Primavera 2023: Highlights of Switzerland, Alsace, the Black Forest and Austria

A 15-day exploration from Tuesday, May 9, to Tuesday, May 23, 2023

A leisurely tour focusing on highlights of the four countries surrounding Lake Constance (Bodensee), namely Switzerland’s heartland around Lake Lucerne; France’s picturesque province of Alsace; the legendary Black Forest in Germany; and Austria’s westernmost region around the city of Bregenz…plus the miniature state of Liechtenstein! This tour features very comfortable, traditional family-owned hotels and delicious food, and will be escorted by historian Jacques Pauwels, PhD.

Tour price, from Toronto and based on double occupancy: $6,495 (CAD).   “Land only” from/to Zurich Airport May 10-23: $5,095.   Single room supplement: $750



BOOKING INFORMATION

May 09 - 23, 2023

From Toronto $6,495 based on double occupancy

Land only: $5,095. SIngle supplement: $750

BOOK TOUR

DOWNLOAD PDF OF ITINERARY

*If the tour is SOLD OUT, please contact us to be added to the waitlist.


ITINERARY

Day 1 - Tuesday, May 09: Departure from Toronto

Evening departure from Toronto to Zurich Air Canada’s non-stop flight. 

Day 2 - Wednesday, May 10: Zurich and on to Weggis

Late morning arrival in Zurich, where a comfortable coach will be waiting to take us to Weggis, an idyllic little resort nestled on the shores of wonderful Lake Lucerne, situated in the middle of the country and surrounded by impressive Alpine peaks, including famous Mount Rigi; the area is often called the ‘Riviera’ of central Switzerland. Check into the fine three-star Hotel Gotthard and free time to settle in. Dinner in the restaurant of our hotel.

Day 3 - Thursday, May 11: Lucerne

This morning a lake steamer will take us to nearby Lucerne, one of the prettiest cities in Switzerland and all of Europe. Our walking tour here will include the quaint old town, the famous covered wooden Chapel Bridge, emblem of the city, and the impressive Lion’s Monument, dedicated to the Swiss soldiers who died defending King Louis XVI during the French Revolution. Also free time to enjoy lunch, shop for watches and traditional Swiss army knives, and perhaps visit the superb transportation museum. Late afternoon return to Weggis by lake steamer and dinner again in the hotel.

Day 4 - Friday, May 12: Weggis at leisure

 Day at leisure in Weggis. Your options include a walk along the shores of the lake, a relaxing tour of the lake by steamer, and a spectacular cable car ride to the top of legendary Mount Rigi, known as “the queen of the mountains,” a giant that rises spectacularly to an altitude of nearly 1,800 meters! Dinner again in the hotel.

Day 5 - Saturday, May 13: Colmar

After breakfast, departure from Weggis by private coach. We cross into France and motor to the picturesque city of Colmar, situated in the heart of Alsace, the French province bordering on Germany as well as Switzerland. Dinner and overnight in the centrally located, comfortable three star/superior tourist-class Hotel Ibis Styles, our home for the next 5 nights. Dinner in a typical restaurant.

Day 6 - Sunday, May 14: Colmar

Morning sightseeing, on foot and by little tourist train, of Colmar’s beautiful medieval city centre, crisscrossed by winding and narrow streets and featuring wood-framed houses, impressive old churches, imposing public buildings, and scenic canals of the “Little Venice” district. The highlight will be our visit to the fascinating Unterlinden Museum, whose pride and joy is the great Isenheim Altarpiece, a world-famous early-16th century painting by Nikolaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald. Afternoon free to explore the town on your own. No group dinner this evening. 

Day 7 - Monday, May 15: Alsace

Excursion into the surrounding Alsatian wine country, situated on the slopes rising from the banks of the nearby Rhine River, which forms the border with Germany to the heights of the Vosges Mountains, behind which stretches the neighbouring French province of Lorraine. We start in the town of Kaysersberg, birthplace of a famous Alsatian, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, then continue through the vineyards to the medieval jewel of Riquewihr, still surrounded by city walls and arguably one of the prettiest wine villages in the world! During a winery visit and tasting, we will learn about Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewuerztraminer and other typical Alsatian grape varietas. Return to Colmar and visit to the small museum dedicated to the life and work of a local sculptor, Auguste Bartholdi, whose world-famous masterpiece is the Statue of Liberty, given by France to the US in 1876, on the occasion of the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. This evening, our dinner in a typical restaurant will feature Flammekueche, the Alsatian equivalent of pizza!

Day 8 - Tuesday, May 16: Mulhouse

Morning visit to the fabulous National Automobile Museum in the nearby city of Mulhouse, where no less than 500 vintage cars are on display, some of which were once owned by celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, French president Poincaré, and Belgium’s King Leopold. Then we tour the heights of the Vosges Mountains, following the ‘Routes des Crêtes” to the top (well, almost) of the Grand Ballon, with an altitude of 1,424 m the highest mountain of the entire chain. At the Bonhomme Mountain Pass (Col du Bonhomme, alt. 949m), we will be reminded of the Great War of 1914-1918, when this was the scene of heavy fighting! Return to Colmar via the scenic Valley of Munster, famous for its pungent cheese! Today, group lunch OR dinner.

