Ghent is a perfect illustration of Belgian cycling culture. As well as big (and slightly crazy) dates such as the centenary celebrations of the Six Days of Ghent, from Tuesday 15 to Sunday 20 November 2022, coming up in ’tKuipke (Citadelpark Velodrome), where competitors will relay race for a titanic 7 hours a day, the city’s calendar is full of amateur races in small villages and cycling events in and around the city.
But more than that, cycling is in Ghent’s DNA. Its historic streets and bridges provide picture postcard views for fans of our two-wheeled friends. The city’s cycle-friendly roads and largest low-traffic pedestrian zone in Europe, as well as dedicated networks and underpasses make a cycling tour a must-do way to see the sights.
There’s a great selection of intersecting cycle trails, so it’s easy to map out bespoke itinerary, or follow a recommended one. A good bet is the Gentse Fietsen Route, that unfolds kilometres of discoveries while looping round the city centre. Including the 24-towered Castle of the Counts, a willow at the birthplace of Charles V, tranquil parks and a cemetery of poets and writers, there’s a stop for everyone, from history buffs to nature lovers, dreamers, and coffee addicts.
Meanwhile the Chateau Route passes the castles of riverside Destelbergen, Heusden, Laarne, Beervelde and Lochristi. Don’t miss Laarne castle, a moated fortress dating back to the Middle Ages hosting an impressive art collection. Also on the Chateau itinerary are the two nature reserves and the Damvallei lake, where birdlovers will surely want to stop for photos on sunny autumn days.
For a fun excursion with the kids, there’s a child-friendly route with a photo-trail making the most of playgrounds and parks. At the opposite end of the exertion spectrum perhaps, check out how Ghent’s cycleways join up with the iconic Art Cities route, Scheldt Route and Flanders route, as well as the Dutch network, offering hundreds of kilometres of cycling pleasure and challenge.
Renting a bike in Ghent is a piece of cake and can be done at both rail stations. For all sorts of bikes, including freight to children’s, De Fietsambassade is a go-to option. Blue-bike or Donkey Republic are also useful addresses. If you’d rather not go it alone, guided cycling tours – from night-time adventures to graffiti trails – can be booked through City Cycling Gent.
2. Where to refresh?
Pause for breath in the sunshine, and you’ll find you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to outdoor cafes. And if you’ve really caught the cycling bug, you can feed it at one of Ghent’s bicycle-themed concept stores or coffee bars, like Bar Bidon where you can pick up all sorts of accessories and kit.
3. Cycle-friendly accommodation
For cycling weekenders or mini-breaks, Ghent offers a great range of cycle-friendly hotels and B&Bs with bonuses like secure bicycle sheds, a repair kit, maps and rental services. You could stay on the edge of a nature reserve, in a former pharmacy or this Le Corbusier-style 1930s house.
If you’re driving in and out, one of the city park-and-rides can provide a convenient place to leave your car, while you take the bikes off the rack and enjoy the city at your own pace.
Tickets for this much-anticipated highlight of the cycling calendar would be a great gift for any cycling enthusiast. But plan ahead – they go on sale a year in advance. Welcoming multiple world cycling champions from Tuesday 15 to Sunday 20 November 2022, the frenetic competition includes Madison, time trials, and derny. In this 100th anniversary year for the competition the velodrome will be in exuberant party mode with decorations and musical interludes.