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Biking in Bruges

Good Morning!

My husband and I are spending a few days in Bruges this May. I was wondering if anyone has an opinion about renting bikes yourself vs taking party of an organized tour. I think we would like to ride out to Damme and look around but wonder if being part of a tour wouldn't give us much time to look around. We also like to take pictures and take in the scenery - would being on an organized tour be too constricting - meaning we wouldn't be able to just stop when we felt like it and take pictures...

Opinions? Any help?

Posted by
1256 posts

As a fellow photography enthusiast, I would be all for doing the bike trip on your own.

Posted by
872 posts

I rented bikes with my then-teenaged daughter a few years ago and we went at our own pace out to Damme and back. It's a very easy and scenic ride, and we were glad to be able to go at our own pace, stop for photos whenever and wherever we wanted to, sit and relax at a cafe when we wanted to, etc. It's such a straightforward ride, alongside the canal to Damme, that we felt no need of a guide to say "go this way..."

Posted by
185 posts

Amy: bike, by all means! You want to be able to stop along the way, take any pictures that call out to you, and just enjoy the scenery. Bring along a picnic lunch (and some Tripel Karmeliet beer) and you are set.

Posted by
20597 posts

This is easy. When you ride with the group, you stop when the group stops. The group doesn't stop when decide to stop. Maybe you can stop for a quick picture and then catch up but you run the risk of being left behind. Go by yourself. It is easy.

Posted by
1453 posts

A guide can indeed show all the gems, but you will not have the freedom as already noticed of exploring the countryside around Bruges (Het Brugse Ommeland) as long as you like and at your own pace. Biking is very populair in the Low Countries, so there is quite an extensive network of bike routes to look for. The TI in Bruges and Damme can give more detailed info, but see also: http://www.brugseommeland.be/en

Indeed the countryside north-east of Bruges with Damme is nice especially in May as everything is in full blossom. You can bike along the canal further with a little detour to Oostkerke. You can also cross the Dutch border and visit Sluis, is touristy but is fortified like Damme and has a few nice spots like the old townhall. A few km west you can bike to lovely well preserved Sint Anna ter Muiden and further north the countryside with Retrancement is nice too. More info about routes will give the TI in Sluis.

Worth to mention is north of Bruges Lissewege and the former abbey of Ter Doest with its large 14th century barn. No idea how easy you can get there with all the ongoing road construction works now. And there is also a 55km long castle route around Bruges worth to consider. Not all castles are authentic but look nice, a few can be visited.

Best time for biking is during the week and in the morning, the atmosphere is at its best to my opinion.

Posted by
123 posts

When we stayed in Bruges, the hotel provided bikes free for the taking. The ride to Damme is easy, across flat land, and much of it is on a dedicated bike path. It sounds like you would have more fun on your own rather than in a group.

Posted by
23385 posts

Once you get out of town the paths are well made, as are the little lanes. I will say that riding a bike in the centre of Brugge is a real boneshaker experience because all the roads are cobblestones. Hard on the knees if you are posting, hard on the gluteus maximus if you aren't.

Posted by
382 posts

I agree with Nigel. They don't show that part on any of the romantic pictures/videos I've seen of biking. My posterior took a beating but was well worth it. Be cautious biking in town, down a one street , going the wrong way, with a bus heading your way, and many people. My pedals were scraping sidewalk.

Posted by
1453 posts

Luckely the “new” cobblestones in Brugge are way better then the old ones :).

Posted by
351 posts

Interesting thread. I am wondering about a couple of things.

  1. How far is it from Bruges to Damme? Is biking there & back an all day affair?

  2. How far is it from bike rental places to the canal paths or bike paths? The cobbles sound very uncomfortable so I am wondering how far it might be to walk our bikes to the path(s)

Posted by
1453 posts

I live just across the Belgian-Dutch border and visit Brugge several times a month, so a quite familiar visitor.

It’s about 7km from Brugge to Damme, so an half hour one way biking. Fun if there is no or a bit of wind, not so with strong head and even side wind. Hiring an E-bike (think is possible) can make in that case life easier and make it also more easy to explore the countryside further north to Oostkerke and Sluis / St Anna ter Muiden just across the border.

The cobblestones used nowadays in Brugge are more flat and more comfortable but still can cause physical discomfort. Not all streets have cobblestones, the Langerei is the asphalt street at the leftside of the canal deep downtown Brugge leading to Damme. It’s a busy street, so take care. Depending where you get the bike from, think about riding 10 to 15min. in discomfort before hitting that street. Outside Brugge the bike pathes are seperate, you can also cycle at the westside of the canal having lesser and (hopefully) slower driving traffic.

Tomorrow will start the famous and notorious cycling race Paris-Roubaix. With it´s long and many stretches of old fashioned cobblestone country roads makes it to one of the toughest races on the calendar. At the final stage of this “Hell of the North” the cyclists run over 40km/h over the cobblestones chasing that prestigious trophy.............a cobblestone.

Posted by
120 posts

Thank you all for the replies! I never expected to get this many responses.

We have decided to rent bikes ourselves and now consider ourselves properly warned about cobblestones and traffic! I'll report back mid/late May about our Bruge Biking adventure!

Amy

Posted by
30931 posts

amy,

As the others have mentioned, the ride from Bruges to Damme is very easy, and on a nice day very enjoyable. As you're planning to take pictures, I'd also suggest doing that on your own so you can stop when you want. It's not a difficult ride.

Hotel Adornes used to provide loaner bikes, so if you haven't booked a hotel yet it's something to consider.

Posted by
1453 posts

Interesting to know is that you can climb the church tower in Damme (1€) for a very nice panoramic view of the surroundig countryside, the towers of Brugge and the fortification around the historic centre. The winding stairs are narrow, but you can take a break halfway in the clock room. The interior of the church is nice too. Opening hours hard to say, you can ask the TI in Brugge before starting your bike adventure.