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Brussels and the Battle of Waterloo

This tour gives you the chance to walk in the footsteps of Napoleon, Wellington, and Blücher, and visit the Belgium capital. You’ll begin by exploring the battlefield of Waterloo, where British and Prussian forces finally ended the French emperor’s grand ambitions in 1815. With a private driver-guide, you’ll visit the Memorial to the Battle of Waterloo, which is also a museum. Along the way, your guide will explain Napoleon’s meteoric rise from a modest Corsican family to the Emperor of France, and how, even though his army was outnumbered nearly two to one, he very nearly managed to win at Waterloo.

From there, you’ll visit Brussels to explore the vibrant capital with your guide. Stroll through the historic district to admire the arches and spires of the Grand Place, or explore the parks and museums of the European Quarter with its green parks, governmental buildings, and plenitude of fine museums. You can also visit the grandly imposing Royal Palace.

Your private driver-guide will pick you up at your Lille hotel for the hour-and-a-half drive over the border to Waterloo in Belgium. During the journey, you’ll hear more about Napoleon’s not-so-daring escape from exile in Elba and triumphant march back to Paris, and the Bourbon king’s flight to Belgium upon hearing that the once-deposed emperor was returning. You’ll also hear about the battles at Wavre, Ligny, and Quatre Bras, the earliest volleys in what was to become known as the Hundred Days War.

Arriving at Waterloo, you’ll have the chance to explore the memorial and museum with your guide. Exhibits combine period items like guns, uniforms, and bayonets with high-tech displays that help you understand exactly how Wellington and Blücher used their combined armies to defeat the French forces. Despite the allies’ overwhelming numerical superiority, Wellington himself said that the battle was ‘the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life’, a tribute to Napoleon’s tactical brilliance.

You’ll also be able to explore the grounds of Hougoumont, a farmhouse that was surrounded by a dense grove of chestnut trees on the morning of the battle. This was the site of much of the earliest and grimmest fighting — the battle here was said to be so fierce that the combined hail of bullets, cannon shot, shells, and grenades killed all but three of the trees. While only two trees are still alive today, many of the dead trees remain standing — you can still see bullet holes in their trunks.

For a bird’s-eye view of the battlefield climb the 226 steps to the Butte du Lion, an artificial hill with sweeping views of the surrounding farms and fields.

From there, you’ll head to Brussels. Perhaps one of the most underappreciated European capitals, the cosmopolitan metropolis has a wide range of historical and cultural attractions. Your tour can be tailored to your specific interests — you might want to explore the neo-classical Royal Palace, visit one of the city’s many museums, or try to count the languages that you hear in the European Quarter, home to the European Union. If you prefer to relax, you can stroll the city’s leafy parks or sip a pint at one of the many world-renowned breweries here.

Your driver-guide will return you to your hotel at the end of the day.

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Audley Travel Country Specialist Samantha

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Other experiences in Lille

These activities are designed to give you the most authentic experiences around where you're staying. We work with local guides, who use their knowledge and often a resident's eye to show you the main sights and more out-of-the-way attractions. Our specialists can suggest tours and activities that will introduce you to the local ways of life.

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