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Holland and Belgium Bike & Barge: Brussels

Flat cycling routes and wistful waterways guide us through these lands of medieval and natural splendor from two vantage points—by bike and by private canal barge— where rustic windmills dot a dreamy countryside punctuated by inviting villages such as Bruges and Ghent.

  • 12 Days
  • Activity Level: Easy
  • Daily Mileage: 15 - 35 mi
  • Daily Biking: 2 - 4 hr
  • Small Groups: 24

Why You'll Love This Tour

Overview

Holland and Belgium Bike & Barge: Brussels

The best way to experience life in the Low Countries is to follow their tranquil waterways — and that’s exactly what you’ll do on this delightful vacation. Traveling as the locals do, along easy bike paths, you’ll explore Antwerp — the “Diamond City” — and the medieval cities of Bruges and Ghent … visit a family in their fishing-village home … behold an ancient castle and historic windmills … delve into centuries-old traditions … and watch everyday life go by from the comfort of your intimate barge. All along this leisurely itinerary, you’ll set your own pace for discovery. And you only unpack once!

Cultural Highlights

  • Unpack just once, then cruise for seven nights by private canal barge
  • Experience the countryside up close, as only a barge-and-bike tour allows
  • Immerse yourself in local life as you visit a family in their home
  • Learn about Holland’s vital water-management systems
  • Master essential Flemish and Dutch phrases during an onboard language lesson
  • Admire Holland’s iconic, 19th-century windmills
  • Picnic alongside historic locks
  • Discover Bruges, one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe
  • Take a guided boat excursion to the center of Ghent
  • Sip authentic Belgian beer
  • Enjoy attentive service aboard our private barge

What to Expect

This tour offers easy to moderate terrain throughout the trip. There are undulating roads, and some of the bike paths are unpaved. Our VBT support shuttle is available every day at designated points for those who need assistance.

Average Daily Mileage: 10 – 38 miles
Average Daily Ride: 2 – 4 hours on bike paths and roads through both urban and rural areas

Climate Information

Average Daily Temperature (°F) – Brussels
Apr 55°  May 63°  Jun 67°  Jul 72°  Aug 72°

Average Rainfall (in.) – Brussels
Apr 2.1  May 2.9  Jun 2.9  Jul 2.3  Aug 1.7

 

What’s Included:

Bicycle Tour Only - without Air

  • 7 nights aboard a private canal barge
  • 16 meals  7 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 6 dinners

Air Package Plus

  • Roundtrip international airfare
  • Most transfers
  • 7 nights aboard a private canal barge, 2 nights in a Bruges hotel, 1 night in an Amsterdam hotel
  • 19 meals  10 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 6 dinners
  • Guided walking tours in Bruges and Amsterdam
  • AND the option to add our Low-Cost Trip Extensions: Pre-trip: Brussels  2 nights for only $395 • Post-trip: Amsterdam  3 nights for only $445

Both Vacation Options Include

  • 1 glass of wine with all dinners aboard the barge
  • FREE use of our custom VBT bicycle and helmet
  • Service of two bilingual VBT Trip Leaders
  • 6 days of cycling with FULL VAN SUPPORT during the cruise portion of your trip
  • Welcome reception
  • Sightseeing and cultural activities
  • 5% Frequent Traveler Credit to use on your next VBT vacation
  • Special Good Buy Discount
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Air Package Plus Single Supplement: $1345 | Land Only Single Supplement: $1045

Please note: Web Special savings cannot be combined with any other offer. Standard Terms & Conditions apply when purchasing this trip. 2015 Prices include all airline surcharges and Government taxes and fees. Ask our Tour Consultants for details. Every effort has been made to produce this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors. Prices are based on preferences selected above, including meals and sightseeing as specified in What's Included. All prices are subject to change. Departure dates and prices shown may be updated several times daily, and apply to new bookings only.


Itinerary & Map
Or, Expand All Days
DAY 1: Depart from home / Fly to Brussels

Depart the from home for Belgium. The particulars of your arrival overseas are detailed with your flight itinerary.

DAY 2: Arrive in Bruges

Upon arrival at the Brussels airport, claim your luggage and clear customs. If any portion of your luggage appears to be lost, fill in a PIR form before leaving the customs area — VBT representatives are not allowed into the customs area.

Please note: Make certain that your VBT luggage tags are affixed to your bag so your VBT representative can identify you.

After exiting customs, enter the arrival hall and look for your VBT representative, who will be holding a VBT sign. Please wait here while your representative helps make arrangements for your transfer via taxi or minibus to your Bruges hotel (transfer time is approximately 1 hour, depending on traffic). The transfer company’s name is Taxi Snel, telephone number 050 36 36 49.

