‘Bruges can be explored entirely on the bike’ said Tom, my guide, as we got acquainted outside a bike rental on the cobbled streets of the Belgian city.
Dating back to the 9th century, Bruges was discovered by the Vikings. It rose to a major trading town in the 12th century, owing to the excellent waterway connections. Since 20th century, it has continued to grow as a major tourist destination mainly due to the art and architecture of the city.
I got comfortable on my bike as we started our six-hour exploration of Bruges and its magical outskirts. We walked past the magnificent Belfort with our cycles. From Vlamingstraat, we pedalled towards Jan van Eyck’s statue on the intersection of Academiestraat and Spiegelrei.
The Burg Square was my last stop among the main sights in the city.
Riding on Coupure, we reached Conzett Bridge. Here began Bruges’ beauty. With wide open green spaces, waterways hugging the main centre and windmills dotting my trail, this Belgian city was nothing like I expected it to be. We crossed Kruispoort, a tower gate leading into the main city, and rode towards Sint-Janshuis Mill and Koelewei Mill.
A major turn across the highway took us to the countryside of Damme. Approximately 7 kilometres north-west of the Belfort, this town is frequented by tourists owing to its proximity to the city.
The scenes of the picturesque countryside were breathtaking. We rode along the banks of Damse Vaart or Damme Canal.
Damme is a medieval town, about 6 kilometres away from Bruges. This town was the transhipment port of Bruges. Pedalling along the Flemish agrarian villages, by the shade of the magnificent poplar trees, the countryside looked like a watercolour on canvas.
We parked our cycles outside De Uilenspiegel restaurant and tearoom and stopped for lunch. After a steak and a glass of sangria, I continued pedalling.
After crossing Damme, we continued riding perpendicular to the two big canals—Schipdonk and Leopold canal— towards the sleepy village of Oostkerke. It was approximately 4 kilometres away from the restaurant.
The first thing that struck me about Oostkerke were the trees that flanked the way to Oostkerke Castle. The path was mesmerising with these windswept trees and the comforting silence.
As we reached Sint-Kwintensstraat or Saint Quentin street, we turned our cycles around for our return towards Bruges. The distance we had to cover was 12 kilometres.
Crossing the crowded Beguinage towards Walplein, I began missing the serenity of Damme and Oostkerke. We paused for an ice-cream break here. As I sat amidst the crowd of tourists, souvenir shops and my bike on a side, I knew I had seen one of the most beautiful settings in the world.
Read: Madrid in a Day
Where to eat
Where to stay
Hotel Aragon; Naaldenstraat 22, 8000 Bruges; +32 50 33 35 33
Which is your favourite bike-friendly European city?
Note: I was invited on this media trip by Visit Flanders.