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Archive | Europe Tours

Authentic Travel

The Journey is as important as the Destination…

 … And the authentic experiences you’ll have along the way with Treasures of Europe will define your trip!  

If someone referred you to us, or if you’ve gone to the effort to find us on your own, we suspect you’re the type of person who wants an authentic travel experience instead of a canned one.

If so, our approach offers you the ingredients that matter most: Experiences, Encounters and Personal Connections.  We’re known for going incredible lengths to find the right ingredients for our trips to Europe.  They’re unique to our brand of travel…

… We’ll ravish our rolodex and spend days tracking down a special antiques dealer on a farmstead in the lowlands of southeastern Bohemia, or a private collector in remote Saxony.

… We’ll finagle a special after-hours get-together with an up-and-coming garage winemaker or a private tasting with a vintner whose family has been making wine for three centuries.

… We’ll plot our route very carefully to make sure you don’t miss Europe’s best flea market, and we’ll get you up early to shop one of the choicest antiques markets on the continent, which is held only once a year.

… We’ll go beyond the usual stable of guides and engage an expert local art historian for an insider’s look at the architecture and history of Prague.

… We’ll broaden the itinerary with a side trip to scope out medieval Jewish Speyer, to take in a Bach Cantata, meet a human rights activist, or engage a local monk to tell us about monastery life.

… We’ll ferret out one of Black Forest’s best traditional home cooks and set up a private visit so you can see her garden, hear her secrets and enjoy a locavore feast on her farm.

…We’ll track down the butcher who was voted “Bratwurst King of Franconia” and set up a private tasting.

These are just a few of the kinds of authentic experiences you’ll have on the road with us.  You won’t just be “seeing Europe,” you’ll be living it. You’ll connect with the culture, history, art and present-day life of the region.  You’ll have vibrant, genuine encounters with real people.  And you’ll experience the spirit, tastes, smells and textures of that make Europe so fascinating, and a travel experience like ours so invigorating.

Germany’s Pinot Trail

Eight nights, nine days, seminar and Pinot tasting with David Schildknecht, private driver, hand-picked hotels — estate visits, private tastings, food moments and cultural highlights included.

Enchanted Christmas Markets Tour

Enchanted Christmas Markets Tour

December 1-9, 2013

Experience the magic of Christmas with all your senses on this special fully-guided tour…

Includes the breathtaking Lichtelfest (Festival of Lights) and folk choral groups in the Saxon Highlands, shopping at the Dresden Striezelmarkt and other choice Christmas markets, private tour of historic creches, traditional family-based craft workshops on Germany’s Toy Route, glimpse of a remarkable private collection of Christmas antiques and toys, an insider’s look at a Christmas Stollen bakery, behind-the-scenes visit to a glassblower’s cottage, Dresden’s spectacular Frauenkirche and the Imperial Cathedral in Bamberg, a chance to see the famed Green Vault, concert in the Kreuzkirche and other special music of the season, plus many other surprises…

Join this marvelous Christmas getaway to the imperial cities of Bamberg and Dresden plus Lauscha, Seiffen, Schneeberg, the Ore Mountains and the back roads of secret Saxony. Reserve Now!

A Christmas Adventure Like No Other

Enjoy the splendors of traditional Christmas markets in Dresden, Schneeberg, Seiffen and the UNESCO world heritage city Bamberg in northern Bavaria.

  • · Shop for traditional Christmas decorations, toys, collectibles and antiques, linens, folk art and other treasures
  • · Meet local toymakers and get a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of their craft and traditions.
  • · Visit a family of glassblowers at home and look over their shoulder as they make and decorate historical glass Kugel ornaments.
  • · Meet one of Germany’s top authorities on Christmas antiques from the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountain region), visit his workshop and see his collection.
  • · Visit the Imperial Cathedral and crypt where Kaiser Heinrich II is buried; tour Dresden and other cities and see the world famous Frauenkirche.
  • · Sample the beauties of historical nativity scenes on a special guided crèche tour led by a local specialist.
  • · Scour Christmas markets, shops and specialty stores for one-of-a-kind decorations, Christmas collectibles and traditional crafts.
  • · Enjoy the music of the season
  • · Sample gourmet treats of the season — roast goose, Christmas Stollen cake, authentic gingerbread, hot-mulled wine, Christmas beers and other specialties…

What Sets Our Tours Apart?

The small-group difference Our tour will help you explore and experience the delights of Christmastime in Germany with the kind of depth that is impossible in a conventional sightseeing tour. We design our trips especially for small groups and we’re experienced at what we do.

