What connects Zagreb, Ljubljana, Bled, Venice, Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna? They were all part of the Habsburg empire, a vast empire that covered much of Central Europe, making its mark and all these cities, their architecture, their culture and their way of life. If you want to explore the spirit and culture of Central Europe, you should book a private tour with MaciTours, a private Croatian transfer company that will take you on an unforgettable travel across Central Europe, exploring its long, rich and sometimes turbulent history.
Day 1 Arrival in Zagreb
Our driver will meet you at the Zagreb Airport and transfer you to your accommodation in Zagreb, after which you will have the rest of the day to explore the city of Zagreb, its historic landmarks in the old city centre, where numerous palaces and streets, reminiscent of those found in Vienna and Budapest, hold many historic stories as Zagreb is steeped in rich history since many historical events have taken place here.
One of the most prominent symbols of Zagreb is the Cathedral of St. Stephen. The Zagreb Cathedral, with its twin spires, is the most well-known landmark of the city and is also the most important cathedral in Croatia, as many important historical Croats are buried here. The original cathedral dates back to 1217, but the present structure dates to 1906. The cathedral was damaged in the 2020 earthquake but is quickly being restored.
Another church, equally old and beautiful is the St. Mark's Church, known for its colourful roof tiles depicting the coat of arms of Croatia and Zagreb. The church was constructed in 1499 and served as the church of the Croatian Parliament ever since.
The Old Town Gate or the Stone Gates in the Upper Town are also an important site, as a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary is located here and the painting of the Virgin Mary in the shrine is said to be holy because it was the only thing to survive a great fire that once engulfed the shrine. Many people stop here to take a break and to light a candle, as it is believed that your prayers will then be answered.
Zagreb also has many beautiful parks, such as the Ribnjak Park, located next to Zagreb Cathedral, which is an English-style park complete with exotic plants, sculptures, and a children's playground, while the biggest park in Zagreb is the Maksimir Park, a great place to relax, drink coffee, have picnic or at have lunch the park's restaurant or take nice long walks through the forest or by the small lakes. Inside the park there is also a zoo. Medvedgrad, on the Medvednica Mountain, is also an important historical site. It is a age-old fortress where the Altar of the Fatherland is located and is now a modern museum depicting the long and turbulent history of Zagreb. Zagreb also has other important museums, such as the Mimara Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, where numerous artworks are housed.
Day 2 Venice
A few facts about Venice
The world-famous historical city of Venice lies on the northern shores of the Adriatic, built on a group of 118 small islands in the Venetian Lagoon, separated by numerous canals and linked by over 400 bridges. Many terms have been used over the centuries to describe Venice, such as "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", and "City of Canals" and it should be noted that the lagoon and a part of the city are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name of the city is derived from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region by the 10th century BC and was historically the capital of the Republic of Venice for over a millennium, from 697 to 1797. Venice was a major financial and maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades from where ship began their voyage to the Holy Land. The city-state of Venice is considered to have been the first real international financial centre, reaching its greatest prominence in the 14th century. After the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, the Republic was annexed by the Austrian Empire, until it became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866. Parts of Venice are renowned for the beauty of their settings, their architecture, and artwork. Venice is known for several important artistic movements, especially during the Renaissance period and has played an important role in the history of instrumental and operatic music. The City is the birthplace of Baroque composers Tomaso Albinoni and Antonio Vivaldi and is where the German composer Richard Wagner often came to compose his operas and where he died. The Times Online has described Venice as one of Europe's most romantic cities and The New York Times as being "undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man". What to see while in Venice As early as the 18th century, tourism has been a major part of the Venetian economy, attracting tourists with its beautiful cityscape, uniqueness, and rich musical and artistic cultural heritage. In the 19th century, Venice became a fashionable centre for the rich and famous, who often stayed and dined at the numerous luxury establishments in the city, such as the Danieli Hotel and the Caffè Florian, one of the oldest café bars in Europe and the world. In the 1980s, the Carnival of Venice was revived. Venice has since then become a major centre of international conferences and festivals, such as the prestigious Venice Biennale and the Venice Film Festival, which attract visitors from all over the world for their theatrical, cultural, cinematic, artistic, and musical productions. There are numerous attractions in Venice, such as St Mark's Basilica, the most famous of the city's churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture, the Doge's Palace, built in Venetian Gothic style and one of the main city landmarks that is now a museum, the Grand Canal, banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 buildings, most of which date from the 13th to the 18th century, and the Piazza San Marco, which Napoleon is said to have described as "the drawing room of Europe". The Lido di Venezia, where the Wedding with the Sea ceremony once took place, is also a popular international luxury destination, attracting thousands of actors, critics, celebrities, and others in the cinematic industry.
