On this one-way cycling holiday, follow the Flemish Masters to the most beautiful towns in Belgium and admire their artworks in the Old Masters Museum in Brussels, St. Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, KMKSA and Rubens House in Antwerp, St. John’s Church in Mechelen and Groeninge Museum in Bruges.
In between towns, you will ride your bike through many different regions, often cycling alongside a river, following a signposted route.
Organize your own journey to Brussels. Try to arrive early and head for the Grande Place. Not only does Brussels have Manneken Pis, it also has the most delicious waffles, chocolates and pints. This is a city where culture vultures, shopaholics, and gourmets & gourmands make merry!
After one last tour of the Grande Place it’s time to leave the city behind. Cycle through the suburbs to Grimbergen, known for its lovely abbey church, a baroque basilica. Then ride your bike on tree-lined country lanes, past a series of ponds, along a river, around a wood and through meadows and cropfields to Mechelen: not as large as the other Flemish towns but just as nice.
In the town of Sint-Kathelijne-Waver, at the Ursuline Institute, a boarding school run by nuns, an exquisite surprise awaits. The convent/school complex, Our Lady of Wavre, is a successful blend of art nouveau, neo-Gothic, neo-Empire and art deco. Best of all: the winter garden! Feast your eyes on a masterpiece of art nouveau, an ode to nature, springtime and light! Back outside, continue through the countryside to Duffel on the River Nete, Mortsel and Berchem. If you are into military heritage, stop off in Mortsel to visit Fort no. 4 of the originally eight Brialmont Forts (1860-1864) that made up the defensive line of Antwerp. It is built in brick with sandstone decorations and stands on an island surrounded by a ditch and glacis. Crown your day in Antwerp, a city with a long beer tradition and countless cafes. Discover the beautiful Old Town or go shopping for antiques and curio’s, home deco, vintage fashion finds or diamonds!
During most of today’s route, the River Scheldt will show you the way. Near Kruibeke, you will find Wissekerk Castle. In the 10th century this was a a so-called water castle and part of the defense line of Antwerp along the River. A little farther on, cross the Scheldt by ferry. Then proceed atop the river dike to De Zilverreiger, a regional museum focused on preserving knowledge about trades and crafts that once flourished locally: basket weaving, river fishery, cooperage (barrel making), flax processing and clog making.
You will soon be back on the Scheldt river banks, cycling past a string of Flemish villages and towns. Stop off in Dendermonde for a look at the Town Hall & Belfry and visit the Church of Our Lady boasting a baptismal font from the 11th century. Laarne Castle is a great place for a break before continuing to Ghent. The Old Town of Ghent is like an open-air museum. It is also a UNESCO Creative City of Music. The music scene here is thriving. Festivals, musical institutions, the carillon, concerts, students of music having a singsong on the quays… music is everywhere. After dark the ambiance is magical, thanks to the town’s ingenious light plan.
Head west and discover the rural Meetjesland region, a cycling paradise with woods, meadowland and vast cropfields. It is easy-pedalling through the flat landscape to Eeklo, a small town known for its many sculptures. Then cycle through the Het Leen and Drongengoed woods. If you still have the energy, Maldegemveld nature reserve has a 3.5-km signposted walk past patches of heather. In the evening, put your feet up in Maldegem.
Yet another lovely route through the flat Flemish countryside. After Maldegem you will pass some quiet villages such as Knesselare, Maria-Aalter and Moerbrugge. On the last stretch, follow the Ghent-Bruges canal. It dates back to the 14th century and is one of the oldest in the country. Together with its towpath verges, it forms a green corridor that is important for biodiversity. Your destination Bruges is a true gem for Belgium. The charming town has cobbled roads, medieval-looking buildings and a fairytale ambiance.
After breakfast, your holiday will come to an end. It’s time to return home.