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 Baltic states, although the capitals like Tallinn have good networks. In rural areas, cycling infrastructure is less developed, but there are scenic rural roads and dedicated cycling routes.
The cycling infrastructure in Belgium is generally considered to be good, with a well-developed network of bike lanes and dedicated cycle paths in cities and towns. The country is known for its love of cycling, with a long history of competitive cycling and a high level of participation in recreational cycling.
- 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 larger cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki, cycling infrastructure is generally sparse and inconsistent, with few dedicated bike lanes or paths. Outside of the larger cities, cycling infrastructure is even more limited, with few dedicated bike paths or lanes and limited awareness of cycling as a viable mode of transportation. However, there are some cycling routes in scenic areas such as Crete, Corfu, and the Peloponnese that cater to tourists. One issue facing cyclists in Greece is a lack of respect from drivers, who may not be accustomed to sharing the road with bicycles. This can make cycling feel unsafe and intimidating.
The road conditions in the Icelandic countryside can be difficult, with gravel roads, rough terrain, and variable weather conditions. It's important to have a suitable bike with appropriate tires, and be prepared for potentially difficult road surfaces. Reykjavík has good cycle provision.
Although there are pockets of well-developed cycling infrastructure in certain Italian cities, such as Turin, Bologna, and Milan, many cities lack dedicated bike lanes or cycleways, making it difficult for people to cycle safely and comfortably. The overall quality and accessibility of bike lanes and cycleways is inconsistent across the country.
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.
Poland has little tradition of cycling infrastructure in cities. Except for a few examples (most notably cities of Nowe Tychy built in the 70’s and Nowa Huta built in the 50’s), no cycling infrastructure has ever been constructed. However, today Polish cities offer an extensive network of cycling lanes and public bike rentals. The recent investments in biking infrastructure have made Poland a perfect destination for biking in Europe. If you wish to enjoy Poland’s countryside by bike, there are numerous trails in every region.
Cycling infrastructure in Portugal outside of the largest cities is generally limited and underdeveloped, although there are some notable exceptions. As of 2023, cycling facilities are improving in Lisbon. In smaller towns and rural areas, cycling is not typically a primary mode of transportation, and there are few dedicated cycling paths or lanes. Instead, cyclists often share the road with motor vehicles, which can be dangerous and intimidating for inexperienced or casual cyclists.
Major cities like Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca have developed some bike lanes and paths, but the overall network is limited and not well connected. In rural areas, there are few dedicated bike lanes and cyclists often have to share the road with vehicles.
In many areas of Russia, cyclists share the road with motorized traffic, and there may not be separate cycling lanes or paths. In some areas, cyclists may ride on sidewalks, especially if there are no designated cycling lanes or paths available. Russia has some cycling paths that are separate from main roads, but they may not be as extensive or well-maintained compared to other countries. These paths can be found in urban areas, parks, or along riverbanks, and are often used for recreational cycling.
Roads in the Serbian countryside may not always be well-maintained or have dedicated cycling infrastructure. Some rural roads may be unpaved or poorly maintained, which can make cycling more difficult and potentially dangerous.
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 safe and well-signposted cycling routes throughout the whole country. Maps and information are available on the government supported homepage schweizmobil.ch. The routes are inter-connected so you can do trips for several days or even weeks. They lead through picturesque landscapes, mostly on small roads with low or no traffic so they are generally safe 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.