Touring Europe by bicycle is green, clean, quiet, and invigorating. All of your senses are enlivened when you travel by bicycle in a way they never can be in a motorized vehicle. You can move completely at your own pace, discover hidden delights and meet locals more easily. Not least of cycling’s advantages: taste everything you want, you’ll pedal off the evidence.
The European Cyclists' Federation is an excellent source of information about cycling in Europe. One of the its principle projects is the development of twelve networked, pan-European cycling trails spanning more than 65,000km/40,000 miles, called the Euro Velo routes. These trails include the Atlantic - Black Sea tour (Euro Velo 6), The Road through Middle Europe from Norway to Malta (Euro Velo 7), and the North Sea Cycle Route which follows the entire coastline of the sea from Norway to the UK and everywhere in between (Euro Velo 12) – including a ferry crossing, of course. This is the longest posted international bicycle route in the world. Of course, you to follow selected portions of these ambitious trails and still be proud of your accomplishment.
Greenways are routes rehabilitated from disused infrastructure such as tram and railway lines and canal towpaths. Cyclists, pedestrians, skaters, those of impaired mobility, horseback riders, and people of all ages and physical conditions can enjoy this fresh air sightseeing alternative. Spain has a highly developed network of Green Roads; France has 40 Voies Vertes designed specifically for family biking trips, among them the prize-winning Hautes-Vosges Green Way. Sweden’s Klarälvsbanan Greenway travels along 90 km of luscious riverside scenery.
EuroVelo 1 is the Atlantic Coast route. It starts from the northern tip of Europe (the North Cape in Norway) and goes down to the southwest corner of the continent (Sagres in Portugal). It passes through six European countries including Ireland, the United Kingdom (Scotland, Wales, southern England) and France and Spain.
Cycling in Europe at a glance
The Benelux is crazy for cycling, both for sport and daily transportation. Bike paths in Holland and Belgium crisscross beautiful countryside, in windmill dotted flatlands, along canal embankments as well as zipping you through towns cities. Luxembourg is laced with cycle paths but be ready, part of this country is called Little Switzerland and isn’t what you’d call “flat”!
Scandinavia has loads of cycle paths, from flat to almost vertical. Denmark offers over 10,000 km/ 5,600 mi. of expertly marked, sea level cycle routes. Use the ferries to cross from island to island in Finland on a cycle tour of the Southwest Islands. Enjoy Sweden’s bike-friendly cities, secluded north, or bucolic farmland in the south. Pedal past lava fields and geysers in Iceland, or majestic fjords and forests in Norway.
Cycling in the Baltic is very rewarding: Latvia has cycle routes for all ages and abilities, through national parks, past feudal castles and ancient sacrificial stones. Lithuania’s mild climate makes touring by bicycle an especially appealing way to discover its lovely countryside, especially its seaside cycle route. The landscape and pace in Estonia make bike touring a pleasure, and an absolute fairytale when you find yourself rolling quietly through Medieval town centers.
If mountain biking is your goal, Switzerland is a great place, with 8000 km of mostly mountainous routes. Adventure is guaranteed! Serbia is free biking heaven, where mountaineering and cycling combine for an extreme experience. Montenegro is hard at work developing wilderness biking paths in the hardly touched southern hinterland. Local cycling associations in Greece have all the information you need to enjoy year-round biking in wildly rugged mountainous terrain.
Germany has more long-distance cycle routes covering a wider variety landscape than almost anywhere else. It has both top trails for mountain biking and a great network of cycle paths within the cities. Discover the fabulous scenery of Austria by bicycle or by VTT (bike and train), or sample the delectable white wines of Hungary as you cycle around Lake Balaton. Keep company with the Danube on trails in Slovakia, or take to the Tatras Mountains for well deserved, unforgettable views. Tour UNESCO sites in the Czech Republic or discover its wines (with some caution!) on the Moravian Wine Trails, all by bicycle.
Cycling in the Mediterranean countries has that fantastic option of stopping for a cooling dip in the sea when it’s time for a break. Spain’s Balearic Islands have great cycle paths that are easy enough for children, as a change of pace from those sand castles. Check the MTB Centers (Centro BTT ) for help with maps and equipment rental throughout Spain on its dozens of cycle routes. Bike routes in Cyprus feature a wide variety of terrain within a compact area, and the views will keep you inspired, even on the uphill bits. Cycling around Malta is the perfect way to seek out every nook and cranny of this sunny spot in the Mediterranean.
The National Cycle Network in Northern Ireland offers four paths to pedal between towns and along the coast. Ireland’s hilly terrain may intimidate some cyclists, but the superb scenery is worth the effort.