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Spring evening by the canals in Amsterdam


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Picture Postcard… from the canals of Amsterdam

Spring evening by the canals in Amsterdam

A spring evening by the canals in Amsterdam

Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, the canals of Amsterdam are amongst the most famous in the world. Photo credit: Shutterstock | PisaPhotography

Seventeenth-Century Canal Ring Area of Amsterdam, inside the Singelgracht

Built at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries, the historic urban canal network of Amsterdam lies to the west and south of the historic old town and the medieval port. The city was in fact extended by draining swampland, building the canals and filling in the intermediate spaces where many gabled house and monuments now stand. It was the largest and most homogeneous urban development of its time and was used as a model of large-scale town planning up until the 19th century.

Today they are a delight to wander around, whether by foot, bicycle or boat, although it would take a while to see them all, with over one hundred kilometres of canals, around 90 islands and some 1,500 bridges.

This lovely shot of the canals a glow on a warm spring evening, in the dimming light with reflections shimmering in the water, really sets the scene for a night of romance. And the spring is great time to visit if you prefer to avoid the crowds of the summer. Find your spring Amsterdam escape today with GreatEscapes.com.


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Top Ten Things to do in Lille for Mother’s Day

Lille is the perfect location for a girls’ getaway and, with Mother’s Day coming up, a long weekend with your Mum would make a fantastic treat for her (and you). In a blatant attempt to persuade you to visit, here are our favourite things to do, eat and drink in Lille. Together they add up to make a Mother’s Day or even a weekend to remember.

Top Ten Things to Do, Eat and Drink in Lille for Mother’s Day

1. Personal Shopper at Printemps

39-45, rue Nationale

Printemps, Lille, France

Splash out at this famous department store with your very own assistant guiding you to the latest fashions that will flatter your figure and reflect your personality. You’ll need to book it in advance. Tel: +33 (0)3 20 63 62 76.

 

2. Visit Wazemmes Market

Place de la Nouve Aventure

Wazemmes Market, Lille, France

If markets are more your style than department stores, then a visit to Wazemmes famous Sunday morning market is a must. Pop inside to pick up some fabulous cheeses or wander around the outdoor stalls selling a huge variety of things including flowers, Indian fabrics, antiques and street food from around the world.

Open: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
Metro: Line 1 to Gambetta

 

3. Morning Coffee (and cake) at Coffee Makers

151 rue de Paris

Coffee Makers, Lille., France

Reputedly serving the best coffee in town, Coffee Makers are also known for their delicious homemade cakes and tasty sandwiches.

 

4. Cycling Tour of Lille

Cycling tour of Lille, France

Perfect for the more active Mum, a cycling tour with Le Grand Huit is a great introduction to the parks and historic sites of the city. You can read about my experience with them on my personal blog, Exploring Lille by bicycle.

 

5. Lunch at Guinquette de la Marine

8 Avenue Léon Jouhaux

Guinquette de la Marine, Lille, France

After all that cycling you’ll have worked up an appetite and this quirky riverside brasserie is the perfect place to refuel. Try their Carbonnade Flamande (Beef and beer stew) or their Tarte au Maroilles (Cheese Flan), both traditional to the area and utterly scrumptious. Arrive early to be sure to get a table. Tel: +33 (0)3 20 39 85 43.

 

6. Afternoon Tea at L’Impertinente

9 boulevard Papin

Impertinente, Lille, France

A fantastic tea room with a warm and friendly atmosphere where the delicious homemade cakes are bound to tempt you.

 

7. La Piscine, Musée d’Art et d’Industrie André Diligent

23 rue de l’espérance, Roubaix

La Piscine, Roubaix, Lille, France

Not far from Lille in neighbouring Roubaix, which you can easily get to by tram, is my favourite museum and art gallery, La Piscine, a former art deco swimming pool with a fascinating history which you can read about in this previous post, La Piscine, a beautiful museum in Roubaix, Lille.

For more information about public transport in and around Lille visit the Lille Tourism website and for more information about opening times and prices visit their website, La Piscine.

 

8. Waffles and chocolates at Méert

27 rue Esquermoise

Méert, Lille, France

A beautiful and historic shop and café, famous for its chocolates and waffles. You’ll also find them in Lille’s Printemps store.

