With its scenic countryside, historic cities and extensive bicycle infrastructure, Europe is a cyclist’s paradise waiting to be explored on two wheels. From leisurely rides through wine regions to thrilling descents down mountain passes, cycle touring is an ideal way to experience the diversity of Europe.
Whether you’re an avid cyclist looking to challenge yourself on epic transnational rides or a casual rider who wants a relaxing getaway far from the grind of everyday life, Europe caters to all tastes.
In this guide, you’ll discover the top European bike routes to check out along with tips to plan your own pedal-powered adventure through paradise.
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Top Bike-Friendly Destinations In Europe
Europe offers boundless opportunities for scenic and adventurous cycling, but some destinations stand out for their stunning vistas, excellent infrastructure and bicycle-friendly culture.
With 8% of EU citizens claiming a bike or scooter as their main mode of transport in 2019, these bike havens should top any cyclist’s must-visit list for a European cycling holiday.
The Loire Valley, France
Pedaling through the lush Loire Valley is like taking a magical journey back in time. This area of France is famed for its regal châteaux, vineyards, and quaint villages, earning it the nickname “Garden of France”.
The Loire Valley makes for a perfect multi-day cycling trip in spring or fall when the weather is mild. Start your journey in Orléans, taking in sights like the majestic Gothic cathedral and the historic home of Joan of Arc. From there, you can follow the Loire River southwest, stopping to tour the elaborate châteaux of Chambord, Chenonceau, Azay-le-Rideau, and many more.
Make sure to allow time to sample local wines and cuisine along the way. End your cycling adventure in the medieval city of Tours, known for its half-timbered houses and the towering Gothic cathedral of St. Gatien.
With so many incredible châteaux, quaint villages, vineyards, and natural areas to explore, a bike trip through the UNESCO-recognized Loire Valley is a magical way to experience the essence of France in less than a week.
—> Read More: 15 Incredible Places to Visit in France
The Danube River
Tracing the banks of the famous Danube River, this cycle route takes riders on a whirlwind tour past charming riverside towns and major European capitals like Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. Begin your Danube biking adventure in picturesque Passau, Germany, where the Inn and Ilz Rivers join the Danube.
From there, follow the river east, stopping in medieval towns like Linz, Austria and cycling through the fertile Wachau Valley wine region. The route rolls on to Vienna, allowing time to explore the Austrian capital’s Baroque palaces and museums.
The cycling journey winds to a close in Vukovar, Croatia – a fitting ending point overlooking the river’s delta before it flows into the Black Sea. With its mix of city sightseeing and quaint rural stops, the Danube cycling route appeals to riders of all abilities looking for a safe, picturesque journey.
The relatively flat path and abundance of riverside bike trails and services make for an unforgettable cycling experience that’s perfect for travelers looking to spend more time in each destination.
—> Read More: Danube River Cruise: Budapest to Passau
Undulating hills blanketed in vineyards, olive groves and sunflowers make Tuscany a top choice for leisurely cycle touring. Meander past medieval hilltop villages before stopping at a local vineyard to sample wine and enjoy views of the countryside.
Begin your Tuscan bike trip in Florence, taking time to admire the Renaissance architecture and artwork before escaping the bustling city. Head south through the postcard-perfect landscape, stopping to explore hilltop towns like San Gimignano with its towers and Siena with its Gothic architecture.
Pedal past endless vineyards and stop to sample wine and olive oil in the southern Chianti region. Then make your way to Arezzo to see its church frescoes before looping west to admire the sunflower fields around Lucca.
Wind through groves of olive trees as you cycle to Pisa to see the famous leaning tower. Continue on to Livorno, a port city with seafood restaurants and ferry access to islands like Elba, where the route comes to an end along the coast.
—> Read More: The 7 Best Wineries in Tuscany
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Amsterdam and Utrecht, Netherlands
Renowned for being a cyclist’s paradise, these areas boast extensive networks of bike lanes that crisscross scenic canals and cobblestone streets. Visitors can easily navigate via bike to museums, cafés and more, surrounded by fellow cyclists that creates a wonderful cycling culture.
