The cities of the Low Countries are a delight to experience. Beginning in Ghent, your Rick Steves guide will take you on story-filled walks through the hearts of Ghent, Bruges, Delft and Amsterdam. You'll also visit the de facto capital of Europe — Brussels, a traditional Belgian brewery, historic Flanders Fields, a nostalgic Dutch open-air museum, a high-tech sea-barrier project, and the world's largest flower auction — ending in Amsterdam with the poignant Anne Frank House, and the brilliantly restored Rijksmuseum. Join us for the Heart of Belgium & Holland in 11 Days!
You'll get all this!
- A small, friendly group of 24-28 people— half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of Belgium and Holland come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 19 group sightseeing events • Ghent walking tour • Ghent canal boat tour • Brussels walking tour • Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium tour • Belgian brewery tour • Bruges walking tour • Bruges Memling Museum tour • Chocolate shop visit & tasting • Tour of Flanders Fields WWI sites • Netherlands Museum Card, allowing free admission to museums throughout the country • Deltaworks and tour of Maeslant sea barrier • Delft walking tour • Delft New Church • Aalsmeer Flower Auction • Dutch Open-Air Museum • Red Light District tour • Rijksmuseum tour • Historic Amsterdam walking tour • Anne Frank House...and more
- All group transportation from Ghent to Amsterdam
- 10 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Rick Steves' Amsterdam, Bruges & Brussels guidebook, map, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2014
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
Daily Activity Key
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to Belgium
We'll gather at our hotel at 3:30 p.m. for a brief introduction meeting. We'll start things off with a walking tour, getting an intimate introduction of the historic center of Ghent including an informative and fun canal cruise. Our evening ends with a traditional Belgian dinner together. Sleep in Ghent (2 nights). Boat: 1 hour. No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: Historic Brussels
This morning we'll hop on a train and head to Belgium's capital city. We'll explore Brussels' medieval city center including the Grand Place (considered the grandest square in Europe) with its splendid medieval guild halls, freshly-fragrant waffles and the quirky Mannekin Pis statue nearby. You'll have free time for lunch and discoveries of your own before we regroup for a guided tour of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, home to dazzling Flemish and Belgian masterpieces. This evening you're free to spend more time in Brussels or train back to Ghent for dinner on your own. Train: 1 hour. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 3: Beautiful Bruges
This morning it's a short drive to the canal-laced and ivy-draped town of Bruges. We'll drop our bags at our lovely canal-side hotel and take a short stroll to Bruges' market square, where you will be free for lunch — Flemish Fries anyone? After lunch, we'll meet our savvy local guide who will introduce us to the pedestrian-friendly streets and alleyways of Gothic Bruges, including a tour of the Memling Museum — showcasing several of Hans Memling's masterpieces all housed within one of Europe's oldest medieval hospitals. Our afternoon continues with a visit to one of Bruges' oldest chocolatiers, where we'll learn about the artistry and traditions of Belgium's most mouth-watering export. We'll cap this perfect day off with dinner together, and sleep in Bruges (3 nights). Bus: 1 hr. Walking: moderate.
Day 4: Gothic Bruges
Today is yours to explore Bruges. Armed with your Bruges Museum Pass, you'll have free entry to any four museums — including the masterpiece packed Groeninge Museum. Or you may decide to hop on a bike and take a wonderful hour-long ride along a tree-lined canal to the nearby small town of Damme. We'll regroup this afternoon for a tour of Bruges' oldest brewery to learn about what makes Belgian beer famous around the globe and enjoy a taste ourselves. You are free for dinner this evening. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice.)
Day 5: Flanders Fields
We'll board our bus this morning and drive to the WWI battlefields around Ypres. Half a million soldiers were killed here, making it one of the deadliest — and today the most hallowed — stretch of land along the Western Front. With the aid of a local expert, we'll tour the monuments, visit a thought-provoking museum, and see "the fields where poppies grow." After lunch together, we'll return to Bruges where you'll have the evening free. Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 6: Challenging the Sea
Today we'll discover how a country stays dry when nearly half of its land is below sea level. Over centuries, the Dutch created an immense system of dams, barriers and dikes for protection from the North Sea — the Deltaworks. We'll explore these feats of modern engineering culminating with a tour of one of earth's largest moving structures — the Maeslant storm surge barrier — and gain a better appreciation of the fragility of the Low Countries. We'll continue on to the traditional Dutch town of Delft for an orientation walk and dinner together. Sleep in Delft (2 nights). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 7: Delectable Delft
This morning an in-depth walking tour with a local guide will give us a personal introduction to Vermeer's hometown including the massive Gothic New Church, where generations of the ruling House of Orange are buried and revered. We'll also visit a workshop to discover the qualities that make Delftware so dear. The rest of your day is free to explore the many other charms of Delft or take a short tram ride to The Hague, where you can get up close and personal with paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Gemeentemuseum, or travel back to an 1880 seaside at the Panorama Mesdag. No bus. Walking: light.
