Highlights around Brussels
8 days / 7 nights | Self-guided cycling tours
This route takes you around the lovely central part of Flanders. We have selected a string of beautiful historical towns for you to visit. Everybody knows Brussels, of course, with its grand market square, but have you ever been to Ghent? The heart of historical Ghent, especially around the quays on the River Leie, is like a picture from a book of fairytales. We also want to surprise you with lovely Sint Niklaas and Aalst. In Oudenaarde you may like to visit a museum dedicated to the Tour of Flanders, a tough road-cycling race which has been held every spring since 1919.
Level 1: This is an easy cycling trip on relatively flat terrain, suitable for people with little or no cycling experience. Daily cycling distances span roughly 30–50 km. A 3-gear bike should suffice.
Day 1: Arrival in Mechelen
Organize your own journey to Mechelen and make sure you get there early to check out the compact and cute historical town center.
Day 2: Mechelen – Sint Niklaas (Cycling 45 km / 28 miles)
Your first stop is Rumst, a town at the confluence of the rivers Nete and Dijle. They join to form the Rupel, the river you will follow to the River Scheldt. Historically, the Rupel valley is known for its clay deposits, clay pits, brickyards and ovens for baking (roof)tiles. Museums tell the fascinating stories. Follow the River Scheldt to the Temse Bridge which takes you across the water to the town of Temse. From here, quiet, flat roads lead to Sint Niklaas, the town with the biggest market square in the whole of Belgium.
Day 3: Sint Niklaas – Ghent (Cycling 67 km / 42 miles)
Set forth on quiet and flat roads through the Waasland region to Dendermonde where you will rejoin the Scheldt river. If you have an eye for nature, you will be interested to find out that you are cycling through a freshwater tidal habitat. What? Here? So far away from the sea? Yes, at high tide, seawater can flow upriver, unhindered, as far as the locks near Ghent. Obviously, the water gets less and less saline as it approaches Ghent, so there are gradual variations in (more or less salt-resistant) vegetation and in fauna (from water birds to fish) all the way from the mouth of the Scheldt to the locks. Interestingly, the daily motion of water flowing in and out is continuously etching changes into the landscape. Roaming the scenic Scheldeland region, you will pass Donkmeer lake and nature reserve, which started off as a loop in the Scheldt. Cycle atop the river dike and watch the boats glide by. There are many cafes along today’s route. The people of Ghent have done such a good job looking after their stunning historical patrimony. The beautiful town center is an absolute joy – and cool too!
Day 4: Ghent – Oudenaarde (Cycling 52 km / 32 miles)
After the hustle and bustle of Ghent, pedal to Nazareth and Gavere before you reach Oudenaarde at the foot of the Flemish Holls. Along the way, opt to visit Dhondt Dhaenens art museum in Sint Martens-Latem. The museum boasts a wealth of works by Flemish modern and contemporary artists. In Oudenaarde, fans of road bicycle racing should visit Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen, a museum dedicated to the Tour of Flanders. After glimpsing the Town Hall, you will realize that this town has known grander days. It used to be a thriving center of tapestry production. Visit one of the many breweries or the pretty beguinage.
Day 5: Oudenaarde – Aalst (Cycling 62 km / 39 miles)
Today we will steer clear of the notorious hills and cobbled lanes of the Tour of Flanders, keeping them on our right-hand side, but there will be some slopes later on. After the first few flat kilometers along the Scheldt, head for Zottegem, the town of Lamoral, Count of Egmont (1522-1568). Although Lamoral was a catholic and loyal to the Spanish king, he politely protested when the Spanish Inquisition was established in the Low Countries to eradicate the protestants. He was beheaded, along with the protestants. You will find many references to this character across town. Moving on, past the rural villages of Herzele and Haaltert, you will reach the town of Aalst on the River Dender, known for its carnaval.
Day 6: Aalst – Brussels (Cycling 55 km / 34 miles)
For centuries this was one of the wealthiest hop farming regions in Europe. You will pass Afflichem Abbey where the famous beer was once brewed. Today it is brewed elsewhere but the monks’ old recipe is still strictly followed. Rolling country roads lead you to the capital of Europe and Belgium, Brussels. Be sure to leave enough time for sightseeing because besides having Manneken Pis, the most delicious waffles, chocolates and pints, Brussels also happens to be the city where culture vultures, shopaholics, and gourmets and gourmands make merry.
Day 7: Brussels – Mechelen (Cycling 53 km / 33 miles)
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 abbey with a baroque basilica that was never completed. A sequence of diverse landscapes will pass you by, with trees, water and vast cropfields. Finally, you will reach the town where you started this bike holiday a week previously: Mechelen.
Day 8: Departure from Mechelen
After breakfast, your holiday will come to an end.
Please note: All cycling distances stated above are approximate only.