Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!
Journey with OAT into Central Europe’s Bohemian heartland to discover the history, culture, and landscapes of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary—and prepare to enter an enchanting world of fairytale castles, Gothic cathedrals, and Roman ruins. In the Czech Republic, a region noted for its thermal spas and hearty Bohemian beers, witness the spires of Prague, the medieval splendor of Cesky Krumlov, and traditional ways of life in the Renaissance village of Slavonice. In Slovakia, sample its fine wines and discover the youthful optimism of Bratislava, the forested country’s historic capital. Then, enjoy an audience with the “Queen of the Danube,” and immerse yourself in the grandeur of Budapest, the lovely Hungarian capital infused with the vibrancy of a fiery paprika. Throughout this adventure, delve deeply into Bohemian culture through interactions with the warm and friendly inhabitants of three of Central Europe’s true hidden gems.
Depart the U.S. today on your overnight flight to Prague, Czech Republic.
Upon your arrival in Prague, an OAT representative will meet you the airport and assist you to your hotel. You’ll get to know your Trip Leader and small group, including those arriving from the Berlin & Dresden trip extension, during a short orientation walk around the neighborhood and a Welcome Drink. This evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, we’ll set off on a guided walking tour of Prague, a magical city nestled in a bend of the Vlata River whose spires have endured to create one of Europe’s most romantic skylines. While other European capitals were leveled during World War II, Prague survived virtually intact. Among the structures to remain remarkably undamaged was Prague’s great landmark, Prague Castle—the world’s largest ancient castle complex and still the seat of political power. Built during the ninth century, Prague Castle has evolved over the centuries, blending Romanesque, Gothic, and even Spanish architectural styles. Today, it is a sprawling complex of breathtaking enormity and a symbol of Czech unity.
We'll explore the vaulted halls, cathedrals, flagstone courtyards, and sprawling gardens of the castle area, which includes a number of historic buildings. After concluding our tour in Old Town Square, we'll enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant, followed by free time. This evening, we’ll regroup for dinner at one of Prague’s many fine restaurants.
Today begins with an enlightening discussion about some of the economic and political conflicts in contemporary Czech society. Then, we set out for a walk along Baroque streets of Mala Strana, the "Little Quarter" that is linked to Prague's Old Town (Stare Mesto) by the Charles Bridge. Originally an eighth-century market town, today Mala Strana is a quaint neighborhood of cobbled streets, boutiques, and Baroque churches and palaces. After our walk, we'll get to admire another angle of the elegant Charles Bridge during a cruise along the Vlata River. Built in 1357, the statue-adorned structure is one of the oldest stone bridges in Europe—and we'll gain further insights into its lengthy history and medieval construction during a visit to the Charles Bridge Museum.
Lunch is on your own, followed by free time to pursue individual interests in Prague. Perhaps you'll visit Josefov (Prague’s Jewish Quarter). The Prague Ghetto and vibrant Jewish community have contributed to Prague’s character since the tenth century. Or, travelers may take advantage of an afternoon optional tour that journeys outside the city to the Skoda Auto Museum and a tour of the 18th-century Sychrov Castle, followed by an included dinner at a local restaurant.
Travelers not participating in the optional tour have dinner on their own in Prague.
After breakfast, we begin our overland journey to Cesky Krumlov, stopping along the way to visit the Vojna Memorial. Located in the middle of a forest, Vojna was originally built by German POWs after World War II as a labor camp to work the nearby uranium mines. With the communist takeover in 1948, Vojna transitioned into a notorious forced labor camp for political prisoners. Today, the Vojna Memorial is a powerful reminder of the many Czech victims of the communist regime. Afterwards, we'll stop for lunch at a restaurant in Pisek, a picturesque Bohemian town founded in the 13th century on the banks of the Otava River.
Upon arrival in Cesky Krumlov, we'll check in to our hotel and then head out to a local restaurant for dinner accompanied by traditional Czech dances.
