Did you know that there’s a cycle route that links the whole of Europe from East to West? It goes through 10 countries, follows, 6 different rivers and even passes by 4 Unesco World Heritage sites.
This is a well-ridden route and one that’s popular with independent bike-packers with their heavy hybrids laden with pannier bags and the obligatory baguette sticking out of the bag. At almost 4000km long, it’s a cycle tourist’s dream: for the most part it’s pretty flat, well-surfaced and visits rivers, castles, lakes and two very different coastlines.
We’ve been so excited by the completion and continued improvement of the Eurovelo 6 that we recently incorporated it into our Danube Cycle. So here’s what we thought of it first-hand on a recce of a route from Prague to Budapest.
We joined the route about 20 miles north of Vienna in the satellite town of Stockerau. We followed commuters, in-line skaters and people out for an evening jog down a fairly non-descript concrete path until all of a sudden, boom! We rolled down a little ramp and there it was – the beautiful blue Danube.
With the skyscrapers of Vienna getting closer and closer, we turned onto a bridge and cycled along the Donau Insel, an island in the middle of the Danube. After a slightly confusing system of cycle paths through the city – thanks Strava for routing us out the other side – we once again found ourselves cycling beside the Danube away from Vienna and following the well-marked signs for ‘Euro6’ and ‘Bratislava’.
Unfortunately, about 18 miles out of Vienna, the cycle path is being regenerated to create, what looks like, large bayous to prevent flooding of the local villages that line the Danube. This seemed like a good time to stop and cool down with a traditional Austrian drink – an Almdudler Spritz. There are plenty of cafes at regular intervals along the route, so you can stop for a coffee, a cheeky beer, and stock up on some snacks.
The diversion from the path took us through some beautifully wide and almost traffic-free roads through Austrian farmland. We popped back out at a bridge over the Danube and switched sides of the river. It wasn’t long before we were in Slovakia. Initially, the cycle path was shared with the road and we went on a few twists and turns through a little town, but soon we were back on our own dedicated path all the way to Bratislava. The 18th-century hilltop town is the capital of Slovakia and a great place to stop for lunch. Don’t worry, you don’t need Slovakian money as most places are happy to accept euros.
If you stick to the Eurovelo in Bratislava, you will find yourself running parallel with roads but always on your own separate cycle path – we felt very safe. Bratislava was much smaller than we thought and after 10-15 minutes of cycling we were back in the countryside, using the Danube as our compass and far removed from the road and any traffic once again.
The route took us onto another island, where you can try your hand at a slalom canoe course or even visit a museum about the Danube river. Top tip: the route along this island goes on for at least 20 miles and there isn’t much in the way of amenities – so stock up on water and snacks in Bratislava! It was a beautiful day and we followed the ‘Euro6’ on top of a high bank, with the road below us and the river right next to us. It was so peaceful and scenic, however, I can imagine in wet and windy weather it could be gruelling – so be prepared with a waterproof and a windbreaker!
After leaving the island, we cycled through Slovakian countryside and the path stretched ahead of us as far as the eye could see. Finally, we took a right turn up to the road and began to cross a bridge. Like crossing many other borders in the Schengen zone, there was not much to distinguish that we had left Slovakia and entered Hungary, but we never miss an opportunity to take a selfie with a border sign.
For a short while we cycled on the road, past the old border check, and for the most part it was pretty quiet, but there were the occasional lorries hooning past. Rather helpfully, the Hungarians have a sign to tell you when a road isn’t suitable for cycling, and we followed the subtle green cycling signs away from the road and used our pre-planned route into the town of Györ – our home for the night.
The Eurovelo 6 in this part of Hungary wasn’t as great as before – we were often on the road, albeit quiet country roads, and some of the ‘official’ Euro 6 routes were definitely not suitable for our bikes, so we had to use our initiative to find a nicer, or better, way.
We went through the stunning and picturesque towns of Eszertgom, Szentendre and Visegrad before once again joining the dedicated cycle lanes of the Eurovelo 6, and we were glad to see those big green signs. With the Danube on our left we rolled right into the centre of Budapest, crossing over the Ujpesti Vasuti bridge and finishing our adventure in front of the Houses of Parliament.
Topography – mainly flat.
Terrain – mostly smooth tarmac or concrete paths, however, there were a few loose patches, cobbles and the odd bit of unsurfaced road. We’d recommend 25mm reinforced tyres such as Gatorskins or Armadillos.
Ability – suitable for most riders as there are plenty of places to stop along the way and the ride is mostly flat, smooth and traffic free.