The world’s greatest cyclists are gathered in Brussels for the start of the Tour de France on 7 July. But not everyone is a professional cyclist. Here are routes in Belgium made for gentle summer rides.
Cool bike rides in Belgium
1) Cycle through water
A cycle trail near Bokrijk open air museum includes a stretch called Cycle through Water. It takes you on a metal bridge sunk below a pond so you are literally under the water. The short stretch through water provides an unusual view of ducks floating past at eye level. The route is signed from the Bokrijk car park as ‘Fietsen door het water’ (Cycle Through Water). It forms part of a plan to attract cyclists to Limburg by creating exciting new experiences, such as cycling across the moors and cycling through the Kanne caves. Located between cycle points 243 and 91.
2) Vennbahn Cycle Trail
The Vennbahn railway used to run through the wild Hautes Fagnes region of Belgium carrying raw materials to Germany. It closed down in 2008, leaving behind abandoned tracks and empty stations. But an ambitious project was launched in 2013 to turn it into a cycling and walking trail. The route now runs for 125 kilometres between Troisvierges in northern Luxembourg and Aachen in Germany, taking in dark pine woods and desolate stretches of the Fagnes. One of the best sections runs from the abandoned station Sourbrodt Gare to the pretty valley town of Monschau in Germany. Stop here for lunch before returning by the Rur Bank cycle route.
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3) Antwerp Ring Cycle Path
Ranked in 2019 as one of the top three cities in Europe for cycling, Antwerp has developed a network of separate cycle trails that take you safely to every corner of the city. You can experience the bike network for yourself by following the dedicated cycle lanes around the leien boulevards and along the Scheldt waterfront. The most adventurous route is the Ringfietspad that takes you on dedicated cycle paths that follow the busy Antwerp ring motorway, all the way from Kiel on the south side to the docklands in the north. Completed in 2019, the 12-kilometre route runs mainly through woods and parks on the edge of the city. The highlight is a pedestrian and cycle bridge that links Park Spoor Noord with Het Eilandje. Constructed in 2019 by Brussels engineers Ney & Partners, the bridge is enclosed by a steel canopy pierced with holes that create a romantic dappled light.
4) The River Leie
You can rent a bike in Ghent and set off down the River Leie on quiet cycle paths that avoid the busy roads. After twenty minutes of gentle cycling, you come to a complex series of bridges that takes you under a railway line and over a canal. Then you are out in the countryside cycling through quiet villages and watery meadows. The route sometimes follows the River Leie, meandering through the landscape like the Thames in England or the Vecht in the Netherlands. There are cafes along the way where you can sit by the water watching the boats go past. Follow cycle numbers 4, 52, 55, 56, 62, 57, 68, 52.
5) Leuven Hill Country
The university town of Leuven sits in a valley with low hills to the east. You can take a bike to roam around this peaceful countryside dotted with old abbeys, farmhouses and even vineyards. But you might meet some surprisingly steep hills along the way like the horrendous sunken road Holleweg. The route takes you past Arenberg university campus, Park Abbey, Kessel-Lo park and the authentic country inn In Den Rozenkrans. Follow cycle numbers: 11, 84, 25, 83, 5, 80, 33, 11.
6) Cycle in the trees
Deep in the pine woods of Bosland nature reserve, cyclists can ride up a gently sloping circular ramp to reach the tree tops, ten metres above the ground. Opened in 2019, Fietsen door de bomen is the latest project to bring cyclists to the wild forested landscape of Limburg. Architects De Gregorio & Partners have created a stunning structure supported on rugged rust-red steel stilts that merge seamlessly with the lofty pine trunks. Once you have circled the trees, you can set off through the Bosland woods on a series of numbered routes, and end up in the bike-friendly cafe De Lage Kempen.
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