The Best Day Trips from London: 8 Fantastic Ideas

Day trip to Leeds Castle

The historic Leeds Castle, Maidstone

As a tourist destination, London can consider itself fortunate.  Not only is its center jam-packed with cool attractions, but beyond its periphery, London is surrounded by fantastic places to visit.  We’ve blogged before on London’s cornucopia of first-rate draws: outstanding museums of art, design and history; historical palaces that once housed Henry VIII, Queen Victoria and Princess Diana; impressive cathedrals; great shopping; seriously fun pubs; amazing theatre performances; spectacular gardens; and world-class concerts and sporting events.  Our point: there are so many things to do in London that you’d be hard-pressed not to find something you love.

As we’ve mentioned before, if you intend to visit London you’ll be pleased to know many of its best places to visit are free (exceptions: must-see attractions like the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey).  For travelers spending a week in London, many folks want a town and country experience, which means spending a day or two outside of England’s lively capital.  Therefore, this post is for those of you who want to find out about the best day trips from London.  Some of these lovely spots lie on London’s outer edges, while others make for longer, exciting escapes.  We’ll tell you what to see and how to get there.  Without further ado, here are eight great day trip ideas:

 

Kew Gardens

Visiting Kew Gardens

The Palm House, Kew Gardens

We all know the British have a fierce reputation for their green-thumbed skills.  If you’ve ever wanted to experience English gardening at its finest, this is your chance.  Kew Gardens lie along the banks of the River Thames just 10 miles west of London, making this an easy, relaxing day outside of the big city.  The gardens epitomize the English landscaped gardens that became fashionable all over Europe in the 1700s.  The 250-year-old Royal Botanic Gardens, as they’re officially known, are so impressive that they’ve been made an official World Heritage Site.  Spread out across 300 acres, the gardens are home to an impressive arboretum, the Azalea Garden, the Rhododendron Dell,  art galleries, the Waterlily House,  pretty cottages, beautiful ponds, a treetop walkway, and perhaps most famously – Victorian glasshouses.  Check out this video if you’d like to learn more.

How do you get there?

To reach Kew Gardens from London take the London Underground to Kew Gardens Station.  If you intend to travel a lot in London by tube, considering getting a reusable Visitor Oyster card that you can add money to as needed.

 

Stonehenge

Visiting Stonehenge from London

5000-year-old Stonehenge, a World Heritage Site

The origins of this marvelous prehistoric site remain a great mystery to scholars.  Dating back over 5000 years, the massive size of the stones and their precise layout have long puzzled archaeologists.  For example, how did the builders manage to transport the stones over 150 miles?!  Some scholars believe that pagan inhabitants constructed Stonehenge as a religious or spiritual temple connected with the summer solstice.  Numerous burial mounds and the magnificent stone circle at nearby Avebury make this area extremely rich in Neolithic heritage.

To learn more about theories on Stonehenge, click here.  Many visitors often combine a visit to this fascinating World Heritage Site with the historic cities of Salisbury, Winchester and Bath.

How do you get there?

For preservation reasons, access to Stonehenge is complicated.  It is best to visit Stonehenge on a guided tour from London.

 

Highclere Castle

Visiting castle from Downton Abbey

Highclere Castle, the filming location of Downton Abbey

With the current popularity of the Downton Abbey television series, it’s no surprise that a visit to its filming location has become one of London’s most popular day trips!  Located 70 miles west of London in the county of Hampshire, Highclere Castle still serves as the home of the current Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.  A visit to this amazing Victorian castle features its exquisite interiors as well as its 1000 acres of beautifully landscaped parkland.  To learn more about the making of Downton Abbey at Highclere Castle click here.

Tours to Highclere Castle often take visitors to the village of Bampton, which is used on the show as the village of Downton, as well as to the university city of Oxford.

How do you get there?

It is possible to take the train or bus to the town of Newbury, and from there you can catch a taxi to the castle (roughly 15 minutes).  However, because of the castle’s popularity and limited opening days, we recommend signing up for an official Downton Abbey sightseeing tour from London.

