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Castle Square, Warsaw, Poland. Niall McIlroy finds tour companies are giving travellers more immersive experiences in Europe's cities.

There are plenty of tried and trusted names with tours of both the traditional favourites such as London and Paris and "newer" destinations such as Sarajevo and St Petersburg.

And now the accent is on spending longer in each city, gaining a sense of place, rather than a blurry glimpse on a whistlestop tour.

WONDERS OF EUROPE

An "immersion" in cities both big and small is how Trafalgar Tours describes its epic 17-day Wonders of Europe.

The city stays are made more intimate by combining experiences with a "local expert" who will take participants around the iconic sights from Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace in London to the Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, a tour of Renaissance art in Florence, and a visit to the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museum in Rome.

There's also plenty of free time to explore on your own with two nights in London, Lucerne, and Rome and three nights in Paris, Venice and Florence.
The Lion of Lucerne commemorates Swiss war dead / Picture: Niall McIlroy

Travel is by luxury air- conditioned coach and, for the channel crossing, the Eurostar, with accommodation in historic hotels such as the Grand Hotel Europe in Lucerne and, in Beaune, the five-star Hostellerie Le Cedre, an elegant French home with gardens, a wine cellar and a Michelin-starred restaurant. Sixteen breakfasts and seven dinners are included on the tour which costs from $5799 per person.

Among a swag of Trafalgar's other new European tours for 2014, the 13-day Balkans and Venice itinerary will get you to a clutch of cities along the Dalmatian coast and further inland as well as the dazzling Queen of the Adriatic, opening up places off the tourist map just 25 years ago.

There are "local expert" tours of Zagreb's upper and lower towns including the cathedral, Archbishop's Palace, St Mark's Church and the opera house, a visit to the war tunnels in Sarajevo, the Palace of Diocletian and the ruins of Jupiter's Temple in Split and a market and town hall tour in Ljubljana.

Other experiences that allow travellers a glimpse of life in the places they visit are lunch at an old mill in Dubrovnik and a visit to see the glassmakers in action at Giudecca Island in the Venetian Lagoon.

Again, there are extended periods in major cities including two nights in Zagreb, Sarajevo and Venice and three nights in Dubrovnik with hotel accommodation, 12 breakfasts, one lunch and five dinners included from $3450 per person.

NORTHERN EXPOSURE

Trafalgar's sister company Insight Vacations is at the top end of the market with transport by luxury coach and accommodation in five- star hotels.

The 18-day Northern Capitals and Russia itinerary has departures between April and September and explores the history and culture of the cities that ring the Baltic Sea.

There are visits to landmarks synonymous with each city such as Tivoli Gardens and the Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, St Petersburg's Hermitage Museum, the Kremlin and the Metro in Moscow, while travellers will also tour lesser known capitals such as Minsk and Vilnius on the trip which is bookended by stays in Berlin and Warsaw.
All Saints church, Minsk.

There are plenty of local dining experiences, travel by luxury train, hydrofoil and ferry (in addition to the coach) and extended stops with three nights in Moscow, and two each in Berlin, Copenhagen, St Petersburg, Vilnius and Warsaw.

The package includes many meals and costs from $5675.

INTERESTING ISLES

Packaged holidays have been Globus' raison d'etre since the 1920s and the company has an extensive itinerary which visits 16 cities in Britain and Ireland in 22 days.

Britain and Ireland in Depth begins and ends in London.

There is a visit to Canterbury Cathedral, a trip by coach to Brighton for a tour of the Royal Pavilion and a stop at Stonehenge en route to Plymouth, where there's time to explore the Cornish countryside.

The tour continues on to the Roman ruins at Bath and into Newport in Wales before a ferry crossing over the Irish Sea to Waterford, Killarney, Limerick, Sligo, Belfast - where there's a tour of the Titanic Museum - and Dublin.

After another sea crossing, this time to Liverpool for a visit to the Beatles Story, the tour heads north through the Lake District to Scotland for stops in Glasgow, Inverness and Edinburgh where travellers will explore the new and old towns and the castle and then back south through York, Stratford- Upon-Avon and finally to London.

There is a host of tours along the way and a chance to taste local favourites such as Cornish pasties, Irish coffee, an Irish pub dinner and pint and Lake District gingerbread.

The package, from $3899, includes 21 breakfasts and 11 dinners, accommodation and free wi-fi on the coach.

MED MOOD

Globus' sister company Cosmos caters for those looking for more affordable coach tours and its 13-day Mediterranean Flavours tour starting from $2079 will allow travellers to explore the cities of Valencia, Barcelona, Marseille, Nice and Venice en route from Madrid to Rome.

The tour is by air-conditioned coach and includes guided sightseeing in Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona and Rome with a canal boat ride in Venice, breakfasts and five dinners and all accommodation.

YOUNG ONES

Contiki's packages are aimed at 18-35 year olds so expect "looser" days and nightlife and entertainment opportunities on itineraries such as the five-day London Explorer.

Travellers get to choose from two hotel options, take an open-top bus tour, attend a West End musical and get around the big city with an Underground and bus pass.

Contiki provides suggested options from shopping on Oxford Street to visiting museums and Buckingham Palace and soaking up the nightlife around Soho, Leicester Square, South Kensington and Chelsea.

The package includes breakfasts and day trips to Bath and Stonehenge and costs from $629 per person.

THE HEART OF EUROPE

Peregrine Adventure's nine-day Heartland of Central Europe tour heads through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary.

It begins in Munich then travels by train to Prague for a night, where travellers will visit the castle and the Jewish Quarter as well as surrounding areas of Bohemia.

In Vienna, there's a walking tour of St Stephens Cathedral, the Hofburg Palace, the Ringstrasse and the State Opera House. After a three-hour train ride, travellers will arrive in Budapest for a bicycle tour of the museums, galleries, parks and bars.

The tour includes eight breakfasts and three dinners and hotel accommodation and costs from $1915.

TEMPO'S TASTES

Tempo Holidays has a number of city packages including a two- night deal for travellers who'd like to explore the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

Taste of Lisbon includes an arrival transfer, two nights with breakfast at the Mercure Lisboa and a half-day Lisbon city tour which explores the Alfama quarter, a riverside drive to Black Horse Square and on the other side of the Tagus stops at Belem Tower and the Monument to the Discoveries.

The tour ends with visits to Jeronimos Monastery and the Royal Coach Museum.

The package costs from $469.

BUNNIK'S SCANDINAVIA

Bunnik's 26-day Scandinavian Discovery tour combines visits to a host of the prettiest cities in northern Europe.

Beginning in Copenhagen where there's a cruise on the Oresund, a visit to Amalienborg Palace and, yes, to the Little Mermaid statue, the tour heads into Norway including to Bergen birthplace of the composer Edvard Grieg, to Oslo and north above the Arctic Circle to the icy city of Tromso where highlights include a cable-car ride.
Bergen is spectacular at night.

After heading through Lapland travellers continue on to Helsinki where there's a tour of a city well known for its architecture before the tour ends in Stockholm where there's sightseeing at some of the Swedish capital's 14 islands.

The package includes international flights, hotel accommodation, transport by coach, ferry, train, boat and plane and $250 tipping and costs from $10,740.

fact file

insightvacations.com and 1300 237 886, globus.com.au, contiki.com or 1300 266 845, peregrineadventures.com or 1300 791 485, tempoholidays.com or 1300 558 987,bunniktours.com.au or 1300 664 170.

Conditions apply and deals are subject to change without notice. Prices are subject to change and availability.