“Silent Night. Christmas Delight”
Dec 1-9, 2024
Holy Wienerschnitzel, if you want a totally different getaway, you’ll love our new AFS vacation of pure class and splash! Journey with us into the romantic cities of Vienna, Melk, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Lagenfeld and Munich, with a ton of fun along the way. Winter comes alive each December. It’s actually high season with festivals, classical music concerts and Waldstein. Son of a nutcracker! Christmas markets this year are so popular, hotels are fully booked for December, but we’ve got you covered. Come visit five festive markets, each different with its own local specialties of crafts and culinary delights, and all committed to traditions dating back to the 15th century.
Leaping Lipizzaners! You haven’t seen horses dance like this. Elegant and regal Vienna will leave you spellbound. By day, we tour the Spanish riding school, Schonbrunn Palace, secret catacombs of St Stephen’s Cathedral and more. By night, we revel in the illuminated Christmas markets. On to visit Melk Abbey and then we enter the fairytale town of Salzburg, UNESCO site filled with wonders. “The Hills are Alive!” – You’ll love our Sound of Music day touring the same places Julie Andrews fell in love with. Visit the home of Mozart and opt for sleigh rides at night.
Oh, Holy Night! It’s magical as we head into the foothills to charming Oberdorf to visit a mass at the Silent Night Church, where the song was composed in 1818. At the museum, our guide will immerse you in the humbling story of how this Christmas classic song was born, truly a touching experience. Later, we coach into the stunning Alps of Innsbruck for a visit to Swarovski Crystal World and its fantastical Chambers of Wonders tour.
Splash and relax! Imagine indulging yourself in a Sky Spa with the Tyrolean Alps at your feet. This remarkable waterpark for adults is the perfect place to play in the snow and to relax in therapeutic waters. Bask at the Spa 3000, 7 unique saunas, 12 warm indoor and outdoor mineral spring-fed swimming pools and more to spoil yourself silly. Once a hidden gem, this trendy wellness spa has become so popular now we’ve already paid for your rooms. Get ready for an unforgettable experience that will make you never want to leave.
Finally, we visit historic Munich to tour its famous sites. Hoist your Bavarian beer stein and grab a warm giant pretzel as we dance to a live Oompah band. Then explore the endless open-air markets here filled with German delicacies and treasures. It is here where all Christmas markets began. Our past groups loved this trip of Alpine wonders. Come discover six different regions full of contrast and serene beauty for a magical Winter Wonderland holiday you’ll never forget!
Our Glorious AFS Itinerary
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Dec-1 Depart USA
Departure – Fly USA to Vienna (return air from Munich. Air details and all coming soon in your trip tips.)
Dec-2 Welcome to Austria! D
Today our tour officially begins. Vienna is a city so rich in history, culture in architectural beauty with stunning baroque architecture from Schonbrunn to the Belvedere Palace, as well as the Gothic St Stephen’s Cathedral. It’s also home to world-renowned museums, including Kunsthistorisches museum and the Albertina to appreciate works of art spanning the centuries. Music lovers are thrilled to visit the birthplace of some of the world’s greatest composers like Mozart, Strauss and Schubert. The Vienna State Opera offers unforgettable evenings of classical music and ballet. Vienna’s culinary scene is a delightful mix of traditional Austrian dishes and modern fusion. Indulge in tasty pastries like Sacher torte in the elegant coffee houses. Winter is enchanting as warm lights cast a glow while snowflakes swirl. There are inviting cafés with the richest hot chocolates and mulled wines. Enjoy ice-skating at the famous Rathausplatz. It’s a sophisticated atmosphere all around you in this elegant and timeless city.
Arrive Vienna International Airport and transfer to our hotel. (One common group transfer from airport to hotel. Details in trip tips.) Depending on your arrival times, relax or explore this beautiful city. Everything centers around the fabulous squares of Saint Stephen’s and City Hall. Tonight we gather for a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant to get to know our fellow AFS Travelers.
