If you’re looking to combine culture, food and cycling, a trip to Europe is probably still your best bet. Here are a few cities on and off the beaten path for a cycling-centric vacation that’s still heavy on the charm.
If you want to train like the pros, Girona is the spot for you. Just a couple of hours from Barcelona, Girona is a small city surrounded by big mountains and not far from gorgeous coastal rides. Rent a bike in town or bring your road or gravel bike and prepare to put in huge hours hitting every classic climb in the area.
Els Angels is the most common route, and worth the journey for the view, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s ‘the big climb.’ Compared to some of the other monster climbs like Rococorba, it’s puny. The town itself has tons to offer, from restaurants with delicious but inexpensive food (and wine) to fancier Michelin-starred spots and coffee shops like La Fabrica that cater to pro and visiting cyclists. While it’s primarily a road destination, the mountain biking options around town are solid as well — head to Bike Breaks Girona for a day rental if you want to hit the singletrack just outside town. If you’re staying in Spain longer, head to Mallorca, the coastal cycling hub, for slightly warmer weather and equally fantastic riding.
In and around Amsterdam, one thing is certain: They love bikes. Whether you’re heading out for an early morning ride or a sundown jaunt, you’ll be shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of bike commuters heading to or from work, making it one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. Outside the city, the (primarily flat) cycling around the canals and fields will be some of the most peaceful, relaxing riding you’ll ever do. It’s a great trip if you’re traveling with a fellow cyclist who isn’t into hill climbing or descending, and out of all the options listed here, it’s the most urban, so you’ll have a more traditional tourist experience.
Located in Tuscany, Pienza has been on the Giro d’Italia route in past years and is an obvious cycling destination. Of course, in this region, most cities will be cycling-friendly and have plenty of riding. Your main goal will likely be to ride enough to build up an appetite to eat all the delicious food and drink the Chianti that’s local to the region. You’re also only a 20-mile rolling ride away from the spa town of Bagno Vignoni, known for its large pool of warm thermal waters — for post-ride recovery, of course.
You can’t mention cycling in Europe and skip France. The Provence region has just about any kind of cycling you can possibly imagine, with stunning roads, climbs, trails and views — and it’s cycling-friendly year-round. If you’re a roadie, a climb up Mont Ventoux is an absolute must, for the views and stunning climb perspective, but also because it’s where many races have been lost and won (including stages of Le Tour de France), so it’s part of cycling history. For cyclists hoping to ride in peace, avoid the height of tourist season (June–July) if you hate crowds, but be aware that if you show up in the winter, many restaurants, cafes and even hotels are shut down for the season.