 

Bath

Visiting Bath England on day trip

The ancient Roman Baths in Bath

Another historical English gem is the city of Bath, a World Heritage City.  Located in the pretty county of Somerset, Bath has been accommodating tourists for over 2000 years.  When the Romans arrived they were delighted with the natural springs in the area and began to construct temples and sophisticated bathhouses.  While the medieval era was not kind to Bath, in the 16th century its status as a spa resort took off!  The construction of impressive theaters cemented Bath’s reputation as a playground for aristocrats during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.  Today visitors travel to Bath to see its beautiful Georgian architecture, its exceptional Bath Abbey, and of course the ancient Roman Baths.  While it is certainly a long day, when making a day trip to Bath from London, travelers often stop en route to visit Windsor Castle or Stonehenge.

How do you get there?

If you intend to solely visit Bath, you can take the train from London’s Paddington Station (roughly 90 minutes each way).  If you’d like to combine Bath with Windsor Castle, Stonehenge or Avebury it’s best to sign up for a guided day trip from London.

 

Leavesden – Warner Bros. Studio Tour —The Making of Harry Potter

Harry Potter Studio Tour in London

See the set designs from the Harry Potter films.

Traveling just 20 miles outside London will take you from the land of muggles into the magical world of wizards, Death Eaters, goblins, dementors and dragons.  That’s right.  This is your chance to see the incredible sets used in the Harry Potter films.  Enter the Great Hall, see Ollivanders wand shop on Diagon Alley, Diagon Alley Diagon Alley sip a frothy Butterbeer or ride a broomstick!  (Tip: if you’re embarrassed about how terribly exciting this sounds, you can always pretend you’re going for your child.)

How do you get there?

To travel from London to Leavesden take a combination of public transport options, an inexpensive shuttle bus, or a pre-arranged sightseeing tour.

 

Hampton Court Palace

Palaces in London

Hampton Court Palace, Richmond upon Thames

As river travel was frequent centuries ago in and around London, you can see why so many English kings, queens and aristocrats chose to construct their fabulous palaces along the banks of the River Thames.  Hampton Court Palace is one such place, and history fans cannot err with a visit to this extravagant, historical palace.  There are two main eras associated with the look of the palace.  The first dates back to the 16th century to the Tudor reign of Henry VIII who along with his many wives and head advisor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, called Hampton Court home.  That just wasn’t grand enough for William III and Mary II, who commissioned a baroque palace adjacent to the original Tudor structure.

Entry to the palace also includes access to its scenic environs: 60 acres of beautiful gardens, 750 acres of parkland and a 300-year old, seven-foot-tall maze that spans half a mile!

How do you get there?

Located in the Borough of Richmond, the palace is considered part of Greater London and is easily reached by underground.

 

The Cotswolds

Visiting the Cotswolds

Hidcote Manor Gardens. the Cotswolds

If you’re hoping to capture that postcard image of charming English villages, the Cotswolds are for you.  Why is this area famous?  Because it’s particularly pretty – and rather timeless.  While larger cities like Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford are found along the Cotswolds’ edges, the interior is primarily composed of smaller villages and market towns comprising historic manor homes, crafts shops, cozy pubs, beautiful gardens, stone cottages, antique stores and lovely inns.  The scenery is simply refreshing and a world away from London.  Popular places to visit in the Cotswolds include Cirencester, Chipping Campden, Stow-on-the-Wold, Cheltenham, Burford, Bibury and Broadway.  While it does make for a long day, it’s common to combine a visit to the Cotswolds villages with Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon or Oxford.

How do you get there?

While you can take the train from London to this area of England, once you get there – to fully appreciate the Cotswolds, you need to drive.  If however you prefer to sit back and relax instead of dealing with a rental car, it’s best to sign up for a day tour from London.

