Contiki European Discovery Tour Review

Contiki European Discovery Tour Review

Lex Foster Discovers Europe with Contiki Tours for 18-35 Year Olds

Lex Foster Discovers Europe with Contiki Tours for 18-35 Year Olds


The Ultimate Tour for First Time Travel to Europe for 18-35 Year Olds

By Lex Foster

Thinking of traveling Europe but not sure where to go or what to see? Try out the European Discovery tour with Contiki. This fast-paced tour takes you through 9 countries in 12 days to see all the big cities and sights. With their informative Tour Managers it is easy to navigate the cities, and Contiki tours are also a great way to meet some awesome people from all over the world.

If you are looking for a more relaxed vacation this is not the tour for you. Expect to have a wake-up call between 6:45 AM and 7:15 AM most mornings. Late nights are of course optional, but our group seemed to enjoy staying out together, and with 50+ new friends it’s always easy to find someone to do something with.

Most days expect to start the day off with a motor coach ride to the next city. With the exception of Paris and Rome, where we had two nights in the cities, most days we would get into the city in the afternoon and then Matt, our Tour Manager, would take us around and show us the sights. You do have the option to explore on your own, but it’s usually best to stick with your Tour Manager as they know all the shortcuts around the city and where everything is. One thing that most impressed me with Matt was his knowledge of each city; there was not a question asked that he didn’t know the answer to. He was also always full of tips for restaurants, shopping, bars and anything else you might need.

Another cool thing, is while we were on the coach heading to our next destination, Matt gave us a bit of history on the next city or country we were visiting. We also got a map of each city so we could get a feeling of where things are and what we were going to do and see. We also learned a few important sayings for each new country we entered. Pay attention if you don’t know the language already, as this comes in very handy when trying to communicate with the locals.

London, England:

Contiki European Discover Tour Starts in London, England

Contiki European Discover Tour Starts in London, England

We started our tour off in London with a meet and greet at a local pub – a great way to break the ice and get comfortable with the people you will be spending the next 12 days with. It’s also nice to be able to recognize some faces for the first motor coach trip together.

Day one saw us heading out to Amsterdam for our first night. After a short drive through the city of London we headed to the ferry terminal to sail to France. There is a great view of the White Cliffs of Dover from the deck, so we made sure to head there right away to get some good photos. From here the motor coach drove north to Amsterdam.

 

Amsterdam, The Netherlands:

Visit to Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam

Visit to Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam

After arriving in Amsterdam, checking into the hotel, and having a buffet-style dinner, we headed back to the city with the choices of taking an optional canal cruise or having free time to explore the city. Following the cruise we all met up as a group for a guided tour through the Red Light District, after which we could opt to go back to the hotel on the motor coach, or hang out in the city for the remainder of the evening.

The following morning we were dropped off in the city to explore at our leisure. There are lots of different museums and shops to check out here, and a bunch of us visited the Anne Frank House – definitely a must see.

 

St. Goar, Germany:

Along the Rhine River in Germany

Along the Rhine River in Germany

It was back on the motor coach at noon and off to our next destination, St. Goar, Germany. This is a quaint, little village settled along the Rhine River. Here we stayed in a small family-run hotel right in the middle of town. After our included dinner, many in the group went out for an optional wine tasting tour. As I personally am not a wine drinker, I skipped this optional excursion and instead took a stroll along the Rhine. I lucked out with some nice weather; this is a beautiful river to wander along with great scenery on both sides. If water isn’t your thing take a stroll through the village; most of the shops are closed in the evening, but it’s still cool to see them all and gives you a good feel of the village.

 

Munich, Germany:

Munich, Germany with Contiki

Munich, Germany with Contiki

After a visit to the beer stein store, the cuckoo clock store, and the Birkenstock store we were on our way to Munich. Our first stop when we arrived in the afternoon was Mike’s Bike Tours, where we took an included tour of the city thanks to Contiki. Don’t worry if you can’t ride a bike, your Tour Manager will let you know where to meet up with the group, and give some suggestions of different things to check out.

Our guides for the bike tour, Kyle and Elliott, took us through the city, stopping at various churches, museums and a few historic buildings. In the midst of the tour we stopped for a snack and beer at a beer garden that was set up in the middle of a park. The giant pretzels were delicious!

The bike tour lasted about 2 hours in total, and was definitely a highlight. We ended our evening in Munich with a stop at the Hofbrauhaus (beer hall). I don’t drink beer but still had a great night hanging out in the beer hall; I felt very German for the evening!

Hofbrauhaus is a huge building with long cafeteria-style tables set up, and if there is room at a table you just go and sit there. A bunch of our group ended up sitting with a couple of older German gentleman, with whom we had a good time talking.

