- Visit everything from defensive medieval fortresses to ornate Renaissance palaces
- Discover historic cities and rural towns in Belgium and Luxembourg
- Learn how the renowned Belgian chocolate is made in Antwerp
- Visit a traditional Trappist abbey brewery run by monks in Chimay
- Explore the fortified walls and underground tunnels of Luxembourg City
|Day 1||Arrive in Brussels, Transfer to Antwerp, Guided Cycling Excursion||Antwerp|
|Day 2||Visit Chocolate Nation Antwerp, Tour De Koninck Brewery||Antwerp|
|Day 3||Transfer to Ghent, Visit Bornem Castle or Wissekerke Castle, Scenic Boat Tour||Ghent|
|Day 4||Visit Markets, Museums & Breweries in Ghent||Ghent|
|Day 5||Visit Poeke Castle & Ooidonk Castle||Ghent|
|Day 6||Explore Ghent: Cycling, Culinary, or Canal Kayaking Tour||Ghent|
|Day 7||Transfer to Chimay, Visit Castle Beloeil & Scourmont Trappist Abbey||Chimay|
|Day 8||Visit Château de Chimay, Transfer to Dinant||Dinant|
|Day 9||Explore the Citadel of Dinant||Dinant|
|Day 10||Castle Sightseeing Day Trip from Dinant||Dinant|
|Day 11||Transfer to Luxembourg, Explore Luxembourg City & Pétrusse Casemates||Luxembourg|
|Day 12||Chemin de la Corniche, Wenzel Circular Walk & Grand Ducal Palace||Luxembourg|
|Day 13||Day Trip to the Castles of Luxembourg||Luxembourg|
|Day 14||Depart Luxembourg|
Day 1: Arrive in Brussels, Transfer to Antwerp, Guided Cycling Excursion
Welcome to Belgium! When you arrive in Antwerp, you'll find yourself in the middle of Antwerpen-Centraal railway station, 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, elaborate facade, and eclectic architectural style.
After settling in, you'll get beyond the historic center on a guided cycling excursion through some of Antwerp's flourishing neighborhoods. Visit the trendy Zuid ("South") neighborhood and the impressive KMSKA (Royal Museum of Fine Arts), followed by the Cogels-Osylei area of Zurenborg with its unusual juxtaposition of styles, from Art Nouveau to Tudor. Then enjoy the quiet green spaces of the Groen Kwartier. As you ogle quirky mansions and architectural highlights, you'll find plenty of cozy cafés along the way.
Day 2: Visit Chocolate Nation Antwerp, Tour De Koninck Brewery
Today you're in for a treat when you visit Belgium's (and the world's) largest chocolate museum, Chocolate Nation Antwerp. Through multimedia displays and a lively audio tour, you'll have the chance to learn about how Belgium's famed chocolate is produced and the delicious history and traditions behind it. And, of course, you'll sample some sweet creations at the end of the tour.
Next, it's on to De Koninck Brewery, famous for Antwerp's cornerstone tipple—an amber-colored Belgian ale. The interactive one-hour tour introduces you to various Belgian beers and how they're made, which you can taste before and after the tour. Themed exhibition rooms tell the story of Antwerp as a beer city, the history and traditions of Belgian beers, and the details of the brewing process. A 13-foot-high (4 m) bridge gives you a bird's eye view of the brewery hall.
Day 3: Transfer to Ghent, Visit Bornem Castle or Wissekerke Castle, Scenic Boat Tour
On your way to Ghent today, stop to visit one of two historic castles: Bornem Castle or Wissekerke Castle. Wissekerke Castle was one of the first Belgian castles in a neo-Gothic style. Inside it's been redecorated in Empire style to reflect the glorious life of the last residents. 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 cast iron construction.
The neo-Renaissance Bornem Castle dates back to the Roman Empire. First, a watchtower, then a feudal fortress in the 9th and 10th centuries to defend against the Norman invasions. The building then 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, one of the most significant artists in Flemish Renaissance painting. Don't miss the restored library with a fine collection of handwritten books.
In Ghent, head to the Leie River at the Grasbrug (brug is Flemish for bridge). Board a boat for a leisurely, 40-minute narrated tour of the canals of medieval Ghent. Afterward, you'll be dropped off at the same spot, from which you can set out to find some authentic local cuisine. Mussels, oysters, and eels in green sauce are specialties in Ghent, and of course, you'll find Belgian waffles and frites, the Belgian version of French fries, as well as irresistible Belgian chocolate.
