Coming from the Netherlands, we were raised in the saddle, learning how to cycle shortly after mastering the art of walking! From riding to school – no matter the weather – to childhood cycling holidays throughout the Netherlands, we’ve both probably spent several years riding bikes. As we grew up and the urge to travel grew stronger, cycling was almost always involved in one way or another.
Luckily for us, there’s no shortage of amazing bike tours on our doorstep, but there are also many more throughout Europe. In fact, Europe is one of the best places for a cycling holiday in the world. Though smaller than other areas of the globe, it’s amazingly diverse, with mountains, rivers, oceans, seas, lakes, villages and mega-cities all close to one another.
Exploring Europe by bike lets you get up close and personal to a wide range of fascinating sights, taste the fresh mountain air, and enjoy the warm sea breeze. As cycling becomes increasingly popular, more and more well-signed cycle routes have begun to criss-cross the continent. In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the best cycling tours of Europe, for all skill levels!
So saddle up, and let’s go!
Cycling in Europe: What to Expect
Whenever you’re planning a trip, it’s best to go in with your eyes open and to have a rough idea of what to expect. While there are some amazingly bicycle-friendly places in Europe, not all parts can exactly be described as a cyclist’s paradise. Don’t let this put you off though! You will still have a great time by riding a cycling tour in Europe, just don’t expect to find smooth, bicycle-only lanes everywhere you go.
Some countries have made amazing efforts to be as bicycle friendly as possible, with cycle lanes and well signed routes, complete with accommodation options. Some of the best countries for cycling in Europe include:
- The Netherlands
On the flip side, other places haven’t adapted so much, and you may find yourself riding on bumpy roads, side roads, or major national roads packed with cars and trucks. However, if you avoid major roads, you can often find lots of beautifully scenic side roads that are much quieter. Things are improving slowly though, and even countries that were notoriously bad for cycling holidays have made efforts to create safe, signed trails.
Our Top 8 cycling Tours in Europe
With the basics out of the way, let’s hit the road and check out some of the best cycle routes in Europe. The tours that we’ll list are mostly long-distance, multi-day rides, but it’s easy enough to dip in and out and enjoy the sections that appeal to you if you’re pressed for time.
1. The Rhine Cycle Route (Eurovelo 15)
The famous River Rhine stretches for 1,230 km across 4 European countries, and this cycle route follows it from its source in the Swiss Alps. Along the way, you’ll take in a wealth of natural wonders, 9 UNESCO sites, the epic fairy-tale castles of the Rhine, vineyards, mountain lakes, and quaint villages. The route crosses through Switzerland, Germany, France, and the Netherlands, ending at the North Sea via Rotterdam.
This is a great choice for beginners and families, as the going is pretty easy, with no steep uphill sections. We cycled a part of this route during our trip to Switzerland, and it was among the highlights. The beginning of the Rhine cycle route starts at an altitude of 2,345m, where the Rhine bubbles up from a small mountain lake. Needless to say, the scenery here is stunning, and the road is well-signed and smooth.
2. Cycling tour in Europe – Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea (Eurovelo 6)
Riding coast to coast across Central and Eastern Europe is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in everything that Europe has to offer. The 4,450 km long route takes in 6 famous European rivers, 2 very different coastlines, 10 countries, 11 UNESCO sites, castles, cities, and much more. Crossing so many countries means you can be sure to dip in and out of a wide array of cultures too.
While the distance is long, the route is mostly flat and large sections are well-signed, making it a great first multi-day bike tour for beginners. Along the way, you’ll experience the breathtaking beauty of the Loire Valley and the slow meanderings off the Blue Danube as it passes through 3 capital cities, before spilling out into the Black Sea. If you’re looking for a shorter trip, it’s easy to take your pick of the different sections, whether you want to follow the Danube, skirt the Swiss Alps and the Black Forest, or enjoy the vineyards of France.
3. The Sun Route (Eurovelo 7)
The Sun Route is one we’d love to tackle at some point, though at 7,700 km it’s an epic undertaking! From Nordkapp (North Cape), land of the midnight sun and the most Northern point of mainland Europe, all the way down to the sunny Mediterranean, the route promises adventure as it passes through 9 countries:
The route is still largely under development, particularly through most of Finland, Norway, and the southern half of Italy. As such, taking on the entire route is perhaps best suited to more experienced riders. Having said that, beginners will feel comfortable anywhere between Copenhagen, Denmark — be sure to cross the bridge to Malmö, Sweden — and Northern Italy.
