Historic Art Cities Tour: Self-Guided

Stunningly beautiful! That’s a quick way to describe the wonderful region of Flanders and the European Union’s capital city – Brussels. Here you’ll find an active vacation that’s fun for everyone: terrific cycling itineraries through beautiful landscapes, culinary pleasure in great restaurants, cultural treasures in fine museums and historical buildings and, of course, the ever pulsating city of Brussels. This 7 day/6 night tour includes visits to the Belgian pearls of Brussels, Leuven, Mechelen, Ghent, wonderful Bruges along with an optional train visit to Antwerp!

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Brussels
Belgium’s capital is not a metropolis like Paris, London or Rome, but the city will certainly seduce you with her multicultural atmosphere, stimulating art galleries and outstanding restaurants. The “Grand Place” (market square) in Brussels is truly one of the most colorful and beautiful squares in all of Europe. Other icons of Brussels such as the 103 meter high Atomium Monument, built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair and Manneken Pis, the whimsical statue of a little boy in a somewhat compromising position are a must for every visitor to Brussels. Brussels is also the city of “Jugendstil”, a type of architecture and decorative art similar to Art Nouveau. In addition there are innumerable indoor and outdoor exhibitions such as the Festival “Couleur Café” throughout the year.

Day 2: Brussels – Mechelen – 40 miles (65 km)
Today, you cycle to Leuven, a city known for its fine university, the oldest in Belgium and its many breweries producing some of the best beers in Europe. After Leuven you pedal on to Mechelen, a city that was once the capital of the Burgundian Netherlands (present-day Belgium and Holland). Mechelen has one of the highest concentrations of monuments North of the Alps, and is unique in Flanders in being listed not once but four times on the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage sites. Here the imposing St. Rombouts Cathedral, towers over the market square. The city center offers an inviting range of squares, terraces and shops, all within walking distance of each other.

Day 3: Mechelen – Bornem – 19 miles (30 km)
Today is a short cycling day along the rivers Rupel and Schelde to Bornem, so there is plenty of time to take a 15-minute train ride in the morning before the biking to the center of Antwerp. There you can enjoy a stroll along the River Meir, have a “libation” on one of Antwerp’s historic squares and admire the rich art and architecture of this Flemish capital. You can also visit the glamorous, 17th century house of the noted painter Peter Paul Rubens or the awesome Antwerp Museum of Fine Art. Tonight, on your way to Ghent, you will stay in the small town of Bornem. In the town center you can find some great places to eat!

Day 4: Bornem – Ghent – 39 miles (63 km)
Scenic cycling through pleasant countryside takes you today to Ghent, another university city in Western Flanders with a rich past. Ghent had its origins in Roman Times, at the junction of the Leie and Schelde Rivers. This favorable location and a well developed textile industry brought great prosperity to Ghent, which had its peak in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The city center has many surprisingly well preserved patrician mansions. Also noteworthy are the Cloth makers’ Hall (1425) where textile merchants gathered and the impressive St. Baafs’ Cathedral, built in various periods in a variety of interesting styles. In the cathedral you can admire a number of masterpieces of medieval painting, including the renowned “Adoration of the Lamb” by Jan van Eyck.

Day 5: Ghent – Bruges – 31 miles (50 km)
The center of Bruges, once the wealthy cloth capital of Europe, is part of the world famous UNESCO world heritage site list. Bruges, also called the Venice of the North, is often considered the most beautiful of all Flemish cities. Its historic center, which dates from the Middle Ages, is almost completely intact. At that time, Bruges was a thriving metropolis and a bustling hub of trade and art. There are still magnificent art collections and architectural treasures to appreciate today. Take your time to stroll through lovely parks, intimate little streets and ancient market squares. There’s also great shopping; the shopkeepers love to explain all the details about the exquisite Belgian chocolate and hearty Belgian beer.

Day 6: Bruges – De Haan – Bruges – 37 miles (60 km)
This morning you cycle along lively canals to the well-preserved coastal village of De Haan famous for its many buildings in Belle Époque style where you can enjoy a stimulating dive into the North Sea or relax a bit at the beach. Or you could stay in Bruges today and enjoy a free day for shopping, a boat ride on the canals, sightseeing by carriage, visiting some museums or a belfry climb for a panoramic view of the city. If the weather does not cooperate today you can take a 15 min. train ride to Ostend, a majestic port town.

Day 7: Departure after breakfast or extra night in Bruges or Brussels
Back to Brussels by direct train (1 hour ride, 2 trains per hour)

Getting There

From the Brussels Airport or Train station take a cab to the first hotel. To return to Brussels at the end of the tour, there is a train every half hour from Bruges to Brussels (1 hour).

Meals

Daily Breakfast is included.

Prices and Dates

Check out our Tour Calendar under “Self-Guided Tours”

Tour Length

7 days/ 6 nights

Included
      Accommodations in 3 and 4-star hotels (3-star in Ghent and Brussels); all rooms with private facilities
      – Daily breakfast
      – 7 or 21-speed bike equipped with map holder, pannier, repair kit and lock
      – Detailed route descriptions, tourist information and maps
      – Emergency service phone number 7 days a week
    – Daily luggage transportation. Luggage transportation is limited to one suitcase or bag per person on this tour (not heavier than 20 kilos).
Bicycles

Included in the tour price are very well maintained 7 or 21-speed men’s and ladies bikes, equipped with a map holder, pannier, pump and spare inner tube, repair kit and lock. Also included is one odometer per two bikes, but this is not guaranteed, based on availability.

Level of Difficulty

Easy biking on flat, safe bike paths.

Excluded

Air fare
– Entrance fees to the various mentioned attractions
– Beverages
– Lunches, dinners

Weather

Average daytime temperatures in April and May are 50-60. June, July, and August range from 65-70, and September and October from 60-65. Belgium is close to the North Sea and has a moderate sea climate.

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