Photo © VisitLimburg.be / David Samyn

Limburg remains the undisputed number one cycling destination in Flanders

Avatar Sven Nijs Sven Nijs
14 September 2023
Read more

During summer 2023, cycling was once again a hugely popular leisure activity in Flanders. NodeMapp.com had 280,000 unique visitors and 2.5 million kilometres of downloaded cycling routes. Limburg and the coast were the top destinations, with a notable increase in popularity for the Green Belt in Flemish Brabant.

Cycling and Flemings. It was a golden duo during the summer of 2023. Recreational cycling remains the favourite leisure activity of the Flemish people. NodeMapp.com, the online cycling platform cooperating with the 5 Provincial Tourist Organisations in Flanders, was a loyal companion in this. Now that the summer of 2023 is on its last legs, NodeMapp.com has put together all the figures for the period from 1 June to 31 August. Limburg, home of the most popular cycling node, and the coast topped the list of favourite destinations for recreational cyclists. The Green Belt in Flemish Brabant saw the biggest increase in popularity. And the most downloaded cycle route is in the Kempen.

NodeMapp.com in figures

During the summer months, NodeMapp.com welcomed more than 280,000 unique visitors from Flanders to their website and app. As many as 66,500 cycling routes were downloaded via the website, corresponding to a total distance of more than 2.5 million kilometres. Moreover, while using the NodeMapp Bike app, more than 6 million cycling locations were recorded. From this impressive amount of data, we can deduce where Flanders’ cycling hotspots are. An overview.

© NodeMapp – Heatmap cycling in Flanders during summer 2023: deeper shades of red mean more bike traffic

Flanders’ most popular cycling node is in Limburg

NodeMapp.com focuses mainly on the use of the well-known cycling nodes, which are indicated by numbered signs. These signs form the link between the most beautiful cycling routes. The management of these cycling nodes is in the hands of the five Provincial Tourist Organisations: Toerisme Limburg, Toerisme Vlaams-Brabant, Toerisme Provincie Antwerpen, Toerisme Oost-Vlaanderen and Westtoer.

We took a look at what the 10 most popular cycling nodes in Flanders are. A cycling node gets a ‘vote’ every time it is included in a route downloaded on NodeMapp.com.be. Cycling node 91 near Bokrijk in Genk, at Limburg’s top attraction Cycling through Water, is undeniably the most popular cycling node in Flanders.

# Bike junction # in a route on a map
1 node 91 (Genk – ‘Cycling through Water’) 1,603 view on map
2 node 33 (Leuven – SNCB station) 1,466 view on map
3 node 88 (Lier – Bridge over Netekanaal) 1,408 view on map
4 node 25 (Scherpenheuvel-Zichem – Averbode Abbey) 1,399 view on map
5 node 551 (Maasmechelen – ‘Cycling through the Heath’) 1,382 view on map
6 node 300 (Zonhoven) 1.375 view on map
7 node 82 (Holsbeek) 1,308 view on map
8 node 70 (Nieuwpoort – Ganzepoot) 1,285 view on map
9 node 41 (As – access National Park Hoge Kempen) 1,182 view on map
10 node 98 (Koksijde – Plassendale-Duinkerke canal) 1.105 view on map
© Sven Nijs – Cycling node 91 near Bokrijk to ‘Cycling through Water’

Water works like a magnet on cyclists

Flanders is divided into several tourist regions. By analysing at the regional level, we can get a more complete picture of the popularity of routes in different parts of Flanders. To do so, we use the popularity ratio, which represents the ratio between the total number of downloaded cycling routes and the total number of kilometres of the cycling node network in each of these tourist regions. This helps us to get a more nuanced picture of where Flemish people prefer to cycle and which regions can profile themselves as the most popular cycling regions.

Our analysis reveals a striking and consistent pattern: the presence of water in the most popular cycling regions. Whether rivers or the coastline, wetlands seem to have a particular attraction for cyclists. Limburg and the coast are apparently the ‘place to be’ for Flemish cycling tourists. The Green Belt also scores remarkably well with fifth place. In our 2021 survey, this Flemish-Brabant region still ranked 13th.