 

Hopfgarten, Austria:

Rafting in Austria with Contiki

Rafting in Austria with Contiki

The next morning we had a fantastic buffet breakfast and then it was back on the motor coach towards Hopfgarten in Austria. Our first stop was at Feel Free Rafting, for the optional white water rafting excursion. If you can swim this is a must do. This was my favorite excursion! It’s only level 3 rapids so nothing too crazy, but you will get very wet and if you are like my group and decide to stand on top of the raft you will probably fall in! Don’t worry, the water isn’t that cold and they have shots of schnapps waiting for you at the finish.

On the raft trip, photographs are taken along the way so be sure to smile. Sometimes they warn you where the cameras are, but sometimes they don’t. The pictures make a great souvenir, unless you are me and feel the need to scream over all the rapids, then your mouth is usually wide open for all the pictures, which is not as pretty.

After lunch at the camp we made our way over to the Swarovski Crystal Museum. They have the world’s largest and smallest crystals, and everything in between. It was very interesting to see all the things made out of crystals – the jellyfish was one of my favorites. There is a crystal wall that goes throughout the museum making it even more sparkly. At the rear of the museum there is a huge gift shop full of jewelry, crystal figurines and even a snack bar. So if you want to skip seeing the museum there is lots to do while you wait for the rest of the group to finish up.

We spent three nights in Hopfgarten in one of the Contiki-run hotels. We had a delicious Schnitzel dinner followed by “schnappy hour” before heading over to the Silver Bullet Bar. Our group was the only one in there that night so Matt sang and played the guitar for us.

 

Venice, Italy:

Gondola Ride in Venice

Gondola Ride in Venice

After spending the morning driving through Austria (which I recommend staying awake to enjoy as it is beautiful) we arrived in Venice in the early afternoon where our group took a boat into the city. It was a gorgeous sunny day, so sitting on the deck of the boat was heaven.

We made our way to St. Marks Square where we split up as some of the group were going on the optional, guided walking tour. Those of us on our own visited St Marks Basilica, an absolutely beautiful church. It’s free to get in so if you get a chance go check it out, just make sure you’re in church dress, which means knees and shoulders must be covered.

After the Basilica we wandered to Saint Rialto Square (where all the tourist souvenir shops are set up) for a bit of shopping, before meeting back up with the group for our optional gondola ride. Now going for a gondola ride in Venice was the whole reason I decided to go to Europe, so this was a big one for me. It was everything I wanted it to be! You can purchase some wine for the ride and then the gondolier takes you through the canals for about an hour.

Tonight we also had the first of our optional Italian meals: 4 different kinds of pasta served along with appetizers and gelato for dessert. By the time we got back to the boat to return to the motor coach the sun was starting to set, so our sunset boat cruise in Venice was fantastic!

 

Rome, Italy:

Lex Foster on Tour in Rome with Contiki

Lex Foster on Tour in Rome with Contiki

The next day was spent mostly on the motor coach to Rome. After checking in to our hotel we took the coach around the outskirts of Rome to view the must-sees – without having to walk too far. We had an included buffet dinner at one of the restaurants in the city before taking a walking tour of the city. We walked past Parliament, the Forum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and much more before stopping for some complimentary gelato.

After the walking tour, a bunch of us from our group headed to Moe’s Bar, which was right around the corner from our hotel. This great little bar has different things going on every night; our night happened to be karaoke. Now I can’t sing, but I had an awesome time – I just have to get a group of people on stage singing with me. After much karaoke the DJ decided it was time for dancing so he led us through about an hour’s worth of Italian dances. This was one of my favorite nights; it was so much fun to learn how the Italians dance, and there was a great atmosphere in this bar.

We started our full day in Rome at the Colosseum. Tip – if you want to skip the long line to get in, buy a ticket for the Forum for a couple extra euros. The Forum ruins are right beside the Colosseum and having your ticket in-hand allows you to skip the line, plus they are interesting to walk through. Walking around both levels of the Colosseum was definitely very exciting.

During the afternoon I went on the optional guided tour of Vatican City – a great way to get in all the big must sees in an afternoon. Our tour included visits to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peters, just to name a few. It is a lot to take in but definitely worth seeing.

A few of us then went to the Capuchin Monks Museum after the optional tour, and this was my favorite stop of the afternoon. It costs about 6 euros to get in but is worth it. There is a little museum at the beginning explaining about the monks, and then you get to go through the rooms at the end. It is amazing to see what they have done with all the bones. I didn’t find this to be creepy at all, and I’m easily scared, so if you have time definitely go check it out.

 

Florence, Italy:

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

Our next destination was Florence, where our first stop was a pull-out overlooking the city for our group photo. The group photo is available for 11 euros and is probably one of the only shots you will get of your entire group together, so this is a good souvenir to have.

Our next stop was at Leonardo’s, a little leather and jewelery shop in the city, where we were given a brief demonstration with the leather and a short talk about the jewelry. Afterwards we had plenty of time for any purchases before the group was off on an included walking tour of the city.

