Highlights of this tour

Gorgeous cycling in Belgium and N. France

World War I battlefields in Somme Valley

Enjoy Paris, the City of Lights

Barges with 20 to max. 24 passengers

Guidance
  • Fully-guided: A tour leader will guide you during the cycling days
  • Semi-guided: Daily briefing by the tour leader, independent cycling but tour leader available ICE.
  • Independent: No tour leader, the ships’ crew does daily briefing, independent cycling
guidance Fully-guided
Difficulty
  • Level 1: easy tours, very flat terrain
  • Level 2: quite easy tours, mostly flat terrain
  • Level 3: requires a higher level of exertion, medium hilly terrain
  • Level 4: for experienced cyclists, hilly terrain with climbs
Difficulty level 2 Difficulty level 2
Duration of the tour.
tijd2 Created with Sketch. 15 days

Bike and Barge Belgium and France: Bruges – Paris or vice versa Premium | Fleur en Zwaantje

If the call of wanderlust is ringing in your ears and you find yourself day-dreaming of a holiday spent cycling through abundant natural beauty, tasting some of the world’s best beers and wines, and seeing awe-inspiring medieval architecture and artistry, read on!

This 15 day bike and barge tour begins in Flanders (Belgium) and winds its way into Northern France. You’ll start in Bruges and end in Paris as you cycle through areas not yet touched by mass tourism. Marvel at the magnificence of Bruges, step back in time in medieval Ghent, see the famous tapestries of Oudenaarde, visit the grave of Vincent van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise and enjoy Belgium’s finest beers after a long, rewarding day spent cycling through the countryside.

In France you’ll visit battlefields from the first World War and memorials in the Somme valley, you’ll experience the magnificence of the art gallery in the Chateau de Chantilly, be awe-struck by the finest collection of paintings at the Musée Condé, and of course experience the romance of Paris, the “City of Lights”.

The cycling itself is mainly over gently undulating terrain, through forests, across open farmlands and alongside the rivers Scheldt, Somme, Olse and the Seine.

Book a holiday that will reward you with fond friendships and memories that will last a lifetime as you experience the very best of what Belgium and France have to offer.

 

Day to day program Bruges - Paris

Parts that are printed in italics parts will be covered by the ship.

All distances are “approximate distances” of recommended bike tours.
The tour details are barring changes, a.o. as a result of nautical, technical or meteorological reasons.

 

Day 1 (Saturday): Bruges (18 km/11 mi.)

 

Our adventure begins! Check-in is from 1pm – 2pm in the Bruges city centre. You’ll meet the crew, be fitted with your bike and have a chance to give it a quick test-ride. After dinner onboard, your tour leader will take you for an evening stroll through Bruges, which is widely regarded as the most beautiful of all Flemish cities. An interesting fact is that Bruges was once Europe’s second largest city after Paris. This opulence is still evident in its old city centre that has stood intact since the Middle Ages! Take our advice – come to Bruges one or two days before the tour kicks off to give you an opportunity to experience it at your leisure before we set sail.

Day 2 (Sun): Bruges ­– Aalterbrug | Aalterbrug – Ghent (37 km/23 mi. or 45 km/28 mi.)

The cycling part of our tour begins after a hearty breakfast as you glide along through pasture and woodland to meet up with your barge, which will be moored in a canal halfway between Bruges and Ghent. You’ll continue the day’s journey by barge to the lively university city of Ghent, which can trace its roots back all the way to Roman times.

Here you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to sightseeing – take a stroll through the Clothmaker’s Hall, which was built in 1425, visit St Bavo’s Cathedral which is an amalgamation of various styles built over the ages and houses one of the world’s most famous medieval paintings, “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”, a magnificent 3.5m x 4.6m altarpiece attributed to the brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck.

Day 3 (Mon): Ghent ­– Oudenaarde (41 km/26 mi.)

You’ll return to downtown Ghent shortly after daybreak to enjoy more of this lively city before hopping back in the saddle in the late morning to cycle to Oudenaarde. En route, you’ll stop at Ename, the archaeological site of an old abbey near the river Scheldt before continuing onward to Oudenaarde, a small town with a storied history due to its involvement in many European wars. As a result of often being caught in the crossfire, the statue of the famous watchman “Hanske de Krijger” was built in the town hall in the 16th century to remind the townsfolk to remain ever vigilant. Oudenaarde is also known for its rich tapestries, which are known throughout the world.