Please note: That hotel check-in time is 3:00 pm. There will be a VBT group checking out of the hotel, so please do not plan for your room to be available earlier. VBT and the hotel appreciate your understanding and cooperation. You may leave your bags with reception while you explore Bruges. There is so much to see and do just around the corner. VBT provides you with City Information that includes recommendations.

Seek out a restaurant for dinner on your own tonight.

Hotel: Hotel Navarra

DAY 3: Full day in Bruges

Today, join our local guide at 9:00 am in the hotel lobby for an orientation tour of Bruges. The rest of the day is yours to sightsee and shop in Bruges, a city that has been compared to a vast open-air museum. Be sure to go to the top of the Belfort Tower for a panoramic view of the city and its entire medieval splendor. You may want to visit the 12th-century Basilica of the Holy Blood, said to contain a small vial of Christ’s blood that was brought to Bruges from the Holy Land in 1149. Or stop by the Memling Museum, housed in one of the oldest surviving medieval hospitals in Europe.

This evening, try a nearby restaurant for dinner on your own.

Hotel: Hotel Navarra
Meals: B

DAY 4: Embark barge / Warm-up ride and cruise to Ghent

VBT No-Air Package guests: You are responsible for making your own way to meet the barge, between 1:00 and 1:45 pm. Please note that you cannot embark before this time as the barge is being prepared for you. If you are late, you must contact the barge as soon as possible to make alternative arrangements, as we will sail at 2:00 pm.

The barge will be moored next to bus parking Buiten Katelijnevest in central Bruges. The contact telephone number is ++31 620 245 095.

VBT Air Package and Pre-Trip Extension guests: After breakfast, spend more free time in Bruges. Make sure your luggage is packed and ready to be transported to the barge before 11:30 am. At 12:45 pm, join our VBT Trip Leader in the hotel lobby and walk together to our barge in time for a 2:00 pm departure. At the docks, meet the barge crew and our second VBT Trip Leader, who welcome you aboard with refreshments.

We cruise out of Bruges on a charming canal. The barge stops before dinner so you can take a warm-up ride from Keersluis to Aalterbrug through the heart of the Flanders region. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner on board and learn a bit of Flemish and Dutch during a brief language class. We moor in Ghent, one of Belgium’s most beautiful cities.

Please note regarding Wi-Fi onboard the barge: Each device (smartphone, laptop, etc.) receives 50 MB per day free, to be used on that day. Additional amounts can be purchased via credit card or Paypal.

Hotel: Barge Sailing Home
Alternate Hotel: Barge Iris or Fiep
Meals: B, D
Daily Options: 13 miles (21 km)

DAY 5: Tour Ghent / Cycle to Dendermonde

After breakfast, take a boat excursion to the center of Ghent with a local guide, then explore on your own. Located at the confluence of the Schelde and Leie rivers, this “City of 200 Bridges” was founded around 600 AD and boasts many beautiful buildings dating to medieval times, when the textile industry brought great wealth to Ghent’s merchants. Many old patrician houses have been preserved in the city center. One historic building is the Cloth Makers’ Hall, built in 1425, where textile merchants used to meet. The city’s major church is St. Baaf’s Cathedral, constructed and enhanced in various styles over many centuries. In the cathedral, admire a number of masterpieces of medieval painting, including Jan van Eyck’s famous “Adoration of the Lamb.” (On Sunday morning there is a service in the cathedral, and it is not possible to see this famous painting—only the replica.) Lunch is on your own in Ghent.

The bike path we’ll follow out of the city parallels the Schelde River. We cycle through small “polder” villages, marshy grasslands, ponds and picturesque creeks A Berlare-Appels ferry takes us to the south shore of the Schelde, and after crossing the Dender river locks system, we’ll reach our barge. Your destination today is Dendermonde, a centuries-old city with a Benedictine abbey at its center and pretty market square. This evening, enjoy a Belgian beer tasting and crew presentation.

Hotel: Barge Sailing Home
Alternate Hotel: Barge Iris or Fiep
Meals: B, D
Daily Options: 17.5 miles (28 km)

DAY 6: Cycle from Dendermonde / Continue ride to Antwerp

Today we cycle from Dendermonde via Temse along the Shelde River. We ride through the village of Rupelmonde, with it’s unique tidal watermill and statue of the mathematician Mercator, arriving at Bazel, with its picturesque church square and Wissekerke castle in time for lunch on your own. After lunch, continue cycling through farmland and tiny villages to Antwerp, Belgium’s second largest city. Meet the barge at one of Antwerp’s historic docks in the afternoon, then walk into town to dine on your own in one of the many restaurants and enjoy a free evening.