Day 3 Bled
A few facts about Bled
Bled is a town on Lake Bled in the Upper Carniolan region of northwestern Slovenia and is the regions most popular tourist destination and in Slovenia as whole, attracting visitors from around the globe. The town was first metioned in written sources as Ueldes in 1004 but the etymology of the name is unknown, although it is believed to be of pre-Slavic origin. The town is located on the southern foot of the Karawanks mountain range near the border with Austria, about 50 km (31 mi) northwest of the national capital of Ljubljana and is well-known for the glacial Lake Bled, which makes it a major tourist attraction. What to see while in Bled Perched on a rock, overlooking the entire lake, is the iconic Bled Castle. For centuries, many Europeans have flocked to the shores of Lake Bled to enjoy recreation, especially its medicinal benefits, most notably Emperor Henry II, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, who enjoyed the lake so much, that he built Bled Castle in 1004 to confer it as an estate. On that island, you will find the Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church and visitors frequently ring its bell, because of an old legend according to which it provides good luck. The traditional transportation to Bled Island is a wooden boat known as a pletna, the word pletna being a borrowing from Bavarian German Plätten meaning 'flat-bottomed boat' and according to some sources the pletna was used in Lake Bled as early as 1150 AD. The town is also known in Slovenia for its vanilla and cream pastry Cremeschnitte, which is protected by the Slovenian government. Due to its mild climate, Bled has been visited by aristocratic guests from all across the world, but in modern times it is an important convention centre and tourist resort, offering a wide range of sports activities, such as golf, fishing, and horseback riding. The town is a starting point for mountain treks and hikes, especially within nearby Triglav National Park.
Day 4 Ljubljana
A few facts about Ljubljana
Ljubljana is the capital and largest city of Slovenia and is the cultural, educational, economic, political and administrative centre of the country, situated at the middle of a trade route between the northern Adriatic Sea and the Danube region. The origin of the name of the city is unclear. In the Middle Ages, both the river and the town were also known by the German name Laibach. The symbol of the city is the Ljubljana is the Dragon, depicted on the top of the tower of Ljubljana Castle, in the Ljubljana coat of arms and on the Ljubljanica-crossing Dragon Bridge, as a symbol of power, courage, and greatness. The Argonauts of Ancient Greece, according to the celebrated Greek legend, on their way back home, after having taken the Golden Fleece, found a large lake surrounded by a marsh, between the present-day towns of Vrhnika and Ljubljana. Around 2000 BC, the Ljubljana Marshes in the immediate vicinity of Ljubljana were settled by people living in pile dwellings, where the oldest wooden wheel in the world was found. The Romans built a military encampment that later became a permanent settlement called Iulia Aemona, around the year 50 BC. In the 6th century, the ancestors of the Slovenes came to this area. In 1895, Ljubljana, suffered a serious earthquake measuring 6.1 degrees Richter and during the reconstruction that followed, many city districts were rebuilt in the Vienna Secession style. In 1918, following the end of World War I and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, Slovenia joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later called Yugoslavia. In 1941, during World War II, Fascist Italy occupied Ljubljana. After the war, Slovenia became a part of communist Yugoslavia, and in 1991 it became independent, with Ljubljana as its capital. What to see while in Ljubljana The central square in Ljubljana is the Prešeren Square, where the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation is also located. The Ljubljana Castle, a medieval castle with both Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance architectural elements, towers over the old city centre. The castle was built in the 12th century and was a residence of the Margraves and later the Dukes of Carniola, while the castle's Viewing Tower dates back to 1848, when it used to be manned by a guard whose duty it was to fire cannons to warn the city in case of fire or announcing important visitors or events, something that has become a tradition, held to this day. The Ljubljana Cathedral or St. Nicholas's Cathedral, located at Cyril and Methodius Square, near the Ljubljana Central Market and Town Hall, serves the Archdiocese of Ljubljana and is quite easily identifiable because of its green dome and twin towers. The Nebotičnik (meaning "Skyscraper") is a thirteen-story building with a height of 70.35 m (231 ft), built in the 1930s, as combination of Neoclassical and Art-Deco architecture. Predominantly it’s a place of business, as the Nebotičnik is home to shops on the ground floor and first floor, while the offices are located on floors two to five, but the top three floors are a café, bar and observation deck. Ljubljana is known for its many bridges, such as the Dragon Bridge, the Butchers' Bridge, the Triple Bridge, the Fish Footbridge, the Cobblers' Bridge, the Hradecky Bridge and the Trnovo Bridge, almost all connecting the two banks of the Ljubljanica River. There are also numerous museum in Ljubljana. The city has an architecture museum, a railway museum, a school museum, a sports museum, a museum of contemporary art, the Museum of Natural History and the Slovene Ethnographic Museum and there is also The National Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art which exhibit the most influential Slovenian artists.
