Ideas for cycling holidays with the kids in Europe?
Cycling holidays with kids In Europe?
This is not a definitive guide by any means, just personal experiences from a 6-week cycling holiday around Europe with 3 young boys aged 3, 5 and 7. The oldest two on their own bikes, the 3-year old on a rear seat. (The 5 & 7 year old are experienced cyclists, both riding two-wheels since the age of 2, racing since the age of 4)
So these are our impressions from a few of those countries…
Fantastic cycling to be had in many areas of Belgium, from the relatively flat Flanders region to the hilly Ardennes area. Belgium is BIG into cycling, from the one day Spring classics to the worlds best Cyclocross racing. Oudenaarde, the regular home of The Tour of Flanders is worth a visit.
Apart from the great cycle racing museum and attached cyclists cafe, the lanes around this area are perfect for family rides. You could even take in some of the famous cobbled sections like the Koppenberg, but maybe on a dry day with the kids!
Obviously a big cycling country with a massive network of quiet departmental roads in rural areas, its never a struggle to plot some safe, quiet routes. More and more cycle lanes are appearing in towns too. We think the best time to head there with kids is when the Tour de France is on. Close to stages, the roads are taken over by bikes, making it safer for the kids. The carnival atmosphere, the Caravan and the race itself – if your kids like cycling, its superb inspiration for them.
Our favourite places are; Normandy for the lanes and easy climbing for the kids, The west coast Vendee Velo, Les 2 Alpes for the Summer MTB and Alpe d’Huez for the 21 bends/VTT routes/Kids Triathlon. Lake Annecy area is well documented as a favourite with cyclists too.
We only managed some cycling around Lake Lausanne, which was lovely – so we can’t say too much about cycling in Switzerland, other than – don’t forget your wallet! As you probably know, everything seems to cost triple what you would pay at home.
A visit to the Olympic Museum is well worth it, with plenty of cycling inspiration inside. If you are missing the pedals, give the Pedalo’s a go! After a hilly bike ride (and it is hilly in Lausanne) Lake Geneva is great for a cool off.
Some good off-road trails around St Johann I’m Pongau up to the incredible Liechtensteinklamm Falls. Road riding proved a bad idea. Like Germany, the drivers seemed aggressive and impatient with cyclists. That, mixed with often quite narrow alpine roads was not a good combination. We advise you stay off-road!
The boys really enjoyed the Flying Mozart cable carride with their bikes up to the nearby Wagrain MTB Park. Some good skills are required for this downhill though. A visit to Salzburg to the north was a particular highlight.
We didn’t have too many great experiences cycling with the kids in Germany. May have just been bad luck to be fair. Certainly in and around the town of Lubeck on the Baltic, other cycle lane users seemed very aggressive and intolerant of our kids, despite their lane discipline being better than many of the adults.
As we found in Austria, heading out onto the roads wasn’t a great deal different, with drivers again quite aggressive and often speeds higher than ideal. That said, there is still some great cycling to be had in Germany, just not where we went.
This was probably the kids favourite. Just like Holland there is a huge network of cycle lanes, in the main they are well away from the road itself. In addition, the attitudes of the drivers seemed even more laid back, so venturing onto the road didn’t pose any concerns. Like many areas of Europe, the cyclists on dedicated crossings had right of way over motorists too, which is strictly observed by drivers – be careful whilst driving!
We spent time around the excellent Viking Museum at Roskilde and the superb Middlealder Centre (middle ages living museum) near Nykobing Falster. Cycle lanes everywhere. You really can cover long distances without the need to be on the road itself – just great with young kids. Odense was another area really worth a visit. Legoland compulsory!
We liked Sweden. We did only visit the south of the country between Malmo, Kristianstad and Helsingborg, but it is still a vast rural landscape with a network of very quiet roads.
We managed several 30+km rides with the boys without any concerns around the Söderåsen National Park area. Less cycle lanes in the areas we visited, but as long as the main roads were avoided, the country lanes proved safe.
We briefly ventured to the UNESCO site at Český Krumlov in Southern Bohemia, which was really worth visiting, however it was now 40 degrees and cycling was getting tough for the kids, so we headed to the Baltic soon after!
Holland is renowned for its excellent cycle lanes criss-crossing the pan-flat landscape. What more could you want? You can cover huge distances without riding on a road, making family rides much more relaxed than the UK. In our experience with our own kids, they do need to be very disciplined with their riding – the locals use the cycle lanes to get from A to B – they are not all out for a leisure ride, so do exercise caution.
An interesting location to try is the De Hoge Veluwe National Park outside Arnhem, where you can cycle to a Desert! Kids loved it. You can also catch the cyclist ferry across the river, a few kilometres from Arnhem town.
We managed some lovely rides in the North East corner of Italy next to the Austrian/Slovenian borders on some disused railway lines near Tarvisio. Beware of some big climbs again if you venture onto the roads here. We only had time for a brief look around Lake Garda, we will be heading back to Italy at some point with the Cyclocross bikes for some Strada Bianche!
There a plenty of online resources giving you some great ideas of cycling route in Europe. We always check any parts of the route we suspect might be unsuitable for the kids using GoogleMaps and StreetView, where possible.
Oh, and don’t forget to ride on the right!