Along the way, the route takes in the awe-inspiring and rugged natural beauty of Scandinavia, an array of cities, the Austrian Alps, and the tranquility of Tuscany, before island hopping from Sicily to Malta.
4. The Rhone Cycle Route (Eurovelo 17)
Following the River Rhone as it leaks out of the Rhone Glacier, high up in the Swiss Alps, this route is another superb choice. Starting in the charming Alpine village of Andermatt, you’ll pass through amazing mountain views, stopping off at Lake Geneva and taking in castles and quaint villages such as Chanaz. Around 1,250 km from start to finish, the route eventually takes you through the fragrant lavender fields of Provence, before the river empties out into the sunny Mediterranean Sea.
This is another great route for beginners, and we can confirm that the going is easy, with smooth, well signed roads to follow. We cycled a small section of the Rhone cycle route during our trip to Switzerland, and again, the scenery was simply stunning. If you tackle the entire route, your journey will see you enjoying the snowy mountains one day, and soaking up the sun on a Mediterranean beach the next!
5. Bike tour in Europe along the coast of the Mediterranean sea (Eurovelo 8)
The Mediterranean coast is a superb place to relax, eat good food and discover an array of cultures. It’s well worth taking your time with it, and this cycling route is packed full of hidden gems and well-known hot spots alike. It stretches 7,500 km from the south of Spain, following the coast north via Barcelona, through Provence and northern Italy, before rejoining the coast in Venice. From there, the route takes you into the stunning, but largely unknown Slovenian coast — Piran is a must-see! — before dipping south to the turquoise seas of the Adriatic, all the way to Athens. The full route takes in:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
It’s a great route to break into smaller chunks, but the adventurous could certainly spend a fantastic summer tackling the full route. Be advised that many sections are not yet fully developed or signed, so it’s best to take good maps or a GPS system.
6. Bike tour in Europe along the coast of the The Atlantic Ocean (Eurovelo 1)
This route is one we’ve been dreaming about for some years now, and we’re sure we will eventually take it on! Following the west coast of Europe for 11,000 km, it takes in 14 UNESCO sites, passes through 6 countries, and brushes past 4 European seas. Starting in Norway’s Nordkapp, it follows the rugged, fjord-torn coastline south, before heading by boat to Scotland.
The route carries on through the Scottish highlands, past ancient castles and lochs, eventually sailing to Ireland’s stunning west coast, the land of fairies and magic. After that it’s back to mainland UK, through Wales and south England, before sailing once again to France. From here, you’ll enjoy the gorgeous French coast, with plenty of opportunities for surfing as you head south, before heading south into Spain and finally circling back north up Portugal’s stunning, idyllic coast.
It’s an amazing way to experience the many very different cultures of Europe’s Ocean touched nations, while indulging in their various takes on seafood!
7. Central Europe Cycle Route (Eurovelo 4)
From the beaches of northern France, the Central Europe Cycle Route winds on for 5,100 km, all the way to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Along the way, you’ll pass through 7 countries, experiencing beautiful nature, rustic villages, dynamic cities, and medieval castles. The route crosses the following countries:
- The Netherlands
This is another great route that will show you just how diverse Europe is. As you travel from region to region, you’ll see how food, culture and even nature changes, sometimes slowly, and sometimes abruptly. It’s an amazingly humble experience, and with fairly developed trails for most of the route, it’s pretty user-friendly.
8. European Capitals bike Tour (Eurovelo 2)
If you enjoy taking a few days out of the saddle and indulging in the delights of the big city every now and then, this is a top choice. The route travels for 5,000 km, stopping in the following capital cities; Dublin, London, Berlin, Warsaw, Minsk and Moscow. Each city is vastly different from the last, and the route offers a fantastic opportunity to explore what each has to offer. The route crosses the following countries:
- Republic of Ireland
- United Kingdom
- The Netherlands
Along the way, you’ll pass 17 UNESCO sites, unspoiled natural beauty, such as the magnificent Białowieża Forest in Poland and Belarus, and of course numerous cities to kick back in. Much of the route is still under development, and most people will need a visa for Belarus and Russia. As such, the entire route is best for more experienced riders, while beginners could comfortably complete the first sections.
We love to hear from you!
There really is no better way to travel Europe than from the saddle of a bicycle! So, choose the route that suits you and get ready to go! And we hope that there is also a great cycling route in Europe for you. Hopefully the above routes have inspired you. Be sure to let us know if you plan on cycling one of these routes!
For more travel inspiration and tips, check out more of our travel tips.