Europe’s Most Bike-Friendly Cities
Cycling is one of the most exhilarating ways to explore a new city. You’re close to the ground, able to cover good distances, and will often save a significant amount of cash over using public transport. As more cities buy into the concept of cycling, so too are they introducing better bike share schemes and more cycle lanes. Most European cities have some type of cycling initiative, but these bike-friendly cities sit head and shoulders above the rest.
Bike-friendly cities in Europe
1. Paris, France
You may think cycling around Paris is a terrifying idea. But since the introduction of the Vélib bike share scheme, drivers are more considerate and the network of cycling paths has increased dramatically. There are now thousands of bicycles and about 1800 stations available 24 hours a day. The city is also flat and easy to navigate when you get the hang of the various districts. In many instances cycling will get you there faster than the metro.
Pro tip: Velibs are the best way to get around town. Register online and download the app to get up to date details on bikes and docking station availability.
One great area for cycling: There are beautiful cycling routes along Paris’s tranquil canals. Follow Canal de l’Ourcq to the town of Meaux, where you can take the train all the way back with your bike.
How to get there by train: Paris is well connected by train to the rest of Europe. There are high speed and overnight trains from most capital cities that arrive at one of six stations.
2. Munich, Germany
Munich has more than 100 miles of cycle paths and bike lanes along with considerate drivers, which makes it particularly enjoyable to explore by bike. Bicycle hire stores abound, and the streets are easy to navigate. Longer rides will take you to interesting attractions like the Olympic Village and BMW Museum without the needing costly public transport. Moving around the inner city on a bicycle is also safe and rewarding.
Pro tip: You can hire bicycles by the half-day or day throughout the city, but if you want to cycle frequently, consider signing up for the popular Call-a-Bike scheme.
One great area for cycling: The Englischer Garten offers amazing cycling in a tranquil environment. It’s perfect for nature lovers looking to escape the city.
How to get there by train: Munich’s Central Station is conveniently located in the heart of the city. The city is well connected with direct high-speed trains from more than a dozen German and international cities.
3. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona has one of the best bike-share schemes in Europe, but it’s notoriously difficult for tourists to access it. Fortunately, bike rental shops abound, and a good deal is never hard to find. There are dozens of incredible cycling paths that link most major attractions. A ride around Barcelona’s suburbs towards the beach, and within the fascinating maze of the Gothic Quarter, are an incredibly rewarding way to experience this vibrant city.
Pro tip: Bicycle rental rates vary widely, so be sure to shop around. If you’re after a good deal, steer away from the rental shops in the busy tourist areas.
One great area for cycling: The Barcelona beachfront and boardwalk is particularly pleasurable on two wheels. Start on the boardwalk at the iconic W Barcelona hotel and cycle off with the ocean on your right.
How to get there by train: There are several regional and high-speed trains to Barcelona from many Spanish and international cities, including overnight trains from long-haul destinations.
4. Berlin, Germany
Berlin is a fantastic city for cycling, from both a practicality and a pleasure perspective. In many situations it’s easier and faster to grab a Call-a-Bike at a nearby docking station than to catch public transport. Berlin is generally flat and easy to get around, there are many miles of cycle paths, and you can take a self-guided bicycle tour to most of the city’s attractions. The Call-a-Bike scheme is also available 24 hours a day – perfect for post-party transport.
Pro tip: The Deutsche Bahn’s Call-a-Bike system is the best way to get around Berlin by bike. You can use the same account to rent bicycles in Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne, Karlsruhe and Stuttgart.
One great area for cycling: Berlin’s East Side Gallery is the perfect starting point for cycling along the Berlin Wall. Follow the wall to the Brandenburg Gate for incredible views and access to several attractions.
How to get there by train: There are trains to Berlin from most German cities and several European destinations, including night trains from Amsterdam, Zurich, Budapest and Vienna.
5. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is without doubt the most famous cycling city in Europe, if not the world. This cycling utopia is perfect for confident and apprehensive cyclists alike. It’s not uncommon for motorists and pedestrians to yield for their two-wheeled friends, occasionally even with smiles on their faces. The beautiful canals and perfectly flat land make cycling the only acceptable way to get around town, whether you’re there for a few hours, or a few years.
Pro tip: There are over 800,000 bicycles in Amsterdam, so it’s easy to lose yours amongst the chaos. Make sure you lock your bike in a legal spot and take a photograph with your phone so you can find it later.
One great area for cycling: Cycling along the banks of the Amstel River on the eastern side offers amazing views and calmer traffic. Be sure to cross the famous Magere Brug at least once.
How to get there by train: Amsterdam’s Centraal Station fields trains from several regional and international cities, including long-haul and overnight trains.
Cycling in Europe’s bike-friendly cities is both practical and pleasurable. So regardless of where you find yourself on your next Eurail adventure, plan at least one day when you ditch the public transport and head for the cycle lanes.