 

9. Champagne at Alliance Couvent des Minimes

17 Quai du Wault

Alliance Couvent des Minimes, Lille, France

Just ten minutes from Lille’s main square you’ll find the city’s only champagne bar. Located in the glass-roofed courtyard of this 17th century former convent, the hotel beautifully combines many historic features with modern design. (And they are currently running a 3rd night free offer which you can find out more about at the end of this post.)

 

10. Dine at Basilic Café

24 bis rue Esquermoise

Burgers

A little further down the same street as Mason Méert, away from the tourist traps of the main square, you’ll find this trendy, reasonably priced restaurant known for their excellent burgers with a twist. They have a number of vegetarian options and I’ve heard they can also offer vegan dishes on request (although talking to them in advance is recommended).

 

3rd Night free offer at Alliance Couvent des Minimes

To make this Mother’s Day a day to remember, book a long weekend in Lille at one of the many lovely city centre hotels. The elegant Alliance Couvent des Minimes currently has a 3rd night free offer for travel completed between 15th February and the 9th March. With this offer the price for 3 nights, including breakfast and travel by Eurostar, is from £187 per person based on 2 sharing a room. And you can travel in style with an upgrade to Eurostar’s Standard Premier from £73 per person each way.

For more information or to book call 01489  866932.

Please note that the price for the Eurostar element is subject to fare availability.

 

The Ferris Wheel, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France


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The Champs-Elysées at Christmas

Each evening throughout December lights sparkle in the trees, headlights glow and white wooden chalets line the pavements of the Champs-Elysées. From the magnificent Ferris wheel on the Place de la Concorde in the east to the Arc de Triomphe at the western end of the avenue, it really is an impressive sight.

The Ferris Wheel, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

Having recently visited Paris for a long weekend I couldn’t resist trying to capture the magic of Christmas with my camera. If only I could incorporate the sounds of chatter and laughter and the delicious smells and tastes from the food and drink stalls. Imagine mulled wine, spicy sausages, toffee apples, fizzing glasses of champagne, mulled cider and so much more.

Please join me on a photo walk down the Champs-Elysées in the City of Lights.

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Hundreds of stalls line both sides of the road for over a mile and as the light starts to dim the fairy lights that bedeck each chalet start to shine.

Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

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There’s a plethora of craft stalls with colourful ideas for seasonal gifts.

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

No Christmas market would be complete without an ice-rink.

Ice skating at Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

One of my favourite parts of the market though, as anyone who knows me would guess, is Le Marché Gourmand. One of the first things to catch my eye are these toffee apples and waffles. But I resist until I have checked out every stall.

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

A chilled glass of Champagne or warm glass of wine perhaps?

Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

People drink and eat while walking, perched on stools or inside one of a number of pop-up restaurants.

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

The stall holders are full of Christmas cheer.

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

Corsican specialities at Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

A stall over-laden with Corsican specialities brings back happy memories of Colomba and Pietra beer, fig and chestnut preserves, not to mention their delicious cheeses and charcuterie, from the ‘Island of Beauty’.

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

Having carefully eyed-up every edible option I settle for a very tasty Toulouse herb sausage.

 Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

 Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

Paris is full of magic whatever time of year you visit and it was wonderful to see her once again sparkling for Christmas.

Things to Know

The Christmas market runs until January 3rd 2016 and is open every day from 10.30am until midnight (1am on Fridays and Saturdays).

The Champ-Elysées Illuminations will be lit every day until January 6th 2016 from 6pm to midnight and all night on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

The Ferris wheel, which costs 12 Euros per adult, will remain until September 23rd 2016 and opens every day from 11am until midnight (1am on Friday and Saturday). It makes one rotation as everyone gets on and off and then two more for a glorious bird’s eye view of the city.

For details of other Christmas markets in Paris visit Parisinfo.com.

And you can find out more about our Eurostar breaks to Paris here.

 

Antwerp at Christmas


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Europe’s Christmas Markets in 2015

It may only be October but hotels, flights and ferries are booking up fast with visitor’s to this year’s Christmas Markets in Europe. I love wandering around the stalls, finding interesting presents for family and friends, sampling mulled wine and other tasty treats. And, being a keen photographer, the markets and Christmas lights make wonderful subjects for my camera. I’m looking forward to photographing Paris come December.