Day 4: Visit Markets, Museums & Breweries in Ghent
If today is a Sunday, head to the Kouter in the morning, where you'll find a large flower market. A small stall serves cava and oysters among the pretty stall selling flowers and plants. Many locals head here for a drink and a snack, standing at the stall and chatting with others. Another great spot is the Vrijdagmarkt (Friday Market, also open Saturdays) for seafood. On other days of the week, stroll through this ancient square to admire the magnificent old buildings and enjoy a drink at one of the many cafés.
For modern art, history, or design lovers, SMAK, STAM, and the Design Museum, should make your list of must-visits in Ghent. Discover the history of valiant knights and dark dungeons at the medieval Gravensteen Castle, or entertain conspiracies of a stolen piece of the famous "Ghent Altarpiece" triptych, created in 1432 by local brothers van Eyck at Saint Bavo's Cathedral. The missing piece has still never been found.
After a day of sightseeing, it's time to rest your feet and enjoy Belgian cuisine in one of many local restaurants. Why not try a locally made jenever (gin) near Gravensteen Castle (which comes in many different flavors)? Or grab a spot on a terrace near the canal to glimpse the beautiful houses reflected in the water and soak up the evening atmosphere of this charming city. You can also taste local Belgian beers at Brouwbar Microbrewery.
Day 5: Visit Poeke Castle & Ooidonk Castle
A short drive from Ghent, you'll find Poeke Castle and Ooidonk Castle. In the early Middle Ages, Poeke Castle was a bastion where knights from all over the country gathered. In 1452 it was taken and a year later destroyed by Philip the Good's troops before being rebuilt a century and a half ago. Surrounded by water and only accessible by bridges, it's a fine example of a late 19th-century aristocratic estate with 20th-century accents. Relax, walk or picnic in the French and English gardens around the domain.
Next, you'll continue to the old moated castle of Ooidonk. The first stones were laid in the 12th century, intended for a small farm. It eventually grew into an official moated castle in the 14th century, but that didn't last long. The castle was destroyed in 1491, and after reconstruction, it suffered again. Finally, it was bought and rebuilt in the Renaissance style. Walk around the castle in the Ooidonkbos, a former hunting ground. The castle and surrounding forest juxtapose, making for a beautiful setting.
Day 6: Explore Ghent: Cycling, Culinary, or Canal Kayaking Tour
Today is a free day for you to discover the city's charms at your own pace. One of the best ways is to rent a bicycle and explore on two wheels. You'll feel like a local as you pedal around the beautiful historic streets, hopping on and off to check out everything that catches your eye. Ghent is a very friendly city for cyclists, with the largest low-traffic pedestrian zone in Europe.
Foodies will delight in taking a self-guided culinary tour armed with a map of recommendations. Set off to discover the best of Ghent's gastronomic highlights. Inhale the aroma of mustard and spices at a historic mustard maker dating back to the 1860s, browse jars of old-fashioned sweets at a sweet shop with original recipes from 1904, and stop for a locally sourced lunch at a marketplace and restaurant that only works with East Flemish regional suppliers.
Day 7: Transfer to Chimay, Visit Castle Beloeil & Scourmont Trappist Abbey
On the way to Chimay today, you'll visit the medieval moated Château de Beloeil, surrounded by water and an extensive park. It was once a medieval fortress and later 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 today. The busy monks also produce Chimay cheese. Try beer and cheese on an interactive tour of the church, the gardens, and the cemetery. Tonight you'll stay the night in a nearby inn and enjoy more great Chimay brews with a typical local meal.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 8: Visit Château de Chimay, Transfer to DinantThis morning, you'll visit Château de Chimay, once the home of the Prince of Chimay. Perched high on a rocky outcropping, the medieval fortress overlooks the Eau Blanche Valley. For over 1,000 years, the château has been a big draw for musicians and artists and still hosts several exhibitions and performances. In 1935, the castle was totally destroyed by fire but later restored in the Renaissance style. After your visit, travel to Dinant, a charming town on the Meuse River in the Ardennes region.
Day 9: Explore the Citadel of DinantToday you're free to discover the many wonders of Dinant, which boasts an impressive skyline of tall mansions, a towering church, rocky cliffs, and a citadel. Climb 408 steps or take the cable car to 328 feet (100 m) above the city to visit this fortress, besieged 17 times over the centuries, most recently by the Germans during World Wars I and II. Afterward, stop at a nice riverside restaurant for an atmospheric lunch, stroll along the waterfront, and take time to relax and explore Dinant on your own.
