Our classic, three-week Best of Europe tour packs more travel thrills into a single vacation than you can imagine. Starting in the Netherlands with your Rick Steves guide, you'll experience the best of Amsterdam, Germany's Rhine Valley and Romantic Road, castles and forests of the German-Austrian Tirol, canals of Venice, Renaissance Florence, the art and history of Rome, seaside villages of the Cinque Terre, the majestic Swiss Alps, country charms of France's Burgundy region, and the City of Light — Paris. Join us for the Best of Europe in 21 Days!
You'll get all this!
- A small, friendly group of 24-28 people — half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of Europe come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 34 group sightseeing events • Haarlem walking tour • Amsterdam walking tour • Rijksmuseum tour • Anne Frank House • Amsterdam canal cruise • Dutch Open-Air Museum • Rhine cruise • Rheinfels Castle tour • Bacharach walking tour • Rothenburg Night Watchman tour • Dachau concentration camp tour • Wieskirche • Hohenschwangau Castle tour • Neuschwanstein Castle tour • Mountain luge ride (weather permitting) • Venice walking tour • Florence Renaissance walking tour • Uffizi Gallery tour • Florence's Accademia Gallery including Michelangelo's David • Trevi Fountain • Colosseum tour • Forum tour • Pantheon • St. Peter's Basilica tour • Vatican Museum tour • Italian hill town visit • Orientation for "vacation" day on Italian Riviera • Hiking orientation in the Swiss Alps • Hôtel Dieu • Wine tasting in Burgundy • Louvre Museum tour • Paris walking tour • Notre-Dame • Sainte-Chapelle...and more
- All group transportation from Haarlem to Paris
- 20 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Rick Steves' Best of Europe guidebook, French-Italian-German phrase book, Europe Sightseeing Supplement, map, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2014
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
Daily Activity Key
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to the Netherlands
We'll start in quintessentially-Dutch Haarlem, a quick 30 minutes by train, bus or taxi from the Amsterdam airport. We'll meet at our hotel around 4 p.m. for an orientation and chance to get acquainted, followed by a walking tour of this charming town and a traditional rijsttafel dinner together. Sleep in Haarlem (2 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: Progressive, Artistic Amsterdam
We'll take the train into Amsterdam this morning, and then hop aboard a tram for an introduction to this progressive, artistic city. Our first stop will be a visit to the Anne Frank House, followed by a walking tour of Amsterdam's historic streets, lined with teetering, gable-topped houses overlooking centuries-old canals. This afternoon we'll tour the remarkable Rijksmuseum, featuring masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer. Afterward, you'll have free time to see another artist's rich legacy at the nearby Van Gogh Museum. We'll finish up in Amsterdam with a relaxing canal boat cruise and eye-opening Red Light District walk, before returning to Haarlem for a free evening. Train: 1 hr. Boat: 1 hr. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 3: Dutch Treats and Rhine Views
We'll travel to Arnhem's open-air museum this morning to see what life was like in this corner of Europe centuries ago. We'll wander among the quaint houses, village storefronts and working windmills, followed by a traditional Dutch pancake lunch. Then we'll work our way down to Germany's castle-studded Rhineland, enjoying dinner together at our 700-year-old hotel, nestled in the medieval village of Bacharach on the Rhine (2 nights). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 4: Rhine Castles and a River Cruise
This morning we'll take a walking tour of the village of Bacharach with an entertaining local guide. At nearby St. Goar we'll hike up the hill to tour the mighty medieval Rheinfels castle, and enjoy its commanding view of the Rhine valley. We'll then board a boat for a relaxing Rhine river cruise, passing picturesque villages and feudal castles, followed by free time for dinner on your own. Boat: 1 hr. Bus: ½ hr. Walking: strenuous.
