The Low Countries have extraordinary artistic traditions which have withstood and evolved with some of the most significant upheavals in European history. On this tour, Dr Nick Gordon takes you from Amsterdam to Delft, Brussels, Bruges and Paris, exploring the art and architecture that flourished in these dynamic environments. We also visit smaller centres such as Utrecht and Ghent, while enjoying exceptional museums and galleries and exquisitely preserved medieval and Renaissance cityscapes.
Get to know
More than five centuries of European masterpieces, from the Middle Ages to the modern era
Innovation and the relentless pursuit of beauty in the works of Van Eyck, Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Van Gogh
How the considerable wealth and the exchange of goods and ideas from around the world in the merchant cities of northern Europe created a dynamic cultural scene
The broader history and development of some of Europe’s richest, most vibrant and historically cosmopolitan cities
The refurbished Rijksmuseum, housing the world’s finest collection of Dutch painting, with masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer
Stays in beautifully preserved medieval and Renaissance cities, including Bruges and Delft
Master paintings in some of Europe’s finest galleries, including the Louvre and the Mauritshuis
Visits to many less well-visited galleries, seeing the extraordinary works overlooked by most travellers
Modern masterpieces by northern masters – Van Gogh, Magritte and Escher
Days 1–4: Explore Amsterdam, once the centre of an empire extending from Brazil to Japan.
Days 5–7: Visit art sites in Utrecht and The Hague, as well as Rotterdam and Delft.
Days 8–10: In Brussels, visit superb Old Masters and modern galleries, admire Gothic and Art Nouveau architecture and tour Wallonia.
Days 11–13: Visit Ghent to see the famous altarpiece by the Van Eycks, before exploring Bruges and Tournai.
Days 14–17: Cap off our tour with visits to the Louvre, Cluny and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Emirates and Singapore Airlines offer flights from Australia to Amsterdam and home from Paris. Contact us for competitive quotes.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Friday 11 May: Arrival in Amsterdam
After meeting in our hotel this afternoon we take a stroll through the historic heart of this lovely city which, at the beginning of the 17th century, grew from being just one of the many trading towns of the Low Countries into the cultural and economic centre of the Dutch Republic. The merchants, artists and religious minorities who flocked there made it one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities and today we walk along canals lined with the townhouses of the wealthy burghers who ushered in the Golden Age. Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant. Overnight Amsterdam. (D)
Saturday 12 May: Old Amsterdam
The Dutch Republic emerged from the conflict between Catholics and Protestants that reshaped Europe. Amsterdam became a haven for Protestants, protected by rings of fortifications extending far out into the countryside and by a formidable navy that patrolled trading outposts as far away as Indonesia and Japan. This morning we explore the transformation of architecture in the newly Protestant city, visiting redesigned Gothic churches and a clandestine Catholic chapel in the attic of a patrician’s palace. At Rembrandt’s House, the sitting room and shop, studio and living quarters, reveal how art was made and sold to wealthy upper and middle-class patrons. After a welcome lunch in one of Amsterdam’s fine restaurants the afternoon and evening are at leisure. Overnight Amsterdam. (B, L)
Sunday 13 May: Utrecht and the Vecht Canal estates
Today we take a full day trip to Utrecht and the surrounding countryside, where feudal lords and the burghers of the Golden Age built their castles and estates. From the 8th century, Utrecht was the focal point of Catholicism in the Netherlands, and although it joined the Calvinist Dutch Republic it retained many of its Catholic values. We visit the 13th-century cathedral of St Martin, a magnificent French Gothic building and the largest cathedral in the Netherlands. We break for lunch on the Oudegracht, a pretty canal shaded by trees and lined with medieval warehouses and shops, now cafes and restaurants. In the afternoon we travel back through the Vechtstreek, the picturesque countryside between Utrecht and Amsterdam. In the late afternoon, we return to Amsterdam. Overnight Amsterdam. (B)
Monday 14 May: A wealth of art