Day 10: Castle Sightseeing Day Trip from Dinant
Get ready for an exciting day of castle sightseeing in the rolling green hills around Dinant. Château de Freÿr, a Renaissance castle on the banks of the Meuse, is sometimes referred to as "Little Versailles." Imagine how people used to live in the richly decorated rooms of this 15th-century medieval hunting lodge. The gardens, reminiscent of the Palace of Versailles, feature ponds, fountains, 300-year-old orange trees, views over the Meuse, and tall hornbeam hedge mazes.
Next, head to Walzin Castle atop a steep rock face 164 feet (50 m) above the Lesse River. 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.
Your last stop is at Château de Vêves, built as a villa and owned by the Beaufort family since the 12th century. Inside, see rooms that depict characteristic interior styles of the Middle Ages. The impressive castle with its four fairy-tale towers is easy to spot from a distance, and its surroundings are equally impressive. It's considered by many to be one of the most beautiful medieval castles in Belgium.
Day 11: Transfer to Luxembourg, Explore Luxembourg City & Pétrusse Casemates
Today you'll catch a train from Dinant to Luxembourg City, a lesser-known European capital with plenty of charm, fine museums, restaurants, and an idyllic setting along a deep-cut gorge of the rivers Alzette and Pétrusse. Explore the old city on foot through its lovely squares, admire historic buildings in the romantic Chemin de la Corniche, and marvel at the Pont Adolphe bridge and Cathédrale Notre-Dame. One of the best perks: public transport is completely free!
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the extensive fortifications of the Pétrusse Casemates are a must-see. The first was built in 1644 when the Spanish reinforced the medieval fortifications, creating large bastions. Several structures and gun enclosures (casemates) were added to strengthen the fortifications over the next century. Subterranean defensive passages were built on different levels, reaching as deep as 131 feet (40 m). These incredible defenses earned Luxembourg the name "the Gibraltar of the North."
Day 12: Chemin de la Corniche, Wenzel Circular Walk & Grand Ducal Palace
Participate in a great local pastime with a walk along the famous Chemin de la Corniche, a scenic promenade winding along atop the 17th-century city ramparts. The walk offers some of the best views of the valley and the river, and it's a great way to experience the city's impressive fortifications from another perspective. It was named the "most beautiful balcony in Europe" by Luxembourg writer Batty Weber.
Continue your discovery on foot as you complete the Wenzel Circular Walk to learn the millennial history of Luxembourg City. The walk pays tribute to Wenceslas II, Duke of Luxembourg, from 1383 to 1419. The walk takes you through some of the oldest quarters of the city, dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Along the way, you'll see the Bock Promontory (the cradle of the city), Grund Gate built in 1632 by the Spanish, and Castle Bridge, built in 1735, among many other highlights.
Day 13: Day Trip to the Castles of Luxembourg
Head out in the morning for an exciting day trip to see some of Luxembourg's best castles. The beautiful ruins of Larochette Castle rise above the town of Larochette, dating from the 11th century. A great fire partly destroyed the fortress in the 16th century. Despite this tragedy, a good deal of architecture was preserved, and in 1979 it was partly restored, retaining some of the beauty and mystery of some ruins. You can reach the castle via a footpath from the center of charming Larochette.
Your next stop is Vianden, famous for its impressive Château Vianden, the castle towering high above the village. The castle was built from the 11th to the 14th century on the foundations of a Roman fortification and a Carolingian refuge. The palace castle is one of Europe's largest and most beautiful feudal residences. In 1977, the castle was restored to its former glory, and today it is one of the most important monuments in Europe. Stop for lunch in Altstadt, the historic part of town.
Finally, you will visit Bourscheid Castle on the edge of the village of Bourscheid, on a plateau between the rivers Burebaach and Sûre. Built in the 11th century on earlier foundations, the oldest parts date from Roman times. The castle was continually expanded through the 16th century, falling into disrepair in the 19th century but escaping demolition when it became a protected monument. On the drive back to Luxembourg City, keep your eyes out for the Château de Colmar-Berg that you'll pass along the way.
Day 14: Depart LuxembourgToday your castle adventures across Belgium and Luxembourg come to a close. Take a private transfer to Luxembourg Airport for your onward journey. Safe travels!
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