Rick Steves' Family Europe: London to Florence, Day by Day
Our London to Florence family tour delivers a colorful mix of must-see cities (London, Paris, Florence) and stroll-around charms (Burgundy, the Swiss Alps, Italy's Cinque Terre). Along the way, you and your kids will encounter some fascinating bits of art, history, and culture — along with a couple of castles, a boat, a train, a mountain gondola lift, plenty of hiking, and even a swimming pool or two. And on this tour, kids ages 8 through 17 get a $200 discount! Here's a fun sneak peek at what it's like to discover Europe together on a Family Europe: London to Florence in 13 Days tour. Let's go! (photo: Rich Sorensen)
Days 1 & 2: Welcome to London
Our adventure together begins in the great city of London. We'll meet at 3 p.m. for a brief "Welcome to Europe" meeting at our hotel. Your guide will give you a neighborhood orientation walk and practical London transport lesson on the way into the heart of the city. This evening we'll have fun getting to know one another over dinner together.
Our next morning is dedicated to the Tower of London, where we'll learn all about England's oldest and most notorious castle. After some free time to sneak a peek at the Crown Jewels and grab some lunch, we'll hop on board a boat and cruise the Thames to Westminster. It's the perfect spot for your guide to orient you for your free afternoon and evening. Explore the neighborhood: the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, or Buckingham Palace. Or you can walk north past the Churchill War Rooms, 10 Downing Street, and the Horse Guards to Trafalgar Square. (photo: Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli)
Day 3: The Chunnel to Paris
Let's go to France! After breakfast it's all-aboard the sleek Eurostar train to Paris, zooming along at nearly 200 miles per hour beneath the English Channel. In Paris we'll be met by a comfy sightseeing bus for a rolling introduction to this beautiful city. We'll arrive at our Paris hotel, where you'll have time to unpack and relax a bit before our big evening: learning to use the Métro (subway), dinner together on the Left Bank, and an open-air evening cruise along the Seine River — the perfect finish for your first day in the City of Light. (photo: Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli)
Days 4 & 5: The Best of Paris & Burgundy
Today we'll meet up with some locals to learn the perfect Parisian pastime of pétanque and play a few games. Then we'll explore the birthplace of Paris, the Ile de la Cité. We'll take a walking tour tracing the evolution of Paris, from its Roman roots to its medieval splendor, culminating with a visit to the awe-inspiring Notre-Dame Cathedral. Then the rest of the day is free for exploring more of Paris on your own. You could visit a gallery or two filled with amazing art (the Orsay, Orangerie, Rodin, or Pompidou), visit a kid-friendly park (the Tuileries or Luxembourg Gardens), take in the city views (from the Arc du Triomphe, Montmartre hill, or a department-store rooftop) — and maybe top-off tonight with trip up the Eiffel Tower (avoid lines by reserving in advance). Let the kids decide.
Our next morning begins with a visit to the magnificent Louvre Museum. After an orientation we'll set you free to come face-to-face with timeless treasures that include Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, and other great works of art. After lunch on your own in the Louvre's family-friendly food court, we'll meet our driver and bus for the rest of the tour. Then we'll leave city life behind as we head into the French countryside, passing pastures and châteaux en route to our country hotel in the heart of Burgundy. This stately manor home has a swimming pool and a huge lawn, perfect for kids to play outdoor games this evening. For dinner we'll share a buffet of French specialties. (photo: Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli)
Day 6: Building a Medieval Castle
We'll begin today at St. Fargeau's wonderfully French weekly market, a scavenger hunt of Burgundian freshness, perfect for piecing together your picnic lunch. Next is something you'll see nowhere else: the construction site of Guédelon, where a full-size 13th-century castle is being built today — by people in traditional costumes using historically accurate tools — exactly as it would have been 800 years ago. We'll have a guided tour through the site and take part in a hands-on workshop learning how medieval stone cutters worked their magic. You'll have free time to visit the blacksmith, masons, rope-makers — and explore more on your own. We'll return to our "country estate" in the afternoon with time to relax, swim, or play before we regroup for a medieval-themed dinner together. (photo: Steve Smith)
Days 7 & 8: The Heart of the Swiss Alps
This morning we'll board our bus and set a course for Switzerland. For lunch, we'll stop and fan out at a typical town's shopping mall (with several places to eat on your own) to get a taste of un-touristy French life. Today's scenic drive is the perfect time to catch up on your journal, play a game with your bus buddies — and learn a few things from your guide about Swiss chocolate. By late afternoon we'll find ourselves in the Berner Oberland's magnificent Lauterbrunnen Valley, flanked by towering, waterfall-laced cliffs. Tonight we'll share a fondue-tasting and a hearty dinner together — followed by a performance of traditional Swiss music — all at our creaky old chalet nestled in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, where we'll sleep (2 nights). Bus: 8 hrs. Walking: light.