Day 5: Medieval Rothenburg
We'll get an early start today, arriving in Rothenburg, Germany's best preserved medieval town, just before lunchtime. After a helpful orientation tour, the afternoon is yours to see the best woodcarving in Germany (Riemenschneider's altarpiece), walk the medieval wall, tour the Crime and Punishment Museum, or hunt down the best apple strudel in town. This evening we'll tag along on the legendary Night Watchman's tour. Sleep in Rothenburg (1 night). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 6: Dachau and Austria's Tirol
Today we'll make a 21st-century pilgrimage to the Dachau concentration camp near Munich, where we'll learn powerful lessons about the Holocaust and WWII. We'll then drive across the Bavarian countryside to visit Germany's greatest Rococo-style church, the Wieskirche. Winding our way toward Austria, we'll arrive at our rural Tirolean guest house in time for a traditional dinner. Sleep near Reutte (2 nights). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 7: Royal Castles and a Luge
It's a short drive to Hohenschwangau Castle, the boyhood home of "Mad" King Ludwig. After touring the castle and learning about his childhood, you'll have time to grab some lunch before making the half-hour walk uphill to visit Ludwig's idea of a home fit for a king, the deservedly-famous Neuschwanstein Castle. Afterward (weather permitting) you'll barrel down the Tegelberg luge, and still have free time to stroll in the woods or relax at our peaceful hotel before dinner together. Bus: 1 hr. Walking: strenuous.
Day 8: Italy's Incomparable Venice
We'll take a scenic, all-day drive to Venice today, stopping en route for lunch together in a characteristic Italian-Tirolean village. In Venice we'll park our bus and board a vaporetto boat for a Grand Canal ride to our hotel in the historic heart of this seductive city. Tonight we'll take an alleys-and-canals orientation stroll to our first Italian dinner together. Afterward your guide will organize an optional gondola ride for this unique Venetian experience. If the moon is out, it will hit your eye like a big pizza pie. Sleep in Venice (2 nights). Boat: ½ hr. Bus: 7 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 9: The Art of Wandering in Venice
This morning our local guide will take us on a winding walking tour through Venice, blending historic and modern-day stories of this one-of-a-kind treasure, and giving us a local's perspective on Venice's fascinating past...and its uncertain future. The rest of your day is free to visit St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace, or the Titian- and Tintoretto-packed Accademia art gallery. Better yet, get lost (remember, it's an island) exploring the alleys, cruising the canals, and "crawling" the pubs. No bus (too much water). Walking: moderate.
Day 10: Florence and Michelangelo's David
An early-morning vaporetto ride will reunite us with our bus and driver. We'll drive straight to Florence, and hit the ground walking with a Renaissance tour of the city's historic center. We'll see and learn about Brunelleschi's magnificent cathedral dome, Ghiberti's Baptistery doors, and other creations that helped define this world-changing era. We'll end our walk at the Accademia Gallery to marvel at works of sculptural genius: Michelangelo's rough-hewn Prisoners and his greatest masterpiece, David. We'll have dinner together tonight, and sleep in Florence (2 nights). Boat: ½ hr. Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 11: Wonders of Renaissance Florence
This morning is on your own. You can sleep in — or get an early start and scramble to the top of Brunelleschi's dome, or browse through Florence's colorful food and craft markets. After lunch, we'll tour the wealth of Botticellis, Leonardos and Raphaels in the greatest collection of Italian paintings anywhere — the Uffizi Gallery. This evening is free to make your own discoveries. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 12: A Walk Through Caesar's Rome
This morning we'll drive straight to the heart of Rome. After a quick lunch and a Roman transportation lesson, we'll spend the rest of the afternoon uncovering Ancient Rome as a local guide takes us through the monumental Colosseum, history-drenched Roman Forum, and the awe-inspiring Pantheon. Tonight you may wish to celebrate la dolce vita Roman-style, with an after-dinner stroll through the floodlit heart of the city, lacing together the lively campos, classy piazzas, and the splashy Trevi Fountain. Sleep in Rome (2 nights). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 13: St. Peter's and the Vatican Museum
Today we'll focus on Renaissance (Catholic) Rome. At the sprawling Vatican Museum we'll tour its vast collection of treasures as we make our way to one of the world's most famous works of art: Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Our tour will continue inside the greatest church in Christendom, the awe-inspiring St. Peter's Basilica, home to Michelangelo's sublime Pietà. You'll have the rest of your day and evening free to wander through this immense church, climb the dome if you're feeling energetic, and explore more of the Eternal City on your own (don't forget to taste some delicious gelato along the way). No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 14: To Italy's Cinque Terre