With only 10-20 guests, we can include the kinds of encounters, extras and special touches that make a trip truly memorable. We are able to move flexibly and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

Insider access We’ll show you the highlights and help you explore the nooks and crannies that you would never find if you were traveling on your own or in a large tour group.

You won’t just see the showrooms – you’ll visit the actual workshops, meet the artisans and hear them explain their work. You won’t just visit the big cities. You’ll see the nooks-and-crannies too.

You’ll delve into history and local culture, enjoy spontaneous encounters with people along the way and see a huge and varied selection of Christmas collectibles and hand-made treasures.

We have years experience importing antiques and traditional Christmas crafts and decorations, and have a network of fascinating sources and unusual venues.

Competence, insight and excellent service every step of the way Your tour is fully escorted from beginning to end. Unlike many other tour companies, we create, operate and lead our

own trips. This means that we are not a “pass through” — we don’t farm the tour out to a local travel agency, which may or may not have your best interests at heart. Philadelphia-based company owner and tour director Tom Conrad is bilingual, with family connections and extensive business and travel experience in Germany and other parts of Europe. Having one tour director rather than a succession of individual stringers insures continuity, quality and excellent service throughout the trip.

Travel Now and Save

Join us in celebrating the rebound of the dollar! The greenback has bounced back over the past few months. It’s a great time to travel in Europe – your dollar will go far. You’ll also enjoy low shoulder season airfares.


Central and northern Franconia (northern Bavaria), Saxony, the Dresden area, the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountain region), Central Thuringia.


Bamberg, Lauscha, Steinach, Rodewisch, Seiffen, Olbernhau, Dresden, Schneeberg and others.

Itinerary — Overview

Day 1 Frankfurt, Bamberg

Day 2 Bamberg

Day 3 Steinach, Neustadt, Plauen area

Day 4 Rodewisch, Schneeberg, Olbernhau

Day 5 Seiffen, Olbernhau

Day 6 Dresden

Day 7 Dresden

Day 8 Dresden, Frankurt area

Day 9 Return from Frankfurt

Itinerary — Description

The tour begins and end in Frankfurt. Round-trip air to Frankfurt is available at a discount rate through Heart of Europe Tours. You are also free to make your own reservations.

On the first day, we will pick you up at the airport and start the tour, driving eastward through northern Bavaria to Bamberg, one of Germany’s great Medieval jewels. After checking in at our hotel (a historical inn in the old town), we will visit the Bamberg Christmas market and local shops.

For the following day, we’ve planned a private guided tour of the old town under the leadership of a local art historian. It will include a visit to the imperial Cathedral and a special crèche tour. There will also be an option to visit a local brewery.

On the third day of the trip, we’ll veer off the beaten track into northern Franconia and the tip of Thuringia to travel along Germany’s Toy Route and visit family-owned companies that produce composition crèche figures Christmas and Halloween decorations (Steinach and Neustadt bei Coburg). We will wend our way to the remote village of Lauscha, home of the traditional blown glass Christmas tree ornaments and visit a local glassblowing family.

The next day after a stop near Chemnitz to see Eckhard Holler, a top authority on wooden toys and ornaments, we will visit a private dealer in antique linens and have an opportunity to buy from her. The following day’s highlight is the Festival of Lights (Lichtelfest) in the remote town of Schneeberg, which includes traditional instrumental music and folk choral groups.

The following day, we will visit nearby Seiffen, home of traditional wooden toys and hand-crafted ornaments. The day will include a tour of the local museum and visits to the workshops of families in the area who have been manufacturing traditional ornaments and toys for decades. There will be time for Kaffee und Kuchen at a local café.

From the Ore Mountain region, we will travel northward to Dresden, which boasts Germany’s oldest Christmas market and the best Stollen

(Christmas cake) in the country. We will enjoy a visit to the Christmas market and tour. There will also be optional visits to the Green Vault and other cultural attractions, including the Museum of Decorative Arts and Crafts, and do other shopping. A special treat in Dresden is the historical Christmas market in the castle mews.

After returning to the Frankfurt area, on the last day, we’ll enjoy a final breakfast together and make our way to the airport for the return flight home.

What Will I See on the Christmas Trail?

