The Belgian Tourist Office has an English language web site Belgium Hiking and Biking with links to many different sources.
Garmin offers a massive collection of GPS devices and maps for cyclists. Perhaps most relevant to readers of this guide would be the Benelux topo map. Not cheap, but oh what a tool. Too bad it did not exist when I was exploring.
The Fietsroute offers a set of cycling maps (fietskaarten) covering all of Belgium, southern parts of the Netherlands, the Rhineland area of Germany, and northern France down to Paris. You can see an English language description at Many Maps, and order using a credit card. The maps define routes by "knotenpunkt" (node or junction) rather than by route numbers. Navigation is easy: you follow the route from 3 to 7 to 9 to 4. But you must have a route map in order to determine which nodes you want.
You can also plan routes on line at Routeplanner. Click on your starting and ending junctions and it gives you a list to follow, with distances. Or click in sequence the junctions you want to visit and it will give you a list with distances.
You can also find suggested routes in Flanders at Flanders Bike Routes. Includes a link to RaVEL routes in the French region of Belgium.
The De Rouck GeoCart series of cycling maps for the French provinces of Belgian (1:100,000, 5 maps with cycling route guides) are the best I have found. They show cycle paths and recommended cycling routes. Beware that the cycling routes are often on roads, that the paths shown are incomplete and in some cases blocked, and that many bicycle paths are not shown. (Readers will notice frequent mentions of GeoCart errors in the text of this cycling guide. I have periodically written GeoCart, offering them my corrections. There has never been a response of any kind.) They can be ordered from Stamfords, the best map store in the world.
For another resource for routes in the French provinces, see the RAVEL section below.
For boaters, there is now an official on-line map of Belgium's navigable waterways. It appears to be accurate. Uses Flash.
For details on the waterways (water level, etc.) I have used Carte des Voies Navigables de Belgique/Kaart der Waterwegen van België, republished by GeoCart in 1998. Note however that this map (or rather series of 4 maps) contains some grievous errors. For example, it shows the Espierre canal to be navigable, when in fact the locks have been blocked since 1985.
A new (May 2009) map/guide to the navigable waterways has been published by the Belgian National Geographic Institute. Order here.
Van Loock, Ward: Fietsen over jaagpaden en oude spoorwegen. Lannoo, 1998, updated new edition April 2006. Twenty cycling tours composed primarily of towpaths and rail trails in the Flemish Region. Includes substantial descriptions of history, places to eat, and sights along the way. Makes use of the node route markings now found increasing in the Flemish region. This is a beautiful publication with excellent color maps. Dutch, but worth purchasing for the maps alone for those who don't have that language. (And English speakers can really make out of lot of Dutch anyhow.)
-"-: Fietsen langs Ardense en Luxemburgse rivieren. Lannoo, 1996. Actually this book should be called "Wallonia and Luxembourg" - the 15 routes cover the breadth of Wallonia and Luxembourg, with excursions into France, the Netherlands and Germany. Includes parts of the Maas/Meuse, Escaut, and Haine rivers and Albert, Charleroi, Centre and Nimy - Péronnes canals. Dutch.
There are numerous other Dicht-Bij-Huisgidsen (close to home guides) published for bikers and walkers by Lannoo.
de Selys, Gerard, and Maesschalk, Anne: Cyclotourisme en Belgique. Le Guide - La Renaissance du Livre, copyright 1998 but the text indicates really 1995. 23 recommended routes, practically exclusively towpath rides, with decent descriptions and history for the routes covered. The blurb claims 1,200 km but that is out and back. Canal km covered is about 600. Unfortunately, some of the best rides I have found are omitted - perhaps because they did not exist when the authors did their research. French. (Previously published by Duculot in 1988, and also in Dutch as Fietstoerisme in België by Roularta Books. A quick comparison indicates that the earlier material was not updated for the 1998 edition. The authors simply added three additional routes.)
West, Luc: Fietsen langs Belgische waterwegen. Globe (Roularta Books), 1998. Fifteen routes (all but two entirely in the Flemish Region) covering about 770 km of waterway. Extensive historical touring notes. Dutch.