Overnight at Leonardo Vienna https://www.leonardo-hotels.com/vienna/leonardo-hotel-vienna
Located in the trendy heart of the city, this modern and stylish hotel serves as the perfect base for our adventure. Located on the picturesque Europaplatz with easy access to the city’s top sights and attractions. When you’re not out exploring the enchanting streets of Vienna, you can unwind in the hotel’s FIT & RELAX lounge or rejuvenate in your comfortable and stylish hotel room. Throughout the hotel, you’ll find eye-catching and vibrant designs that reflect both Vienna’s modernity and its rich cultural heritage.
Dec- 3 Best of Vienna Tour B
After breakfast, prepare for a full day revealing this classy city’s regal wonders. We start with a guided tour of imperial Schonbrunn Palace to marvel at its frescoed ceilings, crystal chandeliers and gilded ornaments. This is Austria’s most popular attraction. Vienna is the former center of the Habsburg Empire, and this place presents real history! See fantastic art and furnishings in the many staterooms. Admire the expansive gardens, courtyards, fountains, sculptures and much more. The corridors echo to the sound of Empress Maria Teresa planning royal weddings here in the 1700s. Mozart performed to the courts behind these walls. So much opulence acts as a monument to the decadence of the nobility in times past. For more details, visit www.visitvienna.com
We proceed for a walking tour of approximately 3 hours. St Stephen’s Cathedral in the heart of the city is Austria’s national symbol,
located on Stephanplatz Square, a UNESCO world heritage site. The magnificent cathedral is known for its intricately tiled roof with stunning lookout views. With its dark Gothic spires and imposing Belltower, it’s an architectural wonder both inside and out. Learn about the great historic significance and the Habsburg dignitaries buried here. “Secret rooftops & catacombs “ Enjoy a guided tour and explore the roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral with breathtaking views of Vienna. Next to the North Tower elevator is the entrance to the catacombs underneath the cathedral, an underground burial place that contains the mausoleum of the bishops, the tombs of Duke Rudolph the Founder and 14 other members of the Habsburg family, and 56 urns with the intestines of the Habsburgs buried between 1650 and the 19th century in the Imperial Burial Vault. For those feeling fit, from the south tower, you can climb the 343 steps up a tight spiral staircase leading up to the watchman’s lookout 300 feet above street level; it was once used as a fire warden’s station but now serves as an observation point offering great photos.
|Next, we visit the famous Spanish Riding School. The Spanische Hofreitschule is the oldest and last riding school in the world, where classic dressage is still practiced in its purest form. This Institute was founded in 1572 and its very name gives away the fact that the horses were of Spanish origin. The Lipizzaner is regarded as the oldest classic horse race in Europe.|
We will have our tickets to enjoy a training session. The training offers you an insight into the exercises of the riders with their Lipizzaners. You
will see both the exercise of the often still grey young stallions and the fully trained school stallions – our “white stars” – in the imperial setting of the baroque Winter Riding School, accompanied by classical Viennese music. The training of the horses includes relaxation exercises, the refinement and perfection of lections, as well as the targeted strengthening of muscles. Training sessions keep the horses motivated and fit for spectacular performances.
At days end, our coach will transfer you to the hotel or drop you off at the city’s greatest Christmas Market! Revel in all the delights presented here. Unlike smaller towns, which only have one main Christmas market, Vienna has over a dozen Christmas Markets.
Overnight at Leonardo Vienna
Dec-4 Melk Abbey Tour & Salzburg B
Checkout and drive to Salzburg enroute stop to visit beautiful Melk. On the banks of the winding Danube River, passing crumbling castles, quaint towns with orange-topped roofs and vineyards, is one of Austria’s most iconic sites: Melk Abbey. The monastery is impossible to miss—especially for those approaching the town on a river cruise—as it’s perched high on a hilltop overlooking the beautiful town below. Its sunshine yellow facade is a welcoming sight, and the twin spires and huge octagonal dome make for an inspiring scene.
Visit Melk Benedictine Abbey. Built-in the early 1700s as a royal palace, Melk Abbey was eventually gifted to Benedictine monks who turned the estate into a fortified abbey. Today, despite being open to tourists, it continues to serve its religious purpose and is home to hundreds of pupils training to become monks. While monk sightings at the Melk Abbey aren’t guaranteed, stunning lookout points, incredible architecture and some rather shocking surprises make it well worth a visit.