In the 17th century, Dutch painters defined the characteristics of Old Masters and popularised new genres, such as still life and maritime scenes. This morning’s visit is to the recently renovated Rijksmuseum, where we see masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Ruisdael, Franz Hals and more. After an extended break for lunch we meet at the nearby Van Gogh Museum with its stunning collection of masterpieces: Sunflowers, Almond Blossom and nine self-portraits are here. To a modern eye, Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings seem to transcend time and place, yet they reflect the cosmopolitanism that had long been prized in The Netherlands. Overnight Amsterdam. (B)
Tuesday 15 May: The Hague
We depart Amsterdam for Delft this morning, travelling via The Hague, the political centre of The Netherlands and a base for the United Nations’ justice programs. Here the broad streets, lined with the luxurious palaces of diplomats and the well-to-do, spread out from the 15th-century Binnenhof or seat of parliament. The Hague’s art collections are similarly impressive, ranging from Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and View of Delft, which we will see in the Mauritshaus, to an extraordinary collection of M.C. Escher’s work in a museum dedicated to the artist. In the mid-afternoon we continue on to nearby Delft, Vermeer’s hometown. The House of Orange, which led the Dutch revolt against the Spanish overlords in the 16th century, also had its headquarters here. Dinner and overnight Delft. (B, D)
Wednesday 16 May: Delft and Boijmans van Beuningen
This morning, after a leisurely start, we explore Delft, which is the ancestral residence of the House of Orange, who led the Dutch revolt against the Spanish overlords in the 16th century. In the early afternoon, we travel the short distance to Rotterdam to visit the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, whose collection includes works by Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder. Overnight Delft. (B)
Thursday 17 May: Antwerp
Today we travel to Brussels, via Antwerp, which became the focus of commercial activity in the region after Bruges’ principal canal silted and its harbours declined. Antwerp quickly became Europe’s largest port and richest city, and Flemish, French, German and Italian styles of art and architecture blended there. The vibrancy of the city is reflected in the guildhalls of the Grote Markt, whose architecture influenced a young Gaudí, and in the canvases by Rubens in the cathedral. In the afternoon we Rockox House, a patrician’s palace where art is displayed as its was by its 17th-century owner, Nicolas Rockox. In the late afternoon, we continue to Brussels. Dinner and overnight Brussels. (B, D)
Friday 18 May: Gothic and Renaissance art in Flanders
Northern Belgium was the centre of Flanders, the medieval county that extended into parts of modern-day France and Holland. In the 15th century, experimentation with oil painting and a distinctively new aesthetic here led to a revolutionary style of art. After a talk in the hotel, we visit the Royal Museums of Fine Arts to see the magnificent collection of Old Masters, with masterpieces by Rogier van der Weyden, Rubens and Hans Memling. The afternoon is at leisure, giving you the opportunity of exploring the Modern Museum, with works by David, Ingres, Mirò and Matisse, or you might like to sample local gastronomic specialties while sitting in the World Heritage-listed Grand Place. Overnight Brussels. (B)
Saturday 19 May: Modernity in Belgium
René Magritte is the perfect example of how modern Belgium combined international and uniquely local values and aesthetics. At the Magritte Museum, we see how the artist’s technical mastery of oil paint and attention to fine detail continue the tradition established by Van Eyck and van der Weyden, and appreciate the 20th-century ideas that inform his subject matter. This afternoon there is the option of visiting the Victor Horta Museum, the house and studio of this profoundly influential Belgian architect of the Art Nouveau. Overnight Brussels. (B)
Sunday 20 May: Wallonia and the Meuse Valley
Southern Belgium formed part of the border between French and German cultures and is notable for the way it blended the two influences in a distinctive new style. Today we explore Wallonia and the Meuse Valley, stopping to visit the majestic ruins of Villers Abbey, and the beautiful Romanesque collegiate church in Nivelles. After lunch in a country restaurant, we have unhurried visits to some of the small towns for which the Meuse Valley is famous: tiny Durbay, the world’s smallest city, and Dinant, whose landscape inspired landscape painters such as Joachim Patenier. We end our tour of the region at Chateau Annevoie, known for its beautiful 18th-century gardens. Overnight Brussels. (B, L)
Monday 21 May: The waterways of Ghent
