What if there was a healthier, less expensive and more sustainable way to travel? A way to explore new cities on your own schedule, immerse yourself in adventure, and keep that holiday waistline in check while you’re at it?
Cycling can be a great way to explore overseas, and there are no better places for it than these eight cycle-friendly cities. Let's dive into what they offer to travellers and some insider tips to make your two-wheeled trip an unforgettable success.
1. Copenhagen, Denmark
Best for: Architecture, dining and dazzling theme parks.
Every two years, an urban consultancy named the Copenhagenize Design Co. release a comprehensive study that ranks the bicycle friendliness of almost 150 cities around the world. It comes as no surprise that Copenhagen, Denmark’s charming capital and home to the consultancy, consistently ranks in the top two.
The city is almost as famous for its bike friendliness as it is for its Michelin star restaurants, beautiful architecture and Tivoli Gardens. Plentiful bike lanes, bridges and well-designed cycling superhighways make the city the perfect place to explore on two wheels.
Insider tip: An estimated half of all Copenhageners cycle to work, so peak hour traffic on the cycleways can be busy and fast. Avoid these times to take in the sights at a slower pace.
2. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Best for: Cafe hopping, arts and culture.
In a country that has more bikes than people, the 22,000 miles of cycle lanes in the Netherlands get a real workout. The tourist mecca of Amsterdam is no different, with commuters, travellers and tour guides all riding alongside each other through the picturesque streets.
Insider tip: Bike theft is rampant in Amsterdam, which can leave unsuspecting travellers out of pocket and out of a ride. Always ensure you lock your bike securely to a solid object and keep it in sight where possible. Many public areas have guarded bike stations, where you can safely store your bike for a small fee.
3. Berlin, Germany
Best for: Bier, bratwurst and beautiful architecture.
Another of Europe’s top tourist destinations, Berlin is also a consistent performer on the Copenhagenize Bicycle-friendly Cities Index. The move towards more sustainable transport has been supported by recent government legislation, meaning that cyclists have no shortage of room to soak in the city on two wheels.
Insider tip: Berlin can be busy with motor traffic, so always ensure you check for cars who may be obstructing bike lanes by turning at intersections, parking or opening their doors.
4. Tokyo, Japan
Best for: Picturesque parks and soaring skylines.
You may not associate one of the busiest cities in the world with a relaxing bike ride, however Tokyo is making ground as a popular destination for adventurous cyclists. A reported 20% of the metropolitan area’s 20 million rail commuters cycle to the train station, and neighbourhoods beyond the CBD are well-suited to cycling.
Insider tip: A bike tour can be a great way to explore Tokyo’s many sights and sounds, and Sunday is the best day to avoid bustling commuters.
5. San Francisco, USA
Best for: Bucket list sights and challenging hills.
In 2010, San Francisco had no protected bike lanes, but a pledge to invest $112m in to cycle-related improvements by the year 2021 has resulted in a number of lanes popping up across the city. Travellers can now cruise in confidence down to popular sights like Golden Gate Park, Twin Peaks and across the Golden Gate Bridge on the Hawk Hill Loop bike trail.
Insider tip: San Francisco Bay Area laws require that cyclists always keep one ear free from distractions, which means that if you’re listening to music or taking a call, you must leave one earbud out.
6. Bordeaux, France
Best for: Rolling hills and world class wines.
Renowned for its scenery and adored for its wine, Bordeaux is one of the most picturesque places to explore on two wheels. Charming cycle routes like the Canal des Deux Mers will appeal to cyclists with a taste for beautiful countryside, and there are plenty of others to explore on the Bordeaux Tourism website.
Insider tip: While it might be tempting, cycling to and from your wine tastings is definitely not recommended. Remember, your travel insurance may not cover you if you have an accident while under the influence of alcohol.
7. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Best for: A lively cultural experience and unique cycling holiday.
One of the few cycle-friendly cities that doesn’t fall within Europe, Buenos Aires has delighted travellers in recent years with its plentiful bike lanes, public gardens and eco reserves. The Argentine capital also boasts some serene riverside cycleways like the Costanera Norte, where you’ll pass local fisherman, food trucks and beachside clubs.
Insider tip: Buenos Aires is a bustling city and doesn’t have the same level of cycling infrastructure as other cities on this list. Take it slow, give way and always wear a helmet!
8. Seville, Spain
Best for: Plazas, parks and river views.
Seville is another scenic stunner, with meandering city streets, impressive plazas and public parks. An ambitious cycleways project has transformed this picturesque Spanish city into one of the most bike-friendly regions in the country.
Insider tip: Cyclists in Spain must abide by local laws, including wearing reflective clothing between sunrise and sunset, or in low visibility conditions. Check with the rental shop about other considerations you should follow.
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