Geraardsbergen cycling route
Extended route description
Between Ninove and Geraardsbergen, the Dender is at its most beautiful. But before heading along the flat towpath along the bank, you'll make a modest climb through the rolling Flemish Ardennes landscape. Fortunately, your efforts will be rewarded, because at the foot of the famous Wall, an equally legendary mattentaart awaits you.
Far and wide, Geraardsbergen – Giesbaargen in the local dialect – is known for its three assets, coincidentally 3 Ms: Manneken-Pis, Mattentaarten and the Muur ('Wall'). The first one is on show in the Market Square: the statue dates back to 1459, making it exactly 160 years older than its famous Brussels brother. Mattentaarten, a sweet treat that has been recognised as a European regional product, can be bought at any bakery in town. And the Muur, which of course is the legendary cobbled section on the Oudenberg where cycling pros grit their teeth every year.
Hemelveerdegem – known locally as Sesjans, after the patron saint Saint John – boasts one of the most beautiful, authentic village squares in the country. In 1981, it was protected as a village landmark, which it richly deserved. Nearby stands Den Dikken van Sesjans, a sculpted nag commemorating 100 years of stallion-breeding in the region. Those who like to indulge in the local atmosphere are welcome at café Sint-Jan near the church.
The core of this area of nature near node 71 is a marshy forest with several springs, home to numerous animals. All around are fields, hay meadows and pastures with old hawthorn hedges, rows of pollard willows and pools where Galloway cattle help with wildlife management.
CAFE 't BERGHOF
Just past the village of Steenhuize, this former ancestral pub of the lamented Frank Vandenbroucke is an obligatory stop among cycling enthusiasts. The collection of cycling jerseys on the wall is almost as extensive as the selection of regional beers on the menu. During his last year of life, Vandenbroucke found his second home here: much of the café is therefore dedicated to his memory.
The orientation table in the cemetery at Sint-Antelinks gives you a nice view of the Dender valley. In clear weather, you can see Geraardsbergen's Oudenberg Chapel.
The Our Lady of Ascension Church in Ninove, the 'oldest, boldest and wisest of cities', may not yet be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it is one of the largest and most beautiful Baroque churches in Flanders. In the archaeological garden next door, you can still see the foundations of the Norbertine abbey that used to stand here. The fathers' typical habit, with a white hood, provided the name and logo for Slagmuylder Brewery's famous Witkap abbey beer.
Close to Our Lady of Ascension Church, on the corner of Biezenstraat, is the cosiest brown café in town, with a jovial landlady behind the bar and lots of (Trappist) beers on the menu, including those from Slagmuylder Brewery.
Dender valley nature reserve extends as an elongated ribbon on the left bank of the Dender, between Ninove and Zandbergen. This marshy landscape alternates between wooded and open spaces and the river is at its most beautiful there. At the start of each spring, unusual flowers and plants colour the hayfields beautifully here in yellow and pink.
Across the Dender, atop the Wilderkouter, stands the pride of tobacco village Appelterre: the beautifully restored Wildermolen. The corn windmill has a balcony and has a chapel roof covered with slates. Adjacent, lower than street level, is the miller's cottage, formerly an elongated farmhouse with stables.
Near the Idegem lock, equipped with an authentic little metal drawbridge, you'll cycle past one of the country's few manually operated ferryboats. The ferryman pulls the ferry back and forth via two tensioned steel cables, which then sink back to the bottom of the Dender after he passes, to allow boats to pass. The ferry used to be used to transport cattle. These days, it’s primarily a fun attraction for cyclists and hikers on Sundays and holidays from May to September. Just a stone's throw away, you can satisfy your hunger and quench your thirst on the terrace of Eetkaffee Break@4.
No time left for one more stop? Then definitely remember this 20-acre provincial domain at the foot of the Oudenberg for your next visit. The nicely landscaped swimming and beach area with playground, water sports such as surfing, kayaking, rowing or pedalo, and the tour boat attract water-lovers of every stripe. There is also an indoor swimming pool with a sauna. You can even spend the night here, in your own tent at the campsite, in a hiker's hut or at the youth hostel.
The most popular cycling routes in East Flanders
5 fietsroutes langs de Dender