HomeToursEurope Tours 〉Serbia

Express to the Orient: Paris to Istanbul


On this 15-day adventure traversing Europe from Paris to Istanbul, use local trains to follow the historic routes once used by the Orient Express’ carriages in the 19th century. Travel by train all the way from Paris to Budapest, with stops to explore the historic quarters and modern offerings of Strasbourg, Munich and Vienna. Then change lines and follow another historic route from Belgrade to Istanbul, riding local trains to experience Nis, Sofia and Plovdiv as you go. With plenty of free time to explore at each stop, and a passionate local leader on hand to point you in the right direction, there isn’t a moment you’ll want to miss on this rail adventure.

15 days, from

$4,560

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: AMSU
Style: Original
Theme: Explorer

Details

Countries Visited:  Austria Bulgaria France Germany Hungary Serbia Turkey
Accommodation: Hotel (13 nights), Overnight train (1 night)
Transportation: Train , Overnight train , Private transport
Included Meals:

  • 13 breakfasts
  • 1 lunches

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12

  • Choose a slower-paced European journey on a comfortable rail trip – as well as travelling like the locals on domestic trains, you’ll get a taste of history as you follow the route once taken by the historic Orient Express.

  • Stop in for local delicacies as you go – trying tarte flambee in Strasbourg, sharing a traditional Serbian lunch in a Salas property and sitting down for a lavish kaffee and kuchen (coffee and cake) experience in Vienna’s old town.

  • Keep the rail adventures going with rides along rail funiculars to the castles of both Salzburg and Budapest.

  • Explore the streets of Vienna and learn about the long history of Austria’s capital city, from the Gothic architecture to the State Opera House, a paragon of world opera.

  • Get the low-down on Budapest’s classic charm, café culture, and eclectic neighbourhood vibes during your time here. Have you actually been to Budapest if you didn’t go to a ruin bar?

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Paris

Bonjour! Welcome to France. Your adventure begins in Paris – the City of Lights, known for its romance, delicious cuisine and amazing art scene – with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. If you arrive early, why not check out the world-famous Louvre, where you can see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Maybe climb the Eiffel Tower – or take the lift – for some impressive aerial views of Paris. For a simple picnic lunch of baguette and cheese, The Tuileries, Plantes and Jardin du Luxembourg all make excellent backdrops. After you meet your fellow travellers and trip leader, you might choose to head out for an optional group dinner at one of the gorgeous local restaurants or explore the surrounding neighbourhoods and discover why this city is known for its romantic appeal.

Day 2: Strasbourg

After breakfast, bid au revoir to Paris and take a high-speed train to Strasbourg. Sitting on France’s border with Germany, the city lets you experience the best of both countries. Get your bearings on an orientation walk with your leader, then enjoy snacking on a tarte flambee – a flatbread typically topped with a combination of fresh cheese, onions and bacon. Your afternoon is then free for you to explore. Maybe pay a visit to Strasbourg’s own Cathedral of Notre Dame, finished in 1439, or explore the three museums at Palais de Rohan. Later, your leader will be able to point out the best spots for dinner.

Day 3: Strasbourg / Munich

Enjoy a free morning continuing your exploration of Strasbourg. If you didn't yesterday, perhaps wander around the 16th-century buildings of La Petite France. Make sure to buy some lunch for your next train journey as you go, which takes you over the German border and into Munich on the German High-Speed rail network. Leave around midday and arrive at the Bavarian capital in the afternoon. Your leader will take you on a walking tour of this beautiful city, exploring some of the best bits of Munich. The evening is yours to spend how you’d like – you might head back to your hotel or ask your leader for the best place for a stein.

Day 4: Munich

Enjoy a full free day to explore Munich at your leisure. If you didn’t get to the Old Town yesterday, make sure to find the Altes Rathaus and the neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus with its sooty facade and gargoyles. Time it right to watch the Glockenspiel clock reenact scenes from the city's history! Or, you might like to take a look around the Transport Museum, which covers everything from how the Roman’s used to roam through to a ride on a magnetic track! Your leader will be able to provide recommendations for the best lunch and dinner spots should you need them!

Day 5: Salzburg / Vienna

Rise early then take a train journey to the Austrian town of Salzburg. Take a leader-led walk to get your bearings (and maybe grab an apple strudel or some kaiserschmarrn for breakfast), then jump on board a funicular up to Fortress Hohensalzburg. Explore the medieval fortress and enjoy some of the best views down over the city! After lunch, take a local train to Vienna – Austria’s capital city. Check into your accommodation, and then the evening’s free for your own adventures.

Day 6: Vienna

Start your day in Vienna with an orientation walk with your leader. Get insight into the cosmopolitan city’s rich cultural heritage and golden past as you wander past the Gothic splendour of St Stephens Cathedral to the neo-classical Graben. Finish your walk with a kaffee and kuchen (coffee and cake) from Vollpension, a generation-spanning cafe where local grannies and grandpas share their baking secrets. Enjoy a free afternoon to continue your exploring – your leader will be on hand to help tailor a day that will best suit your interests. Art enthusiasts can choose from several great museums, from the Albertina to the vast array found in the Museum Quarter. Schoenbrunn Palace is well worth a visit and has a guided audio tour. Another excellent way to enjoy the afternoon is to take a spin on the Prater Ferris Wheel.