© NodeMapp – The most popular cycling regions in Flanders
# Region Popularity ratio
1 Coast 15.65
2 Maasland 12.59
3 Voerstreek 12.16
4 Limburgse Kempen 11.99
5 Green Belt 10.37
6 Scheldeland 9.43
7 Hageland 9.19
8 Haspengouw 7.69
9 Brugse Ommeland 6.87
10 Westhoek 5.89
11 Kempen 5.79
12 Leiestreek 5.02
13 Waasland 4.36
14 Meetjesland 4.24
15 Flemish Ardennes 3.8
© Lander Loeckx – Hills in the Green Belt

Although our research focuses primarily on Flanders, it is interesting to note that Brussels recently also has a signposted cycling node network. This network connects seamlessly with the Flemish cycling network and has scored nicely in a short time with a popularity ratio of 4.2.

Limburg leads as cycling province, Bruges as cycling city

Limburg, the province where the very first cycling junction was installed in 1995, reaffirms its status as the most popular cycling province. In an interesting twist, Flemish Brabant and Antwerp have swapped positions with West Flanders and East Flanders compared to our 2021 survey. Back then, Flemish Brabant was in last place and Antwerp in penultimate. This year, they have made a nice jump in the rankings at the expense of West and East Flanders.

# Province Popularity ratio
1 Limburg 7.68
2 Flemish Brabant 6.8
3 Antwerp 6.05
4 West Flanders 4.72
5 East Flanders 4.34

Our data shows that of all Flemish cities, Bruges ranks highest among recreational cyclists. The routes between the coast and historic Bruges are particularly popular.

# City Popularity ratio
1 Bruges 3.75
2 Hasselt 3.29
3 Leuven 3.18
4 Ghent 3.16
5 Mechelen 2.96
6 Antwerp 2.89

West Flanders has the biggest appeal to cyclists

Which province attracts cyclists from the furthest away? To find out, we examined the postcodes of cyclists. This way, we were able to determine which regions cyclists come from. West Flanders, not surprisingly, turns out to be the biggest draw, mainly thanks to the appeal of the coast to visitors from all over Flanders.

Limburg is also popular and attracts many cyclists who are willing to travel a longer distance to go on a cycling trip. The difference with West Flanders is that in Limburg, visitors are more spread throughout the province and not concentrated in 1 region. Flemish Brabant is also attractive to cyclists from outside the province, although the nuance should be made here that a significant proportion of these are Brussels residents who come to cycle in the Green Belt.

# Province % cyclists outside own province
1 West Flanders 53%
2 Limburg 46%
3 Flemish Brabant 38%
4 East Flanders 34%
5 Antwerp 23%
© Westtoer – Cycling along the coast was popular this past summer

The most popular cycling route is in the Kempen

On NodeMapp.com, users can essentially put together their own cycling routes based on the cycle junction network. For those who prefer a ready-made route instead of planning one themselves, we also offer hundreds of pre-mapped cycling routes. These routes are (mostly) made available by the Provincial Tourist Organisations.

We have also researched which of these pre-planned routes are the most popular and most frequently downloaded. The province of Antwerp clearly seems to be the most popular with this segment of recreational cyclists. The Landlopersroute in the Kempen region was the most downloaded route last summer. This is a 53-kilometre themed cycle route in Wortel and Merksplas. Here are the top 10:

© Tourism Province of Antwerp – The Landlopersroute in the Kempen


Summer 2023 has once again confirmed that the Fleming has a special bond with his bicycle. NodeMapp.com plays an important role as a digital compass for cycling enthusiasts. With 280,000 unique visitors and millions of registered cycling locations in the summer months, it is clear that cycling culture in Flanders is stronger than ever.

Limburg remains the ultimate cycling province, with junction 91 at Bokrijk in Genk being the most popular cycling junction. Of interest is the attraction of wetlands, suggesting that proximity to the sea and rivers plays an important factor in the popularity of cycling routes. Limburg and the coast have emerged as the most popular cycling destinations, but the Green Belt in Flemish Brabant has also gained notable popularity. The province of Antwerp clearly has the most attractive range of pre-mapped cycling routes.

This report shows that cycling is more than just a form of transport; it is an integral part of Flemish culture and lifestyle. NodeMapp.com is proud to play a role in Flanders’ vibrant cycling culture. Looking to the future, we are determined to continuously improve our platform. In this way, we want to meet the needs of our many users, for whom our platform is often the starting point of an unforgettable cycling trip.