For a change I like to go out on the road just by bike. Meanwhile there are more and more beautiful cycle tracks along the rivers, or on old railway lines. I could now explore one of the most beautiful cycle paths on railway lines – the Vennbahn cycle path. It starts in the German city of Aachen or optionally in the nearby copper city of Stolberg, then runs mostly through Belgian territory and ends after 125km in the Luxembourgish Troisvierges – or with the German name Ulflingen.
Table of content
- By train to the Vennbahn – via the copper town of Stolberg
- Vennbahn historical
- Moorland of the Hoher Venn as eponym
- Goedange – Tunnel: Right of way for bats
- Travel tips for the Vennbahn – bike tour
By train to the Vennbahn – via the copper town of Stolberg
My entry to the Vennbahn – cycle path was not Aachen – I didn’t feel like going to big cities. By german railway I travelled across the country with the appropriate ticket*. But only as far as Langerwehe – there I already left the NRW-Express shortly before Aachen. From Langerwehe you have to cross the mountain twice, make a small stop in Mausbach, and then you’re in Stolberg. Not Stolberg/Harz, which is also a beautiful town and is associated with this Stolberg in partnership – this is about the copper town Stolberg im Vichtbachtal.
Old town Stolberg with castle
A few kilometres east of Aachen, a small charming town with a stream and houses made of quarry stone and bluestone, and a castle that towers above the town on a ridge. Unfortunately, due to the corona, a lot of things are still closed, the small craftsmen’s museum on the castle forecourt will probably not reopen until 2021. But this entrance was already charming. With the most charming smile of a traffic warden I ever experienced. There I would like to drive again freehand in the wrong direction on the footpath…
In the Stolberg-Touristik, which fortunately is open, you can get some good information about cycle paths in the area – there is a useful map including brochures for the region around Aachen. And a map for the entire Vennbahn bike route.
The mountains around Stolberg can be quite exhausting for inexperienced and heavily loaded cyclists – I don’t exclude myself from that…
feeder line for Vennbahn – cyclists
But from Stolberg, a „feeder line“ to the Vennbahn was set up, and it is easy to drive. There is also a real railway connection running parallel to it, but at present only partly for goods traffic in operation. For the year 2021, a reactivation of the rail connection to Breinig is planned – then you can also get out of Stolberg by train. The feeder line starts south of Stolberg via Breinig to Kornelimünster and already passes under a considerable viaduct of a railway branch of the Vennbahn line.
The advantage of railway lines is that they have only small gradients, so that they are easy to manage for everyone. For the Vennbahn route, a maximum gradient of 3% is given – I will come back to a few surprising exceptions. Especially the „feeder lines“ are often very steep, because they have to reach the main line from the villages in the valley.
On the Vennbahn – cycle track
If you’re on it, you can make real meters! Almost all of the Vennbahn cycle path is asphalted, and this with a very smooth surface structure that keeps rolling friction low. But in the south, the route is steadily uphill – one reason why many people start their day tour in Monschau and cycle the 52 km back to Aachen. Up to the first Belgian town Raeren there are still tracks parallel to the road, but no train is expected there. At stations like Walheim and Raeren there are a few discarded „museum cars“ or locomotives, but there are also some other witnesses of railway operation like old signals or signal boxes. The stations are only partly still existing, mostly rebuilt as residential buildings.
At Roetgen the route changes again to German territory and then runs along the border to Konzen. A disadvantage of the old railway lines is that in former times the railway lines and stations were mostly built far outside the villages. Therefore I only made a few detours. Besides, the villages here are mostly far down in the valley, while the railway winds around the settlements on a contour line. When I am rolling so beautifully, I have to admit that I have little desire to go down there and then to go up again.
Monschau – deep in the valley of the Rur
I made an exception to this in Monschau – the last major town in Germany. This small half-timbered town is really deep in the valley. From the former railway station there is either a road with narrow serpentines or a rather steep downhill. You should only take the latter if you are safe in cycling and your brakes work well. Especially if you still have to brake the load from your luggage. In the 18th century Monschau itself had an economic boom for a few decades as a city of clothiers. Especially the soft, lime-free water from the raised bogs proved to be an advantage. Today it is a tourist magnet. Unfortunately already too much of a good thing – the core consists actually only of restaurants, souvenir shops and inns. It’s nice to stroll there for an hour through the alleys that share the narrow valley with pretty half-timbered houses and the course of the Rur (not Ruhr!), but then it’s enough again.
