An early afternoon Eurostar train takes us from St Pancras to Lille (approximately 1hr 30mins), then we travel by coach to the four-star Hotel Academie in the heart of Bruges (transfer approximately 1hr). This evening we will gather with our tour manager for the short walk to our restaurant for a lovely welcome dinner, where you will get a chance to meet other travellers joining the tour on their own.
We will enjoy continental breakfast in our hotel this morning before joining our tour manager on a walking tour of charming Bruges. Although compact, the town is packed with sights, sounds, smells and an ambience all its own. The 13th century belfry dominates the town, and those who wish to take the 366 steps to the top will be amply rewarded with remarkable views of the maze of streets and canals below. We will also take in the popular sights, including the City Hall, the old Law Courts and the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which is so-called because it houses a vial claimed to contain the blood of Jesus, brought back from the Holy Land. We’ll also see the Notre Dame Church, where Michelangelo’s masterpiece, Madonna and Child, is housed. Bruges is, of course, synonymous with fine Belgian beers, and many bars dedicate entire menus to the vast array of options available. Those who would like to know more about Bruges’ brewing heritage may choose to take a short stroll to the Halve Maan Brewery Museum, where there is also a chance to unwind with a beer tasting.
This morning, you have the option to take a boat trip on Bruges’ canals, providing an alternative perspective of the picturesque town. After that, you can choose to explore Bruges at leisure, or take an optional included excursion that visits the locations made famous during World War I – Ypres, the centre of British activity in Belgium and home of the Menin Gate, a moving memorial to the missing. The excursion also takes us to the Passchendaele Museum for an insightful recreation of life in the trenches, and concludes with a poignant visit to Tyne Cot Cemetery. We will return to Bruges, where there will be an opportunity to gather with our travelling companions for a final evening sampling some of the wonderful Flemish food.
No visit to Bruges would be complete without a chance to enjoy the art of the chocolatier. We will visit one of the few establishments using traditional methods for a demonstration, as well as a chance to sample the sweet delights for yourself. Afterwards, we will take a coach back to Lille, where we board our Eurostar train home to London St Pancras.
Family run and within the historic centre of Bruges, it is very close to the Minnewater (the famous lake of love) and the church of Our Lady, on one of the quieter side streets. It offers modern facilities and comfortable, stylish accommodation, relax in the cosy bar or if you prefer the pleasant courtyard garden which the hotel is built around. There are plenty of restaurants and bars nearby and the Market Square is only a short walk away.