 

Canterbury

Day trips from London

Canterbury Cathedral, a World Heritage Site

Our last suggested day trip from London lies 60 miles east in the county of Kent.  While it might not be as popular as some of the other day trips we’ve suggested, it definitely merits a visit.  The city of Canterbury is incredibly historic, and its prize jewel is its cathedral.   As seen in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the city has been a major pilgrimage site since Thomas Becket’s murder took place inside the cathedral over 800 years ago.  In fact Canterbury’s beautiful Christ Church Cathedral along with the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church (the oldest church in England) form a World Heritage Site.  The city is also home to interesting Roman and Norman ruins.  On a day trip, Canterbury is often combined with Leeds Castle and the spectacular White Cliffs of Dover.

How do you get there?

Canterbury is easy to reach from London by train or bus or on a sightseeing tour.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the many possible day trips from London!  If you’d like to learn more about London hotels, London sightseeing, our vacation packages to England, or our current London & Highclere Castle Groupon Deal – please check out our website or give us a call at (800) 227-3235.  If you’re interested in traveling to London with a group, please get in touch with our Group Department.

Happy travels!

 

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Planning a Vacation to France? Find Out Why You Shouldn’t Skip Nice.

It’s bustling – in a good way. 

vacation deals to the French Riviera

Nice's Bay of Angels

We can’t pretend that Nice isn’t already one of France’s hottest tourist destinations.  The largest city on the famed Côte d’Azur – or French Riviera as it’s commonly called in English – has been a superstar since the 19th century.

Europeans flock to its cerulean blue seas in July and August.  Its Carnival  Mardi Gras celebrations (mid-Feb to March) are some of Europe’s greatest, and every May it is filled to the brim with visitors during the Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix car race.     

Its story is multicultural – and glamorous. 

Tourism is nothing new to Nice.  It has a great variety of hotels, including many affordable 3-star and 4-star properties.  Nice’s resort status came to life as a winter vacation destination, beginning with wealthy Brits who came in the late-1700s for the sunny, mild winters. 

Once the railroad arrived, Nice was soon flooded with Parisian aristocrats, Belgian kings, English queens and Russian princesses who traveled to enjoy the splendor of la Belle Époque on the shores of the Mediterranean.

traveling to the French Riviera

Vintage poster of Belle Époque Nice

The weather wasn’t the only reason they came.  By the late 19th century Nice was known as a rich man’s paradise complete with seaside casinos, jaw-dropping scenery, impressive hotels, theaters, mansions and the crème de la crème of European social circles. 

Artists, writers, musicians and wealthy Americans soon followed, and Nice’s reputation as a summer resort took shape.  Jumping forward to today, Nice’s resort tradition has been going strong for over two centuries.   

Things have changed in some respects.  The upper class that once shunned the heat of the Mediterranean sun is now more likely to be lounging on a beach in nearby Cannes, St Tropez or St Jean de Cap Ferrat.  Gamblers are more likely enjoying nearby Monte-Carlo.  So then – what’s left of Nice?  A fabulous, inviting city filled with much to enjoy, eat and visit.

Going back in time, before Nice’s Belle Époque resort days, Nice was actually part of the Italian Kingdom of Sardinia.  It only joined France 155 years ago! 

France's most famous hotels

Hôtel Le Negresco, a symbol of Nice's resort legacy

Nice today exudes this fantastic, multicultural, Italian-French blend. Because of the architecture and color scheme, you could easily mistake Nice’s Old Town (Vieille Ville or Vieux Nice) for an Italian city. 

There is no shortage of Italian restaurants (gnocchi in particular are a delicacy in Nice), and you’ll undoubtedly encounter many Italians visiting from across the border, which is only 25 miles away.

Nice’s Old Town, markets and shopping are amazing.

Nice is an incredibly easy city to navigate.  It has great tram and bus systems.  Much of its center is pedestrianized and contains wonderful parks, fountains and green areas. 

Our favorite place to explore on foot is the city’s Old Town, a lovely labyrinth of ochre-colored medieval buildings, bakeries, cute shops, markets, inviting restaurants, Baroque churches and elegant palaces.