Here at Great Escapes we’ve looked up the dates for some of our favourites to inspire you to do the same.


Belgium’s Christmas Markets


Antwerp, 5th to 27th December 2015

Each year the Groenplaats, Handschoenmarkt, Grote Markt and Suikerrui have a Christmas make-over. A festive atmosphere and music fills the air with many a cup of hot chocolate and glass of Glühwein consumed. There’s also an ice-rink set-up near Goenplaats, although dates vary slightly from the markets. Visit Antwerp.

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Bruges, 20th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016

We couldn’t imagine a more picturesque setting for a Christmas market than Bruges. There will be stalls on the Market Square and an ice-rink and stalls on Simon Stevinplein,  packed full of crafts, seasonal decorations and tasty things to eat and drink. Visit Bruges.

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Brussels, 27th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016

Brussels at Christmas

This vibrant Christmas market is held in the heart of the city on Place Sainte-Catherine. The big wheel and the ice rink at Marché aux Poissons will both be back again this year, as well as some 150 stalls. Don’t miss the magical son & lumière illuminations on the Grand-Place.  WinterWonders.be. Visit Brussels.

Ghent, 4th December 2015 to 3rd January 2016

Ghent’s city centre with an ice-rink, a giant Ferris wheel and the Christmas market at Konenmarkt transforms in to a winter wonderland each year. Following the success of last year the Castle of the Counts will again be part of the festivities and decorated as a winter castle. VisitGent.be. Visit Ghent.

Ghent at Christmas

Hasselt, 14th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016

This cosy winter village offers Flanders’ largest mobile skating rink, the House of Santa Claus and a fun Ferris wheel in Kolonel Dusartplein.  For the little ones there is also a small Christmas train.  Winterland.be

Leuven, 10th to 20th Dec 2015

One of the oldest Christmas markets in Belgium is held in Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein and Herbert Hooverplein in Leuven. The streets are lit up by candle light and you can enjoy everything from an intimate Christmas concert to tasting sparkling winter beers. Leuven is also home to the largest brewery in world, Stella Artois, which was originally a Christmas beer, brewed for the first time back in 1926. LeuvenseKerstMarkt.com Visit Leuven.

Leuven at Christmas

Mechelen, dates TBC

The Christmas market is centred on Grote Markt, City Hall, IJzerenleen and Veemarkt with choirs, food and drink stalls and plenty of ideas for Christmas gifts. Visit Mechelen.

Ypres,  27th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016

The Christmas market in Ypres is growing in reputation and takes place on the Grote Markt in the centre of town each afternoon during this period and all day on Saturday. The Swiss style chalets, together with the popular ice rink will certainly put you in a festive mood. (Closed Mondays). Kerstmarkt-Ieper.be Visit Ypres.

Ypres at Christmas

 


France’s Christmas Markets


Amiens, 27th November to 31st December 2015

Amiens is one of the largest Christmas market in the north of France bringing the magic of Christmas into the heart of the city with fairground rides, an open air ice-rink and an impressive light  show at the city’s cathedral throughout December. Visit Amiens.

Arras,  27th November to 30th December 2015

Arras at Christmas

Arras, the town renowned for its tapestries of the late Middle Ages, holds a spectacular Christmas market on the Grand Place with some 60 stalls offering a wide range of arts and crafts and local delicacies. Visit Arras.

Le Touquet, 19th to 31st December 2015

Le Touquet offers a traditional Christmas setting with fables, characters, lights, music and a truly festive atmosphere, with street stalls offering seasonal goods. Visit Le Touquet.

Le Touquet at Christmas

Lille, 18th November to 30th December 2015

The one of the biggest Christmas markets in northern France is held in Lille and attracts nearly a million visitors each year. The Grand Place is transformed by a majestic mix of illuminations and a big wheel which turns majestically to the sound of Christmas carols. Visit Lille.

Lille at Christmas

Paris Christmas Markets and Illuminations, 15th November 2015 to 4th January 2016

Paris at Christmas

What better time to visit the ‘City of Lights’ than at Christmas when the department stores vie with each other for the best Christmas decorations and illuminations and the trees lining the Champs Champs Elysées sparkle with lights. There are numerous Christmas Markets around the city. Visit Paris.