Day 4 (Tue): Oudenaarde­ – Doornik (Tournai) (41 km/26 mi. or 47 km/29 mi.)

No visit to Oudenaarde is complete without seeing its beautiful town hall, which you’ll visit shortly after breakfast on day four. From here you’ll cycle along the river Scheldt upstream toward the Wallonia region where you’ll start to notice the local dialect switching to French as you make your way to Doornik (“Tournai” in French), one of Belgium’s oldest towns. Though the town centre was heavily bombed by a German air raid in 1940, incredible care has been taken to renovate it. This is especially evident in the Notre Dame cathedral which is a must-see along with the Belfort, which was built over 800 years ago!

Day 5 (Wednesday): Doornik (Tournai) – Bleharies | Bleharies – Arleux (47 km/29 mi.)

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast on day five as you drift towards the Belgian-French border towards the “white land” where white limestone has been quarried from as far back as Roman times! You’ll hop back on your bike at the village of Bleharies as you begin the day’s journey through idyllic farm land and small mining towns toward Lewarde where you can visit a mining museum before spending the night in Arleux.

Day 6 (Thursday): Arleux – Ruyalcourt (35 km/21 mi. or 51 km/31 mi.)

The barge follows the Canal du Nord, which was constructed to replace the older and smaller Canal de St Quentin, originally built by Napoleon in 1801 in order to move coal from mines in the north. You’ll cycle to Cambrai, a city that was once a Roman provincial capital and has an impressive city fortress that was built under King Charles V. You’ll end the day cycling through the marchlands of Chantraine, ending in rural Ruyaulcourt.

Day 7 (Fri): Ruyalcourt – Péronne (19 km/11 mi. or 45 km/27 mi.) 

Today, your barge will sail through two tunnels on the Canal du Noord, the longest of which (the tunnel of Ruyalcourt) is a staggering 4,350 meters (2.7 miles) long. The barge then sails downhill toward Péronne where you’ll cycle through the rolling, open landscapes of the river Somme valley, the frontline of the Battle of the Somme. We’ll spend the night in Péronne.

Day 8 (Saturday): Péronne

Today you’ll spend a leisurely day in the charming town of Péronne as you stroll through its intimate town square, church, castle and remarkable Grande Guerre museum, Europe’s biggest museum dedicated to World War I. As there is no dinner planned onboard, you’re free to choose from the many fine restaurants of Péronne to enjoy a hearty meal and glass or two of fine wine.

Day 9 (Sunday): Péronne – Épénancourt | Épénancourt  – Noyon – Pont l’Évêque (40 km/24 mi. or 50 km/31 mi.) 

As you enjoy breakfast, you’ll drift into the little village of Épénancourt for a long, rewarding ride through rolling, open, sun-dappled countryside to the art-deco town of Ham. Our final destination is Noyon, though we’ll pass countless picturesque villages as we make our way along the Somme.

Day 10 (Monday): Pont l’Évêque – Compiègne (33 km/21 mi. or 57 km/35 mi.)

Beginning at Pont l’Évêque, we’ll strike out for Compiègne through the emerald forest of Ourscamp and cross the tranquil river Aisne, where the Compiègne begins. It was here, at “Clairière de l’Armistice”, that the French and German generals signed the famous treaty that ended World War I. Compiègne itself owes its magnificent buildings to its unique geographical position which places it close to both Paris and the great woods where French kings loved to stay and hunt. The magnificent gardens of the Chateau de Compiègne are a must-see!

Day 11 (Tuesday): Compiègne – Creil (45 km/27 mi. or 60 km/37 mi.) 

You’ll continue cycling through lush forests as our route takes us through Compiègne toward the valley of the Oise toward Creil. We’ll loop around to the small town of Pierrefonds in order to visit the Pierrefonds castle, which looks like something straight out of a Disney movie! Before reaching Pont Ste, Maxence, which was originally a place where merchants and kings spent the night on their journey between Flanders and Paris, we’ll pass by the Moncel abbey, originally founded in 1309 by King Philip the Fair.

Day 12 (Wednesday): Creil – Beaumont – Auvers-sur-Oise (42 km/27 mi. or 57 km/35 mi.)

As the sun rises over the twelfth day of our tour, we’ll head towards the famous Castle of Chantilly, which is known equally for its royal stables as it is for the Musée Condé, its extensive art gallery, which has one of France’s finest collections of paintings. From there you’ll cycle on to the abbey of Royaumont where you’ll be given a choice of two routes. If you take the short option, you’ll hop back on the barge at Beaumont and drift at your leisure toward Auvers. The long option follows the river Oise to Auvers-sur-Oise, where Dutch Master Vincent van Gogh spent his final days. Him and his brother Theo are buried in the cemetery here and you’ll get a chance to visit his grave as we take a short, moonlit stroll after dinner.