Continue to Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart. In December, there’s magic in the air in Salzburg, with its snowcapped peaks and frost-tinged baroque architecture, transforming this picturesque city into a breathtaking wonderland. The charming old town, or Altstadt, brims with history and culture. Roam the quaint cobblestone alleyways with centuries-old buildings blanketed in powdery snow. At night, stroll through the delightful Advent markets that illuminate Salzburg squares with a warm festive glow, whimsical sense of baked treats and warm wine wafting through the air. The Christkindlmarkt in front of the fortress remains one of Europe’s oldest and most authentic Christmas markets, dating back over 500 years! Winter comes alive with music and waltzing and an opulent cultural scene of concerts, ballet and opera. Despite its snowy landscapes, you’ll have a heartwarming encounter with winter charms here.
Check into our hotel, an ideal retreat of contemporary elegance. Enjoy the indoor heated pool, Finnish sauna, gym, free Wi-Fi and bar set in a great location.
Overnight at Wyndham Grand Salzburg
Wyndham Grand Salzburg is a modern oasis amidst baroque grandeur, our hotel offers contemporary elegance, superior service, and state-of-the-art conference facilities. Situated in central Salzburg, only 5km from the airport, we provide convenience for those seeking to explore the stunning Alps. Indulge in a refreshing swim in our heated indoor pool, relax in our Finnish sauna, or stay active in our well-equipped Fitness Center. Enjoy the convenience of free WiFi and make use of our fully-equipped business center for increased productivity. At our BarRoque bistro and bar, experience trendy takes on traditional Austrian cuisine.
Dec-5 Sound of Music Tour , Salzburg B
After breakfast, we embark on our guided walking tour of the World Heritage City of Salzburg. Then on to the beautiful landscapes where the scenes of the movie The Sound of Music were filmed! This tour includes original shooting locations from “The Sound of Music” movie: Mirabell Garden and Pegasus Fountain, where Maria and the children danced in the movie Nonnberg Convent, where Maria was a novice, Schloss Leopoldskron, the house, where the Trapp Family lived in the movie which is now a luxury hotel, Hellbrunn Palace (singing scenes in the movie), Gazebo (now placed in Hellbrunn), where the Baron von Trapp kissed Maria for the first time Church Mondsee, where Maria and the Baron get married.
Later, we coach through the hills to the charming town of Oberndorf – the birthplace of the world-famous carol “Silent Night”. Find out more about the history of “Silent Night” composed and first performed in Oberndorf in 1818, and take a stroll through the picturesque town. We will visit the Silent Night Chapel and Museum for a unique experience delving into the history of this Christmas carol and its creators, Gruber and Mohr. It showcases historical exhibits that provide insight to their lives and social context. You can listen to many translations of the song at your phone stations in the sound room. Here, visitors embrace the Christmas spirit with lasting memories. Choirs may or may not be performing in the chapel as we visit.
Back to the city with so much to do here. It’s free to visit the cool Red Bull Museum. At night, easy to arrange Mozart dinner, Mirabella palace concert and horse drawn sleigh rides. Return to the hotel.
Overnight– Wyndham Grand Salzburg
Dec-6 – Innsbruck – Lagenfeld B & D
Check out. Depart Salzberg to Innsbruck to visit the world-famous Swarovski Crystal World. You’ll enter a realm of fantasy designed by some of the greatest artists in the world. Explore the Chamber of Wonders and the illuminated art installations around the gardens with Christmas themes here. Free time to shop for crystal art and jewelry at great prices.
Continue our drive around two hours into breathtaking Lagenfeld, a village nestled in Otzal Valley and surrounded by majestic Mountains. Check-in for 2 glorious nights at Aqua Dome Tyrol Thermal Resort. It brings wellness to a new dimension as you are carried away into a world of the most unique thermal baths, spas, saunas and swimming pools! Don your hotel robe for the full day to explore each amazing chamber. Then we gather in the restaurant for artisanal gourmet dinners.
