A breath-taking journey through the Swiss Alps to Vienna
In under a week, travel through Paris and Zurich, to the heart of the old Hapsburg Empire. Vienna is a gentle waltz between the architectural wonder and historic power of the 19th century and the ease and charm of a modern city built on the civilising tenets of music, coffee and conversation. The train journey to the Austrian capital crosses France then wends through the Alps, passing mountains, waterfalls and sparkling lakes and rivers on the way. Three nights in Vienna allows a full exploration of this glorious city, equally charming whether silhouetted by snow, or gilded by sunlight. Along the way, have lunch in Paris and dinner in chic Zurich.
Leave London St Pancras after a relaxed breakfast at one of the refurbished station’s excellent cafes. Take the Eurostar for Paris, to the Gare du Nord. The journey is deceptively fast- the comfortable train rockets through Kent, beneath the Channel and emerges in France in the time it takes to queue at an airport..
Check-in is smooth and simple, up to thirty minutes before departure, and there is a lounge with wifi and plug sockets, shops including WH Smith and Costa Coffee and comfortable seating in the departure lounge, with an escalator which delivers passengers directly to the platform. In just two hours and fifteen minutes, the train arrives in the Gare du Nord at the heart of Paris.
There is a buffet car on board, and an executive upgrade means food service at your table, a quieter carriage, more spacious seats and a plug socket and free wifi.
After arriving at the Gare du Nord, cross Paris by Metro or taxi to the Gare de Lyon, in time for lunch at Le Train Bleu, the station's famed belle époque restaurant, encrusted and adorned with gilt framed mirrors, ceiling murals, velvet curtains and bas-relief decorative panels. The food is deeply traditional but excellent, -it’s all as far from a British station buffet as could be imagined. If it’s all a little too theatrical, there are also several bistros within a couple of minutes’ walk.
Embark the TGV Lyria train for Zurich.The interiors of these ultra modern trains were designed by Christain Lacroix. The seats are a wonderful mix of colours and so any trip back from the cafe bar which each train has, could be turned into a catwalk. These trains are amongst the fastest in the world, reaching speeds of 200mph and are said to be ten times better for the environment than flying. So, settle back in your designer seats and enjoy the ride.
After arriving in Zurich cross the road and check into Hotel Schweizerhof, near the station, in time for cocktails and dinner. This is one of the grand hotels of Europe and they even have a concierge who will meet you at the station to help you with your bags.
After breakfast in Zurich, take a mid-morning train to Vienna. The train passes through the Alps, over the breath-taking Alpberg pass and the Austrian Tyrol, a moving panorama of lilac mountains, gold-green meadows of wildflowers, and tiny villages that resemble a wooden train set. In winter, the landscape lies under an enchantment of snow, waterfalls turned to icicles, steep roofs bowed under the drifts and the mountainsides looped with slow moving cable cars carrying skiers.
Days 2 - 5
Arrive in central Vienna by early evening, and check into your hotel or Urbanauts apartment, before heading to dinner at one of the Naschmarkt’s excellent, busy restaurants such as Kim Kocht.
Vienna is full of palaces and museums, great archiecture and memorable art. Spend the first morning in the world-class Museum Quarter, where several major museums are gathered, before lunch at Café Sperl, a traditional Viennese coffee house. In the afternoon, admire Vienna’s exquiste art nouveau buildings including Otto Wagner’s Majoilca House and the Secession building, and then stroll to the Opera House, the heart of Old Vienna. Later, Visit the rooftop bar of the new 25 Hour Hotel for drinks and a twilight view over the city, before dinner at a traditional Viennese bistro such as Gasthaus Poschl.
Spend the next morning immersed in history at the astonishing Hofburg Palace, home of the Hapsburg emperors. In Summer, the palace park is a lovely place for a picnic- in Winter, take lunch at the belle époque Café Central, or the nearby Café Sacher, of world sachertorte fame. In the afternoon, take a stroll or a ride in a traditional horse-drawn fiacre, before exploring the streets of Old Vienna, near St Stephen’s church. Have cocktails and dinner at Café Drescher.
*Add an extra night’s stay in Vienna, and visit the famous Prater amusement park- or perhaps enjoy a night at the opera, before returning to Zurich the following day.
If you're coming from Gare de Lyon (or Gare D'Austerlitz and Gare Montparnase) you'll need at least 90 minutes to allow for check-in time at Gare du Nord. Gare De L'Est is much closer, just a 10 minute walk.
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