Christmas in Germany is a feast for all the senses. Our carefully thought-out itinerary gives you access and a whole range of treasures – the best in folk

You’ll see blown glass ornaments, linens, antiques, hand-carved wooden toys and Christmas figures, Belsnickels, paper mache crèche figures, hand-made Christmas trees, feather trees, Christmas pyramids, smokers, nutcrackers, prune figures, Noah’s arks,

Glassware, crystal, straw ornaments, pottery, Christmas stars, Schwibbögen, incense, traditional candles, Christmas tree candle holders, Meissen and Dresden figures, pewter, dishware, traditional Bunzlau/ Silesian pottery, special Plauen lace, textiles, housewares, wind-up toys, toys soldiers, tree toppers and much, much more.


$2,999 double occupancy, including airport transfers, guide, hotels and ground transportation.


Reservations at discounted rates are available through us. You are also free to use your favorite agent or book online.


We feature distinctive, comfortable, hand-picked hotels, including family-owned inns. Our accommodations provide the best combination of service, value, comfort and quality. All rooms include private bath. Many have internet access.

Balance, Pace and Flexibility

We strive for an optimal blend of activity and down-time, focus and relaxation. We’ll help you keep a pace that works best for you.

Do you want to cut your visit to the Christmas market short and adjourn to a café to people-watch? That’s fine. Would you prefer to skip the morning tour and linger over breakfast? Want to take a pass on the evening concert? That’s OK. It won’t always be possible to opt out, but we’ll do our best to accommodate you whenever possible.

What’s Included

  • · 8 nights/9 days
  • · Orientation materials and pre-trip planning help
  • · Airport transfers on the first and last day of the tour
  • · Welcome dinner
  • · Full itinerary, including visits, workshops, Christmas markets and guided tours as described above
  • · Delectable Christmas decorations, collectibles, crafts, toys, folk items, art and other treasures
  • · Hotel accommodations for 8 nights
  • · Breakfast each day at the hotel
  • · Ground travel in a comfortable minibus throughout the trip; private driver
  • · Services of your tour director, help with translations and technical support during the Local taxes, parking, road-use fees, national taxes

Hotel accommodations are based on double occupancy. Single rooms are available for a modest supplement. Would you like to share a double room with someone else? Let us know if you’re interested and we will try to find a simpatico fellow traveler.

Gourmet Delights

Savoring the pleasures of the table is one of the best ways to experience local culture. At the markets, you’ll enjoy hot mulled wine, spiced cider, Christmas cookies, cakes and chestnuts.

Regional specialties include game, trout and carp. Soljanka is a favorite soup in eastern Germany. Germany has hundreds of kinds of bread, so try as many as you can and wait until you get home to diet. Franconian and Thuringian Bratwurst (fried sausage) is a special treat. Schnitzel and chanterelles are other favorites. Light fare, including cheese, salads, light soups and egg dishes abound. Enjoy Franconian wines and the beer. Christmas specialties include Stollen, goose, Baumkuchen, Springerle cookies, Eierschecke and gingerbread.

No Better Way to Get in the Christmas Spirit…

Authentic Encounters An extensive itinerary with workshop visits, meetings with artisan families and excursions to local markets…

Wonderful Learning Opportunities On-the-spot presentations by art historians, guides and local specialists. You’ll enjoy hearing them talk about their area of specialty and have a chance to ask questions…

Great Opportunities for Collectors See an immense variety of Christmas collectibles, toys and related items – putz figures, ephemera, crèche scenes, tree ornaments, Santa figures, candy containers and about anything else you can imagine…

Excellent Christmas Shopping and Great Bargains One-stop shopping for Christmas gifts and new items – great handcrafts, decorations, glass, pottery, clothing, delicacies and other treasures…

Distinctive Accommodations Comfortable inns and hotels that will make the trip fun and memorable…

Flexible Itinerary and Individual Choices The tour offers an optimal mix of group activities and time on your own to explore, rest, ‘people watch’ or see other cultural or historical attractions…

About Us…

Heart of Europe Tours offers customized, value-priced boutique tours and antiquing expeditions for small groups and individuals. Our guests include adventurers looking for a different kind of travel experience, lifelong learners, collectors, art and antique buffs and bargain-hunters from across North America, Australia, the U.K. and around the world.

Our expeditions provide unfiltered access and personal touches. You’ll not only see the highlights, you’ll also explore the nooks and crannies most outsiders rarely see. We have been featured in Country Living magazine, Australian House & Garden, the trade press, USA Today and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Heart of Europe Tours “offers guided shopping forays to Europe for adventurous antiquers who prefer to explore the roads less traveled,” as Country Living noted in November 2007.

The company’s owner was dubbed the “Antiques Road Pro” by The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2006.