London and Paris come alive in the wintertime while the tourist numbers are low, with blockbuster exhibitions and excellent performance programs designed for lovers of art and music. Explore two of the world’s great cultural capitals, from their celebrated collections to their lesser-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 in these two cities.
A tale of two cities: the history of these vibrant and cosmopolitan capitals and long-time rivals
Premier ensembles in iconic venues: opera, orchestral music and theatre
Masterpieces of European art, medieval to modern, at world-class museums and in lesser-known galleries
Excellent gastronomy: fine dining in London and the proud traditions of the brasseries and bistrots of Paris
Opulent historic opera houses, including Covent Garden and the Palais Garnier; modern reinterpretations at the Opéra Bastille
Blockbuster winter exhibitions and small house museums – without the high-season crowds
Seven outstanding performances, including:
Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke at the West End’s Duke of York’s Theatre
Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra at the National Theatre starring Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo
Richard Eyre’s stunning production of Verdi’s La traviata at the Royal Opera House, starring Ermonela Jaho and Charles Castronovo
A concert by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, performing Bruckner Symphony No 6
A concert by the Filarmonica della Scala Milan conducted by Riccardo Chailly, and featuring violinist Maxim Vengerov at the Philhamonie de Paris
Scarlatti’s Il Primo Omicidio at the Palais Garnier starring Kristina Hammarström and Olivia Vermeulen
Berlioz’s Les Troyens at the Opéra Bastille starring Stéphanie d’Oustrac and Elīna Garanča
Days 1–7: In London, admire winter blockbusters at the British Museum and Tate Modern. Attend a Covent Garden opera, fine orchestral concerts and a West End play. Survey smaller galleries, from the Royal Academy to the Wallace Collection and Dulwich Picture Galley; enjoy a day trip to Oxford’s Ashmolean and Christ Church College evensong.
Days 8–15: In Paris, spend a day exploring the Louvre. Admire the Impressionists at the Musée d’Orsay and survey collections dedicated to Rodin and Picasso. Attend performances at the Palais Garnier and Opéra Bastille, enjoy the elegant Musée Nissim de Camondo, and marvel at Versailles’ extravagance on a day trip.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
For this tour we recommend Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific which all have flights to London and out of Paris from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D.
Thursday January 17: 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 at the hotel bar for welcome drinks and a light dinner. Overnight London (D)
Friday January 18: Portrait Gallery & Royal Academy – Summer and Smoke
After a morning talk on today’s program, we visit the National Portrait Gallery which contains an impressive survey of British portraiture from the Tudor period to the present. Most notably the famous portrait of William Shakespeare was the first painting acquired by the National Portrait Gallery when it was founded in 1856. We enjoy a welcome lunch at the gallery’s fine restaurant, then walk to Piccadilly to visit the recently refurbished Royal Academy, one of London’s leading exhibition spaces. The RA’s winter exhibition we plan to see is Klimt / Schiele: Drawings from the Albertina Museum, Vienna and Renzo Piano. This evening we head to the Duke of York’s Theatre for Tennessee Williams’ critically acclaimed play Summer and Smoke. Overnight London (B, L)
Performance details Venue: Duke of York’s Theatre Program: Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke Performers: Seb Carrington (Archie Kramer), Nancy Crane (Mrs Winemiller/Mrs Bassett), Patsy Ferran (Alma), Rebecca Frecknall (director)
Saturday January 19: The Courtauld and Tate Modern – Antony & Cleopatra
After a morning talk on today’s program, we travel to Somerset House, one of the city’s most dynamic cultural venues, to see the remarkable art collection at The Courtauld Gallery. The Courtauld is renowned for its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, including masterpieces by Monet, Van Gogh and Gauguin and the largest collection of Cézannes in the UK. Afterwards we cross the footbridge to the National Theatre for a matinee of Antony & Cleopatra, Shakespeare’s play about politics and passion, starring Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo as the famous fated couple. Afterwards visit the Tate Modern, one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world. The Tate Modern’s winter installation we plan to see is Christian Marclay: The Clock. London (B)
Performance details Venue: National Theatre Program: Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra Performers: Ralph Fiennes (Antony) and Sophie Okonedo (Cleopatra) Simon Godwin (director)
Sunday January 20: Kenwood House – London Symphony Orchestra
We commence the day with a talk on the program. We then travel to Kenwood House, located on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Kenwood was brilliantly remodelled and extended by Robert Adam from 1764 to 1779. The Adam interiors include some of his finest surviving schemes, particularly the magnificent ‘Great Room’ or library. The house contains an outstanding collection of paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Gainsborough among others. The afternoon is free before we travel to the Barbican to see Sir Simon Rattle conduct a rare pairing of Bartók and Bruckner – two works separated by half a century, but each original and bold in their own way. Overnight London (B)
Performance details Venue: Barbican Program: Bartók’s Music for strings, percussion and celeste, and Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony Performers: London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle (conductor)
Monday January 21: Wallace collection & Covent garden – La traviata
