A bike gets you around fast enough to see all the sights – but slowly enough to spot the city’s secrets. It also lets you easily slip into living like a local, even if just for the weekend. With bike rental booming, bike-sharing apps gaining momentum, and transportation providers offering cheaper and easier options for carrying bikes as luggage, cycling city breaks are more appealing than ever.
Here’s a selection of bike-friendly cities for travelers who love a good spin.
A few years ago, the number of bikes in Copenhagen officially exceeded the number of cars. This isn’t surprising when you look at the city’s infrastructure – bike lanes separated from car traffic, traffic lights timed according to the average biking speed, and now a network of cycle superhighways specifically designed for commuters. Try it out for yourself by navigating the city by bike, whether you’re there to ride one of the world’s oldest roller coasters at Tivoli Gardens, encounter the local counter culture in Christiania, or just sip a beer or a coffee by the waterfront in Nyhavn. If you still have energy for a final sprint, head to the gym at the eco-conscious Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
In Amsterdam, even the prime minister gets around by bike – the Dutch are fiercely proud of their bike culture. You, too, can get the true Dutch experience by renting an omafiets—a Dutch-style bike—to speed around Amsterdam. Many hotels have rental bikes available – a particularly green one is the Conscious Hotel. Each of the hotel’s sustainable features is explained on a little tag or sign. Plus, it’s located right next to the lush Vondelpark.
Bordeaux has had the official “vélotouristique” (bike tourism) label since 2011. The very reasonably priced V3 bike share scheme means you can pick up and drop off bikes in 174 locations around the city. There are also several scenic bike routes for you to follow. The whole city center is a UNESCO Heritage Site, and if you head out of town, you can visit the region’s famous vineyards. Many visitors plan an afternoon training their taste buds at the Cité du Vin, but don’t forget to stop by La Toque Cuivrée, known for the best cannelés de Bordeaux – the city’s famous pastry. Rest your legs over a cocktail before bed at Mama Shelter just around the corner.
Often said to be the most bike-friendly city in the US, Portland’s biking citizens and their bikes come in every style. Waiting at the lights, you’re just as likely to find yourself next to a home-welded tall bike as to a full carbon speed machine or a sticker-covered fixed gear. A good place to stay is the Royal Sonesta Portland Downtown – not only is it conveniently located downtown, but they’ll also lend you bikes to get around for free. From there, Portland is your oyster with its craft breweries, coffee roasters, and farmers’ markets. The city lives up to its bike-friendly reputation with over 300 miles of bike paths including Tilikum Crossing, the pedestrian and bike bridge that crosses the Willamette River. If you’re traveling with your own wheels, Portland’s airport even has a dedicated bike assembly station and bike lanes to get there.
Kyoto is remarkably easy to navigate by bike since its streets are laid out in a grid pattern going north-south and east-west, modeled on the ancient Chinese capital, Chang’an. Although there aren’t many bike-only lanes, the city has a reputation for being bikeable. Some pedestrian areas can be used if the roads are busy, but only ones with a sign stating that this is allowed. Remember to weave your way through pedestrians carefully and respectfully. Most attractions have a small bike parking lot, but in the city center you can use the big ones at Kyoto Station or the WINGS Downtown parking lot. For the full local experience, stay at Yadoya Kikokuso, a traditional, family-run ryokan in the center of Kyoto. From there, hop on your bike for a tour of the temples and shrines, then refuel with delicious Kyoto specialties at Nishiki Market.