We love to take bike tours when traveling. We find it is an amazing way to see the city from a local’s perspective, plus you get to cover more area than you normally would by foot. We’ve taken bike tours in Paris, London, Barcelona, Mexico City, Vietnam, Shanghai and South Africa (and more). Belgium is known as a bicyclists’ country (maybe not as well known as the Netherlands though). We didn’t spend much time researching various operators in Bruges, but after spending a few minutes on TripAdvisor and reviewing a couple of blogs, we settled on Quasimundo Bike Tours.
These folks were located just a few minute walk from our hotel and offered tours in Dutch and English normally, but you can get other languages if you request ahead (French is available, and I believe you can get Spanish and German too). When we arrived there were about 20 people waiting outside for the tour and I started to have real regrets. Large bike tours like this really lose a lot. People have varying levels of cycling ability and interest, the guide is spending much more time ensuring the tourees are with the group and has less time to actually give the tour itself. Luckily, most of these people were heading out on the Dutch language tour – the English tour had just six people (including us).
The tour is billed at around 2.5 hours, departing at 10h00. Our guide showed up a little after 10h00 and we left at 10h15 as he had a flat tire on his commuter bike. The guide was very relaxed and extremely knowledgeable. He effortlessly guided us through the compact city, stopping at sites that were historically, culturally or visually important. He wasn’t too big on lots of dates and names, as he says, you’ll just forget them anyway, but he did throw out key dates and wove a story connecting each of our stops.
We also stopped off at the oldest continuously operating pub in the city and had a lovely sour beer that is locally brewed. Being a World Heritage Site imposes some interesting restrictions on a city. For example, you are to limit the number of trucks going around your historic quarters. This posed quite the problem for the brewers who had been in Bruges for centuries – if you can’t transport by truck, how do you get your sudsy creations to consumers? One brewery built an underground pipeline from the historic center to the suburban distribution center. They didn’t want to pack up and leave their home, but couldn’t grow their business without massive trucks – a simple yet inventive idea.
We enjoyed our tour – we got to see some wonderful sites and hear fun and interesting tales. We did not bike to the two main squares or the cathedrals that Bruges is known for. This was intentional as those sites are better explored on foot and they would have eaten up quite a bit of our tour time. Plus those are very easy for tourists to do without a guide.
For 28€/person this was a great way to spent a few hours and allowed us to see parts of the city that we definitely wouldn’t have been exposed to on our own.
Do you take bike tours when you travel? What is your favorite place to explore by bike?