Romantic Europe in two weeks

A two-week tour of Europe's castles, palaces, & loveliest moonlit walks

As with the art tour, I'll leave much of the daily scheduling up to you in this tour—nothing kills a romantic mood more than being hurriedly shuttled from place to place.

Days 1 through 4: Paris: The mere mention of the City of Light conjures up romantic images, so it's a great place to start. See your fair share of Paris's famed museums—the Musée d'Orsay has both French Romantic-era painters and scads of those lovable impressionists, but take time to enjoy the finer points of Parisian life. Linger at cafe tables for hours, spend an evening strolling Montemartre, have long meals at fine restaurants and cozy bistros, explore Paris's parks, take a dinner cruise along the Seine river, and ascend the Montparnasse Tower one evening for a panorama of Paris that lives up to its nickname. To indulge in the romance of yesteryear, make at least one palatial day trip: either to Versailles, the palace to end all palaces; or to Fontainbleau, a royal retreat in the woods. On the evening of Day 4, board the overnight train to Frankfurt, where you'll pick up a car and tour the Romantic Road.

Day 5: Romantic Road: Spend this day in Franconia and Bavaria's prettiest countryside, visiting picture-perfect medieval towns and hamlets. With only one day, you only have time to hit Würzburg, Rothenburg, and one other, smaller stop (your pick) in order to end the day in Füssen, where you'll spend the night.

Days 6 and 7: Neuschwanstein and Munich: Spend the morning of Day 6 visiting Neuschwanstein, the fairy-tale castle of "Mad King" Ludwig II, a monarch who kinder souls might call "Hopelessly Romantic King" Ludwig II. Inspired by his friend Wagner's epic operas of love and drama, Ludwig decorated this 19th-century palace as a medieval fantasy land of how the "good old days" should have been. You'll have the car until the end of the day, so leave Neuschwanstein by noon to make the hour's drive up to Munich.
Stop at the ornate 17th-century Wittlesbach palace of Scholss Nymphenburg, just west of the city proper. Check into your hotel in Munich and drop off the car before spending a rousing evening in a Bavarian beer hall. The next day, spend some time exploring the Wittlesbach's city pad of the Residenz and take a walk in the beautiful Englisher Garten park, pausing in the leafy shade of an outdoor beer garden near the Chinese pagoda. If your romantic ideas run to the racy side of things, there's a museum of erotic art on Odeonsplatz. At the end of Day 7, take an overnight train to eastern Europe's drop-dead-gorgeous baroque capital, Prague.

Days 8 through 10: Prague: Prague is a city of baroque palaces and mighty fortresses, church concerts and powerful beers, hidden gardens and classical street musicians who play a mean Dvorak. Take a sunset stroll across the statue-lined Charles Bridge, and spend an afternoon delving into Prague's rich Jewish heritage at its synagogues and museums. Spend a day exploring Prague Castle, both for its soaring Gothic cathedral and to see how a fortress-city of the Middle Ages looked and worked. Make a day trip to Kunta Hora and catch the pulse of small-town Bohemia, and fit in as many evening concerts as you can in Prague. Take the overnight train to Vienna on Day 10.

Days 11 and 12: Vienna: Vienna recalls the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian empire, a city of 19th-century grandeur and a rich classical music heritage. The Hofburg palace complex doesn't quite hold up to Versailles, but it's a splendid specimen nonetheless—and you might get to hear the Vienna Boys' Choir sing. Other top palatial residences include the Belvedere Palace overlooking the city and the Hapsburgs' massive Schönbrunn Palace just outside it. Spend an afternoon at the brink of the Vienna Woods in a medieval village suburb doing a heurigen crawl from one fine wine tavern to the next.
The Viennese taught the French how to run a cafe, and you can while the hours away in many a kaffehaus amidst the trappings of the 19th-century and some of the finest coffee and pastries in Europe. Try to catch the Lippizaner horses practicing their equestrian ballet or take a cruise on the Danube if that's more your style. End Day 12 with a performance at the Staatsoper, one of the world's premier opera houses (I'd give it top billing for decor alone). On Day 12, take the overnight train to Venice.

Days 13 through 16: Venice: La Serenissima, "The Most Serene" city of canals, palaces, Byzantine mosaics, and delicate blown glass, has made a romantic out of everyone, from Shakespeare and Thomas Mann to Casanova and Woody Allen. Venice has always been a haven of secrets, so I'll leave you to your own devices in exploring. Don't pass up a spin in a traditional gondola (despite the outrageous prices). Make sure you have a couple of long, drawn-out Italian feasts by candlelight, a cruise down the majestic sweep of the Grand Canal, and some moonlit strolls through the narrow, winding alleys and over countless tiny canals. Take one day to explore the smaller fishing, glass-blowing, and lace-making islands in the Venetian lagoon.

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in August 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.