Maes, Paul: De Schelderoute. Visum Gids (Roularta Books), 1993. This is a travelogue of the best kind: the description of a trip in nine days, following as closely as possible the entire Schelde/Scheldt/Escaut river from its source in France to its mouth into the North Sea in the Netherlands, and loaded with observations and notes on geology and history. And he does a good job with the bike paths. The river is officially 420 km long, the tour about 450 km. Well worth having if you can read a bit of Dutch.
Guidebooks are available for RAVeL 1 (in three sections), RAVeL 2 (but without the SE branch shown on this map), RAVeL 3, and RAVeL 4. The series covers over 95% of the waterways of the Walloon region that I include. (RAVeL 5 is currently a concept rather than a defined route.) The maps are some of the best I have seen anywhere, perfect to guide you along the way. The text provides some history. The primary text in 1 - 3 is in French, with summaries in Dutch, German and English. The newest, RAVeL 4, is available in a Dutch/English edition and also a French/German edition. Spiral bound and the right size to carry in the map holders you see on some bikes. (RAVeL stands for Réseau Autonome de Voies Lentes - a separate network of slow routes.) You can see more about the RAVeL network, and order the guide books at EUR 2.50 each (with a bank transfer) at the RAVeL web site.
The RAVeL site now also provides downloadable detailed maps, route descriptions in French, Dutch, German and English, and pictures.
To complement the main RAVeL network, Luc Beeusaert is writing a site describing off-road cycling routes particularly in the Waloon region of Belgium but also including some in neighboring regions. Mostly in French.
For a comprehensive coverage of the rail trails of Belgium and Luxembourg, see Perrin, Gilbert: Guide des Chemins du rail. Editions Labor, 1997 (volume 1) and 1998 (volume 2). The contents are out of date in at least two locations, but since the books show the entire rail routes and not just those already developed as trails at the time of writing, you have most of the information you need. French
All of the above with the exception of Route 66 are published in Belgium. Perhaps the best single place to buy the books and maps is the travel bookstore Anticyclone des Açores, 34 Rue Fosse aux Loups, 1000 Brussels near de Brouckere. FNAC in City 2 is also a good source. For materials in Dutch the Standaard bookstore by the opera is one of the best.
The physical descriptions of the routes are from personal observation from August 1997 through March 2001 unless otherwise specified, with additional material from other contributors as noted. Updates continue as I receive information. Dates and historical descriptions have been garnered from a large variety of sources, including the Blue and Michelin guides, builders plates and building plaques, articles in Le Soir and Het Nieuwsblad, Franz Hayt's Atlas D'Histoire (published by De Boeck Wesmael), Encyclopedia Britannica online, Gids voor Vlaanderen (Lanoo) and Kanalen van de Koning-Koopman by R. Filarski (at the Brussels central library Flemish branch). The Verschueren Groot Encyclopedisch Woorden Boek (cited as "Verschueren") is the source of some official distances. The World Wide Web has produced a number of interesting hits, including the site of the company that constructed the barge lift at Thieu, the official statistics of the Port of Antwerp and the Belgian railways, and the abstract of a thesis on the peat canals of Brabant in the Middle Ages. I have generally made no attempt to verify dates. In a few instances where different sources provided different dates I selected the one which seemed to make the most sense.
Related Web Sites
Stichting Landelijk Fietsplatform provides an overview of long distance cycling routes in the Netherlands and Flanders, and ordering information for the fine guides (beautiful maps and descriptions of the routes and sights) produced by the Fiets Platform. Dutch with some English. You can order at their "webwinkel".
Fietsnet is a Dutch and Belgium group dedicated to promoting cycling. The site includes some practicaly infomation like taking a bike on the train. Dutch
Fietsroute.org is dedicated to describing marked cycling routes in Belgium and other countries. Now has over 200 routes, including printable color maps of sections of the Flemish junction network.
