Inside tips on cycling in NRW
Traditional favourites, newcomers, certified quality routes and tips on apps, route planners, etc.
NRW has 14,000 km of cycle paths. We can point you in the right direction with inside tips on traditional favourites and newcomers, premium routes and route planners.
Cycle paths in NRW: the traditional favourites
This cycling tour with an avian theme leads through Münsterland and across the border into the Netherlands. As the name suggests, the Flamingo Route takes in the main attraction of Zwillbrocker Venn, a nature reserve covered by forest, moor, wetland meadows and lakes, which in summer plays host to Europe’s most northerly colony of breeding flamingos. Visitors can usually see the colourful birds from March to July, or as late as September in a successful breeding season. Specially constructed hides provide the best way to view the flamingos. The circuit has a total distance of around 450 kilometres, and with few ascents it is also suitable for inexperienced cyclists. The integrated cycle zone network makes it easy for visitors to plan day trips. As well as flamingos and other delights of nature, pretty villages, castles and stately homes can also be seen along the route.
Bislicher Insel Cycle Route
The island of Bislicher Insel near Xanten provides another great opportunity to experience nature. This nature reserve on the Lower Rhine is located in one of Germany’s last few floodplain landscapes and is home to countless species of birds and rare aquatic plants. The NaturForum Bislicher Insel was recognised as an official project of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity for its efforts to preserve the floodplains habitat. Cyclists can discover the island on a 2.5-kilometre path. A nearby bicycle ferry provides a convenient connection to other touring routes on the Lower Rhine.
Wasserburgen-Route (Moated Castles Route)
The Wasserburgen-Route (Moated Castles Route) provides a wonderful opportunity to admire historic castles and palaces. Skirting the Eifel mountains and passing through the Cologne Lowland, the 470-kilometre route is mostly flat and takes in the greatest density of moated castles in Europe. The region along the route contains over 120 castles and palaces, as well as historic villages and towns, monasteries and mills.
100 Schlösser Route (100 Castles Route)
There are also plenty of castles to admire on the 100 Castles Route in Münsterland. This tour can no longer be called an inside tip, however, as it has come to be known as the “Queen of all Cycle Routes”. Stretching an incredible 960 kilometres, it makes its way through the green park landscapes of Münsterland, passing romantic strongholds, moated castles and stately homes, as well as impressive palace gardens and grounds. Day- or weekend-trippers can also easily plan to cycle individual sections.
Römer-Lippe-Route (Roman Lippe Route)
The Roman Lippe Route has already become a firm favourite, even though it was only opened in 2013. The 295-kilometre route begins at the Hermannsdenkmal monument near Detmold in the Teutoburg Forest and then follows North Rhine-Westphalia’s longest river until it joins the Rhine at Wesel in the Lower Rhine. Cyclists will discover the remains of Roman warehouses and Roman museums along the way, as well as purpose-built rest stops and viewpoints. This is an unmissable route for anyone with an interest in ancient Roman history!
Bundesviertel and Bad Godesberg Route
Cyclists with an interest in recent German history should check out the Bundesviertel and Bad Godesberg Route in Bonn. This route of approximately 20 kilometres links numerous attractions and historic sites from the past and present of the Federal Republic, including the Bonn offices of the German Chancellor and President, Palais Schaumburg and Villa Hammerschmidt, as well as the former plenary chamber of the German Parliament.
Kloster-Garten-Route (Monastery Gardens Route)
For those who seek spirituality, contemplation and relaxation, the ideal cycle tour can be found in the Teutoburg Forest: the 190-kilometre Kloster-Garten-Route (Monastery Gardens Route) leads cyclists to seven monastic oases. Other tourist attractions along the way include the Organ Museum in Borgentreich, the Weser-Skywalk in Beverungen and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Schloss Corvey in Höxter.