After breakfast, we'll begin a walking tour of Cesky Krumlov, one of Europe's most picturesque locales. Nestled inside a narrow loop of the Vlata River, this romantic town with its hilltop castle was once a wealthy trading center and a favorite of European nobility. Today, its confection of red-gabled roofs, elegant bridges, and storybook castle lures lovers of history, culture, and architecture alike. Established in 1250 by the Lords of Krumlov, the 14th through 16th centuries brought a period of great splendor to Cesky Krumlov, which became a stop along one of the main trading routes to Italy. We’ll walk the winding, cobbled streets to admire the splendidly preserved historic buildings of the medieval town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and ascend to the top of the hill to visit Cesky Krumlov Castle, a Renaissance jewel that encompasses more than 40 buildings, courtyards and gardens, a castle brewery—and live bears who roam the castle’s moat. We'll also visit the recently opened Castle Museum, which features precious artifacts previously hidden in Castle depositories
After an included lunch at a restaurant overlooking Old Town Square, we'll ride to the country town of Vetrni, where we begin a peaceful rafting excursion along the Vltava River. We'll paddle about three miles on the gentle waters of the river, with six travelers and an instructor (who will point out highlights as we meander through the countryside) in each raft. The shallow rapids along this stretch of the Vlata are controlled by concrete weirs that cross the river, and it is possible to disembark the raft and walk around these obstacles if you wish. This trip is easy enough for the novice but passes through countryside that will charm the more experienced rafters as well.
Dinner is on your own this evening in Cesky Krumlov.
Please note: Fall departures may not offer the rafting excursion, and adverse weather conditions may preclude rafting at any time of year. When this is the case, we’ll explore the Vltava Valley instead.
After breakfast, we’ll journey a short distance outside Cesky Krumlov to visit Zlata Koruna (Golden Crown) Monastery, a former abbey founded in 1263 by a King of Bohemia that is the Czech Republic’s best preserved Cistercian monastery. The current monastery complex—recognized by UNESCO as a national cultural treasure—consists of a variety of Gothic structures, a three-nave basilica, and a chapel dating from about 1370. Then, we’ll set out on brief hike to a nearby Celtic settlement, whose remains date from the second century B.C.
After we return to Cesky Krumlov, the rest of the day is at leisure, with lunch and dinner on your own. Or, you may join an optional Horseback Riding in the Czech Countryside tour, which includes a ride around the meadows surrounding Klet Mountain, a stable visit, and picnic dinner around a bonfire.
After breakfast, we depart Cesky Krumlov for an overland journey to Slavonice. En route, we'll stop in southern Bohemia's regional capital, Ceske Budejovice, to visit the famous Budweiser Budvar Brewery. While the history of brewing in Ceske Budejovice dates back to the 13th century, Budweiser Budvar was founded here in 1895 (the U.S. brewer chose the name Budweiser in 1876 because it was synonymous for superior beer). After our brewery tour, we'll stop in Trebon, an ancient walled village set among rolling hills and ancient fish ponds. Established in the middle of the twelfth century, Trebon has been a popular center of Czech fish farming since the Middle Ages and remains a picturesque spa town. There is also a brewery here that has been producing Bohemia Regent lager since 1379. We'll stroll through the magnificent park surrounding Trebon's Rennaisance-era chateau, and visit the town center to admire the series of pastel-colored burghers' houses and ancient fortifications.
After lunch at a local restaurant, we'll stop in Jindrichuv Hradec, a charming 13th-century town with a huge castle just outside its Old Town. We'll visit the castle museum, which features the world's largest working mechanical Nativity scene; and the Gobelin Museum, to see its tapestry collections.
We arrive in Slavonice in time to freshen up at our hotel before gathering at a local restaurant for a festive dinner complete with traditional Moravian music.
After breakfast, we'll embark on a walking tour of Slavonice, a charming village near the Austrian border whose streets have changed little since the 13th century. Slavonice is renowned for its collection of Gothic and Renaissance homes adorned with sgraffito wall designs, many dating from the 14th to 16th centuries. Our stroll through the well-preserved town center will reveal an especially fine example of 16th-century wall paintings depicting scenes from the Apocalypse. After a visit to a local crafts studio to learn about traditional textile printing, lunch is on your own and you'll have free time to further explore the medieval streets.
Then, we'll embark on a discovery hike in the surrounding region, which will take us to the imposing 13th-century ruins of Landstejn Fortress, the 600-year-old Rudolec Castle, and some of the camouflaged WWII-era conrete bunkers in the area. Built between 1935 and 1938, the bunkers were meant to guard the Czechoslovak border against an invasion by Hitler, but after the war—and during the ensuing Cold War—the fortifications were used to prevent Czechoslovak citizens from escaping to the West. After working up a hearty appetite, we'll visit a nearby village and learn how to prepare some local specialties—perhaps potato dumplings or a marinated cheese called hermelin—during a cooking class. We'll also tour a village garden and then settle in for genuine real Czech hospitality as dinner guests in the home of a local family.
