Europe can be a great place for a cycling trip. Although some cities lag behind in creating safe cycle paths and opportunities for bike hire, others are constantly upgrading for cyclists. We were excited to learn about Donkey Republic, a new app and service where you can hire a bike on your smartphone, find it using a map, and then just unlock the bike and go. You can even ask your lock to beep, to make it easier to spot your hire bike.
The team behind Donkey Republic are passionate about the joys of seeing European cities by bike. They’ve challenged us to give our top three European cities for cycling.
Madrid’s city council has been steadily improving the city’s cycle network, with a big €40 million push last year on expanding the number of routes available to cyclists. With thanks to Donkey Republic and other hire operators it’s now easier than ever to rent a bike in Madrid. The Spanish city is hilly, but worth a bit of a climb for the views: around Casa de Campo and the foothills outside the city, there are secluded dirt trails that weave their way through ancient Spanish oaks (these are best tackled on mountain bikes). For those cyclists who prefer their rotes to be flat, there are several cycle trails down pretty boulevards in the historic centre of the city, passing stunning buildings like Prado Museum, CaixaForum and the National Library.
Bruges has a special place in our hearts: it was the first city where we cycled as a family, back when my son was small enough to plonk into a baby seat on the back of D’s bike. It has to be one of the most family-friendly places to cycle in the world. Set in Flanders, where the Belgian cycle routes are of a similarly high standard to those in the Netherlands, Bruges has pretty, medieval streets (look out for the cobblestones), canals and a cycle path out to Damme that takes you past several windmills. We spent a long, leisurely lunchtime there, sampling the frites, chocolate ice cream, and listening to the carillon chimes of the medieval belfry in the market square. We decided not to walk up the 366 steps to its top.
Berlin is flat, with wide streets and pavements where there are plenty of cycle paths. It has one of the highest rates of commuter cycling in the world, and bikes are allowed on buses, trains and the underground, so the place is well set-up for those who want to explore the German capital on two wheels.
Depending on whether you’re a history buff, or a fan of nature, you can find a cycle trail to suit. The Berliner Mauerweg, or Berlin Wall Trail is a circular route tracing the former wall around West Berlin. It’s easy to cycle between the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag (Germany’s seat of parliament), the Tiergarten park, and the sombre Holocaust Memorial. If you fancy a dip to slough away all that city grime, the Wannsee beach is accessible from the city centre. You can even bathe completely naked, in Wannsee lake’s nudist area.
Where are your favourite places to cycle?
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