The Danube Express awaits you at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof for a late afternoon departure. On board, your sleeping car attendant shows you to your compartment. Settle in and soak up the atmosphere as Franconia’s forests and undulating hills give way to rural Bavaria. After dinner, unwind with a drink in the Lounge Car as the overnight journey to the Czech Republic continues.
Karlštejn & Prague
Wake to picturesque Bohemian countryside as the train nears the village of Karlštejn where the splendid 14th Century gothic castle perches on a rocky hillside. A tour of the castle, built by Charles IV, Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor, includes the Imperial Palace and the Marian Tower. Lunch en route to Prague where you explore this magical city of bridges, cathedrals and gold-tipped towers. Visit Hradcany Castle, St Vitus’ Cathedral and cross the beautiful Charles Bridge to the Old Town with its striking Old Town Hall Tower and Astronomical Clock. Return to the Danube Express where dinner is served as the train heads overnight to Hungary.
Breakfast as the route follows the Danube, before its arrival in Budapest where a tour embraces both sides of this city of two halves. In Pest, Gothic, Art Nouveau and Bauhaus architecture are evident in the 19th and 20th Century mansions lining the route to City Park. At Heroes' Square, learn a little of Hungary’s history before going on to the Cathedral and magnificent Parliament Building. Crossing the Danube to Buda, there are panoramic views from Gellert Hill and Fisherman’s Bastion and a visit to St Matthias Church on Castle Hill. There is free time after lunch to stroll to Margaret Island or to relax in a street café. Return to the Royal Waiting Room at Nyugati Station for a champagne reception before the Danube Express sets off across the Great Hungarian Plain and dine as it journeys on to Transylvania.
Sighisoara & Brasov
Arrive in Sighisoara for a walking tour through the cobbled streets of this beautiful 16th Century walled medieval town, dominated by its Clock Tower, 64m high. A World Heritage Site, it was the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula. Back on board, lunch is served on the way to Brasov where there is a visit to the beautiful 14th Century Bran Castle. Standing amidst stunning mountain scenery at the entrance to the Rucar-Bran pass, its location, gothic style and labyrinthine corridors have led to it being known as Dracula’s Castle. Rejoin the train as it twists and turns through the dramatic landscape of the Carpathian Mountains where crystal clear mountain streams and spectacular waterfalls cascade past your window. Enjoy dinner as the Danube Express carries on towards Bulgaria.
Veliko Turnovo & Kazanlak
The border approaches and the Danube is crossed via the Friendship Bridge, the longest steel bridge in Europe. Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria’s ancient capital, presents a unique townscape - a multitude of small cross-domed churches in a magnificent mountain setting with the three hills of the Old Town outlined by the Yantra River. A tour includes the medieval Tsarevets Fortress and there is some free time too. During lunch, the train climbs the Balkan range, using the Shipka pass. Arriving in Kazanlak, capital of the Valley of the Roses, visit a Thracian Tomb. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, its vaulted “beehive” brickwork and decorated murals date back to the 4th Century BC. Take dinner as the Danube Express makes its way through rural Bulgaria, arriving at the Turkish border late in the evening.
Wake for breakfast as the Danube Express follows the Bosphorus. Passing through the Byzantine Walls of Theodosius and beneath the walls of the Topkapi Palace, Asia is glimpsed across the water before arrival at Sirkeci station at the heart of Istanbul, the world’s only metropolis straddling two continents.