Have you ever thought about travelling Europe by bike? We have never ever thought about this possibility until not so long ago. Things started changing when we met an Austrian cyclist in a park in Parma, the Italian city we have been living in, who told us about the Eurovelo.
The Eurovelo is a net of cycleways with more than 70 thousand kilometres (43 thousand miles) of extension which crosses the whole European continent. The Eurovelo is made by 15 routes that goes through 42 counties, making travelling Europe by bike not only possible, but quite easy as well.
These net of cycleways started to be developed in the 90’s through a partnership amongst the ECF – European Cyclists Federation – and the British and Dutch organisations Sustrans and Frie Fugle, respectively.
Some of the stretches are yet to be finished, but it’s forecasted to have all of the cycleways done by 2020. Until then, you are better off choosing your route according to your abilities, as, whilst many of the Eurovelo have great infrastructure and can be done by anybody, some may be more demanding and require more experience and organisation.
Which Eurovelo to choose for travelling Europe by bike?
As we have said above, the Eurovelo has 15 routes – Eurovelo 1, Eurovelo 2, Eurovelo 3 and so on. Each one of them takes you to a specific journey, where you will encounter different countries, cultures, stories and flavours. Deciding which one to go will depend on your interest, time available, starting point and many other specifics.
On the Eurovelo website, you can find maps and information about each route. The website has its version in French and German, besides English. In any case, we will discuss below some of these cycleways, explain further which ones are easier, the ones with better infrastructure, the ones that comprises more historical sites and so forth. That way, your choice of which Eurovelo to choose when doing your bike trip around Europe can be even easier.
Our travel on the Eurovelo 8, the Mediterranean Route
The Eurovelo 8 is also known as the Mediterranean Route. It has 5.888 km/3658 miles and it’s one of the most popular cycleways. It goes from Spain all the way to Chipre, going through 11 countries, 23 Unesco Heritage Sites as well as through some famous cities, such as Barcelona, Venezia, the coast of Croatia and Greece.
We pedalled a part of the Eurovelo 8 during our bike trip from Italy to Slovenia. We left Parma, north Italy, and went through Mantua, Ferrara, Venice, Aquileia, Trieste and all the way to the Slovenian coast. From there, we decided to explore Slovenia instead of continue to Croatia, through the Eurovelo 8.
*Another cool- and challenging – way of travelling around Europe is by foot. Have you ever tought about it? Check this post about hikes in Italy for more.
Despite its infrastructure not being the greatest we have ever seen – we were actually lost a few times – we really enjoyed cycling through the Eurovelo 8, particularly through the Italian bit as it edges the Po River. Besides offering an astonishing landscape, is pretty much flat all the way.
Our bike trip in Europe lasted for about 45 days and it was a remarkable experience. It was the first time Fernanda did a trip of this kind. One of our goals was exactly proving that one does not need to be a professional cyclist to do a long bike trip. The adventure turned into a series of episodes on our YouTube Channel and you can see it here: (don’t forget to subscribe and tell us what you think) 😉
Travelling Europe by bike for those who like history
If you want to explore the history of the continent while travelling Europe by bike, the Eurovelo website recommends you to take the Eurovelo 3 and 5, which goes through famous pilgrim tracks. Another advise is the Eurovelo 2, a cycleway to those looking to see some of the main European capitals, such as Dublin, London, Berlin and Warsaw.
On the other hand, if you are more interested in Europe’s recent history, the Eurovelo 13 is a great option. The route is also known as the Iron Curtain Route. This cycleway is the longest of all. It has 10.400 km/6482 miles and goes through all of the 20 countries that used to delimit the border between Occidental and Oriental Europe.
Just a disclaimer here: You don’t have to follow anything. You are the one who decides the route to take, the country to visit, the stretch to go, how much to pedal, how fast, what distance, everything is all according to you.
The best route for your first travel by bike in Europe
For the newbies on a long distance trip on two wheels – with no motor, of course – a good advice is the Eurovelo 6. It connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea. This route has one of the best infrastructure, let alone being practically flat all the way, as it edges the Loire, Reno and the Danube Rivers.
Family bike trip in Europe
A great advice for travelling Europe by bike with children is the route 15. It edges the Reno River from Switzerland to The Netherlands. That‘s the best and most complete cycleway and, according to the website, the 1320 km/820 mi of extension can be easily done during the school holidays.
And, why travelling by bike?
Well, let’s answer this question, portraying how we developed our relationship with this rather exciting way of travelling. As we mentioned earlier in this post, cycle tourism is still quite new to us. This trip we made from Italy to Slovenia was the first together. We loved it so much that, since then, we are trying to demystify a bit of the current idea about this topic, such as tiredness, difficulty and hazards, as well as encourage people to try for themselves too.
What really got us about this way of travelling is the possibility to interact intensely and profoundly with the place you are visiting. It’s mostly because your interaction with the new place is over a large period of time and goes gradually from the countryside to the most lively centre, allowing to grab the whole spectrum of this new place you are visiting.
Moreover, travelling by bike naturally attracts attention during the course. Therefore, many people – mostly locals – approach you, wondering where you are coming from, where you are going and so forth. During our way to Slovenia, we met with many people along the way and we were even invited to sleep in people’s home too. As we are supporters of a more immersive way of travelling, the human contact and the interaction with local culture are top priority to us. Travelling by bike allowed us to have that as no other means of transportation.
Furthermore, cycling also enabled us to reach and explore practically every corner. Because we were travelling by bike, we were able to see beautiful spots, such as caves, lakes, dens and more, which were not originally planned. Let alone being a much cheaper, healthier and non-destructive way of travelling. I think we can rest our case now, can’t we?
Does anybody can travel by bike?
Yes!!! That’s actually something we want to prove with our experience, that anyone can do such trip. We are far from being professional cyclists, on our first trip to Slovenia, we trained for only 3 days prior to departure, we followed our rhythm – slowly and still – and we arrived everywhere we wanted.
Everyone should try cycle tourism at least once in life, simply because it is possible. Fernanda, who had never ever had done such trip, was very afraid of going to Slovenia by bike. She thought she wasn’t physically prepared, only cyclists could do it, it would be dangerous plus a thousand other “groundless” fears. She needed to try in order to find out that none of those fears were actually true for her and she was indeed capable – as she was – to go on a long distance bike trip, as much as we think many other people are capable as well.