From Brussels To Berlin
European Sleeper’s The Good Night Train currently connects five cities – Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Berlin. In this guide, The Luxury Report explores the top things to see and do in each of these destinations
Brussels, the vibrant capital of Belgium, effortlessly blends its rich historical past with modern allure, offering a wide range of activities and attractions. This city is renowned for its magnificent architectural wonders, exquisite culinary delights, and distinctive cultural heritage.
Grand Place – The Heart of Brussels
No visit to Brussels is complete without exploring the stunning Grand-Place (Grote Markt), often considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is surrounded by elegant guildhalls, each showcasing unique architectural styles and intricate details. The crowning jewel of the square is the magnificent Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville), a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.
Throughout the year, the Grand-Place hosts various events and festivals, but it’s especially enchanting during the biennial Flower Carpet event. During this event, the entire square is adorned with a mesmerising tapestry of colourful flowers, creating a stunning mosaic. Take your time to explore the narrow streets branching out from the square, where you’ll find charming shops, boutiques, and delightful cafes and restaurants.
Atomium – A Futuristic Icon
For a glimpse into Brussels’ vision of the future, make your way to the Atomium, a unique architectural wonder and a symbol of the city. Built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair (Expo 58), the Atomium resembles an enlarged iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times.
The Atomium comprises nine interconnected spheres, five of which are open to the public. Inside, you’ll discover fascinating exhibitions, including displays on the history of the Expo and the scientific world. The top sphere offers panoramic views of
the city, making it an excellent spot for capturing stunning photographs. The Atomium’s futuristic appeal and educational exhibits make it an ideal destination for both adults and children. It’s a testament to Brussels’ commitment to innovation and progress.
Indulge in Belgian Chocolate and Waffles
Belgium is world-famous for its delectable chocolate, and Brussels is a haven for chocolate lovers. Treat your taste buds to the finest Belgian chocolates by visiting renowned chocolatiers like Neuhaus, Leonidas, and Godiva. These chocolate shops offer a wide range of pralines, truffles, and chocolate bars, each a delightful masterpiece of flavour.
For another sweet indulgence, try the world- famous Belgian waffles. You can find them at various street vendors, cafes, and dedicated waffle shops throughout Brussels. There are two main types: the Brussels waffle, which is light, crispy, and rectangular, and the Liège waffle, which is doughy, sweeter, and with caramelised bits of sugar.
Customise your waffle with an array of toppings, including fresh fruit, whipped cream, and indulgent chocolate sauce.
Exploring the city while savouring its chocolate and waffles is a delicious way to immerse yourself in Belgian culinary culture.
Art and History at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts
Brussels boasts an impressive array of museums, and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts is a cultural gem not to be missed. This complex houses several museums, with two major ones being the Old Masters Museum and the Magritte Museum.
The Old Masters Museum is home to an extensive collection of European art spanning the 15th to the 18th centuries. You’ll have the opportunity to admire masterpieces by renowned painters such as Bruegel, Rubens, and Bosch. It’s a treasure trove of classical art that offers insights into the evolution of European painting.
In contrast, the Magritte Museum is dedicated to the life and works of the surrealist artist René Magritte. This museum showcases Magritte’s distinctive and thought-provoking art, including his iconic “The Son of Man” and “The Treachery of Images.” It’s a surreal journey through the mind of an artistic genius.
Both museums offer a unique artistic experience, making them essential stops for art enthusiasts.
Experience European Institutions
Brussels serves as the de facto capital of the European Union, hosting numerous EU institutions. While it may not seem like a typical tourist activity, exploring these institutions can provide valuable insights into the functioning of the EU and its role in shaping Europe’s future.
Two prominent EU institutions to visit are the European Parliament and the European Commission. These institutions often offer guided tours that provide an overview of their history, functions, and decision-making processes. You can visit the European Parliament Hemicycle, where debates and discussions take place, and gain a deeper understanding of the EU’s legislative processes. Additionally, the Parlamentarium, the European Parliament’s visitor centre, features interactive exhibitions that help demystify the EU’s role in addressing key challenges facing Europe today.
Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city, presents a captivating fusion of history, culture, art, and commerce. Recognised as the diamond capital of the world and as the birthplace of the esteemed artist Peter Paul Rubens, Antwerp boasts a diverse array of attractions and experiences.
Visit the Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve- Vrouwekathedraal)
A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the Cathedral of Our Lady is one of Antwerp’s most iconic landmarks and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Construction of this awe-inspiring cathedral began in the 14th century and continued for several centuries, resulting in a stunning architectural gem.
The cathedral is renowned for housing an extensive collection of artworks, including four masterpieces by Peter Paul Rubens, who is buried here alongside his family. Be sure to visit the Rubens Chapel, which serves as the final resting place for the celebrated artist.
While at the cathedral, don’t miss the opportunity to climb its tower, which offers panoramic views of Antwerp and the Scheldt River. The ascent is a bit challenging, with over 500 steps, but the breathtaking vistas from the top are well worth the effort.
Explore the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA)
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, known as KMSKA, houses an extensive collection of art spanning several centuries. While the museum has been undergoing renovations and expansions, its impressive collection remains a cultural treasure trove.
One of the museum’s highlights is the vast collection of works by the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, who spent much of his life in Antwerp. You can admire his masterpieces, including “The Descent from the Cross” and “The Raising of the Cross,” as well as numerous other Flemish and Dutch paintings.
While the main building is temporarily closed for renovations, the museum has established a temporary location known as KMSKA in deSingel. Here, you can view a selection of its impressive collection while the main building undergoes restoration. Keep an eye on the museum’s website for updates on the reopening of the renovated KMSKA.
Wander Through the Historic Old Town
Antwerp’s historic Old Town is a treasure trove of medieval charm and historic architecture. Start your exploration at the Grote Markt (Grand Place), the central square surrounded by picturesque guildhalls and the stunning City Hall, which is an architectural masterpiece in its own right.
Stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets, where you’ll discover hidden gems like the Vleeshuis (Butcher’s Hall), a 16th-century building that now houses a museum showcasing the city’s musical heritage, and the Plantin-Moretus Museum, dedicated to the history of printing and publishing.
One of the most charming aspects of Old Town is its vibrant cafe culture. Be sure to stop at a local café to enjoy a Belgian beer or a warming cup of hot chocolate while soaking up the ambience of this historic district.
Discover the Antwerp Zoo
Antwerp Zoo, founded in 1843, is one of the oldest and most celebrated zoos in the world. Located right next to Antwerp’s Central Station, the zoo provides an excellent opportunity to explore the animal kingdom and enjoy a family-friendly day out.
Home to over 5,000 animals representing more than 950 species, the zoo offers an educational and entertaining experience for visitors of all ages. You can observe majestic lions, playful penguins, exotic reptiles, and many other fascinating creatures.
In addition to its diverse animal exhibits, the zoo also features beautifully landscaped gardens and historic architecture. It’s a place where conservation, education, and recreation come together, making it a delightful attraction for both wildlife enthusiasts and casual visitors.
Admire the MAS Museum
The Museum aan de Stroom, commonly known as the MAS, is a striking architectural marvel that overlooks the Antwerp waterfront. Designed by Dutch architect Willem Jan Neutelings, the building’s unique structure is composed of stacked glass and red sandstone blocks, representing the city’s maritime heritage.
The MAS is more than just a museum; it’s a cultural beacon that explores Antwerp’s history, trade, and global connections. The museum’s collection spans various themes, including the city’s role as a port, the diverse cultures that have influenced Antwerp, and its global connections.
The rooftop of the MAS offers panoramic views of Antwerp and the harbour, making it an ideal spot to capture magnificent photographs of the cityscape. The museum’s interactive exhibits and immersive displays provide a captivating experience that is both educational and engaging.
