Springtime in Belgium
A weekend spring tour to Belgium filled with floral and garden delights: this trip is timed to coincide with two spring spectacles – the annual opening of the Royal Greenhouses at Laeken and the unmissable exhibition of flowering bulbs, Floralia Brussels.
This region is also home to two beautiful, historic gardens – Les Jardins d’Annevoie and Chateau Freyr – and guests will have time to explore both before heading home on Sunday evening.
The picturesque city of Dinant lies between these gardens so we will make a lunchtime stop here in order to get a flavour of its unique atmosphere.
Our 2018 tour group enjoyed an inspiring visit with exceptional weather. Don't miss out travelling in 2019 - why not register your interest? The tour will be available to book Autumn 2018
Our tour includes all entry fees, return flights to Brussels from London Heathrow, Birmingham or Manchester airports and two nights’ bed and breakfast accommodation at the 4* Crowne Plaza Hotel, Le Palace in the centre of Brussels.
Open to the public for only three weeks each spring by Royal Decree of the King of Belgium, the elaborate complex of Royal Greenhouses at Laeken was designed for King Leopold II in 1873 by the architect Alphonse Balet. It was conceived as a steel and glass city composed of monumental pavilions topped with glass cupolas linked by wide, covered arcades. These were strikingly innovative materials for the time and the finished building left an architectural legacy that spread across the world in the shape of Art Nouveau. (That movement’s architectural inventor Victor Hotz was Balet’s mentee.) The Royal Greenhouses are not only a treat for architectural aficionados, they are also home to all manner of rare and valuable plant species including many varieties of palm tree. The annual opening is timed to show the collection at its very best and no visitor should leave without experiencing the vibrant, fragrant wonders of the Azalea Greenhouse and Geranium Gallery.
Floralia Brussels is an annual exhibition of spring flowers set in the 14 hectare park surrounding the 17th century Castle of Groot-Bijgaarden a few kilometres outside the Belgian capital. Featuring over a million bulbs, including 400 different varieties of tulip as well as many hyacinths and daffodils, it is a colourful and sweet-smelling celebration of spring. There are also 1000 square meters of restored greenhouses in the grounds which will be home to a changing showcase of around 150 contemporary floral displays.
The red brick Van Buuren Museum is the former home of banker and patron David van Buuren and his wife Alice. Built in the mid-1920s, it was commissioned not only as a place for the couple to live, but also as a ‘total work of art’ to complement their many paintings. The interior is an impressive example of Art Deco style boasting rare pieces of furniture, beautiful stained glass windows and an art collection that spans five centuries. (Highlights include works by 15th century Flemish Masters and 20th century greats Signac and Max Ernst.) The three part garden is equally impressive. Topiary fans will enjoy Labyrinth and the Garden of Hearts (named after its heart-shaped box hedges), while The Picturesque Garden, designed in 1924 by the landscape architect Jules Buyssens, is suffused with the spirit of the roaring twenties.
Les Jardins d'Annevoie near Dinant is one of the region’s most important heritage sites. This magnificent 17th century garden is an intriguing blend of French formality, English romanticism and Italian refinement; a style inspired by the European travels of its creator, Charles-Alexis de Montpellier. The two kilometre walk through the gardens leads you from one surprise to another –the imposing symmetry of the French Drive, for example, is followed by a whimsical hornbeam-covered lane known as The Drive of Desires – and from one extraordinary water feature to another. There are 50 fountains scattered through the gardens’ 28 hectares, including Belgium’s oldest working water steps, a classical French Cascade and the aptly named Big Spitter with its seven meter high water jet.
Our tour also allows time to explore Chateau Freyr, the former summer house of the Dukes of Beaufort –Spontin. This charming Renaissance country house (reputed to be the place where coffee was first drunk in Belgium) boasts walled terraced gardens, pretty fountains, hedged mini mazes and an orchard of orange trees, some of which originated from the Court of Lorraine over 300 years ago.
Brussels is not only the of city the EU, it is also the city of artists Pieter Brueghel and René Magritte, the inventor of art nouveau architecture Victor Horta and Tintin’s creator Hergé. These cultural links can be explored in the Belgian Capital’s many museums and galleries, including the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, the Comic Arts Museum and the Music Museum, a fascinating place in its own right housed in a magnificent Art Nouveau building.
Brussels also has plenty to tempt shoppers. The big names in Belgian chocolate – Leonidas, Godiva and Neuhaus – all have several branches here and other foodie treats can be found close to the Grand Palace in Rue du Marché aux Poulets and Rue Sainte Catherine. Market lovers will enjoy the lively Place de Jeu de Balle flea market, which has been trading in the city since 1919, while anyone interested in artisan products of all kinds should head for the cobweb of squares and narrow streets that make up Ixelles. This area is also filled with bars, cafes and restaurants from where you can watch the bustle of Brussels go by.
The small, strikingly beautiful city of Dinant is squeezed between the River Meuse and a steep cliff face. No trip here would be complete without a visit to its Citadel which towers some 100m above the city and offers breath-taking views of the Upper Meuse valley. (There is a cable car to the top if you don’t fancy climbing the 408 steps).
Dinant is also a city to stroll through. Walk across the Charles de Gaulle bridge with its over-sized saxophones (a tribute to the instrument’s inventor Adolphe Sax who was born here) and look back at the famous pear-shaped spire of the 13th century Collegiate Church of our Lady, then wander along the banks of the Meuse past shops selling Belgian specialities such as beer, sausages and chocolates before stopping for lunch in one of the many restaurants and cafes.
You will be staying at the fabulous 4* Crowne Plaza Hotel, Le Palace a luxurious 4-star hotel set in a prime location in the centre of Brussels within easy reach of main tourist attractions and historic sites.
Arrive at Brussels airport
Enjoy a light lunch and introductions
Transfer to the Crowne Plaza Hotel Le Palace, Rue Gineste 3, Brussels 1210
Evening at leisure
Breakfast at hotel
AM – visit to Royal Greenhouses Laeken
PM- choice of transfer back to Brussels for free time in the city or a visit to Floralia Brussels
Evening at leisure
Breakfast at the hotel
AM – visit to Les Jardins d’Annevoie
Lunch (price not included) and free time in Dinant
PM- visit to Chateau Freyr
Return transfer to airport for your flight back to the UK
All flights arrive into Brussels Airport
From Birmingham with Brussels Airlines
Outbound: departing 1040 arriving 1250
Inbound: departing 2120 arriving 2135
From Heathrow with Brussels Airlines
Outbound: departing 1105 arriving 1310
Inbound: departing 2125 arriving 2135
From Manchester with Brussels Airlines
Outbound: departing 1105 arriving 1325
Inbound: departing 2120 arriving 2135
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Tour Price: £525.00*
Tour Price: £545.00*
Tour Price: £565.00*
Single Room Supplement: £70.00
Prices shown are per person, based on 2 guests sharing a twin/double room.
Prices are subject to change until an initial payment has been made.
Prices are updated regularly to reflect the increases in airline costs.
£200.00 per person (final balance due 8 weeks before departure)
- Return flights with Brussels Airlines ‘light & relax’ includes 23kg checked baggage
- Services of an ECT Tour Manager
- Coach transfers from arrival in Belgium
- 2 nights bed and breakfast as the Crowne Plaza
- Light lunch
- Visit to van Buuren Museum and Garden
- Royal Greenhouses
- Groot Bijgaarden (Floralia Brussels)
- Jardins d’Annevoire
- Chateau and garden of Freyr
- Travel disruption insurance