Sightseeing in Nice

Nice's ancient rue Droite

Wandering Nice’s Old Town gives you a bird’s eye view of the city’s Italian past.  Some of its grandest squares look like they came straight out of Turin, the former capital of the House of Savoy – which ruled Nice for centuries.  When exploring Vieux Nice, whose layout hasn’t changed much in almost four centuries, be sure to walk down Rue Droite, the location of the elegant Palais Lascaris.

Another Old Town must-see is the Cathedral of Sainte Réparate, which resides in the enduring Place Rossetti.  From the outside, you could mistake it for any other church.  Its 17th-century interior however is positively dazzling.  A late-addition jewel in Nice’s Old Town is the opera house, which was created in the early 19th century to entertain the city’s posh aristocrats.

Vieux Nice houses several businesses that have stood the test of time.  One in particular, the Patisserie Auer, used to supply England’s Queen Victoria with chocolate goodies when she wintered in Nice. 

traveling to the South of France

Place Rosseti

There is also much shopping to be had in Nice’s Old Town, particularly for antiqueoholics.  The pedestrian Cours Saleya street has served as the city’s main market square for centuries. 

Most mornings it hosts Nice’s famous flower market, but on Mondays it’s the scene of a lively antiques market.  (On Saturdays, try the market in Place Garibaldi or the shops on Rue Catherine Ségurane.)      

Its natural scenery is surreal.

Nice is a magical combo of Mediterranean seas and Alpine foothills.  Its most famous avenue, the Promenade des Anglais (“the English Promenade”), was actually commissioned by 19th-century English vacationers. 

They desired to stroll along Nice’s beachfront and gaze at the Bay of Angels.  It’s a view that’s hard to adequately describe, but we’ll give it a shot. 

 

Traveling to the French Riviera

Sea view in front of Castle Hill

The transparent sea is made up of shades of cerulean blue and deep sapphire.  Just sitting on a bench and gazing at it feels refreshing! 

When sunset arrives, the color palate packs a real punch… pinks and oranges cast against that blue.  It’s hard to believe this pristine of a beach can be found in a major city. 

Today Nice’s seaside promenade continues to be a major draw – for locals and tourists alike.  You’ll see people moseying, running, cycling, rollerblading and walking their dogs along these four miles of heavenly views. 

If you’re up for a swim, make use of the many facilities found along the beaches, some of which are public while others are private.  Many rent lounge chairs, umbrellas and towels. 

best spots on the French Riviera

Nice's Old Port

Even if you don’t want to swim, consider having lunch or a drink at one of the many seaside cafes found along the promenade.    

For a terrific view of the promenade, sea and port, head to Castle Hill.  Interestingly, this is where the story of Nice begins – with Greek colonists who settled the hill almost 2500 years ago.           

Its art scene is fantastic.

Over the years, Nice’s outstanding natural scenery has caused many artists to live or vacation in the area, and today some of the French Riviera’s best art museums are located in Nice. 

If you only pick one, make it the Musée National Marc Chagall. 

Chagall Museum French Riviera

Musée Marc Chagall

The museum houses religious works of the brilliant, Russian, Jewish artist – including both paintings and stained-glass. 

Much of his artwork beautifully depict scenes and characters (like Noah, Joseph, Abraham, Sarah, Moses and Isaac) from the Old Testament Books of Genesis, Exodus and the Song of Songs.  If you’re an art fan, other worthy museums in Nice include the Matisse Museum, the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum, and the Fine Arts Museum. 

French Riviera Museums

Masséna Museum

Lastly, while it’s not an art museum, the seafront Masséna Museum is well worth checking out for anyone interested in Nice’s history. 

The downstairs floor of this seaside mansion is so beautifully decorated, it pulls you straight back to the days of Nice’s Belle-Époque splendor.  Imagine Downton Abbey – at the beach!

It’s ideally situated for day trips.

Nice’s location is perfect for making day trips along France’s Côte d’Azur.  Sightseeing excursions, frequent buses and good train connections make doing so easy and convenient. 

