Discover the colorful Dutch Countryside where the blazing colors of tulips carpet the landscape. Keukenhof is the incredible 80-acre park filled with 6 million tulips, narcissi, daffodils, hyacinths and other flower bulbs, ancient trees, flowering shrubs, ponds, and fountains. See the vibrant fields of flowers, picture postcard harbors and quaint historic towns with local folk dressed in traditional costumes. Explore Amsterdam, a fascinating city divided by canals into 70 islands connected by over a thousand bridges.
Visit Brussels, the sophisticated capital of Belgium and home of the magnificent Grand Place, one of the most beautiful squares in the world. Your visit isn’t complete without stopping to say hello to Brussels’ most famous inhabitant – the Mannekin Pis statue. Along the Rhine, visit Cologne, Germany, with its famous Gothic cathedral that rivals the best French cathedrals. At 515 feet high, the two western towers of the cathedral were by far the tallest structures in the world when they were finished. Experience Tulip Time and treat yourself to a spring that you will never forget!
The sequence of touring and days may be altered to adjust to religious holidays, special closings of sites, air schedule changes, etc. Hotels listed subject to availability. Meal inclusions may vary by departure.
DAY 1 USA/AMSTERDAM
We fly to our gateway departure city where we board our transatlantic jet for the flight to Amsterdam. (meals aloft)
DAY 2 AMSTERDAM
We arrive in Amsterdam, a fascinating city divided by canals into 70 islands connected by over a thousand bridges. We enjoy a canal cruise along the fascinating old canals in a glass-topped boat, passing under low bridges and seeing houseboats decked with colorful flowers and the elegant spires and gables of the canal-side properties. We visit the famous Rijksmuseum with its wonderful collection of paintings by Rembrandt and other Old Masters; we see the Mint Tower, the Royal Palace, Skinny Bridge and the Concertegebow Hall as well as merchants’ mansions, churches and warehouses dating from the 17th century. We continue to the NH Tropen Hotel for dinner and overnight. (meals aloft, D)
This morning we drive out to the shores of Holland’s huge Lake Ijsselmeer, once the salty Zuider Zee, to visit two quaint fishing villages. The traditional costumes that you sometimes see worn in centuries-old Catholic Volendam are different from those you see in Protestant Marken. Volendam has preserved its unique character for six centuries – its picturesque houses, canals, fishing boats, traditional costumes and lifting bridges make it a world apart. Marken is the island where the washing is always out! Small green houses on stilts line the narrow streets, where the villagers can often be seen in traditional dress. This afternoon we visit Keukenhof, the wonderful 80 acre park filled with 6 million tulips, narcissi, daffodils, hyacinths and other flower bulbs, ancient trees, flowering shrubs, ponds and fountains. There are pavilions with flower exhibitions, flower arrangements and a permanent orchid exhibition. This afternoon we travel near Apeldoorn to tour Paleis Het Loo, where the Dutch royal family lived for three centuries. The gardens have been elegantly reconstructed to appear as they did in the 17th century. Following our visit, we return to our hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,D)
DAY 4 HAGUE/DELFT/ANTWERP
We begin this morning with a visit to the Anne Frank House, which contains a museum that tells the history of the eight people who hid here and those who helped them during World War II. Anne Frank’s diary is among the original objects on display. Then we travel to majestic Den Haag, where the Dutch government has its seat even though Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. We will visit the Peace Palace and drive past the Houses of Parliament, the Binnenhof, Huis ten Bosch, the residence of the Dutch Royal family, and other notable sites. On to the old and beautifully preserved city of Delft, center of the blue Delft pottery, where we will see the historic center with its marketplace, inevitable canals, bridges and canal-side houses. Sometime during the day we will see the Bloemencorso, the annual flower parade that travels along the main roads from Noordwijk to Haarlem. (This has about 20 decorated floats, cars, bands, etc. similar to our Rose Parade, but smaller.) We then cross the border into Belgium and drive to Antwerp, Europe’s second largest port, and a city which is a world leader in the diamond trade, for dinner and overnight at the Plaza Hotel. (B,D)