Begin your trip in Amsterdam, where getting around by bike is an integral part of the culture. Pedal along the picturesque Prinsengracht canal or join locals commuting along wide bike highways. Immerse yourself in history with visits to local museums and refuel at a cozy cafe in the Nine Streets shopping district, then travel to Utrecht, arguably the most bike-friendly city in the Netherlands.
From Utrecht Central Station, you can set out on the expansive cycling highways connecting urban hubs with suburban communities. Follow scenic paths along the Oudegracht canal before riding out to country estates and farmland outside the city center, or take a historical route to visit Dom Tower and other landmarks within the walled medieval town.
With an interconnected web of cycling routes, Utrecht gives visitors an ideal perspective to explore the city and surrounding countryside.
—> Read More: Windmills and Historic Villages of the Netherlands
Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
Croatia’s dazzling azure waters and ancient coastal villages make it a cyclist’s paradise. Hop between the country’s legendary islands by ferry as you explore each one’s unique charms by bike. Begin your cycling adventure in the bustling port city of Split, before pedaling past fragrant lavender fields, vineyards, and olive groves as you ride through the island’s interior.
Continue island-hopping, taking in Korčula’s medieval Old Town and biking through Mljet’s lush forests to swim in inland saltwater lakes.
After time on the islands, return to the mainland to explore the craggy Adriatic coastline then ride along the sparkling waters of Makarska Riviera, passing beneath the towering peaks of Biokovo National Park. Tour Zadar’s Roman ruins and medieval churches before cycling on to Šibenik to admire its Renaissance cathedral.
End your journey in the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik, biking atop its iconic medieval walls overlooking the sea. With routes winding through seaside villages, island vineyards, coastal mountains, and famed historic towns, Croatia offers diverse, rewarding cycling against a backdrop of dazzling Adriatic vistas.
—> Read More: Top Things To Do in Croatia
Bike Safety Tips
Though a cycling trip through Europe may sound idyllic, it’s important to ride safely and defensively, especially if you’re biking on roads – cycling accidents are unfortunately common and could result in serious injuries if you’re not careful.
Be sure to research the local traffic laws and cycling etiquette in each country or region you’ll be visiting and obey all traffic signs, signals and laws just as you would in a vehicle.
Equip your bike with essential features like front and rear lights, reflectors and a bell to make yourself as visible as possible to traffic. Use your lights at night and when riding in low visibility, and wear a properly fitted helmet on every ride, no matter how short, along with bright and reflective cycling apparel. It can also be beneficial to pack a small rear view mirror that attaches to your helmet or glasses so you can monitor the traffic behind you.
To ensure your safety, plan your route ahead of time using bike paths, greenways and low-traffic roads whenever possible for a stress- and accident-free ride. If you must share the road with vehicles, ride defensively and make deliberate eye contact with drivers before crossing streets or merging into traffic. Above all, stay alert and pay attention to all signs and traffic around you. Following these tips will help ensure your cycling adventure is both epic and safe.
Packing and Planning Tips
A bike trip requires some advance preparation to keep you safe and comfortable on the road. Train regularly in the months leading up to your trip, including longer outdoor rides, to build your cycling strength and endurance.
No matter the season, it’s also important to pack lightweight, breathable layers that can be added or removed as weather fluctuates – European weather can be unpredictable, after all. Cycling-specific shorts and jerseys with wicking fabrics provide comfort in the saddle.
Book accommodations with secure bike storage facilities, and which are located conveniently along your planned route so you’re not having to cycle in and out of the city every day. It’s also worth downloading offline maps and bike-friendly GPS apps so you can navigate areas with limited cell service.
Lastly, make sure you’ve checked the visas and permits you’ll need to travel abroad and that your passport is within the correct date range to avoid issues at the airport.
A cycling trip through Europe’s stunning landscapes allows travelers to intimately experience the continent’s beauty at their own pace. Stop wherever curiosity strikes – to explore an ancient castle, sample cheese at a family farm or simply soak up the views.
European cycling trips allow you to immerse yourself in new locations and live like a local. Disconnect from busy itineraries and packed tourist sites and instead, let the bike be your passport to many of Europe’s hidden wonders.