Gwen Kozlowski's 14-Day Trip Around Central Europe

Photo: Getty Images

Gwen Kozlowski is a member of Travel + Leisure’s A-List, a collection of the top travel advisors in the world, and can help plan your perfect getaway. Below is an example of the type of itineraries she creates. To work with Gwen, you can contact her directly at

Day 1: Munich to Salzburg

Upon arrival into Munich, you will be met by your private drivers for your individual transfers to Salzburg. The duration of the drive is approximately two hours.

The remainder of your day is at leisure to enjoy this beautiful historic city.

Stay: Sacher Salzburg

Day 2: Salzburg

This morning your guide will meet you in the hotel lobby for a walking tour of historic Salzburg. Salzburg's Old Town, with its world famous baroque architecture, is one of the best-preserved city centers in Europe and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Hohensalzburg fortress, strategically located on a hill overlooking the old town, is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Originally built in the 11th century as a simple bailey with wooden walls, the structure was gradually expanded and strengthened in the following centuries. Because the fortress actually never came under a military siege and was surrendered without a fight to Napoleon’s army, it is one of the best-preserved castles in Europe.

You will also see the Salzburg Cathedral, a 17th-century Baroque building which was the site of Mozart's baptism. You can also see the Benedictine St. Peter’s Abbey, the oldest monastery in Austria.

Salzburg’s most famous son is of course Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and you will get a chance to visit his birthplace. His family lived here for 27 years, and today you can see items from Mozart’s childhood. All throughout your sightseeing today, you’ll also be noticing sites from The Sound of Music, including Mirabel Gardens (“Do-Re-Mi”), the abbey, and the cemetery where the family hid from the Nazis.

This afternoon is at your leisure to enjoy the city on your own. In the evening, there’s the option to attend a VIP concert and dinner at Stiftskeller St. Peter.

Stay:Sacher Salzburg

Day 3: Salzburg

Your driver and guide will meet you in the hotel lobby early this morning for a road trip. In the Bavarian Alps, above the Obersalzberg stands the ominous former mountain residence of Hitler. It offers magnificent views across the snowcapped peaks of the surrounding mountains.

Your first destination is the visitor center and from here you take a specially equipped bus to the Eagle’s Nest along the steep rock walls and deep gorges. There are gorgeous views along the ride. Afterwards, you take the original brass-lined elevator directly to the building of Eagle’s Nest, originally built as a teahouse for Hitler. The building is now a restaurant with panoramic mountain views.

After you head back down the mountain, if you like, you’ll then see the Dokumentation Obersalzberg, which provides information about Hitler’s mountain retreat and WWII. The Obersalzburg area was actually the cradle of the Nazi party and many significant decisions among the ruling Nazi elite were made here.

End with a visit to the gorgeous town of Berchtesgaden. Its winding lanes and painted facades make it seem like a fairytale village. This afternoon is at your leisure. Dinner in the evening is at Esszimmer. It’s a short taxi ride from your hotel and your concierge can arrange this for you.

Stay: Sacher Salzburg

Day 4: Salzburg to Dürnstein

This morning you depart to Dürnstein. Taxi to the pick-up point for a rental car with Hertz at Ferdinand Porsche-Strasse 7. It’s your choice whether to drive straight through or, perhaps, to meander a bit. If you drive straight through, the duration is two and a half and three hours.

If you decide to stop, these are stored on your GPS:

  • Mondsee has a colorful market square and you can stop at the cloister church used as the wedding church in The Sound of Music.
  • St. Wolfgang is worth a stop to take a ride on the Wolfgangsee Lake. Boats run regularly here and the town is pretty itself.
  • Bad Ischl is also worth a stop. This imperial town was frequented by the Hapsburgs. Today you can stroll the ancient streets of the village and, if you’re interested, stop into the Imperial Villa for a visit to this Hapsburg family summer residence.

Your hotel in the Wachau Valley is in the beautiful village of Dürnstein. The entire region is very friendly to bicyclists and you can rent bicycles right at your hotel. There are also a variety of water activities possible from your hotel, including canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding and boat rental.

Stay: Schloss Dürnstein

Day 5: Dürnstein

This morning head out to Melk Abbey. Leave yourself 45 minutes for the drive, just in case.

