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Wheely good fun: Europe's 9 best cities to cycle in

To mark World Bicycle Day, we've picked the best European capitals to explore by bike, from Copenhagen to Prague

Cycling through a European city (Shutterstock)

1. Copenhagen, Denmark

Cyclist in Copenhagen (Shutterstock)

Cyclist in Copenhagen (Shutterstock)

Copenhagen is laid out brilliantly for cyclists, who often have right of way over cars. For visitors, there are cheap bicycle rental ports across the city for a casual ride but there are also schemes for serious cyclists. GoBike, for example, strategically places docking stations at metro stations for commuters and visitors. These bikes can be reserved via a smartphone for forward-planners and also include a touch screen electrical pad for log-in and GPS navigation.

On your visit, continue with the green theme and take a break from cycling with a walk through the 25-hectare botanical gardens or open air museum.

2. Budapest, Hungary

Cycle track to the shore of Bud (Shutterstock)

Cycle track to the shore of Bud (Shutterstock)

Campaigns promoting cycling have been followed with improved paths and facilities in the Hungarian capital. Tours with a local guide are becoming a popular way to see the city; you will visit historical points of interest on both sides of the Danube River.

An annual mass bike-ride on Earth Day (22 April) is run by a group called Critical Mass, founded originally in San Francisco in 1992 to promote cycling. Hungary's branch runs the most successful events each year with its goals being “to raise awareness on the benefits of bicycling and other alternative means of transportation, to assert cyclists' right to the road, and to celebrate cycling in general.” 

3. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam canal scene (Shutterstock)

Amsterdam canal scene (Shutterstock)

This is probably the most famous cycling city in the world. There are about 880,000 bicycles in a city of 800,000 people and 58% of locals older than 12 cycle daily. City officials are planning on creating more bike-parking facilities and cycling services to stop bicycle traffic jams.

The country's typically flat terrain means that cycling for pleasure is rarely an uphill struggle. There are dozens of cycle tours available, from historical sightseeing to countryside 'windmill and tulips' tours. The Dutch seem to be leading the way as cities such as Utrecht and Eindhoven are also known for their cycling facilities. 

4. Ghent, Belgium

Cyclists riding past the 12th century Gravensteen castle (Shutterstock)

Cyclists riding past the 12th century Gravensteen castle (Shutterstock)

Many Flemish cities are taking their cue from across the Dutch border and becoming increasingly cycle friendly. In Ghent, there are cycle paths running through and around the city; perhaps more importantly, cyclists always have right of way. Burn off those freshly baked waffles and luxurious Belgian chocolates with a riverside ride.

Cities with tramways often boast great cycling infrastructures too, and Ghent proves this rule, making the city centre much more peaceful with the absence of cars. Visitors can rent a bike by day – and monthly rental is also available, if you're staying longer. It's a cheap and easy way to get around this compact city. 

5. Bordeaux, France

Riding bicycles in the mirror fountain in front of Place de la Bourse (Shutterstock)

Riding bicycles in the mirror fountain in front of Place de la Bourse (Shutterstock)

This picturesque, snug city is becoming increasingly popular with cyclists. The growing profile of its bike scheme, VCub, is drawing in tourists as well as providing citizens with a green alternative to their daily commute.

The city has a network of over 2,000 bikes – half of which are electric – across 184 docking stations that are available all day, every day. Bikes are available to rent from only a few Euros a week so it's fast becoming the cheapest and greenest method of transport in the south-western French city. You'll find bike tours galore, but the city is easy to navigate on your own and you can park your bike if somewhere catches your eye.

6. Malmö, Sweden

Lund near Malmo, Sweden (Shutterstock)

Lund near Malmo, Sweden (Shutterstock)

Committing millions of Euros to boosting bicycle use, the Swedes have launched campaigns against overusing cars as well as promoting helmet use. They've even gone as cyclist-friendly as to name their cycle paths for ease of GPS planning. Great for seaside cycle trips as well as city breaks.

7. Dublin, Ireland

Trinity College in Dublin (Shutterstock)

Trinity College in Dublin (Shutterstock)

Setting an example for its nearby British neighbours, this city is pushing against urbanisation by developing a large-scale bicycle infrastructure. Soak up some of that famous Irish culture and indulge in a history or museum tour. If you fancy it, the coast is only 20 minutes away so get on your bicicleta for a sea breeze.

There are also pedicabs (think European rickshaws) if you don't fancy doing your own peddling. There are plenty of 30km/hour zones and cycle paths around the city. 

8. Prague, Czech Republic

Cyclist looking across Prague (Shutterstock)

Cyclist looking across Prague (Shutterstock)

Although Eastern Europe usually sits in the shadow of its Western counterpart when it comes to a good cycling reputation, Prague has been working to make itself a cycling city since 2003. Cycling paths are currently improving as they aim to have a comprehensive network of over 1,000km of cycling infrastructure.

Full of historical sites, Prague is a pretty, serene city. What better way to get from the Old Town Square to the King Charles Bridge than by a lazy bike ride through the cobbled streets?

9. Oxford, England

Oxford University, England (Shutterstock)

Oxford University, England (Shutterstock)

Oxford is a compact, historical town in the south of England which provides picturesque bike rides a-plenty. As well as designated cycle paths in the city centre and along the River Thames, there are also cycle routes in the surrounding countryside that are ideal for day trips.

One of the county's most popular is the Phoenix Trail which traverses through The Chilterns, some of Britain's most beautiful countryside, and has spots to settle down every 500m or so. Alternatively, enjoy the city from your saddle as you tick off every college, from the fairytale Wadham College to Christchurch College, which featured in the Harry Potter films. Bicycles can be rented across the city centre, and many places also offer cycle tour packages.

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