Cycling Germany

German Flag Capital: Berlin
Currency: Euro
Population: 82.4 million
Food: Sausage, Sauerkraut
Drink: Great Beer!

Germany is the perfect country for a first cycle tour.

Its wide network of bike paths mean you barely need to venture onto the road to travel between historic town centres and scenic castles perched on hilltops.

The food is excellent and varied, the beer is the best in the world and there’s accommodation for all budgets. Many people speak English. Some adventurous cyclists think of Germany as boring but we would call it comfortable and relaxed.

We visited Germany twice on our trip, in autumn 2006 and summer 2007. During these visits we covered a decent stretch of the north west and south of the country. Bicycle touring is very popular in Germany and we rarely had a day without meeting another bike tourist to swap stories with.

WATERSIDE PEDALLING
Last rays of lightRivers are a highlight of any bicycle trip to Germany. We particularly enjoyed pedalling along the Rhine near Koblenz and Rudesheim in the autumn, when we had mostly very good weather. The paths along the Danube and Main rivers were equally beautiful, although if you go in the summer expect to be there with hundreds of other cyclists. Frankfurt was a surprisingly interesting city, bustling with bars and street markets and great waterside bike paths. And of course we have to mention Munich, one of our favourite cities long before we took up this trip. You can ride in and out of the city easily along the Isar river.

ROADS AND MAPS
We rarely cycled on the roads with drivers since good quality paths were almost always available. Often the paths were completely hidden away from drivers, in woodland or located some distance from the road and separated by trees. Tourist bureaus in the northwest of the country and in Bayern were able to give us good guides to the cycle routes, although we did not find the same thing in and around Frankfurt. When we did bike with traffic, car drivers were very considerate and gave us plenty of room.

Our Route
Our first journey took us from Holland, slightly east towards Recklinghausen and then south along the Rhein river to the spa town of Baden-Baden. From there we crossed into Strasbourg, France. We returned in summer 2007, this time coming via the Danube Cycle Path, from Austria into Passau. We then used a combination of cycling and train travel to get west to Frankfurt and south to Munich. We left by going directly south through Bavaria for Austria, setting a course for Innsbruck and Italy.

On our first trip we had a 1:300 000 scale road map which we’d picked up some years ago. Its scale was fine for touring and campsites were marked. By the time we returned to Germany in 2007 we’d thrown away our map, so we relied on free maps from tourist bureaus. This wasn’t a problem since we mainly followed cycle paths.

ACCOMODATION
Tents in the rain There are many German campgrounds to choose from and they are always clean and well taken care of in our experience. They can, however, be rigid with their rules. Make sure you do your washing in the right sink. If you hang your clothes where you shouldn’t or cook in the wrong place, someone will be along quickly to correct your behaviour.

Breaking the Rules
Read about when we unwittingly broke the rules in a Passau campground. Thankfully this behaviour is a bit extreme but the Germans do love their rules.

In the summer, German campsites can be a bit expensive. There are not the cheap municipally run campgrounds that you find in France or Portugal. Costs range between 5-10 euros per person and on some of the high-traffic sites you may be thrown in a field along with several dozen other tents. We prefered to wild camp where possible and had no problems doing this. In the off season, some campsites were closed but if they sold year-round RV spots then usually someone was around and willing to accept a few euros and open up the toilet block for us.

BUDGET
Germany is a medium-budget European country. Outside of big cities you should be able to get a double hotel room for around 50 euros, possibly less in a guest house or B&B accomodation. German hotels, no matter their star classification, always seem to be very clean and come with a hearty breakfast. When it comes to grocery shopping, the many discount chains like Lidl, Aldi, Penny Markt and Norma offer plenty of food bargains.

PITFALLS
Almost all stores, aside from bakeries, are closed on Sunday so stock up on food for the weekend.

Also, while the train system is excellent and will accept bikes on most most routes (not on the ICE highspeed trains), you may have to lift them up and into high, narrow carriages. Some of the newer trains offer a flat access ramp but these are still relatively rare. Enlist some help before the train arrives if you are alone! Don’t forget to buy a pass for your bike at the ticket counter and ask where to stand on the platform so the bike carriage arrives in front of you.

