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2016 Belgium-Holland: Spring Blooms, Mediaeval Splendour & Ghent/Gent Flower Show

April 23rd–April 29th, 2016

Keukenhof, Holland's 'Tulip Time' bulb fields and spring garden shows in Groot–Bijgaarden & Ghent/Gent

7 days/6 nights from Brussels

The ‘Low Countries’ are home to dozens of Europe’s finest gardens, medieval villages and world famous gourmet cuisine, chocolates and beers. Sample a selection of the area’s best gardens. There’s the stunning spectacular that is Keukenhof and Holland’s famed bulb fields, April is indeed Tulip Time!

As an added treat, enjoy the Spring Show in Groot–Bijgaarden, Belgium’s rival to Keukenhof PLUS the flower show in Ghent/Gent. This is a special year, this is the 35th Anniversary of the event, to be held just once every 5 years, and this is first time the show is outdoors across the city itself. See the city of Ghent/Gent bursts into bloom with the Gentse Floralien, The Ghent Flower Show/Floralies of Ghent, earning the city the nickname “City of Flowers!”

Also explore the National Botanical Gardens of Belgium, Kalmthout Arboretum plus stunning Mediaeval towns/cities Leuven, Antwerp, Gent/Ghent, Brugge/Bruges, Delft and the option to go into Amsterdam.

Experience the distinct local cultures of each country, sample the fine local cuisine, dishes that can be found nowhere else – there are specialty treats, different types of Belgian waffles and the best chocolates in the world. This is a lovely week in an area all too often overlooked!

This tour begins and ends in Brussels. Brussels is well connected with an international airport and via the Eurostar from London and TGV rail services from most major European cities including Paris and Lille. We are happy to assist you with incoming journey if you wish. Please ask us for details.

Brussels hardly requires an introduction as everyone at least knows the Manneken Pis! This famous statue of a little boy peeing in a fountain is a perfect representative of the irreverent Belgian humor. There is so very much more to this wonderful city, explore the Grote Markt and Grand-Place, meander the cobbled streets, sampling the local chocolates and beers… Perhaps enjoy a special treat for garden lovers, visit the Koninklijke Serres (Royal Glasshouses,) which is only opened to the public for a few weeks each year (subject to schedules.) Part of the royal palace grounds, the Royal Glasshouses were built by King Leopold II to accommodate his collection of plants from the Congo.

 

TENTATIVE ITINERARY

 DAY 1 Saturday                   Leuven & National Botanical Gardens

We will depart from our Brussels meeting point approximately 10am to accommodate guests arriving via rail this morning.

For those looking to find the most beautiful medieval buildings in the world, look no further than Leuven, the magnificent 15th Century town hall alone is worth the trip! Leuven Botanical Garden is small at just 4 acres but well worth some time. This is the oldest medicinal herb garden in the country, dating from the 18th Century, and features a water garden, an Alpine conservatory, a fruit garden and greenhouses of tropical plants.

In contrast, Royal Botanical Gardens of Belgium in Meise is one of the largest botanical gardens in Europe. Set in the grounds of a historic castle estate, enjoy ample parklands, a lake and 14 inter-connected greenhouses featuring an overview of plants and flowers from around the world.

Dinner together is included this evening in Antwerp. Perhaps choose to sample some local favorite meals such as waterzoï (salt & fresh water fish in bouillon with veg,) Belgian Blue Beef, rabbit with prunes or beer, eel ‘in green’ (with sorrel & spinach,) hennepot (lemon soup with chicken, rabbit and veal,) or classic vegetable dishes featuring endives or hop shoots. Tonight is your chance to dine like a Flemish local! 

OVERNIGHT: Antwerp

Rubens Hotel or similar http://www.hotelrubensantwerp.be/

 

DAY 2 Sunday                       Antwerp, Kinderdijk, Delft

This morning, the charming city of Antwerp and a panoramic look around the city. This fantastic place has much to offer visitors! Our focus will be Rubenshuis, the painter Rueben’s home where he lived for 29 years, now a museum dedicated to his life and work. His garden is an enclosed renaissance style, typical of its time, with straight walks and parterres bounded by yew hedges. Faithfully reconstructed from engravings, this home and garden is a rare insight into Renaissance daily life. Antwerp is also home to a lovely cathedral and world class shopping.

We will cross the border into the Netherlands, enjoy a bit of the traditional Dutch countryside and a stop at the windmills of Kinderdijk. Yes, it’s touristy but it is lovely and pretty for all of that!

Upon arrival into Delft, enjoy an orientation walking tour. The town is popular with tourists but, by arriving late in the afternoon, we hopefully will miss the main and maddening throng. During our time here the next few days, in this place almost unchanged since Vermeer painted it in the 1600s, you will have free time to relax in a canal side cafe, explore the quaint shops or visit the Vermeer Museum and Blue Porcelain Museum as you wish. The Botanic Garden of Delft at the University of Technology was founded on its present location in 1917 and is well worth some time for those that wish more garden time. Dinner is not included this evening for flexibility’s sake.

OVERNIGHT: Delft

Hotel Koophandel or similar http://www.hoteldekoophandel.nl/en/

 

DAY 3 Monday                      Keukenhof Gardens, Holland Bulb Fields

Keukenhof Gardens is our main destination today, making our way there via the stunning and justly famous Holland bulb fields. Certainly, an unforgettable spectacle!