Reims, 20th November to 27th December 2015

You’ll find around 120 stalls at the Christmas market at Reims. Festive foods and gifts, street entertainers, carol singers and magicians all add to the festive atmosphere. Visit Reims.

 


Other European Christmas Markets


Amsterdam, dates vary

From traditional Dickensian markets capturing the magic of a Victorian Christmas to trendy food festivals you’ll find a range of Christmas markets in Amsterdam itself as well as nearby. In the city itself you’ll find ice rinks surrounded by wooden chalets over flowing with gifts and festive food and drink. iamsterdam.com. Visit Amsterdam.

Cologne, 23rd November to 23rd December 2015

Cologne hosts 7 Christmas markets with the largest located at the Cologne Cathedral, on the Alter Markt, on the Neumarkt and on the Rudolfplatz. The most impressive has to be Cologne Cathedral as it makes such a spectacular backdrop and it’s here you’ll find the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland. Visit Cologne.

Cologne at Christmas

 

Details of markets and festive activities have been provided by local tourist offices and are published by Great Escapes in good faith.

Please note event dates and details are subject to change – please check with our reservations team if you want any further details.

Hotels fill up fast during the Christmas Markets so we would recommend booking early if you would like to travel at this popular time. Call 0845 330 2084 or email holidays@GreatEscapes.co.uk for a quote.


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24 hours in Brussels – Eating, drinking and shopping at the Christmas Markets

With Brussels being only a couple of hours from London on the Eurostar, it’s a great place to visit for a short break or even for the day! So what can you do in 24 hours in Brussels? I found out for myself with a whirlwind visit to this lovely city.

Hot Chocolate at Wittamer, Sablon

Having checked-in to our hotel, we headed straight out to explore and soon we were walking down quaint cobbled streets, passing beautiful historic buildings, quirky shops and a lovely park in Sablon.

Wittamer chocolate, Sablon, Brussles, Belgium

The area is known for its night life, restaurants and surrealism and is many people’s favourite part of the city but I had one thing on my mind… hot chocolate! Not just any old hot chocolate but a Wittamer hot chocolate. I’d been told by a few people that this was the very best in town. I knew it was on the Place du Grand Sablon and had a bright pink awning, which made it very easy to find.

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As I stared in through the shop window my heart did a somersault as my eyes beheld the exquisite cakes and pastries on display. I managed to tear myself away and we made our way upstairs to the charming café with its beamed ceilings, dramatic chandelier and oodles of character. Having ordered our drinks, we soaked up the atmosphere. A sense of serenity filled the air as everyone in the room indulged themselves in their favourite Wittamer treat. A couple sitting opposite, in unison, each picked up a white jug and slowly poured melted chocolate all over a delicious looking ice-cream creation decorated with an over-sized macaron. Then in front of us appeared our drinks, with a couple of Wittamer chocolates each and a large dollop of Chantilly cream. They tasted as good as they looked!

The Grand Place (or Grote Markt in Dutch)

From Le Sablon we walked on through more cobbled streets and I caught my fi rst glimpse of the Grand Place, Brussels’ main square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and reputed to be the most beautiful square in Europe. I had high expectations. As I turned the corner I caught my breath. Beautiful is not quite the right word… awe-inspiring, breath-taking, stunning… neither my words or my pictures do it justice. Every building that opened onto the square was an absolute gem. Grand and imposing with the most intricate of decorative adornment, these buildings almost sent me into a blind panic, as I wanted to capture it all in my camera, but in which direction to point it first? In the middle of the square a huge Christmas tree added to festive atmosphere.

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Throughout the weekend we walked into this square a number of times and each time I gazed at the square not quite believing what I was seeing. What’s more I know it will have that same effect on me when I return and return I will.

The Christmas Markets

Each December a number of squares in Brussels are home to the famous Christmas Markets and should you visit at this time of year they are well worth checking out.

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Though crowded there is a wonderful atmosphere and plenty of arts and crafts to buy and food and drink to tempt you. I was delighted that my visit coincided with the festive season and we had plenty of time to explore the stalls and enjoy the entertainment. In 2015 they will be held in the Grand-Place, Bourse, Place Sainte-Catherine and Marché aux Poissons from 27th November to 3rd January. For more information visit Winter Wonders website.

