The best cities in Europe to explore by bike

Research has uncovered that Nantes, France is the best city in Europe fo visitors to explore on a bike, followed by Strasbourg.   

When visiting a new place, the number of things to see and do can be overwhelming, but it is increasingly popular to explore an unfamiliar city by bike; it’s cheap, fast, environmentally friendly and a good way to beat traffic.   

In 2020 alone Europeans purchased 22 million bicycles, which means many cities have had to improve infrastructure and set specific car-free zones that promote walking and cycling.

Sweet Inn has ranked 41 of Europe’s most bike-friendly cities to see which are best not just accessible for its residents, but for new visitors to explore on a bike too. The ranking was based on several factors including; Car free zones, cycling lanes, average cost of renting a bicycle on a daily basis and the shortest distance between each city’s top attractions. They then scored each factor accordingly out of a total of 100.

The best European city for exploring on a bike was Nantes, with a score of 80. The city is situated on the Loire River in the Upper Brittany region of western France and is known for its cycling infrastructure, with the average cost of bike rental being around 7 euros. The top attractions – Jardin des Plantes, Les Machines de L’île, Passage Pommeraye, Château des Ducs de Bretagne and Le Voyage à Nantes – can be covered in a mere 4 km bike ride, which is easily manageable on a bicycle rather than by foot.

Strasbourg, also in France, came second with a score of 78. The city which sits near the German border – has long been known as the capital of Christmas. With 600 km of cycling lanes and only 6 km of cycling needed to visit La Petite France, Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg, Centre-ville de Strasbourg, Parc de l’Orangerie and Barrage Vauban it is perfect for a gentle, sight-seeing cycle.

The top 10 best cities in Europe for visitors to explore on bike were:

Nantes, France

Strasbourg, France

Antwerp, Belgium

Zagreb, Croatia

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Berlin, Germany

Bordeaux, France

Bremen, Germany

Helsinki, Finland

Rome, Italy

Vienna, Austria

Berlin was at the bottom of the top 10. The German capital is vast and spans over 892 km2 with 1,182 km of cycling lanes, but this does mean it’s harder to see all the top sights easily on a bike. However, it’s slightly more expensive to rent a bike, costing around 25 euros per day.

Whilst it is potentially Europe’s most famous bike-centric city, Amsterdam did not make it into the top 10, finishing in position 11. According to the most current figures, the 811.000 people who live in Amsterdam own an estimated 881,000 bicycles, meaning there are more bikes than residents. However, Sweet Inn found that whilst it is a good cycling city for those who live there, it’s not as well suited to visitors.

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