We will spend the day wandering the gardens of Keukenhof, bursting with millions of tulips and other Spring bulbs – what one guide book calls ‘the rainbow of natural beauty.’ The gardens here, described as one of the most photographed places on Earth, also offers one of Holland’s largest sculpture gardens.

Tonight, if the group is so inclined, we may choose to try an Indonesian rice table dinner, now considered a typical Dutch dinner. A rice table consists of rice served with approximately 10-15 different spicy vegetables, pork, fish, chicken and beef dishes to sample. No matter what cuisine we choose, a group dinner is included this evening.

OVERNIGHT: Delft

 

DAY 4 ND Tuesday              FREE DAY in Delft and/or Amsterdam

Today is an open day for guests to do as they please. Your tour guide is on hand for advice and assistance. Explore Delft at your leisure or hop the train into Amsterdam. Your guide will escort those that prefer time in Amsterdam on the train and provide an orientation. What you do is up to you! This capital city offers a variety of choice – garden fans should enjoy the flower market and the immaculate 18th Century garden at the Willet-Holthuysen Museum. Then there’s the Anne Frank Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum for the finest collection of Dutch old masters… This is very much a walking city but there is also the option of a canal barge tour too. Spoilt for choice! Dinner is not included this evening for flexibility’s sake.

OVERNIGHT: Delft

 

DAY 5 Wednesday               Mauritshuis Museum, Kalmthout Arboretum

Begin our day in Den Haag/The Hague, the home to the Royal Family, the seat of Dutch government, the international criminal court and the Peace Palace. On an orientation panoramic tour, see the fabulous medieval Parliament buildings, the ‘Lange Verhoot’ area with its spectacular homes and the almost hidden former servant houses. Visit Mauritshuis, home to famous works including Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring,’ ‘View of Delft’ and Rembrandt’s ‘Dr Nicolas Tulp.’

Back into Belgium, Kalmthout Arboretum has been described as the best example of the gardenesque style of garden design; its oldest trees were planted over 150 years ago. Strolling through this 12 hectare gem, expect to see flowering magnolias and cherries plus diverse flowering borders with over 7,000 varieties of plants. There is also a butterfly garden.

Subject to availability, our picturesque night stop is by the river in the town of St Martens-Latem, a few minutes outside of Gent/Ghent. Dinner together is included.

OVERNIGHT: Sint-Martens-Latem

Auberge du Pecheur or similar http://www.auberge-du-pecheur.be/

 

DAY 6 Thursday                   Gent/Ghent

Full day in Gent/Ghent — 2016 Gent Floralies main show

Gent/Ghent is one of the country’s noted art cities, a university city, a port city and the capital of East Flanders. Enjoy a stunning city view from St Michael’s Bridge and a guided walking tour together through the Grote Markt and visit inside St Bavo’s Cathedral featuring the VanEyck masterpiece, the ‘Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.’ Meander the local market, a feast of local culinary experience for those that wish to sample the freshly baked breads, cheeses, and local herbs for lunch or their evening meal!

In 2016 the Floralies is celebrating their 35th anniversary. From 22 April till 1 May 2016 the city will host an outdoor flower route from the Floralies Palace and the Botanical Garden to the Tondelier/New Law Courts site. (specific programme not yet announced at time of publishing.)

The first FLORALIES Ghent were organised in 1808. The organisation behind the FLORALIES Ghent is the Royal Society for Agriculture and Botany. Over the years the event has built up a strong reputation for itself as the must-attend event of the horticultural industry in Belgium. Its values can be summarised as follows: trend-setting, creative & innovative, open, sustainable, informative & interactive, co-operative, proud & dynamic.

OVERNIGHT: Sint-Martens-Latem

 

DAY 7 Friday                         Bruges/Brugge, Spring Garden Show Groot–Bijgaarden

We’ve saved perhaps the most famed of all Flanders cities until last, Bruges/Brugge. This medieval gem, criss-crossed by canals and cobbled streets, never fails to surprise and delight visitors. There’ll be free time to take an optional horse drawn carriage ride around the city, for shopping in the famous lace shops, perhaps visiting a brewery as individuals choose. Another day spoilt for choice!

The grand finale to our gardens adventure will be the opportunity to walk in the flower labyrinth of Groot–Bijgaarden in the spring flower show. Discover 500 varieties of spring bulbs including 300 tulip varieties. Another special treat for visitors only available for a few weeks each year!

The tour finishes Brussels approximately 18:00.

 

Please note: All attraction opening times are correct at time of printing this website. While we will do our utmost to include all of the properties mentioned as central visits, we reserve the right to change an attraction should it become impossible to deliver a planned visit due to changes in opening days or times beyond our control.

 

Oft imitated, never duplicated! This is an original SGT itinerary, property of Special Group Tours and to be used only with express permission/in conjunction with SGT.

Toll Free Tel: 1 866-725-5250
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$3299 USD per person; $3695 USD single rate

TOUR PACKAGE INCLUDES: 7 touring days, accommodation for 6 nights while on the tour including breakfast daily and 3 dinners. Your price also includes entrance fees to listed attractions, transportation, services of driver/guide-companion and all taxes and tips other than those you may wish to give your guide.

Accommodation, transfers, day tours and other optional add-ons available pre and/or post tour for the appropriate supplemental cost. Please discuss your needs with us, SGT is at your service!