Popular destinations in the interior include the hilltop village of Gourdon, the perfume capital of Grasse and the art-kissed Saint-Paul-de-Vence.  Along the coast to the west of Nice, daytrippers visit the glamorous Riviera towns of Sainte-Maxime, Saint-Tropez, Antibes and Cannes – home to one of the world’s most famous film festivals.  

Cote d'Azur vacation

Villefranche-sur-Mer

The eastern edge of Nice also offers incredible day trip opportunities, which feel more and more Italian-like as you inch eastwards. 

Between Nice and the nearby, high-rolling principality of Monaco (which definitely merits a visit!) visitors can take the three “corniche” (coastal roads with amazing views) to visit resort towns like the very pretty Villefranche-sur-Mer, the affluent Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and the medieval Èze village. 

From Nice it’s also very easy to travel to Italy for the day to visit the markets of San Remo or Ventimiglia. 

Why do we love Nice?  Its authenticity.

Our favorite thing about Nice however is simply this: despite being located on a beautiful, sapphire-colored bay, it’s a normal, living, breathing French city (France’s 5th largest). 

While known for being a former and current resort town, in no way is Nice a tourist trap.  Its Old Town is not solely comprised of souvenir shops peddling Provencal soaps and dishcloths. 

Even in places that would seem like tourist traps – like the medieval Cours Saleya and its Flower Market – you will see locals chatting away in neighborhood cafes and snacking on socca

best places to visit in France

Vintage Nice

Locals actually inhabit the Old Town, and as you meander through its narrow streets you’ll see children playing, friends having drinks, and folks forming long lines to visit their neighborhood butcher. 

We can promise you – Old Towns aren’t like this everywhere in Europe.  It’s one of the many things about Nice that make it so very special.          

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Nice!  Click here to peruse our vacation packages to France, including a “Nice at Its Best” package.  If you like parts of this and parts of that, we can work with you to customize your dream itinerary. 

It goes without saying that Nice is an ideal destination for any romantic occasion like a honeymoon or anniversary, and it can easily be paired with Paris.   

Lastly, if you have a group of friends or family members that would like to travel with you to France, we can customize an affordable itinerary just for your group. 

 

Merci et bon voyage!   

 

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Travel Inspiration from Go-today: Our Best Vacation Spots of 2014!

romantic travel to Italy

A view of Venice's Grand Canal

Looking back, where did you travel in 2014?  Italy?  New Zealand?  Ireland?  Iceland?  With 2015 a mere two weeks away, it’s not a bad idea to start thinking of new vacation ideas for next year.  In doing so, it might be helpful to know what’s trending – which international destinations are wowing Americans?  A year in review: it can lend inspiration to what’s just around the corner!

Read on to discover our 10 Most Popular Vacation Packages of 2014, and if you like these cheap travel deals, keep in mind two important points: No. 1: As “Our Gift to You,” until December 31, 2014 we’re offering $100 off any of our packages for your 2015 vacation.  (Not just the ones you’ll see below. We truly have hundreds.)  No. 2: If you like bits of this – and bits of that – and want to add a night there – and switch this for that, no problem; you can customize any vacation package to your liking over the phone (at no charge) with a go-today reservations expert.  Lastly, should you happen to have a group of friends or family members who want to travel with you, remember that we have an entire Group Department solely dedicated to dreaming up wild and crazy travel ideas for groups.   

The Best of Italy

travel to Italy

Piazza Navona, one of Rome's most famous squares

How could any vacation strike out with time spent in the unforgettable Italian cities of Rome, Florence and Venice?  Truth be told, we don’t know which is more fun – Italy’s monuments, culinary scene and multitude of cultural attractions – or the Italians themselves.  Folks who travel to Italy with our Best of Italy package have ten exciting days to soak up some of this vivacious country’s best offerings.  Looking for vacation ideas in Italy that work well with this package? 