Erft-Radweg (River Erft Cycle Path)
While not as well-known as other river routes in NRW, the Erft Cycle Path nevertheless boasts a huge variety of attractions. Highlights include the medieval Eifel town of Bad Münstereifel, numerous moated castles, the former guesthouse of the German Federal Government, the castle of Schloss Gymnich, the palaces of Schloss Augustusburg and Schloss Falkenlust, Garzweiler surface mine and Museum Insel Hambroich. With a total distance of around 110 kilometres, the route follows the Erft from its source in Nettersheim in the Eifel mountains until it joins the Rhine at Neuss.
Newcomers: recently opened cycle paths in NRW
The Alter Soestweg (Old Soest Trail)
A short but pleasant tour awaits cyclists on the Old Soest Trail, which was just opened in 2014. A trade route for merchandise in the Middle Ages, it covers a distance of 12 kilometres from the town of Soest to the Möhnesee reservoir. With a bit of luck, cyclists will be able to spot shy wild horses, the Koniks, and aurochs-like cattle roaming the protected pasturelands.
The Schimmi-Radtour (Schimmi Cycle Tour)
In 2013, DU Tours introduced a new treat for fans of detective Schimanski – a former character in the German TV series Tatort: they can now also take the popular Schimmi Tour by bike. The first year focused on the northern districts of Duisburg, but in 2014, original filming locations in the south of the city were added to the tour. The Ruhr Area staples of currywurst and chips with mayo and ketchup are of course included!
Panorama Cycle Routes
2014 saw the introduction of one more cycling attraction to complete the network of Panorama Cycle Routes in North Rhine-Westphalia. A total of 314 kilometres of cycle tracks now connect Bergisches Land, Sauerland and the Ruhr Area. While Bergisches Land and Sauerland in particular are known for their hilly terrain, even inexperienced cyclists will be in their comfort zone on the Panorama Cycle Route network as largely flat disused railway lines make up 176 kilometres of the route. The network comprises the Bergische Panorama-Radweg (Bergischer Panorama Cycle Track), the Ruhr-Sieg-Radweg (Ruhr-Sieg Cycle Path), the Panorama-Radweg Niederbergbahn (Niederbergbahn Panorama Cycle Track) and the Balkantrasse Cycle Path.
Bike Park and Trailpark Winterberg
Not quite a cycle tour, the Bike Park Winterberg in Sauerland instead offers a selection of challenging obstacle courses. Located at an altitude of 776 metres in the Rothaargebirge mountains, mountain bikers can show off their skills on eight different courses, share some of their tricks with others or simply revel in the opportunity to rip. In 2015, the new Trailpark Winterberg is set to open directly opposite the existing Bike Park. Its 20 kilometres of mountain biking trails will provide more variety than ordinary cross country trails but will be much less difficult than the Bike Park runs. The Trailpark will have different levels of difficulty and an obstacle course. and it is suitable for cyclists with electric bikes as well as regular mountain and trekking bikes.
Cycle paths certified with a seal of quality in NRW
Ruhrtalradweg (Ruhr Valley Cycle Path)
Currently one of seven cycle paths certified as a “quality route” in North Rhine-Westphalia, the Ruhr Valley Cycle Path has been awarded four out of five stars. According to the 2014 cycle tourism report of the German Cyclists’ Association (ADFC), it ranks in the top ten of Germany’s most popular long-distance cycle routes. The 230-kilometre Ruhr Valley Cycle Path begins at the source of the Ruhr in Winterberg in Sauerland and ends in Duisburg in the Ruhr Area, at the point where the Ruhr meets the Rhine. The route is perfect for those with an interest in both nature and culture: forests, moors and heathland alternate with castles, idyllic half-timbered houses and the many traces of the industrial era, which are symbolic of the development and history of the entire Ruhr Area.
Emsradweg (Ems Cycle Path)
The Ems Cycle Path is another four-star route following the course of a river, which runs through NRW for part of the way. Cyclists can follow the watercourse for around 380 kilometres from source to estuary along quiet, mostly flat tarmacked paths. The route begins in the Teutoburg Forest and leads all the way to the North Sea. The main attractions include historic towns and villages with traditional half-timbered houses and the park landscape of Münsterland with its many castles.