Day 13 (Thursday): Auvers-sur-Oise – Paris (Bougival) (39 km/24 mi.)

Due to our late arrival the previous day in Auvers, we’ll linger awhile longer in this enchanted place to come to a closer understanding of where van Gogh spent his final days. From there we begin our journey towards Paris, our final destination! At Conflans Sainte Honorine, where the Oise and Seine rivers merge, we’ll stop for lunch before cycling toward the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which boasts an incredible view over Paris. We’ll then continue along the river to Bougival where we’ll dock for the night.

Day 14 (Friday): Paris, Bougival – Paris

Ah, summertime in Paris! Today you’ll cruise upstream into the heart of Paris where you are free to explore the romance, charm and bustle of the city as you like with the new friends you will have met over the past two weeks.

Day 15 (Saturday): Paris

Today marks the end of our tour – disembarkation carries on after breakfast until 9:30am.

Good to know

Parts that are printed in italics parts will be covered by the ship.

All distances are “approximate distances” of recommended bike tours.
The tour details are barring changes, a.o. as a result of nautical, technical or meteorological reasons.

 

With 18 guests or more, the daily cycling tours will be accompanied by two knowledgeable and multi-lingual tour leaders. On most days, the tour leaders will offer a long and a short (or a quicker and a more relaxed) cycling option. The option for a long tour is also depending on weather conditions and wishes of the group.

When there are less than 18 guests aboard, the tours will be accompanied by one knowledgeable and multi-lingual tour leader. During days when two bicycle options are possible, the tour leader will make a choice to guide the longer or the shorter option after consultation of the group.

Not all mentioned highlights can be visited during the short cycling option.

In case you prefer a day of rest, you can skip the bike tour and relax on board while cruising to the next town.

On the arrival day is it possible to bring your luggage on board from 11 am.

Day to day program Paris - Bruges

Parts that are printed in italics parts will be covered by the ship.

All distances are “approximate distances” of recommended bike tours.
The tour details are barring changes, a.o. as a result of nautical, technical or meteorological reasons.

 

Parts that are printed in italics parts will be covered by the ship.

All distances are “approximate distances” of recommended bike tours.
The tour details are barring changes, a.o. as a result of nautical, technical or meteorological reasons.

 

Day 1 (Sat): Paris

Embarkation and check-in at 2 p.m. in the center of Paris. After a welcome by the captain, crew and tour leader, there is time for a walk to the Cathedral Notre-Dame and the Ile de la Cité. Night in Paris.

Day 2 (Sun): Paris – Bougival (35 km/ 21 mi.)

During breakfast the Zwaantje cruises the river Seine through the center of Paris. At about 10.30 a.m. you will be able to go ashore for an interesting bike ride. You can also choose to stay on board and enjoy the view while cruising out of Paris. The ship will moor in an outskirt of the city.

Day 3 (Mon): Paris (Bougival) – Auvers-sur-Oise (38 km/23 mi.)

After breakfast you will cycle along quiet towpaths along the river Seine to the higher situated St. Germain; the gardens of Le Nôtre provide a magnificent view across Paris. Next you will ride through a forest area to Conflans for a picnic on the pier amongst the terraces. After a short stop at the Pontoise Bridge, you continue cycling across the picturesque Chemin des Monts to the church of Auvers, famous for Van Gogh’s paintings. You will have the possibility to visit Van Gogh’s grave on the local cemetery during a short evening walk.

Day 4 (Tue): Auvers-sur-Oise – Beaumont | Beaumont – Creil (42 km/26 mi.)

Sailing breakfast to Beaumont. Start your bike tour in Beaumont and follow the Oise River upstream. You will pass the abbey of Royaumont, one of the best preserved abbeys from the 13th century. During the afternoon you will visit the splendid Chateau de Chantilly, a magnificent castle with a horse dressage and its art gallery – the Musée Condé – that houses one of the finest collections of paintings in France.

Day 5 (Wed): Creil – Pont-Ste.-Maxence | Pont-Ste.-Maxence – Compiègne (33 km/21 mi. or 48 km/29 mi.)

