
After lunch, we’ll take you on a boat trip along the Danube to appreciate Bratislava’s setting and hinterland. Tonight, you’ll dine at the comically-named UFO Restaurant, where the panoramic views are no joke.
Our destination this morning is the romantic ruin of Devín Castle. Perched on a rocky outcrop high above the confluence of the Morava and Danube Rivers, it offers welcome respite from the summer heat and, at any time of the year, a superb vantage point from which you can admire the breathtaking local scenery. Your guide will explain a little of its history, from its origins in Celtic times to more recent events when those seeking to escape the Communist regime attempted to cross the nearby border with Austria. Nearby, we’ll enjoy a wine tasting at a local winery before setting off back towards the Slovak capital.
Petržalka’s military past
We’ll take a circuitous route back to Bratislava, detouring via Petržalka, where we’ll explore a military bunker which is now a museum and visit a World War One cemetery. Back in the city, tonight we’ll dine at the hotel where we’ll savour the four-course seasonal menu at its Riverbank Restaurant.
Drive to the city of Brno
After breakfast, we’ll get on the road for our private transfer to one of southern Poland’s most beautiful cities, Krakow. It’s around a four hour drive, but we’ll break our journey in the Czech Republic city of Brno.
Špilberk Castle and Fortress
This, the country’s second largest city after the capital Prague, has a long history. We’ll take a guided tour of Špilberk Castle and Fortress, constructed during the 13th century on a hilltop affording superb views over the city.
Cathedral of St Peter and Paul
We’ll also visit the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul on Petrov Hill, another landmark mediaeval building with distinctive Gothic twin towers and a beautiful Baroque interior.
Check into The Bonerowski Palace Hotel
We’ll arrive in Krakow in time to check in and rest before dinner at the hotel.
- Horse and carriage ride
Old Town Square
Krakow’s UNESCO-listed old town is a delight to explore on foot. Stepping out of the hotel onto Rynek Glówny, the vast mediaeval market square, we’ll allow you plenty of time to explore the colonnaded passages of the Cloth Hall. You can browse the many market stalls and boutiques that crowd into this area; perhaps your eye will be drawn to a beautiful piece of amber jewellery or a design piece for your home? You’ll enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride, after which there are plenty of buzzing cafes and restaurants for you to seek refreshment or lunch.
Royal Route to Wawel Castle
Leaving the market square, you’ll wander along the Royal Route towards Wawel Castle. Look up, as well as along the street, for many of these buildings have unusual and interesting architectural details. To round off the day, you’ll enjoy a guided tour around Wawel Castle, built from the 14th century onwards and a must-see while you’re here.
Dinner in Old Town
Dinner tonight will be at one of the delightful restaurants lining Old Town Square.
Wieliczka salt mine
We’re going to take you out of the city today for what’s one of southern Poland’s essential excursions. First, we’ll take you by car to Wieliczka salt mine, an incredible underground city featuring an underground cathedral, countless statues and more – all carved from salt. After exploring the popular tourist route, we’ll kit you out in appropriate attire for you to follow the miners’ route. This less well-trodden path will offer the opportunity for you to descend down a mine shaft and learn how to mine for salt.
We’ll provide lunch nearby and then transfer to Auschwitz-Birkenau, known locally as Oswiecim, an hour to the west. A visit to this World War Two Concentration Camp is sobering, chilling and above all, sad. Despite this, you will be glad you visited as it will improve your understanding of the events which took place. Returning to Krakow, there will be time for reflection and rest before dinner. Tonight we recommend Trzy Rybki, where the elegance of the exposed brickwork and flying buttresses are more than a match for the delicious food.
Kazimierz, the former Jewish Quarter
This morning we’ll continue to explore Krakow, focusing today on its Jewish heritage. The Kazimierz district was once the centre of Jewish life in the city before being systematically destroyed by the Nazis in World War Two. After being left to rot during the Communist era, it has been painstakingly restored and redeveloped, and is now an atmospheric and charming neighbourhood packed with cafés, galleries and historic sites. It’s an artistic and bohemian district with many hidden alleyways and courtyards to delve into.
Across the river, there’s Podgórze, a district where much of the Steven Spielberg movie Schindler’s List was filmed. A footbridge links the two districts and both are equally rewarding for visitors. Later, returning to the Old Town, you’ll enjoy dinner at stylish Wentzl, which specialises in sophisticated Polish cuisine.
Take the Train to Warsaw and check into the Intercontinental hotel
Reluctantly, we’ll move on from Krakow and head north to the Polish capital Warsaw, travelling first class by high-speed train. Our base will be the architecturally imaginative InterContinental which is one of the tallest buildings in the city. Bombed extensively during World War Two, this is a city that paid a high price for its resistance, as you’ll learn with a visit to the Warsaw Uprising Museum.
City tour of Old Town
We’ll begin our tour in its Old Town Square and visit such sights as the Royal Castle. Each of the historic landmarks has been rebuilt to reflect its original appearance, using paintings and old photographs to ensure no detail was overlooked. The fact that UNESCO rewards such efforts with a place on its World Heritage list is testament to their skill and dedication. We’ll take you on a guided tour of the Old Town to ensure that nothing is overlooked.
Dinner at Belvedere restaurant
Dinner tonight will be in the middle of the park in a glass pavilion in the upmarket Belvedere restaurant.
Palace of Culture and Science
Today’s target is what was until recently Warsaw’s tallest building at 231 metres, the Palace of Culture and Science. (In case you’re wondering, the current highest is Złota 44, a skyscraper designed by the Polish-born American architect Daniel Libeskind.) Commissioned by the Russian leader Joseph Stalin, the Palace of Culture and Science was constructed in 1955 as a “gift from the Soviet people”. They estimate that something like 40 million bricks were used to build it. The main reason for our visit is to be found on the 30th floor. The viewing platform there gives us panoramic views across the capital. Afterwards, return to the hotel for an energising swim in the heated indoor pool which enables us to enjoy those same lofty views. A long leisurely lunch follows.
Craft beer tour
Later, we’ll head out for a chance to sample the products of Warsaw’s most successful microbreweries. Our tour will enable us to sample ten of the capital’s best craft beers in three of its most atmospheric pubs, accompanied by tasty snacks.
Dinner at Restaurant Rozana
After a quick nap at the hotel, we will head to restaurant Rozana to enjoy contemporary Polish cuisine in a cosy yet upmarket setting.
Walking tour of Reszel
Today we have arranged a car and driver so that you can explore the countryside surrounding Warsaw. Our destination is the charming town of Reszel, which unlike the Polish capital escaped World War Two relatively unscathed. Its origins lie in the 13th century when repeated attacks forced local residents to build a fortress. The following century saw the construction of a brick castle and also a Gothic bridge, both of which you’ll see during your visit. You’ll climb the tower of the Church of St Peter and Paul; those who brave the rickety staircases are rewarded by stunning views from the top. We’ll provide a guide, of course, who will explain a little of the town’s history and take you to its oldest house, completed in 1444.
Dinner at Atelier Amaro
Back in Warsaw, tonight you’ll dine in style at Atelier Amaro, feasting on a “9 Moment” tasting menu that celebrates seasonal Polish produce but with a contemporary twist. It was the first restaurant in the country to gain a Michelin star.
Transfer to Airport
This morning we’ll assist with a smooth check out and transfer you to the airport, from where you’ll connect to your flight home.