03 June 2023

ACE Cultural Tours 2023-4. Music, art, architecture, history

I am presenting this story of cultural tourism in response to peoples’ views about the world’s most beautiful cities. Where should people travel? Should they hire guides to help them with unknown cities and foreign languages? Should they select cities with cult­ures very much like their own, or branch out to very different cul­tures?     

Acropolis, Athens

Thank you to ACE Cultural Tours.  Since 1958, ACE Tours have uncovered cultural connections across subject ar­eas includ­ing art, architecture, arch­aeology, his­tory, music, re­g­ional culture and natural history. Ra­ther than exc­l­usively foc­us­ing on an isol­at­ed history, artistic site or hist­orical event, the trips provide setting within a wider cult­ural landscape.

Tour Directors illustrate their themes with for­mal lectures & on-site talks. The extra guides include  conservationists, curat­ors, journalists and broadcasters, their expertise and local knowledge enabling participants to enjoy special ac­c­ess visits, from exclus­ive recitals to tours of private houses and gardens; no prior skill is needed. Travellers who share a curiosity for cultural subjects welcome the small groups in which they learn together.

Douro River, Portugal

Bach concert, Leipzig
From ancient, medieval times and modern history, important hi­s­t­orical eras come alive when studying the events and material re­minders of the past. Some tours focus on specific per­iods, wh­ilst others offer a broad overview of a dest­in­at­ion and its cultural signif­ic­ance in history. Us­ing arch­aeological remains, works of art or architectural treas­ures as guides, ACE tours al­so off­ers the opp­ortunity to reflect on interpret­ations of hist­ory with Tour Dir­ectors

Given my partner is Czech, let me select just one example of a city I know quite well: the Vltava River Cruise, in both 2023 and 2024. Note the focus on cultural tour­­ism. After voyages along the Seine, Rhône & Danube, this trip presents a new cultural cruise based on the Vltava River. Pro­gress around the Czech capital of Prague pro­vide enlightening glimpses into the country’s history, art, architecture and classical music, cruising in the ench­ant­ing landscape of Central Bohemia.

Konopiště Castle, Czech Republic

Silk road, Uzbekistan

Grand Canal, Venice

Begin by journeying south to the market town of Štěchovice before making an excursion to one of the country’s most important histor­ical sites. Established in the late C13th and frequently remodelled by its ambitious aristocratic owners, Konopiště Castle evokes a sen­­se of romance and luxury with French-inspired gateways, soar­ing tow­ers and rose gardens. Yet the castle’s opulent interiors have seen much more recent history: the castle was the final residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who repaired in the 1890s and filled it with his extensive art collections.

Returning to Prague through the stunning landscape around Slapy and Štěchovice, disembark for special visits in the Czech cap­ital. Pay homage to one of the city’s most famous musical conn­ections, the op­eras of W A Mozart, by visiting the Estates Theatre, site of the premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787 and the only living theatre where Mozart performed. Then visit the city’s castle dist­rict, home to St Vitus Cathedral, one of the most important Gothic cathedrals in Europe and the largest church in the Czech Republic.

In the evening, attend a performance at the Estates Theatre of Mo­z­art's opera Le nozze di Figaro. A co-production with the National-theater Mannheim, this new adaptation is staged by Czech director Barbora Horáková Joly and conducted by renowned British conductor Julia Jones. The production stars bass-baritone Lukáš Bařák, solo­ist at the Opera of the National Theatre in Prague.

The final stage of the cruise goes north to the picturesque town of Mělník where the Vltava and Elbe meet; then visit sites including Litoměřice. Situated on the confluence of the Elbe and Ohře in a great wine landscape, the town has a characterful centre of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings including fine church­es. It is home to the North Bohemian Gallery of Fine Arts which houses a sp­ecial collection of mainly Czech works (med­ieval to modern) beh­ind its Baroque facade.

Group members explore, through lectures and re­citals given by expert on-board musicologist Paul Jackson, the music of well-known composers associated with Prague and its surr­ounds, incl­ud­ing Dvořák, Smetana, Janáček, Mahler and Mozart. Paul is the Head of Music and Performing Arts, and Director of Music at Anglia Ruskin Uni Cambridge.

Art and architect­ure specialist Tom Abbott is the guide at se­veral sites, providing the background for the historical and art­ treas­ures. Tom is an art and architectural hist­orian with the Foun­dation of Prussian Palaces and Gardens, and a resident of Berlin.

State Opera, Vienna

Other ACE Cultural destinations in 2023 & 2024 include Algeria, Aus­tria, Belgium, Cyprus, Egypt, Germany. Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malta, Net­herlands, Pol­and, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, South Ko­r­ea, Spain, Sweden, Swit­zerland, Turkey, UK, USA, Uzbekistan. Most trips lasts for under a week. I would like stays of 7 days, but at least Germany, Italy, UK, France and Greece have plenty of destination choices each year.


roentare said...

Cultural tourism in a foreign country is always appealing to me. However, I will always get a personal guide with a limousine.

Train Man said...

Wife and I easily found the beautiful castles and churches in Prague, but not the well known composers associated with the city. Our loss.

jabblog said...

ACE takes the hard planning out of travelling.

Hels said...


I think you have sorted it out perfectly :) If your budget can cover a private car hire and a private guide, you and the guide can design a tour to exactly meet your desires and the guide's expertise.

Hels said...

Train Man

That is the joy of organised cultural tours, as opposed to landing in the country's centre airport and crossing your fingers about where to go. For example, if you love music and performing arts, and never want to see a medieval church/synagogue/mosque for the rest of your life, choose a tour that meets most of your needs. There are tons of choices.

Hels said...


I forgot to mention the effort that needs to be expended in tour planning, before you leave home. But most of the people approaching retirement or already retired would agree with you totally.

Even for experienced travellers, reading the hundreds of ACE cultural tours suggests they know what cultural tourists love and how to achieve it.

DUTA said...

My priority is to tour the city and visit its main attractions. No time for putting myself in a concert/theater hall for several hours to 'absorb' some specific culture; this would demand a special visit, if at all.
Prague, by the way, is a wonderful city!

hels said...

that was always spouse's and my plan for the first 35 years of travelling also. Now I want more detailed history, more performing arts, more literature, hidden architecture and family connections.

I had never been to Prague or Budapest until I married a Czech but my mother in law was correct - beautiful cities.

Rachel Phillips said...

I have experience of tours with guides and I highly recommend them. I have also hired local guides myself and recommend that way too. Guides are not nearly so expensive as some people seem to imagine.

Hels said...


Here is a story you will appreciate :) My beloved, travelling without me one year, wasn't sure that a cultural tour with a guide would be a good idea. But he had never been to the northern part of the Northern Territory, so this was a first - Darwin, Pine Creek, Katherine, Victoria River, Kunanarra and into the north of WA. The guide was amazing, and the other people in the group were great company. They still see each other socially now, long after the tour ended.

Rachel Phillips said...

I can identify with this, yes! I am still in touch with people I have met on group tours too.

Checkfront said...


I was looking at why a guide is valuable.

Tour guides represent the destination. Checkfront said chances are the guests will meet other locals during their trip who can offer a glimpse into the community. But mostly tour guides give the best insight because of the lengthy interaction and in-depth conversation they offer. Essentially tour guides act as the welcoming committee. By being culturally sensitive, they demonstrate a hospitable attitude on behalf of the destinations, influencing a guest’s overall perception of the people and places.

I would add "especially in a language we don't understand".