We take the Eurostar from St Pancras to Lille where we transfer to our hotel for the next five nights. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by dinner.
Friday: Brussels & Royal Greenhouses of Laeken or the Flower Carpet
Today we head to Brussels where we start the day with a guided city tour. We explore several of this historic city’s architectural treasures, including the impressive St Michael’s Cathedral.
Then if you join us in April, we visit the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken which every spring, are open to the public for three weeks. Admire the many plants in the greenhouses as well as the wonderful architecture by Alphonse Balat, Victor Horta’s mentor.
If you join us in August, we see the magnificent Flower Carpet in the impressive Grand-Place. Created by around 100 volunteer gardeners who set up this giant floral puzzle in less than eight hours, the intricate Flower Carpet is 75m long and 24m wide, featuring 500,000 flowers.
Afterwards, enjoy time at leisure in the city.
Saturday: Horta Museum, Hôtel Solvay, Villa Empain & Van Buuren House
Our day begins at the Horta Museum, located in the private house and studio of architect Victor Horta. The interior decoration and furniture are by Horta himself and are typical of Art Nouveau.
We then venture to Hôtel Solvay, a large Art Nouveau town house designed by Horta. The property was commissioned by Armand Solvay, who was the son of Belgian chemist and industrialist, Ernest Solvay.
Afterwards we visit Villa Empain, an Art Deco style private house built in the 1930s by Swiss architect Michel Polak. It was acquired by the Boghossian Foundation in 2006 and a delicate restoration took place.
Our final stop is Van Buuren House. Once a private house built for banker and art collector David van Buuren and his wife Alice in the 1920s, the property is now a museum. Admire rare furniture, stained-glass windows and international masterpieces.
Sunday: Ghent & St Bavo’s Cathedral
Today we head to St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent for an audio guided tour. The cathedral stands on the site of a 10th-century church and a 12th-century Romanesque church. Due to the city’s power in the Middle Ages, the church was converted during the 15th and 16th centuries into the impressive Gothic cathedral we see today.
We then have free time to explore Ghent. No other city in Belgium has as many classified buildings, so make sure to admire the medieval and classical architecture.
Monday: Bruges & Béguinage
Our day begins in the lovely city of Bruges with a guided tour. Known as ‘the Venice of northern Europe’, Bruges is a beautifully-preserved medieval city of picturesque canals, impressive squares and cobbled lanes. We explore the historic centre and see the famous medieval bell tower.
Afterwards, we visit the Béguinage with its white-coloured house fronts and tranquil covent garden, founded in 1245. Once home to the Béguines, women who dedicated their lives to God, today the Béguinage is inhabited by the Sisters of the Order of St Benedict.
Tonight we enjoy a farewell dinner together.
We check out of our hotel and transfer to Lille for our return journey on the Eurostar to St Pancras.