Holland & Belgium at Tulip Time
Welcome to Brussels, the capital of Belgium (and its largest city). The de facto capital of the European Union, Brussels is home to the Berlaymont Building, the seat of the European Commission. You’ll see the European District and more on a panoramic tour of the city, including the royal residence, Chinese Pavilion, and the Koekelberg Basilica. You’ll then leave the motorcoach and explore Brussels on foot, passing the impish Manneken Pis fountain on your way to Planet Chocolate. There, you’ll discover how chocolate artisans transform the cocoa bean into the finest confections around (which you’ll get to sample!). In the evening, enjoy a Captain’s Welcome Reception and Gala Dinner.
Today’s options offer you a view of two different sides of Antwerp. You can explore the city on foot, visiting the City Hall, Market Square, and the towering, UNESCO-designated Cathedral of Our Lady. Constructed in the 14th century, the Gothic structure contains a number of works by baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, one of Antwerp’s most treasured sons. Following your walking tour, you can quench your thirst at a local brewery. Or you can choose a panoramic tour of Antwerp that takes you to sights including the astonishing Zurenborg district, called the “Golden Triangle of Art Nouveau,” and the actual house where Rubens lived and worked, which is located in the heart of the city. There, you’ll tour the palace-like residence and get a glimpse of the personal art collection of Belgium’s favorite baroque artist.
Stroll through historic Maastricht, your first stop in the Netherlands. Maastricht has a long and storied history, as demonstrated by its more than 1,670 national heritage sites. You’ll see many of these sites on your walking tour through the city’s Old Town, including the Town Hall and the lovely Market Square, the beating heart of Maastricht. Or, if you’re more interested in 20th-century history, you can visit the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, the final resting place of 8,301 American servicemen who lost their lives here during WWII. In addition to the cemetery and the memorial tower, the walls alongside the Court of Honor contain the “Tablets of the Missing,” listing the names of 1,722
Americans who yet rest in unknown graves.
Follow in Vincent van Gogh’s footsteps as you take a walking tour through the bucolic village of Nuenen. The artist spent almost two prolific years here between 1883 and 1885, sketching or painting many of the town’s buildings (including his father’s church and the vicarage), as well as creating character studies like The Potato Eaters. You’ll see 17 of the structures that inspired Van Gogh’s artistry, as well as the buildings where his models worked and lived. Following lunch in an old watermill, you’ll explore historic Heusden, with its star-shaped city wall and newly restored medieval port.
You have your choice of adventures today. You can enjoy a walking tour of the quintessential Dutch town of Schoonhoven, with its narrow alleys, classic canals, and historic harbor. Schoonhoven is also a silversmithing center, so you’ll discover plenty of quaint shops and silver stores along the way. Or, you can visit the largest concentration of old windmills left in the Netherlands with a trip to Kinderdijk. Nineteen of these now-UNESCO-designated windmills remain; dating back to the 1500s, they are astonishingly well preserved. Here, you’ll learn about the centrality of the windmill in managing the sea level, an ever-important task in this low-lying country. You’ll even have the chance to go inside one of these mighty structures. You’re welcome to climb the set of steep stairs that lead to its upper level, or you can simply admire the historic structure from the outside.
Today you can see one of the most extraordinary sights in the Netherlands: Keukenhof Gardens. With nearly seven million bulbs planted on seventy acres annually, Keukenhof is the world’s largest flower garden; in full bloom each spring, it’s utterly breathtaking. You’ll learn about the various types of tulips and their role in Dutch history, and you’ll have a chance to tour the garden’s extensive grounds, which feature a wide variety of landscaping styles. You can choose to spend the entire day among the blooms, or you can “Do as the Locals Do” in Amsterdam. Explore hidden Amsterdam with a guided stroll through the heart of the canal district. You’ll stop at the medieval Begijnhof, the oldest
inner court in Amsterdam, before enjoying a sweet treat at a local café. You’ll then head to the Museum Van Loon, a 17th-century canal house that has been completely renovated to offer a glimpse of life as it was lived centuries ago. In the evening, enjoy a Captain’s Farewell Reception and Gala Dinner.
*Note: Lunch is not included with the full day at Keukenhof Gardens
Note: Order of sightseeing may change throughout the itinerary. Substitute visits to other sites may occur during your trip due to water levels or other uncontrollable factors.