See ancient Rome’s most recognizable monuments like the Colosseum, Forum and the Pantheon.  Eat your way through Rome’s neighborhood trattorie and gelaterie.  (Click here to read about some of our favorite things to do in Rome.)  See Renaissance masterpieces in Florence, the incredibly beautiful capital of Tuscany.  Stroll the banks of the scenic Arno River, make a day trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or check out Florence’s legendary leather markets.  Wrap up your amazing vacation in Venice, a playground for history, art and wine fans – and the perfect place for a dose of romance during your vacation to Italy.  Take a scenic gondola ride through Venice’s canals.  Visit topnotch art museums, palaces and basilicas.  Travel to the nearby islands of Burano and Murano.  Enjoy shopping in some of the Veneto region’s best streets – home to boutiques, top fashion designers and shops selling some of Venice’s best souvenirs: prosecco, carnival masks, Murano glass and lace.

Paris and Rome

travel to Paris, France

Paris' gorgeous Place des Vosges

We don’t mind saying it – this package is beautifully divided between two magnificent, ancient European capitals.  Both are thousands of years old – yet very much alive and bursting with the quotidian hustle of its locals.  Both Paris and Rome are home to superb historical sites, great museums, entertainment venues and (probably our favorite) out-of-this-world food!  Don’t worry – with all the delicious dishes you’ll be eating, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to burn those calories off while wandering in Rome’s Villa Borghese Park and Paris’ Tuileries Garden, through extraordinary squares like Piazza Navona and Place des Vosges, and along the banks of the Seine and Tiber rivers.  Click here to read about Montmartre, one of our favorite neighborhoods in Paris, or here for general sightseeing ideas in Paris.  After getting to know Rome and Paris’ historic centers, day-trippers have incredible options to consider.  Here are several great ideas for day trips:

From Paris: Claude Monet’s Home and Gardens in Giverny, the Palace of Versailles, Champagne tasting in Reims, Normandy and the Landing Day Beaches and the Loire Valley Castles

From Rome: the island of Capri, the ruins of Pompeii, Tivoli and Its Villas, the ruins of Ostia Antica, and the Castelli Romani 

London, Paris and Rome

Travel to London

A view of Big Ben in the United Kingdom's dazzling capital

No doubt about it – Paris and Rome were absolute destination giants this year with go-today travelers, and they both make another appearance in our London, Paris and Rome vacation package.  We’ve already mentioned a fraction of what one can see and do in those two gems, so we’ll focus now on London, the energetic, cosmopolitan and trendy capital of both England and the United Kingdom. 

While London’s weather isn’t its finest attribute – we promise that it really doesn’t matter.  London has an extraordinary variety of indoor attractions (many of which are free – click here for a list).  We’re talking about some of Europe’s best museums, historical palaces, superb restaurants – you’ll find every kind of cuisine under the sun – and an epic theatre district whose only rival is Broadway. Go-today passengers make the trip to London to see a show, to shop, to visit Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition, to cruise the River Thames and to see wonderfully important historical sights like the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.  Popular day-trip destinations from London include Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Bath, Oxford, the oh-so lovely Cotswolds, Canterbury, Cambridge and Highclere Castle (for all you Downton Abbey fans).  

Paris and Barcelona

Travel to Barcelona

One of Barcelona's architectural marvels: Gaudí's Casa Batlló

Another extremely popular Parisian pairing in 2014 was our Paris and Barcelona vacation package.  No matter how odd your interests may be, there’s something for everyone in Barcelona!  So after taking in all that France’s gorgeous “City of Light” has to offer, head south to the Mediterranean seaside city of Barcelona, the laidback capital of Spain’s Catalonia region.  Barcelona is home to generally great weather, a relaxed attitude, city beaches for romantic walks and lazy afternoons, absolutely delicious Catalan cuisine, fantastic museums, great shopping – and the best modernista (Art Nouveau) architecture you can find in Europe.  This Gaudi wonderland beckons tourists year after year who come to see some of this hometown hero’s architectural masterpieces including the Sagrada Familia Basilica, Park Güell, Casa Milà (also known as “la Pedrera”) and Casa Batlló.  Barcelona day-trippers also frequently head west to cava country and to the region’s famed pilgrimage site: Montserrat Abbey.  Last but not least, we consider Barcelona a pretty great, kid-friendly vacation place in Europe.  Click here to read more on that. 

