- Observe the changing architecture of Belgium's castles throughout history
- Discover medieval defenses and torture devices at Gravensteen Castle in Ghent
- Visit a monastery to try Trappist beers brewed by Scourmont Abbey's monks
- Enjoy the many masterfully landscaped gardens of Belgian castles and châteaux
- Tour the Royal Palace, the working residence of Belgium's present-day king
|Day 1||Arrive in Brussels, Transfer to Antwerp, Walking Tour of Antwerp||Antwerp|
|Day 2||Transfer to Ghent via Bornem Castle or Wissekerke Castle, Scenic Boat Tour||Ghent|
|Day 3||Tour Gravensteen Castle in Ghent||Ghent|
|Day 4||Transfer to Chimay, Visit Château de Beloeil & Scourmont Abbey||Chimay|
|Day 5||Visit Château de Chimay, Transfer to Dinant||Dinant|
|Day 6||Explore the Citadel of Dinant, Enjoy Free Time to Explore||Dinant|
|Day 7||Castle Sightseeing Day Trip from Dinant||Dinant|
|Day 8||Explore the Citadel of Dinant, Enjoy Free Time to Explore||Brussels|
|Day 9||Visit the Castle of Laeken & the Royal Palace of Brussels||Brussels|
|Day 10||Depart Brussels|
Day 1: Arrive in Brussels, Transfer to Antwerp, Walking Tour of Antwerp
Welcome to Belgium! Upon arrival in Brussels, you'll catch a train to Antwerp's Antwerpen-Centraal railway station and find yourself in the middle of a major landmark widely regarded as one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world. Constructed between 1895 and 1905, the grand station is known for its soaring dome, magnificent interiors, and its elaborate facade, and eclectic architectural style.
On a private guided walking tour, explore the historic main town square, Grote Markt, home to the extravagant city hall and numerous guildhalls; many reconstructed in the 19th and early 20th centuries to look like paintings of the old square by Flemish artists. See the Vleeshuis (Butcher's Hall, or literally "Meat House"), now a museum, and walk through Vlaeykensgang Alley, dating back to 1591, once home to the shoemakers and the poorest in the city.
Day 2: Transfer to Ghent via Bornem Castle or Wissekerke Castle, Scenic Boat Tour
Today, on your way to Ghent, make a stop to visit one of two historic castles: Bornem Castle or Wissekerke Castle. Wissekerke Castle was one of the first Belgian castles in the neo-Gothic style. It has been redecorated in Empire style inside to reflect the glorious habitat of the last resident family. An eye-catching large salon, vestibule, and Egyptian room are quite remarkable. The drawbridge is said to be one of the oldest surviving examples in Europe and reportedly also the oldest of cast iron construction.
The neo-Renaissance Bornem Castle dates back to the Roman Empire. First, a watchtower, followed by a feudal fortress in the 9th and 10th centuries to defend against the Norman invasions, the building became a residence for the lords of Bornem. Inside you'll find 18th-century furniture, rare pieces of lace, antique dolls, Chinese porcelain, and a private collection of Pieter Bruegel, the most significant artist in Flemish Renaissance painting. Don't miss the restored library with a fine collection of handwritten books.
Day 3: Tour Gravensteen Castle in GhentGravensteen Castle, right in the middle of the historical center of Ghent, is an impressive 12th-century medieval castle. Take a lively audio tour (narrated by Flemish comedian Wouter Deprez) and step back in time through the castle's stormy history, intertwined with the social and political history of Ghent, from Viking battles to knights in shining armor to underground dungeons. Don't miss a unique collection of torture equipment in an executioner's cabinet housed in a former pantry.
Day 4: Transfer to Chimay, Visit Château de Beloeil & Scourmont Abbey
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
En route to Chimay, visit the medieval moated Château de Beloeil. Surrounded by water and an extensive park, the castle first served as a medieval fortress and later as a place to entertain the royals belonging to the Princes of Ligne in the 14th century. Explore the 62 acres (25 ha) of carefully-kept grounds and Baroque gardens designed in 1664. You can get around the gardens by train. Inside the castle, admire the rich collection of period furniture, art, and objects from the 15th to 19th centuries.
