Day 1: Arrival in Bruges
Exploration on foot to the town center. Bruges is one of the most scenic towns in Europe and the so-called ‘Venice of the north’.
Day 2: Bruges – Ghent (30 miles/48 km)
The tour starts in the morning with a ‘group’ bike fitting and a thorough explanation of your tour. After this ‘group’ instruction you will start your self guided tour.
Pedal out of the UNESCO World Heritage medieval city center, with its bell tower rising up over the wide-open market. The ride on this first day is mainly along the canal Ghent – Bruges. A nice quiet bike lane guides you through farmland and some lovely forest areas. Have your first coffee stop in Beernem or Sint Joris before heading on to Aalter. In Aalter you can decide to make a small detour to the city center to go for lunch, but you can also continue your trip, as along the route you will find a lot of lovely spots where you can enjoy your own prepared picnic. The van Vlaenderens mill in Vinderhoute is a clear landmark just before you enter the historic town of Ghent.
In 2020, don’t miss the chance to admire the world-famous masterpiece the Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers or just simply enjoy the great atmosphere this town offers and explore the small labyrinth of charming cobblestone streets, the Gravensteen castle, the Graslei, and the bell tower.
Day 3: Ghent – Antwerp (28-43 miles/45-70 km)
After breakfast, take a nice bike lane out of the historic town. Today’s ride is a long one but if you are worried about the distance, you can also opt to take the train to Lokeren which will reduce the ride by 15 miles/25 km. Lokeren is one of those small hidden gems with a friendly central square where you just have to sit down for a while.
From Lokeren onwards you will ride along lovely lakes, along one of the side arms of the river Schelde, the Durme, up to the Schelde, Flanders’ major river. Along the Schelde, you will encounter the cozy villages of Temse (with some small hills), Rupelmonde with its tide mill and Bazel with the castle Wissekerke.
From Bazel, it’s just a short ride to Antwerp. Antwerp is a good-looking city, with its range of medieval buildings in the central square and with numerous Art Nouveau gems in between. The access to this town is easy as you can reach the center by a 572-meter long foot and bike tunnel, 31 meters below the surface.
Day 4: Antwerp – Mechelen (24 miles/39 km)
Today’s ride is a short one giving you the opportunity to include an early morning visit to one of the museums in Antwerp. The ride today, as on the first day, is once again totally flat. Along the Schelde, the bike ride goes south out of town to Hemiksem, where you will find an interesting abbey. Near Niel, you will leave the Schelde and will join the Rupel, another lovely river, where you will find an interesting brickwork museum. This museum gives you a complete picture of ordinary brickwork in all its aspects.
In Boom, you have to take a ferry to cross the Rupel. As the ferry only runs a few times every hour, the restaurant nearby is a perfect lunch stop. By the maze of waterways, bridges, and sluices you will enter the city of Mechelen along the Dijle river. Mechelen is a small and picturesque city that is big on charm and history, thriving with quaint shops, car-free areas, and pleasant little squares. Your hotel is a brewery as well, a brewery tour and a good Belgian beer at dinner are a wonderful way to finish the evening!
Day 5: Mechelen (optional visit to Brussels by train)
In Mechelen, you will have a rest day. If you didn't enjoy the tour last night, why not start the morning with a brewery tour before taking the 30-minute train ride to Brussels. As the headquarters of the European Union and NATO, this metropolis is often referred to as the Capital of Europe. While it is certainly international, it offers more than government buildings. With over 75 museums and rich history, culture is easily accessible. Just think of ‘Manneken-Pis’, the Grand Place, the famous chocolates, the high-quality restaurants, and the nightlife scene. Finally, take a train back to Mechelen where you will stay for a second night.
Please, note the train tickets are not included and cost approximately €11 per person/way. You can see time tables and purchase tickets from Mechelen to Brussels central at www.nmbs.be.
Day 6: Mechelen – Leuven (22 miles/36 km)
The first part of the ride will be along the winding Dijle river up to the father Damien statue near Tremelo. Pass Werchter (known for its yearly musical festival with over 150,000 fans) with its rock museum and finally cycle on to Leuven, a vibrant student town. The University of Leuven is one of the most important and oldest universities in Europe. Leuven is also Belgium’s reigning brewing capital with the headquarters of Inbev, the second largest brewery in the world. Together with the beautiful historic city center, it makes Leuven a great place for the curious traveler!
Day 7: Leuven – Hasselt (27-44 miles/44-72 km)
In the town of Leuven, you will pass two lovely abbeys before heading out of town. Enjoy the lovely ride along rolling quiet streets and the forest areas near castle van Horst before heading to Scherpenheuvel. The basilica of Scherpenheuvel – the place of pilgrimage in Belgium – is the oldest dome church in the low countries, inaugurated in 1627 and with both Renaissance and Baroque characteristics. From Scherpenheuvel it’s just a short ride to the lovely historic town of Diest, with its beautiful and picturesque beguinage at the edge of the historic city center.
From Deist, you can take the train to reduce the ride by 17 miles/28 km. If you continue biking, the final part of the ride will be through mostly forested areas up to the Albert canal. This canal connects Antwerp with the river Maas. Hasselt, the capital of the Limburg province, is also situated along this canal and offers you an interesting stay for the night.
Day 8: Hasselt – Maastricht (33-40 miles/53-65 km)
The final day adds yet another great memory to your bike tour. Before leaving the town, you can admire the largest authentic Japanese garden in Europe. Cycle on along the Albert Canal to the area near Genk. As you are riding through lovely forests you will have no idea you are close to the third most significant economical city of Flanders. After leaving the forests and heathlands you will join Oud-Rekem, just a small village but one which has one of the most authentic preserved village centers of Belgium. The castle, city gate and other parts of the city walls have also been preserved. At this point, there are two options for your ride up to Maastricht. Either a beautiful ride along the Albert canal deeply sheltered in between steep hills with caves, or a short ride by crossing the Maas. Maastricht in the Netherlands is the final destination of your tour and maybe one of the most scenic Dutch towns with a rich history. In Maastricht, your tour will end and you will meet a representative to pick up the bike equipment in the late afternoon.
Day 9: Maastricht
The tour finishes after breakfast. The train station in Maastricht has perfect connections to all parts of the country.