Two kingdoms and one duchy: Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are more than just three small states between the North Sea, Germany and France. They share a common culture and look back on a Golden Age together. Between 1550 and 1700, magnificent town houses, canals, windmills, pictures and palaces were created. Some landscapes and cities still look like Rembrandt painted them almost 400 years ago.
This tour can also be done by train. If you have more time, London and/or Paris are easy add/ons.
This trip will be customized according to your wishes.
Broker: Sunny Cars GmbH
Vehicle: Seat Leon or similar (CDMR)
Location: Amsterdam (Railway Station)
The harbour town on the Schelde has a history dating back to the early Middle Ages. Antwerp is a pearl of architecture.
Thousands of diamond traders, cutters and polishers have settled in the centrally located, centuries-old diamond quarter. The best example of typical Antwerp architecture in the Flemish Renaissance style is the Grote Markt in the centre of the old town. In the 17th century Rubens House you can visit historically furnished rooms with works of art by the Flemish baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens.
The well-kept B&B of Linda and Daniel is situated in a quiet suburb of Antwerp, about three kilometres from the centre.
The four rooms of the house are individually furnished in a tasteful, homely style, which represents a successful mixture of old furniture and modern comfort. The owners, who speak German and English, put their heart and soul into running the business and spoil their guests endlessly – starting with a rich Breakfast with many fresh and homemade products, rounded off by an attentive service. The common lounge is also inviting, where you can make yourself comfortable after a strenuous day. The centre can be reached in a few minutes by public transport, with a stop nearby.
The central square in the old town of Antwerp is one of the most beautiful in Europe. It got its shape in the 16th and 17th centuries, when magnificent guild houses were built all around. In front of the Town Hall, decorated with columns, figures and coats of arms, the Brabob fountain splashes with the figure of Centurio Brabo, who is about to throw the giant's cut off hand.
The Flemish metropolis is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It owes its importance to a storm surge that tore a navigation channel right through to the North Sea.
In addition to the hanseatic dealers from Genoa, Venice and Florence, as well as from southern Germany in the 13th Century, Castile, Portugal and Scotland belonged to the regular visitors of the city. A stock exchange building (possibly the first in the world) opened in the house of a merchant family Van der Beurse; the term “stock market” (Börse) is believed to originate from this surname. After prospering in the high Middle Ages, the city came under Spanish rule and became impoverished, hence the historical buildings were preserved. Only towards the end of the 19th century Romantics discovered the unique charm of the city, with its canals and channels. Around the city are medieval ramparts, on which windmills stand.
Already in the Middle Ages the house accommodated pilgrims and other poor travellers in a quiet side street near the market place.
After its thorough redesign, it only has three guest rooms now, which are all the more comfortable. The whole building, overlooking the old roofs of Bruges, is a mixture of old and new, full of character. In the morning Julie serves her guests a hearty Breakfast in the living and dining room; in summer you can also enjoy it in the courtyard. Numerous sights of the city are within walking distance, as well as cafés and restaurants.
The most important tower of Bruges is 83 metres high and houses, among other things, a carillon with 47 bells. In the entrance hall visitors have the opportunity to learn a lot about the history and mission of the Bruges Belfrieds, which is protected as a world cultural heritage site. Those who are not afraid to climb the 366 steps of the tower can stop at the treasure chamber, where important city documents, the city seal and the city treasury were kept in the Middle Ages, at the impressive clockwork or the carillon. At the top, your efforts will be rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of Bruges and the surrounding area.
The oldest preserved building in Bruges, the Basilica of the Holy Blood, stands on the Castleplein. The late Gothic chapel was built above the Romanesque St. Baselius chapel from 1139, in which the relic of the Holy Blood is kept. The crusader Dietrich of Alsace brought them back from his crusade to Jersualem in 1168.
Filigree tracery, turrets and statues of the Flemish counts adorn the beautiful façade of the Stadhuis from 1376, one of the oldest town halls in Belgium. The city has been administered from here for over 600 years. The Gothic Hall impresses with its sculptur-decorated, gold-painted wooden vaulted ceiling and artistic mural painting with scenes from the history of Bruges. The Civiele Griffie with the figures of Justitia, Moses and Aaron on the gables next door served as a peace court.
Only very few places have that much European history and culture per square kilometre. Today Ghent is the second largest city in Flanders after Antwerp. In the Middle Ages it was the second largest north of the Alps. Only Paris was bigger with Cologne and London taking third and fourth place. No wonder, then, that there are almost 10,000 culturally and historically valuable buildings in the town. In addition, Ghent is the largest student city in Belgium, which is always a reliable indicator for a lively scene and affordable prices.