Rotterdam, the architectural gem of the Netherlands, is a city that beautifully marries tradition and innovation. Often overlooked in favour of its more famous sibling, Amsterdam, Rotterdam boasts a unique character shaped by its history, resilience, and avant-garde spirit.
Admire the Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen)
Rotterdam’s architectural landscape is defined by daring and innovative designs, and the Cube Houses, or Kubuswoningen, are among its most iconic landmarks. Designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom in the late 1970s, these whimsical cube-shaped homes appear as if they are about to topple over. The idea behind this quirky design was to maximise living space while minimising the building’s footprint.
While you can view the Cube Houses from the outside as you stroll through the city, don’t miss the opportunity to step inside one of them. The Kijk-Kubus (Show Cube) is open to the public and offers a glimpse into what it’s like to live in these unconventional homes. Inside, you’ll find a small museum showcasing the history and concept of the Cube Houses, as well as an insight into the life of the residents.
The Cube Houses are not only a testament to Rotterdam’s avant-garde architectural spirit but also a striking reminder of the city’s ability to rebuild and reinvent itself after the devastation of World War II.
Explore the Historic Delfshaven
Amidst Rotterdam’s modernity, the historic Delfshaven neighbourhood stands as a charming testament to the city’s past. Unlike much of Rotterdam, Delfshaven was spared from extensive bombing during World War II, allowing its original architecture and cobblestone streets to endure.
A visit to Delfshaven is like stepping back in time. Start your exploration at the picturesque Delfshaven Harbor, lined with historic sailing vessels and lined with cosy cafes. The Pilgrim Fathers’ Church (Pelgrimvaderskerk), dating back to the 17th century, is a prominent landmark in the neighbourhood. This church played a pivotal role in the history of the Pilgrims who sailed to America on the Mayflower in 1620.
The Oude Sluis (Old Lock) is another historical gem in Delfshaven, offering a glimpse into the city’s maritime history. Strolling through Delfshaven’s quaint streets, you’ll find boutique shops, art galleries, and a vibrant community that harmoniously blends the past with the present.
Visit the SS Rotterdam
The SS Rotterdam, often referred to as “The Grande Dame,” is a former ocean liner turned into a floating hotel and museum. This historic vessel offers a unique opportunity to experience the glamour and luxury of ocean travel during the mid-20th century.
Docked in Rotterdam’s Katendrecht district, the SS Rotterdam is open for guided tours that provide insight into its history and interiors. You can explore the ship’s elegant dining rooms, cabins, and even the engine room. The museum on board offers exhibitions that recount the vessel’s past, including its service as a transatlantic liner and later as a cruise ship.
After your tour, consider dining at one of the ship’s restaurants or lounges, enjoying a meal while overlooking the city skyline. The SS Rotterdam offers a captivating journey back in time and a glimpse of the city’s maritime heritage.
Revel in the Food Scene at Fenix Food Factory
Rotterdam’s food scene is as diverse and dynamic as the city itself. A prime example of this culinary diversity is the Fenix Food Factory, a vibrant food hall located in the up-and-coming Katendrecht neighbourhood. Housed in an industrial warehouse, this food hall brings together local food producers and vendors, offering a smorgasbord of delectable treats.
At Fenix Food Factory, you can sample an array of culinary delights, including artisanal cheeses, freshly baked bread, craft beers, and speciality coffees. The market features a diverse selection of stalls and communal seating, creating a convivial atmosphere perfect for food enthusiasts.
Beyond the food, Fenix Food Factory often hosts events, live music performances, and food-related workshops, making it a hub for both locals and visitors to immerse themselves in Rotterdam’s culinary culture.
Enjoy Nature at Kralingse Bos and Plas
While Rotterdam is known for its urbanity, it also offers a serene natural escape at Kralingse Bos and Plas. This expansive park and lake, located just a short tram ride from the city centre, provide a refreshing contrast to the bustling city streets.
Kralingse Plas is a large, picturesque lake surrounded by lush greenery, making it an ideal spot for a leisurely stroll, a picnic, or even a swim on a warm day. The Kralingse Bos, a nearby forest, offers walking and jogging trails, as well as opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife observation.
