After arriving in Brussels and checking into your hotel, the remainder of the day is at your leisure. Stroll around the Grand Place (Grote Markt), surrounded by the City Hall and several guildhalls. The UNESCO World Heritage Site hosts annual festivals, light and sound shows, and every two years visitors have the chance to see the colorful Flower Carpet. Not far away is a 17th-century fountain with a bronze statue of little boy, the Manneken-Pis. While opinions vary, it draws hordes of tourists and remains one of Brussels trademark attractions. Stop at one of the many cafes that surround the Grand Place for a plate of mussels or frites, accompanied by a famous Belgium beer.
Today enjoy a private walking tour of Brussels. Your expert guide will meet you at your hotel and take you on a relaxed walking tour of the main sights of the historical heart of the city. You'll start with a short walk to the Grand Place and hear about the history of the remarkable City Hall and its quaint guild houses. Continue on to other highlights including Market Square, the Cathedral of St. Michael and more. You will also get to taste some of Belgium's famous chocolate with a complimentary chocolate tasting. After your tour, the rest of the day will be yours to explore on your own.
(Breakfast & Accommodations, Brussels)
Today is at your leisure to explore more sites on your own or perhaps to return and spend a little more time at attractions from yesterday's tour. For those who want to taste more of Brussels traditional flavors, perhaps take an optional Brussels Gourmet Walking tour which will introduce you to a sample of famous, traditional Belgian cuisine in the charming quarter of the world-famous Grand-Place. On this tour you would have the chance to visit local beer parlors, food stalls, and chocolatiers giving you the opportunity to mingle with locals and capture the spirit of the city.
(Breakfast & Accommodations, Brussels)
The travel time by train from Brussels to Bruges averages a little over one hour, so plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast. With its numerous canals and cobblestone streets, Bruges (Brugge to the Belgians) is widely considered a medieval outdoor museum. If the weather is nice, take a boat trip through the canals. You'll see some of the city's most popular sites from a completely different view. Boats depart from jetties around the city throughout the day and evening, and the captains are all full of information and witty anecdotes. If you're feeling energetic, climb to the top of the Belfry, a medieval bell tower and one of the most prominent symbols of the city, for a panoramic view of the town; the 365 steps are worth it. (You will see this tower on your tour from outside, but with not enough time to climb it.) As a popular destination, there are a wealth of dining options with a good mix of Belgian and European fare. And for the record, Bruges has one 3* Michelin restaurant; De Karmeliet.
(Breakfast, Brussels; Accommodations, Bruges)
After breakfast, the local guide will meet you at your hotel for a relaxed private two hour walking tour of this charming town. Along the way, your guide will acquaint you with the history of Bruges, as well as share stories and interesting facts that only locals know. Just a few of the highlights include the Belfry, Burg Square, with its diverse display of architecture, and the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Originally constructed in the 12th century, the Roman Catholic Basilica houses a relic said to contain some of Jesus' blood brought back from the Holy Land by one of the Counts of Flanders. Every day it is placed on a pillow to be worshiped. After a short ceremony, the faithful are invited to hold their hands over the cylinder and say a prayer. Also on the agenda is Gruuthuse Palace and Museum. This impressive palace now houses a huge collection of typical arts and crafts including tapestries and silverware, as well as an authentic guillotine from the 18th century. You'll cross the Dijver Canal and stop at the Church of Our Lady, famous for Michelangelo's famous Madonna and Child painting. And since this is a private tour, if there is a particular square or site you would like to include, your guide will try to accommodate your request. After your tour, stop for refreshments. The 2Be Terrace Bar (as in "to be in Brugge"), provides one of the best views of the city. Afterwards, take a photo/selfie in front of their beer wall; quite literally a wall of beer. Still searching for souvenirs for the folks back home? Chocolate has to be one of Belgium's most famous exports and Chocolatier Dumon is one of Belgium's best-known brands. This charming shop is located in a historic building just off the Markt.
(Breakfast & Accommodations, Bruges)
After breakfast, make your way to the rail station for your return home or onward to your next Avanti Destination!