While whizzing around in cars is all well and good, there’s something to be said for pedal pushing. After all, biking is one of the best ways to really get a feel for a place. This spring, we’ve gathered a list of the must-see destinations in Europe where nature and culture collide. Whether you’re an amateur cyclist with Tour de France aspirations, or just there for the picnic at the end of the trip, these bike routes have something for everyone.
1. Pedals and peaks in Granada
Picture this: you’re standing atop the Sierra Nevada’s second-highest peak after cycling along one of the most elevated biking trails on the continent. If that sentence made you shrink from your screen, never fear — you can take an e-bike. That’s right, putting your pedal to the electric metal makes this ride a breeze. And if you want to tough it out without technology, that’s fine too (as long as you make it to the top).
The route from Granada to Veleta Peak will bring you through old glacier valleys and past snow-capped mountains. Once you’ve summited the peak, gaze across Spain laying before you. Is that the Mediterranean over there? Yep. And Africa over there? Indeed. Now spread your arms out wide and do your best Leo impression. Sure, you’re not perched atop the bow of the Titanic, but at 11,200 feet (4,000 meters) above sea level, the feeling is pretty darn close. You’re king (or queen) of the world!
2. Under the Tuscan sun
Known for its wine, food, and gorgeous landscapes, Tuscany is an ideal destination any time of year. Spring, however, is one of the best seasons to see the romantic region come to life. While just about any bike route will give you the taste of la dolce vita, we suggest a day trip through the Chianti Hills. Just south of Florence, a ride here brings together two favorite Tuscan pastimes — cycling and wine tasting.
After you’ve pedaled past vineyards aplenty, stop for lunch at a classic Tuscan villa estate. There, you’ll enjoy an authentic, multi-course lunch as well as all the wine and olive oil you can handle. A perfect destination to truly disconnect and enjoy the finer things in life, you just might leave Tuscany with more luggage than when you arrived (read: crates of wine).
3. Flat trails and flowers in Amsterdam
One of the best things about bicycling in the Netherlands is that the landscape is flat. No hills. No sweat. As one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, it’s also super safe. While taking a two-wheeled tour through the city is an obvious must, we’d have you head outside the city limits for a dose of stunning spring scenery. Ready? Here we go.
Depart from Amsterdam’s main railway station and ride towards the outskirts of town. Before you know it, you’ll be in the Waterland District. There, you’ll cruise by centuries-old windmills and picture-perfect villages. The photo ops along this route are endless, as are the fields of flowers. When you’ve had enough cycling, stop for a picnic along a local dam, brook, or canal — we promise there are plenty to choose from.
4. Edinburgh on two wheels
Springtime in Edinburgh is a treat. Grey skies and chilly winds are replaced by sunny yellow gorse bushes and cherry blossoms. And the best part? The crowds haven’t hit the streets yet. This makes Scotland’s capital the perfect destination for a tour on two wheels.
So go ahead — soak up that spring-y goodness by bike and cruise down the Royal Mile. There, you’ll pass the ornate Scottish Parliament building, Holyrood Palace, and Arthur’s Seat. Located at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, you’ll find a “secret” garden in Duddingston. Named “Dr. Neil’s Garden” after the garden’s creator, this little slice of heaven is a picturesque destination for artists and travelers alike. On your way back, take the Innocent Cycle Path, a “rails to trails” project, which turned a disused railway line into a path for bikes.
5. Wine and waves in Nice
Sun, wine, and waves. Does it get any better than this? The ideal destination for a long bike ride, this jaunt through Nice starts off at the sea. So grab your sunglasses, a silk scarf, and some comfortable shoes for pedaling — we’ve got a day of cycling ahead of us. Your trip begins at the famed Promenade des Anglais. Bike down the iconic seaside route and along the deep blue Mediterranean. Before you head inland, make sure to take an Insta-worthy pic by the famous blue chairs.
As you head away from the ocean, you might be worried. Why are we leaving the good stuff behind?, you’ll ask yourself. To that we say: just you wait. When it comes to unforgettable vin and views, the French Riviera is full of possibility. And wine. Did we mention that? As you cycle further away from the coast, you’ll see fields filled with rows upon rows of vines. Once you’ve found the vineyard that piques your fancy, hop off your bike and head to the tasting room. There, you can chat with the winemakers, enjoy some regional delicacies, and take in the Gallic glory that is southern France.