When you visit Belgium with, you’ll discover a place that’s more than just a stop in your travel between France and Holland. Belgium is known for its troubled history, its excellence in art and athletics, its friendly people and – oh, yes – sumptuous beer and decadent chocolate.
Belgium is a small and beautiful country in northwestern Europe and offers many places of interest for every tourist. There are many interesting architectural buildings, monuments, museums to visit and nature lovers can enjoy their time in the beautiful parks, on the beach or even in the hilly Ardennes.
The Grand Place, with its ornate baroque and gothic guild houses, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Built as a merchants market in the 13th century, it serves as the city center and a great place to enjoy Belgian hospitality at one of the many terrace cafes. It is also a venue for many concerts & events throughout the year and during the warmer months has a vibrant, daily flower market.
The first building you notice upon entering the Grand Place is the striking gothic town hall, which dates back to the 13th century. Its beautiful facade features the famous needle-like crooked spire which is 315 feet in height and is topped by the archangel St. Michael. Tours are available of the interior, which contains 15th century tapestries and works of art.
An impossibly picturesque little neighborhood, the Grund is deep down in the gorge, and some of the stone houses are built directly into the rock faces. Highlights include a fifteenth-century bridge, ancient stone fortifications, terraced gardens and vineyards, a satisfying assortment of pubs and restaurants, a miniature golf course and a miniature train (for miniature passengers), and acres upon acres of parkland.
Your discovery of Holland features a morning sightseeing tour of the capital with a Local Guide. Enjoy a CANAL CRUISE past gabled merchant houses, arched drawbridges reminiscent of the Golden Age, and the strikingly modern buildings of a young-at-heart city. Next, visit the fabulous RIJKSMUSEUM with priceless paintings by Rembrandt and other Dutch masters. Then, time to explore Dam Square and the city center on your own, or join your Tour Director for a visit to a major DIAMOND CENTER to appreciate how a rough mineral is transformed into a sparkling jewel. Afternoon at leisure. An optional excursion to a cheese farm, a clog maker, a working windmill, and dinner in the fishing village of Volendam at the former Zuiderzee is available. (B)
Excursion to Aalsmeer, Delft, The Hague & Keukenhof. Start with an early highlight visit to the impressive [LF] AALSMEER FLOWER AUCTION, where more than 17 million flowers and two million plants are sold each day. Next, continue to the world-renowned ROYAL DELFT POTTERY FACTORY with its magnificent collection of hand-painted earthenware pieces, and see skilled craftsmen at work.
Drive south to Maastricht, where the famous treaty for a stronger unified Europe was signed, the set-up of today’s European Union. Time to stroll around this delightful city, and to maybe have lunch like the locals at one of the quaint cafés flanking Vrijthof Square. Cross the Belgium border and stop in Bastogne at the AMERICAN MEMORIAL of the Battle of the Bulge, where thousands of soldiers and civilians died during the winter of 1944-1945. Late-afternoon arrival in Luxembourg, the capital of one of Europe’s smallest sovereign states. (B,D)
Morning sightseeing with your Local Guide covers the city’s past and present, from the fortifications and the Old Town, perched high atop a sandstone outcrop with striking views of the Alzette and Pétrusse Gorges, to the modern administrative center of European institutions. Visit the CATHEDRAL OF OUR LADY, see the turreted Grand Ducal Palace, take a stroll along the panoramic cliff path known as “the most beautiful balcony in Europe,” and see the GRAVE OF GENERAL PATTON. An optional excursion to Trier in Germany can be arranged. (B).
A highlight visit today: drive through the Belgian Ardennes to Flanders and arrive in WATERLOO, where Napoleon was defeated and European history changed course. Your Lion Hamlet Pass gives you access to the Visitor’s Center, where the Lion Mound, the films, and the Panorama help you relive the famous Battle of Waterloo. [LF] Arrive in Brussels, the thriving capital, where your orientation features the Rue Royale, the Parliament Buildings, the Royal Palace, and Saint Michel Cathedral. Continue on foot and enter GRAND’PLACE to admire its baroque guild houses and the gothic Town Hall. You cannot leave Brussels without touching the statue of Everard “t Serclaes, a 14th-century hero, for good luck, and taking pictures of the tiny but world-famous statue of Manneken Pis. (B,L)
Excursion to Bruges. Focus on Bruges, one of Western Europe’s most perfectly preserved medieval towns. [LF] A CANAL CRUISE (weather permitting), during which you can try Belgian chocolate BONBONS, will give you a first taste of this delightful town. The Local Guide will show you the Madonna of Bruges by Michelangelo in the CHURCH OF OUR LADY and the famous MARKET SQUARE. Also enjoy [LF] a traditional LACE DEMONSTRATION, a reminder of Bruges’ history of cloth-making. Time for souvenir hunting and exploring on your own before returning to Brussels. (B)
This morning is your chance to join a half-day optional excursion to Antwerp, the second-largest Belgian city and one of the world’s most important ancient seaports.
Brussels. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning
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