London and Paris come alive in the wintertime with blockbuster exhibitions and excellent performance programs designed for lovers of art and music when the tourist numbers are low. Explore two of the world’s great cultural capitals, from their celebrated collections to their less-visited galleries and house museums, and appreciate the range of performances on offer, from grand opera and orchestral concerts to well-reviewed stage plays and recitals. A week in each city, staying in the centre, allows you ample time to unwind and enjoy the best of times with like-minded travellers.
We’re delighted to present a diverse and stimulating program, with best available seats to all performances included.
The National Theatre’s new two-part production of My Brilliant Friend, based on the ‘Naples novels’ of Elena Ferrante
Sir Simon Rattle conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in Berg and Beethoven
Verdi’s La Traviata at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Offenbach’s opera The Tales of Hoffmann at the Opéra Bastille, home to the National Opera
An ‘opera ballet’ of Debussy’s L’Après-midi d’un faune and Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges at the historic grand Palais Garnier
Riccardo Chailly conducting Beethoven and Mussorgsky with Milan’s La Scala Orchestra at the recently opened Philharmonie concert hall
Days 1–7: In London, experience Verdi’s La Traviata Covent Garden opera, Sir Simon Rattle conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, and The National Theatre’s new two-part production of My Brilliant Friend. Admire winter blockbusters at the Queen’s Gallery and Tate Britain; explore the vast British Museum, and enjoy visits to smaller galleries, including the Royal Academy, the Wallace Collection and Apsley House. Take a day trip to Cambridge to visit the Fitzwilliam Museum and King’s College.
Days 8–15: In Paris, attend Offenbach’s opera The Tales of Hoffmann at the Opéra Bastille, experience an ‘opera ballet’ of Debussy’s work at the historic grand Palais Garnier and enjoy Riccardo Chailly conducting Milan’s La Scala Orchestra at the recently opened Philharmonie concert hall. See the greats without the crowds at the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay, along with visits to several of the smaller galleries, including the Rodin Museum, the Villa Savoye, the renovated Picasso Museum, the elegant Musee Nissim de Camondo and Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton.
The tour begins at our hotel in London and ends at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport. Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates all offer direct services into London and out of Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D.
Thursday January 16: Arrive London
If you have booked your air travel through Academy Travel we will organise a transfer from London Heathrow Airport to our hotel. Please note that hotel rooms may not be available until early afternoon. In the evening meet Christopher Menz in the hotel for welcome drinks and dinner. Overnight London (D)
Friday January 17: National Gallery
After a morning talk on today’s program, we walk to the National Gallery to visit its outstanding collection of Old Master paintings. The National Gallery’s collection is one of the finest anywhere, with masterpieces from Leonardo to Turner. We enjoy a welcome lunch next door at the National Portrait Gallery’s fine restaurant. The afternoon is at leisure. You may choose to visit the National Portrait Gallery which contains an impressive survey of British portraiture from the Tudor period to the present. Overnight London (B, L)
Saturday January 18: Queen’s Gallery – My Brilliant Friend
This morning we head to the Queen’s Gallery to see the exhibition George IV: art & spectacle. George IV was one of the greatest of the royal collectors and the exhibition traces his life thought the art he collected. Constructed forty years ago on the west front of Buckingham Palace, the Gallery has been redeveloped and was reopened by The Queen on 21 May 2002. We then head to the Olivier Theatre on Southbank for a theatrical epic – a two-part adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s hugely popular ‘Neapolitan novels’, published in over 50 countries. The production was a sell-out when it premiered at the Rose Theatre Kensington. There is a break between shows with an included dinner at a nearby Southbank restaurant. Overnight London (B, D)
Performance details Venue: Olivier Theatre, Southbank
Program: My Brilliant Friend, adapted by adapted by April De Angelis from the novels of Elena Ferrante
Performers: Niamh Cusack (Lenu), Catherine McCormack (Lila)
Sunday January 19: Royal Academy & Duke of Wellington’s House – London Symphony Orchestra
We commence the day with a talk on the performance, and then travel to Piccadilly to visit the recently refurbished Royal Academy, one of London’s leading exhibition spaces. The RA is where its members, Britain’s leading living artists, display their work. We plan to see the Winter exhibition Lucian Freud: the self-portraits. We then travel to Apsley House, the home of the first Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoléon Bonaparte in June 1815. It is also known as Number One London because it was the first house encountered from the countryside after passing the tollgates at the top of Knightsbridge. Apsley House is a palatial mansion that is today a museum dedicated to showcasing the art and treasures bestowed upon the Duke of Wellington. This evening’s concert is at the Barbican. Sir Simon Rattle leads the London Symphony in a program that includes a Beethoven rarity, his oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives. Overnight London (B)