‘Keep on Toasting’ Gourmet Street Food in Brussels

We were enjoying simply wandering around so much that when we stumbled across the food truck ‘Keep on Toasting‘, rather than have a sit down meal, we decided to try our luck with these, reputedly excellent, gourmet version of the traditional Belgium, Croque-Monsieur. We soon got chatting to the man behind the counter, chef Jean-Baptiste. I tried the Croq’ November (semi-soft cheese, bacon pieces, celeriac and parsley) – it went down a treat. The melted cheese was deliciously gooey, and the combination of taste and textures with the perfectly toasted spelt bread, really hit the spot.

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As I munched away Jean-Baptiste explained that having trained for two years at cookery school, followed by five years hands-on experience working with different chefs, he wanted to start his own business. While there were plenty of other food trucks around these were, more often than not, of the deep fat frying variety producing poor quality food. He wanted to offer the people of Brussels a healthier, higher quality alternative.

Croque-monsieur is an extremely well established Belgium snack but it rarely varies from the traditional cheese and ham filling. Jean-Baptiste took this popular dish to another level. Using taste combinations and ideas he had gathered over the last seven years, he developed a unique range of delicious toasties. He chose to concentrate on producing just this one type of snack, so that he could work within the confines of the truck and still produce something really good to the high standard he desired. Through the year the menu changes with the seasons but you’ll always find four types of toasty available including a veggie option, costing €4 to €5 each.

Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

The next day, after an extremely filling breakfast from the huge variety of dishes on offer from our hotel, we re-traced some of our steps and sort out an arcade that I’d been told was well worth visiting, Galeries Royales, just around the corner from the Grand Place. Opened in the 1840s the arcade has been home to some 70 luxury boutiques including jewellers, fashion designers and the finest Belgium Chocolatiers ever since. In addition you’ll find theatres, a cinema and an art gallery as well as private residences. It’s the perfect place to explore on a rainy day but well worth popping by whatever the weather.

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Out of all the chocolate shops here we found Le Belgique Gourmande the most welcoming. The staff were very helpful and were handing out plenty of delicious free samples.

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Belgian beer

Before we knew it, it was nearly time to leave but not before sampling a glass or two of the beer that Belgium is so famous for on Rue des Brasseurs by the Grand Place. Somewhere so close to the most popular square in town is usually not the best place for a bite to eat or a drink but a particular bar had caught our eye and even though it was just a few yards from the Grand Place we decided to give Au Brasseurs a go. I think it was the parasol covered in pink elephants and a promise of a glass of Delirium that swung it for us.

As we stepped inside we immediately felt at home in this colourful down-to-earth pub that I could imagine locals enjoying as much as the tourists. Although they had a long list of beers
to choose from, how could we say no to a glass of Delirium and very good it was too.

Belgium beer

After a little more window shopping we popped back to the same bar. This time instead of selecting a beer by its name, we went for the shape of the glass! Kwak is served in a unique fluted glass with a round bottom, designed so that a coachman, who couldn’t leave his horses to enter an inn, could easily hold the glass while still wearing thick gloves. Once again this proved to be a perfect selection process as another fine beer slipped down our throats.

I really would love to go back one day to this very bar for a little more beer research work plus we hadn’t even scraped the surface when it comes to Belgium cuisine so a return visit is inevitable.

I found Brussels the perfect place for a weekend break and, while it may not be as pretty as Bruges or as cool as Antwerp, I can’t imagine anything, anywhere in Belgium (or even Europe) beating the splendour of Brussels’ Grand Place.

For more information about short breaks from the UK to Brussels please visit our website, GreatEscapes.co.uk.

Graslei, Ghent, Belgium


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The Weekend Hop on Hop off Water Tram in Ghent

This year there’s a new way to explore Ghent on the hop-on-hop-off water tram operating every Saturday and Sunday until November. It’s a great way to visit the city’s attractions.

