Berlin is one of the most interesting and diverse of all the great capitals of Europe, and is enjoying a major cultural renaissance. This two-week residential-style tour takes an in-depth look at Berlin, and the nearby cities of Potsdam, Dresden and Leipzig. The tour visits many of Berlin’s internationally renowned cultural institutions, enjoys fine performances in historic venues, and traces the history and development of Berlin from its earliest days through the glory days of the Prussian and German Empires, to the darker days of the 20th century and its rebirth after 1989.
An extraordinary range of museums and art galleries, including Berlin’s Museum Island and Gemaldegalerie
Extended stays in Berlin, exploring historic neighbourhoods in the East and West
Rococo architecture and garden design at Frederick the Great’s Sanssouci Palace at Potsdam
Renaissance Leipzig’s old town, Goethe’s “little Paris”, and the scenic countryside surrounding it
Elegantly restored Dresden and the impressive art collections at the Zwinger Palace
Farewell meal atop the Reichstag with views across Berlin
Days 1–5: Arrive in Berlin, tour the city and cruise the Spree River from Charlottenburg Palace. Spend two days visiting Museum Island, explore Potsdam and see the world-class Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
Days 6–7: Travel to Leipzig to visit the Museum of Fine Arts and the Grassi Museum.
Days 8–9: In Dresden, tour the Old Masters Picture Gallery at the Zwinger Palace and admire the Pillnitz Palace.
Days 10–14: Return to Berlin and visit the Bauhaus Archive, New National Gallery, and the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum of Contemporary Art. Enjoy a farewell meal atop the Reichstag.
The tour begins and ends at our Berlin hotel. Qatar Airways or Singapore Airlines/Lufthansa offer the best connections to and from Berlin from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D.
Thursday October 17: Arrival
If you have booked your air travel through Academy Travel, we will organise a transfer from Berlin’s Tegel airport to our hotel. Please note that hotel rooms may not be available until early afternoon. In the evening meet tour leader Thomas Abbott at the hotel bar for drinks and a light dinner. Overnight Berlin (D)
Friday October 18: Medieval to Prussian – Philharmonie
After a talk, we travel by coach to the Berggruen Museum to admire its exceptional collection of modern art including works by Matisse, Klee and Giacometti. We pause for our welcome lunch at a fine local restaurant before continuing to Charlottenburg, for a guided tour of the richly decorated interior of the palace. Built by Elector Friederich III in 1699 as a summer palace for his wife Sophie Charlotte, this regal estate, the largest palace in Berlin, is framed by a baroque-style garden. In the late afternoon we cruise by ferry on the River Spree back to Berlin. Tonight, we attend a concert at Berlin’s famous concert hall, the Philharmonie. Overnight Berlin (B, L)
Performance details Venue: Philharmonie Berlin
Program: Purcell, Suite from the Fairy Queen, Handel
Performers: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Lucy Crowe (soprano), Florian Sempey (baritone), Emmanuelle Haim (conductor)
Saturday October 19: Frederick the Great’s City
Today we spend the day in Potsdam, a short distance from Berlin. The Prussian kings left their royal imprint on Potsdam with lavish palaces, parks, and gardens, many of them with UNESCO World Heritage status. An undoubted highlight of the day is the visit to rococo palace Sanssouci, built for Frederick the Great, who wanted to escape the formalities of his life in Berlin and retreat to his summer palace in Potsdam, aptly called Sanssouci (‘without worries’ in French). We also visit Cecilienhof Palace, set in the beautiful park of Neuer Garten. The last palace the Hohenzoller family built, it offers a contrast to Sanssouci as it was designed in the rustic English Tudor style. After an early dinner in Potsdam we return to Berlin. Overnight Berlin (B, D)
Sunday October 20: Museum Island – Opera
After a talk, we walk to Museum Island. On the site of one of Berlin’s two original settlements, this unique complex of five state museums is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit in Berlin. Today we visit the Neues Museum, the home of the Egyptian Museum and the famous bust of Nefertiti. Mid-morning, we visit what is perhaps Berlin’s most renowned institution, the Pergamon Museum. The museum is currently under partial renovation so the hall containing the Pergamon Altar is closed. What we will see are the impressive Near Eastern antiquities and Islamic art, much of which was collected by the German Kaisers from their close contact with countries such as Turkey, Iraq and Iran in the early 20th century. We spend lunchtime in the nearby Hackesche Höfe, a district comprised of a series of interconnected courtyards bustling with restaurants, boutiques and galleries. This evening we walk to the recently reopened Staatsoper Unter den Linden, to attend the opera. Overnight Berlin (B)
Performance details Venue: Staatsoper Unter den Linden
Program: Verdi, Rigoletto
Performers: Christopher Maltman (Rigoletto), Francesco Demuro (Duke of Mantua), Aida Garifullina (Gilda), Domeningo Hindoyan (conductor)
Monday October 21: The Prussian City
We begin our day at the German History Museum, to survey the collection that focuses on Germany’s two-thousand-year history. Our next stop is Berlin’s most famous landmark, the Brandenburg Gate. A symbol of Berlin and German division during the Cold War, it is now a national symbol of peace and unity. In the afternoon we visit the Gemäldegalerie, assembled in the early 19th century, the gallery’s collection represents all the major schools of European painting and includes masterpieces by Botticelli, Raphael, Caravaggio, Breughel, Vermeer and Rembrandt. This evening we have dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight Berlin (B, D)