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. Tonight, Richard Eyre’s beautiful production of Verdi’s best-loved opera returns to Covent Garden with stars Ermonela Jaho and Charles Castronovo. Overnight London (B)
Performance details Venue: Royal Opera House Program: Verdi’s La traviata Performers Ermonela Jaho (Violetta), Charles Castronovo (Alfredo), Antonello Manacorda (conductor)
Tuesday January 22: Oxford Museums and Evensong
With arguably the most famous university in the world, Oxford has been a centre of learning since 1167. This morning we travel out of London to Oxford, touring the historic university town with a fine musical history. We visit the Ashmolean Museum, Britain’s oldest public museum, displaying a rich and varied collection from the Neolithic to the present day over five floors. We then tour the town with our local guide, seeing Christopher Wren’s superb Sheldonian Theatre and the Divinity School. After high tea at a local restaurant, we attend Evensong at Christ Church College before returning to London. Overnight London (B, high tea)
Wednesday January 23: Queen’s Gallery and the Dulwich
This morning we travel to Buckingham Palace to visit the Queen’s Gallery, where we will see two exhibitions from the Royal Collection: Russia: Royalty & the Romanovs and Shadows of War: Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea, 1855. Afterwards we travel to southeast London to the Dulwich Picture Gallery. This hidden gem of the London art scene offers a relaxing and refreshing experience. Highlights include a superb collection of British portraits by Gainsborough, the largest collection of Poussin in the United Kingdom, works by Rubens and Van Dyck, and Rembrandt’s Girl at a window. Overnight London (B)
Thursday January 24: To Paris and the Canal Saint Martin
This morning we fly to Paris. After time to check in to our Paris hotel and freshen up, we travel to La Villette, for a cruise down the canals and through the locks to the quay near the Musée d’Orsay. Walking down the grand boulevards and through the small back streets it is easy to overlook the importance of the waterways to the evolution of Paris. The Canal Saint Martin was built in the time of Napoleon I to supply fresh water to the growing population of the city, funded by a tax on wine. Today the streets around the canal in the 10th arrondissement are full of cafes and boutiques and the area is a popular destination for Parisians. This evening we meet for dinner at a local bistro. Overnight Paris (B, D)
Friday January 25: The Louvre and the Philharmonie – Filarmonica della Scalla Milan
Charles V transformed an existing fortress into a royal chateau 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. This evening we travel to the north-eastern edge of Paris to the Philharmonie de Paris, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the inaugural performance was held in January 2015. This striking modern building is a cultural institution in Paris, composed of concert halls, exhibition spaces and restaurants. Overnight Paris (B)
Performance details Venue: Philharmonie de Paris Program: Works by Shostakovich and Bartók Performers: Filarmonica della Scalla Milan, Riccardo Chailly (conductor)
Saturday January 26: Palais Garnier behind the curtain – Il Primo Omicidio
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. This evening we return to the Palais Garnier for an operatic performance. Overnight Paris (B, L)
Performance details Venue: Palais Garnier Program: Scarlatti’s Il Primo Omicidio Performers: Kristina Hammarström (Caino), Olivia Vermeulen (Abel), Birgitte Christensen (Eva), René Jacobs (conductor)
Sunday January 27: Musée d’Orsay and Musée Rodin
When it was built in 1900, painter Edmund 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. Our next stop is the nearby Musée Rodin which underwent an enormous renovation some years back that included the building and grounds, to the Rodin sculptures themselves restored and re-presented. Overnight Paris (B)
Monday January 28: de Camondo and Picasso – Les Troyens
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 continue to the Musée Picasso, home to the world’s largest public collection of Picasso’s work. It covers almost 54,000 square feet in two buildings: the regal 17th-century Hôtel Salé and a sprawling new structure in the back garden that’s dedicated to temporary exhibitions. This evening we see Berlioz’s grand French opera in five acts, Les Troyens. Overnight Paris (B)
Performance details Venue: Opera Bastille Program: Berlioz’s Les Troyens Performers: Stéphanie d’Oustrac (Cassandre), Michèle Losier (Ascagna), Véronique Gens (Hécube), Philippe Jordan (conductor)
Tuesday January 29: Private Versailles and Malmaison
Today we venture out into the French countryside to visit two remarkable residences. First, we visit the lavish Palace of Versailles, built by the French Monarchy at the moment of its greatest splendour, the harmonious composition of château and landscape make Versailles one of the definitive examples of French Classicism. Our visit takes us on a special behind-the-scenes tour through the opulent private apartments of Louis XV and Louis XVI. There is time to stroll in the formal ornamental gardens before heading to 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. Overnight Paris (B)
Wednesday January 30: Modern Paris
After a talk in the hotel, we travel to the Pompidou Centre, which houses the National Museum of Modern Art. Our visit this morning looks at some of the major pieces in this renowned collection followed by free time to browse. We enjoy a farewell lunch at a Michelin starred restaurant before making 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 center is the most captivating addition to the Parisian skyline since the unveiling of the Centre Pompidou in 1977. Overnight Paris (B, L)
Thursday January 31: Departure
The tour ends after breakfast. Departing group members transfer to Charles de Gaulle Airport for outgoing flights. (B)
A former Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia and previously a curator of decorative arts. He is also an experienced cultural tour leader.
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.