During breakfast the barge will bring you to Pont-Sainte-Maxence. This town owes its name to the fact that in the Middle Ages here was one of the very few bridges over the Oise River. Therefore Pont-Ste-Maxence became the place to stay the night for kings and merchants, who were on their way to Flanders. From here your biking tour starts. Not far from here you pass the abbey of Moncel, which in 1309 was founded by King Philip le Bel. Before you reach your destination Compiègne, you will cycle through the forest named after this town “Forêt de Compiègne”. French kings loved to hunt here. The longer tour ads some more miles of forest and also the little town of Pierrefond, where you can admire the exterior of the impressive castle. Compiègne owes its architectural wealth to the proximity of Paris. The gardens of the Chateau de Compiègne are definitely worth a visit.

Day 6 (Thu): Compiègne – Pont l’Évêque (41 km/26 mi.)

Today you leave the river Oise to continue your trip by way of the canal system connecting France and Belgium. In the morning you cycle into the most northern part of the forest of Compiègne.  Here you visit the “Clairière de l’Armistice”, the place where the French and German generals signed the Treaty to end World War I. You can have a look into the small but interesting museum. Thereafter you will cross the river Aisne and cycle through the forest of Ourscamp. In the afternoon you will spend some time in Noyon, where you can visit one of the oldest Cathedrals of the country. After your visit you will cycle back to the canal at Pont l’Évêque, where the Zwaantje will be waiting for you.

Day 7 (Fri): Pont l’Évêque – Haudival | Haudival – Péronne (44 km/28 mi. or 54 km/34 mi.)

Today you continue the cruise on and along the Canal du Nord. The construction of this canal was already planned in 1903, but it took until 1966 to finish the works. It was built to replace the older and smaller Canal de St. Quentin, constructed by Napoleon in 1801, to transport coal from the mines to the north. During breakfast the barge will bring you to Haudival from where the cycling tour starts through gently rolling, open countryside to the art deco town of Ham, along the river Somme and other picturesque villages to Péronne. The barge will be moored just outside this charming town with its intimate square and church as well as a castle and the fascinating Grande Guerre museum.

Day 8 (Sat): Day in Péronne

Today the Zwaantje will stay in Péronne. You have time to visit the museum, take some rest and do some shopping. Today there is no dinner on board. You can select one of the local restaurants.

Day 9 (Sun): Péronne – Ytres | Ytres – Moeuvres (19 km/11 mi. or 45 km/27 mi.)

The first part of your cycling tour goes through the valley of the Somme River. Later you will continue through the sparsely populated open and rolling landscape to Ruyaulcourt. At the end of WW1 this area was the frontline of the battle around the Somme.

The Canal du Nord has 2 tunnels, where the barge has to sail through. The longest one is the tunnel of Ruyalcourt, which is 4,350 meters (2.7 miles) long. As soon as are all back on board, the Zwaantje will pass this tunnel. Above the tunnel is the watershed between the rivers Somme and Escaut (Scheldt). From there the barge therefore goes downhill into the direction of Arleux. Mooring is in Moeuvres, an outskirt of this town.

Day 10 (Mon): Moeuvres – Cambrai – Arleux (35 km/21 mi. or 51 km/31 mi.)

Your cycling tours leads to the city of Cambrai, once a Roman provincial capital and an important destination for pilgrims. Worth seeing are the impressive restored buildings of the city fortress, built under King Charles V. Then you will cycle through the marshlands of Chantraine to rural Arleux.

Day 11 (Tue): Arleux – Doornik (Tournai) (57 km/36 mi.)

Today the Zwaantje follows the Canal du Grand Gabarit for a few hours, passing through a former industrial area of northern France. Old coal mines and steel sites border the canal. You will start your bicycle ride in Arleux. The tour goes through open farm land, through little mining towns towards Lewarde, where a mining museum can be visited.

Once in Belgium you will cycle through the so-called “white land”. The charming little fortress town Antoing lies at the heart of this region and since the Roman days, (white) limestone has been mined here. Today’s destination is Doornik (in French: Tournai), one of the oldest cities of Belgium. Now you are in Wallonia, French speaking Belgium, where all towns and villages have both a French and a Flemish name. Up till the beginning of the 17th century Doornik was ruled by the French. Here, tapestry weaving gained in importance, while the cloth industry became less important. In the various museums of the town, excellent examples can be seen. In 1940 the entire city center was destroyed after a German air-raid. However, the town has been renovated splendidly. Especially the cathedral the Notre Dame (12th and 13th century) is worth seeing, as well as the Belfort, which was built at about 1200.