We'll drive along Italy's western coast today, with a refreshing stop at one of Italy's enchanting hill towns. This afternoon's destination is Italy's dramatic Cinque Terre: five perfectly preserved fishing villages, laced together with hiking paths that meander between vineyards and the deep blue sea. As we approach the Cinque Terre, we'll park our bus and take a short train ride into seaside Monterosso al Mare, where we'll sleep (2 nights). Train: ¼ hr. Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 15: Free Day in the Cinque Terre
Ahh, it's time to take a "vacation from your vacation" today in our Mediterranean getaway. Pick a Cinque Terre village and spend your day exploring the stairways and alleyways, sunning yourself on the rocks, or sipping a cappuccino and catching up on your journal at an outdoor café. Or, if you're looking for lots of exercise, fresh air and panoramic views, start your day early and hike the cliff-side paths that connect the towns. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 16: To the Heart of the Swiss Alps
Today we'll catch an early train back to our bus and head over the hills, past the farms and along the pristine lakes of northern Italy, and into the Alpine wonderland of Switzerland. After a breathtaking drive into the very heart of the Swiss Alps, we'll arrive at our creaky chalet in the magnificent Lauterbrunnen Valley, where we'll have dinner and sleep (2 nights). Train: ¼ hr. Bus: 7 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 17: Free Day in the Alps
The day is all yours to enjoy some of Europe's most dramatic scenery. You may want to join your guide for an optional mountain excursion that combines the local narrow-gauge railway, a gondola lift, and a spectacular Alpine walk above the tree line, surrounded by a panorama of cut-glass peaks...or ride a gondola lift up to the Schilthorn at 10,000 feet, loiter in the thin air, and hike down...or wander through the valley and walk to the thundering Trümmelbach: a unique set of waterfalls encased behind the valley walls. We'll have dinner together tonight. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 18: A Hearty Taste of Burgundy
Today we'll say Auf Wiedersehen to the Alps and Bonjour to la belle France. We'll drive into profoundly French Burgundy for a look at small-town France. We'll have an orientation walk through the heart of Burgundy's inviting wine capital, Beaune, visit the famous Hôtel Dieu medieval hospital, then enjoy a wine tasting together. Sleep in Beaune (1 night). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 19: Historic and Neighborhood Paris
This morning we'll drive straight to Paris, where you'll have an orientation of the neighborhood markets and cafés to find lunch on your own. After checking into our nearby hotel, we'll have a transportation lesson and Métro ride to the historic heart of Paris: the Ile de la Cité. Prepare to be awed by the brilliant stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle, and enlightened on a historic walk through the Latin Quarter, ending at the stunning Notre-Dame Cathedral. Your evening is free for dinner and more discoveries. Sleep in Paris (2 nights). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 20: Parisian Masterpieces
This day provides a busy, star-studded finale for our tour. Our morning is devoted to touring Europe's greatest museum — the Louvre — where you'll come face-to-face with timeless treasures that include Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo and hundreds more. You'll be free for the rest of the afternoon to round out your Paris sightseeing with a walk down the Champs-Elysées, or perhaps a visit to such legendary museums as the Orsay and Rodin. This evening we'll have our final dinner together, sharing memories and toasting our newly-made friends. Salut! No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 21: Tour Over After Breakfast
If you're staying on in Paris, today would be a great day to hop on the train and tackle the sprawling palace and grounds at Versailles. If you're headed home, it's a breeze to reach Paris' airports by taxi, shuttle or public transportation. Au revoir!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Best of Europe in 21 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
- Be content with the possibility of sharing bathroom facilities at one hotel during this tour.
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Haarlem or Amsterdam before your tour begins, use Rick Steves' Best of Europe guidebook to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of Dutch (although most locals speak very good English), and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise. Take advantage of the flat terrain and rent a bike in Haarlem!
Here are a few suggestions for sightseeing in Haarlem and Amsterdam that we will not do as a group. Haarlem: Frans Hals Museum, canal cruise, Teylers Museum, Corrie Ten Boom House, Grote Kerk (main church). Amsterdam: Amsterdam Museum, Jewish History Museum, Dutch Resistance Museum, Tropical Museum, Heineken brewery tour.
There is plenty to keep you busy with extra time in Paris. We suggest visiting the Orsay or Orangerie Museums for great Impressionist art. If modern art is your thing, you can't miss The Pompidou Center. Feeling museum-ed out? Then explore great neighborhoods of the Marais, St. Germain or the Montmartre. Spend some time in one of Paris' people-friendly parks like the Luxembourg or Tuileries Gardens or hop on a boat and take a tour of the river Seine.