Hotel: Sailing Home
Alternate Hotel: Barge Iris or Fiep
Meals: B
Daily Options: 15 or 34.5 miles (24 or 55 km)

DAY 7: Visit Antwerp / Cycle to Tholen

This morning, we visit Antwerp, known as the “Diamond City” and the hometown of the painter Peter Paul Rubens. In the middle of the city, you’ll find the Cathedral of Our Lady and beautiful old townhouses around the Market Square. We’ll have lunch on board while we’re cruising through the impressive port of Antwerp.

In the early afternoon, cycle across the Oesterdam in the Oesterschelde. The dam connects Flanders to Tholen, today’s destination along the Wouwse Plantage, a wooded area. Tholen was once an island in the middle of the extensive Zeeland streams, where many people fished for their living. Today it is connected to the mainland, but it remains a picturesque village with relics of an eventful past. After dinner, we will visit a family in their Tholen home.

Hotel: Sailing Home
Alternate Hotel: Barge Iris or Fiep
Meals: B, L, D
Daily Options: 19 miles (30 km)

DAY 8: Cycle from Tholen to Willemstad / Cruise to Dordrecht

This morning we cycle from Tholen to Willemstad through very quiet agricultural land on the western edge of Brabant province. We cycle through the small town of Oud-Vossemeer which has close ties to the American presidential family, the Roosevelts. Claes van ‘t Rosevelt emigrated in 1649 from Oud-Vossemeer to look for a better life.

Upon arriving you have time to explore Willemstad, an old fortified town on the Haringvliet. The town has a shape of a seven pointed star, with each rampart receiving a name of one the seven provinces of the Republic of United Netherlands.

From here, set sail to Dordrecht. Lunch will be served onboard the barge. The barge moors in the city’s historic center, making for an easy and delightful afternoon of exploring. Dordrecht is one of Holland’s oldest towns and birthplace of the state of The Netherlands, fathered by William of Orange. This evening, explore more of the town on your own and find a regional restaurant for dinner.

Hotel: Barge Sailing Home
Alternate Hotel: Barge Iris or Fiep
Meals: B, L
Daily Options: 27 miles (43 km)

DAY 9: Cruise to Kinderdijk / Cycle to Schoonhoven / Vianen

During breakfast, we sail the River Noord to Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, 19 of Holland’s famous windmills — some more than 260 years old — decorate the horizon. You have the opportunity to visit one before we start cycling. After the visit we start cycling through the beautiful Alblasserwaard with its alternating water and meadow landscape, to Schoonhoven, known as the “Silver City” for its long silversmithing tradition. Here there is free time for lunch before having the choice to join the barge and cruise or cycle to Vianen. The landscape consists of wide polderlands which are separated by numerous canals. The average height of the polders is two meters below the sea-level. This afternoon the route leads us through a series of villages and hamlets, where we almost literally cycle through peoples backyards. A part also is on the Lek river dike from where we can clearly see the different water levels.

Hotel: Barge Sailing Home
Alternate Hotel: Barge Iris or Fiep
Meals: B, D
Daily Options: 17 or 34 miles (27 or 53 km)

DAY 10: Arrive in Amsterdam

During breakfast this morning, we will cruise to Breukelen. Brooklyn in New York is named after this charming little town and we begin our cycling via a white drawbridge, the original “Brooklyn” Bridge toward Amsterdam. Follow the beautiful rivers Vecht and Amstel, which lead you right into the city. Along the river Vecht we see 17C magnificent mansions and country estates built by Amsterdam merchants. Stop for a picnic lunch along the way. Tonight, enjoy our last dinner on board.

Hotel: Barge Sailing Home
Alternate Hotel: Barge Iris or Fiep
Meals: B, L, D
Daily Options: 15.5 or 28 miles (25 or 45 km)

DAY 11: Depart barge / Explore Amsterdam / VBT No-Air Package ends

VBT No-Air Package guests: After breakfast, your tour ends. It is important that you leave the barge no later than 9:00 am so the crew can prepare for their next guests.

VBT Air Package guests and Post-trip Extension guests: After breakfast, say goodbye to your barge crew and VBT Trip Leader, then join your other Trip Leader for an orientation walk through Amsterdam’s canal-lined streets to our hotel. Please note that check-in time is 3:00 pm, but the staff will do their best to get you to your rooms as soon as possible. After checking in, explore Amsterdam and enjoy dinner on your own. VBT provides you with City Information that includes recommendations on what to see and do in Amsterdam.

