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Bruges is a picture-perfect example of a medieval city, made even more atmospheric by the trimmings of the season; its cobbled streets are festooned with lights, its towering belfry illuminated and the magnificent Markt square replete with towering tree. This six day festive break is based at the central, cosy and charming Aragon Hotel, includes two dinners at excellent local restaurants, free time and visits to Ghent and Antwerp.
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Hotel Aragon, Bruges
The cosy and friendly four-star Aragon Hotel enjoys a superlative location just behind the Markt square within easy walking distance of Bruges' myriad of sights. Facilities here include a comfortable lounge/bar (offering complimentary tea/coffee from 2-4pm), a breakfast room and 42 very well-appointed bedrooms with private bath/shower with luxurious l'Occitane toiletries, hair-dryer, TV, minibar and telephone. Upgrades to executive rooms are also available at the hotel, many of which have a small balcony or terrace, some with views of the belfry. The hotel does not have a restaurant but there are plenty of restaurants close to the hotel.
Hotel Aragon Website
OUR VIEW ON THE HOTEL
This lovely hotel is perfectly located close to all of Bruges main sights and for the tour as a whole. The Aragon also offers those little extra touches to make your stay extra special, such as L'Occitane toiletries.
Pre-tour accommodation is available at the Premier Travel Inn, London Kings Cross St Pancras, about a 5 minutes walk from St Pancras International, at an approximate rate of £120 per room. Bookings can be made direct with the hotel on 0871 527 8672 or visit their website.
Bruges, perhaps, has the best claim to the title "the Venice of the North", set on a labyrinth of canals lined with magnificent medieval buildings. As well as being picturesque, there is a wealth of artistic and architectural heritage to uncover, reflecting its history as the cradle of Flemish painting and its economic significance as a textile and trade centre up to the late 15th century. The focal point of the city to which all roads seem to lead, is the impressive Markt central square, flanked by magnificent houses with crow-stepped gables, old guildhalls, towering belfry, and the covered market.
Elsewhere, the Burg square is lined by four of the city's most impressive buildings: the Gothic townhall, Basilica of the Holy Blood dating from the 12th century, the Renaissance court record office and the old law courts. Other sights include the medieval city walls, St-Salvator Cathedral, picturesque Begijnhof almshouses and Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerek (Church of Our Lady), famed for its "Madonna and Child" by Michelangelo, but part of the attraction of this beautiful city is just to wander at leisure along its canals and squares, soaking up the festive atmopshere, enhanced by a colourful Christmas market. The city boasts several superb museums too - don't miss the Gruuthuse Museum housed in a 15th century palace, with an impressive collection of tapestries and lace, the Groeninge Museum's stunning collection including Jan van Eyck's serene "Portrait of Margaretha van Eyck" and Gerard David's gruesome "The Judgement of Cambyses" and finally Mernling Museum set in the 12th century hospital of St John's, itself one of the most beautiful buildings in Bruges.
Less famous than its near neighbour, Ghent is a vibrant university city home to 43,000 students and Flanders' spiritual citadel. Criss-crossed by canals and waterways, its old town is perfect for exploration on foot and it boasts a wealth of sights to interest the visitor. One of the city's great attractions is the Cathedral - St Baafskathedraal - that houses the famed " Adoration of the Mystic Lamb Altarpiece" by Jan van Eyck, which dates from the 15th century and is widely regarded as one of the most important works of art in the world. Elsewhere in Gent, do not miss the 91m high belfry, 15th century Cloth Hall, townhall, numerous important churches including St-Michielsbrug and St-Jacobskerk, several delightful market squares, Graslei quayside lined with ancient houses in a pure Flemish architectural style dating from the 12th to 17th centuries and 12th century Gravensteen (Chateau des Comtes). There are notable museums, too, including the Museum voor Schone Kunsten with its collection of ancient and modern paintings including works by Hieronymous Bosch, SMAK modern art museum and Museum of Decorative Arts.
Valid passport required by all, except:
(a) EU nationals holding valid national identification cards;
(b) Holders of national identification cards issued to nationals of Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and Switzerland.
Are not required by EU citizens.
