After breakfast, join your group for an Orientation Briefing, during which your Program Director will go over the details of your upcoming trip and answer any questions you may have.
Then we’ll begin our tour of the city. Brussels is known for two specialties—the production of delicious chocolate and the creation of beautiful and delicate lace. Set off this morning on an excursion to delve into these Belgian delights and to discover Brussels on an included city tour.
First, you’ll visit the family-run Chocolaterie Duval to see fine Belgian chocolate being created. Chocolate arrived here in the 1870s, following Belgium’s colonization of the Congo and its cocoa plantations. Traditional Belgian chocolates are filled with creams, liqueurs, nuts, or a special dark chocolate called ganache. Today the finest chocolates, characterized by a smooth, velvet quality and a rich flavor, are produced in Brussels. At the factory, you’ll see a chocolate-making demonstration and learn about the painstaking process from cocoa bean to delicious chocolate confection.
Then set off on a tour of this lovely old city. See the buildings of the European Union and the Atomium, an enormous steel construction representing an iron atom with nine spheres connected by corridors. Pass by the impressive Cinquantenaire Arch, the Chinese Pavilion and Japanese Pagoda, and the Royal Park. Everywhere, you’ll see the beautiful architecture of the city and the Art Nouveau style represented by the famous architect, Victor Horta. Your tour ends in Brussels’s Grand Place, the famed market square and heart of medieval Brussels. The square is dominated by the magnificent 15th-century Town Hall, with its hundreds of little statues, and ringed with 17th-century buildings and guild houses with their golden inlays.
The next stop offers another classic Belgian discovery—lace—as you visit a local lace shop. Lace making has a long history but came into its own in the 15th century. Lace was intended to replace embroidery. Unlike embroidered clothing, lace pieces could be changed as fashion changed and attached decoratively to different articles of clothing. Belgium soon gained a peerless reputation for fine lacework. In the 17th century, Brussels lace was prized throughout Europe. As you’ll find on today’s included tour, lace making endures as a “cottage industry,” employing about 1,000 workers, most between the ages of 50 and 90, and there are numerous family-run businesses throughout the city. You’ll visit a lace store that showcases beautiful antique lacework as well as intricate tapestries.
You can remain here for lunch on your own, or return to the hotel with the motorcoach.
The afternoon is free to explore on your own. You may want to visit the Royal Museum of Ancient and Modern Art, which houses a special section on the well-known Belgian surrealist, Magritte. Or perhaps you’ll visit the Bruparck, an amusement park featuring (among other things) “Mini-Europe,” a permanent outdoor exhibit of small-scale, precision-made replicas of Europe’s most famous architectural achievements.
Dinner is on your own this evening.