10 of the Best Cities to Explore by Bike

April 9, 2012 by

Bike Tours, Europe, List Mania: Viator's Top Picks, Top Travel Destinations

Whether you’re a health fanatic or just a curious traveler on the hunt for an adventure, biking is an ideal way to explore a city. There’s nothing quite like taking in the sights and sounds of a new destination as you whip past monuments, street vendors and public parks. Due to the increased popularity of urban biking, many cities have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make easily accessible bike lanes for travelers. So, the next time you find yourself in a bike-friendly city, skip the car rental and let your legs do the driving.

Here are 10 global cities that are best seen by bike.

1. Amsterdam

Amsterdam bike tour

Tour the Dutch countryside on a bike!

Biking is almost synonymous with Amsterdam and those not walking around the city are probably biking along at a leisurely pace. Although bike lanes are often well-marked and located on the right side of roads, the streets can sometime get confusing to tourists, so it’s best to pick up a bike map with suggested routes from Amsterdam Tourist Offices. Most bike rental companies are centrally located in Central Station, Leidseplein and Sam Square and most tourists opt for the daily pass. Theft in Amsterdam is a common occurrence so it’s a good idea to lock your bike so someone doesn’t snatch it up.

Book an Amsterdam Bike Tour or read How to Cycle Like the Dutch in Amsterdam

2. Copenhagen

Copenhagen bikes

Bike path in Copenhagen. Photo credit: Alper Çugun via Flickr.

Denmark is known for its environmental friendly attitude, so it’s only natural that biking is a popular pastime for happy Danes. Travelers looking to cycle in style will find no better city than Copenhagen to put their best foot – or should I say wheel, forward.

The extensive amount of bike paths combined with the city’s bike-share program makes cycling more efficient than driving a car. There are 125 bike park areas where you can pick up a bike with a small and refundable deposit. Bikers can choose the type of path that interests them, including contemporary, national and historical routes. Make sure to stay in the city center if you are using rental bikes and avoid pedestrian-only streets.

3. Berlin

Berlin Wall bike tour

Bike along the Berlin Wall on a tour!

There’s a unique bike culture that is very much alive and thriving in Berlin. On any given morning one might spot a family biking to school or mothers hopping on their bike for a quick run to the market. Because so many locals use biking as a main mode of transportation, it’s important to follow the rules and stick to the bike lanes (and stay out of them when you’re not on two wheels).

There are bike rental kiosks throughout the city and if you plan on biking at night you must have lights displayed in the front and back of your bike and reflectors on the wheels.  The Berlin Mauerweg is a scenic route that takes you along the Berlin Wall, with a more off-the-beaten path route also available, or you can book a Berlin bike tour.

4. Bogotá

Bogota bikes

Bikes in Bogotá. Photo credit: Carlos Felipe Pardo via Flickr

When it comes to biking in South America, Bogotá bike tours are the best way to put your peddling skills to the test. The Colombian capital has the largest network of bicycle paths stretching over 186 miles, called ‘Ciclorutas’ in the country. Many streets are closed to cars on Sundays for the Ciclovia from 7am-2pm, leaving the paths open to runners, bikers and roller skaters. Bike rules in Bogotá include wearing helmets, reflective vests and having reflective bike panels. Bicycles can be rented in the La Candelaria neighborhood but the less congested routes run through the northern part of the city.

5. Kyoto

bikes in Kyoto

Bikes in Kyoto – photo courtesy of Joe Murphy via Flickr

Biking through Kyoto, Japan avoids waiting in traffic jams and is a quick and easy way to see the famous monuments, which are mostly centrally located. The land is generally flat so cyclists won’t have to worry about trudging up steep hills. Unlike most other cities, Kyoto has few bike paths and peddlers must stay on the left side of the road. Make sure you leave your bike in an official bike parking spot or else run the risk of it being picked up by Kyoto City officials.

Several companies rent bikes to tourists, most costing from 1,000-3,000 Yen per day, or you can book a Kyoto bike tour. Popular routes include a seven mile ride from downtown to Arashiyama, which passes by many historic temples and an eleven mile ride along the Kamo River to Fushimi.