Day 8: Tulips, Countryside and Amsterdam's Red Lights
We'll begin our day in Europe's biggest building — filled with acres of flowers — learning about the worldwide distribution of beauty that begins each day at the Aalsmeer Flower Auction. Then we are off to visit one of the Netherlands open-air museums, a cultural journey into the past to experience first-hand, the Dutch maritime tradition. After lunch, we'll make our way to Amsterdam, where we'll take an orientation walk and enjoy a traditional rijstafel dinner together. After dinner, we'll window-shop the Red Light District and learn about how the Netherlands regulates the world's oldest profession. Sleep in Amsterdam (3 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 9: Vibrant and Historic Amsterdam
This morning get chummy with this great city's gabled houses, bridges and canals learning why the Golden Age glimmered so brightly here. We'll take an historic walk through the heart of the city stopping to visit the Anne Frank House for a thought-provoking look at the hideaway of Anne and her family during the Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands. We'll continue our lessons on Dutch tolerance stopping at a local "coffee shop" to learn about this nation's creative, pragmatic approach to drug policy. This afternoon, armed with your Netherlands Museum Card, you'll have the rest of the day free to tackle any number of Amsterdam's wonderful museums. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 10: Amsterdam's Art
We'll start the day with a thrill: getting up-close and personal with Rembrandt and Vermeer on our tour of Amsterdam's remarkable Rijksmuseum. You can continue your encounter with artistic genius at the nearby Van Gogh Museum, home to 200 of Vincent's works, with your included museum pass. This evening we'll enjoy our farewell dinner, where we'll share memories and toast new friends. Proost! No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 11: Tour Over After Breakfast
Amsterdam's Schipol Airport is an easy train ride away. Your guide will help you with any post-tour planning, leaving you well prepared for the road ahead. Tot ziens!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Heart of Belgium & Holland in 11 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible), on and off public transportation and up stairways to reach your hotel.
- Sleep comfortably in historic canal houses with several flights of steep staircases to reach your room, with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Ghent before your tour begins, use Rick Steves' Amsterdam, Bruges & Brussels guidebook to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of Flemish (although many locals speak English well), and get over your jet lag with fresh air and exercise.
Here are suggestions for sightseeing in Ghent that we will not be doing as a group (see your guidebook for details): Gravensteen Castle, Design Museum, Fine Arts Museum or Ghent City Museum.
Staying on after the tour ends? Amsterdam is a city of museums and you can find one to suit every taste. We'll see the biggies together, but you may also want to check out the Amsterdam History Museum or Dutch Resistance Museum. Consider touring an elegant 17th-century canal house or see what it would be like to live in one of the many canal boats. You may wish to take a short day trip to explore more of the Netherlands. Renting a bike is easy and the countryside is not far away. Haarlem is a charming town to visit....a pleasant half-day trip by bike or an easy 30-minute train ride away.
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). It's easiest to fly into Brussels and home from Amsterdam. You may also want to look into roundtrip flights in and out of Brussels or Amsterdam and then taking the train to or from the tour. However, these options may require an additional overnight stay.
Flying within Europe can be reasonable. Ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
Read Rick's Guide to Eurail Passes and decide if your travel plans merit a rail pass (or contact our Rail Department for advice at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-771-8303 ext. 214).
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email email@example.com.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
The Low Countries are aptly named and the lack of elevation means that wind often blows off of the North Sea. It is a good idea to bring a waterproof wind breaker and lightweight clothes for layering.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
"Nina was just terrific. She provided excellent information about everything — orientation, points of interest, history, current affairs, social conditions. She was knowledgeable, professional, had a great sense of humor and was very interesting — and interested in others, and other parts of the world. We enjoyed everything about her, and loved all her comments throughout the tour."
— David in West Kelowna, BC
"Hans was fantastic, very personable and has a great sense of humor. He made sure he spent time with each guest to be sure all was well, or just to chat. He was very enthusiastic and full of energy. He really seems to love doing his job."
— Jerry in Houston, TX
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"I especially enjoyed a free afternoon that my husband and I used to take a pleasant bike ride (on free bicycles provided by the hotel) along the canal between Bruges and Damme. We rode past a windmill, farm fields, ducks and storks, and stopped halfway through for a relaxing drink at a sidewalk cafe."
— Jennifer in Deerfield, IL
"The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam was my 'WOW.' This is a must for Van Gogh (and Impressionist) fans. I especially enjoyed the handwritten letters from Vincent to Theo with his sketches of his current paintings. Walking the streets at night in Bruges and Delft was an experience in itself."
— Geoffrey in Kalamazoo, MI
"I really enjoyed the day we spent visiting the WWI sites and hearing the stories."
— Rose in Indianapolis, IN
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
(For more Rick Steves' TV clips on this region, visit Rick on YouTube.)
- Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
- Guns of August (1965)
- A Bridge Too Far (1977)
- Vincent and Theo (1990)
- The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Classical: Guillaume Dufay; Willem Pijper
- Jazz: Django Reinhardt; Toots Thielemans; Han Bennink; Elmore D
- Pop/Rock: Bobbejaan Schoepen; Rocco Granata; Boudewijn de Groot; Shocking Blue; George Baker Selection; Golden Earring
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations)
- Rick Steves' Amsterdam, Bruges & Brussels
- A Tall Man in a Low Land: Some Time Among the Belgians — Harry Pearson
- The Undutchables: An Observation of the Netherlands, Its Culture and Its Inhabitants — Colin White & Laurie Boucke
- The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age — Simon Schama
- Amsterdam: A Brief Life of the City — Geert Mak