The cities of Northern Belgium were the economic and cultural powerhouses of 15th-century Europe. Today we travel to Ghent, one of the leading cities of the period thanks to its cloth trade. It is also the home of one of the most revolutionary artworks of the 1400s: the so-called Ghent Altarpiece of Hubert and Jan van Eyck, housed in the Cathedral of St Bavo. Much of the city’s medieval architecture also remains intact, giving us a clear idea of the wealth and pragmatism of the northern burghers. After lunch we continue to Bruges, known as the Venice of the North, with its perfectly preserved Flemish-Gothic architecture. Overnight Bruges. (B, D)
Tuesday 22 May: Medieval Bruges
Bruges was a magnet for European merchants, with a major port and strong banking network. The traders who came here attracted artists in their turn, and Jan van Eyck, Gerard David and Hans Memling all worked in the town. Their masterpieces for foreign merchants would leave an indelible imprint on Western art, as merchants shipped them to Spain, France, Germany and Italy. After a morning talk in the hotel, we explore the historic cityscape of Bruges. We visit the Hans Memling Museum, housed in a medieval hospital, as well as the outstanding collection of works by Van Eyck, David, Bosch and van der Goes at the Groeninge Museum. The late afternoon and evening are at leisure. Overnight Bruges. (B)
Wednesday 23 May: Tournai
Today we travel to Tournai, the hometown of Robert Campin and Rogier van der Weyden. The town grew exceptionally wealthy from the production of fine cloth and tapestry in the Middle Ages and its economic boom brought a degree of self-governance. Our tour of the city takes in the well-preserved urban layout, World Heritage-listed cathedral with its blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles, and a visit to the Tapestry Museum, which has a fine collection of 16th-century tapestries and exhibitions of contemporary textile art. Returning to Bruges, the later afternoon and are at leisure. Overnight Bruges. (B)
Thursday 24 May: Chateau De Chantilly
We depart Bruges this morning for Paris, and spend the day at Chateau de Chantilly, which in addition to gardens by Le Nôtre, contains one of the finest art collections in France, with masterpieces by Raphael, Piero di Cosimo, Francois and Jean Clouet, Ingres and Watteau. The manuscript and incunabula collection also has some of Europe’s most beautiful illuminated manuscripts, including LesTrès Riches Heures du Duc de Berry by the Limbourg brothers and Jean Fouquet’s miniatures from Ettiene Chevalier’s Book of Hours. In the late afternoon, we continue on to Paris. Overnight Paris. (B, D)
Friday 25 May: Old and New Art in Paris
This morning we visit the Musée d’Orsay, with its fine collection of Van Gogh’s displayed in context with contemporary modern masters. In the afternoon, there is an optional visit to the Musée de Cluny, France’s National Museum of the Middle Ages with its wonderful collection of medieval treasures from France, Burgundy and the Low Countries, including the celebrated tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn, Gothic statuary, jewellery and illuminated manuscripts. Overnight Paris. (B)
Saturday 26 May: The Low Countries in the Louvre
The Louvre boasts an outstanding collection of Flemish and Dutch painting, and this morning we investigate key works by Van Eyck, van der Weyden, Rubens and others, placing them in the context of the French and German traditions also represented within the museum. The afternoon is at leisure and you may wish to continue enjoying the Louvre’s outstanding collections, before we meet in the early evening for our farewell dinner. Overnight Paris. (B, D)
Sunday 27 May: Departure
Our tour ends today. Transfers are available to those who have booked their flights through Academy travel to Charles de Gaulle airport. (B)
Dr Nick Gordon
Has a University Medal and a PhD in History and lectures on European art. Nick is also a practising painter and brings this passion to the visual arts.
Dr Nick Gordon holds a University Medal and a PhD in history from the University of Sydney. He has taught European history at universities in Sydney for 10 years and continues to lecture regularly on art and history for Sydney University’s Nicholson Museum and Centre for Continuing Education. Nick’s interests range from classical antiquity, to architecture, modern and contemporary art, and the history and culture of medieval, Renaissance and early modern Europe. His knowledge of and passion for these fields have developed from both his academic research and practice as an artist. He has led tours for Academy Travel since 2007.
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.