Drauradweg near the city of Völkermarkt

Cycling Europe: the top 10 European bicycle routes [2024]

Bicycle tourism in Europe ranks among the most popular ways to spend leisure time. In most European countries, long-distance cycling routes are situated on comfortable and safe bike paths, well away from motor vehicle traffic. In other areas, cycling tourists make use of public roads with limited access and various other surfaces suitably prepared for biking. Discover our best cycling trips across Europe - these are ready-made suggestions for spending cycling holidays or a few days off on Europe's excellent bike routes.

Cycling Partners

Bicycle panniers and trailers
Cycling tourism in Brandenburg
Burgundy by bike
Image
Alpe-Adria Bicycle Route

Here's the top ten, the best tourist cycling routes that we've explored across Europe. You'll find a description of each below. Click on the link to access a comprehensive guide complete with maps, a record of our journey, and numerous essential details about each route:

 

Image
Former railway bridge on the Alpe-Adria route in Italy
Alpe-Adria Bicycle Route in Italy
Back to top

Alpe-Adria Bike Route (Alpe-Adria Radweg) - Austria, Italy

Alpe-Adria is one of the most popular routes in various European bike route rankings. Besides the Alpine landscapes admired from the river valleys of Salzburg and Carinthia, a significant highlight is the approximately 60-kilometer bike route section utilizing disused railway infrastructure on the edge of the Julian Alps. The bike route here passes through several tunnels, a few railway bridges, and some old train stations converted into roadside bars and restaurants for cyclists. The Italian segment is very interesting from a sightseeing perspective, with the cities telling stories of Italy's history - modern, medieval, and even dating back 1600 years.

Image
Alpe-Adria Bicycle Route in Italy

The transalpine Alpe-Adria spans 415 kilometers, running through Salzburg Land and Carinthia in Austria and Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy. Starting in the medieval old town of Salzburg, it passes through Bischofshofen, known for ski jumping competitions, climbs the challenging ascent to Bad Gastein, goes through a tunnel under the High Tauern, and then through picturesque Carinthia to Villach, where popular Austrian bike routes intersect. Later, it crosses the Austrian-Italian border and, along the edge of the Julian Alps, on beautiful bike paths over the former railway line and in an increasingly Mediterranean climate, leads through Gemona del Friuli and Udine to Grado, on the warm waters of the Adriatic Sea.

More: Alpe-Adria Bike Route in Austria and Italy

 

Image
Rhein Bicycle Route in Switzerland
Rhine Bike Route in Switzerland
Back to top

Rhine Cycle Route (Rhein-Route) - Switzerland

Ranked second on our list of the best bike routes in Europe is Switzerland, with the fascinating Rhine Cycle Route. Part of the EuroVelo 15 European bike route, it takes about seven days to complete. The cycling journey along the Rhine passes through four different types of landscapes - starting with a typically Alpine setting, then a wide river valley, followed by a stretch along Lake Constance, and finally spending the last kilometers in another, more natural river valley. Among the places visited are Chur, Arbon, Schaffhausen, Stein am Rhein, and Basel. All in all, it's a huge dose of cycling and scenic thrills against the backdrop of Switzerland's natural landscapes.

Image
Female cyclists on the Rhine Cycle Route in Switzerland
Rhine Bike Route in Switzerland

Apart from the first dozen kilometers of ascent and descent from the Oberalp Pass, which were on general traffic roads, most of the Rhine Cycle Route runs almost entirely on bike paths isolated from car traffic, limited to residents. Sections on public roads belonging to the official course of the Rhine Cycle Route were rare, of course, due to the desire to provide cyclists with as much comfort and safety as possible. Most of the route was asphalted, though there were sometimes even long gravel sections, mainly along the Rhine between Chur and Lake Constance.

More: Rhine Cycle Route in Switzerland

 

Image
Loire Valley cycling route in France
Loire by Bike in France
Back to top

Loire by Bike (La Loire à Vélo) - Loire Valley, France

The Loire Valley Bike Route in France is another of the most famous and popular bike routes in Europe that we had the opportunity to ride. The route connecting Orleans, Blois, Amboise, Tours, and Angers leads along safe bike paths, both asphalt and gravel, as well as public roads. Its popularity among cyclists from all over Europe is due to the historical and scenic attractiveness of the route, which leads through well-preserved castles and palaces as well as other historic buildings of various origins, architectural styles, and current uses. Cyclists enjoy numerous amenities, including a well-developed accommodation base friendly to cyclists.

Image
A cycling family on the Loire route in France
Loire by Bike in France

The scenic attractiveness of the Loire route is also influenced by the diversity of its palatial and castle buildings: from small, intimate structures, which can be viewed alone or in small groups, to huge castles with crowds of tourists, learning about centuries of French history. We started our journey in the small Sully-sur-Loire and then visited more famous palaces, castles, and fortresses in Blois, Amboise, Chaumont, Chinon, Langeais, Villandry, Chambord, and Angers. Their impressive interiors full of French history, references to the history of other countries, castle gardens, and finally cafes and restaurants, can be an opportunity for even a fortnight-long stay on a bike in France.

