Belgium

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Belgium 2018 & 2019

Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Ghent, etc.

 

There is much to see and do in Belgium as there are many interesting and beautiful places to visit. Belgium is also a great destination for themed tours such as a World War I or II. Belgium is also famous for the wonderful chocolate it produces and the many great restaurants. 

Many day tours and multi-day tours are possible in Belgium:

-Antwerp
-Bruges
-Brussels
-Ghent
-Waterloo
-World War I Sites (Ypres)
-World war II Sites (Battle of the Bulge, Ardennes and Bastogne)


Antwerp

A splendid city with numerous architectural highlights, most of which date from the 16th and the 17th century. The past is also represented by the numerous paintings of Peter Paul Rubens who lived in the Antwerp of the early 17th century.  Moreover, Antwerp is the diamond center of the World.

If diamonds really are a girl’s best friends, then a lot of ladies will not leave out a visit to the diamond district around the Railway Station. This area is also the Jewish part of the city. The presence of many ‘Chassidic’ Jewish people gives the city a flair that cannot be found in other Belgian cities.

Walking through the narrow streets of this historic city center, you will form a good idea of how the settlement developed into such a world-famous metropolis. The “Steen” (stone castle), the Vleeshuis (the Butchers Hall) museum, elegant guild houses and legendary heroes combine to tell the history of this captivating city and the people who lived here. The highlight is a visit to the Cathedral of Our Lady.


Bruges

Known as the Venice of the North, because of its peaceful canals, Bruges is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It was a justified motive that prompted UNESCO in 2000 to include the entire historical city center on the World Heritage list. The current city boundaries still coincide exactly with those of the medieval city center, and the spaces and structures that were so typical of Bruges in the past have been preserved. Walking along the maze of winding cobbled alleys and romantic canals, you imagine yourself to be in medieval times. The wealth of museums is a striking image of this city’s stirring history.

Bruges is a splendid medieval city, one of Belgium’s crown jewels and world heritage. In no other European city are the feel and the look of medieval times so present! Here, the town authorities have done their utmost to preserve the medieval-looking image of the city and a stroll through the tiny medieval streets is always an enchanting experience.

Bruges is always beautiful, in the summertime as well as in the wintertime. Your guide will show you the major highlights of this beautiful city: the church of Our Lady with the Statue by Michelangelo; the Market Square with the Belfry, the Town Hall Square (Burg) with the Chapel of the Holy Blood.

The walking tour will include the Lake of Love (Minnewater) and the peaceful Beguines cloister.

During the tour, a guided visit of the Chocolate museum including a private workshop chocolate making and tasting is also possible.

Moreover, Bruges maintains the very highest culinary standards. The city boasts dozens of excellent restaurants, trendy lunch addresses, fun coffee bars and a local population famed for its love of the good life and its high levels of expectation! Bruges is famous for chocolate and lace. On every corner in the city center you will find shops relating to this. Did you know that Bruges has the highest density of chocolate stores in the world?


Brussels

Brussels is the ultimate European city. As the headquarters to the EU (European Union) and NATO it is often referred to as The Capital of Europe. It is an international metropolis – a mosaic of languages, cultures and traditions. Aside from the splendid and varied architectural styles of the city, Brussels also hosts over 80 museums, numerous tourist attractions, a vibrant nightlife, and more restaurants than you could count. Shopping in the distinctive fashion boutiques, lingering over a warm waffle or a beer, people watching from a street cafe, or picking up a unique antique on the Sablon – Brussels is a city you can call your own.

A tour of Brussels tour incorporates all the main sights! The Grand Place, world famous Market Square, in the heart of medieval Brussels with its incomparable City Hall and precious Guild Houses. The Galleries St Hubert, the “Ilôt Sacré”, Cathedral of St Michel, the “Mont des Arts” with all his museums, the Royal district with the Royal Square and Palace, the Sablon district with countless antique dealer shops, the remains of the 12th Century City Wall and last but not least Manneken-Pis.

Extra possibility:

An optional addition to a tour in Brussels is a guided Gourmet Walk!

The guide will take the clients for a Belgian flavors tasting experience! Beer parlors, typical cafés, waffle shops, chocolate making studio, delicatessen, boutiques, and more! Close your eyes, and open your mouth!

