Biking – it’s eco-friendly, it’s healthy and it’s a great way to see a city. If you want to see the city from a bicycle saddle, here are some of Europe’s most bicycle-friendly cities where pedalling your way between attractions is a pleasure.
With more than 40% of the street traffic consisting of bicycles it’s no surprise that Amsterdam is known as the biking capital of Europe. It’s so a part of the culture you’ll see people of every age and shape riding bicycles. There is a safe, well-developed 400km network of bicycle lanes, which along with the 30km/h speed limits in the city and flat terrain, make cycling through Amsterdam a pleasure. It’s the best way for tourists to explore the city and there are plenty of bike rental shops to choose from. If you want to explore more of the city on foot you can always park your bicycle on one of the many bike racks or in one of the city’s bicycle garages (fietsenstalling) for a nominal fee. Attractions like Nieuwe Kerk, Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace Amsterdam), Nieuwmarkt and the infamous Red Light District are all within half a mile of the bicycle parking garage near Centraal Station. You’ll be able to find detailed cycle route maps of the city at visitor information centres and bike rental shops throughout the city, although if you don’t like the idea of finding your own way around you can always join a guided bicycle tour of the city with tour companies like Mike’s Bike Tours and Bike Tour Amsterdam.
The city of Copenhagen is so bike-friendly that The International Cycling Union (UCI) appointed the Danish capital as the first official “Bike City” in the world from 2008 to 2011. One third of the workforce in Denmark’s capital city use bicycles to get to work every day, which means that you’ll find an extensive, well-designed network of cycle paths in the city. It’s the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to get around the city, for locals and tourists alike. You can see the city like a local by renting a bicycle for very reasonable rates at one of the numerous bike rental shops in the city. Copenhagen’s bike-share programme even allows you to rent a public bike for free, with a returnable deposit. The city’s pro-bike culture means you’ll be able to cycle on over 400km of cycle paths in the Greater Copenhagen area, taking you past many of the city’s most popular attractions, from the Little Mermaid sculpture to Tivoli Gardens, Denmark’s oldest amusement park and the Museum of Copenhagen. You can take in the city sights with a local tour guide, or you can tour the city at your own pace using the innovative GPS-guided tour from Bike the City.
Although the Spanish city of Seville may not have a long history of bicycle infrastructure like Amsterdam or Copenhagen, the city has come a long way in a very short time. In just one year the city built 80km of bicycle paths and the local government’s bike-share programme (Sevici) has seen huge increase in the number of cyclists in the city. There is currently over 120km of cycle paths in Seville. Hiring a bicycle is the perfect way for tourists to see the city at their own pace. You can visit places like Plaza de Espana, Giralda Tower and the beautiful Gothic Seville Cathedral, which along with the Royal Alcazar is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can even have some tapas breaks in between. If you’d prefer a guided tour with a local, you can join one of the many bicycle tours offered by companies like Sevilla Bike Tour and Baja Bikes, which even offers a tapas tour!
Although Strasbourg and Paris are great cycling cities, the French city of Bordeaux has spent the past 5 years investing in bike lanes along with their new tramway network. The city itself has 200km of bike lanes, and there is a total of 400km of bike lanes in the greater metropolitan area. Bordeaux also has a bike share initiative called VCub, which is inexpensive and there are Vélos bike kiosks conveniently located throughout the city. You’ll get to see attractions like Place de la Bourse with its mirror pool, the beautiful Grand Théâtre, and Bordeaux Cathedral. Although hiring a bike is a fun way to see the city, Bordeaux traffic can be overwhelming, so you may want to join a guided bicycle tour first, like those offered by Bordeaux by Bike, to get the hang of pedalling around the city. Guided bicycle tours also give you the chance to see hidden gems off the beaten track that you wouldn’t discover on your own. Some bike tours of Bordeaux also include cycling through some of the charming vineyards and little French villages just outside the city.
The bicycle-loving Dutch have obviously been influencing their Belgian neighbours, who have 100km of newly constructed bicycle paths in the city of Antwerp. Although Antwerp has always been a bicycle friendly city, new infrastructure has seen the city skyrocket to 5th place on the Copenhagenize Index of bicycle-friendly cities. The new bike tracks are wide, smooth and segregated from traffic, which makes cycling a fabulous way to see the sights of Antwerp. It’s a relatively small city, so you can easily visit attractions like Rubenshuis, Cathedral of Our Lady, Grote Markt, MAS museum and the Diamond District by bicycle. You can hire a bike at one of the many bicycle rental shops, or you can use the city’s bike share initiative. You can get a day pass for Velo bikes in the Central Station, and there are more than 80 places in Antwerp where you can pick up a bike. The first 15 minutes are free, with the price gradually increasing thereafter. If you want to learn more about the history of Antwerp you can join a 3 hour guided bike tour with Antwerp by Bike.
Basel is known as the cultural capital of Switzerland and it’s a superb city to explore by bicycle. The compact medieval city centre and clearly marked bicycle lanes make it a great place for tourists to rent a bike. The city has gone to great lengths to promote cycling as an alternate method of transport with a great network of dedicated bike lanes and facilities like the underground bicycle parking garages with dedicated entry and exit ramps for bikes. If you’re looking for a place to rent a bicycle, the Rent-A-Bike underground bike park at Centralbahnplatz, underneath Basel SBB station is a great place to start. Pedalling your way around the city you’ll get to see great attractions like Marktplatz, Basel’s Münster (cathedral), Rathaus (Town hall), and Kunstmuseum Basel.