It’s not surprising that Europe is popular in summer; the weather is beautiful, the days are longer, Europeans are on holidays and everything’s open. However, there is a smart way to get ahead of the crowds and truly enjoy the delights of this region – exclusive, escorted travel. Tour companies understand that discerning travellers are seeking more from a European holiday than a quick whip around the obvious sights. To go ‘above and beyond’ is the new norm, so if you’re thinking about exploring Europe this summer, here are a few of the bespoke experiences you can look forward to...
Walking the Bramante Staircase, Vatican Museum
The original Bramante Staircase, in the Vatican’s Pio-Clementine Museum, was built in 1505 to allow Pope Julius II to enter his private residence while still in his carriage. The inspired double-helix design enables people to ascend without meeting people who are descending. More spiral path than staircase, this beautiful structure is characterised by a herringbone paving pattern. Due to its historical significance, the original staircase is not open to the public, but if you’re travelling with a premium tour company such as Insight Vacations, you’ll be granted the full VIP treatment with an exclusive, private viewing.
A more modern, double helix staircase – also in the Pio-Clementine Museum – was designed in 1932 and is very often referred to as the Bramante Staircase. While clearly not as ancient as its namesake, this staircase is a pleasure to walk, as visitors ascend and descend in a seemingly fluid spiral, without ever crossing paths.
Austrian lake tours and classical music concerts
Travelling through Austria and Switzerland on an escorted journey can give you access to experiences, insights and activities you could never indulge in as an independent traveller. Optional inclusions can range from VIP entry to palaces, such as the Imperial Summer Palace of Schonbrunn, or boat tours through the beautiful Salzburg lake district, which has over 76 spectacular glacier lakes. Travel with Trafalgar and, depending which tour you choose, you could be enjoying a glass of champagne with your ‘A Class’ tickets to a magical evening of classical music in Vienna, where the masterpieces of Johann Strauss and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart will be performed.
Wine tasting at French chateaux
How do you arrange for a personal wine tasting at a private French chateau? You let your Tour Director do that for you. One of the pleasures of travelling on an escorted journey is having someone else look after logistics – and a significant feat is gaining access to off-the-beaten-track destinations. Globus promises experiences like this on its European journeys, and if you’re travelling through France you could easily find yourself in the village of St Emilion one warm afternoon, where you’ll be treated to an exclusive wine tasting at Chateau Soutard.
Restaurants with the best views
Another never-to-be-underrated benefit of travelling on an escorted journey is the connections that your Tour Director and Tour Company will have, and how those relationships translate into a greater experience for you. Could you find a table at the best restaurant in town if you were on your own? Perhaps, but you have a much greater chance when an expert is doing the arranging for you. Collette offers a huge number of extra special experiences on its escorted journeys, from walking tours through Windsor Castle to a delicious dinner at a private family farm house in Tuscany.
Touring experts Insight Vacations, Trafalgar, Collette, Globus and Cosmos all offer special experiences on their escorted journeys.