Today you have a privately guided tour. Located above the town of Melk on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube, the abbey was originally founded in 1089 when Leopold II gave one of his castles to the Benedictine monks. A school was founded in the 12th century, and the monastic library soon became renowned for its extensive manuscript collection. This exceptionally well-preserved Benedictine abbey was the inspiration for Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose, which later was made into a movie of the same name. You will not want to miss the extraordinary library with its 2,000 volumes from the 9th to 15th centuries alone.

This afternoon is at your leisure to explore the surrounding towns and villages. Or simply head up into the vineyards for a hike. If you’d rather explore on two wheels, borrow bikes from your hotel. If you’re going to bike, the south side of the river has a paved biking path and is a bit quieter. The north side has arguably more attractions, but also more traffic. Definitely stop in the adorable village of Weissenkirchen, if nothing else, to enjoy a coffee and snack. Ferries take you back and forth across the river at three points.

Stay: Schloss Dürnstein

Day 6: Dürnstein

This morning, your special wine expert will meet you for a journey out to the Wachau Valley.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience

Your guide is the grandson of one of the area’s original vintners and he knows every little winery and vintner along the way. Your excursion today will take you literally up into the hills bordering the Danube as you drive through vineyards and small villages. Your guide will explain a bit about how the region was developed, the type of wines that are the specialty of the region, and how different terrain makes different wines, even of the same varietal.

Your trip would not be complete without tastings at two local wineries. You’ll have ample time for lunch in the countryside, payable locally, before heading back to your hotel. Consider dining at Hofmeisterei Hirtzberger in Wachau.

Stay: Schloss Dürnstein

Getty Images

Day 7: Dürnstein to Vienna

Enjoy your last morning in the countryside. Today you will self-drive to Vienna. The duration is just over an hour and once you arrive you’ll drop off your rental car. The drop-off location is right on the ring around the historic center (Kärtner Ring) and it’s stored on your GPS.

Vienna is a city with history that stretches back over 2,000 years. Originally a Celtic Settlement, it became part of the Roman Empire in 15 B.C. The Romans were forced to leave the region during the fourth century as northern tribes regained their foothold in Eastern Europe. By 1155, the Babenbergs declared Vienna a “civitas” indicating that it was developing into a well-ordered community. From this time forward, Vienna grew under the influence of the Byzantium Empire, the Orient, Martin Luther, the threat of the Turks, Emperor Franz Joseph, Maria Theresa, Richard the Lion Heart, Karl Marx, and a host of other fascinating events and people, creating one of the world’s great cultural centers.

Enjoy the rest of your afternoon at leisure, then dine at Zum Weissen Rauchfangkehrer (White Chimney Sweep).

Stay: Sans Souci

Day 8: Vienna

This morning your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby. Vienna is a wonderful city to see on foot, as most major sights are located very close together. During your walk this morning with your guide, you will see the soaring St. Stephens Cathedral with its unusual colored ceramic tile roof. Your guide will take you through the interior of the cathedral and, if you have the energy, you can climb to the top of the steeple for a spectacular view over central Vienna.

Before visiting the Hofburg Palace, you’ll have a quick visit of the Hapsburg Imperial Crypt in the Capuchin Church. You’ll have a quick introduction to the entire Hapsburg ruling family before continuing.

Afterward, you can continue your walking tour of the Hofburg Palace complex. Your guide will take you into the lavish private living quarters of Empress Elizabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph from the 18th and 19th centuries. Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) was the Austrian’s Princess Di and prior to entering the Imperial Apartments, there is an exhibition of her life, which is quite interesting.

When you exit the Hofburg, your guide will show you some of the most famous coffeehouses of Vienna, including Demel, located not far from the Hofburg. Demel is the perfect place to stop for a rest and a snack. Tonight you’ll dine at Meirerei.

Note: All touring today is on foot in largely pedestrian only areas.

Stay: Sans Souci

Day 9: Vienna

Today, meet your guide and board the local tram with your guide to head to the nearby Belvedere Palace and Gardens. This palace, built as the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy, is situated on a gently sloping hill. The two main palaces (upper and lower) are linked by formal French gardens and both now house wonderful art collections. Upper Belvedere holds a wonderful collection of 19th and 20th century art, while the lower palace houses a fine collection of art and sculpture from Vienna’s Golden Age (approx. 1683 to 1780).