More: Loire by Bike in France

 

Image
Mirrors above the Drava - an art installation
Drava Bike Route in Carinthia
Back to top

Drava Bike Route (Drauradweg) - Carinthia, Austria

The Drau River Bike Route (Drauradweg in German) is about 500 kilometers of cycling adventure on prepared - partly asphalt, partly gravel - bike paths, separated from car traffic. It is one of only four bike routes in Europe with the highest quality rating from the German ADFC. The Drau Route starts in the town of Toblach with panoramas of the Dolomites in the background. From South Tyrol, the route runs through East Tyrol and Carinthia, and then reaches Slovenia and Croatia. The largest place on the route is Villach, a city that is a hub of major, popular bike routes crossing Austria.

Image
Drauradweg near the city of Völkermarkt
Drava Bike Route in Carinthia

I proposed to our team a modification of the Drau ride with a "special section" over the more than 300 meters higher Weissensee. On the one hand, I was guided by the desire to make the ride through Carinthia more attractive, and on the other hand, I still have great memories from Weissensee from last year when we rode the Great Carinthian Lakes Loop in Carinthia, part of which is a ride through this area. The remaining basic course of the Drauradweg did not require additional modifications. The landscapes first of the Italian South Tyrol, then of the Austrian East Tyrol, and then of Carinthia, performed excellently as a silent animator of the cycling expedition, directing our gaze to ever new natural images around the bike route.

More: Drava Bike Route in Austria

 

Image
Bicycle Lakes Route in Switzerland
Lakes Route in Switzerland
Back to top

Lakes Route (Seen Route) - Switzerland

The Lakes Route is one of the nine main bike routes in Switzerland. The bike route through the beautiful lakes of Switzerland is called "Switzerland from a postcard", as in addition to about ten lakes, the 500-kilometer route also visits picturesque Werdenberg, beautiful Lucerne under the characteristic Pilatus, the uniquely located Iseltwald on Lake Brienzersee, the land of famous Gruyère cheese, and the UNESCO-listed Lavaux vineyards on Lake Geneva. In our interpretation of the Cycling Lakes Route, Zurich and Lausanne also appeared, which served us as the start and end of a beautiful cycling trip through Switzerland.

Image
Cycling road over the Lake of Four Cantons
Lakes Route in Switzerland

We allocated six days to cover the approximately 350 kilometers of the Lakes Route, including the first day spent exploring Zurich. That's at least two days too few. We would like to stay longer in Lucerne and Lausanne to see more attractions. After all, Switzerland is an extremely interesting country, full of both contemporary attractions and carefully preserving regional traditions and monuments. However, planning stages of an average length of about 70 kilometers per day, ultimately determined by available accommodations, was a good move. That's just how much we usually ride while visiting interesting places along the way while remaining at a reasonable level of physical effort.

More: Lakes Route in Switzerland

 

Image
Mainradweg - bicycle route in Franconia
Main River Bike Route in Franconia
Back to top

Main River Bike Route (Main-Radweg) - Franconia, Germany

MainRadweg, the bike route along the Main River, is the second most popular cycling route in Germany. It's an excellent choice for those seeking a blend of cycling activity with both historical and culinary experiences. Two UNESCO-listed sites - Bamberg and Würzburg, along with the beautiful Bayreuth and dozens of charming towns, satisfy even the most discerning cycling enthusiasts. The entire route, stretching about 600 kilometers, could be a pretext for a 10-day stay in Franconia, mostly spent on riverside bike paths. Stays along the Main are also enhanced by vineyards or breweries, depending on the part of Franconia visited - the "wine" or "beer" regions.

Image
Cycling through Miltenberg along the Main
Main River Bike Route in Franconia

Always thinking that a week-long journey along a river valley could quickly become monotonous, I had never embarked on such a cycling trip before. However, the Main Valley quickly dispelled these concerns, frequently changing its face and donning various riverside guises. The most impressive were undoubtedly the vineyard stretches, with rows of grapevines stretching to the horizon. Others, with flat beds and sloping sides, reminded me of a velodrome. Some sections resembled mountain river gorges, especially when we passed under red sandstone cliffs, a popular local building material.

More: Main River Bike Route in Franconia

 

Image
Cycling through Trentino
Bicycle routes in Trentino
Back to top

Bicycle routes in Trentino - Italy

The cycling paths in the Italian province of Trentino form a 400-kilometer loop, offering inspiration for a week-long journey through this beautiful region of Italy. The bike paths in Trentino run through the Adige Valley, which splits the region in two, and through famous Alpine valleys like Val di Fiemme and Val di Sole, with one of the loop's sections skirting the northern end of the renowned Lake Garda. Among the attractions on Trentino's bike paths are former mountain roads and disused railway tunnels converted into uniquely original bike paths. Trento, the capital of the Trentino province, is the perfect starting and ending point for a cycling expedition.

