Journey with O.A.T. 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 fairy-tale castles, Gothic cathedrals, and picturesque towns. 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.
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The imperial city that gave rise to the Third Reich before being split between East and West, Berlin is a hotbed of history which has blossomed anew in the era of reunification. And Dresden, Germany’s artistic hub for centuries before the destruction of World War II, has risen from the ashes, fully restored and gleaming. We’ll discover both these enduring cities and witness the fruit of their resilience.View Extension Itinerary
Depart the U.S. today on your overnight flight to Prague, Czech Republic.
Upon your arrival in Prague, an O.A.T. representative will meet you at 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 Vltava 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.
After concluding our tour, we'll enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant, followed by free time. 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. This evening, dinner is on your own.
Today begins with an enlightening discussion about some of the successes and controversies relating to the development of Czech statehood and democracy. Then, we'll discover the Prague metro before setting out for a cruise along the Vltava River. After the cruise, you may take advantage of an optional tour that features a tour of the renowned Ruckl Crystal Factory, which includes lunch at a local restaurant in the town of Nizbor and returns to Prague in the early afternoon. Please note: Optional Tour will not be available if this day falls on a Sunday or a holiday.
Travelers not taking the optional tour will have lunch on their own and time to pursue individual discoveries in Prague. Perhaps you'll choose to 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.
Dinner on your own this evening 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 in 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.
After breakfast, a local guide will accompany us on a walking tour of Cesky Krumlov, one of Europe's most picturesque locales. Nestled inside a narrow loop of the Vltava 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 local restaurant, we'll ride to the village 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 Vltava 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: Early spring and fall departures may not offer the rafting excursion, and adverse weather conditions may preclude rafting at any time of year.
After breakfast, we'll journey outside Cesky Krumlov to visit Vyssi Brod Monastery, a Cistercian monastery with roots that stretch back to the middle of the 13th century. Considered the spiritual center of South Bohemia, the monastery also features a richly decorated library that dates back to the Baroque period. (Please note: If today falls on a Sunday, Zlata Koruna Monastery will be visited instead of Vyssi Brod, along with other minor itinerary changes for this day.) Then, we'll head to Lipno Lake, a body of water created by damming the Vltava River. Here, we'll enjoy a "treetop hike" along a long wooden walkway for magnificent views of the surrounding Sumava countryside, the massive lake, and the distant Alps. After our hike, we'll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before returning to Cesky Krumlov.
The rest of the day is at leisure, with dinner on your own.
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 town 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 arrive in Slavonice and check-in to our hotel. Then, we’ll visit a nearby village to meet a local family. Our hosts will show us around their garden and then we'll settle in for genuine Czech hospitality as dinner guests in the home of a local family.
After breakfast, we journey outside Slavonice to experience A Day in the Life of a rural Czech farming village—either a goat farm in Penikov or a horse farm in Placovice. We’ll meet with the farm owner (or a family member), help out with some of the chores, and learn about everyday farming life during a Home-Hosted lunch. Later, we’ll enjoy a glimpse into the Czech Republic’s future during a visit to a local school (when in session) where we’ll talk with the headmaster and engage with the children in their classroom.
Then, we return to 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. You'll have free time to explore the medieval streets before we gather together for a festive dinner at our hotel's restaurant complete with traditional Moravian music.
After breakfast, we'll begin our journey to Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. En route, we'll stop for a visit to Trebic, an ancient Moravian city that is home to one of Europe's best preserved Jewish ghettos—a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jewish and Christian cultures co-existed here from the Middle Ages up to the 20th century, and our stroll will take us to Trebic's ancient synagogue. Then, we'll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in 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 explore Lednice Castle, an immense structure built in the Neo-Gothic style; and then we'll get to wander among the tropical plants in the Castle's original iron-framed greenhouse.
After checking into our hotel in Bratislava, our Trip Leader will take us on a brief orientation walk of our surroundings. Dinner is included at a local restaurant 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- and 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 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 included in a local restaurant this evening in Budapest.
After breakfast, we embark on a 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 a stroll through the city's covered market, enjoy lunch on your own and the afternoon at leisure to explore independently. 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.
After time for dinner on your own, we'll gather for an hour-long evening 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 breakfast, we'll take a subway ride to Parliament Square, home to one of Europe's oldest legislative bodies, the imposing riverside Hungarian Parliament Building. In the square, we'll learn about 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 have an included lunch at a local restaurant, followed by time for independent discoveries in Budapest.
This evening, we'll enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant 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.
5 nights from only $1395
City of waltzes and Habsburg glory, Vienna still charms with elegant architecture, thriving arts, and lush gardens. Witness the Ringstrasse, sip local vintages in the wine district, and explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site Schoenbrunn Palace. Plus, you’ll enjoy ample leisure time to make discoveries on your own in this enchanting city.View Extension Itinerary