Water Tram Stops in Ghent

Ghent Gravensteen -

above: Ghent Gravensteen – “The Castle of the Counts” by  Simon Q, Creative Commons

Running from 11 am to 6.15 pm, the tram has  six stops including:

Castle of the Counts

The Gravensteen (meaning Castle of the Counts in Dutch) dates back to the Middle Ages and was the setting for some of the scens in the BBC drama series “The White Queen”. Built in 1180 by count Philip of Alsace, the present castle is on the site of a previous wooden castle believed to have been built in the ninth century. The castle served as the seat of the Counts of Flanders until they abandoned it in the 14th century. It was later used as a courthouse, a prison and eventually fell into ruin. Houses were built against the walls and in the inner the courtyard. Walls were dismantled so that the stones could be used for new constructions. In 1885 the city of Ghent bought the castle, saving it from demolition and started work on its renovation. The newly built houses were removed and the walls and dungeon were restored to their original condition. The castle can now be explored once again and inside is a museum with various torture devices, including a guillotine, that were once used in the city.

Graslei-Korenlei

This medieval port, is the thriving heart of the city. Lined with elegant historic buildings, it is a meeting place where young and old, local and visitor alike, gather in the cafés and by the water’s edge. Graslei, Ghent, Belgium

above:  Graslei by VisitGent, Creative Commons

St Peter’s Abbey

Home to the Centre for Art and Culture St. Peter’s Abbey, this is a wonderful international exhibition space while the gardens and vineyards form a green oasis in the city.

St Bavo’s Cathedral

St. Bavo’s Cathedral is home an impressive number of art treasures: the baroque high altar in red, black and white marble, the rococo oak, gilt and marble pulpit, a major work by Rubens, the ‘Calvary Triptych’,  tombs of the Ghent bishops, and so much more. The most impressive and world famous of them all though is the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb painted by Hubert and Jan van Eyck around 1432. Discover more at Visit Gent.

Veldstraat

Ghent central pedestrian shopping street has a number of splendid, authentic façades and numerous inviting shops. A day pass costs €12.50 and a two-day pass costs €15.00. When you buy a CityCard Gent, the day pass is included in the purchase price.


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New destinations for great escapes: Amsterdam and Cologne

Last month we launched our new brochure for 2015 featuring self-drive and Eurostar breaks to Northern France and Belgium with two new destinations being featured, namely Amsterdam and Cologne. Both cities are easily reached by Eurostar, via Brussels with onward high-speed train connections and make great short break destinations.

AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam is one of the liveliest and most cosmopolitan cities in Europe and its compact size means you can see most of the main attractions on foot, or even by bicycle, in just a few days.

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Possibly the city’s most distinguishing feature are the warehouses and elegant homes of the 17th century merchants from Holland’s Golden Age when it was the richest city in the world. These line the 165 canals which are collectively a UNESCO World Heritage site. They are spanned by over 1,000 bridges; that’s even more than Venice.

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The city also boasts some 50 museums and art galleries including the Rijksmseum, with its stunning collection of paintings by Dutch masters, the Stedelijk museum of modern art, not to mention the Van Gogh Museum,  as well as Anne Frank’s House, to name but a few. You’ll also find some fabulous markets, great street art as well as street food, a great range of restaurants, cafés and bars with a superb choice of beers. What’s not to love?! Packages are from £64pp. This price is based on one night’s bed & breakfast at the three star West Cord Art Hotel with two sharing a room and return ferry travel for a car and four passengers.

COLOGNE

Germany’s fourth-largest city was founded by the Romans in 38 BC. Today it is one of the most diverse cities in Europe with a never ending list of attractions. On a walk around town you’ll discover an ancient Roman wall, medieval churches, avant-garde buildings and  a new postmodern quarter right on the Rhine.  Whether on foot, bicycle or even on a river cruise, Cologne is a beautiful city with its famous cathedral’s twin spires dominating the skyline. In fact the Dom is the country’s largest cathedral and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Remarkably while it was started in 1248, it was not finished for over 600 years later in 1880.

o Haake / KölnTourismus GmbHPhotography credit:  Udo Haake / KölnTourismus GmbH

Cologne, like Amsterdam, is a city for all seasons. Don’t miss the beer halls of the Altstadt (old town) which are lively anytime of year and the fabulous museums and art galleries can also be enjoyed whatever the weather. In spring join in the Carnival and in winter explore the Christmas Market.

Owner Dieter Jacobi / KölnTourismus GmbHPhotography credit:  Dieter Jacobi / KölnTourismus GmbH

Packages are available from £66pp. This price is based on one night’s bed & breakfast at the four star NH Cologne City Hotel with two sharing a room and return ferry travel for a car and four passengers.