Most Western and Central European countries have well-developed tourist routes, in addition to commuter cycling in cities.
While the old towns in Europe were not built for cycling, the bike had a golden age during the first half of the 20th century; in particular during the fuel shortages of the world wars. The second half of the century saw the rise of the car. Due to congestion, increased driving costs and environmental awareness, the bicycle now sees a renaissance in Europe. The Covid-19 Pandemic has reinforced this trend in many places with lockdowns drastically reducing the numbers of motorcars in the streets and a shift from public transit to cycling encouraging politicians of all stripes to re-allocate urban space from driving to bikes.
Europe is developing an international network of touring routes, known as EuroVelo. These often follow existing national routes, but bring them together to make thematic and very long journeys, such as the North Sea Route, which takes in the coastlines of the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Norway. The furthest destination east is Moscow. Route 2, the Capitals Route, starts in Galway, Ireland and travels through Dublin, London, Berlin, Warsaw and Minsk before arriving in Moscow.
- EV 1: Atlantic Coast Route North Cape - Sagres. 8,186 km (5,087 mi)
- EV 3: Pilgrims Route Trondheim - Santiago de Compostela. 5,122 km (3,183 mi)
- EV 5: Via Romea Francigena London - Rome and Brindisi. 3,900 km (2,400 mi)
- EV 7: Sun Route North Cape - Malta. 7,409 km (4,604 mi)
- EV 9: Amber Route (Baltic Sea to Adriatic Sea) Gdańsk - Pula. 1,930 km (1,200 mi)
- EV 11: East Europe Route North Cape - Athens. 5,984 km (3,718 mi)
- EV 13: Iron Curtain Trail Barents Sea – Black Sea. 10,400 km (6,500 mi)
- EV 15: Rhine Route Andermatt – Hook of Holland. 1,320 km (820 mi)
- EV 2: Capitals Route: Galway–Moscow. 5,500 km (3,400 mi)
- EV 4: Central Europe Route: Roscoff–Kyiv. 4,000 km (2,500 mi)
- EV 6: Atlantic Ocean to Black Sea: Nantes - Constanta. This route includes the Loire Valley and Danube routes. 4,448 km (2,764 mi)
- EV 8: Mediterranean Route: Cádiz - Athens and Cyprus. 5,888 km (3,659 mi)
- EV 10: Baltic Sea Cycle Route: (Hansa circuit) 7,980 km (4,960 mi)
- EV 12: North Sea Cycle Route [formerly dead link]: 5,932 km (3,686 mi)
Countries and regions
The picture is mixed in the former Soviet Baltic states, although the capitals like Tallinn have good networks.
- Main article: Cycling in Denmark
Cycling in Denmark is very popular for recreation and commuting, and is often compared to that of the Netherlands. Because of this (or perhaps the other way around) Denmark has a quite extensive bicycle infrastructure, including a network of nationally appreciated bicycle routes extending more than 12,000 km (7,500 mi). In comparison Denmark's famous coastline is only approx. 7,500 km (4,500 mi)!
Finland has generally good cycling in and around the cities, often with exception of parts of the centre. In the countryside you can often find suitable quiet routes, but sometimes this requires some effort. Not all major roads allow safe biking. Biking routes for tourists are being developed in several areas and sometimes there are bikers' maps available. Biking off road is regarded as part of the right to access, but biking may cause erosion or other harm, so choose your route with consideration and lead the bike at sensitive sections. Bikes are available for rent in most towns and can be taken on buses and trains for a fee, without any packing. In the snowy season bike lanes are well maintained in some towns, in others very much not so. Biking next to cars in winter is not recommended in busy streets and on major roads.
There are some stunning officially marked leisure routes, that take in many of France's well-known landscapes, like the La Loire à Vélo. Some others are:
- La Vélo Francette brings you from Normandy to the Atlantic Ocean through cute countryside.
- La Vélodyssée is the longest maintained cycling route, 1200 kilometers all along the Atlantic Ocean.
- La Véloscénie from Paris to the Mont Saint-Michel.
- La ViaRhona from the Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean Sea.
- L'Avenue Verte London - Paris from Paris to London or vice versa.
- Le Canal des 2 Mers à vélo from Royan to Sète
The official website France Vélo Tourisme presents every marked route in France and provides advice and details to prepare your bicycle trip in France
- Main article: Cycling in Germany
Cycling is popular in Hamburg, and university towns support cycling. There are tens of thousands of kilometers of cycling routes in all of Germany, including the Berlin-Copenhagen Cycle Route, the Elbe Cycle Route, and the Rheinradweg.
In Europe, the Netherlands are the most famous for cycling, with Amsterdam famous for its bikes. Routes can be found on the official website for recreational cycling in the Netherlands.
Norway may not seem like a natural cycling destination, but it has some well-developed routes, which take you through some spectacular scenery and along the coastline. Wild camping is permitted in Norway, which makes some of the routes easier.
In Portugal, cycling facilities are improving in Lisbon.
Facilities are developing well in parts of Spain, especially cities, and major roads have a standard cycling reservation. Drivers are generally polite to cyclists.
- Main article: Cycling in Sweden
Most Swedish cities have separate bike/pedestrian paths or lanes. Quality is generally adequate but worse than for example Netherlands and Denmark. Many bike facilities focus on providing a car-free route for children, but may not be designed for speeds above 15 km/h. Some cities (esp Stockholm) have cycle lanes more adapted for adult vehicular cycling. Bike route signage is generally lacking but is improving in many cities (Stockholm, Gothenburg and Lund have mostly good signage).
- Main article: Cycling in Switzerland
Switzerland is a great country for leisure cycling. There is a large network of save and well-signposted cycling routes through the whole country. Maps and information about it is available on the government supported homepage veloland.ch. The routes are connected so you can do trips for several days or even weeks. They lead through picturesque landscapes, mostly on specific cycling paths or small roads with little traffic, so they’re save even for kids and families.
Cycling in the United Kingdom is quite good for leisure routes, with a national network developed and signposted by Sustrans. Some routes follow former railways. Cycling is good in some cities, especially Oxford and Cambridge. London has a network of cycle routes, although they are not as safe or pleasant as a city like Amsterdam. In general, UK city cycling is well below average for Europe. By contrast, rural cycling can be a pleasure.
If you are considering touring in the United Kingdom, it's worth considering buying the maps and guides produced by Sustrans to accompany the national routes they have helped develop. The routes themselves can be found on Open Cycle Map, but Sustrans' guides are helpful for nearby places to stay or visit.
Many major European cities now have bike-sharing schemes. As most of these schemes are government subsidized (unlike their counterparts in North America) they are often very cheap and worth trying out even for travelers. Furthermore, many systems are integrated with one another. A "nextbike-card" from Dresden for example can be used in Nuremberg or the Ruhr area as well as several other countries.
Online routing and mapping
There are increasing numbers of ways to find routes for cycling. OpenCycleMap includes many details of many national, regional and local cycle routes. Many smartphone mapping apps include options to show cycle routes on their mapping. Specialist web sites are available to design routes more appropriate to cyclists (e.g. preferring quieter roads and fewer and lower hills) for example cycle.travel.