The best cities to explore by bike

The best cities to explore by bike

Cycle your way around one of these cities

Published on 30 Sep 2022

During a cruise, cycling is a wonderful way to explore. Giving you all of the advantages of walking an area but with more speed, cycling means you can see a city from street level and cover more ground than if just on two feet. Around the world, there are cities that are pinnacles of cycling infrastructure. With specialist bike lanes, hire schemes and more, there is every reason to pick up a set of wheels on your cruise.

Discover some of the best cities around the world to explore by bike:

The best places to explore by bike

Montréal, Canada

Outside of Europe, Montréal is one of the most bike-friendly cities. Situated on an island in the Saint Lawrence River, Montréal blends urban with nature to create a bike rider’s dream playground. Whether you want to weave through city streets or enjoy a relaxed ride through parks or riverside, there is a route suited to you. 

We chatted to the team from Spade & Palacio who pride themselves on offering ‘non-touristy tours’ of Montréal, “Montréal was ahead of the game for North American cities when the oil crises saw bikes outselling cars for a small while and the first separated bike paths saw light in the early 80s. Backed by advocacy groups, both official and not, we paved our own way. Though I think we have plateaued in the last years, our latest major is making great progress (she rides around the city) with new networks being developed.

“Montréal has loads of parks and festivals and a European attitude. People get around in a cheap, healthier and quicker way. The best way to understand the city is by biking our neighbourhoods, seeing local businesses, parks and streets that provide architectural gems etc. This is what we do on our bike tours, get a feel for the city on a human scale.” 

Tokyo, Japan

Typically, when we think of Tokyo’s transport possibilities, we lean towards the ultra-efficient trainline Japan has developed. However, cycling allows you to dive into the heart of the city and explore it at a street level. 

Donny Kimball, a Japan-based travel blogger, told us, “One of the reasons that Tokyo is best explored by bike is that we have the Docomo Bike Share. This lets you temporarily rent a bike and then bring it back to any of the associated docking ports.

“One thing that the bike lets you do is better explore the areas between the train stations that often get forgotten.” So, Although you may be tempted to explore the highlights of Tokyo by train whilst you visit the city (and you certainly should) there is a lot to say for also hiring a pair of wheels and exploring each area in more depth. 

Barcelona, Spain

Beautiful Barcelona is a great place to explore by bike. The Catalonian capital is well adapted for bicycles and there is a great range of rental options around the city. One option is Bebike Tours, which offers a range of e-bike tours, giving you the pleasure of cycling but taking the leg strain away. The team there told us why exploring Barcelona by bike is a must, “Apart from being beautiful and almost always sunny, Barcelona is also quite a flat city and has a considerable amount of bike lanes, making it really easy to move through the city centre on two wheels. Moreover, it is not a huge city. Most sights are relatively close to each other, making it absolutely viable to explore the principal landmarks in one or two half-day tours.”

We asked the team where they would recommend exploring on two wheels, “Barcelona’s nicest areas to explore by bike are its famous neighbourhoods; Eixample, the picturesque Vila de Gràcia and the long beaches around the old fishermen's district, La Barceloneta. If you have the chance to use an electric bike, even the hilly parts and more remote areas (such as the Mountjüic mountain and the Poble Nou) are well within the range of a bike tour.” 

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Of course, we had to mention Amsterdam. Well known around the world for its cycling prowess, and easily accessible on a cruise from Southampton, it’s thought there are more bikes in the city than residents. As a mostly flat city, with ample cycling lanes, it only makes sense that cycling here is a must when trying to get around. Plus, as such a bike-ready destination, drivers and pedestrians are all very aware to keep an extra eye out for bikes, so you don’t need to worry bout challenging cycling conditions. 

Alice from Girl with a Saddle Bag told us, “In Amsterdam, the bicycle is king. Bikes take priority over cars, and even pedestrians, on many of the city’s roads. And if you can’t beat them, join them. Taking to the town by bike isn’t just one of the most convenient ways to explore the Dutch capital, it’s one of the most enjoyable.”

Alice offered her suggestions for the best places to explore, “Take a leisurely tour of the enticing Vondelpark, the largest green space in the city, to see a different side to the hustle, bustle and canals. Or take advantage of two wheels to head further afield. Well within the city limits, you can reach the wonderfully whimsical Brouwerik ‘t Ij, a craft beer brewery housed in a former canal-side bathhouse with its own windmill. You’ll find it hard to resist the temptations of their many home-brewed creations. Or, if you’re feeling braver, escape the contemporary city in favour of the old-world elegance of Haarlem, a market town around 10 miles from Amsterdam by rural cycle paths. Wherever you choose to explore, you can guarantee it’ll be bike-friendly and endlessly charming.” 

San Francisco, USA

In the United States of America, it’s hard to think of a city more bike-friendly than San Francisco. Despite being a hilly city, there are flatter routes that allow visitors to explore the major icons, including the Golden Gate Bridge. 

One of the many bike tour companies here is Unlimited Biking, they told us, “More and more people are turning to cycling as the best way to get around San Francisco. For locals, biking has increased as a means to get to work, avoiding a majority of the traffic along the city’s many bike paths. For visitors, it is one of the most unique ways to see the city. While some areas around San Francisco are quite hilly, the bike path from Fisherman’s Wharf all the way to Sausalito is one of the flatter routes that guests can take to bike to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. 

When we asked the team where they would suggest cycling to, they said, “One of the most iconic and memorable experiences that guests can do is to bike the Golden Gate Bridge. Being one of the safest routes, with bike paths all along the way, this is an unforgettable experience that leaves guests with breathtaking views.” 

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