As a Dutchie, I was able to ride a bike at a very young age. With over 35.000 km of dedicated biking lanes, us Dutchies move around on our bicycles. No wonder we love to bike around town and try to find other cities in Europe to explore by bike. I found cycling around a big city the best way to explore a town and it will save you from blisters from walking around too much.
My list with 9 best cities in Europe to explore by bike
But which are the best cities in Europe to explore by bike? I give you a list of the best European cities paved to explore by bike.
As I have not travelled everywhere in Europe, I had some help to make this list with the best cities in Europe to explore by bike from fellow travel bloggers.
Are you ready? Strap on that helmet and pedal along with me.
#1 Amsterdam, the Netherlands
What other city than Amsterdam is at the top of my list of best cities in Europe to explore by bike? There are 800,000 bicycles in the capital of the Netherlands and you can easily explore the city by bike. Rent a bike or take one of the many biking tours to explore the city by bike. Make sure to follow the right etiquette to blend right in with the locals. Check this funny instruction video on riding your bike as a tourist in Amsterdam.
Vicky from Vickeblueyes shares here experiences with cycling in Amsterdam:
Amsterdam is a mecca for cyclists; whether you are environmentally conscious, a fitness freak, or just enjoy getting around in the open air, the locals of Amsterdam use cycles as their main mode of transport with ease and delight.
Wandering around the picturesque alleyways and along the tranquil canals, bikes zip past you frantically, with the ping of a tiny bell to catch your attention. Although a stunning place to cycle and watch the world wander past, it is quite a stressful experience for the beginner biker.
Amsterdam has got a clear lane system in place but as the entirety of the city travel by bike, the correct etiquette can be quite challenging at times for a non-biker (aka car driver like myself). Head over to Home Egels, otherwise known as the Yellow Bikes of Amsterdam where you can rent a bike easily and where the staff is keen to assist you and your journey, or if you would rather, join a bike tour with them.
Sights that are perfect to cycle to are Vondel Park, the area of Jordaan and the Anne Frank Museum.
#2 Valencia, Spain
When I was studying Spanish in Valencia, I needed to cover some ground from my host family to the language school and around town. I rented a bike often, because in Valencia they have the bike share system.
Valenbisi, the bike sharing system
It’s called Valenbisi and you can rent a bike at any place at any time for any amount of time. You sign up for the system and you can take a bike from the station. You cycle to your destination and park the bike again. If you do this within 30 minutes of taking the bike, it’s free. For more fees and terms of subscriptions, check the site of Valenbisi here.
I loved this system. I was able to bike to the beach or bike all the way to the Centre of Arts. In the middle of the city, there are paved bicycle paths that make for a leasuresome cycle tour. I did have some troubles to find a free station to park my bike. Sometimes all were full and I had to find another station to park the bike. Or wait for somebody to take a bike.
#3 Rome, Italy
After having explored the city on foot for 4 days, we wanted to have another perspective on the city. I took my parents on a guided tour across Rome by bike. We choose the panoramic hill tour. This was a bit hard, as we are not used to cycling up any hills but worth all the efforts.
I can recommend this tour as you really get a bird’s eye view of the city. You visit all the hills of Rome and some little secret sites and parks. I booked this tour via a Dutch agency, so I cannot recommend any others, but there are dozens out there.
Don’t make the same dumbass mistake I made: if you photograph while cycling, and taking a turn and squeezing your front break: you will fall. Ough! Have you ever thought of Rome to be one of the best cities in Europe to explore by bike?
#4 Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is quite big and after walking around for a few days, my feet were killing me. I rented a bike for a day and set off to explore the outskirts of the city. This was a good idea! Not only did my feet get some rest (finally!) but I was also able to visit some more remote places. I stumbled upon a local artisan market, a Catalan food fair and found some pristine beaches to chill.
You can rent bikes from the numerous bike shops around town, or when you become a Barcelona resident you can sign up for the bike share system BiCing Barcelona. Of course you can also take a bike tour of Barcelona. With its broad avenues and lanes next to its beaches, Barcelona is definiately one of the best cities in Europe to explore by bike.
Read more: Cycling in Seville, Spain.
# 5 London, UK
London is another top favorite on the list of cities in Europe to explore by bike. Here’s what Vivian from Miss Happy Feet has to say about biking in London:
It is incredibly easy to rent a bike in London. There is no need to book ahead; docking stations are everywhere to be seen: just walk up to a station with your bank card and touch the screen! As easy as that! I rented a bike (Santander Cycles) when I was in London and paid only 2 Pound for a whole day. Yes only 2 Pound, but I had to look for a docking station every 30 minutes. It wasn’t too bad because as I said, docking stations are everywhere. Kind reminder: it helps to plan accordingly prior to renting a bike! Maps with docking stations can be found on TfL website (Transport for London).
Where to cycle to in London?
Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are pretty interesting to wander through with bikes, especially if you are a beginner in hiring city bikes. Another route with amazing view (my favorite) is in South Bank, which you can go up to the Westminster Bridge.
For regular bike users, I’d recommend downloading the Santander Cycle’s App on your smartphones to make things easier. We can access information on bikes available, location of docking stations and so on.
Unfortunately Vivian doesn’t have any pictures of her biking in London, but you can check MissHappyFeet on Instagram. Here is an image of her and her bike in New York.
# 6 Paris, France
Daphne, co-founder and writer of Girlswanderlust, visited Paris during her trip through France. As Paris is the ultimate European city break, the city has to be on my list of best cities in Europe to explore by bike, don’t you think?
I decided to rent a bike by ‘Paris à vélo, c’est sympa’. This shop provides bike rentals, guided cycling tours and other sales. The quality of the bikes was good.