For the way back uphill to the Vennbahn cycle track, I choose the less steep but much longer cycle track along the Rur. This is part of the Rurufer (Rur – River bank) – cycle track, which starts near the Belgian Sourbrodt, meets the Vennbahn track at Kalterherberg and runs parallel and follows the outflow of the Rur eastwards from Monschau.
Kalterherberg – sometimes German, sometimes Belgian
Kalterherberg is now (almost) finally the last German town on the Vennbahn line. And the last chance to go shopping in a German „supermarket“ again. I don’t emphasize that now because I like the German sales culture so much or because I would like to recommend the cheap German discounter prices. No, but the „Nah und frisch“ in Kalterherberg is for long distances the last real shop until St.Vith! You should consider that. The Vennbahn then winds its way through many kilometres of sparsely populated area, and without some supplies your energy needs could be insufficiently covered. Worth seeing in Kalterherberg is the „Dom“ (Cathedral), a church with double towers, which is quite impressive for such a small village.
And there are also other interesting stories: The station was located on Belgian territory, before that there was a customs station for decades. But behind the station there is still a German exclave. This has to do with the unfortunately very troubled history of this region, which you will encounter again and again when you travel on the Vennbahn – bike route.
Vennbahn – Historical
Originally, the Vennbahn was built in the 1880s, mainly by the Prussian Railway Company, mainly to transport coal and iron ore back and forth. This brought a considerable economic upswing to some of the towns along the line. For example, up to 1400 people were employed directly by the railway at Waimes station! But after the lost First World War, the railway line was transferred in its entirety to Belgium in the Treaty of Versailles as compensation for war damage suffered. This means that the railway became Belgian territory in its entirety. That is why it is often also a borderline, but in some places ex- or enclaves were also created. It is nice that at the former railway stations small rest areas have been set up everywhere, where information boards not only give route information, but with historical photos and anecdotes put the local history into the overall political context. In Kalterherberg, for example, reference is made to the coffee smuggling of the years 1945 to 1950, when over 4000 tons of coffee were transported from Belgium to Germany, involving some of the local population. The price of coffee in Germany at that time was about 4 times higher than in Belgium.
Moorland of the Hoher Venn as eponym
By the way, the name of the Vennbahn is also borrowed from this region. For to the west of the line is the High Fagnes, one of the largest raised bogs in Europe. For those interested in moors, there is a bicycle tour that opens up the moor well and includes Sourbrodt in the south and Eupen and Raeren.
You will also get a few small impressions along the Vennbahn cycle route, as between Kalterherberg, Bostagne, Weywertz and Waimes moor areas are passed several times.
Turn off at Waimes to Malmedy and the southern Fagnes
In Waimes you must be careful and read the signs well. There the track divides – another old railway line via Malmedy to Trois – Ponts was also converted to a bike track. The station is a kind of divider between the lines, as it was in the past. You can reach the actual town of Waimes via the Malmedy line.
For long periods of time you are really alone on this path and far away from roads or settlements. This is very pleasant. Left and right there are ridges, valleys, meadows and swamps. At times it goes through forest, then there are pastures again. Sometimes you drive over a dam and the landscape lies below you, then again there is a cut into a hill. So the whole route remains varied and yet relatively easy.
St. Vith and Reuland Castle – Farewell to Belgium
St Vith is the last major town in Belgium. The railway line is already built over in the town, so you have to use roads and paths when entering the town. This is quite well signposted. The old station is used as a small museum. The town itself is situated on the mountain above the old railway facilities. A big church building is the most impressive thing of the place. Apart from that there are a lot of restaurants and snack bars, which makes the city seem quite busy. However, after the kilometres on the Vennbahn – bike course, where I was increasingly on my own after Waimes, everything is probably very busy. You will find a carrefour supermarket north of the centre.
Just after the St. Vith train station, you first go through the tunnel. Then unfortunately first over some streets and side roads – the old railway line is already built over here, too. And then the Vennbahn, which hasn’t had much traffic since Monschau, gets really lonely.
Watch out in the border area – 180° – bend
Actually, the Vennbahn cycle path is very well signposted. There is even every 500m a distance kilometre – sign with emergency call sign like on the motorway. South of St.Vith at Maspelt / Lommersweiler you have to be careful. Because there the cycle track leaves the railway line and makes a 180° turn onto the Ourtalstraße (-street). But your way could also go straight ahead. Because this is also the beginning of the Eifel-Ardennes cycle path (or the separation of the same from the Vennbahn?). If you pass under a motorway high bridge there, you are already wrong.