Tonight we had our second optional Italian meal; it was the Tuscan dinner at Lacertosa. If you are only going to do one of the meals, I recommend doing this one over the Venetian dinner. While they are both delicious I felt this one had more variety, plus there was also live music and a dance floor. After our dinner we all went to Space Disco Tech — this is a 2-story club in the city. Our entry with Contiki also included a free drink of our choice, and there were lots of people in the club, so it was a very fun night.

 

Lucerne, Switzerland:

Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

Our next destination was Lucerne, Switzerland. Although I was tired from the dancing at the club the night before, I did stay awake for the morning motor coach ride – Switzerland is absolutely beautiful! We got a couple good views of lakes, lots of very green mountains, tunnels, valleys… such glorious scenery to take in.

Once we arrived in Lucerne we had a short walking tour, past the Lion Monument and through the city streets, before stopping at Harry’s Watch Shop for a shopping break. Harry’s was a great place to pick up gifts for people back home, with a huge selection of watches, army knifes and don’t forget the chocolate.

An optional lake cruise was offered for the evening in Lucerne, which is a very pretty city from the water, so I really enjoyed this excursion. There is a closed cabin or you can sit up top if the weather cooperates and take in the city with no windows blocking your view.

Tonight we stayed in the Jail Hotel. A lot of people were nervous about this hotel, but honestly its just like any other hotel, other than the fact it used to be a jail. There are still bars on windows. I personally found it really cool to stay there – the beds were comfy, they served good food, and it had the best shower of the tour.

 

Paris, France:

The Eiffel Tower at Night

The Eiffel Tower at Night

Our trip from Lucerne to Paris meant a long day on the motor coach, as Paris is over 700 kms away. So, we played some games on the coach to pass the time, and made it to our hotel around dinner time. After a delicious meal of roast chicken our group was taken for a motor coach sightseeing tour around the city.

We finished our sightseeing tour underneath a lit-up Eiffel Tower, which might be my favorite view of the entire trip. In the past, I’ve seen pictures and movies with the Eiffel Tower in it, and was excited to see it, but was definitely unprepared for actually seeing it in person. It took my breath away to see it lit up against the night sky, and then later on, sparkling in the dark. It was an amazing experience. We spent a good 3 hours laying in the grass underneath it, just gazing up at it. Champagne and wine were flowing and it was a fantastic night.

The following morning, our first stop was Cathedral Notre Dame where there was a service going on as we walked through which was really cool to see. We then made our way down the main shopping street towards the Arc de Triomphe, where we had to take a tunnel under the street to get to it.

After that visit, it was back to the Eiffel Tower for our included ride up to the top. Our tickets allowed us to skip the first line, but we did have to wait for the second elevator with everyone else. This still saves a bunch of time and Contiki pays, so that’s even better. This was an awesome way to view the entire city and beyond in one easy step.

Next we made our way along the Seine River to the Louvre. It is impossible to see the whole museum in a day, but check out as much as possible, as there is so much to experience there.

Ready for a Cabaret and Dinner Show in Paris

Ready for a Cabaret and Dinner Show in Paris

The evening was spent enjoying a night at a cabaret show and dinner. This is the most expensive of the optional excursions, but after doing it I would say it is worth it. We were served a wonderful 3-course meal, unlimited wine, and the show itself was fantastic. I was expecting one long show but it was a bunch of different skits. From the laser man to the acrobat there was lots of dancing, and even some audience participation. It was definitely worth the money for this one. The show ended around midnight after which we then ended to O’Sullivans Pub for our last night together.

 

Conclusion:

Having Fun with Contiki

Having Fun with Contiki

While lots of people stay in Paris to continue traveling, the motor coach will drop travelers off at the Paris airport or they will take you back to London. So there are options of where to fly out of after the tour or you can simply continue traveling if you have the time and money. You might even have found a new travel partner for the next leg of your journey. This was an amazing experience; I got to see so much and make a bunch of new friends along way. It was a fantastic way to travel, and I would definitely take another tour with Contiki!

Things to Consider:

  • Our age range was 19 to 29 with the majority of the group in their early to mid 20’s.

  • We had 17 guys and 33 girls.
  • About half came solo, there were several couples, and quite a few people were traveling with friends.
  • I had a roomie and it worked out really well for me as we got along great. Some people choose to have their own room, and anybody who came together shared a room. Contiki just matched up the solo travelers, usually with someone their own age, and always the same gender.
  • Sometimes we barely had time to get ready to go out, but that was usually on a day we hit traffic, so not much could be changed about that.
  • All the people I talked to felt it was good value, and for the most part people were doing lots of the optional excursions. I didn’t talk to everyone of course, but I would say that just about everyone felt it was worth the money for the tour. Some had done one before and lots talked about doing another one.
  • I felt safe the entire tour. We didn’t go to any dodgy areas, and there were usually a bunch of us together. Matt was really good about explaining how to get back to the hotel from wherever we were on any particular night.

 

For More Details Visit Contiki’s Website.

Ferry Ride Across The English Channel

Ferry Ride Across The English Channel

Lucerne Photograph Copyright: swiss-image.ch/Emanual Ammon

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