Performance details Venue: Barbican Hall
Program: Berg, Violin Concerto Beethoven, Christ on the Mount of Olives Performers: London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Elsa Dreisig (soprano), Lisa Batiashvili (violin) Sir Simon Rattle (conductor)
Monday January 20: Wallace Collection & British Museum
Mid-morning, we visit The Wallace Collection, a world-famous museum of 15th- to 18th-century art, housed in the former residence of the Marquesses of Hertford. The collection surveys European fine and decorative art from the Renaissance to the 19th century. It has a fine collection of Italian art and some exquisite ceramics, but the most famous work in the collection is undoubtedly Frans Hals’ The Laughing Cavalier. In the afternoon we visit the British Museum, just across from the hotel. Overnight London (B)
Tuesday January 21: Cambridge
Cambridge is home to the UK’s second oldest university, and was already a thriving market town 400 years before students, fleeing a violent town vs gown dispute in Oxford, settled there in 1209. Today it is a university town, blessed with striking architecture and leafy gardens. This morning we travel out of London to Cambridge, touring the historic university town. We visit the Fitzwilliam Museum, which showcases treasures and art dating back to 2500 BC. We enjoy lunch at the Fitzwilliam Cafe, then tour the town with our local guide, seeing King’s College and chapel and the Kettle’s Yard art gallery and house museum. We return to London in the early evening. Overnight London
Wednesday January 22: Tate Britain – La Traviata
Sister gallery to the Tate Modern is the Tate Britain, a bastion of British art. Sporting old-world marble floors, spiral staircases, and Grecian columns, the Tate Britain is a veritable temple of British art from 1500 to today. We survey the world’s largest collection of stormy and atmospheric Turner oil paintings and a considerable assemblage of the most ethereal and romantic Pre-Raphaelite portraits of mythical and literary characters. We plan to see the major exhibition William Blake: the artist as well as tour the permanent collections. Highlights include Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia, and Turner’s powerful The Angel Standing in the Sun. This evening we attend the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for Sir Richard Eyre’s much-loved production of a classic, Verdi’s La Traviata. Azerbaijani soprano Dinara Alieva, a star of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, sings the role of Violetta. Overnight London (B)
Performance details Venue: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Program: Verdi, La Traviata Performers: Dinara Alieva (Violetta), Rame Lahaj (Alfredo), Gabriele Viviani (Giorgio), chorus and orchestra of the Royal Opera House, conducted by Daniel Oren
Thursday January 23: To Paris and Musée d’Orsay
This morning we take the high-speed train to Paris. After time to check in to our Paris hotel and freshen up, we walk to the Musée d’Orsay. When it was built in 1900, painter Edouard Detaille declared that the Gare d’Orsay looked like a palace of fine art. How appropriate that one of his paintings is now part of the exceptional collection at the Musée d’Orsay, the national museum of 19th century art. Our visit takes a thematic approach following the development of painting from the early academic paintings to the celebrated work of the Impressionists. This evening we meet for dinner in the hotel’s fine restaurant. Overnight Paris (B, D)
Friday January 24: de Camondo and Musée Picasso
The Musée Nissim de Camondo is a mansion commissioned by a wealthy banker, Moïse de Camondo, as a setting to showcase his collection of 18th-century furniture and objets d’art. After his death in 1935, the house and everything in it was left to the state as a museum. Today we see on display rare Sèvres porcelain, intricate Savonniere carpets, and fine gilded furniture, all well preserved and in the same configuration as when Camondo and his family lived there. Afterwards we continue to the Musée Picasso, home to the world’s largest public collection of Picasso’s works, beautifully displayed in the elegant Hôtel Salé. Overnight Paris (B)
Saturday January 25: Château de Malmaison & Villa Savoye – The Tales of Hoffmann
Today we venture out into the French countryside to visit two remarkable residences. First, we visit Château de Malmaison, Napoléon and Josephine Bonaparte’s private estate and, briefly, the seat of the French government. Josephine purchased the venerable property in 1799 while her husband was off fighting in Egypt. When he returned, they hired architects and decorators to renovate the dilapidated house and grounds. Josephine was given the estate after the couple divorced in 1809 and lived there until her death five years later. We then travel to Poissy to the Villa Savoye. Meant as a modern take on the French country house, the Villa Savoye is perhaps architect Le Corbusier’s most famous work of the 1930s. This evening we attend the Opéra de Paris at its main theatre at the Bastille. We are delighted to be able to include a classic of the French repertoire in our program, with an outstanding international cast. Overnight Paris (B)
Performance details Venue: Opera Bastille