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). Amsterdam and Paris are transportation hubs, making travel before or after your tour quite easy. The most direct route is to fly into Amsterdam and home from Paris. If you have extra time, you may want to consider a roundtrip flight into/out of either Amsterdam or Paris. These flights may be cheaper, but you'll need to consider the cost of the train fare between the cities, as well as an additional overnight stay.
Read Rick's Guide to Eurail Passes and decide if your travel plans merit a rail pass (or contact our Rail Department for advice at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425/771-8303 ext. 214).
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email email@example.com.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
While it is important to pack light, there are a few things we'd like you to consider including when packing for this tour. There are some great opportunities for hikes in Italy's Cinque Terre and the Swiss Alps. While hiking boots are not necessary, we recommend you bring a pair of sturdy walking shoes. If you like to swim, we'll have a couple of opportunities to get wet, so bring along a swimsuit and perhaps a light-weight microfiber towel.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
"We truly felt blessed each day to have Daniela for a guide. Daniela's knowledge of art, history and language is astounding and we learned so much. She was fully engaged with the tour, approachable and led with patience. The way she oriented us in each place was so helpful and we always enjoyed her restaurant choices, suggestions of things to do, and little treats she would pass out on the bus."
— Kara in Calgary, AB
"Stephanie was absolutely awesome. She was so prepared for each town and country. She has a lot of traveling under her belt and was full of information. Her recommendations for eating and extra things to do in our down time were appreciated by all."
— Deb in Fort Dodge, IA
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"Everyday was a 'wow!' for all my senses so it is challenging to pick out a favorite — architecture, thousands of bikes with their bells, huge flower markets, fun with new friends, the Alps, and pungent cheeses. European people were a big 'wow' when cheering with them in the pubs for their 'football' team, chatting on the trail, or ordering in restaurants where a kind waiter translated an entire multi-page menu. After digesting it all I have decided that my favorite 'wow!' is a better understanding of the world. Being able to meet, talk with Europe's people and see their part of the world has improved my understanding of history and our crazy ways."
— Michael in Windsor, CA
"Seeing and experiencing the absolute grandeur and beauty of the Swiss Alps and feeling like a kid again on the luge ride in Austria were my 'wow' moments."
— Darrell in Olympia, WA
"Hiking the Cinque Terre — all five villages — had been a 25-year dream. Finally did it. WOW!!"
— Alice in Seattle, WA
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
(For more Rick Steves' TV clips on this region, visit Rick on YouTube.)
- Dutch: A Bridge Too Far (1977); Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
- Teutonic: Heidi (1937); Schindler's List (1995); Sound of Music (1965)
- Italian: Roman Holiday (1953); Cinema Paradiso (1990); Life is Beautiful (1997)
- Swiss: The Eiger Sanction (1974); On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969); North Face (2008)
- French: Charade (1963); Amélie (2001); La Vie en Rose (2007)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves' Audio Tours
- Amsterdam: Amsterdam City Walk, Red Light District Walk, Jordaan Walk
- Venice: St. Mark's Square, St. Mark's Cathedral, Frari Church, Grand Canal Cruise
- Florence: Renaissance Walk, Uffizi Gallery, Accademia & Michelangelo's David
- Rome: Pantheon, St. Peter's Basilica, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, Roman Forum
- Paris: The Louvre, The Orsay, Versailles Palace, Historic Paris Walk
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Classical: Wagner; Strauss; Bach; Beethoven; Brahms; Mozart
- Opera: Vivaldi's Four Seasons; Puccini's Tosca; Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci; Verdi's Rigoletto; Ezio Pinza
- Pop/rock: George Baker Selection; Golden Earring; Andrea Bocelli; Zucchero; Jovanotti; Eros Ramazotti; Edith Piaf; Charles Aznavour; Maurice Chevalier; Charles Trenet
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations.)
- Rick Steves' Best of Europe
- Europe 101: History and art overview for the traveler — Rick Steves & Gene Openshaw
- Culture Shock! — Practical guides on European etiquette
- Netherlands: The Undutchables: An Observation of the Netherlands, Its Culture and Its Inhabitants — Colin White & Laurie Boucke
- Germany: A New History — Hagen Schulze
- Italy: Italian Neighbors; Italian Education — Tim Parks
- Switzerland: La Place de la Concorde Suisse — John McPhee
- France: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong — Nadeau and Barlow; French or Foe — Polly Platt