Day 7: Budapest

Spend a final morning in Vienna before travelling east to Budapest by train. Known as the 'Pearl of the Danube', Budapest's grand architecture and boulevards evoke a time gone by. After a short orientation walk around the city, you have a free afternoon to further explore on your own. Perhaps take a slow cruise along the Danube for some pretty epic views of the riverside Parliament Building, the Castle District and the bridges linking Buda to Pest. Maybe visit the Jewish Quarter for dinner and explore the many options for a nightcap.

Day 8: Budapest

Start your day in Budapest with a visit to the historical Buda Castle and palace complex. Lose yourself in the history of the winding streets, which date back to the 13th century. You’ll also keep your rail adventures going with a ride on the funicular up the Buda Castle hill. Then enjoy a free afternoon to explore more of the city. Hiring a bicycle is great way to move between the sights, or you might like to simply meander through the winding streets snacking on local delicacies. Your leader will be able to help you craft the perfect rest of your day.

Day 9: Novi Sad / Belgrade

This morning, say farewell to Hungary and hop on a private transfer to Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city (approximately 4 hours). On the way, you’ll stop for an included traditional Serbian lunch at a Salas property. Sitting on the banks of the Danube River, you’ll arrive in Novi Sad – this city is surrounded by fertile farms and vineyards and features an interesting mix of traditional Serbian heritage and Austro-Hungarian architecture. Join your leader for an orientation walk around the city, then in the afternoon board a local train headed for Belgrade (approximately 1 hour). The evening is then free for you to relax at your accommodation or explore a bit of the Serbian capital.

Day 10: Belgrade

After breakfast, head out on a leader-led orientation walk through Belgrade. Known as the White City, Belgrade is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Sitting at the confluence of two major rivers – Sava and Danube – it’s an important intersection between Eastern and Western Europe. Here, you’ll experience an energetic mix of progressive flamboyance and conservative customs. Head to the historic and green heart of Kalemegdan Park and visit Kalemegdan Fortress, which has overlooked the Danube River for centuries. In the afternoon you have free time to perhaps visit the imposing Hram Svetog Save (St Sava Church) or if there’s time, stroll through the Nikola Tesla Museum and learn about the life of Serbia's greatest inventor. The city’s nightlife has become legendary throughout Europe, with several hundred floating bars, restaurants and nightclubs lining the Danube and Sava rivers – so you’ll find the perfect way to spend your evening.

Day 11: Nis

Rise and shine early for a long train ride to Nis today. Make sure you’re all stocked up with snacks, then sit back, relax and enjoy your ride through southern Serbia. Arrive in Nis in the afternoon, and stretch your legs on a leader-led walk around one of Europe’s oldest cities. You’re then free to spend the rest of the day how you’d like. History buffs might like to visit Mediana – the remnants of an opulent palace once called home by Constantine the Great.

Day 12: Sofia / Plovdiv

Take a private transfer to Sofia this morning. Bulgaria's capital is a cosmopolitan city with wide tree-lined boulevards and pleasant parks. Get oriented with your leader, taking the city’s metro and trams, then have the rest of the day to wander. You might want to sate your cultural curiosity at the National History Museum, discover artefacts from the many empires of old that have occupied the city at the National Archaeological Museum, or get cultural at the National Art Gallery. In the afternoon, board a local train for Plovdiv. Situated on the Maritsa River, Plovdiv was once the meeting point of two ancient transportation routes. In the evening, make sure you indulge in the local cuisine, famed for its grilled meats and vegetables on skewers.

Day 13: Plovdiv / Overnight Train

This morning, join your leader for an orientation walk of the main sights and some insight into the town's history. The most remarkable sight is the ancient Roman theatre, accidentally ‘discovered’ after a landslide exposed the site in the early 1970s. Built in the 2nd century BC during the reign of Trajanus, the theatre seats about 6,000 people and is now back in use. From here, wander up to the site of the former hilltop fortress of Nebet Tepe, where you can enjoy excellent views of the city. Enjoy a free afternoon in this charming city, perhaps using the time to freshen up and grab some snacks (and maybe a bottle of wine) ahead of your overnight train journey this evening. Depart Plovdiv headed for Istanbul. Please note that sometimes there can be major delays on this train ride, and there will be a stop at the Turkish border for passport processing after midnight.

Day 14: Istanbul

Arrive into Istanbul around 7 am this morning, drop your luggage at your hotel, and then maybe grab an optional breakfast with your group. Afterwards, head out with your leader to explore the Old City of Istanbul. Get an introduction to some of the city’s historical treasures, including the dazzling Blue Mosque, the ancient Hippodrome and the Million – a stone road marker in use since the fourth century. The afternoon is then free for you to continue exploring the city’s beguiling mix of different cultures and traditions. You’re also never far from a great meal in Istanbul, so be sure to ask your leader for any recommendations they might have!

Day 15: Istanbul

All good things come to an end, and this morning your adventure officially comes to a close. If you would like to extend your stay in Istanbul we are able to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).