Tuesday October 22: Museum Island II
We depart Berlin today for Leipzig, first returning to Museum Island to visit the Bode Museum, home to the Sculpture Gallery and the Museum of Byzantine Art. Around midday we head to Leipzig. This evening we have dinner at the historic restaurant Auerbachs Keller, that is mentioned in Goethe’s play Faust. Overnight Leipzig (B, D)
Wednesday October 23: Leipzig
Leipzig is one of the great German cultural centres, with connections to Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Martin Luther, Goethe, Schiller, and the Neue-Leipziger-Schule art movement. This morning we take a guided walking tour of Leipzig, followed by a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts. The original museum building was destroyed in an air raid in 1943, though many of the paintings had been saved. A new home for the collection, a contemporary building, opened in 2004, 61 years to the day after the original museum was destroyed. The afternoon is free; however, we recommend you visit the Grassi Museum, to see the impressive collection charting over 2,500 years of the decorative arts. Overnight Leipzig (B)
Thursday October 24: Dresden via Meissen
On the way to Dresden this morning we pause to see the ‘Monument to the Battle of the Nations’ – Europe’s largest memorial, and the site of the 1813 defeat of Napoleon by a coalition of German forces. We then travel to Meissen, on the banks of the Elbe not far from Dresden, to stroll the town and have lunch at a local restaurant. We arrive in Dresden in the late afternoon and take an orientation walk through the old town. We visit the Frauenkirche, an impressive Baroque church that was destroyed in World War II and beautifully restored and reopened in 2005. Overnight Dresden (B, L)
Friday October 25: Zwinger Palace – Semperoper
After a talk, we make our way on foot to the Zwinger Palace, an excellent example of late Baroque architecture in Germany. Built between 1710 and 1728, the Zwinger was used for court festivities and tournaments. The palace contains Dresden’s Old Masters Picture Gallery, with works by Raphael, Rubens and Canaletto. We explore too, the delightful Porcelain Collection, and survey the impressive treasures inside the Historic Green Vaults. This evening we walk to the Semperoper for a concert. Overnight Dresden (B)
Performance details Venue: Semperoper Dresden
Program: Rossini, II Viaggio a Reims
Performers: Elena Gorshunova (Corinna), Maria Kataeva (Marquise Melibea), Lady Von Folleville (Tuuli Takala), Francesco Lanzillotta (Conductor)
Saturday October 26: Pillnitz Palace
Today we return to Berlin, stopping along the way to view the extraordinary ensemble of architecture and landscape gardening that makes up Pillnitz Palace. Built by August the Strong as a ‘Water Palace’, Pillnitz was the summer residence of many electors and kings of Saxony. We arrive in Berlin in the late afternoon and gather for dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight Berlin (B, D)
Sunday October 27: From Art to Wilhelmstrasse
Our touring today commences with a visit to the German Resistance Memorial Centre, which is primarily intended to commemorate those members of the German Army who tried to assassinate Hitler in 1944. We next visit the internationally renowned Kunstgewerbe Museum (Museum of Decorative Art), the oldest of its kind in Germany, housing a wide variety of craftwork, fashion and design from the early Middle Ages to the present day. We then head to Potsdamer Platz, to stroll around what is now the modern heart of unified Berlin. This afternoon we focus on Wilhelmstrasse, hub of the Nazi administration. We visit the moving Holocaust Memorial, the site of the new Reich’s Chancellery and Hitler’s Bunker and the Luftwaffe Ministry building which is the site of Gestapo Bunkers. The tour ends at the fascinating Topography of Terror memorial. Overnight Berlin (B)
Monday October 28: The Synagogue and the Cold War
This morning we visit the ‘New Synagogue’, which was significantly damaged on Kristallnacht in 1938, the restored building reopened in 1995. We then stroll through the old Jewish district in the Jewish Museum of Berlin, designed by Daniel Libeskind and opened in 2001. After a break for lunch, we investigate Berlin in the late 1940s and 1950s – the height of the Cold War. Our tour includes sections of the Berlin Wall, the former Stasi headquarters and Karl-Marx-Allee, a broad boulevard lined with impressive Socialist Realist buildings. Overnight Berlin (B)
Tuesday October 29: Contemporary Berlin – Philharmonie
On our final day of the tour we take a coach tour of the modern city, focussing on its recent architecture. We pause to survey the collection at the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum for Contemporary Art. Our time in Berlin culminates with a farewell lunch at restaurant Kafer, atop the Reichstag, seat of the German parliament. This building symbolises the struggles and eventual triumph of the city. First opened in 1894, destroyed by fire in 1933, the Reichstag became the first meeting place of a reunified Germany. The reconstruction of the building was completed in 1999 to a plan by British architect Sir Norman Foster. His plan included an extraordinary glass dome at the top of the building, offering 360° views of the surrounding city. Overnight Berlin (B, L)
Wednesday October 30: Departure
The tour ends after breakfast. Departing group members transfer to Berlin Tegel airport for outgoing flights. (B)
Specialises in the music, art and architecture of Germany, studied in the USA and Paris, and has lived in Berlin since 1987.
Thomas has lived in Germany since 1988 and has led many cultural tours throughout Germany with leading UK and other organisations, specialising in the architecture of Berlin, the art of 18th-century Germany and the Bauhaus.
What is included in the tour price?
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price?
Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.