Hotel: Hotel Vondel
Meals: B

DAY 12: Depart for home

After breakfast*, meet in the hotel lobby to transfer to the Amsterdam airport and your departing flight back to the U.S.** Be sure you are waiting at the designated time and transfer location.

*Please note: For guests with early-morning departures, breakfast at the hotel may not be available. Please check with the front desk to verify the times that breakfast is served.

**VBT recommends that you check your transfer time in your “Transfer Reminder.” The transfer is prearranged by VBT and is prepaid. VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport will be at your own expense.

Meals: B

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Accommodations

Hotel Navarrat

Ideally located in the historic center of Bruges, near the Market Square with its famous Belfry Tower, the Hotel Navarra offers an intimate and welcoming atmosphere, coupled with excellent service. The elegant, 17th-century mansion in which the hotel is housed is listed as a historic monument, yet you’ll enjoy modern amenities that include free WiFi, a spa, an indoor swimming pool, a sauna, a gym and a small garden with sun terrace.
Free WiFi Included

Barge Fiep

A cozy and spacious two-deck, 22-passenger barge with a homelike atmosphere, the Fiep has 12 comfortable cabins—10 twin and 2 single— with private bathrooms, private showers and the barge has climate control throughout. Common areas include a dining area and lounge with a bar and a sun deck at the bow. Smoking is permitted outside on the sun deck only. The barge moors each night. Drinks of all types are available for purchase at the bar on board the Fiep. It is not customary for guests to bring their own wine and liquor onboard; your understanding is appreciated. Onboard meal menus are set, though the chef is happy to accommodate vegetarians and those on restricted diets for health reasons. Please note regarding Wi-Fi onboard the barge: Each device (smartphone, laptop, etc.) receives 50 MB per day free, to be used on that day. Additional amounts can be purchased via credit card or Paypal.

Hotel Vondel

A wonderful First-Class hotel located in the heart of vibrant, historic Amsterdam, the Hotel Vondel is extremely well suited for every traveler, thanks in large part to its distinctive, artful atmosphere and individual character. The Vondel is close to Amsterdam’s museum quarter, the lively Leidseplein, tree-lined Vondelpark dining, shopping and entertainment venues. Its cozy bar, attractive garden, and brightly decorated breakfast restaurant make us feel right at home.
Free WiFi Included

Hotel Sandton Brussels Centre

The hotel is ideally located in the historic and commercial heart of Brussels. The hotel’s location is a short walk from museums, art galleries, fashionable shops and cozy restaurants and is perfect for independent exploration of the city.
Free WiFi Included

Barge Sailing Home

The Sailing Home is a comfortable, two-deck motor passenger ship featuring 12 twin-bedded cabins, each with private shower and toilet. In service since April 2001, the barge has climate control throughout. Inside, the salon and bar are decorated in a modern Victorian style and have a relaxed atmosphere. There is a sundeck available for guests at the bow. Smoking is only permitted outside on the sundeck. The barge moors each night. Drinks of all types are available for purchase at the bar on board the Sailing Home. It is not customary for guests to bring their own drinks or to use the bar facilities of the barge (including ice, glasses and crew services); your understanding is appreciated. Onboard meal menus are set, though the chef is happy to accommodate vegetarians and those on restricted diets for health reasons. Please note regarding Wi-Fi onboard the barge: Each device (smartphone, laptop, etc.) receives 50 MB per day free, to be used on that day. Additional amounts can be purchased via credit card or Paypal.

Barge Iris

A luxurious and spacious two-deck, 24-passenger barge with a homelike atmosphere, the Iris was put into service in April 2005. Its 12 comfortable cabins have private bathrooms with showers, and the barge has climate control throughout. Common areas include a dining area and lounge with a bar, and a sun deck at the bow. Smoking is permitted outside on the sun deck only. The barge moors each night. Drinks of all types are available for purchase at the bar on board the Iris. It is not customary for guests to bring their own wine and liquor onboard; your understanding is appreciated. Onboard meal menus are set, though the chef is happy to accommodate vegetarians and those on restricted diets for health reasons. Please note regarding Wi-Fi onboard the barge: Each device (smartphone, laptop, etc.) receives 50 MB per day free, to be used on that day. Additional amounts can be purchased via credit card or Paypal.
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Enjoy Your Vacation Longer With LOw-Cost Trip Extensions

Pre-Trip Extension - Brussels

2 nights for only $395

Post-Trip Extension - Amsterdam

3 nights for only $445

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