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The love story between Europe and bicycles has been going on for ages. Although the cars have taken over at the end of the Second World War, the bikes are gradually coming back to cities, especially in the north of the continent. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Antwerp… some cities are now becoming bicycle-centered, with more and more bike paths and infrastructures built to improve the daily life of two-wheelers. Below you will find our selection of the 11 best cities in Europe where you can cycle safely on vacation.
Note: It is important to distinguish the bike lanes dedicated entirely to bicycles from the bike paths that cyclists share with other vehicles. In this article, when we speak about “cycle facilities”, we include all cycle tracks and lanes, pedestrian streets and roads with a reduced speed limit.
Copenhagen | Denmark
Copenhagen, the undisputed cycling capital of the world, has 400 kilometers of convenient and well-maintained bicycle paths. As a result of fifty years of pro-bike policies, today there are more cyclists than drivers in the city center of the Danish capital! Parking your bike is a child’s play in Copenhagen and stopping at a red light is no less so: there are ramps to hold you. But above all, the city has acquired a worldwide reputation thanks to its Cykelslangen, the “bicycle snake”, a huge bridge reserved exclusively for cyclists. It’s a true paradise for the two-wheelers!
Amsterdam | Netherlands
Among all other European cities, Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, has probably the best scenery for cycling with its small streets winding along its famous canals. In terms of the infrastructure, the city is even ahead of Copenhagen, with nearly 800 km of bike paths! This is not surprising: nearly 60% of the locals use bicycles every day. When you’re on foot, however, beware of the bike traffic when you walk in the center of the Dutch capital, as it can be very dense. Everything is bike-friendly: from traffic lights to speed limits to parking. And there’s more to come: Amsterdam’s town council is planning to remove more than 11,000 car parking spaces and turn them into bicycle parking lots. Great news for you!
Utrecht | Netherlands
As you might have guessed, the Netherlands is the ideal place for cyclists. The fourth largest city in the country, Utrecht, has the largest bicycle parking area in the world: more than 12,000 parking spaces are available at the central station. A ride on the Vredenburgknoop, the main street leading to the medieval center, will convince you that Utrecht has nothing to envy to Copenhagen or Amsterdam. In fact, the street is used daily by more than 30,000 cyclists, The city also has an innovative cycling policy, including smart signage, fast lanes (nearly 250 km of bike paths) and intuitive infrastructure. With a rapidly growing population, it is impossible to go back to a pro-car policy, and luckily so!
Antwerp | Belgium
The city of Antwerp in Belgium now has many bicycle lanes and more is to come. The municipality communicates a lot on the subject. You can even find some suggested itineraries to discover the city on their website. In this regard, intersections, parking lots and signage are being developed and modernized. Cycling accounts for 30% of all trips, and this is probably also due to the very efficient bike rental service in Antwerp with almost 300 stations. If you want to know how it feels to be a cyclist in this city, check out this post on the Bicycle Dutch blog.
Nantes | France
Nantes, the 2013 green capital, has over 500 km of cycling paths. And, like in other French cities, there’s a public bike rental service called Bicloo (120 stations in the agglomeration). With its beautiful streets, Nantes is the ideal starting point for bike rides. From here, you can go biking along the Erdre or the Loire. Check out the 10 itineraries on France vélo tourisme website.
Strasbourg | France
Strasbourg, in Alsace (eastern France), is constantly developing its bicycle network. For years, the city has been adopting policies that aims at gradually pushing the cars out of the city center. It also plans to finalize a 130-km-long network of wide and illuminated bicycle paths that will serve the entire city. And that comes on top of Strasbourg’s already existing network of nearly 600 km of bicycle lanes.
Oslo | Norway
Oslo has had a long history with bicycles, and this relationship is only growing stronger! Local authorities have developed a subsidy policy to encourage businesses and residents to use bicycles. In fact, part of the city center is now closed to all other means of transportation. And the city has recently decided to replace more than 1,000 car parking spaces with parking lots for the two-wheelers!
Bordeaux | France
With over 330 km of cycling paths (and whopping 1,400 km in the whole metropolis) and 13% of trips made by bike, the city of Bordeaux is one of the most “bike-friendly” cities, according to the Copenhagenize 2019 ranking. To further develop its bicycle network, the city decided to close the Stone Bridge to motorized traffic and open new bicycle parking facilities. And with the election of a “green” mayor in June 2020, this pro-bike policy is expected to be expanded even further.
Bremen | Germany
With its picturesque and almost rural vibe, and especially thanks to its intelligent traffic management, Bremen is definitely one of Europe’s cycling capitals. The German city is doing everything it can to turn car drivers into cyclists, and it’s paying off. With almost 700 km of bike lanes and an innovative “bicycle district” concept, opting for a car ride would be actually considered a weird thing to do. If you’re looking to experience Bremen by bike (and know the best roads), check out this article on the website of the city.
Paris | France
Compared to other European cities, the French capital is fairly new to the cycling game, to say the least! For a long time, the cars were everywhere, including on the banks of the Seine. It is now not the case anymore, to the delight of local residents! Between 2015 and 2020, over 150 million euros have been invested to improve the city’s bicycle network. Thanks to the recent developments, 15% of locals now use bikes in Paris. And with the re-election of the socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo, backed by the Green party, this trend is expected to go on.
Helsinki | Finland
Helsinki has adopted a decisive (and quite ambitious) sustainable goal when it comes to local transport. Today, there are over 1,300 km of cycling paths, including 20 km of “cycling highways” (which will soon reach 140 km). The municipality has also frantically developed its self-service bicycle network encouraging sharing initiatives.
“A mid-sized city on the edge of Europe, Helsinki punches far above its weight in the world of urban mobility.” —@CityLab. And not just with #MaaS. Walkable, increasingly bikable, & great trams. Happy to be back working & speaking in #Helsinki this week. https://t.co/J9lNcEy4c6 pic.twitter.com/9QqbpW4oUT— Brent Toderian (@BrentToderian) October 7, 2019
We hope that our selection of the best cities in Europe for cycling has inspired you to plan your next trip. If you think we’ve missed some other great destination for bike aficionados, drop us a line in the comment section!