With over 800 types, Belgium beers offer such a varied palate of colors, aromas, flavors, presentations and styles that they rival any other beer producing country – ranging from lagers and monastic brown ales to beers flavored with cherries and other fruits or with honey, cumin or Port. Something for everyone! Your guide explains how beer is made, the different families of beer, how Belgium has provided such a wide variety of tastes, how to understand a label and enjoy each type of beer, mingled with anecdotes. Belgian chocolate has been the food of champions, a lure for lovers, the indulgence of the rich and later, the favorite of the masses. Belgium produces 172,000 tons of chocolate per year with more than 2,000 chocolate shops throughout the country. There’s no point in resisting: close your eyes, and open your mouth to the decadence of Belgian chocolate!

Mussels rule the tables along the Belgian coast and all the way to Brussels! They are always served with the famous Belgian fries and mayonnaise! And last but not least we shall treat ourselves to the world famous Belgian waffles. This Gourmet walk will allow you to discover the heart of the old town with cool gourmet stops.


Ghent

Ghent is an unassuming, un-touristy city filled with university students, linger-as-long-as-you-like cafes, well-priced restaurants and exudes vibrant energy. It is the fourth largest city of Belgium with about 250.000 inhabitants. It is half as big as Antwerp and twice as big as Bruges. It is also less well known by tourists than the often-praised Bruges.

Ghent combines stellar medieval and other historic sites with touches of gritty urban reality and the bustling character of a genuine, living city. You’ll get to view some of the best of all these worlds on a stroll through the Old Center. Under the watchful eye of Gravensteen Castle or Castle of the Counts, the city boasts an Opera House, 18 museums, 100 churches and over 400 historical buildings.

The most visited site in Ghent is the famous St-Bavo Cathedral & its beautiful altarpiece,

The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb painted by the brothers Jan and Hubert van Eyck in 1432.

During the guided walk you discover all the most famous sites and monuments of the city, including the Belfry and Cloth Hall, a superb gothic monument with a soaring bell tower that dates from 1425 and the Town Hall, a complex mix of architectural styles. At the Graslei and Korenlei, elegant facades along the waterways reflect different periods in history through a series of elegant gables and styles.


Waterloo

The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, June 18, 1815, near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. A French army under the command of Napoleon was defeated by the armies of the Seventh Coalition, comprising an Anglo-allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington, combined with a Prussian army under the command of Prince Blücher. Upon Napoleon’s return to power in March 1815, many states that had opposed him formed the Seventh Coalition and began to mobilize armies. Two large forces under Wellington and Blücher assembled close to the northeastern border of France. Napoleon chose to attack in the hope of destroying them before they could join in a coordinated invasion of France with other members of the coalition. Waterloo was the decisive engagement of the Waterloo Campaign and Napoleon’s last.

The battlefield is located in the municipalities of Braine-l’Alleud and Lasne. The sites of the battlefield today are dominated by a large monument, the Lion’s Mound. As this mound was constructed from earth taken from the battlefield itself, the contemporary topography of the battlefield near the mound has not been preserved.

The tour will include:

– The brand-new Memorial 1815 Museum.
– The Panorama, a huge round building, which holds the canvas painted by Louis Dumoulin in 1912 to mark the first centenary of the battle.
– The Lion Mound.
– Château d’Hougoumont.
– The actual battlefield.


World War I Sites

Ypres is a Belgium municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. Though Ieper is the Dutch and only official name, the French Ypres is most commonly used in English for its role in World War I, when Belgian maps still named Flemish cities only by their French names. During World War I, Ypres was the centre of intense and sustained battles between German and the Allied forces. During the war, because it was hard to pronounce in English, British troops nicknamed the city “Wipers”. The drive will take you through the Flanders Fields including their Bunkers.

After the war the town was rebuilt using money paid by Germany in reparations, with the main square, including the Cloth Hall and town hall, being rebuilt as close to the original designs as possible (the rest of the rebuilt town is more modern in appearance). The Cloth Hall today is home to in Flanders Fields Museum, dedicated to Ypres’s role in the First World War.

Ypres these days has the title of “city of peace” and maintains a close friendship with another town on which war had a profound impact: Hiroshima.

