Adventure Cycling & Cycle Touring

Bike Tours In Europe | An Essential Guide

When it comes to bike tours in Europe, your options are almost endless. We've selected some of our very favourites to help inspire your next big cycling adventure

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.


Pictured: Aerial view of the trees near Aachen

Distance: 85 miles / 125 km

Ascent: 780m

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.

For more on the VennBahn, head here

Danube Cycle Way

Pictured: Cycling and running route next to the Danube

Distance: 316 km / 196 miles

Ascent:  200m

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.

For more on the Danube Cycle Path, head here

Tour de Manche

Pictured: The harbour at Cherbourg, Normandy

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. 

For more on the Tour De Manche, head here

Medium Bike Tours

These European cycle routes will take most people around the two week mark to complete. Perfect for a longer adventure.

Rhine Route

Pictured: Oberwesel on the middle Rhine In Germany

Distance: 1500 km / 930 miles

Location: Switzerland, Germany, France, Netherlands

Theme: “It’s All Downhill from Here”

The Rhine Cycle Tour, also known as EV15, tracks the 1200 km of the Rhine as closely as it can, from its source in the Swiss mountains to the North Sea. Although, purists will have to ditch the bike and hike up to Lake Toma for the official Rhine start point (well worth it).

The route is a curious mix of rural and industrial, cities and villages. You’ll watch the Rhine expand from a clear mountain stream to an enormous river full of cruise ships and barges. Although it’s technically downhill all the way, the reality is a lot more lumpy. 

For more on the Rhine Route, head here

Jura Route

Pictured: Lake Geneva, a significant natural landmark on the Jura Route

Distance: 700km / 430 miles

Ascent: 7000m

Location: Switzerland

Theme: Lakes and Forests

For lovers of big hills and smooth tarmac, the Jura Route in Switzerland is right up there with the best European bike tours. Almost entirely on roads and incredibly well signed, you can relax into it and enjoy the ride (except when you’re slogging up an alpine pass).

This route is a loop, starting and finishing in Geneva, so you know you’ll win back every climb in a speedy descent at the end. If some 17 km of downhill to the finish line isn’t enough, there’s also alpine meadows, pine forests and an inordinate amount of cheese.

For more on the Jura Route, head here

Route des Grandes Alpes

Pictured: A snaking, stunning, road in the French Alps

Distance: 682 km / 433 miles

Ascent: 12,314 m

Location: France

Theme: Alpine Passes

Fancy yourself in the Tour de France? The Route des Grandes Alpes is something of a monster bike tour from Geneva to Monaco. There are no fewer than 16 passes to be tackled as you cross the French Alps, requiring quads of steel – or a lot of patience pushing your bike uphill.

Better still, you’re cycling towards the sea and the hot sand of the Cote d’Azur. The route is entirely on roads and steeped in cycling history.

For more on the Route des Grandes Alpes

Long Bike Tours in Europe

Pictured: An adventurous mountain biker up in the Dolomites

If a week or so isn’t enough to scratch your manic adventure itch, there are still plenty of options on the cards. A huge number of bike tours in Europe have been joined up and connected into the Eurovelo Network. You can browse the map, pick places that sound interesting or take on the whole of a themed route.

If that’s not enough, investigate specific countries – or don’t plan anything and buy a one-way ticket and a road atlas. This is exactly how I ended up cycling across France using mostly the angle of the sun to navigate.

Most European countries have some cycling provision, although not all of them shout about it – from the renowned but extremely confusing numbered signpost system in the Netherlands, to the empty gravel tracks in Germany. You might find you want to go off-piste from a standard bike tour and that’s great too. These are only starting points.

Even More Inspiration

Finally, if you’re still looking for inspiration, there are lots of cycling folk to check out on the internet. Many people have cycled around the world and you can borrow from the European part of their route.

Some circumnavigators include Al Humphreys, Leon McCarron, Mark Beaumont, Jenny Graham and Vedangi Kulkarni. Tim and Laura Moss not only did that and wrote a book about it, they also give out small grants for adventures and organise the Cycle Touring Festival.

“Between 2015 and 2018, Ed Pratt cycled around the world on a unicycle”

On the records front, Sean Conway cycled across Europe from Portugal to Russia in just under 25 days.

If none of the above has caught your eye, you’re a difficult person to impress. Here’s our last curveball suggestion, an idea that might, just maybe, inspire your next adventure. Between 2015 and 2018, Ed Pratt cycled around the world on a unicycle. Yes, a unicycle!

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