Image
Tourist cycling route in the Dolomites
Bicycle routes in Trentino

Cycling along the Adige, part of the beautiful transalpine bike route Via Claudia Augusta, I was treated to magnificent views all the way to Rovereto. Accompanied by Italian cyclists, sometimes other bike tourists, and with the Adige by my side, I soaked up the ambiance of Trentino. Decorative information boards marked the route, aesthetic mileposts indicated the distance, and well-prepared rest areas tempted me to stop for a break frequently. The entire cycling kingdom of Trentino shares the same graphic design for information boards, mileposts, and the marking and designation of bike paths through the Dolomites.

More: Trentino - Bicycle Routes in Italy

 

Image
Northern Germany: Baltic Sea, rapeseed and bicycles
Baltic Sea Cycle Route in Northern Germany
Back to top

Baltic Sea Cycle Route (Ostseeküsten-Radweg) - Northern Germany

The Ostseeküsten-Radweg, or the Baltic Sea Cycle Route in Northern Germany, is a proven option for a multi-day, summer expedition. Lübeck can be the starting point, and Świnoujście in Poland the endpoint. Many sections running along the coastal line, along beautiful sandy Baltic beaches, give the trip a distinct seaside character. Cities of the former Hanseatic League, including Lübeck (with the European Hanseatic Museum worth seeing), Wismar, Rostock, and Stralsund, ensure intriguing historical attractions. I particularly recommend cycling to the Baltic Sea in spring and winter, outside the summer peak season.

Image
Paths of the Baltic Sea Cycle Route
Baltic Sea Cycle Route in Northern Germany

The overlap of the European EuroVelo 10 route around the Baltic with the German bike route along the Baltic Sea was especially interesting due to the commencement of the EV 10 route in Poland. The project, inaugurated in Gdańsk, aims to bring a cycling product of equal quality to Polish bicycle tourism as its German counterpart. The bar has been set incredibly high by the Germans, as the section of the Baltic bike highway in Germany we cycled is not only a beautifully preserved, natural seaside landscape but also a well-executed bike route with very interesting sightseeing attractions along the way. Will the Pomeranian regional government leading the project manage to match the Germans?

More: The Baltic Sea Coast Cycle Route in Germany

 

Image
Drava Bike Path with Karawanks in the background
Great Carinthian Lake Loop in Carinthia
Back to top

Great Carinthian Lake Loop (Große Kärnten Seen-Schleife) - Carinthia, Austria

This cycling novelty in the touristic offer of Carinthia, one of Austria's most beautiful regions, allows you to circumnavigate Carinthia in a few days, following the route of its most beautiful lakes, while getting acquainted with Carinthian culture and enjoying Alpine settings. Each of Carinthia's lakes has its own mood, climate, and attractions. Undoubtedly, one of the most interesting is Weissensee, Austria's highest-altitude swimming lake. Here, you encounter a rare situation on bike routes where part of the journey involves... crossing by boat. Villach, located in the central part of the region, is an excellent base for a multi-day cycling trip around the Great Carinthian Lake Loop. Part of the route coincides with the Drava bike path.

Image
Drauradweg - gravel bike road before Völkermarkt
Great Carinthian Lake Loop in Carinthia

The original name of the new bike route - Große Kärnten Seen-Schleife - was translated by the creators from Carinthia as the Great "Loop" of Carinthian Lakes, but "schleife" also means "bow" in German, and it is this bow shape that the route in Carinthia most resembles. It's important to note that the Great Carinthian Lake Loop is not entirely a bike route on paths away from automotive traffic. It utilizes about 120 kilometers of bike paths and about 180 kilometers of various public roads. The rest are forest paths, single tracks, and even… 6 kilometers of the route by boat (across Lake Weissensee).

More: Carinthia - The Great Carinthian Lake Loop

 

Image
Velo Dunajec sign near Czorsztyn Lake
Velo Dunajec in Lesser Poland
Back to top

Velo Dunajec - Lesser Poland, Poland

Velo Dunajec in Lesser Poland also deserves a place among the most beautiful cycling routes in Europe. After all, few European bike routes can boast such diverse landscapes over just over two hundred kilometers. Starting under the Tatra Mountains in Zakopane, descending the scenic variant from Gubałówka, then an impressive ride around Czorsztyn Lake, followed by the unique Pieniny Dunajec Gorge, bike bridges over the Dunajec and Poprad rivers, and finally the beautiful Tarnów and the finish line by the Vistula River - this is bound to impress even a cycling guest from Europe, waiting for the day when Polish will no longer be the dominant language among cyclists over the Dunajec.

Image
Velo Dunajec - bicycle bridge over the Poprad river
Velo Dunajec in Lesser Poland

Writing about Velo Dunajec, I cannot fail to mention the possibilities offered by the connecting sections of the Cycling Route around the Tatra Mountains. One of them - a very scenic descent from Gubałówka - can very successfully replace the first section of Velo Dunajec along the Zakopianka, which I wrote about in the first report from the route. The ascent to Gubałówka by the popular funicular will surely save energy for many cyclists, and at least a few bikes can fit into one carriage. Unfortunately, you cannot buy a bicycle ticket in the online sales system, so a visit to the ticket office is inevitable. Fortunately, a separate gate for cyclists allows you to avoid waiting in the long queue for the ascent.

More: Velo Dunajec - Lesser Poland

Back to top