Biking Germany's Great Rivers

Bicycle touring in Germany Enlarge image (© picture alliance / blickwinkel/S) It's healthy, easy on the climate and – at least compared to long-haul vacations to exotic destinations – relatively cheap. Bicycle touring is a great way to see Germany.

Germany certainly has the proper infrastructure; the country boasts more than 45,000 miles of well-marked cycle paths.

Many regions have invested in cycle tourism, and cyclists pay great attention to the quality of the routes on offer. The federal state of Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin, recently inaugurated Germany’s longest cycle path measuring nearly 700 miles from start to finish. It also boosted the number of "Bed & Bike" hostels that cater specifically for the needs of cyclists on the move.

When it comes to choosing the most popular routes, both cycle tourists and day-trippers generally have the same kind of territory in mind. They like to pedal through rural landscapes with rivers, lakes and views of the sea. That explains why Bavaria, with its many rivers and lakes, has topped the list of Germany’s favourite cycling regions for years.  There are plenty of other great options for a two-wheeled vacation in Germany, including these three highlights along major rivers:

The River Main

Cyclists in the Vineyards © picture-alliance/dpa Enlarge image Cyclists in the Vineyards (© picture-alliance/dpa) This is a cycle route of nearly 375 miles from the source of the River Main in the Fichtelgebirge mountain range in Bavaria to its confluence with the Rhine at the city of Mainz. The journey takes cyclists through the music festival town of Bayreuth and the brewing capital of Kulmbach. Bamberg, with its old quarter listed by the UNESCO as a world heritage site, is well worth a visit. A  particular attraction for many tourists is Franconia’s wine-growing region around the bend in the river Main at Volkach along with numerous picturesque vineyard towns and then Wuerzburg with its world-famous Residence.

The route takes cyclists further down the Main towards Spessart and the mouth of the Tauber. The left tributary of the Main leads to the attractive Taubertal and at Mainhausen the border with Hesse state is reached. Frankfurt is not far away and the banking metropolis has its tourist hotspots too. The city has numerous museums and other sights which are well worth investigating. From here to the mouth of the Main cyclists pedal alongside big passenger vessels and heavily-laden barges. 

Main Cycle Route

The Elbe

Elbe Cycle Route © picture-alliance/dpa Enlarge image Two cyclists watch the cruise ship "Dresden" from the banks of the Elbe in Magdeburg. (© picture-alliance/dpa) The Elbe is one of the last natural river habitats in central Europe. The river flows some 530 miles from Swiss Saxony to the North Sea. Rocky sandstone pillars and romantic vineyards characterize the southeast, in contrast to the coastal charm of the Wadden Sea National Park in the northwest. Between them lies Dresden with its world-famous Zwinger Palace and the reconstructed Church of Our Lady and the porcelain town of Meissen. The route also runs through Luther’s Wittenberg, then Dessau, birthplace of the Bauhaus artistic and architectural movement. Storks can often be spotted along the banks of this natural river landscape and sometimes eagles too.   

The next stretch of the cycle path passes through the metropolis and cultural center of Hamburg, which also happens to be Germany’s largest port. From here onwards container vessels and sailing vessels accompany the cyclists as they head towards the mouth of the Elbe at Cuxhaven.

The Elbe Cycle Route

The Weser

Weser Cycle Route © picture-alliance/dpa Enlarge image Cyclists stop for a picnic with a view of the Weser valley in Großenwieden near Hameln. (© picture-alliance/dpa) This route covers over 300 miles from the town of Hannoversch Münden to where the river Weser enters the ocean at Bremerhaven. Most of the path is away from the main roads on well-paved byways and there are hardly any inclines to be tackled. The scenery is varied, with castles and handsome country houses, and the world of make-believe is never far away in this landscape of figures from fairytale and legend. 

The first part of the route passes through the Weserbergland region to Minden via gently-rolling hills before the descent to the North German plain past delightful half-timbered buildings and the well-preserved historic centers of country towns. There are plenty of cultural highlights along the way but pride of place on this route must go to the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, the largest settlement on the Weser. Bremen lies some 220 miles beyond the starting point and cyclists in the port soon notice that the North Sea is not far away. From here the tour covers around 60 miles further, hugging either the left or the right bank of the Weser. 

The Weser Cycle Route

Bicycle Touring

Car Free Day on the Moselle © picture-alliance/dpa