The park also features a sailing club, allowing visitors to rent boats or simply watch the sailboats glide across the water. Kralingse Bos and Plas offer a tranquil retreat where you can unwind and recharge in the midst of nature.
Amsterdam, the enchanting capital of the Netherlands, is a city that effortlessly combines historical charm with a contemporary flair. From its iconic canals and rich cultural heritage to its vibrant art scene and thriving culinary culture, Amsterdam offers a plethora of experiences.
Cruise the Iconic Canals
Amsterdam’s canal system is a marvel of urban planning and engineering, often dubbed the “Venice of the North.” The city’s canals were constructed in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age and have since become an integral part of its cultural and architectural identity. When you embark on a canal cruise, you’ll navigate through a network of 165 canals, passing under quaint bridges and alongside picturesque canal houses.
The canal cruise experience offers a variety of options, from daytime tours that provide historical context and architectural insights to romantic evening cruises illuminated by the soft glow of city lights. Some tours even offer dinner or cocktail options, allowing you to dine while taking in the city’s stunning views. It’s an excellent way to appreciate the city’s unique layout and gain a deeper understanding of its history and culture.
Immerse Yourself in Art at the Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum is a cultural treasure trove that houses an extensive collection of Dutch and Flemish artworks spanning over eight centuries. The museum is a work of art in itself, featuring a stunning neoclassical design and a central courtyard known as the “Garden of Eden.” Inside, you’ll find an exceptional array of masterpieces, including “The Night Watch” and “The Jewish Bride” by Rembrandt and “The Milkmaid” by Vermeer.
In addition to these renowned works, the Rijksmuseum boasts an impressive collection of historical artefacts, Asian art, and Delftware ceramics. The museum provides a comprehensive journey through Dutch history and culture, making it a must-visit for art aficionados and history buffs alike.
Discover the Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum offers an intimate exploration of the life and artistic evolution of Vincent van Gogh, one of the most influential artists in the history of art. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings, drawings, and personal correspondence. It provides a captivating narrative of his struggles, creative breakthroughs, and the profound impact he had on modern art.
Van Gogh’s works on display include iconic pieces like “Starry Night,” “Sunflowers,” and “The Bedroom.” Visitors can trace his artistic journey from his early days in the Netherlands to his later years in France, where he produced some of his most celebrated works. The museum’s engaging exhibits and multimedia displays offer a deep appreciation of Van Gogh’s genius and his ability to convey emotions through his art.
Stroll Through the Historic Jordaan District
The Jordaan district is an enchanting area that offers a glimpse into Amsterdam’s rich history and traditional Dutch architecture. This former working-class neighbourhood has transformed into a picturesque district characterised by narrow streets, cosy courtyards, and charming canals. As you wander through the Jordaan, you’ll discover hidden gardens, boutique shops, and local markets.
One notable attraction in this area is the Anne Frank House, where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II. The museum provides insight into Anne’s life, her experiences during the Holocaust, and the enduring impact of her diary, “The Diary of a Young Girl.” Visiting this historic site is a powerful and thought-provoking experience that allows you to reflect on the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
Experience the Vibrant Food Scene
Amsterdam’s culinary scene has evolved into a diverse and exciting landscape that caters to all tastes and preferences. While exploring the city, be sure to sample some of its culinary delights.
Start your day with a traditional Dutch breakfast, featuring broodjes (sandwiches), cheeses, and hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) on buttered bread. For a sweet treat, indulge in stroopwafels, thin waffle cookies with a caramel syrup filling, or poffertjes, mini fluffy pancakes served with powdered sugar and butter.
During your stay, make it a point to explore the city’s food markets. The Albert Cuyp Market in the De Pijp neighbourhood is a lively place to try Dutch street food, fresh produce, and local snacks. The Foodhallen, located in a former tram depot, offers
a wide range of international cuisine and gourmet bites.