When Emperor Charles was baptized here in 1500, the transformation from a closed Romanesque church to a spacious Gothic church was in full swing. The sacred building has 22 altars made of marble and oak. Most visitors want to see the one done by Jan van Eyck in 1432. The altarpiece around the Adoration of God's Lamb is one of the most important works of art in Ghent – and has an adventurous history behind it. This unique masterpiece survived the iconoclasm, fell into French hands under Napoleon and was claimed as property by National Socialist Germany during the Second World War. Cinema-goers should know it very well from the Clooney movie “The Monuments Men”.
The Grand Duchy is the last of its kind of once twelve in Europe. Today Luxembourg (from “Lützelburg” = “small castle”) is an independent state, although with only 2,500 square kilometres and just over 500,000 inhabitants it is one of the smallest in the world.
This played an important role in the European unification process. Luxembourg is the administrative centre of the European Union, the seat of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and other institutions. The mother tongue of the Luxembourgers is Luxembourgish (“Lëtzebuergesch”), a Mosel-Franconian idiom that was regarded as a purely High German dialect until the 20th century. It was not until 1984 that it became the independent national language and co-official language of the country (alongside French and German).
This charming hotel is located in a quiet but central location near the Parc des Trois Glands in Luxembourg. The tasteful rooms have wooden floors and are individually furnished in an elegant colonial style.
A lovingly prepared Breakfast with fresh baked goods, muesli, fruit, egg dishes and other ingredients is served in the small Breakfast room with a cosy ambience at the table. When the weather is fine, the well-kept garden area with terrace invites you to linger. The Museum of Modern Art and the Musée Dräi Eechelen are located in the park; the city centre can be reached in a few minutes.
The region in the northeast of the Grand Duchy owes its name to the sandstone cliffs formed by erosion. It is particularly popular with climbers and hikers and is part of the German-Luxembourg Nature Park. Centrally located is the Müllerthal, a deeply cut brook landscape with several loops, through which runs the 110 km long Mullerthal Trail. There are also short circular hiking trails. Our hiking suggestion leads to one of the most impressive rocks, the Predigtstuhl, to the castle Beaufort and to the rock labyrinth Raiberhiel. The way back leads through a mossy Roitzbach gorge. (round trip: 20.4 kilometers, 6:30 hours, up and down: 460 meters)
The large Saar loop near Mettlach is one of the most famous sights in Saarland. The most beautiful view is from Cloef, a 180-metre-high vantage point in the Orscholz district of Mettlach. The shore is lined by rock faces, screes and small gorges. On the wooded ridge within the Saar loop are the church of St. Gangolf with a former monastery and the castle ruins of Montclair. The only village directly on the Saar loop is the village of Dreisbach, which can be reached by ferry. Above the vantage point, a treetop path leads to even more views. Our hiking suggestion leads from the Cloef down to the shore and back via a serpentine path. (round trip: 8.2 kilometers, 3 hours, up and down: 272 meters)
The beautiful city on the banks of the River Moselle is believed to be the oldest city in Germany. Founded by the Romans in 15 BC, the settlement called Augusta Treverorum had risen to become the capital of the Western Roman Empire by the 3rd century AD. The city reached its height in the 14th century when it was home to the powerful Archbishop of Trier, but its fortunes declined when the seat of the archbishop was moved to Koblenz in the 17th century. The main sites include the amphitheater, Barbara Thermals, Imperial Baths, Constantine Basilica, the Roman Bridge and the Porta Nigra, the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. In addition the town on the Mosel has a magnificent countryside: the mountains and forests of the Eifel and Hunsrück bordering the vineyards on the rivers Mosel, Saar and Ruwer.
The house in Brückenstraße 10 was built around the year 1550. Karl Marx was born here on 5 May 1818 as the third child of the Jewish lawyer Heinrich Marx and his wife. The family had been renting this house for a good year since April 1, 1818. It fell into oblivion and was only identified in 1904 due to the find of an advertisement of his father Heinrich Marx in the Trierische Zeitung of April 5, 1818. After long efforts, the SPD was only able to acquire the house in 1928, which had undergone several major changes in the 19th and early 20th century. Today it is open to the public. An exhibition reports on the life and work of Karl Marx and his influence in the 20th century.
The monumental remains suggest that one of the largest bathing complexes of the entire Roman Empire must have stood here. The 19 metre high remains of the wall are now Unesco World Heritage Sites. It is likely, however, that no one ever bathed in the thermal baths, as the building was already converted into barracks during ancient times. Instead, they continued to bathe in the much older Barbara baths in the neighbourhood. Today the whole area is an archaeological park.
Founded by the Romans over 2,000 years ago, Cologne is Germany's second oldest city. The city marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire and was therefore of great strategic and military importance to the Romans.
