Top destinations to discover by bike
Cycling around a bike-friendly travel destination allows you to make the most of your time there. It's usually cheaper than public transport, faster than walking, and gets you closer to people and places. On a bike, you can blend in with the locals and take the time to explore areas that would usually rush by in a blur from the window of a bus or train.
The Copenhagenize Index, which ranks 150 cities across the worldi, assesses how "bike friendly" a city is by taking into account urban planning and infrastructure, bike culture and facilities, and safetyii. We look at five cyclist-friendly cities from the Copenhagenize Index's top twenty list, which just so happen to be great travel destinations too!
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam is known for its canals, tulips, clogs, and easy-going city life. It's also one of Europe's flattest cities, which makes cycling, not surprisingly, the most popular way to get around for residents and tourists alikeiii. It seems that nearly every resident in Amsterdam owns a bicycle - recent estimates show that in a city of 799,000 residents there were 881,000 bikesiii! In 2013 Amsterdam ranked number one on the Copenhagenize Indexiv.
Tourists can easily hire a bike from central locations, including Amsterdam Centraal, Leidseplein and Dam Squareiii. Cycling is a cheap way to get around the city, with the average bike rental fee being about 8 euros for the dayiii. With Amsterdam's flat landscapev, 400km of bicycle paths that weave through the towniii, and bike-friendly speed limit zones of 30km/hiv, pedalling around the city is reasonably easy, safe, and fun.
Weave through the winding streets of the 17th century city centreiii, and make a stop at Museumplein to check out the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk and Van Gogh museums. Pick up some lunch from the open-air markets, which sell organic vegetables as well as flowers, second-hand treasures and trinketsvi. Want a taste of the Dutch countryside? Pedal your way out of town through green pastures, past windmills and fields of flowers.
Being the index's namesake, it's hardly surprising that Danish capital Copenhagen ranks a close second for "the best city for cycling" titlevii. Safety and comfort come first in Copenhagen, with bike lanes situated between parked car lanes and footpaths so that cyclists can avoid traffic and opening car doorsviii. To top this, you'll see signs on roadside railings that say, "Hi cyclist! Rest your foot here... and thank you for cycling in the city!"viii,ix. How's that for a welcome! To take advantage of Copenhagen's quirky bike culture, all you need to do is hire a bike from many of the city's bike-rental shops.
Cycle down to the water to see Copenhagen's famous century-old Little Mermaid statuex, or visit Hans Christian Andersen's house in Nyhavn where he wrote the fairytales 'The Tinder-Box' and 'The Princess and the Pea'xi. While you're there, grab a bite to eat at one of the prestigious waterside restaurants, and enjoy the quayside atmosphere. To explore a different side of Copenhagen, ride your bike to Freetown Christiania, a 1,000-resident commune with a hippy lifestylexii. To brush up on your Danish history, visit Denmark's National Museum to learn about the Vikingsxiii, or to Amalienborg Palace to check out how the country's royal family livesxiv.
Despite being Germany's largest cityxv, Berlin is extraordinarily accommodating to bike riders and ranks eighth in the Copenhagenize Indexxvi. The expansive nature of Berlin means that cycling is often the best and most efficient way to make the most of the cityxvii. This is made a lot easier by well-signposted cycle routes, cycling tours and bike share schemes, such as Call-a-Bikexvii. The average price of renting a bike for the day is 10 eurosxvii.
Berlin has 20 cycling routes that weave through the city, with more plannedxvii. You can take a ride along the Mauerweg, a path that tracks the remains of the former Berlin Wall or navigate your own way through Berlin-Mitte from Alexanderplatz to the Brandenburg Gate, stopping at Museum Island on the way. Cruise alongside the East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain, refuel like a true Berliner on currywurst, and ride past the graffiti covered walls and buildings that give Berlin its edgy charm.
With over 13 million residents in Tokyoxviii, it's hard to imagine riding around comfortably in such close quarters. However, getting on a bike in Tokyo means you can visit the hidden places that you wouldn't normally see on public transport.
Get a closer look at the city and experience the quintessential sights, smells and sounds of Tokyo, like the hustle and bustle of the famous Tsukiji central fish marketxix. Ride to Tokyo's religious temples and shrines such as Meiji Jinguxix and Senso-ji, or cycle through Tokyo's parks such as Shinjuku Gyoen National Park, located right next to the fashionable Harajuku neighbourhoodxx. Most bike-rental shops are located at train stations and may require a money deposit or photo IDxxi.
Montreal is easy to navigate on bike: the city offers a bike share system and 560km of bike waysxxii that run through parks and suburbsxxiii. Montreal is a bilingual city with both English and French spoken by its residentsxxiv. With this cultural mix comes European-like charm and a range of delicious Quebecois cuisine - including the famous poutine (French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds).
Make your way through Montreal's cafes and restaurants, well known for their charcuterie and culinary delights. Afterwards, hop on your bike and burn away the kilojoules by heading to Sainte Catherine Street - one of North America's longest shopping streetsxxv. Choose between Canadian boutique stores and big brands, or venture to the markets for authentic maple syrup and Canadian ice wine.
For historic Montreal architecture, head to Old Montreal where you'll see cobblestone streets and 18 and 19th century stone buildings, including Montreal's most famous example of Gothic Revivalist architecture - the Notre-Dame Basilicaxxvi.
Top 10 cities for cycling according to the Copenhagenize Index
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Utrecht, Netherlands
- Seville, Spain and Bordeaux, France
- Nantes, France and Antwerp, Belgium
- Eindhoven, Netherlands
- Malmö, Sweden
- Berlin, Germany
- Dublin, Ireland
- Tokyo, Japanxxvii
Cycling around a travel destination can be a great way to save money and can get you closer to the action than taking a train or bus. In the event of an accident, illness or injury overseas, comprehensive travel insurance can provide cover for medical expenses. To get an online quote for your next holiday and find out more about available cover, visit Allianz Travel Insurance.