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Christmas Markets Along the Danube 2014

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Pre-trip: Vienna, Austria

Join us as we explore Vienna, a magnificent old-world city of museums and music, art and architecture, and famous people from its storied past, that has lost nothing of the grace and charm that has for centuries helped it stand out even in the dazzling company of other great European cultural capitals.

It's Included:
Accommodations: 3 nights at the Superior First-Class ARCOTEL Kaiserwasser or similar
3 meals: 3 breakfasts
Included tour: Vienna
Exclusive services of an experienced Grand Circle Program Director
All transfers
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    Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Vienna.  Please refer to your personal air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times.

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    Arrive in Vienna today. A Grand Circle representative meets you at the airport and helps you transfer to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time and hotel check-in policy, you may not be able to check into your hotel room immediately upon arrival at your hotel. Your Program Director will advise you of our check-in status and activity schedule for the day when you arrive.

    You are invited to enjoy a brief walk with your Program Director to get acquainted with the area around your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax after your overseas flight, or venture out on your own explorations.

    Join your Program Director and fellow travelers for a Welcome Drink before enjoying dinner on your own this evening. Your Program Director will have many dining suggestions.

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    After breakfast, enjoy a tour of elegant Vienna. Your tour showcases the Ringstrasse, one of the many achievements of the Emperor Franz Joseph. In 1857, the Emperor ordered the demolition of the ancient city walls, which were no longer needed as fortifications and which were impeding the growth of the city. In their place was constructed an elegant 2.5-mile-long boulevard, encircling the Innere Stadt. The neoclassic buildings along the Ringstrasse bring together all the greatest architectural styles in an exuberant celebration of all that seemed possible during the Industrial Revolution. Our stroll continues along the city sidewalks, passing by the well-known Imperial Palace.

    The balance of the day is free to relax or do some more exploring on your own. You’ll certainly want to visit Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt, the largest and most famous in Austria. Get your first taste of the Christmas Market tradition as you browse through stall after stall offering unique handicrafts and traditional holiday foods.

    You may also consider a stroll through the old Jewish Quarter to see the only Viennese synagogue to have survived the 1938 Kristallnacht.

    Your evening is free to do as you please. Ask your Program Director for interesting suggestions.

    Or, join us for an optional Imperial Spa Town excursion to Baden, a town which is known for its curative mineral waters.

    Please note: Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt will not be open in time for our first two 2014 departures.

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    You have the day at leisure to relax, do some shopping, or explore this unique city on your own.

    Vienna has served as home and inspiration to some of the world’s greatest artists, thinkers, and musicians. You’ll notice statues of Strauss, Mozart, Beethoven, and Mahler throughout the city, and see how music is such an integral part of Viennese life. The strains of waltz music emanate from the many cafes, and these harmonious melodies move outdoors to the sidewalks in good weather.

    Or, consider joining an optional Best of Vienna tour to discover two of Vienna’s most beloved and beautiful sites: the Vienna Opera House and Hofburg Palace.

    The first performance at the opening of the Vienna Opera House in May 1869 was Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and since then the company and its orchestra have been at the forefront of international musicianship, vocal expertise, and production values, with long associations with some of the greatest names in music, including Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. Designed in a neoromantic style that was not well received at the time, the stage and the company’s set and costume collections were severely damaged by Allied bombing in World War II. It reopened in 1955 and has been a prime destination of opera lovers ever since. It now presents 50 operas and 20 ballets annually. You’ll tour the house and learn about its illustrious history.

    Please note: When the Vienna State Opera is not open, we visit Haus der Musik (House of Music) during this tour.

    Then continue on to Hofburg Palace. The Imperial Apartments and the Sisi Museum at the Vienna Hofburg are among the most frequently visited historic sites in Austria. Formerly the residence of the Habsburg rulers, the Hofburg contains the 19-room state and residential apartments of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth, which are open to the public. In an impressively staged exhibition, the Sisi Museum seeks to give the visitor an understanding of the myths and reality surrounding the figure of Empress Elisabeth.

    Your evening is at leisure to spend as you wish.

    Or, since Vienna without music wouldn’t be Vienna, subject to availability of tickets, you may want to join us this evening on an optional Musical Vienna outing and enjoy an unforgettable performance in one of Vienna’s famed concert halls. You’ll hear classical Viennese music in a setting where Johann Strauss himself performed and be enchanted by the beautiful melodies.

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    • Meals included:

    You have the morning at leisure to further sample the delights of Vienna. You may want to browse through one of the city’s many museums, or visit the famous Spanish Riding School, known as much for its architecture as for the renowned Lipizzaner horses. You might also consider strolling the gardens of Maria Theresia’s Schoenbrunn Palace. Before lunch, transfer to the pier to embark your river ship. You now join the travelers on the main trip, following Day 2 of the main itinerary.