Biking in Europe: a brief guide to getting around on two wheels

Biking in Europe: a brief guide to getting around on two wheels

Some means of transit go hand in hand with the history and culture of Europe. After generations of transportation and transit reform, travel routes have become optimized in many ways. The result is travel that’s quick, efficient, and environmentally friendly. International trains and cross-country, landbound public transit makes it easy for citizens and tourists alike. 

Biking is an essential part of life for European commuters. It also offers tourists an exciting and speedy way to enjoy the nation they visit. Biking has much to offer, from commuting faster in cities to enjoying nature trails. Below, is a brief showcase of how biking in Europe is special and some of the best trails to explore.

Can I bike through Austria?

Austria’s capital is one of the most bike-friendly cities in Europe. Bike lanes are the norm within the city, and flat terrain makes exploring easy, even for inexperienced bikers. In some places, bike rentals are done by the half-hour, with a full day's exploration capped at just under €15.

With 1660km of bike paths, Vienna is exciting to see by bike and simple to traverse. You can travel along the Danube easily, but the best cycling in Austria is outside city limits.

Austria is especially popular as a destination for mountain biking. Stattegg, Leogang, and Saalbach-Hinterglemm are all popular resort areas for mountain biking. If you want to mix the urban and the untameable, biking is a way to explore all sides of Austria.

How is biking in France?

Rural France pairs cycling and wine in a way few other countries do. France's traditional Old-World regions also make for beautifully scenic rides. The Route Des Vins, south through Alsace, offers winding roads and numerous villages. Whenever you want a break, there’s bound to be somewhere sooner or later that makes for a natural stopping point.

Riding in non-industrial areas helps you to avoid heavy traffic and more. In particular, if you want a challenging, internationally renowned cycling experience, you can head to Provence. A long ascent through vineyards and villages makes for a challenging and lovely ride.

If you want to bike within cities, you’ll be pleased to know that cycling is just as easy there. Bike paths run throughout the capital of Paris and almost entirely along the Seine. This makes tourism by bike easy to do. If you’re keen to turn to cross-country cycling, beginning in Paris also makes it easy to reach EuroVelo 3.

EuroVelo is a massive cycling operation, initially begun in 1995. The purpose of EuroVelo is to promote cycling and to connect regional and national bike routes. New changes and additions are made to existing and forthcoming EuroVelo routes every year. The goal is to, at the end, have a wide-spanning range of routes connecting the whole of the continent.

The southernmost point of Eurovelo Route 3 starts in Spain and enters France. From there, the next country it passes through is Belgium.

What is it like biking in Belgium?

Relative to its size, Belgium has some of the most varied bike routes in Europe. The Bokrijk park complex in Limburg offers unique cycling trails.

A carefully carved pathway allows cyclists to bike through the centre of a lake in a section called Cycling Through Water. Elsewhere, Cycling Through the Trees offers an elevated bike path that rises above a forest within the park. This offers a birds-eye view of the forest to those who are brave enough to bike the 33-foot-high pathway.

For those who prefer human history over natural history, Belgium is also home to the Peace Cycle Route. This pathway goes through Ypres and covers many noted historical sites and memorials from WWI. This circuitous route explores both Flanders Field itself, as well as the site where the poem was composed.

How about biking in Netherlands?

If you plan to bike in the Netherlands, learn this phrase: "Uitgezonderd fietsers". It’s Dutch for “except for people on bicycles” and sometimes denotes places where car travel is forbidden. For cyclists, you don’t need to worry about where you are going.

Zandvoort is home not just to miles of beach and beautiful coastal campsites. It’s also home to cycling routes that go through local villages and forests. It’s idyllic for those who want to mix cycling with other active adventures. It brings you close to the North Sea, where our next major cycling route, in Germany, begins.

Can I bike through Germany?

The Elbe Cycle Path has nearly 900km of cycling distance in Germany. The path goes through major cities like Hamburg and Dresden and eventually ends in the Czech Republic.

Regarding city travel, Germany’s major cities are extremely bike friendly. Berlin has wide roads and usually dedicated bike lanes. Bike rentals are also plentiful for visitors.

There are generally three types of visitors to Germany: Members of Schengen Block countries and countries with reciprocal agreements. Then, members of countries with relaxed restrictions and members of countries that require VISAs can visit for 90 days.

Many members of this middle group will soon require ETIAS, a brief screening process that improves checks without requiring visas.

What's it like biking through Spain?

Spain is home to a variety of cycling routes for various levels. A combination of mountainous, hilly, and flat terrain provides opportunities for amateur and seasoned cyclists. If you want to get away from the city, Spain has the Caminos Naturales.

Caminos Naturales are nature trails throughout the country that, in total, spanning over 10,000km. Farmland, forests, and canals are all accessible and available.

The EuroVelo, as mentioned above, Route 3 also begins in Spain and travels to Norway. Meanwhile, EuroVelo Route 8 begins in Cádiz and travels through Mediterranean Europe, ending in south-eastern Greece.

The Sierra Nevada is also not to be missed. The rugged terrain is perfect for hiking, climbing, cycling, and nearly any other activity. As one of the tallest points in all of Europe, it makes a worthy trip.

How is biking in Portugal?

The warm weather of Portugal means that, except in the northern region, the nation is rarely snowy. This makes for excellent cycling year-round. Autumn, winter, and spring are the ideal seasons, as the summers in certain areas can be sweltering for biking.

In terms of population, Portugal is heavily focused on the Lisbon metropolitan area. The further out you get, the fewer vehicles you’ll share the road with, and the richer the back roads will be. This can make for relaxing trips in rural areas.

If you are in Lisbon, you shouldn’t miss out on biking around the water. 20km of bike lanes makes for a brief, seaside journey. 

Can I bike through Italy?

Italy has plenty to see by bike. Going along the Dolomites can easily become a multi-day cycling adventure if you want to bike in mountainous terrain. Meanwhile, secluded cafes and villages can help support you on your journey.

For coastal vistas, nothing can beat the Italian lakes. These can provide hundreds of kilometres of cycling for as much biking as you’d like.

There’s only one thing to avoid when it comes to Italian cycling: avoid August. Italy is busy for tourists, and August is among the busiest months. For more peaceful cycling, the off-season still has gorgeous weather.

Travelling with ETIAS

ETIAS is the European Travel and Information Authorization System. It will be a mandatory travel authorisation starting 2025 for travellers not needing a visa to enter Europe

The aim of the new travel authorisation gives EU member nations greater visibility of non-Europeans entering the Schengen Area. ETIAS was motivated by and similar to the ESTA utilised by the U.S. 

Visiting Europe is continually being simplified and made more secure for all travellers. The ETIAS will make travel to Europe safe and as easy as riding a bike.