You can’t beat the simple bicycle for exploring a new destination. In recent years efforts to become greener have led to an abundance of cycle lanes and bike rental and share schemes in many towns and cities, meaning it has never been easier to take to two wheels and escape bus timetables, parking meters, busy pavements and crowded trains. Here are some of the best break destinations for cycling adventures.
County Mayo, Ireland
This stunning county is home to the 42km Great Western Greenway, the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland. The Greenway is a traffic free cycling and walking trail which follows the route of the renowned Westport to Achill railway which closed in 1937. Start the trail in Westport, one of the official access points and cycle through the towns of Newport and Mulranny before finishing in Achill. Take some time from here to explore the Deserted Village at Slievemore which consists of around 100 stone cottages that are a haunting reminder of times of the past. Westport Coast Hotel sits on the waterfront in the bustling Quay village at Westport.
Berlin has recently invested a lot of capital into promoting bicycle use, creating a mapping website to help cyclists choose specific routes on how to get to work or other destinations. Berlin is great for cyclists who want to explore both the city and the countryside with plenty to see in the surrounding areas from castles and rivers through to vineyards and Europe’s largest inland beach.
Visit Berlin on a Contiki tour of Berlin and Prague. Bike tours of central Berlin include routes that pass the famous Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie and Berlin Wall.
This charming medieval town sits on the startlingly turquois Lac d’Annecy with a phenomenal mountain backdrop. Whilst the town’s pretty houses and a turreted castle can be explored in a few hours a bike is required to really take advantage of this beautiful spot in the French Alps. Cycle around the lake, one of Europe’s purest, in a day stopping for lunch and a swim, before returning to town to one of the canal-side restaurants for mouth-watering Savoyard specialties.
From the UK fly out to Geneva and take a short 45 minute drive to the town. The Hotel de Nord has clean, comfortable rooms and supplies a good breakfast.
The stunning county of Yorkshire is going cycling-mad at the moment with the Tour de France set to start in Leeds before taking in the outstanding scenery and peaceful atmosphere of the Yorkshire Dales. Although you won’t be competing in the world’s premier cycle race, sticking to the tracks, country lanes and cycle paths doesn’t mean missing out on the county’s fantastic biking opportunities. Road cyclists, tourers and those who just want to take it easy and enjoy the view are well catered for too. Quiet country roads, byways and a vast network of cycle paths means it’s easy to see the best of Yorkshire from your saddle.
Stay in one of the luxury cabins in Keldy or Cropton run by Forest Holidays. Both sites offer bike hire and information on routes throughout the forest and surrounding area.
Winner of the European Green City for 2014, Copenhagen is busy trying to reach its goal of being CO2 neutral by 2025. Whilst 32% of the city’s residents commute by bike every day, visitors can take advantage of free bike rentals (with your deposit being returned when you return your bike) and advanced schemes like GoBike that allow you to reserve bikes via smartphone and get around via GPS navigation.
If you would like to refresh yourself after a day’s cycling, try staying at the d’Angleterre which has a complimentary spa for guests.
With its beautiful wine and food, Tuscany is undoubtedly a popular choice for any holiday, but the rolling hills and valleys, scattered with medieval architecture and ancient villages, perfectly lends itself to be explored by bike. With warm weather in the off-peak seasons, the Tuscan countryside is a fantastic peaceful alternative to the bustling streets of Rome, although visitors can still visit the famous Tuscan cities of Siena and Florence if they want to experience a slice of Italian city life.
Hotel Le Fontanelle offers complimentary mountain bikes to their guests, a great way to explore the best of the countryside surrounding Siena, including the picturesque olive groves and vineyards.
Europe’s most famous bike loving city, a trip to Amsterdam is not complete without hiring a bicycle. Cycling is also the safest and easiest way to see this exciting city. Expect excellent art museums and design shops alongside wooden drawbridges, houseboats and canals, as well as dope selling coffee shops and the famous sights of the red light district.
For those seeking a fun-filled getaway all this can be reached in just over an hour from London City Airport. The Andaz Amsterdam Hotel on Prinsengracht sits on one of the city’s loveliest canals and has free bikes for guests to use.
A more recent addition to the cycle friendly cities list, Budapest has in recent years invested in growing its infrastructure of cycle lanes to 200kms of pathways, which the Hungarian capital aims to increase to 300kms by 2015.
Guided tours are becoming a popular way to see the city’s UNESCO world heritage sites and scenic areas of Buda Hills, Margaret Island and Szentendre, which sits next to the Danube River with its inviting curvy streets and tiny houses. For a spot of luxury stay in The Boscolo.
Ghent has a great cycling culture, with cyclists being given right of way by motorists and plenty of canal side bike paths to explore. A small city with a big character, it also boasts impressive architecture, some of Belgium’s most interesting museums and numerous quirky bars. There’s plenty of important buildings from the Middle Ages, such as the Belfry (with the best city view), St. Nicolas Church and St Bavo’s Cathedral, home to the ‘most stolen artwork in the world’ (The Adoration Of The Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers). Stay in comfort in the stylish Hotel de Flandre.
If you have kids that are history or Harry Potter fans then Oxford is a great place to explore by bike. There are plenty of designated cycle paths in the city centre making it easy to tick off the many college and university buildings and explore the locations where the memorable Harry Potter scenes were filmed. The surrounding countryside also makes for a pleasant day trip; cycle along the Thames and try the Phoenix Trail which runs out to the beautiful countryside of The Chilterns.
Keep the imagination fired up by staying in the Malmaison Oxford, a boutique hotel housed in a former prison.
Cycling in this big, frenetic city is not for the fainthearted cyclist but braver two-wheel adventurers will be rewarded with 231 miles of scenic bike lanes. Paris has 20,000 bikes covering the city in its sharing scheme Vélib and bike stations located every 300 metres. From the Eiffel Tower to the Champs Elysées, the Louvre and the magical Sacré Coeur, the entire city can be explored by bike. For some of the best views in the city try Terrass Hotel.