I decided to go for a one day cycling trip. On my bike I came across the Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Grand Palais, Pyramide du Louvre and Palais Royal. It was a great experience! You can go wherever you want, whenever you want and take your time to visit every sight.
Sometimes, cycling in Paris was a bit stressing and dangerous, because not everywhere are bicycle tracks. You also sometimes have to cycle on busy roads between a lot of cars.
However, I can definitely recommend to go cycling in Paris. It is very easy to cycle across the main sights that are mentioned before and it is just a wonderful way to explore a city. You can find more information about the cycling route of Daphne through magnificent Paris. Or find Girlswanderlust on Instagram.
# 7 Shkoder, Albania
Shkoder in Albania must be one of the most unheard of cities in Europe to explore by bike. But with Albania on the rise as an European top travel destination, I’d like to share the story of Allison from Eternal Arrival.
I rented a bike in Shkoder, Albania – I know, you’ve probably never heard of it! Shkoder is Albania’s most bike friendly city, with nearly all the residents owning and using a bike on a regular basis. Cars are quite used to cyclists so the traffic isn’t quite as frantic as elsewhere in Albania, say, the capital city of Tirana, for example. It’s quite easy to rent a bike from my hostel – I got mine for a day for just 2 euros.
Be aware when cycling in Albania
The roads in Shkoder are in fairly decent condition, but litter and poorly parked cars can be an issue, so you have to stay alert. There are also no bike lines – but this is Albania, a country who was shut off to the world for 40 years, where infrastructure is only starting to catch up to the demands of the population.
That said, I felt safe biking here, and rode my bike up 3 kilometres and back to the ruins of Rozafa castle, where I could see the beautiful rivers and lakes surrounding the town from a bird’s eye view. If you’re a moderately experienced cyclist, I highly recommend renting a bike if you visit Shkoder – the locals can’t all be wrong!
# 8 Ghent, Belgium
Kaylene from Cheers to Traveling shares her story about biking in Ghent, Belgium
My boyfriend and I rented bikes for a couple days in Ghent, Belgium, a city known for its cycling. We rented bikes from Blaarmeersen Campsite in the outskirts of the city. It was very easy, and there are quite a few rental services throughout the city.
We were staying at the campsite, and it was just a short ride from the historic city center. The campsite itself was nice to cycle around with pathways winding around beaches, lakes, and wooded areas.
We typically biked into the area of the city we planned to explore and then locked up our bikes and took on the rest of the city by foot. Throughout Ghent, there are sidewalks for bikers and biker lanes, making it easy and safe to hit the streets with a bike.
There is even a lot of car-less parts of the cosy city centre perfect for biking as long as you can handle the bumps of the cobblestone streets.
Looking for more fun free things to do in Ghent? Check the story of Isabel.
#9 Rovinj, Croatia
Shanti from Awanderphile was kind enough to share her story about Rovinj and why this city is in the top 9 of cities in Europe to explore by bike.
Recently I was lucky enough to visit the small town of Rovinj which lies on the dramatic Croatian coast. This is a gorgeous, old town with the mandatory church up on the hill, cobbled streets, gelato shops on every corner and also many shops where you can hire bikes. I’d been lazing around enjoying the sun the previous couple of days recovering
from the 470km European Peace Walk. I think I was definitely deserving of a break after that!
But one does get restless after a couple of stationary days and it was time to explore the coastline on a bike!! Woohoo! Heading down to the waterfront there are many places you can hire a bike cheaply, even for an hour if you just want a quick jaunt.
Where to go when cycling in Rovinj?
Once I was kitted up with a bike and the requisite basket (you’ve got to have somewhere to put your bag right?) we headed north past the posh, private beaches decorated with bronzed bodies through some small bushland tracks to discover more beaches that actually had sand! If you’ve been to this area of the world you’ll know that’s a rare occurrence.
After a quick dip in the warm but still refreshing sea we headed back they way we came but continued on to the Old Town area of Rovinj. It was easy enough to ride here but some of the cobbled streets can be a bit precarious so you’ve got to be a little careful. Faceplanting over the handle bars is not ideal.
The Old Town of Rovinj is very quaint with teeny shops and narrow streets. We parked our bikes up here and stopped for the compulsory gelato stop and to people watch beside the marina for a bit. Then, unfortunately it was time to speed back and return the bikes. Fortunately, it was also 5pm which meant it was time to indulge in a Hugo Spritz or two…
#10 Copenhagen, Denmark
What is a good list without 10 points on it? I added a little extra bonus for you from Miranda from Mirambling.com about Copenhagen. Denmark’s capital can’t miss on the list of best cities in Europe to explore by bike and here is why:
Copenhagen (København) is the capital of Denmark. Like Amsterdam, you’ll see as many if not more bikes than people. My sister and I wanted to travel like locals so we rented bikes to see sites like the Kastellet and the Little Mermaid statue (Den Lille Havfrue).
You can pick up and drop off the rental bikes at several stations throughout the city. These are electric, high-tech but heavy bikes that are fun for sure but expensive at 25 kr per hour (you’ll need a credit card). Then again, pretty much everything is expensive in Copenhagen.
Thanks to this and other initiatives, Copenhagen is set to become be the world’s first CO2 neutral capital in 2025.
What is your favorite city in Europe to explore by bike?
It seems more and more bike paths and bike rentals pop up around the cities of Europe.
For more inspiration, check Karin’s story about Bicycling in Bratislava on Girl astray.
What place do YOU think should be in the list with the best cities in Europe to explore by bike? Let me know and I might be able to add it!