The popular Rhine River cycling route stretches from Andermatt in Switzerland to Hoek Van Holland in The Netherlands, a distance of 1,232 km through the heart of Europe. And during our September ride the route was busy with many festivals taking place.
Having limited time our small group of four cyclists from Canada decided to just do the central section. We started in Strasbourg, France with an early morning arrival on the TGV from Paris settled in for a breakfast in the medieval heart of the town before mounting our bicycles for a look at the European Parliament and riding along the canals of quaint Petit France. There were signed bicycle lanes everywhere and it was easy to get about which is why it considered one of the most bike friendly cities in the world.
We departed the next morning along the Canal Du Rhone-Au-Rhin also signed as Eurovelo 15. The paved bicycle path follows the canal for about 70 km, very straight and flat, flanked by majestic trees for much of the way. While the route continued on the French side of the river we took a short section on the road to reach a bridge (with bike lanes) to Breisgau for our first sight of the Rhine River.
We had reserved a hotel in Breisgau using the German Cycling Club Bett + Bike section which is also in English and suggests cycle friendly accommodation. Indeed although our hosts did not speak English we were expected and they provided a garage to store our bikes overnight. The nearby pedestrian only street provided many restaurants and a nice spot for a drink and dinner. Then there was a short hilltop walk for excellent views of the countryside and cruise boats on the Rhine.
The German side of the Rhine River route to Basel is along a combination of paved, hard paved, gravel and cobblestone surfaces so on our second day of riding took some getting used to with the loaded panniers. We saw plenty of others bicycle touring and met cyclists from Norway, Australia and elsewhere. We were following the river which is constantly on your right side and riding mostly through flat forested terrain.
In Basel we reached the Three Countries Bridge connects to the French side for riders who have followed the canal from Colmar (mostly hard packed). We however stopped in Basel for 2 nights to explore the city staying in a very bold colored B & B near the waterfront. The tourist board offers inexpensive guided walking tours in English and German and is well worth the time.
If departing Basel on the German side it is signed as the Rhin Route/Eurovelo 15 while the route in Switzerland is signed as Swiss National Route 2/Eurovelo 6. We chose the Germany side and headed along a combination of farm lanes, quiet residential streets and bike lanes over gently rolling terrain. We passed through quaint medieval style towns, corn fields and plenty of apple orchards. It wasn’t all paved as we encountered a few hard packed trails which didn’t slow us down. More open, very different terrain than the canal and forested path of the previous days.
At Bad Sackingen we stopped to take pictures of the longest covered wooden bridge I Europe. And further along at Laufenburg the route had taken us up a small hill so we a spectacular view of the town on both the German and Swiss sides when descending. More photo’s here of a castle with the town tucked into a curve in the river.. Then we continued to Waldshut and the hotel we had booked. Another Bike + Bett hotel, all the other guests were bicycle touring.
After Waldshut the German side of the Rhine bicycle route heads inland passing through small villages and with a few small hills to keep things interesting. Many apple orchards on this section of the route.
The bike route takes you right to the Rheinfall, a bit touristy but well worth a brief stop for pictures and lunch. It was then up an extremely steep hill and over to nearby Schaffhausen where we had accommodation booked. The main street of the medieval town is pedestrian only and fun to walk before tackling the stairs to take us to the Munot Fortress overlooking town.
It was lightly raining as we left Schaffhausen the next morning and I hated riding on the wet cobblestones until we reached the nearby Rhin Route. More apple orchards, a covered bridge, a few easy hills along quiet roads or bike paths took us the 25 km to Stein am Rhein with what is considered one of the best preserved medieval centers in German. Still raining we stopped for coffee and pastries with a few other cyclists.
Leaving Stein am Rhein we crossed over to the Swiss side of the river to continue our ride. From here to Konstanz you are following the ever widening river on a mostly paved section. The rain had lifted so the views across the Rhine were awesome and we soon came into view of Reichenau Island, a UNESCO heritage site which can be reached by a causeway with a bike lane from just outside Konstanz.
It was an easy 25 km ride into Konstanz and our accommodation in the center of town. We knew we picked the right hotel when we found the bike storage area already crowded. Time to explore the busy harbor on the west end Lake Constance, cathedral and of course stop at a café for dinner.
The Rhine Cycling route continues along the either side of Lake Constance before heading south into Switzerland. However we had decided to cycle the entire 280 km around the lake.
Departing Konstanz on the Bodnesee Route (also signed as Eurovelo 15/Rhin Route) we headed inland and encountered our first real hill of the ride before descending the following the shores of the lake again. The downhill was interesting as I was passed by about 30 school kids on bicycles and their teacher.
This section featured more vineyards, orchards with paved roads or bike paths along Lake Constance and a lot of other cyclists. It was a holiday and this part of the route was packed with cyclists out for day of riding. We did not have to read the bike signs we just had to follow the other cyclists.
After about 70 km we came to the walled town of Meersburg and our hotel which we checked into before visiting the interesting hilltop castle. The castle has 33 rooms open to viewing and we received an English language brochure explaining the exhibits.
Next day we continued riding along the shore of the lake again through Friedrichshafen, home of the Zeppelin Museum. This is my favorite section of the ride with interesting buildings, parks, vineyards and our first views of the Alps to see along the way. Our lunch stop was in Lindau which is a slight side trip across the bridge to this island with an historic harbor.
Continuing our ride we soon came to the Austrian border and the resort town Bregenz. We took the time to walk the pedestrian only streets and take the cable car up the Alps for great views of Lake Constance.
The next day quickly brought us to where the Rhine River enters Lake Constance and many cyclists continue along the route towards Liechtenstein and Andermatt. However we continued following the south shore signed as Swiss National Route 2/Eurovelo 6 passing through many resort towns, each with a harbor full of sailboats. Easy riding although not a scenic as the north shore until we reached Konstanz again.
I can now say I accomplished one of my bucket list items by riding along the Rhine Route. Many who are bicycle touring prefer to follow the entire route from south to north following the flow of the river. Whichever section you ride expect numerous castles, ancient cathedrals and other historic buildings, covered bridges vineyards, orchards, medieval towns, plenty of other cyclists and enjoyable scenery the entire journey.