Eastern Europe

The Best of Central Europe: Krakow, Budapest, Vienna, Prague

Immerse yourself in the exquisite artistry of four of Europe’s great cities, gaining a comprehensive understanding of historical monuments, cultural treasures and world-class art.
Rating (4.95)
Program No. 12259RJ
18 days
Starts at
Flights start at

At a Glance

From the elegance of a Chopin polonaise in Krakow to the grandeur of the Habsburg’s summer palace in Vienna, embark on an exquisite journey to learn about Central Europe’s most artistically rich cities and the great thinkers and creative geniuses who called them home. Private concerts, viewings of world-class art collections and in-depth discussion of some of Europe’s leading intellectuals create a detailed portrait of these royal capital cities.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Please note that although the activity level of this program is Keep the Pace, it is a long program, traveling to four different countries over the span of 18 days. Terrain includes cobblestones, city streets and uneven ground; short uphill walks; standing at museums; many unavoidable stairs; use of public transportation.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Enjoy a private concert at the Strahov Monastery and explore the monastery library.
  • Admire the illuminated city of Budapest on an evening river voyage along the Danube River, passing such important sights as parliament, Chain Bridge and Castle Hill.
  • Explore Schonbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence and one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Jana Pivonkova
Jana Pivonková was born in Tábor in Southern Bohemia, Czech Republic. After studying at a hotel school in Prague, she worked at a travel agency in Cedok for 14 years and also organized sporting events for soccer, tennis, and ice hockey. Jana has been leading English- and German-speaking groups around Prague and abroad for over 30 years, and has worked with Road Scholar for over 20 years. She loves history, gardening, dancing and the accordion, and her travels include Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia and Japan.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Janina Naskalska-Babik
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Srdjan Boskovic
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Ildikó Annamária Jámbor
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Jana Pivonkova
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Budapest, A Cultural History
by Bob Dent
This brilliant guide introduces the history and traditions of this Central European cultural capital, with emphasis on its most important artists and architects.
Vienna, A Traveler's Literary Companion
by Donald Daviau
Organized by neighborhood, these 15 alluring tales introduce both the city and its writers, including Arthur Schnitzler, Robert Musil, Stefan Zweig and even Franz Kafka, who had a long and complicated association with the city.
Central Europe Map
by Freytag & Berndt
This colorful regional European map, like the sister map Europe Grand Tour (EUR185), covers from Paris and Amsterdam to Vienna, Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, Rome and Dubrovnik.
Budapest 1900
by John Lukacs
Written by a distinguished historian and native son, this richly detailed portrait of the city at its zenith includes hundreds of illustrations.
Mozart, A Life
by Paul Johnson
Challenging myths surrounding Mozart’s health, religion and relationships, biographer Paul Johnson shows the great composer’s lasting impact on the musical world with insight.
Prague, A Traveler's Literary Companion
by Paul Wilson (Editor)
This anthology of 24 vivid stories by Czech writers, both contemporary and well-known, brings the city, history, spirit and people to life.
by Claudio Magris
Mixing history, personalities and literature, Magris traces the course of the Danube from its source in the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire through the Balkans to the Black Sea in this anything but conventional travelogue, first published in 1986.
The Magic Lantern, The Revolution of '89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague
by Timothy Garton Ash
With a chapter each on Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin and Prague, this eyewitness account by an astute journalist and historian shows these vibrant cities during a time of great change.
Dvorak and His World
by Michael Beckerman
A fascinating view of the Czech composer's personal life and his influence on the world around him.
The Habsburgs, Embodying Empire
by Andrew Wheatcroft
With skillful scholarship and engaging style, Wheatcroft reveals the history of this family of eccentric monarchs.
Danubia, A Personal History of Habsburg Europe
by Simon Winder
Winder, author of Germania (GER270), considers the legacy of the Habsburg Europe in this charmingly digressive history and travelogue.
Prague in Black and Gold, Scenes from Life in a European City
by Peter Demetz
Both a history and an accessible guide to the neighborhoods and architecture of the city.
The Cathedral Builders of the Middle Ages
by Alain Erlande-Brandenburg
This pocket-size encyclopedia of the art, architecture and culture of the Middle Ages features hundreds of drawings, color illustrations and a brief chronology.
Lonely Planet Central Europe
by Lonely Planet
With dozens of maps, color photographs and sections on history and culture, this practical guide introduces Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and their neighbors.
The Haunted Land, Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism
by Tina Rosenberg
In this groundbreaking book, a journalist reports on how the newly democratized people of East Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic have confronted the horrors of their former governments.
Kingdom of Auschwitz
by Otto Friedrich
Otto Friedrich's slim book is an intensely personal account of the infamous Auschwitz death camp. He covers the entire history of Auschwitz in short chapters punctuated with eyewitness accounts and testimonies.
Bury Me Standing
by Isabel Fonseca
This marvelous portrait of the Roma, also known as the Gypsies, offers insight into their music, foods, religions and folk traditions and also examines their influential but complex relationship with Eastern Europe.
A Nervous Splendor, Vienna 1888-1889
by Frederic Morton
A portrait of Vienna at the end of the 19th century, this book focuses on Crown Prince Rudolph, his devastating suicide and the rich texture of gossip and daily life at the Habsburg Court.
Open Letters, Selected Writings: 1965 - 1990
by Vaclav Havel, Paul Wilson (Editor)
This inspired anthology of writings by the Czech poet-president Vaclav Havel collects 25 essays, letters and speeches written between 1965 and 1990, including those that directly influenced the Polish Solidarity movement.
The Hare With Amber Eyes
by Edmund De Waal
Edmund de Waal unfolds the story of his remarkable family, a grand banking family, as rich and respected as the Rothschilds, who "burned like a comet" in early 20th-century Paris and Vienna.
A Time of Gifts
by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Fermor effortlessly interweaves anecdote, history and culture in this exuberant account of a walk from Holland, up the Rhine and down the Danube, through Germany, Prague and Austria in 1933. Written not in the moment, but 40 years later, the accumulation of time and experience gives the book particular poignancy.

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