Madrid and Barcelona

travel to Spain

Madrid's magnificent Plaza Mayor

Madrid and Barcelona couldn’t be more different, and we love both of them.  While Barcelona is many things, elegant it is not.  Barcelona is ancient, vibrant, bohemian, relaxed, artistic and “beachy.”  Madrid is sophisticated, classical and elegant. One houses the wild designs of Art Nouveau geniuses – and the other beautiful baroque and rococo palaces, convents and cathedrals.  If you think you’d like to travel to Spain in 2015, our Madrid and Barcelona package offers the best of both worlds – a fabulous taste of Spain’s two largest cities.

We’ve just detailed above some of our favorite things to do in Barcelona.  For art fans, it doesn’t get much better than in Spain’s capital city.  Folks traveling to Madrid should visit at least one of these three iconic European art museums: the Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Prado Museum and the contemporary Reina Sofía Museum.  Other must-sees include seeing one of Spain’s most magnificent squares: Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace and Retiro Park.  Madrid is also an ideal base to make day trips to several of the best places to visit in Spain.  We’re talking about cities like Toledo, Segovia, Ávila and San Lorenzo de El Escorial.  And after a fun, satisfying day of sightseeing, many visitors choose to round the day off with an evening of tapas and flamenco in Madrid. 

Reykjavík and Amsterdam

spa and wellness in Iceland

Iceland's thermal Blue Lagoon. Anyone up for a spa day?

Now we know you might be thinking, Iceland and the Netherlands… what a strange combo.  It made the list?  Why yes it did.  Iceland is a recent darling of European tourism – and deservedly so.  Branded a destination of fire and ice, its scenery is unbeatable.  Relaxing thermal pools, magnificent waterfalls, towering geysers, immense glaciers, volcanoes, a bazillion outdoor activities, Viking archaeological sites and the spectacular, polar light show commonly called the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) – seriously, what’s not to like?!  In fact, it’s not even that cold.  Thanks to the Gulf Stream and an abundance of geothermal energy, Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavík is actually warmer in winter than New York City; their sidewalks are even heated!

Another great aspect to visiting Iceland is that it pairs so conveniently with Northern European cities like London, Oslo and Amsterdam.  Amsterdam is a gem on its own.  Truly.  Don’t be fooled into thinking it is solely home to Red Light activities and “coffeehouses.”  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Bicycle-filled Amsterdam houses remarkably beautiful canals, flower gardens and impressive museums like the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House.  From Amsterdam it’s easy and pleasant to make day trips to Dutch cheese farms, charming towns graced with windmills, and to the legendary Keukenhof Gardens (for all our tulip fans).  If you’re looking for two wonderfully different views while vacationing in Europe, this might be the package for you.

Greek Island Hopper

Travel to Greece

Mykonos remains a favorite island for travelers in Greece.

With 2 nights in the cultural mecca that is Athens along with 6 nights on the magical, postcard-like Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos, it’s no wonder that this vacation package to Greece made our list.  Gosh, how terrible it must be.  Just look at that picture.  It looks like vacationing in Greece is rough indeed.   Who would want to see the ancient Acropolis and then have to sail around the Aegean and deal with these views?  Sign me up.  

Budapest, Vienna and Prague

Travel to Budapest

The Hungarian Parliament Building lines the scenic Danube River in Budapest.

Go-today travelers know that when you plan ahead, it’s amazing how much you can see in just over a week! This fantastic trip is one such example.  Those who travel to Budapest, Vienna and Prague go to enjoy some of Central Europe’s best cultural and historical attractions.  (In fact the historic centers of Prague, Vienna and Budapest are all World Heritage Sites.)  During this unforgettable journey travelers can experience storybook Bohemian castles, Habsburg palaces, renowned museums, river cruises along the Danube, pretty medieval architecture, classical music venues – and amazing pastries!  

