Hauts-de-France, Flanders (Bruges, Ypres, Ostend)
What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than a short hop across the Channel to stock up on some original gifts. Medieval buildings are illuminated by twinkling festive lights and traditional stalls entice visitors with their delicious specialities and colourful crafts.
We’ll stay at a well-appointed 3-star hotel such as the Acacias in Tourcoing or the Horizon in Ath. All the comfortable rooms are en suite and other facilities include a bar and restaurant.
Day 1 – Journey to France/Belgium via Ypres
We take the ferry to Calais before travelling to the lovely Belgian town of Ypres. The charming cobbled streets lined with pretty Flemish-style buildings belie the town’s past as the scene of some of the most intense battles of the First World War. Almost completely destroyed, the town was faithfully rebuilt including the striking medieval Cloth Hall. Here we have some free time to find a local restaurant for dinner before we continue to our hotel.
Day 2 – Ostend & Bruges Christmas Market
Today we spend a couple of hours in Belgium’s premier seaside resort of Ostend, before heading to the beautiful medieval city of Bruges, famous for its picturesque canals. Held in the city’s main market square, the Christmas Market is full of stalls selling a tempting array of hand-made Christmas decorations and gifts as well as tasty local produce and warming mulled wine. Enjoy dinner in Bruges before we return to the hotel.
Day 3 – Arras Christmas Market
Our first destination today is the charming town of Arras where the Christmas Market is held in the magnificent setting of the Grand’Place. Against the soft silhouettes of the rounded Baroque townhouses over 100 artisans sell traditional crafts and gifts from their wooden chalets; transforming the whole square into a magical winter wonderland. Late afternoon we journey to Lille, sure to be crowned with huge festive garlands. Sample the spice bread or enjoy other regional specialities from the festive food stalls for dinner before we rejoin the coach to head back to our hotel.
Day 4 – Journey home via Boulogne-sur-Mer
This morning we check out of the hotel and head for Boulogne-sur-Mer en route to Calais. This vibrant fishing port offers a historic Old Town surrounded by an assemblage of medieval ramparts and a pedestrianised town centre bustling with shops and eateries. After a few hours at leisure here, we head back to Calais for our return ferry home.
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