Imperial Cities of Eastern Europe
Join art expert Liz Gibson as she uncovers a treasure trove of art, architecture and history across the imperial cities of Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.
Indulge in the cultural riches of the Polish capital, Warsaw, exploring its grand palaces and museums, and its tradition of fine Classical music. Marvel at the architecture of Krakow’s historic centre, once serving as Poland’s capital and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Discover the beauty of Budapest, from the famed Danube River and its show-stopping parliament building to its vibrant culture and flavourful cuisine. Enjoy a guided tour of the Museum of Fine Arts and see the collection of Old Master paintings which include works by Giorgione, Raphael and Bronzino.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Arrive in Budapest on suggested flights. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements including travel insurance (a condition of travel), private hotel transfer, accommodation before or after the tour and a room category upgrade.
At 18:00, attend a welcome briefing and talk by your tour leader, Liz Gibson, followed by dinner with Liz and fellow tour members.
After a morning talk by Liz, enjoy a day in Budapest’s historic Old Town. Begin with a visit to the National Gallery of Art, located in the neo-Baroque Royal Castle, first constructed in the 13th century and rebuilt several times in the following centuries. In 1957, the National Gallery was established within the Castle to house the royal collection of Hungarian art from the medieval period until the 20th century. The collection has an impressive assembly of intricately carved, painted and gilded Hungarian altarpieces, which survived the Ottoman occupation and the iconic recapture of Buda Castle in 1686 by Gyula Benczúr.
After lunch, marvel at the spectacular views of the Danube River and the Pest side of the city from Fisherman’s Bastion, before visiting the Gothic-style St Matthias’ Church, named after the great 15th century King Matthias Corvinus.
The remainder of the day is at leisure.
In the morning, enjoy a guided tour of the Museum of Fine Arts and see the collection of Old Master paintings which include works by Giorgione, Raphael and Bronzino. Explore other sections of the museum at your own pace, with collections of Egyptian and Classical antiquities, and Modern Art. Then, walk to the nearby Heroes Square and see the national monument commemorating the arrival of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin in 1896.
In the afternoon, visit Hungary’s largest building, the majestic late 19th century neo-Gothic National Parliament, which contains the Holy Crown of Hungary.
The rest of the afternoon and evening is at leisure to further explore Budapest at your own pace.
This morning, explore the commercial heart of Budapest with a tour of Pest. See the Moorish-style Dohány Street Synagogue, the first purpose-built synagogue to belong to Pest’s Jewish community. Walk along the streets of the Jewish quarter, its buildings narrating different histories in an assortment of architectural styles.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before visiting the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in the “Palace of Arts” on the eastern bank of the Danube. The core of the collection was donated by Peter and Irene Ludwig, responsible for generous donations to more than 20 public museums in Europe, including Cologne.
Today, drive north into the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. Stop for the night in Košice, known for its heritage-protected buildings in Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau styles, the highlight being the Gothic-styled Cathedral of St. Elizabeth, which is also Slovakia’s largest church.
In the morning, depart Košice and drive to the historic town of Levoča, known for its Renaissance church with the highest wooden altar in the world carved by Master Paul of Levoča.
Continue to Kraków, the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. It was the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1569 and of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1596. It is one of Europe’s great historic cities and renowned for its impressive medieval architecture.
Following a morning talk, enjoy a walking tour of Kraków’s Old Town. Visit the picturesque main Market Square, the hub of Kraków’s trade for over 700 years, with its Renaissance-style Cloth Hall and the Gothic Town Hall Tower. In the Church of St Mary view the famous 15th century wooden altarpiece carved by leading Bavarian sculptor Veit Stoss. Walk to the Barbican, one of the remaining elements of Kraków’s medieval fortification walls.
Spend the afternoon at the Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, which houses the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art, a concrete and glass complex of minimalist pavilions designed by Italian Claudio Nardi. Wander through its permanent exhibition, Kraków Under Nazi Occupation 1939-1945.
The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to explore Kraków at your own pace.
After breakfast, explore Wawel Royal Castle, built at the beginning of the 16th century for Sigismund I who reigned in the period of Poland’s great cultural awakening. Enjoy the Castle’s extraordinary collection of tapestries and Japanese porcelain, chiefly 18th-century Imari ware. Visit Wawel Cathedral (1320-64), where Polish kings and queens were crowned, and buried, for four centuries. Its beautiful chapel is regarded as the finest Renaissance building in Poland.
Then visit Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter of Kraków, established in 1335 by the great Polish King Kazimierz III Wielki, who appreciated the Jewish inhabitants’ talents and contribution to the country’s development. Kazimierz is surrounded by defensive walls and has its own Town Hall. The district was one of the key European centres of Jewish religion, learning and culture.
The remainder of the evening is at leisure to continue your exploration of Kraków at your own pace.
Depart Kraków and drive past forest nature reserves enroute to Warsaw, the capital and largest city of Poland.
Warsaw stands on the River Vistula in east-central Poland and has an eye-catching range of architecture. Restored baroque, Gothic, neoclassical and Renaissance buildings blend in harmoniously with modern beauties like the Copernicus Science Centre.
Check in to the hotel in the afternoon and then take a walking tour of Warsaw’s Old Town, with Gothic churches, defensive walls and fairy-tale façades of tenement houses. At the New Town Market see the house where Marie Curie was born and the 1944 Warsaw Uprising monument, commemorating the heroes of the historic revolt led by the Polish Resistance against the occupation of Nazi Germany.
This morning, visit the superb 17th century Church of the Holy Cross, known for its two imposing towers and the sculpture of Christ carrying the cross standing in front of the entrance. See the iconic Nicolaus Copernicus Monument of the great Polish astronomer created by Danish neo-classical sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen.
Then, visit the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) showcasing a wide range of exhibitions illustrating key trends in contemporary art, both in Poland and internationally.
In the afternoon, visit the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews built on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. The museum features an exhibition exploring the vibrant Jewish community that flourished in Poland for over a thousand years until the Holocaust. The impressive glass, copper and concrete building was designed by Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma.
Following a morning talk, drive along the Royal Route, running south from the Royal Castle to the former royal summer residence, the 17th-century Baroque Wilanow Palace. The route follows Krakowskie Przedmieście, one of Warsaw’s most prestigious streets lined with Warsaw’s notable institutions, including the Presidential Palace, Warsaw University and Fine Arts Academy.
In the late afternoon, visit the 18th century Royal Lazienki Gardens, one of the most beautiful Classicist palace and park complexes in Warsaw. The first buildings were baths originally commissioned by Marshal Stanislaw Herakliusz Lubomirski and built in the second half of 17th century by Tylman of Gameren.
Tonight, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
If you are returning home today, make your way to Warsaw Chopin Airport for suggested flights to Australia or New Zealand. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including a private airport transfer, additional nights’ accommodation either before or after the tour and travel insurance (a condition of travel).
Per person, twin-share
Deposit per person (at time of booking)
Final payment due
14 July 2024
Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in 4- to 5-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine with dinners
- Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
- Lectures and talks with your tour leader, Liz Gibson
- Gratuities for local guides, drivers and wait staff
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, room service, minibar, taxis etc.)
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Budapest – Continental Hotel Budapest****+
Košice – Double Tree by Hilton****
Kraków – Holiday Inn City Center*****
Warsaw – Hotel Bristol*****
N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.
Tour code: AG2409
Fitness level: Above Moderate
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions here.
Suggested airline: Emirates
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Hungary, Slovakia and Poland– No visa required for Australian and New Zealand passport holders.
Download booking form here.