Don't sleep-in the next morning — the Alps await! After a hearty breakfast you may join your guide for an optional mountain excursion that includes a gondola lift and a scenic, 2½-mile hike along the 7,000-foot-high Männlichen ridge. When we reach the nearby village of Kleine Scheidegg, you'll be set free for lunch, with spectacular views of Switzerland's most formidable peaks: the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. From there you can take a cowbell-serenaded hike back down to our hotel — or rest your feet aboard one of the cute local cog-trains that run between the villages. For tonight's dinner, shop at the local grocery store for an evening picnic in the great outdoors. (photo: Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli)
Days 9 & 10: Italy’s Cinque Terre
This morning we'll have an encore performance of the Alps as we make our way across the mountains and dive into Italy. We'll wind our way down through the hills, past pristine lakes and the farms of northern Italy, en route to our Mediterranean getaway. This afternoon's destination is the seaside Cinque Terre town of Monterosso al Mare. During today's trip, you'll get a thorough orientation to tomorrow's fun, free day possibilities. Tonight we'll share a tasty dinner together in this corner of Italy where pesto was invented and the seafood was swimming this morning.
The next day is entirely up to you, and each village along the Cinque Terre is just a few minutes away by train. Pick a village to explore, have a meal or two, and become temporary locals…or burn off some energy and enjoy breathtaking views by hiking along the cliffside paths…or get your views from the sea on a scenic boat ride along the coast, past the fishing-boat harbors and hill-hugging villages…or stay closer to home, hanging out on the beach for swimming and sun. (photo: Rich Sorensen)
Days 11 & 12: Renaissance Florence
Rested and refreshed, today we're ready to take on the impressive art and history of Florence. But first, we'll stop in Pisa for lunch and see if its infamous tower is still leaning. We'll continue to Florence, where we'll say ciao to our bus and driver, drop our bags at our hotel…and hit the ground walking with a local guide on a historical introduction to the highlights of the Renaissance. We'll learn about life in those amazing times, and gaze at Brunelleschi's magnificent cathedral dome and Ghiberti's eerily 3-D Baptistery doors. Our walk ends with a bang at the Accademia Gallery, home to Michelangelo's most famous sculptures: the rough-hewn Prisoners and his greatest masterpiece, David. Your evening is free for dinner on your own.
Your next morning is perfectly free. Sleep in if you like — or get an early start to scramble to the top of that big dome (reserve in advance) or browse through the colorful food and craft markets. After lunch on your own, we'll rendezvous for a guided tour at the Uffizi Gallery to see — and learn the stories behind — the Botticellis, Leonardos, and Raphaels in the greatest collection of Italian paintings anywhere. This evening, we'll gather for a fun, hands-on cooking demonstration. We'll enjoy what we prepared at our final dinner together where we can share our favorite moments and celebrate our friendship. (photo: Rick Steves)
Day 13: Tour Over After Breakfast
Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. It's a breeze to reach Florence's airport by taxi or public transportation. Your guide will help you with any post-tour planning, leaving you well prepared for the road ahead. Grazie e ciao! (photo: Rich Sorensen)
Learn more about Rick Steves' Family Europe: London to Florence in 13 Days tour