For a memorable dining experience, reserve a table at one of Amsterdam’s Michelin-starred restaurants. These establishments showcase the city’s culinary innovation and creativity, often blending traditional Dutch flavours with modern techniques. Whether you’re savouring Dutch herring from a street vendor or dining in a world-class restaurant, Amsterdam’s food scene promises an unforgettable gastronomic journey.
Berlin, the vibrant and historic capital of Germany, is a city that never ceases to amaze and captivate. Berlin offers a rich and complex history, a thriving arts scene, and a unique blend of old-world charm and modern innovation.
Dive into History at the Berlin Wall Memorial
No visit to Berlin is complete without a deep dive into its poignant history, and there’s no better place to start than the Berlin Wall Memorial. The Berlin Wall, which divided the city from 1961 to 1989, is an enduring symbol of the Cold War era. The memorial, located along Bernauer Strasse, offers a comprehensive look at the wall’s history, with preserved segments, watchtowers, and a visitor centre that provides context to the events that transpired during this tumultuous period.
Take a solemn walk along the Wall’s remnants, and you’ll gain insight into the stark division that once separated East and West Berlin. The memorial’s documentation centre features personal stories, photographs, and interactive exhibits that vividly depict the struggles and hopes of those living on both sides of the wall. It’s a powerful reminder of the city’s past and a testament to its reunification.
Explore the Museums on Museum Island
Berlin is renowned for its exceptional cultural offerings, and Museum Island is the epicentre of this artistic treasure trove. Located in the heart of the city, this UNESCO World Heritage site is home to five world-class museums that house a staggering array of art and historical artefacts. The Pergamon Museum, with its awe-inspiring antiquities collection, is a must-visit. The Neues Museum is famous for hosting the iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti, and the Altes Museum showcases classical antiquities.
Additionally, the Bode Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie present exquisite European art spanning from the Byzantine era to the 19th century. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a history buff, or simply curious, Museum Island offers a captivating journey through the world’s cultural heritage.
Revel in the Beauty of Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate stands as an enduring symbol of Berlin and a testament to its historical resilience. This iconic neoclassical monument, constructed in the late 18th century, has borne witness to pivotal moments in Berlin’s history, from Napoleonic occupation to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The gate is an architectural masterpiece, adorned with a chariot drawn by four horses and flanked by six towering columns.
Visitors can appreciate its grandeur during the day, but it takes on a magical quality when illuminated at night. The Brandenburg Gate is not only a visual delight but also a gathering place for celebrations and events, making it a central hub of activity in the city.
Experience Berlin’s Street Art and Alternative Scene in Kreuzberg
Berlin’s alternative and creative spirit is most palpable in the vibrant neighbourhood of Kreuzberg. Known for its street art, eclectic nightlife, and multicultural atmosphere, Kreuzberg offers a distinct contrast to the city’s historical landmarks. Take a leisurely stroll through the streets of Kreuzberg, and you’ll encounter colourful murals, graffiti, and thought-provoking street art that reflects the neighbourhood’s artistic energy.
For those interested in the alternative scene, Kreuzberg is the place to be. The district is famous for its lively bars, clubs, and live music venues. Görlitzer Park, often referred to as “Görli” by locals, is a popular spot for picnics and people-watching. Moreover, the Turkish market held on Tuesdays and Fridays is an excellent place to savour delicious street food and shop for unique crafts.
Take a Step Back in Time at Charlottenburg Palace
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre and transport yourself to the elegant world of Charlottenburg Palace. This Baroque masterpiece, named after Queen Sophie Charlotte, is a testament to the opulence of the Prussian kings and queens. The palace, surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, features lavishly decorated rooms that provide a glimpse into royal life during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Highlights include the opulent Golden Gallery, the grand White Hall, and the charming Porcelain Cabinet. The palace gardens, with their serene lakes and lush greenery, invite visitors to take leisurely strolls and enjoy the tranquillity of the surroundings. It’s a perfect escape for history enthusiasts and a serene oasis in the heart of the city.