On Friday 24 February, EuroVelo 5 – Via Romea (Francigena) in Belgium was designated Cycle Route of the Year 2023 by a jury of cycling tourism experts at Fiets en Wandelbeurs, the annual cycling and hiking-themed trade show in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The route won over two other nominees in Denmark and Sweden and was appreciated for its industrial attractions, accessibility along canals, infrastructure (especially continuity of signage) and cycle-friendly services.
The winning route is a 400-km stretch of Via Romea, going from Canterbury to Brindisi through Rome and following most of the ancient Via Francigena pilgrim route, for a total of 3,200 km. The route passes through seven countries and links both modern and ancient institutions, with many cathedrals, churches, monuments and museums mixing along this route with the major European Institutions in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg.
The award-winning Belgian section of the route enters the country from Roubaix in France, moving through the rolling hills of the Flemish Ardennes. Moving west, it crosses Pajottenland and enters the city of Brussels, passing through its famous city centre and the European institutions, before the spectacular Soignes forest. The route continues in Wallonia, passing the cities of Namur, with its UNESCO citadel, and the scenic Dinant, and enters the green Ardennes again for more up-and-downs until the border with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
The route is fully developed and has recently been completely signposted with EuroVelo signs – the route passing through Brussels was inaugurated less than one year ago. The award is an excellent recognition for the work of Pro Velo, the Belgian EuroVelo Coordination Centre, which coordinated the numerous stakeholders at all levels for infrastructure and promotion of the route and promotes the itinerary via the eurovelobelgium.be website.
Several parts of the EuroVelo network have won the title of Cycle Route of the year in the past – the last being the Iron Curtain Trail (EuroVelo 13) in Austria and Slovakia in 2021. However, it is the first time that the name EuroVelo is used in the title of the awarded cycle route.
Article by Jessica Casagrande
Cover picture: Dinant, Belgium