Program: Offenbach, The Tales of Hoffmann Performers: Michael Fabiano (Hoffmann), Jodie Devos (Olympia), Véronique Gens (Giulietta), Ailyn Pérez (Antonia), Chorus and Orchestra of the Opéra de Paris, Mark Elder (conductor)
Sunday January 26: Palais Garnier behind the curtain – Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier is one of the most famous opera houses in the world, a symbol of Paris like Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, or the Sacré Coeur Basilica. Built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera, it became known as the Palais Garnier in recognition of its opulence and its architect, Charles Garnier. Adorned with gold leaf, coloured marble, paintings, and sculpture from the top artists of the day, the opera house was about as subtle as Versailles and sparked controversy in post-Revolutionary France. An undoubted highlight of the tour will be this morning’s private guided tour of the Palais Garnier, including a presentation of its history and architecture. While at the Palais Garnier we enjoy a matinee of ‘opera ballet’ using Debussy’s beautiful symphonic poem L’Après-midi d’un faune and Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges as its base. Overnight Paris (B, L)
Performance details Venue: Palais Garnier
Program: Debussy’s L’Après-midi d’un faune and Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges. Performers: soloists and chorus of the Opéra de Paris, dancers from la Compagnie Rosas, Vello Pähn (conductor)
Monday January 27: The Louvre
Charles V transformed an existing fortress into a royal château in the 1360s and the Palais du Louvre remained a royal residence – demolished, rebuilt and extended by successive monarchs – until Louis XIV took his court to his splendid new palace at Versailles. After the Revolution the Louvre became a public museum and today contains one of the world’s great collections of art and sculpture. Our visit this morning looks at some of the highlights of this magnificent collection followed by time to explore the collection at leisure. Overnight Paris (B)
Tuesday January 28: Musée Rodin and Île de la Cité – Philharmonie de Paris
This morning we visit the Musée Rodin which underwent an enormous renovation some years back that included the building and grounds, and the Rodin sculptures themselves were restored and re-presented. Highlights of the permanent collection include some of Rodin’s most treasured works: The Kiss, The Thinker, Fugit Amor and Thought and a series of sculptures portraying celebrated French writer Honoré de Balzac. In the afternoon Christopher leads a walking tour of the Île de la Cité, including glimpses of Notre Dame cathedral, so badly damaged in a 2019 fire. This evening we travel to the north-eastern edge of Paris to the Philharmonie de Paris, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. This evening we enjoy the orchestra of La Scala Milan, with the celebrated conductor Riccardo Chailly. Overnight Paris (B)
Performance details Venue: Philharmonie de Paris
Program: Beethoven, Violin Concerto, Mussorgsky (orchestrated Ravel) Pictures at an exhibition Performers: Orchestra Filarmonia della Scala, Milan, Renaud Capuçon (violin) Riccardo Chailly (conductor)
Wednesday January 29: Modern Paris
On our final full day in Paris, we first make our way to the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Rising up out of the Bois de Boulogne like a magnificent ship sporting billowing crystal sails, Frank Gehry’s new contemporary-art museum and cultural centre is the most captivating addition to the Parisian skyline since the unveiling of the Centre Pompidou in 1977. Later in the afternoon we travel to this iconic Centre, which houses the National Museum of Modern Art. Our visit looks at some of the major pieces in this renowned collection. We enjoy farewell drinks and dinner at the rooftop restaurant Georges, with stunning panoramic views across the city. Overnight Paris (B, D)
Thursday January 30: Departure
The tour ends after breakfast. Departing group members transfer to Charles de Gaulle Airport for outgoing flights. (B)
A former art museum director and curator, with expertise in the arts and music throughout Europe, the USA and Australia.
Christopher Menz is a former art museum director and curator and has been leading cultural tours in Europe, the United States and Australia since 2013. He has expertise and interest in the visual arts and music.
Christopher has a BA (Hons) from Flinders University. He is a former director of the Art Gallery of South Australia. Before that he was a curator, specialising in decorative arts, and worked at the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, and National Gallery of Victoria. He has published and lectured extensively on Australian and European decorative arts, notably on the design work of William Morris, and curated numerous exhibitions. Christopher is based in Melbourne where he is an art consultant and valuer, and Development Consultant for Australian Book Review.
Christopher has led cultural tours to Germany, England, the United States, as well as in Australia. He has also been a tour leader on European river cruises.
We asked Christopher, what do you think clients get from travelling with you?
“It is always a great thrill to be able to introduce clients to new experiences and to places they might otherwise not have visited or not have visited recently. I always hope to give tour guests something that adds to the experiences of the places, cities, museums and art galleries, and performances that they would not get if travelling alone.”
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.