Join us for a trip extension to Bruges, Belgium, one of Western Europe’s great medieval cities. Originally a ninth-century fortress built to protect the Flemish coast from marauding Vikings, Bruges today retains its reputation as one of the best-preserved Old World cities on the continent. Its museums hold some of the oldest and finest collections you will find anywhere, and its narrow winding streets meander through the city beside a centuries-old canal system. It is often said that the best way to experience the charm and storied history of Bruges is on foot, as almost every street is lined with historic buildings.
- It's Included:
- Accommodations: for 3 nights at the First-Class Grand Hotel Casselbergh Bruges or similar
- 3 meals: 3 breakfasts
- Included tours: Bruges with boat ride, Ghent
- Exclusive services of a Grand Circle Program Director
- All transfers
- Now included for 2015
- Gratuities for local guides and motorcoach drivers on your extension and all optional tours
Disembark your Romance of the Rhine & Mosel river cruise after breakfast this morning. En route to Bruges, we stop to explore Ghent. Originally the site of two abbeys founded in the seventh century at the confluence of the Schelde and Leie rivers, the city grew slowly into a commercial center especially known for its textiles. It was here in the city’s Pacification Hall that the Treaty of Ghent was signed in 1814, ending the War of 1812 between the U.S. and Britain. Historic Ghent boasts many beautiful buildings dating from medieval times.
During your guided walk in the city, you’ll see the imposing St. Bavo’s Cathedral, where the painting “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” by the Van Eyck brothers, resides. You also see the 800-year-old Castle of the Counts in the town center. From here, the Counts of Flanders ruled over the proud and sometimes rebellious Ghent people. Marvel at wonderful old guild houses, and admire the Gothic Town Hall and Belfry Tower.
Settle into your hotel in Bruges, then join your Program Director for a walk to discover the vicinity around the hotel. Enjoy lunch on your own.
Your Program Director will give you suggestions on where to dine on your own this evening.
After breakfast, set off on a walking tour of this former capital of Flanders, a city still defined by its canals. Dating from the 13th century, Bruges is a living museum and a treasure trove of fine architecture. From the 13th to the 15th centuries, Bruges was the most important trading center in Northern Europe, based largely on its thriving wool and textile industries. You'll see signs of this mercantile history in the beautiful houses built by wealthy textile merchants.
Your walking tour takes you to Church of Our Lady and to Market Square, with its distinctive belfry tower and carillon of 47 bells. You also see the Holy Blood Chapel. Your tour continues with a look at Bruges from another vantage point—aboard a canal boat. Then you'll visit a lace shop to see some of the world's finest lacemakers at work. You'll enjoy some free time to have lunch on your own and to explore independently. If you like, you can remain in town for shopping and independent explorations.
Join us this afternoon and evening for an optional excursion to Flanders Field, a museum commemorating World War I. You'll travel to the city of Ypres, now known as the “City of Peace,” and visit the interactive Flanders Field Museum, where you'll learn about the Great War and then tour the battlefields. After dinner at a local restaurant, you'll visit the Menin Gate Memorial and listen to the buglers from the local fire brigade who play there every night in remembrance of those lost in the war.
Or, spend your time at leisure in Bruges. There are many fine restaurants in the area, and your Program Director can help you pick a good one.
Today, join an optional tour of Scenic Belgium, featuring an excursion to the Flanders countryside. First, you'll take an included tour (with audio guide) of the Alantikwall—an unfinished steel and concrete wall constructed by Germans during World War II to block England from invading German-claimed territory and to protect some of Hitler's weapons. From this landmark, you'll venture to Damme, a former fishing village on the Zwin River, where you'll embark the ship that will transport you back to Bruges. As you cruise, you'll sample some of the quality beers for which Belgium is known. Or enjoy the day at leisure in Bruges.
This evening, join your fellow travelers for a Farewell Drink, followed by dinner on your own.
This morning, transfer to the airport in Brussels for your flight home.