The course of the Vennbahn is interrupted because a viaduct in the Our valley has been destroyed. That means you have to drive through the valley of the brook, a little bit through Hemmeres over German territory, then along a splinter road and back to Belgium. A new bridge for a slightly better routing was handed over in July 2020 – so the splitt road is probably finished by now.
Now we are approaching the Luxembourg border. Here it gets a little more strenuous. Behind the castle of Reuland the road is steadily uphill, also over some viaducts, which were destroyed several times during the wars.
Goedange – Tunnel – Right of way for bats
Between Lengeler and Goedange the next deviation comes from the railway line – and thus also from the average gradient. Actually the railway crosses a tunnel here. But this tunnel is closed since it was discovered during the construction of the bike track that bats have settled in the old walls. More than 13 species have been identified, some of them hardly found in Luxembourg. For this reason, the tunnel and its surroundings have been declared an FFH area (Fauna-Flora-Habitat – protected area) and the Vennbahn cycle track has been laid around it.
But you can drive up to just before the tunnel and look. In my opinion, this is especially worthwhile from the south – first around and then there. Because the southern tunnel exit runs out over a long brick-lined notch with an old retaining wall – a kind of old cellar corridor without a ceiling. And it is mossy and water drips and runs…
At both entrances there are also information boards including webcam videos and an acoustic column … so it was definitely an interesting side trip.
Target achieved: Troisvierges (Ulflingen)
The track doesn’t really get on the train anymore… shortly before Troisvierges the branch of the Belgian railways already joins the track and that’s the end of cycling on the track. You have to go underneath, over the river and over the mountain – and then you see the station Troisvierges (Ulflingen) in the valley in front of you. Then you can ride the train properly again. And the beautiful thing – in Luxembourg free of charge, wherever you want to go! For example to a subsequent stroll through the city of Luxembourg – City.
Travel tips for the Vennbahn – bike tour
… the weather at the Vennbahn – cycle path
shown here using the example of Waimes / Weismes in Belgium, which is located approximately in the middle of the Vennbahn cycle path:
Accommodation along the Vennbahn – Cycle route
You will find your overnight accommodation at the Romantik Parkhotel am Hammerberg*, which is located five minutes‘ walk from the centre of Stolberg. Whether before or after the big cycle tour on the Vennbahn – cycle path – here you can relax and make yourself comfortable by the fireplace or in the sauna. There are family rooms and a number of single and double rooms. Pets are allowed.
The Burghaus* is also not far from the centre of Stolberg. In the cosy apartment you will find a separate bedroom and a kitchen with microwave and refrigerator. Pets are not allowed here.
The guest house Dahmen* offers space in different rooms from a single room to an apartment with 3 bedrooms. Coffee/tea makers are available in all rooms. This accommodation is about 1,5km from the centre of Stolberg.
Travelers from around the world find their place in Der kleine Globetrotter* in the historic old town of Monschau. The 300-year-old house has been lovingly restored and has individual double rooms with private bathrooms. A common room invites you to exchange experiences. Pets are permitted.
A further accommodation is the Guesthouse Schloßcafè*. Breakfast is included. If you only want to make short tours in the surrounding area, you can also rent bicycles here in the house.
You can enjoy a hearty breakfast during your stay at the Burghotel Monschau* or relax from the exertions of the day over an open fire in the lounge in the evening. Lunch packages for the day are also available.
The Venngasthof „Zur Buche „* is located just outside the hotel, but ideal as an introduction to the Eifelsteig hiking route. The Vennbahn cycle path is about 2km away. A hearty breakfast is part of the offer. The restaurant offers traditional hearty regional dishes. Bicycle storage facilities are available. The house also rents out electric bikes.
With L’anerie de Sourbrodt*, an entire holiday home is available in Sourbrodt. Three bedrooms can accommodate up to 6 guests. Your dog can also come along – pets are allowed.
If you are travelling with just two people, you will find your accommodation in the beautiful rustic chalet in Sourbrodt with Terrace*. A kitchen with refrigerator, oven and coffee machine is available. Nothing can really go wrong there 🙂
Waimes / Weismes (B)
Au Cheval Blanc in Waimes* offers apartments in various sizes. If you would like to relax in the whirlpool after your cycling stage, you can use the spa and wellness centre nearby. The restaurant offers French and Belgian cuisine.