As with most trains, passengers are responsible for carrying baggage onto and off the train. Baggage can be stored on overhead shelves or at the entrance to the carriages. Trollies are available at St Pancras and Lille, but bags do need to be carried on to the platform. Porters are sometimes but not always available at St Pancras. The Eurostar and French trains are very long (18 carriages in the case of Eurostar and nearly 400 metres long) so there can be quite lengthy walks from the station entrance to your seat. On all legs of the journey you have reserved seat and carriage numbers which are shown clearly on your ticket.
LUGGAGE DELIVERY SERVICE
Travel Editions recommends a luggage delivery service called thebaggageman, where your suitcase can be picked up from your home before departure and delivered straight to your hotel; therefore removing the worry about carrying your cases onto and off the trains. Please click here for more information and we have arranged a 10% discount exclusive to Travel Editions clients off the thebaggageman service. Tel: 01844 264890
HEALTH & INSURANCE – EHIC CARD
Please note that EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) only allows access to the same state-provided healthcare as a resident of the EU country they are temporarily visiting. It is NOT an alternative to travel insurance and will not provide the same level of cover as a travel insurance policy. The EHIC will not cover any private medical healthcare or the cost of things such as repatriation to the UK or lost or stolen property. It is also important to note that each country’s healthcare system is slightly different, so the EHIC might not cover everything that would be generally free on the NHS On the EHIC application website, there is a section called Access to Healthcare Abroad which clarifies all the conditions and inclusions. We strongly recommend that you take out an appropriate travel insurance policy when you travel abroad.
Day 1: Travel by Eurostar from St Pancras or Ebbsfleet to Lille and onwards by coach to Bruges (approx. two hours). On arrival check-in to Hotel Aragon for five-night stay on bed and breakfast basis.
Day 2: Morning guided walking tour of Bruges with afternoon free to explore at your leisure. As picturesque as they come, Bruges is set on a labyrinth of canals lined with magnificent medieval buildings. It is home to a wealth of artistic and architectural heritage, reflecting its history as the cradle of Flemish painting and its economic significance as a textile and trade centre up to the late 15th century. The focal point of the city is the impressive Markt square, flanked by magnificent houses with crow-stepped gables, old guildhalls, the belfry, and the covered market. Elsewhere, the Burg square is lined by four of the city's most impressive buildings: the Gothic townhall, the 12th century Basilica of the Holy Blood, the Renaissance court record office and the old law courts. You could also explore the medieval city walls, St. Salvator Cathedral, picturesque Begijnhof almshouses and Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerek (Church of Our Lady), famed for its Madonna and Child by Michelangelo, but part of the attraction of this beautiful city is just to wander at leisure along its canals and squares, soaking up the festive atmosphere, enhanced by a colourful Christmas market. The city boasts several superb museums too: the Gruuthuse Museum, housed in a 15th century palace, with an impressive collection of tapestries and lace, the Groeninge Museum and it's collection including Jan van Eyck's serene portrait of Margaretha van Eyck and Gerard David's gruesome The Judgement of Cambyses; and the Mernling Museum set in the 12th century hospital of St John's, one of the most beautiful buildings in Bruges.
Day 3: Full day trip to Ghent, with Christmas Eve dinner at a local restaurant. Ghent is a vibrant university city and Flanders' spiritual citadel. Criss-crossed by canals and waterways, its old town is perfect for exploration on foot and it is here that you will find a wealth of sights. One of the city's great attractions, St Baafskathedraal, is where you'll find the famed Adoration of the Mystic Lamb alterpiece by Jan van Eyck, which dates from the 15th century and is widely regarded as one of the most important works of art in the world. Do not miss the 91 metre high belfry, 15th century Cloth Hall, town hall and the Graslei quayside, which is lined with ancient houses in a pure Flemish architectural style dating from the 12th to 17th centuries. There are notable museums, too, including the Musem voor Schone Kunsten with its collection of ancient and modern paintings. This evening, enjoy a festive Christmas Eve dinner at an atmospheric local restaurant.
Day 4: Full day free to continue your exploration of Bruges before Christmas Day dinner at another excellent local restaurant.