Day 5 Vienna
A few facts about Vienna
Vienna, often called the Music Capital of the World, is the capital of the Republic of Austria and by far its most populous city, with an urban population of 1.9 million and a metropolitan population of 2.4 million. The city is the largest city in Austria and the country's artistic, cultural, economic and political centre, well-known for its high living standards, relaxed yet elegant lifestyle and rich musical life, having been home to many artists, especially composers including Beethoven, Haydn, Liszt, Mozart, Schubert and Johann Strauss.
Although the low-lying Danube plain in and around what is now Vienna had been populated since at least the late Paleolithic, Vienna's own recorded history began with the Romans, who founded it in the 1st century CE as Vindobona, one of a line of Roman defensive outposts against Germanic tribes. Long after the fall of the Roman Empire, Vienna hosted the Habsburg Court for several centuries, first as the Imperial Seat of the Holy Roman Empire, then the capital of the Austrian Empire, and later of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which finally fell in 1918. The city was heavily damaged during the Battle of Vienna in 1945 and was subsequently occupied and divided up among the Allies like Berlin, until it was later decided to give Austria its independence.
What to see while in Vienna
The historic centre, a UNESCO world heritage site, is sometimes begrudgingly compared to an open-air museum. Vienna’s old city centre has many historical sites and landmarks, most notably the old Cathedral of St. Stephen, where numerous Habsburgs were crowned emperors of the Austrian Empire and later of Austria-Hungary. In the old city centre, you’ll find the Kaisergruft or the Imperial Crypt, underneath the Kapuzinerkirche, a mausoleum that houses the tombs of generations of Habsburg royalty.
The Hofburg Palace is an immense palace complex grew into a large, unwieldy series of buildings over the years and was the imperial residence of the Habsburg emperors until 1918. Close by is the Heldenplatz or Heroes' Square, a public space and setting to a number of important historic events, most notably of Adolf Hitler's 1938 announcement of the Austrian Anschluß.
Beethoven Pasqualatihaus, an 18th-century building is atop the Mölker Bastei, is one of the only remaining sections of the old city wall and for 8 years the famous composer Beethoven lived in a 4th-floor apartment in this building, where he composed his 4th-8th symphonies as well as his opera Fidelio.
The Ringstraße circles the very heart of Vienna, because it was built on the location of the original city walls, its size is a good indication of how much the city has expanded since medieval times.
There are also many other museums and sites to visit such as the Mozart House and the house where Sigmund Freud lived, the Session Building, the Opera House, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Natural History Museum and the Schoenbrunn Palace, the grand residence of the Habsburg dynasty in Vienna, where many concerts are held in the warm summer nights. There are also many shops, mostly on the Kärntner Straße, on the Am Graben promenade, and the exclusive Kohlmarkt, but there is an outlet just outside of Vienna and a bus line connecting the city centre and the outlet.
