The top 6 cycling cruises
By Sue Bryant | 25 Oct 2021
Cycling is one of the best ways to take in some of Europe’s most stunning locations, from Amsterdam to Vienna. Discover the top river cruise itineraries for cycling in Europe below.
Like wine and cheese, cycling and river cruises are a natural pairing. Many of Europe’s rivers have cycle trails running along the banks and there’s nothing more pleasant than taking a bike and pedalling a few miles without any traffic, soaking up the scenery.
As well as the obvious benefit of working off some cruise calories, a bicycle ride gives you a feeling of living like a local and seeing the landscape from a different perspective. If you stay on the riverside path, there are no hills and with the river as a reference point, it’s almost impossible to get lost. Many lines also offer guided excursions, hiring in bikes from local suppliers if they don’t have their own. Excursions let you be even more adventurous: explore bike-friendly Amsterdam, or do the 15-mile route from Cologne to Bonn.
Avalon arranges bicycle tours on most of its European cruises, each one accompanied by a local guide, like their Active & Discovery in Holland & Belgium Cruise. The Netherlands is a good place to start as it is almost completely flat.
An easy tour from Amsterdam on the day the ship is moored takes you through the busy city and out to the Waterland nature reserve, passing old wooden houses, windmills and narrow waterways along the Ijsselmeer. The whole area is criss-crossed with cycle trails and refreshments in a traditional Dutch pub are included.
The Moselle is a tributary of the larger Rhine, flowing into it at Koblenz. Several cruise lines offer Moselle cruises, including Emerald Waterways’ Legendary Rhine & Moselle cruise. Like the Rhine, the Moselle has a cycle trail running alongside, as the river winds its way in magnificent loops, with picture book villages strung out along its banks and medieval castles towering above the towns and vineyards.
Some of the best Moselle ports from which to cycle include Bernkastel, in the heart of the wine-growing area, and Cochem, a medieval town of cobbled streets and half-timbered houses overlooked by a dramatic castle. Emerald Waterways, sister brand to Scenic, carries a fleet of bikes on board for guests to use.
APT carries bikes on all its European ships for independent and group use. Two-week cruises on the Rhine, Moselle and Danube include a tour through Cochem; a ride from Regensburg to the Walhalla monument; and a ride through beautiful Baroque Würzburg, like their Magnificent Europe cruise.
On the Danube, one of the most spectacular guided tours is Dürnstein to Melk, with a backdrop of steep hills, Dürnstein Castle – where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in 1192 – and the Wachau valley vineyards.
While Viking doesn’t carry bikes on board, its ships call at plenty of ports where bicycle hire is both cheap and easy. In Vienna, for example, the ‘Boris Bike’ rental scheme is called Citybike (citybikewien.at) and it only costs €1 per hour after the first free hour (€2 for the third hour), like on Viking’s Danube Waltz cruise.
There are bike stations all over the city, around the Ringstrasse, where all the main Baroque monuments are located, and at the entrance to the Prater park, for a more leisurely ride. Cycling is easy and safe; there are bike-only lanes almost everywhere and the terrain is flat. Just watch out for the trams and if it all gets too much, take a detour into the Burggarten or the beautiful Stadtpark for an iced coffee.
Uniworld caters for cyclists better than most, with a fleet of bikes on board for guests to borrow and the added bonus of optional guided cycle tours as part of each itinerary. On their Danube River Cruise Biking Tour you’ll cycle among towering castles and pretty riverbanks alongside expert tours of local culture and cuisine, popping into castles, towns and abbeys along one of Europe’s most iconic waterways, the Danube.
Uniworld’s partnership cruise line partners with the world’s premier active travel company, Butterfield and Robinson, means keen cyclists will enjoy a truly active cruise holiday, with cycling routes that showcase Europe’s spectacular old-world scenery, customised bicycles, detailed maps, support vehicle and expert bike guides.
Scenic offers complimentary e-bikes to its guests – bicycles with optional electronic assistance, which means greater distances and less effort. With the bikes come Scenic Tailormade devices, GPS touring gadgets, complete with an interactive map and commentary so guests can take individual guided tours. The devices are attached to the electric bikes, allowing you to listen to the running commentary as you cycle such as on Scenic’s Rhine Highlights Tour.
One of the best places to aim for a longer ride is along the Rhine Gorge, overlooked by sheer-sided hills and vineyards guarded by ruined castles and riverside villages with geranium-filled balconies in summer. Cycling here is easy, despite the steep cliffs of the gorge; the Rhine Cycle Path, officially known as Eurovelo 15, extends the entire navigable length of the river, from Schaffhausen in Switzerland to Rotterdam, although one of the prettiest stretches is from Mainz to Cologne. The car-free riverside trail is perfect for cyclists of all abilities. Try a bike ride from Rüdesheim, leaving the pretty town behind and venturing out along the river into the countryside.
Feeling inspired by these cycling cruises? Then find your perfect itinerary here.