Day 5: Full day tour to Antwerp. Belgium's second city, Antwerp, is one of the world's largest ports, with a characteristically Flemish old town at the heart of a thriving modern city. Home and birthplace of Rubens, the city has a strong artistic heritage reflected in its host of churches and museums. As with many Flemish settlements, Antwerp boasts a market square surrounded by 16th and 17th century guildhalls, whilst other unmissable sights include the cathedral and belfry, the church of St Paul, home to a collection of paintings by Antwerp masters, and Ruben's House. The city has many museums including the Plantin-Moretus, housed in the former print works of famed painter Plantin, which contains the renowned Gutenberg Bible, one of only 13 in the world.
Day 6: Morning free to visit a museum of two before a coach transfer back to Lille for the return Eurostar to Ebbsfleet or St Pancras.
NB: Exact order of excursions may vary according to local conditions and tour manager's discretion.
Please note the maximum group size on this tour is 49 passengers.
PLEASE NOTE: As with most trains, passengers are responsible for carrying baggage onto and off the train. Baggage can be stored on overhead shelves or at the entrance to the carriages. Trollies are available at St Pancras, but bags do need to be carried onto the platform.
Luggage Delivery Service
Travel Editions recommends a luggage delivery service called thebaggageman, where your suitcase can be picked up from your home before departure and delivered straight to your hotel; therefore removing the worry about carrying your cases onto and off the trains. Please click here for more information and we have arranged a 10% discount exclusive to Travel Editions clients off the thebaggageman service. Tel: 01844 264890.
You will have the option to book your own flights independently with the operator.
Offering a wide range of extended tours and cultural short breaks for the discerning traveller, Travel Editions was established in 1994 and is now one of the leading specialist independent escorted tour operators in the UK. The company started with the idea of creating itineraries that were not readily available on the high street, and the team still remains focused on offering escorted tours that appeal to travellers rather than tourists.
Over the years, Travel Editions has developed and diversified its range of escorted tours to include rail tours, air tours, history tours, Christmas tours and even specialist interest tours that have specific appeal for walkers, foodies, art lovers, music addicts and flower enthusiasts. From enjoying wonderful walks and tasty local cuisine in Crete to visiting the art nouveau buildings of Milan and exploring the architectural gems of the Netherlands, Travel Editions creates amazing tours to suit every budget and interest.
As rail transport is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel, the company has carefully developed nearly 30 exciting escorted rail tours that include trips to France, Spain, Brussels, Arnhem, Luxembourg and the Italian Riviera. Travel Editions believes that the journey becomes part of the holiday, and is why this specialist tour operator also offers a range of tours by air, such as Delphi and Mount Pelion in Greece, the beautiful Italian city of Florence, and Paphos, Nicosia and the Troodos Mountains in Cyprus. Whatever the escorted tour or the destination, Travel Editions provides holidays that are packed full of cultural and historic treasures, as well as plenty of free time to relax and soak up the local atmosphere and the regional food and wine.
One of the best things about Travel Editions is that the team can tailor-make all tours to your group’s budget and specification, be it shopping till you drop in New York or tasting the most delicious gastronomic delights of Sicily. Not only can the activities be tailored to meet your requirements but so can the travel options, hotel selection (three, four or five-star hotel) and the whole itinerary. Alternatively, you can simply pick one of the many carefully curated escorted tours listed on the Travel Editions website.
In almost all cases, daily excursions are included in the price of a trip, and all excursions are taken by private coach. The size of the group varies depending on the escorted tour, and Travel Editions limits some holidays to lower numbers to suit the nature of the specific holiday. Walking, culinary and special interest tours are limited to approximately 20-30 passengers, and the Europe by Rail and Europe by Air holidays are limited to a maximum of 35 passengers. Then there’s the UK British Heritage Tours with a maximum capacity of 49, however, some are much less than this. No matter which tours you choose, you will never feel as though you are in a big group.
Travel Editions is passionate about delivering a personal service every step of the way, and its team of experts will arrange your holiday with minimum fuss and maximum effort. Customer service and attention to detail are at the heart of everything they do, plus you will always be treated as an individual and get the benefit of affordable prices by travelling as a group. Another bonus is that Travel Editions is ABTA and ATOL protected, which means your money and your holiday will be protected from the moment you book.
In addition to offering extended tours and cultural short breaks, Travel Editions offers a large range of special events in the UK that bring the culture and history of the United Kingdom to life. These events can be found in the Art & History Abroad programme and include expert speakers, entertaining concerts and impressive dinners in historic locations.