Overnight – Aqua Dome https://www.aqua-dome.at/en/
Delight in the culinary treasures and comfortable ambiance of our rooms, crafted with natural materials, abundant wood, and inviting tones. Our modern alpine setting will envelop you in relaxation and tranquility. Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of nature and revive your body and soul. Your stay includes – Daily Thermal Vital Arrangement with a sumptuous breakfast buffet, Dinner (5-course menu of your choice, served or offered from the thermal-bath buffet). Use of the thermal bath, sauna and fitness world. SPA 3000 a huge area for hotel guests only, free Wi-Fi, fresh fruit and robe in room.
Dec-7 – Aqua Dome B & D
The whole day free to relax at Aqua Dome! The staff will brief you on all outside options to play and detail all spa facilities.
Tobogganing fun- Whether racing down the mountain or leisurely through the snow-covered winter world, experience the Ötztal landscape on skids. Wurzbergalm near Winklen provides some exciting toboggan runs. Take a leisurely hike along the wide forest path toward the Nisslalm. Once you have reached the top, enjoy a hearty snack with the innkeeper Albertina before returning to the village on the toboggan.
Längenfeld suspension bridge: Since 2013, a new architectural highlight has been swinging high above Längenfeld: an ultra- modern 82-metre suspension bridge at a height of 150 metres. Starting from Burgstein, you can reach the suspension bridge in just a few minutes. Cross the suspension bridge to reach the hamlet of Brand – here, you will find the Brandalm and ancient farms with spectacular views of the picturesque Ötztal valley in the glorious winter sun. This mountain hike takes around three hours up and back.
Overnight – Aqua Dome https://www.aqua-dome.at/en/ Be sure to rest here for the full day tomorrow.
Dec- 8 Munich city tour and Christmas Markets B & D
We start with a guided walking city tour of Munich’s iconic sites. We stroll along sites including the Town Hall, the Old and New Pinakothek, the former artists’ quarter Schwabing, and we go all along the impressive Ludwig and Prinzregenten streets lined by magnificent buildings, Theatiner church, Hall of Generals, Frauenchurch House of Arts, Bavarian National Museum and the Angel of Peace. The elegant Maximilian Street takes us back to the center of town, with a view of the Bavarian Parliament, Deutsches Museum, Royal Palace and the Opera House. In the ancient part of town, we point out the well- known Hofbräuhaus, the medieval town gates and the colorful open-air market (Viktualienmarkt).
Then we depart to one of Germany’s most famous restaurants, the lively Hofbrauhaus with nonstop fun! Toast your new AFS friends farewell at a place you’ll never forget. After dinner, driver will drop us off at Marienplatz Square to explore the endless open-air stalls of Christkindlemakt.
Overnight: Maritim Inn Hotel Munich. Overnight at this 4-star hotel our groups love for its prime location in the heart of everything. Only a few steps away from Munich’s main rail station that can whisk you anywhere. 40 kilometers to the airport. It’s located in an inner courtyard to ensure pleasant peace and quiet despite its central location, near Marenplatz, the old town hall and other major sites just a short walk away. In the hotels indoor panorama swimming pool, you can escape the hustle of the city and enjoy relaxing views over the roofs of Munich. Free Wi-Fi, bar, sauna, Wintergarden restaurant. It’s a five minute walk to the train station for Trane’s direct to airport. www.maritim.com
Dec- 9 Depart Munich B
After breakfast, check out on your own and walk to the airport for your flight home. Many of our past groups here extended more time here on their own at the trip’s end.
Land price $3150 pp twin share (price based on 25 participants)
Payment schedule: 2nd deposit due Aug 1st, 50% and final due on Sept 1. $90 pre-paid gratuities will be added to your final invoice later for guides, drivers and local staff for your convenience. Limit 3 single rooms plus $850.
Included- seven nights first class accommodation, buffet breakfast daily, meals listed as per program (B,L,D) farewell dinner in Munich, welcome dinner in Vienna, deluxe coach for all transfers, tour director, AFS GTL, all monument entrance fees, local English-speaking guides, tickets to visit Schonbrun Palace, one-hour training session in Spanish riding school, private guided tour Sound of Music, Silent Night Chapel, all applicable taxes.
Not Included – Air from USA, travel insurance
Itineraries are prepared up to a year ahead and things can change. Modifications may be made. All rooms are run of house.
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