Day 9 - Wednesday, May 17: Strasbourg

This morning we take a train to the capital of Alsace which also happens to be one the two capitals of the European Union, Strasbourg; the other capital is Brussels. Sightseeing tour of the city by little tourist train, covering all the highlights, including the Cathedral, one of the finest in France, with its amazing spire, the quaint “Petite France” district on the banks of the Ill River, the Palais de l’Europe (EU headquarters). Afterwards, free time to explore the city on your own, shop, and/or visit a museum such as the Musée d’Alsace, focusing on the traditional arts and crafts of the province. Return to Colmar by train in late afternoon. No group dinner this evening, but it will be possible to enjoy an optional gourmet dinner in one of the town’s numerous highly-rated restaurants.

Day 10 - Thursday, May 18: Baden

Departure from Colmar after breakfast. Crossing the Rhine into Germany, we enter the region of Baden, similar in many ways to nearby Alsace and famous for its wine! Via the vineyards on the slopes of the Kaiserstuhl Mountain, an extinct volcano that inspired ancient legends, we soon reach Freiburg. That vibrant old university city, crisscrossed by small streams coming down from the hills of the Black Forest, a mountain range of forest-covered hills that rise just outside the city. After a walk through the historical city centre, huddled around the Gothic Cathedral, and a lunch break, we enter the Black Forest and head for its most famous resort, Titisee, nestled on the shore of a beautiful lake of the same name. In late afternoon we continue through the bucolic hills and valleys of the Black Forest to the town of Donaueschingen, where we visit the most famous attraction, the source of the River Danube (Donauquelle), before checking into a traditional superior 3-star hotel, the Grüner Baum. Dinner of Black Forest specialties in the hotel’s restaurant.

Day 11 - Friday, May 19: The Black Forest

Full-day excursion in the southern Black Forest and just across the Rhine and the Swiss border, with as highlights the Rhine Falls in the town of Schaffhausen, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, and the picture-perfect medieval town of Stein am Rhein. Dinner again in our hotel in Donaueschingen.

Day 12 - Saturday, May 20: Lake Constance

Departure after breakfast. We leave the Black Forest and soon reach Lake Constance, known locally as the Bodensee, one of the largest freshwater lakes in Europe, a vast and beautiful body of water, fed by the Rhine River and separating Germany from both Austria and Switzerland. Following the scenic northern lakeshore, we pause for lunch in the quaint town of Lindau, located on a small offshore island connected to the mainland by a causeway.  In the afternoon we cross into Austria and head for the town of Dornbirn, and check into the first-class/four-star Hotel Krone. Free time to settle in, and dinner in the hotel.

Day 13 - Sunday, May 21: Bregenz

Morning sightseeing in nearby Bregenz, the very attractive capital of Austria’s westernmost state (Land), Vorarlberg, and situated on the shores of Lake Constance This city is the home of a famous annual music festival, the Bregenz Festspiele, featuring performances on a stage jutting out into the lake! In the afternoon, leisurely exploration of the nearby Bregenz Forest (Bregenzerwald), a scenic landscape promoted to the tentative UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, characterized by romantic river valleys, gently rolling hills as well as impressive peaks, and many quaint ancient villages such as Schwarzenberg, featuring traditional farms and wooden houses. Return to Dornbirn in late afternoon and rest of the day at leisure to explore the town of relax in the hotel’s spa facilities. No group dinner this evening.

Day 14 - Monday, May 22: Chur

Excursion through the Rhine Valley to Chur, allegedly the oldest town of Switzerland and the pretty little capital of the canton of Graubünden, a.k.a. the Grisons; this is a multilingual region, where German dominates but the spoken languages include Italian and of course the regional language, Romansh. After lunch, for which we highly recommend a delicious local specialty, Bündnerfleisch or “Grisons meat.” In the afternoon we enter the principality of Liechtenstein, a miniature country tucked between Switzerland and Austria, and explore Vaduz, its capital, a village rather than a city! Return to our hotel in late afternoon. Auf-Wiedersehen dinner in the restaurant of our hotel.

Day 15 - Tuesday, May 23: Return flight to Toronto

After breakfast, transfer to Zurich Airport (125km) in time for the departure around 1PM of our non-stop return flight to Toronto with Air Canada, arriving around 4PM.




ITINERARY PDF

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INCLUDED

- Return flight Toronto-Zurich with Air Canada, including one checked suitcase; - Accommodation based on double occupancy, in one 4-star/first-class hotel and three 3-star/superior tourist-class hotels; the supplement for a single room is $XXX, but only a limited number of singles are available; - Breakfast daily (mostly if not all buffet-style) and all but four dinners; - Overland transportation by private coach; - All visits and sightseeing as outlined in the itinerary, including admission to museums and monuments mentioned; - Hotel taxes and gratuities.

NOT INCLUDED

- All items of a personal nature; - Beverages with dinners, and meals other than those outlined above; - Travel Insurance -- available upon request.

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