The colorful houses of Nyhavn, Copenhagen, tempt you to take a springtime bike ride. Credit: Shutterstock

The Best Cities for Cyclists in Europe

The spring sun tickles your face and the air is filled with the scent of flowers. It's time to give that intimate relationship with your sofa a break and venture out into the world again.

Published 03/17/2022 by Lisa Hübener

City trips by bike are the perfect jumpstart to the spring season as they essentially don’t take much. Just a bike, helmet and a well-worn bike path. But finding the right bike-friendly destination that combines exercise and sightseeing isn’t easy. There are plenty of itineraries for long-distance bike rides, but few for city trips. 

The Copenhagenize Index is a good starting point to learn more about a city’s bike infrastructure, safety and density of bike rental stations. But the condition of bike lanes, a good selection of routes and bike repair shops are also important.

We’ve put together the best cities for cyclists to make your exploration a memorable experience. Travel there by bus or train to stay sustainable and have an easy way to transport your two-wheel friend.

Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux isn’t just about full-bodied red wine; it also boasts IG-worthy cycling routes with good infrastructure.

Bordeaux

Start your 11-mile tour along the Garonne at Saint-André Cathedral, which has served as a setting for royal weddings and whose Pey-Berland tower offers a fabulous view over the city. Head to the medieval Cailhau Gate, which was once part of the city walls. From here you can already glimpse the picturesque stone Pont de Pierre, which you’ll cross next. Along the shore, you’ll pass the botanical garden before crossing the Garonne again at Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas. 

Marvel at Cité du Vin, the futuristic wine museum, before visiting the Palais Gallien, an ancient amphitheater from the second century.  End your trip in awe in the historic city center at Place de la Bourse with its world-famous Miroir d’eau.

Bremen, Germany

When it comes to bike-friendly cities, the Hanseatic city of Bremen has the edge over its bigger sister, Hamburg. In the “city of (really) short distances”, bikes are part of the lifestyle, and there’s an exciting story waiting to be discovered at every stop. 

Start at the main train station at the imposing elephant made of clinker brick, marvel at the Art Nouveau buildings of Hohenlohestraße and immerse yourself in the city’s past at the St-Remberti-Stift, a former leprosy hospital. 

Bremen

Through the colorfully decorated Friedenstunnel (piece tunnel), you’ll reach the 80-acre ramparts at the old mill. At the market square nearby sights pile up: the UNESCO-protected town hall, the famous Roland statue, etc. It’s here that you also encounter Bremen’s most iconic site: the Town Musicians of Bremen statue, created for the fairy-tale of the same name. 

After a snack at Ratskeller, a traditional restaurant located in a former city wine cellar, you return to the Middle Ages in the Schnoor district with its cozy alleyways. The last stop is the historic sailing ship on the Schlachte waterfront, made famous by Beck’s beer. 

Copenhagen, Denmark 

Copenhagen has long been considered the “most bike-friendly city in the world.” In addition to a high density of bicycle rental stations, it scores with cycle lanes and free transportation of bikes on the S-Bahn.

Copenhagen

Hop on your rental bike and start at the famous Little Mermaid, probably the smallest landmark in any capital. From here, you’ll pass the Danish National Gallery and Rosenborg Castle with its picturesque pleasure garden. 

Frederik’s Church and Amalienborg Palace are right next door—don’t miss the changing of the guard at noon. The Amalie Garden offers a beautiful view of the Royal Theater and just a few meters away you’ll reach the Nyhavn with its charming cafes and colorful gabled houses. 

Past the former stock exchange, head to Christiansborg Castle with its goblin tapestries. End your tour at the famous Tivoli amusement park or the alternative freetown of Christiania. 

Helsinki, Finland

The Finnish capital boasts around 930 miles of bike paths, including the “Baana,” which connects the city’s districts along a disused railroad line.

Helsinki

Take it easy and start your five-mile tour at Senate Square with the Senate Building, the Cathedral and the University. 

Pass the Presidential Palace and head to the Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral with its 13 gilded domes—don’t miss a look inside. Afterwards, have a snack at Vanha kauppahalli, Helsinki’s oldest market hall, before heading through Esplanadi Park to the expressionist Temppeliaukio rock church. 

The finale is the Sibelius Monument in the north of the city, consisting of more than 600 steel tubes arranged in waves. End your eventful tour here amid the expansive sea-view landscape that inspired Sibelius’ symphonies. 

Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia is a cycling country: Whether it’s a day trip or a cycling tour of several days, you can look forward to beautiful routes through forests and meadows, good paths and little traffic. 

Tallinn

Tallinn is best explored with a two-hour, 10-mile guided tour. Bikes, helmets and safety vests are provided, so you can explore the quaint city in a small group with a guide. 

Marvel at Kadriorg Palace and its opulent park, built by Peter the Great, before continuing at a leisurely pace past the Singers’ Festival Square and along the promenade on the shore of the Baltic Sea to the memorial sites in Maarjamäe.

End your day on the Gulf of Finland or leave your bike behind and discover the medieval old town with its Gothic towers, Hanseatic merchant houses and charming warehouses.

Tip: Combine your visit to Helsinki and Tallinn. Several times a day, the ferry takes you and your bike from one cycle city to the other in just two hours.