There are hundreds of options for bike tours in Europe – even if you don’t count just picking a map and freestyling. This might be because cycle touring is a far more common thing to do on holiday in Europe than the UK. You’re much more likely to encounter Germans and Austrians than a fellow Brit on your European bicycle antics. Although their scarcity means that if you do find one, you’re sure to have a long and involved chat about the weather.
The long-distance cycling infrastructure in Europe is expanding and improving each year. And because it’s getting better, more people are hearing about it and wanting to give bike touring in Europe a try. That’s a very positive cycle (ba dum chhhh).
“There are hundreds of options for bike tours in Europe”
We’ve picked out a few European bike tours at each length to help you get started: short trips, longer expeditions, full on missions and then some more extreme inspiration (you know, cycle round the world type people).
Of course, how long it takes you to complete a trip depends on how fast you cycle and how long you spend exploring boulangeries. A common rule of thumb is to allow 60km per day on flattish terrain – so that’s what we’ve used. It allows plenty of time for cycling, unplanned complications and getting distracted by ice cream. If you’re a heads down aero-bars up kind of a person, then you can probably do these much quicker.
Shortish Bike Tours
Expect these tours to require no more than a week or so to complete. You might be able to do them in a long weekend.
Distance: 85 miles / 125 km
Location: Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg
Theme: Flatness is Happiness
The VennBahn is a cheeky little off-road cycle route that is basically a straight line from Aachen in Germany to Luxembourg City. It’s not particularly well known and I came across it very much by accident when cycling around Europe without a GPS.
On the way between Aachen and Luxembourg, my friend and I kept cutting across this incredible flat cycle path, that didn’t appear on any maps. Eventually, curiosity got the better of us and we followed it. Turns out it was going exactly where we wanted to go too. The VennBahn is a lovely, very flat, cycle route along an old railway line.
Danube Cycle Way
Distance: 316 km / 196 miles
Location: Austria and Germany
Theme: Just Around The River Bend
The Danube, between Passau and Vienna, can be cycled in a week – even with children. It was my first cycle tour, on holiday with my family when I was a teenager. If a completely unprepared family of four can manage it, I bet you can too. The route is well tarmaced, well signed and generally flat. There are plenty of places to stay and sights to see along the way.
There are some choices of route, depending on which side of the river you’d prefer to ride. The cycle route continues past Vienna to Budapest, but isn’t anywhere near as well developed. In fact, the route is only a short section of EuroVelo 6, that connects France to Bulgaria.
Tour de Manche
Distance: 435 miles / 700 km
Location: South coast of England and North coast of France
Theme: Performance Enhancing Pastries
The Manche is the French name for the English Channel. So, as you might expect, the Tour de Mache is a cycling loop around the pond, crossing at Plymouth-Roscoff and Poole-Cherbourg.
If you’re new to European bike tours, it might be fun to start in the UK to ease yourself into things. You’ll pass lots of coastal villages and castles, maybe even get to relax on a beach. It’s also the kind of route that, if you’re inclined, can be knocked off in a long weekend by a bunch of lads in lycra carrying just a credit card and a bottle of water between them.