BBR/FBC (Belgische Bond voor Rijwieltoerisme/Federation Belge du Cyclotourisme) is an organisation with 12528 members. They organise activities all over the country and even abroad. Non-members may participate for a small fee which includes a one day insurance. They range from 30 to 150 km from nice touring to a ride for trained people. One can start individually or with a group, there are plenty of options. The ride is marked with signs painted on the ground and a route description is provided. Dutch and French. (from Karel Roose) (Dan note 22 June 2006: the web site has been rebuilt with Java and does not function properly with Firefox.)
For those who can handle some German, bikeline offers a series of 186 (at last count) guides and maps. The series concentrates on Germany, but includes materials for most of Europe. Very nice maps, and descriptions including lodging recommendations. They can be ordered online from buch24. To see the bikeline series, type "bikeline" in the box next to stichwort and then click the double arrow. buch24 also has other materials on cycling - click "Radsport & Radfahren" in the list in the left column. On the next screen, click "Radtouren." German
Fietsroutes op het net has links to some 275 cycling routes in Belgium described by varous organizations and iindividuals. My favorite submitter: a pub near Olen named "Pisspot of Kaiser Karel." Dutch
Fietsen Eén Twee Drie!
is a non-commercial index site for cycling in the Netherlands and Belgium. Find your way to well over 1,000 routes. Dutch, some English.
is a commercial site that attempts to index everything having to do with cycling in the Netherlands, including organized tours and hotels that welcome cyclists. There are also extensive links to Belgium, and some to other countries. Dutch
GPSTracks has a growing collection of routes with GPS directions, in Belgium, Netherlands, France and Germany. Of particular interest to cyclists are Fietsroutes and MTB (mountain bike) routes. Dutch
For those with lots of stamina and time, the North Sea Cycle Route circles the North Sea - some 6,000 km in seven countries. English
Belgium for Biking is a collection of contacts for cycle tourism in Belgium, including escorted trips and places to rent bikes. This is a page on the Belgium Tourist Office US web site - click around the site for all sorts of information on tourism in Belgium. English
CR-Corporation has a guide to eight cycling routes leading in all directions from Maastricht, including one from Maastricht to Paris! Dutch
Promotie Binnenvaart Vlaanderen (Flemish Waterways Promotion) has a variety of maps and information on the Belgian waterways network and connections into France and the Netherlands. Some of the network information in Wallonia is incorrect - verify before sailing. Includes map of entire European waterway network. Dutch
Route-you offers sugestions for (mostly) circular rides and hikes. Particularly strong for mountain biking.
Wandelen Pasar contains a growing list of cycling and walking routes, complete with maps and route descriptions. Dutch and French.
The Wikipedia now has articles on the histories of the Belgium canals, with links to related sights such as the fort at Eban-Emael. Dutch, English French and other languages, but as with Wikipedia generally the text is most complete in the original language. Switching among languages to see which is the longest (and has any illustrations) will show you the original language of the author.
Fiets een rondje met een pontje 2008 (cycle with ferries) is a directory to many pedestrian and bicycle ferry services in the big rivers area of the Netherlands and Belgium. In Dutch, but you should be able to figure out the schedules with the knowledge of only a few words. Most do not operate only in the summer, but a few are year-round (gehele jaar).
For information (in Nederlands), diagrams and an inventory of Bailey bridges in Belgium, see http://www.baileybrug.info/.
STROOMOPWAARTS: Wandelen langs Waterlopen in Vlaanderen is a lovely site describing hiking along many of the waterways.
Holland Cycle Tours offers a variety of multi-day all-inclusive tours of various parts of the Netherlands.
Ikatan Sport Sepeda Indonesia
The Bali Cycling Federation is developing a lovely site. Included is a true mountain route around the INSIDE of the caldera of a volcano. (The volcano seems extenct.) I have visited Bali several times, and friends were back in summer 2003. The Balinese are probably the loveliest, friendliest people in the world. Don't let a few Islamic terrorists from elsewhere scare you away from Bali (or New York, Washington, etc.). English
The AWZ (Waterways and Maritime Affairs Administration of the Flemish Region) site describes the waterway system and has notices on construction projects. (Dutch, French, parts in English)
Last updated 7 Feb 2016
Copyright Dan Gamber, 1998 -
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