Experience

The Netherlands & Belgium: History, Culture and Canals

The Netherlands and Belgium are a match made in heaven. Experience eight nights delving deep into the history, art and gastronomy of these two culture-rich destinations as you unveil the compelling moments of WWII in Ardennes with a war historian, immerse yourself within timeless European art with a passionate curator in Amsterdam and sample the sweeter things in life with world-class chocolatiers in Brussels. Peppered with the best luxury hotels the region has to offer and a host of other local delights, this trip reaches far beyond your standard city break.

The history and artistry of Amsterdam

Your adventure begins in the pulsating hub of sophisticated liberals and daring creatives – Amsterdam. For three nights you’ll be staying at Hotel Pulitzer with its alluring labyrinth of Golden Age canal houses. Drop your bags and board a private salon boat, smoothly cruising down the 17th century waterways and soaking up the quaint surroundings with a glass of champagne in hand.

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With the scene set, tomorrow’s private walking tour will be led by an expert historian as you discover the architectural and cultural sights of Amsterdam’s old city centre and waterfront, including Dam Square, Royal Palace and the Begijnhof. Take a trip to the picturesque Jordaan neighbourhood, brimming with merchant houses and floating flower markets, then delve into the hidden realms of the Dutch art scene. We can then arrange for an art curator to guide you through the works of timeless artists at the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum, whose vast collection reflects over 800 years of history.

Your final day in Amsterdam will be spent with a scenic bicycle ride across to Noordelijk. Here, you’ll discover hidden eateries and artist cooperatives within the converted shipyards before enjoying an afternoon at leisure back in the city.

Across the border to Antwerp

It’s time to say vaarwel to Amsterdam as you venture onwards to the charming city of Delft for a lesson in Dutch history. With your expert guide, you’ll have an in-depth tour around Museum Prinsenhof Delft and the last remaining 17th century pottery factory, Delft Blue. From there, we’ll whisk you across to The Hague, where you can tuck into a beachfront lunch before setting off on a private walking tour. Explore the expansive collection of Golden Age paintings at Mauritshuis, including a behind-the-scenes access to the astounding illusion of Panorama Mesdag before hopping across the border into Belgium.

Your next destination is Antwerp, checking in for two nights at the sleek urban retreat, Hotel Julien. Uncover Antwerp’s vibrant past, present and future on a morning walking tour through the historical city centre, stopping at the Cathedral, City Hall and Steen Castle, then transporting forward in time to the avant-garde Eilandje neighbourhood. Here, you’ll explore the MAS museum, and Rubens House, the former home and studio of the most influential artist of the Flemish Baroque tradition. After lunch, trade in your walking shoes for a bicycle as you spend the afternoon cycling through Antwerp, experiencing both the old and the modern ports and exploring the remains of the old villages that were once here. Tomorrow morning, your journey continues onwards to Bruges.

Cycling and Canals in Bruges

The picturesque buildings and canals of Bruges are simply unmissable. Medieval Flanders comes alive as you wander by foot along the ring of canals in the ‘Venice of the North’. With your guide tailoring your day to your interests, together, you’ll meander through the narrow streets, fairytale houses and across green parks, visiting the Beguinage and Minnewater, the Burg, City Hall and the old nunnery. Feeling brave? Then tackle the 366 stairs to the top of the Belfry to witness the sprawling vistas over Market Square and beyond. In the afternoon, your guide will then whisk you out into the Belgian countryside for a scenic bike ride through the village of Damme before returning to the city for a relaxing evening by the water’s edge at the grand neoclassical mansion, Hotel Van Cleef.

Cocoa and culture in Brussels

Belgium’s booming capital city is your final stop of the trip. Catch your first glimpse of Brussels’s cosmopolitan centre as you pass by the monumental highlights of the Atomium, the Royal Palace of Laken and Parc du Cinquantenaire. Superbly set next to the Grand Place, your final two nights will be spent at the impressive Hotel Amigo. Discover downtown Brussels with a privately guided afternoon walking tour, peeling back its layers of history at the Old Market, Central Station and Gallery, Manneken Pis and more. And what would Brussels be without its chocolatiers? Tantalize your taste buds as you taste your way through our hand-selected choice of confectionery stores, sampling the best that Brussels has to offer. If you fancy taking your experience to the next level, we can even arrange a private workshop with a master chocolatier.

Drawing deeper into world history, tomorrow you’ll meet with a WWII expert who will take you on a journey through the Battle of the Bulge. During this stirring day trip out to the Ardennes, you’ll visit the trenches, bunkers and Bastogne’s war museum, stopping by the Mardasson Memorial for a moment’s reflection. Learn of the challenges faced and the strategic US interventions deployed to slow down the German Offensive during this hauntingly remarkable period that altered the world as we know it.

With gastronomy at the heart of Belgian culture, round up your time away with a final meal at one of our favourite restaurants in Brussels as your trip comes to a delicious close.