Rooms for couples are available at the Welcome B&B in Waimes*. A shared bathroom with shower and bathtub can be used. Breakfast is available on request for an extra charge.
The Belair Hotel „Ravel Etape „* is named after the RaVel cycle route. There, guests can be accommodated in double rooms or a triple room. After the exhausting bike tour you can relax in the outdoor pool.
Haus Pauline in Montenau* can accommodate up to 6 cyclists in 3 bedrooms with double beds or a bunk bed. The terrace and garden make your stay more pleasant. The dog can come along, as pets are allowed.
Four guests can find their night’s lodging in two bedrooms at Cozy Holiday Home in Montenau with Private Terrace*. You can barbecue in the garden or relax on the terrace. Also a „in-between – laundry“ is possible here, because a washing machine is available. In addition, as usual in holiday homes, a fully equipped kitchen.
Whether with or without a tent, you will find a place at Camping Oos Heem*. In addition to pitches for your own tent, you can also sleep in a safari tent or in two chalets. This means that there is a wide range of accommodation available, so that even small groups can be accommodated. The outdoor pool can be used to relax after a strenuous bike tour. A restaurant will take care of your meals. Nearby there are also possibilities for canoeing. Holidays with dogs are possible on the campsite.
St. Vith (B)
The small town of St.Vith has a whole range of accommodation to offer, some of it of a very high standard.
If you value a wide range of wellness and relaxation facilities after your strenuous day’s work, then the Relaxhotel Pip Margraff* should be the place for you. Sauna, Turkish steam bath, whirlpool and „rock bath“ – indoor pool facilities are just the thing after a few hours sweating in the saddle. The rooms are equipped with shower or bathtub. A restaurant provides the right refreshment in the evening for the next day.
The Gourmet Hotel Zur Post* is more about culinary delights and the highest wine culture. The restaurant with French cuisine is the only one in East Belgium to boast a Michelin star. Pleasant double rooms are available for overnight stays. Pets are also allowed here.
Also in St.Vith, the Schlommefurth Bed & Breakfast* awaits guests in double rooms (and one triple room). A continental breakfast is offered. There are coffee and tea makers in the rooms.
Those who prefer the peace and quiet of the forest will find it at Hotel Steineweiher* on the outskirts of St.Vith. Many guests emphasise the location at the spruce forest and on the edge of several fish ponds. Various accommodations are offered here, ranging from single to four-bed rooms, some with bath and some with shower. There is a restaurant in the house. Holidays with dog are also possible here.
Burg Reuland (B)
The Beautiful Apartment with Sauna and Jacuzzi in Burg-Reuland* is also very relaxing. The holiday home has 3 bedrooms and therefore room for up to 6 guests. In the garden there are barbecue facilities and a children’s playground. For those who haven’t done enough of the day’s activities, there is an „action and fun – Center“ just a few hundred meters away
Another 200m from the Vennbahn cycle path, then you can sink into the soft feathers at the Hotel Paquet*! The castle is not far away either. There is a restaurant in the house. Single and double rooms are available for accommodation.
The holiday home Capreolus capreolus* (white name for the deer) in Reuland Castle offers room for 4 guests in the bedroom. Another two can sleep on the sofa bed in the living room. A kitchen and barbecue facilities in the garden are available. Holidays with dog are possible.
The hotel Ulftaler Schenke* is also close to the Vennbahn cycle path in Reuland Castle. There are double, triple and family rooms available. Pets are allowed.
The Hotel Val de l’Our* places great value on wellness facilities with sauna and outdoor pool. Rooms are available from 1 to 3 persons. If you just want to get a taste of the air on the cycle path, the hotel also has bicycles for hire. The hotel has a restaurant with good cuisine.
At the destination of the Vennbahn Cycle Route, the Hôtel Restaurant Lamy* awaits tired cyclists. Cosy, comfortable and partly also quite luxurious rooms of various sizes are offered. Bicycle storage facilities are available in a locked garage. Electric bicycles can be charged. An Irish Pub belongs to the hotel, where you can also eat delicious pizza later in the evening.
Otherwise, you can of course use the regional express trains of Troisvierges, which will bring you free of charge within one hour to the capital Luxembourg with a wide range of accommodation.
Reference to advertising – Links
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