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Top 10: Europe’s most bike-friendly cities

With gorgeous scenery, fascinating history and plenty of well-maintained cycle routes, Europe is the ideal holiday destination for cyclists. Whether you want to follow in the pedal strokes of the Tour de France or simply plan to enjoy some leisurely rides in the convivial company of other cyclists, there’s never been a better time to get on your bike. Here are 10 of our favourite bike-friendly cities for your next trip.

  1. Amsterdam
  2. Bordeaux
  3. Copenhagen
  4. Strasbourg
  5. Budapest
  6. Ghent
  7. Ljubljana
  8. Malmö
  9. Seville
  10. Utrecht

1. Amsterdam

If anywhere in Europe is synonymous with cycling, it’s Amsterdam. With more than 700km of cycle paths and bike lanes, it’s no wonder that cycling is popular with locals and visitors to Amsterdam alike. Cycle hire is easy – and many of the bikes for hire are the traditional “Omafiet”. Classically designed, with a steel frame and sturdy mudguards, these bikes are ridden in an upright position and, while they won’t win you any races, they’re a comfortable and practical way of touring the city. Cyclists are welcome at cafés across Amsterdam but make time to refuel and chat with fellow enthusiasts at the cycle café En Route on the Bilderdijkstraat.

Best bike tour: a springtime full day’s cycle excursion to the tulip fields at Keukenhof Gardens. 

2. Bordeaux

Experience many of Bordeaux’s highlights, including the Place de la Bourse, in little over an hour with a cycle loop along both banks of the Garonne river. The Jardin Public makes an ideal mid-ride break but, if you hanker after more greenery, Bordeaux has several large parks on its outskirts: the Hermitage and the Majolan are both an easy cycle north of the city. Further afield, there’s a 70km cycle path out to the coast at Lacanau. Running through pinewoods, the cycle path is scenic and it’s also relatively flat. However, a public bus service provides a potential return option for anyone wanting a less strenuous homeward bound journey.

Best bike tour: an electric bike tour in nearby Saint-Emilion to explore the vineyards and, of course, sample some of the wines. 

3. Copenhagen

Always a welcoming city for cycle enthusiasts, as the starting point for the 2022 Tour de France, Copenhagen just got even more exciting. Rent an electric bike from the public bike sharing scheme, Bycyklen, and you won’t even have to worry about powering your own pedals. There’s plenty to see from the saddle, including, of course, the famous harbour. A number of bike bridges make getting around the waterfront easy. Don’t miss the iconic Cykelslangen (Bicycle Snake) with its great views of the harbour and the city’s spires. Then there’s Queen Louise Bridge, reputedly the busiest bicycle thoroughfare in the world and, thanks to its many benches, a very popular hangout spot.

Best bike tour: Copenhagen’s ‘urban tour’ which involves cycling through the city’s most interesting neighbourhoods such as Nørrebro and Christianshavn.  

4. Strasbourg

Its network of cycle superhighways makes clear that Strasbourg takes cycling seriously. If you don’t have your own bike, hire one from Vélhop, the local cycle sharing scheme. As well as classic bikes for adults and children, it also offers electric bikes and even tandems. Once saddled up, there’s plenty to explore. If you’re up for a long ride, the 85km Forts Trail weaves in and out of France and Germany, along both sides of the Rhine. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to explore the 19 different forts that give the trail its name.

Best bike tour: a city centre ride beginning in Neustadt and continuing to Petite France via the cylindrical glass and metal European Parliament building. 

5. Budapest

Thanks to its ever-growing network of bike lanes, cycling is a great way of getting to know Budapest. Get hold of an up-to-date map of the bike route system to make navigating easy. Mesterbike, which also serves great coffee and cake, is an ideal pitstop if you have a bike in need of repairs or if you want general advice on where to cycle. If you’re into mountain biking, head for the Buda hills, which rise to around 500 metres above the city. There are some excellent look-out points but check out Janos hill for some of the best city views.

Best bike tour: the Buda Danube bank after dark to see illuminated city highlights such as Castle Hill and Széchenyi Chain Bridge. 

6. Ghent

As the home of the annual Ghent Six Day track cycling event, Ghent has an extra appeal for keen cyclists. Held in the Kuipke velodrome, this popular event usually takes place in November but the city welcomes cyclists all year round. Take out a Ghent CityCard and, as well as using it on buses, trams and even boats, you can also hire bikes by the day for no additional fee. Use your bike to visit famous attractions like St Bavo's Cathedral and Portus Ganda, or, for some peace and quiet, head out to the Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen Nature Reserve.

Best bike tour: the 37km of the Gentse Fietsen Route, which runs through the heart of Ghent before looping around the entire city. 

7. Ljubljana

Ljubljana’s flat land and compact size make the Slovenian capital perfect for cycling. What’s more, bikes are welcome in the pedestrianised zone in the city centre provided cyclists give way to those on foot. The local bike sharing scheme, Bicikelj, has inexpensive self-hire terminals across the city centre while the Ljubljana Bike Project offers alternative rental options through the Slovenian tourist information centre. The latter also comes with free ‘what to see’ and ‘where to go’ advice although themed cycle paths taking in the city's main attractions are easy to spot thanks to their blue markings.

Best bike tour: along the banks of the Ljubljanica, past Fužine Castle, through the old town and Špica Park. 

8. Malmö

Flat streets make cycling easy while smartphone apps like Malmö by Bike help you locate bikes for hire and plan routes. Many hotels also offer bike hire plus sightseeing tips or, for specialist bike hire and maps aplenty try Travelshop. Don’t miss trying at least a section of the Ribersborg bike path. As well as excellent views of the Turning Torso skyscraper and the Öresund Bridge, you’ll find plenty of path-side cafes to tempt you to stop for a cup of coffee.

Best bike tour: explore the Swedish countryside in the south of Malmö and cycle through quaint villages.  

9. Seville

Cycling is one of the best ways to take in the beauty of Seville. Rent bikes from Sevici hire stations and set off to explore all but the most cobbled streets of the Santa Cruz neighbourhood. More than 170km of cycle paths allow you to discover Seville’s Moorish and Roman past as well as visit contemporary highlights such as Setas de Sevilla. Then, just outside the city is a section of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. This is the Via de la Plata, or Silver Way, section. At 1200km and encompassing some challenging terrain, it’s the longest stretch of the pilgrimage but the section closest to Seville is relatively flat and perfect for a day trip.

Best bike tour: admire colourful Triana from the cycle path along the Guadalquivir river’s eastern bank. 

10. Utrecht

Another Dutch entry in our list, Utrecht is home to the world’s largest bike parking lot. Its 12,500 bike capacity symbolises the importance of cycling to both the city and the wider province of Utrecht. Cycling is one of the best ways to soak up the sights of this city. As a straightforward starter over well-paved roads, try the Centraal Museum Loop. Further afield, the Utrechtse Heuvelrug is a wooded trail that takes in Groeneveld Castle and Soestdijk Palace. Find your perfect wheels from one of Utrecht's many bike hire shops or take out the Utrecht Region Pass for cheap rental of public bikes from almost 300 locations.

Best bike tour: a 12km ride through the medieval heart of Utrecht. 

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