Day 6 Bratislava
A few facts about Bratislava
Bratislava, the capital and largest city in Slovakia, has a population of almost 415,000 and is the administrative, cultural and economic centre of the country. The city has a very pleasant medieval inner city with narrow, winding streets, a hill-top castle next to the river Danube called the Bratislava Castle, and many historic churches and buildings to visit. The old town is cantered on two squares, the Main Square and the Hviezdoslav square, named after a famous Slovak poet. The communist-era buildings, found in the modern parts of the city, are a rather different architectural character, such as the Petrzalka housing estate, the biggest Communist-era concrete block housing complex in Central Europe, which stretches on endlessly just across the river. If you go further east, there are farms, vineyards, agricultural land, and tiny villages less than 50 km to the north and east of Bratislava. The city and its surroundings form the second-most prosperous region in Central and Eastern Europe and is the sixth richest region of the European Union. After the fall of the Great Moravian Empire, Slovakia became part of the Kingdom of Hungary from the 10th century until the end of the First World War. The city was the capital, the coronation city, and the seat of the Diet of the Kingdom of Hungary for three centuries. In 1919, when Czechoslovakia was formed, Bratislava was attached to the newly founded state and that same year the name Bratislava was officially adopted for the first time. In 1969 it became the capital city of the Slovak Socialist Republic, one of the two component states of federal Czechoslovakia. Bratislava's dissidents anticipated the fall of Communism with the Bratislava candle demonstration in 1988, and the city became one of the foremost centres of the anti-Communist "Velvet Revolution" in 1989. In 1993, the city became the capital of the newly formed Slovak Republic following the "Velvet Divorce". Bratislava, together with Vienna, is often marked as "twin cities" because of to their geographical closeness. They are the two European capitals with the shortest distance to one another and Vienna is certainly an interesting day trip to make from Bratislava.
Day 7 Budapest
A few facts about Budapest
Each year, Budapest, the capital of Hungary, attracts around 12 million international tourists, making it a highly popular destination in Europe. The city topped the Best European Destinations 2020 list by Big7Media. The central area of Budapest, along the Danube River, is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has several notable monuments of classical architecture, including the Hungarian Parliament and the Buda Castle. The city also has some 80 geothermal springs, the largest thermal water cave system, the second largest synagogue, and the third largest Parliament building in the world. Budapest is the headquarters of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, the European Police College and over 40 colleges and universities are located in Budapest. The history of Budapest began when an early Celtic settlement was transformed into the Roman town of Aquincum, the capital of Lower Pannonia, while the Hungarians arrived in the territory in the late 9th century. The area was pillaged by the Mongols in the 13th century. By the 15th century, the re-established city of Buda became one of the centres of Renaissance humanist culture, but after the Battle of Mohács, in 1526, nearly 150 years of Ottoman rule began. After the reconquest of Buda in 1686, the region entered a new age of prosperity, with Pest-Buda becoming a global city after the unification of Buda, Óbuda and Pest in 1873, with the name 'Budapest' given to the new capital, which also became the co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a great power that dissolved following World War I. The city witnessed many historical events, such as the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Battle of Budapest in 1945, during which all the bridges over the Danube were destroyed, as well as the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. What to see while in Budapest The Inner City historical districts are full of monumental buildings, museums, luxury shops, located mostly along the Andrassy Avenue. Budavár or Buda Castle District is the oldest part of the city containing the Castle and some of Budapest's best-known attractions such as Fishermen’s Bastion, the Labyrinth and Mathias Church. The highlight of Belváros or the Inner City District is the parliament building, the Saint Stephen Basilica and the Promenade, with beautiful views of the Danube and the Castle Hill. The Water Town District is located along the banks of the Danube, where the Castle Bazaar and Rudas Thermal Bath are located. In Józsefváros or Joseph Town District of Budapest you’ll find the Palace Quarter with many historical buildings including the Hungarian National Museum. Ferencváros or Francis Town District has many important buildings and museums like the Great Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok) and the National Theatre, while in South Buda has famous wine cellars, in which district the Gellért Hill Nature Preserve Area with citadel and the beautiful Gellért Bath are also located.
Day 8 Departure from Zagreb
On the last day of your stay in Croatia, our driver will take you to the Zagreb Airport and wish you a safe voyage home, hoping that Croatia has made a good and lasting impression on you.