I call this a "military buff's tour," but it may be more appropriate to think of it as a military memorial tour. Belgium and Luxembourg have long histories as battlefields, usually in other countries' quarrels. Belgium was particularly badly handled in World War I, and Holland had a similar experience in World War II. Although this itinerary revolves around a grim subject, it also passes through scenic parts of all three countries. The tour is best done by car.
Day 1: Waterloo
South of Brussels, the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte met final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. A tour of this largely preserved battlefield and a visit to the duke of Wellington's headquarters, now the Musée Wellington, afford a fascinating insight into the great and decisive battle.
Day 2: Drive to Ypres (Ieper)
A 2-hour drive from Brussels, bypassing Ghent and Kortrijk, brings you to the medieval cloth town of Ypres, a crucible of fighting on the World War I Western Front that claimed the lives of 500,000 Allied and German soldiers. The now peaceful Flanders fields are sprinkled with military cemeteries and a few remaining sections of trenches.
Day 3: Drive to Bastogne
Drive east past Tournai and Mons, to the Meuse River at Namur. Continuing eastward into the rolling Ardennes hills, you'll pass the scenes of many a hard-fought action from the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944 to 1945, at places like Marche-en-Famenne, Rochefort, and La Roche-en-Ardenne. None was harder than the epic struggle surrounded U.S. troops waged to hold the strategic crossroads town of Bastogne. Afterwards, visit the star-shaped Mardasson Memorial outside of town.
Day 4: Drive to Eupen
Cross into Luxembourg today. Starting at Echternach, follow the Our River upstream along the German border. This was a thinly manned but staunchly defended U.S. front line on December 16, 1944, when the surprise German offensive in the Ardennes erupted. Pass through Vianden and Clervaux; then take the road in Belgium the GI's dubbed the "Skyline Drive," to Sankt-Vith. From Losheim to Rocherath-Krinkelt, you'll cross the assault route taken by Hitler's elite SS panzer divisions. Foxholes once held by American troops still exist in the forests. The U.S. Fifth Corps headquarters was in Eupen.
Day 5: Drive to Nijmegen
Take the expressway via Liège and Maastricht, for rapid deployment to Eindhoven, the scene of action for the U.S. 101st Airborne Division during the Allied offensive into Nazi-occupied Holland in September 1944. Follow the bitterly contested "Hell's Highway" north through Veghel and Grave to Nijmegen. The U.S. 82nd Airborne Division suffered heavy losses taking and holding the Groesbeek Heights east of town, and the bridges over the Maas River at Grave and the Waal River in Nijmegen.
Day 6: Arnhem
From Nijmegen, north to Arnhem is just 16km (10 miles) -- a distance that proved fatal for Britain's 1st Airborne Division, which landed on heathland west of the city to take Arnhem's bridge over the Rhine -- the famous "bridge too far." The British held out for a week at Oosterbeek, while Polish paratroops landed at Driel.
Day 7: Return to Brussels
An expressway goes southwest from Arnhem to connect with the north-south expressway at Breda. From there, go south via Antwerp to Brussels.
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