Berlin and Munich

Travel to Germany

Bode Museum sits on Berlin's Museum Island.

Germany’s capital city has dramatically evolved in the last 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Today Berlin is affordable, trendy and vibrant.  Its history is extraordinarily rich (hello Kingdom of Prussia!).  Visitors who travel to Berlin have the chance to experience some seriously impressive historical sights like the Berlin Wall Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate and the Sanssouci Palace in nearby Potsdam. 

The second star of this winning package is Munich, the capital of Germany’s southern region of Bavaria.  Munich is a beauty.  It was once the hometown of the powerful Wittelsbach dynasty – and it shows.  Their legacy has left its mark on Munich’s frankly amazing architecture and museums – and on Bavaria’s world-famous castles.      

It’s also worth mentioning that visiting Munich is a cross off the bucket list for beer and car fans, many of whom traveled to Munich with go-today in 2014 to visit local breweries, neighborhood beer gardens, and the highly impressive BMW Museum.  Click here to read about some of Germany’s best beer and wine festivals.  

Amazing Ireland

travel to Ireland

Dunquin Bay, Ireland's breathtaking Dingle Peninsula

Ireland is a country whose best attractions are often natural.  It does have incredible prehistoric and early Christian sites that undoubtedly merit a visit.  However, the star of the show has always been its scenery.  You can’t fully appreciate Ireland without sampling its countryside villages, natural parks and unusual landscapes.  (Why do you think so many travelers want to golf in Ireland?)  This Amazing Ireland package has consistently been a favorite with go-today travelers because it’s ideal for those who want to want to travel to Ireland – with some room for flexibility.  They spend one night in an Irish castle hotel – and four nights in charming bed & breakfast accommodations (with a convenient, open-voucher scheme).  A 6-day rental car (included) allows you to choose which magnificent corners of Ireland you wish to discover.  Many Americans have Irish heritage, and this B&B style trip to Ireland offers travelers a unique, authentically Irish way of experiencing “the Motherland.”  If you decide to add a night or two in Dublin at the beginning or end of your Irish adventure, click here for ideas on what to see in Dublin.

As mentioned, “Our Gift to You” lets you take $100 off your next go-today vacation in 2015.  And that’s per person, so if you’re traveling with someone – you’ll get a combined $200 off.  Dig through our treasure chest of cheap travel deals!  We have over 200 for you to peruse – in over 40 countries.  And remember, travel is important.  It’s rejuvenating.  In fact, we feel as passionately about travel as this gentleman feels about dancing!

Some packages are escorted.  Others are fly & drive.  Sightseeing tours, wine tastings, boat rides, guided museum visits, outlet shopping tours and outdoors activities can be added to a great many of them.  All can be customized online or over the phone at 800-227-3235 with someone from our team – at no charge.  This discounted rate applies now, so for those still struggling with Christmas shopping (you have 7 days left!) consider taking your loved one to Paris, Munich, Athens, London or Venice in 2015.  To receive the $100 off your 2015 vacation package, enter the following promo code: GTGIFT.  The deadline for booking is December 31, 2014.  And be sure to let us know if we’ve missed anywhere amazing that you visited in 2014.  In the spirit of giving, let’s keep spreading great travel ideas around!

The fine print: please note that this promotion is applicable only to packages valued at $1000 per person or more.  It can’t be combined with other promotions – and it’s not valid on group reservations or existing reservations.  All airline-related taxes and fuel surcharges are included.  Prices are per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to change prior to purchase.  Some foreign authorities require fees at arrival or departure that must be collected directly from passengers at the airport.  Airline-imposed baggage fees may apply and may be due at the airport; please consult your airline prior to departure for the latest fees.  Don’t forget to read our Terms & Conditions.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Go-today Team!

 

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