Comments

  1. David Piper
    23rd February 2010 at 7:23 am #

    Couldnt agree more, Germany is cycling Utopia. Those bike paths lead the world and how they guide you safely into the gothic centres of huge cities like Ingolstad is a miracle.

    You’re right about those rules. We found a lovely swimming pool along the Danube and had it all to ourselves until we were told off for not obeying the dress code. It was nude only!

  2. DannyB
    21st October 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    Germany is great for cycling in …but here’s a few things based on our experiences:

    1. Not all the campsites are ‘high standard’ – although the good ones are fantastic. Some campsites marked on our maps turned out to be ‘private’ and these seem quite common.

    2. The signing of routes can be erratic

    3. I never understand the comments here and elsewhere about “although if you go in the summer expect to be there with hundreds of other cyclists” – we thought cycling along with hundreds of other cyclists was really good fun!!

    Other than that, we were shown great kindness and help by many people. On a number of occassions people on bikes said ‘ follow me!’ when we asked where a campsite or route was. And yes, the beer (and wine!) are fantastic, and Germany is generally cheap.

  3. Neil Colquhoun
    21st April 2012 at 11:59 am #

    planning my first ever cycle tour this summer following pretty much the same route you seemed to follow the first time (down the Rhein then west into France).

    this article was really helpful. particularly with the advice on camping and i must agree with @DannyB that being surrounded by other cyclists great.

    any MUST SEE locations, sites, roads you would advise for a first timer?

    • Annika
      18th June 2012 at 8:41 pm #

      Hey Neil,
      I am from Germany and I started my first bike tour there in September 2011 (yes, I liked it, I am still on the road, currenty in Georgia).
      We started in Bremen following the Weser Radweg. It is very flat, that was why I as a beginner loved it.
      We only cycled a little part of the Main Radweg but it is said to be one of the most beautiful ones. You will follow the river’s curves and there are plenty of historic towns on the way. You will hardly cycle any hills in the way but you can see them on both sides of the river. This way leads you through wine- and beer country. There are plenty of other cycling paths connected to it so you can always leave the way and take another one for some days.
      The Danube way is a very easy one though for me it was the one with the best signs (not confusing at all).
      Those three I would personally advise for your first trip. But I am sure – any route you take you will have fun.
      Have a Weizenbier and Bratwurst for me in a beer garden!
      All the best from Tbilisi,
      Annika

  4. wally
    21st May 2013 at 4:49 am #

    Hi, I am planning a trip and like the Weser radweg, am concerned that some of it appears to be on a road?. We like to Tour and hardly ever be on a road with cars or near roads . Can anyone suggest some routes like this in Germany?

  5. serbring
    12th March 2014 at 11:37 pm #

    Hi,

    The next summer I’m gonna cycle from Munich to Hamburg and I will approximately cycle 100 km per day. Which cities are worth to visit?

    thanks

  6. CarlaJeff
    28th June 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    We are hoping to bike the Danube and Rhine June/July 2015, anyone out there with kids hoping to do the same? Give us a shout!

  7. Jeff
    30th June 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    If biking Germany in the summer do you need reservations for campsites or BandB? Or can you show up at a campsite and expect to find space?! Thank you

  8. David
    8th July 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    We’ve just returned from cycling down the Rhine – very popular route with cyclists. We didnt need reservations in accommodation or campsites but found there were not very many campsites along the route except huge places full of camper vans!

  9. Stefan
    4th January 2022 at 12:37 am #

    This looks like great fun, especially as I was born in Brake. (I’m Australian now.) I’ll be able to visit relatives on the way through.

    1. Is there a recommended map showing campsites? I think I found an app for this, but there must be more than one.

    2. Which way do headwinds blow in spring? Should I pedal from south to north or the other way around?

    3. Where is a good place to buy a used touring bike in Germany or Austria — is there somewhere I could buy one with all the panniers for a two month trip? German eBay? Facebook Marketplace? Bike shop?

    Hope I can travel soon…go away Covid!

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