The imposing Cloth Hall was built in the 13th century and was one of the largest commercial buildings of the middle Ages. The structure, which stands today, is the exact copy of the original medieval building, rebuilt after the war. The belfry that surmounts the hall houses a 49-bell carillon. The whole complex was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999.

The Gothic-style St. Martin’s Cathedral, originally built in 1221, was also completely reconstructed after the war, but now with a higher spire. It houses the tombs of Jansenius, bishop of Ypres.

The Menin Gate Memorial, to the missing in Ypres commemorates those soldiers of the British Commonwealth. The memorial’s location is especially poignant as it lies on the eastward route from the town which allied soldiers would have taken towards the fighting – many never to return. Every evening since 1928 (except for a period during the Second World War when Ypres was occupied by Germany), at precisely eight o’clock, traffic around the imposing arches of the Menin Gate Memorial has been stopped while the last post is sounded beneath the Gate by the local fire brigade. This tribute is given in honor of the memory of British Empire soldiers who fought and died there. The Menin Gate in Ypres records only the soldiers for whom there is no known grave. As graves are identified, the names of those buried in them are removed from the Menin Gate.

There will also be a visit to the Tyne Cot Cemetery. This Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery is the burial ground for the dead of the First World War in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front.
The cemetery grounds were assigned to the United Kingdom, in perpetuity by King Albert I of Belgium in recognition of the sacrifices made by the British Empire in the defense and liberation of Belgium during the war. It is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war.

The cemetery and its surrounding memorial are located outside of Passendale, near Zonnebeke in Belgium. The name “Tyne Cot” is said to come from the Northumberland Fusiliers seeing a resemblance between the German concrete pillboxes, which still stand in the middle of the cemetery, and typical Tynerside workers’ cottages – Tyne Cots.


World War II Sites

The Battle of the Bulge, the massive surprise German offensive near the end of World War II.

Travel along the former front line of the Battle of the Bulge, seeing memorials, monuments and preserved tanks. Visit the Henri Chapelle American Cemetery and the German military cemetery at Recogne. Witness the site of the Malmedy massacre, the stunning Mardasson Memorial to fallen American soldiers and the Bastogne War Museum.

From Brussels, there will be a 90-minute drive by luxurious private car to Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, where almost 8,000 soldiers are laid to rest. The rows of solemn grave markers are a staggering sight.

We continue a short drive to the site of the Malmedy massacre, where 84 American prisoners of war were brutally slain by the SS.

There is leisure time for lunch in the village of La Gleize where you are going to see an abandoned German Tiger II tank. The small village took a pounding during the Battle of the Bulge.

We continue the tour with a 60-minute drive to Recogne German war cemetery, where almost 7,000 soldiers are buried. As you travel through Foy, keep your eyes open for some intact foxholes at the edge of the woods.

After a 15-minute drive we will visit one of the most moving sites of your journey, the Mardasson Memorial near Bastogne. This massive memorial honors the memory of the almost 77,000 American soldiers killed or wounded during the Battle of the Bulge.

Here we will also visit the brand-new Bastogne War Museum.

Located just a stone’s throw from the famous Mardasson Memorial, the Bastogne War Museum represents a new way to remember the past, specifically devoted to the Second World War in Belgium. We are offered a fresh perception in a modern and interactive framework of the causes, events and consequences of World War II through the lens of the Ardennes Counteroffensive – the “Battle of the Bulge”.

The Bastogne War Museum covers the Second World War, from its origins up to autumn 1944, and then focuses on the Battle of the Bulge. Key events of the war and the combatants’ ordeal are reproduced here with the aim of clarifying the broad sweep of its history. The centre provides a very clear picture of how the civilians lived during the occupation, during the battle itself, and afterwards. The many consequences of what was probably one of the most serious battles in world history are very clearly described.

Housed in a brand-new building displaying an adventurous architectural concept, the Bastogne War Museum is located on the former Bastogne Historical Centre site. The original set design of this commemorative centre is the latest in modernity. The new journey through the museum is dotted with flashbacks, genuine multi-sensory, three-dimensional scenes in a completely new format.

You will find yourself in a state of total historical immersion!

Finally, we will make a short city tour of Bastogne including a visit to the preserved Sherman tank and monuments dedicated to two famous American generals, General McAuliffe and General Patton.

This tour will start, from Brussels, at 8am and you will arrive back around 8pm.