Cities in the Saddle: Four fab cities to explore on a bike
Forget walking. And driving. Meadhbh McGrath has four cities which are ideal to experience from the saddle.
Just over the Øresund Bridge from Copenhagen lies a secret cycling paradise. Sweden's third-largest city leads the way in innovative cycling infrastructure - including dedicated bicycle signal lights and free public air-pumps. Enjoy a ride through the beautifully manicured Kungsparken, or check out the impressive Gothic architecture of the St Petri Church, the cool minimalism of the Moderna Museet and the remarkable Turning Torso skyscraper.
Get there: SAS (flysas.ie), Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) and Ryanair (ryanair.com) fly from Dublin to Copenhagen - an easy train or road connection to Malmö. See also visitsweden.com.
Amsterdam is synonymous with cycling (it's been ranked as the most cycle-friendly city on earth), and no visit is complete without a ride along the canals. Go Dutch by grabbing a bike from one of the rental shops scattered around the city, exploring the sprawling greenery of Vondelpark, the (slowly) gentrifying Red Light District and cultural treasures like the Rijksmuseum (rijksmuseum.nl; €15). Our tip: Watch out for the tram tracks - they're perfectly laid traps for front wheels.
Get there: aerlingus.com; ryanair.com; iamsterdam.com
No, seriously. Dublin is a darling of The Copenhagenize Index, which ranks the world's bike-friendly cities (our capital lies 15th). "The perfect cocktail of politicians who get it, investment in infrastructure and facilities, traffic calming measures and an epic bike share system accelerated the city's journey to urban modernisation," it gushes. But it's not all tummy-tickling. Dublin used to rank higher, and the Index warns against apathy. Our Tip: Try the Canal Way Cycle Route, which connects Portobello with the Docklands. Oh, and invest in a lock.
France's premier cycling city is laced with over 530km of cycle lanes, and the city's bike sharing service, Vélhop, allows you to rent from €5 per day. Bargain! All of Strasbourg's main attractions, including the picturesque district of Petite France, the graceful gardens of the German Quarter and the European Parliament, can be reached by bike - or you can try out the fortress cycle trail, a tour of 19 forts on either side of the Rhine (cyclinginalsace.com). Our Tip: Cycling helmet-free is the norm for locals, but tourists riding unfamiliar bikes overseas should think twice before following suit!
Get there: Strasbourg is a 2.5-hour drive from Frankfurt Hahn. See ryanair.com and otstrasbourg.fr
In Sweden and Denmark, look out for two-way lanes on cycling paths. Cycling in the wrong lane of a track — or worse still, on footpaths — is a major faux pas. Ding-a-ling!