We drive to Mechelen, for centuries the religious center of Belgium. Mechelen was also the center of Flemish cloth weaving and is now known for its lace. Mechelen is home to two great paintings by Rubens: the Adoration of the Magi and the Miraculous Draft of Fishes. On to Waterloo, where Napoleon met defeat in 1815. Today the famous battlefield has monuments and memorials to those who died during the waning hours of the Napoleonic Empire. Our destination for the evening is Brussels, sophisticated capital of Belgium, and a city famous for its lace production. On our panoramic tour we see the magnificent Grand Place, one of the most beautiful squares in the world, where every façade and gable is different but where sublime stylistic unity reigns nevertheless. The most impressive buildings are the Town Hall and the Broodhuis. Behind the Town Hall is the famous Mannekin Pis statue, Brussels’ most famous citizen! Dinner and overnight at the Novotel Brussels Tour Noire. (B,D)
DAY 6 BRUGGE/GHENT/BRUSSELS
After breakfast we drive to medieval Brugge, one of the most appealing and picturesque cities in Europe. Our walking tour will show us the Markt, the main square, and the nearby square known as the Burg, which together form the center of the city. The fine buildings surrounding the Markt, with their magnificent facades, make this a truly grand place. We see also Provincial Hof, the Belfry with its fine carillon, the Old Law Courts and Town Hall. We visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood where the relic of Holy Blood is kept – Dietrich of Alsace, Count of Flanders, brought back this crystal phial, reputed to contain a drop of Christ’s blood, when he returned from the Second Crusade. We continue to Ghent, one of the greatest Flemish cities, with a prosperous and noble past. We see its stately step-gabled facades lining tranquil canals, and the pinnacled and gilded spires of its great monuments reaching skyward. We will visit the Cathedral of St. Bavon, where the Emperor Charles V was baptized in 1500, to see the world famous masterpiece by the Van Eyck brothers, the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. We return to Brussels for dinner and overnight at our hotel. (B,D)
DAY 7 NAMUR/DINANT
We travel this morning to Namur, at the confluence of the Meuse and the Sambre. Here we find a city center with appealing streets lined with pink brick 17th century houses and, here and there, a rich baroque church, all under the shadow of the Citadel perched on a promontory overlooking the city. We continue to Dinant, located in a most scenic but strategic position, which has led to its involvement in an interminable series of wars. The Cathedral of Notre Dame, with its bronze onion dome, is one of the larger structures in the town. Dinant is the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone and other musical instruments. Dinner and overnight at the Mercure Dinant Castel de Ponte A Lesse. (B,D)
This morning we visit Liege, at the confluence of the Meuse and Ourthe rivers and the gateway to the Ardennes. In a scenic region of rivers and forests, Liege is the largest French-speaking city in Belgium and a popular tourist destination. We continue to Aachen, a noted spa with the hottest springs (168 degrees) in northwestern Europe. The 9th-century octagonal chapel within the cathedral here contains Charlemagne’s tomb and a valuable treasury. We travel on to Cologne, the largest German city on the Rhine, first settled by the Romans in 38 BC. Dinner and overnight at the Four Points Sheraton. (B,D)
DAY 9 COLOGNE/ARNHEM/VELP
Towering over the Old Town is the Cologne Cathedral, an extraordinary Gothic edifice, dedicated to St. Peter and the Virgin. It’s comparable to the best French cathedrals; our visit to it will be a highlight of your visit to Germany. At 515 feet high, the two western towers of the cathedral were by far the tallest structures in the world when they were finished. We enjoy lunch in the Old Town before we depart Cologne. We cross the border into the Netherlands and visit the Nederlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem, a museum of Dutch rural life, which will show you how the country people used to live and work and how their children played. Experience genuine habits and traditions and take a peek into the old houses where even the doors of the cupboard-bed are open for you. Discover the vintage trams and old-fashioned bicycles once used. We continue to Velp, where we have dinner and overnight at the Golden Tulip Arnhem Velp Hotel. (B,D)
DAY 10 VELP/AMSTERDAM/USA
We transfer this morning to Amsterdam airport for our return trip to the USA. (B, meals aloft)