6. Beijing

Beijing bike tour

Riding bikes through Beijing

The roads in Beijing are flat and daily rentals are relatively cheap, making this city ideal for travelers hoping to escape the chaotic roads or crowded public transit. There are special lanes designed just for bikers, allowing for easy navigation around the city; although due to the heavy traffic and road conditions, Beijing is not the place to bike fast.

Bike theft does happen, so getting a durable lock is highly recommended. Rentals are located throughout the city, especially around park entrances and subway stations, including the Dongcheng, Xicheng and Chaoyang Districts. Rental costs are low but deposits are higher since there’s nothing to be done if a bike goes missing.

Book a Beijing bike tour!

7. Portland

Portland bikes

Portland is a big biking city. Photo credit: Leann Warren via Flickr.

Much like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, Portland has become increasingly bike-friendly with an impressive amount of bike lanes and trails and a thriving culture of bike enthusiasts. The city even boasts a bike-themed brewpub. The downtown area is slightly more difficult to navigate but bike maps are easily accessible and offer advice on scenic paths through the city’s many green spaces. Portland’s 1.5 mile Eastbank Esplanade is a scenic and leisurely route that gives you view of the skyline.

8. Barcelona

Barcelona bike tours

Tour Barcelona on a bike!

Travelers who find themselves in sunny Barcelona most likely have the beach on their minds, which is a scenic downhill trail. The city offers “bicing” (community bicycle program), but is only for residents, meaning that tourists must rent bikes elsewhere. Green Bikes Barcelona, Baja Bikes Rental and Funky Cycle are three such companies with affordable hourly rates. Since the trek from the beach back to downtown is uphill, many bikers opt to take the subway to their starting point.

Read more about Barcelona Guided Bike Tours

9. Trondheim

Norway trampe

Bike “trampe.” Photo credit: Jonas Ahrentorp via Flickr.

One interesting concept implemented in Trondheim is the world’s first Bicycle Lift, or “Trampe” as it’s called in Norway. The very hilly Norwegian city doesn’t let travelers get fatigued on their way up the mountains. Instead, bikers can simply take a lift, much like one does on a ski slope, to the top of the mountain and bike down at their own pace.

The city has 125 rentable bikes with a maximum of three hour limit. The twelve bike racks are scattered throughout the city center and open from 6am until midnight, May through October. A small fee is required to release the bike from the locked rack. The Kristiansten Fortress is accessible via a bike lift and offers a stunning view of the city.

10. Paris

Paris bike tour

See Paris or Versailles on a bike!

Renting a bike in Paris is painless as the city has the Vélib’ bike-rental program, which has over 20,000 bikes and 1,800 pick up and drop-off points. These are found at any metro station or where there is a “borne” (stand) of bikes. The first half hour is free and in true Parisian fashion, the bikes themselves are rather futuristic in design. Biking through the Latin Quarter’s narrow streets can get crowded but the nearby Odeon district is more bike-friendly and scenic.

If you feel particularly energetic, the ride to Versailles is about 10 miles and goes through woods, quiet streets and park areas.

More information on Paris bike tours

 - Megan McDonough

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4 Responses to “10 of the Best Cities to Explore by Bike”

  1. Marina K. Villatoro Says:

    I also think that Antigua in Guatemala is amazing for exploring on a bike.

  2. Diarrheabrain Says:

    Yeah, Beijing is great to bike through. Mmmmm…. smog so thick you could cut it with a knife. Dodging traffic is even more fun. If the lung cancer doesn’t kill you, surely a car will! yay! Thanks for your guide, Miss Informed!

  3. Singapore Holiday Says:

    But think about the practicality of bringing down a bike to a foreign country, so unless you can easily rent one, getting a fold-able bike might be your next best option. Then there’s all the travel luggage and gear spares. I do agree however that it’s amazingly easy to rent a bike in Paris.

  4. Shearings Says:

    Amsterdam is a fantastic place to cycle. JUst watch out for pedestraians and canals!

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