This is one of the most amazing collections of Klimt in the world and you will have ample time to explore the exhibition. Afterward, you might want to hop on the Ring Tram with your guide to take the short journey around the historic Ring that encircles Vienna. You’ll see all the most important buildings and monuments of the city in this one journey.

Later your guide will take you to the Naschmarkt, not far from your hotel, for a glimpse into one of the best markets in Vienna. This market dates to the 16th century and now features a huge array of food, from fresh fruits and vegetables, to spices, bread and pastries. There are also several small restaurants featuring different cuisines — the perfect place to stop for an afternoon respite.

Tonight you’ll have dinner at Plachutta bei Oper. You can walk here easily from your hotel and your concierge will give you directions. From here, it’s a very short walk to the Musikverein for a Mozart concert.

Stay: Sans Souci

Day 10: Vienna

Enjoy your day at leisure.

Today you have tickets on the Schönbrunn Classic Pass. Your Classic Pass includes the Grand Tour (with audio guide) and admission to the Privy Garden, the Orangerie Garden, the Maze and the Gloriette.

Tonight you have tickets to the Spanish Riding School performance. This is an easy walk from your hotel and your concierge can give you directions. Later, you’ll dine at Zum Schwarzen Kameel (Black Camel). You can walk here easily from the Spanish Riding School.

Stay: Sans Souci

Getty Images

Day 11: Vienna to Budapest

Today your driver will meet you at the hotel will transfer you to the train station for your departing train. First class tickets are included.

Upon arrival into Budapest, you will be met by your driver and assistant for your transfer to your deluxe hotel in the city center. They will meet you directly on the platform.

On the way to the hotel, you will pass by sights of historical significance, including St. Stephen’s Basilica, a cross between Neo-Classical and Renaissance-style architecture completed in the late 19th century and one of Budapest’s noteworthy landmarks.

Over the centuries, Budapest flourished as a crossroads where East meets West in the heart of Europe. Ancient cultures, such as the Magyars, the Mongols, and the Turks, have all left an indelible mark on this magical city. Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River, are characterized by an assortment of monuments, elegant streets, wine taverns, coffee houses, and Turkish baths.

Stay: Aria

Day 12: Budapest

Enjoy a morning at your leisure. Today, meet your guide in the afternoon to have a walking exploration of Pest, the bustling side of Budapest where your hotel is located.

As you walk today, you will see Andrassy Boulevard. Driving this beautiful boulevard will give you a glimpse into the stunning architecture that Budapest is known for, especially the beautiful art nouveau buildings that have been preserved. Your guide will take you to some of her favorite spots for the most gorgeous art nouveau architecture, including the tiny and private Art Nouveau Museum and coffee house.

Today you’ll visit the House of Terror near the State Opera House which used to be the headquarters of the Arrow Cross Fascist Association prior to World War II. After World War II, the building was used as the Communist Party Headquarters, and was used by both organizations as one of the most notorious prisons in Hungary. Today it’s an exhibit about life under fascism in Hungary. It’s a graphic and powerful reminder of the brutality of the regime.

Stay: Aria

Day 13: Budapest

Meet your guide and driver in the morning. Begin with a visit to the Budapest Market Hall. Built in the 19th century, the covered market boasts soaring metal columns, high walkways and beautiful produce shops. More than being a place where one can purchase some handcrafted and typical Hungarian souvenirs, it’s a market where locals go to purchase their produce and meats — a meeting place for many and a place where you can enjoy authentic local flavor.

Afterward, head across the river to the other side of the city – the hilly and green Buda side. First head up to Gellert Hill for sweeping views of the city. Just a short walk down the hill, we recommend taking a quick look at the fascinating Cave Church. This holy grotto was forced to close during the Communist era but reopened in 1989.

Afterward, head to the castle district anchored by Buda’s historic Royal Palace, the former Hapsburg palace during the 19-century and rebuilt in the Neo-Classical style after it was destroyed during World War II. A stroll through the castle area, known as Varhegy, will take you to the Fisherman’s Bastion for the most impressive views over Pest, across the Danube. Here you’ll see the Matyas Church, a Neo-Gothic reconstruction dating from 1874 and in which many organ and choral concerts can be heard. The entire cobble-stoned area, lined with cafés and small shops, is perfect for spending the remaining afternoon if you like.

Stay: Aria

Day 14: Depart Budapest

Today your private driver will meet you in the lobby of your hotel for your transfer to the airport to catch your flight onward.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles