art & cultural heritage in Belgium & The netherlands
Day 1 Overnight flight
Day 2 Zaanse Schans – Beemster Polder – Amsterdam
Arrival at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Meet your driver and tour escort and depart to the recreated Dutch village dating back to 1850, the Zaanse Schans. Wander about the unique village, full of wooden houses, windmills, and workshops, and step back in time. Visit one of the mills that are still in operation, the bakery museum, the tin foundry and view a range of traditional Dutch crafts such as cheese and clog making. Enjoy a typical Dutch Pancake lunch together. Time permitting, you will travel through the unique polder landscape (UNESCO World Heritage listed) of the Beemster Polder to Amsterdam. On route you will make a short stop in Edam, the city of cheese. Edam cheese has been a famous Dutch export product since the Golden Age. Check in at the hotel and have some time to relax before dinner.
Welcome dinner and overnight in Amsterdam.
Day 3 Amsterdam
This morning enjoy a guided walking tour of Amsterdam to discover the capital of the Netherlands. Amsterdam was founded in the Middle Ages and has many historical buildings. You will see the most important sights such as the Dam Square with the impressive Royal Palace and New Church, the canals with the arched bridges, and Waterloo Square. Afterwards visit the Rijksmuseum with an expert guide. This museum features famous paintings such as Rembrandt’s `Night watch’ and `Jewish bride’. Paintings by Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael are on exhibit as well. Afterwards enjoy some free time in the Rijksmuseum on your own. Remainder of the afternoon at leisure to explore this vibrant city on your own.
Overnight in Amsterdam.
Day 4 Amsterdam – Alkmaar Cheese Market – Volendam – Amsterdam
After breakfast you will travel to Alkmaar for a visit of the famous Cheese Market. At the ‘Waagplein’ a folkloric spectacle is taking place since 1365, held only on Friday morning from the end of March to September. See how cheese is traded according to a tradition that is centuries old. Watch the ‘kaasdragers’ – cheese porters, the ‘zetters’ – loaders, ‘ingooiers’ – cheese tossers and ‘waagmeesters’ – weighers in action. After some free time in Alkmaar, you will depart to the picturesque village of Volendam. The village has traditionally been a fishing village, since the closing of the Zuiderzee in 1932 the fishing industry is not that flourishing anymore, but the harbour area with its many boats is still bustling. Volendam’s traditional costume is one of the best known examples of the traditional costume (klederdracht) in Holland. Enjoy some free time in the village to explore on your own. You can for example have your picture taken in those traditional Dutch costumes or sample ‘Kibbeling’ – fried battered fish, smoked eel or the seasonal Herring. Overnight in Amsterdam.
Day 5 Amsterdam
After breakfast enjoy a guided walking tour of Amsterdam’s Jewish Cultural Quarter. At the heart of the Jewish Cultural Quarter stands the majestic Portuguese Synagogue. It is still an important place of worship and contains one of the oldest Jewish libraries in the world, the Ets Haim Library. It’s collection has been added to the UNESCO ‘Memory of the World Register” as a world heritage site of great cultural and social importance. You will also see the former Hollandsche Schouwburg, nowadays a place of remembrance. In the afternoon you will get an insight in the life and work of one of the world’s most renowned modern artists, Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh’s life is marked by great heights and lows, which are reflected in his paintings. An expert guide will tell you all about his letters, his iconic landscape paintings, his famous self-portraits and the impressive flower paintings such as ‘Sunflowers’ and ‘Irises’. Conclude your stay in the capital of the Netherlands with a cooking class. Together with professional chefs, you will work on a tasteful dinner. This workshop is all about experience, tasting, learning different techniques and dinning together in a relaxed atmosphere. Overnight in Amsterdam.
Day 6 Amsterdam – Giethoorn – Staphorst – Apeldoorn
After breakfast you leave the city of Amsterdam to go and explore some of the rural and traditional villages in the Eastern Provinces. You will visit Giethoorn which is known as the’ Venice of the North’. The best way to view the farms and houses is by whisper boat which will be ready for you upon arrival. The area has many lakes formed by the extraction of peat; canals were dug for the transportation of the peat and houses were constructed along these canals. After lunch in Giethoorn you will travel to the lovely village of Staphorst where traditions are still part of everyday life. In this village, with strong Orthodox Calvinist believes, you will be welcomed at the Staphorst Museum. After a guided tour along the museum’s collection of arts and crafts, regional dress, jewelry and folk art you will learn the technique of the ‘Staphorster Stipwerk’, or paint dotting. Decorate a paint dotted tote bag using needles and pins, and experience an UNESCO World Heritage listed technic from the Netherlands. Travel onwards to Apeldoorn, home to the country-seat of the Dutch Royal Family, Palace ‘het Loo’.
Overnight in Apeldoorn.
Day 7 Apeldoorn – Hoge Veluwe National Park – The Hague
This morning you will visit the Kröller-Müller the Dutch museum for modern and contemporary art, located in the National Park De Hoge Veluwe in Otterlo. The museum boasts the second-largest Van Gogh collection in the world. Furthermore, you will also see masterpieces by modern masters such as Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondriaan. After the guided tour of the museum, enjoy some time to explore the sculpture garden at your own pace. This garden is one of the largest in Europe and spaciously laid with works of Rodin, Moore and Hepworth. After a joint lunch you will journey to The Hague, the seat of the Dutch Government. The Hague is a city synonymous with peace and justice and a city full of contrasts with an exciting mix of new, modern styles and Old Masters. Upon arrival you will enjoy a guided city tour by coach. During the tour you will see the Houses of Parliament, Palace Noordeinde, the Kings working palace and Carnegie’s Peace Palace nowadays the International Court of Justice. Overnight in The Hague.
Day 8 The Hague – Kinderdijk – The Hague
This morning you will travel through the typical Dutch county side to Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. Marvel the unique collection of 18th century windmills, located in this remarkable village. You will be welcomed and a short film is shown about the area and the water management of the Dutch. You will visit two of the stunning windmills and have time to wander about at your own pace. Travel back to The Hague for a guided visit of the ‘Mauritshuis’, home to masterpieces from seventeenth century painting. In this monumental building renowned paintings such as Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, Fabritius’ The Goldfinch and Potter’s The Bull are on permanent display. Remainder of the day at leisure in The Hague. You might want to visit the Escher Museum, here you can see works by Dutchman Marits Cornelis Escher, which is one of the most famous graphic artists in the world. The way he plays with perspective, space and reality means, remains fascinating even today. Highlight of the visit and crown on the exhibition is the seven meters long Metamorphosis III woodcut. Overnight in The Hague.
Day 9 The Hague – Delft – Antwerp
Following breakfast, travel to Delft for a visit to the Royal Delft’s factory, ‘the Porceleyne Fles’ where you will discover the complete history and production process of Delft’s Blue Porcelain. Experience the painters’ passion during a painting demonstration and walk through the factory where craftsmen are still producing. Afterwards you will cross the border into Belgium and drive to Antwerp, the country’s up-coming city. Known for its historic city centre, the Town Hall, the Brabo fountain, its fashion and diamonds, the Schelde quay and the Palace at the Meir, but world-renowned as it was the residence of Peter Paul Rubens. He is considered the most influential artist of the Flemish Baroque style. Upon arrival enjoy a guided walking tour of the historical centre including a visit to the Gothic Cathedral of our Lady with three altarpieces by Rubens and the famous Rubens triptych ‘the raising of the cross’ and of course, the Rubenshuis. Discover the life and work of Rubens and admire his house and atelier in Flemish-Italian Renaissance style and the garden in a stunning Baroque style. Overnight in Antwerp.
Day 10 Antwerp – Ghent – Bruges
Before leaving Antwerp, you will drive through its architectural area, Zurenborg. In this district you will find beautiful Belle Epoque grandeur; Art Nouveau facades, elegant streets and atmospheric squares. The highlight is the Cogels-Osylei street, with sublime architecture from 19th-century. Afterwards, travel to Ghent, a charming town with stunning architecture and lively squares. A local expert guide will show you Ghent, and you will see important buildings from the Middle Ages, such as the UNESCO World Heritage listed Belfry Hall, the St. Michiels bridge, the oldest part of the city, the ‘Korenlei ‘ and the ‘Graslei’. You will continue to the St. Baafs Cathedral and see the famous Ghent Alter Piece ‘the Adoration of the Lamb’ by the Van Eyck brothers. Conclude your day in Ghent with a guided visit to the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts. The collection consists of paintings, sculptures, drawings, etchings and tapestries from the Middle Ages to the first half of the 20th century, ranging from Jheronimus Bosch, Peter Paul Rubens to Auguste Rodin and René Magritte. Travel onwards to Bruges. Overnight in Bruges.
Day 11 Bruges
This morning enjoy a guided walking tour of Bruges. You will see the Holy Blood Cathedral, the Belfort, the Lake of Love – ‘Minnewater’, the Church of Our Lady with Michelangelo’s Marble Madonna, the UNESCO World Heritage listed Beguinage and the historic centre with its canals, lace workshops, and ancient buildings. The tour ends at the ‘De Halve Maan Brewery’ where you will have a guided tour and beer tasting. The tour introduces you to the making of the typical ‘Brugse Zot’ beer. Following lunch at the brewery, enjoy a guided tour of the Groeninge Museum, built on the grounds of the Medieval Eekhout Abbey. This museum houses a beautiful exhibit of paintings by the Flemish Primitives, a group of masterful artists from the 15th and early 16th centuries who specialized in using oil in their paintings, a new material at the time. Spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure.
Overnight in Bruges.
Day 12 Bruges – Brussels
This morning you will travel to Brussels, the capital of Belgium and the administrative center of the European Union. Start your visit with a guided city tour by coach. See the main sights of Brussels such as the Royal Palace, the Palace of Justice, which is larger than St. Peter’s in Rome. This impressive structure rules the Brussels skyline and can be seen from almost any vantage point in the city. The tour will continue on foot in the old town to see the Market Square, with beautiful houses and of course the ‘Manneken Pis’ statue. Afterwards you will visit the Horta Museum, located in the former home and atelier of architect Victor Horta. The museum consist out of two buildings which were built by the architect between 1898 and 1901, the heydays of the Art Nouveau. A large part of the interior decoration has been preserved, admire the mosaics, the stained glass windows, the furniture and the murals. The afternoon is free for independent activities. Farewell dinner and overnight in Brussels.
Day 13 Departure
After breakfast departure to Brussels Airport for you flight back home.