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.
6 great bike routes 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 route is signed from Bokrijk car park as Fietsen door het water. It forms part of a local plan to attract cyclists to Limburg province by creating exciting new experiences, such as biking through the tree tops in the Bosland nature reserve (which opened last month) and cycling through the Kanne caves (due to open later this year).
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.
3) 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 meandering River Leie through a landscape like the Thames in England or the Vecht in the Netherlands. There are several cafés along the way where you can sit by the water watching the boats go past.
4) 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 old country inn In Den Rozenkrans.
5) Antwerp Port
It maybe sounds like an odd idea, but it’s possible to cycle around the port of Antwerp. You can follow a network of safe cycle routes past giant container ships, oil terminals and even hidden nature reserves. Head out to the striking new Port House designed by Zaha Hadid to begin a tour.
6) Bruges to Damme
One of the most beautiful cycle trips in Belgium, this route follows the wide Damse Vaart canal built by Napoleon in the early 19th century. The 30-minute ride to Damme takes you along a quiet rural road shaded by tall Canadian poplars. From Damme, you can continue along the canal to the Dutch border town of Sluis.
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Hidden Belgium takes you off the beaten track and sets out to prove that Belgium is in fact one of the most interesting states in Europe.
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