For many centuries now it has been a leading trading and transportation hub due to its location along the Rhine River. Cologne became one of the focal points of Western culture during the Middle Ages when, under the rule of Friedrich II, the relics of the Three Wise Men were brought to Cologne in 1164 after being captured from Milan. Cologne Cathedral, one of the most magnificent structures north of the Alps, was built to house these relics, although construction wasn't completed until 600 years later. Today the landmark is the emblem of Cologne and is also a World Heritage Site of UNESCO. The old town facing the Rhine together with the city boasting 12 Romanesque churches among its numerous other historical sites creates a unique ensemble and Cologne is also known as the center of the German Mardi Gras celebrations that peak during the carnival period.
In the heart of Cologne's Old Town, just minutes from the Cathedral, the Rhine River and the main shopping streets and as part of one of Cologne's oldest family breweries, this hotel is a very special address.
The 37 rooms are modern and well designed – some with Cathedral views and their own beer on tap. The brewery has lots of character with the Köbesse (traditionally rude waiting staff) serving authentic Cologne cuisine and amazing views of the Dom and the City. One of Cologne's best known bands – Die Höhner – shows off memorabilia of 40 years of band history over two floors.
The old town south of the cathedral has quite a high Kölsch brewery density, medieval alleys and the historic Cologne town hall. Nearby is the fragrance museum in the Farina House, which is inexorably linked to the famous perfume “Eau de Cologne”. The Italian perfumer Johann Maria Farina created the scent that reminded him of oranges, lemons, grapefruit and bergamot, cedrat, the flowers and herbs of his homeland. The reopened “Dufthaus 4711” awaits you in Glockengasse, with a fountain from which Kölnisch Wasser bubbles.
The former port of Cologne is today a modern city district with apartments, gastronomy and culture. Next to the old buildings such as the harbor office, the crane houses were built, which tower over the harbor like oversized cranes. There are also two extraordinary museums: the Sports and Olympic Museum displays exhibits from 3000 years of sports history. Right next door is the Chocolate Museum. During their tour, visitors follow the path of cocoa from the plantation to the chocolate factory. The three meter high chocolate fountain may whet the appetite for more.
The Roman-Germanic Museum shows archaeological finds from the times of the ancient Rome. Among the most important exhibits are the Dyonisos mosaic from the dining room of a Roman villa and the tomb of veteran Lucius Poblicius. Both can be seen from the square in front of the cathedral through a glass pane. The Ludwig Municipal Museum contains the Ludwig couple's collection, which has attracted worldwide attention. Art objects of the 20th century are on display – from Picasso to Roy Lichtenstein and Gerhard Richter.
The route leads through the heavily populated Rhine-Ruhr region north of Cologne, Gemany's industrial heartland during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The landscape increasingly flattens out as you follow the course of the Rhine River to the border just south of Arnhem, then cross the Dutch lowlands to Amsterdam. Heavy traffic is likely to be encountered between Cologne and Duisburg in Germany, and between Utrecht and Amsterdam during the latter part of the trip.
Location: Amsterdam (Railway Station)
The North Sea metropolis is extremely liberal even for European standards, and curious tourists flock to its (in)famous red light district, its erotic theatres and its euphemistically named “coffee shops.” Indeed, the number of visitors entering the red light district merely to look and not conduct business has resulted in a severe decline in brothels in recent years. The city's liberal roots lie in its location at the gates to Europe, which has always made it home to countless foreigners from all over the world, and in the importance of foreign trade to the local economy. Amsterdam was born when a dam was built in the River Amstel (“Amstel Dam”) around the 11th century. The Dam remains the heart of the Old Town today, which fans out from the Central Train Station in a series of concentric canals designed in the 17th century. The city's main sights besides those referred to above include the Anne Frank Museum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum (national museum).
The small luxury hotel was built in 1618 during what is aptly known as the “Golden Age” in Amsterdam. The patrician townhouse was built by a trader of spices from the Far East and, judging by its opulant furnishings, business was good. The historical property served as the home of the Dutch Prime Minister in the 1880s, then became part of a university before being acquired by its current owners in 1968 and converted into an exclusive hotel in 1983. A recent rennovation was overseen by Wim van de Oudeweetering, one of Holland's premier interior designers.
In 2008 the facility was designated a “Hidden Treasure,” a prestigious award bestowed by the Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board. The hotel “known only to the happy few” was praised by the Board for the unique design of each of its 38 bedrooms, its “incomparable ambience with strikingly beautiful details,” and its “top-level hospitality.” Add to this the location in the very centre of Old Amsterdam, just a few minutes' walk from the Dam Square, and it's easy to see why this hotel is considered a “Hidden Treasure.”