In Chimay, Scourmont Abbey has been home to the Trappist monks of Chimay since 1850. Tour the abbey to discover how traditional Trappist beers (those brewed by the monks within the abbey) are still brewed the same way here today. The busy monks also produce Chimay cheese. You can try both beer and cheese on an interactive tour of the church, the gardens, and the cemetery. You'll stay the night in a nearby inn and enjoy more great Chimay brews with a typical local meal.
Day 5: Visit Château de Chimay, Transfer to DinantIn the morning, visit Château de Chimay, once home to the Prince of Chimay. Perched high on a rock, the medieval fortress looks down on the Eau Blanche Valley. Dating over 1,000 years, the château has always been a big draw for musicians and artists and still hosts many exhibitions and music performances. In 1935, the castle was completely destroyed by fire but was later restored in the Renaissance style. In the afternoon, you'll continue to Dinant, a charming town on the Meuse River in the Ardennes region.
Day 6: Explore the Citadel of Dinant, Enjoy Free Time to Explore
Day 7: Castle Sightseeing Day Trip from Dinant
Embark on an exciting day of castle sightseeing in the lush green countryside around Dinant. Château de Freÿr, a Renaissance castle on the banks of the Meuse, is so impressive it's sometimes referred to as "Little Versailles." This 15th-century medieval hunting lodge has richly decorated rooms that make it easy to imagine how people lived in bygone days. The gardens, reminiscent of the Palace of Versailles, feature ponds, fountains, 300-year-old orange trees, views over the river, and tall hornbeam hedge mazes.
After an early lunch back in Dinant, head to Walzin Castle atop a steep rock face 164 feet (50 m) above the river Lesse. One of the largest castles in Belgium, this neo-Gothic fortress was used to defend the two access roads to Dinant and the lower part of the river. The ruins of this military stronghold mainly consist of a keep with a remnant of about 42 feet (13 m) of a wall that is 5 to 10 feet (2 to 3 m) thick. While the castle can't be toured on the inside, the exterior and gardens are well worth a visit.
The last stop on your castle adventure, Château de Vêves, was built as a villa owned by the Beaufort family since the 12th century. Inside, stroll through rooms that depict characteristic interior styles of the Middle Ages. The castle's surroundings are equally impressive. Located on a hill, the impressive building is easy to spot from a distance. The four spiky towers are quite striking, giving them a fairy tale quality. It's considered by many to be one of the most beautiful medieval castles in Belgium.
Day 8: Transfer to Brussels via Château de La Hulpe
On the way to Belgium's capital today, make a stop at the grand Château de La Hulpe. Built in 1842 by the Marquis de Béthune, it was modeled on castles from the Loire Valley in France. Stroll through the castle gardens, designated as an exceptional heritage spot in Wallonia. Wind your way between decorative statues and manicured hedges in the French gardens, then appreciate the English-style grounds with rhododendrons, azaleas, and forests of redwoods and oak trees. Here you can discover no fewer than 450 species of wild plants.
Upon arrival in Brussels, get settled in, then head to explore this classic European city, where elegant Art Noveau streets wind through a UNESCO-protected heart and traditional treats of chocolate, waffles, and beer beckon on every corner.
Day 9: Visit the Castle of Laeken & the Royal Palace of Brussels
Explore more of Brussels today with a visit to the Castle of Laeken, a Louis XVI-style royal residence. It's surrounded by a 296-acre (120 ha) park containing the Royal Greenhouses, which include glass palaces with monumental pavilions, glass domes, and long galleries that cut through the site like covered streets. Here you'll discover the castle's storied history, its place in the renowned Habsburg Empire, and its connection to the French Revolution. Believe it or not, the gardens surrounding the castle are the size of Monaco.