Day 12 (Wed): Doornik (Tournai) – Oudenaarde (41 km/26 mi. or 47 km/29 mi.)

Now the barge sails downstream the river Scheldt and after crossing the language barrier you enter the Flemish region. From here onwards Flemish is the spoken language. Your target today is Oudenaarde. In former days this little town was situated on the border of the French and German Empires and as a result it was involved in wars frequently. Since Oudenaarde was right in the firing-line, there was always someone on the look-out. The statue of the most famous watchman, Hanske de Krijger, is on the splendid city hall. In the first half of the 16th century this city hall was built of sandstone in Brabantine late Gothic style and it is one of the most beautiful city halls of Flanders. Oudenaarde is also known as the town of the tapestry weavers. Their tapestry is famous all over the world.

Day 13 (Thu): Oudenaarde – Ghent (41 km/26 mi.)

Shortly after starting your cycling tour at Oudenaarde you briefly stop at the ruins of the old abbey of Ename, located at the river Scheldt. You keep on following the river towards Ghent, your destination. Ghent is a lively university town with a rich history. The town arose in Roman days on the confluence of the rivers Leie and Schelde. This favorable location brought on quite some wealth with a peak in the late 13th and early 14th century. The cloth industry was a source of great richness in the late Middle Ages. In the city many patrician residences have been preserved. In the “Lakenhal” – Cloth Hall – (1425) the cloth traders gathered. The most important church is St. Baafs cathedral, which was constructed in different centuries and in different styles. In the cathedral several masterpieces of medieval painting are to be found. “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” by Jan van Eyck is the most famous of all. You may wish to take a city tour by boat or visit the old castle Gravensteen.

Day 14 (Fri): Ghent – Aalterbrug | Aalterbrug – Bruges (30 km/18 mi. or 40 km/24 mi.)

While enjoying breakfast you will cruise the Canal Ghent – Bruges to Aalterbrug. Here you will start your cycling tour. Today your cycling tour goes through the pleasant flat country side of Western Flanders to Bruges. Bruges, also called “Venice of the North”, is said to be the most beautiful of all Flemish cities. Its old center, which dates from the Middle Ages, is almost completely intact. In past ages, Bruges was a metropole, center of trade and art, which you can still fully enjoy.
We advise you to stay in Bruges one or more days longer, so that you will have plenty of time to discover this interesting city.

Day 15 (Sat): Bruges

End of your tour: Disembarkation after breakfast until 9.30 a.m.


Prices & information

Included in this tour

15 days/14 nights

14 x breakfast

Packed lunches

13 x 3-course dinner

Coffee and tea on board

Welcome drink

Use of bed linen and towels

Daily cleaning of the cabin, 1x change of bed sheets

Climate-controlled cabin

Daily briefings

Fully guided cycling tours (from 18 guest: 2 tour leaders, 2 groups)

Some short walking tours

Maps for cycling tours (1 set per cabin)

GPS tracks

Use of a helmet

Use of a waterproof pannier bag

Water bottle

Fees for ferries

Canal trip through Ghent

Visit museum Glade of the Armistice

Entrance castle of Chantilly

Visit town hall Oudenaarde

Wi-Fi

Excluded in this tour

1 x dinner

Drinks

Bicycle rental or E-bike rental

Personal insurances

Gratuities (at your discretion)

Entrance fees and excursions (not mentioned under included)

Transfers to/from the docking place

Parking fees



Available ships for this tour

Premium Experience the higher levels of comfort, smaller groups and extra’s.
Ship Zwaantje Holland, Belgium, France, Netherlands
max. 24 passengers
12 cabins
5 tours available with this ship
Premium Experience the higher levels of comfort, smaller groups and extra’s.
Ship Fleur France
max. 20 passengers
10 cabins
5 tours available with this ship

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Barges with 20 to max. 40 passengers

Duration of the tour.
tijd2 Created with Sketch. 8 days
Guidance
  • Individual: No tour leader, the ships’ crew does daily briefing, independent cycling
  • Semi-guided: Daily briefing by the tour leader, independent cycling but tour leader available ICE.
  • Fully-guided: A tour leader will guide you during the cycling days
guidance Fully-guided
Difficulty
  • Level 1: easy tours, very flat terrain
  • Level 2: quite easy tours, mostly flat terrain
  • Level 3: requires a higher level of exertion, medium hilly terrain
  • Level 4: for experienced cyclists, hilly terrain with climbs
Difficulty level 1 Difficulty level 1

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Belgium & France: Bruges – Paris or vice versa

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