After breakfast, we'll begin our journey to Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. En route, we'll stop at Znojmo (pronounced ‘Zaw No Way Moe’), a small village along the Dyje River that is at the epicenter of the Moravian wine region. We'll stroll the medieval village streets, and view the eleventh-century frescoes of Znojmo Castle's Romanesque Rotunda. Then, we'll stop for an included lunch in the village of Lednice. Over the centuries, the region surrounding Lednice (and its twin town of Valtice) has been carefully landscaped with a series of woodlands, lakes, streams, gardens, and tree-lined chateaux—all of which have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We'll also explore Lednice Castle, an immense structure built in the Neo-Gothic style; and enjoy a scenic boat ride on one of the castle's park ponds to visit its 200-foot-high minaret.
After checking into our hotel in Bratislava, our Trip Leader will take us on a brief orientation walk of our surroundings. Dinner is on your own this evening.
Just as in the Czech Republic, the Velvet Revolution spelled the end of communism for Slovakia, a densely forested country with towering mountains in Central Europe's heartland. Its capital, Bratislava, is situated along the Danube in Slovakia's southwestern tip, close to the border with Hungary and Austria. Our morning walking tour will focus on Bratislava's compact Old Town, home to a variety of 14th-15th-century structures that include the Old Town Hall, the Neo-Classical Archbishop's Palace, and St. Martin's Cathedral, a Gothic coronation church where several Hungarian Habsburg kings and queens were crowned. As a stark contrast to Bratislava's vestiges of imperial grandeur, we'll visit a section of town featuring blocks of housing projects that serve as symbols of the days of communist-era oppression. We'll also enjoy a glimpse of life in contemporary Slovakia when we visit a local home for coffee and refreshments. Then, lunch is on your own, followed by an afternoon at leisure—perhaps an opportunity to check out the sweeping views of the city from the ramparts of Bratislava Castle, whose origins stretch back to the days of the Roman Empire.
The region surrounding Bratislava is renowned for its quaint villages and the vineyards on the fertile slopes of the Little Carpathians, so this evening we'll journey outside the city to enjoy dinner and a wine-tasting in the the cellar of a local vintner.
After breakfast, we depart Bratislava and begin our journey to Budapest, Hungary. En route, we'll stop at the Roman city of Carnuntum, which began as a Roman army camp along the Danube River in what is now Austria. At its peak, some 50,000 people lived here, and after 1,700 years Carnuntum's ancient glory is currently being recreated from the site's extensive ruins.
Crossing into northwestern Hungary, we'll stop for an included lunch in Gyor, an ancient city situated at the confluence of the Danube, Rába and Rábca rivers. We'll also take a stroll to admire the Baroque and Neo-Classical structures in Gyor's pedestrian-only historic core before continuing to Budapest.
Dinner is on your own this evening in Budapest.
After breakfast, we embark on morning city tour of the undisputed "Queen of the Danube." Budapest is divided by the beautiful river, with Pest (the left bank) to its east, and Buda (the right bank) to its west. We'll see the medieval building at Buda's Castle Hill, where a massive castle complex and its ramparts high above the Danube have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After lunch on your own in one of the city's covered markets, you'll have the afternoon at leisure to explore on your own. You may wish to head to the turreted Fisherman's Bastion for panoramic views of the city, or spend some time at the famous Chain Bridge, which was first opened in 1849 to link the two provincial towns of Buda and Pest, and now stands as a symbol of Hungarian liberty. Or, in Heroes' Square, you can witness a memorial to the great leaders in Hungary's history that is dominated by the great Millennium Monument.
For another perspective on the city, this evening we'll gather for an hour-long cruise on the Danube River—an opportunity to witness Budapest's monuments brilliantly illuminated, from Pest's Danube Promenade to the Buda Castle District.
After returning to our hotel, dinner is on your own.
After breakfast, we'll meet with a witness to the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, a time when students and workers took to the streets of Budapest in the first major threat to Soviet control of the region. Then, we'll enjoy a walking tour that includes the elegant Andrássy Avenue, home to the opulent Neo-Rennaisance Hungarian State Opera House; historic Freedom Square (also called Liberty Square); and one of Europe's oldest legislative bodies, the imposing riverside Hungarian Parliament Building. Then, we'll board a coach and head outside the city to the picturesque town of Szentendre. We'll enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy time at leisure to admire the Baroque buildings and well-kept merchant homes encircling the Main Square, take a romantic horse carriage ride, or simply wander the winding, cobblestone streets to discover Szentendre's wealth of architectural treasures.
Return to Budapest for a Farewell Drink at our hotel, followed by a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant with lively Hungarian Gypsy music to celebrate our Bohemian journey.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight home. Or, begin your post-trip extension to Vienna, Austria.