Europe is a fascinating continent and there are some great ways to see it   by rail, by road, on foot   but nothing beats travelling by bicycle and being able to see so much of this great diverse mix of countries all under your own steam, not to mention getting a decent workout at the same time.

For a long time, Europe has been one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, due in no small part to the great variety on offer. There are wonderful historic cities to explore, most of which also have a bustling nightlife when the sun goes down. There are vast expanses of forest, mountains and lakes and then there are also immaculate stretches of coastline, offering a chance to enjoy that winning combination of sun, sea and sand. Travelling to and around these enticing destinations by any means is a great experience, but doing so by bike is truly unforgettable. Nothing quite beats the freedom to see the sights at your own pace and under your own steam and the feeling at the end of the day when you feel tired but wholly fulfilled.

Cycling holidays in Europe can take place anywhere, whether urban or rural, but the continent really benefits from having such a great range of very bike-friendly cities. London is one great example, with many bicycles to hire to be found at countless spots around the city, allowing visitors a chance to see some of the English capital’s iconic landmarks while getting some exercise too. Paris is similar, with the image of a bicycle leaning up against the wall in a quaint French alleyway being quintessential of the country, while bicycles feature as much in the imagery of Amsterdam as canals and gabled houses.

Countries such as Germany and Austria, as well as much of Eastern Europe, still have large swathes of unspoilt rural environments intact and many of these are now preserved as national parks or nature reserves. Understandably these areas are protected and motor traffic is restricted, meaning one of the best ways to see them is from the saddle of a bike. Many of these country parks will have trails for hikers and cyclists and the landscape can vary from thick evergreen forest (such as Germany’s Black Forest) to majestic mountains (the Tyrol in Austria) and tranquil lakes (Lake Bled in Slovenia). Be assured that although many people will explore these areas on foot, you will certainly not be alone in trying to take in as much as possible by using a bicycle.

Perhaps Europe’s most famous stretch of coastline is along the south of the continent where it borders the Mediterranean Sea, renowned for its balmy summer temperatures and luscious beaches. It is, however, by no means the only coast worth visiting   France’s Atlantic seaboard is delightful as are the Adriatic and Black Seas towards the east. Cycling along coastal roads offers a great view of the ocean scenery as well as giving travellers the chance to discover picturesque seaside villages and other hidden treasures that may not appear on the map and may not be reached by the major roads and traffic routes.

In short, cycling is an all-round great way to see Europe, whether your interest lies in the cities, countryside or coasts of this magnificent continent. Cycling combines enjoyment with fitness, as well as being a cheaper alternative and a chance to see your destination from a completely fresh perspective and stumble upon unexpected delights.

Peter Smith writes regularly on cycling holidays in Europe for a range of sports tourism websites and blogs. He is a keen cyclist himself and has seen a major portion of the world from the saddle of his trusty bike.