Route der Industriekultur per Rad (Industrial Heritage Trail Cycle Path)
Another recently certified route is the Industrial Heritage Trail in the Ruhr Area. In 2014, it was awarded three stars by the German Cyclists’ Association (ADFC) at the ITB international travel trade show in Berlin. The 700 kilometre-long cycle track network connects many industrial monuments between Duisburg and Hamm, and is ideal for both day trips and longer cycle tours. Despite its name, the route has more than just industrial heritage attractions: natural beauty can also be found in many places where the path follows a river or winds through a forest.
Another recent star recipient is the Paderborner-Land-Route. This three-star route covers approximately 250 kilometres on a circuit of eastern Westphalia’s diverse tourist attractions. Highlights along the way include Paderborn and its 13th century cathedral and the Heinz Nixdorf Museumsforum, the world’s largest computer museum. Other attractions include Altenbeken and its impressive railway viaduct as well as Lichtenau and the Augustinian Canon Monastery of Dalheim. In Bad Wünneberg, visitors can experience a barefoot path, while in Salzkotten a graduation tower can be visited.
Töddenland-Radweg (Töddenland Cycle Path)
Even though it was only opened in 2013, the Töddenland Cycle Path has already been awarded three stars. The route is named after the Tödden, Westphalian salesmen from northern Münsterland and southern Emsland who travelled as far as England and the Baltic in the 17th and 18th centuries to sell their wares. Today, museums, old craft workshops and well-preserved houses commemorate the successful tradesmen. The cycle path connects all of these places on a 120-kilometre circular route.
Grünroute (Green Route)
Numerous remnants of the mining industry can be seen on the 370 kilometre-long Green Route in the region where Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands meet. But there’s more: moated castles, national parks and natural monuments also lie along the route, providing plenty of diversions for touring cyclists. The German Cyclists’ Association (ADFC) has awarded the Green Route three stars.
The Euroroute R1 cycle path has also recently achieved three stars and the right to call itself a “quality route”. The 3,500 kilometre-long trail leads through the north of the continent, starting in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, before finishing in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. The route has its origins in North Rhine-Westphalia: the 275-kilometre section between Vreden and Höxter, which is still in use, was formerly known as the “Westfalen-Radweg” before it was incorporated into the wider Euroroute. The attractions along the way include the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Schloss Corvey, the Zwillbrocker Venn nature reserve and the Hermannsdenkmal (Hermann Monument) in the Teutoburg Forest.
A little help from technology
Conquering hilly terrain with an e-bike
Those who feel that North Rhine-Westphalia’s hills and mountains are beyond them can easily switch to an electric bike, which are becoming increasingly easy to hire in NRW. Some tourism regions like Sauerland and North Eifel have produced maps showing the locations of rental points and recharging stations, for example. They also suggest tours for e-bikes on their websites. The rental points in the Teutoburg Forest are updated in the Teuto_Navigator, an interactive online route planner.
Navigating the Rhineland with the QuoRadis app
The RadRegionRheinland cycling website has an award-winning navigation app called QuoRadis which makes planning a tour through Rhineland much easier. Alongside well-known themed routes like the Rheinradweg Rhine Cycle Route) and the Wasserquintett (Water Quintet), new tours focusing on culture, nature, gastronomy, history and architecture are available. The tours take in places such as mills, palaces, historic monuments, industrial complexes and castles. Multimedia content – in the form of short films showing the interior of buildings with restricted or no access to visitors – can be viewed at certain locations. Apart from the route planner, the app also provides information on restaurants and hotels along the way. The app received an award for innovation in tourism at the ITB international trade show in 2014.
Natur erleben NRW: a cycling tour planner for nature reserves
Nature-loving cyclists are the target users of the “Natur erleben NRW” portal, which was launched in March 2014 by the NRW branch of the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) and Münster University of Applied Sciences. The platform makes it easier for cyclists to plan one-day trips and longer excursions taking in some of the 200 selected nature reserves. A special app also provides information about the current route and the sights worth seeing along the way.
Pfarr-Rad: Germany’s first cycling portal dedicated to churches
The Pfarr-Rad portal, launched in 2013 by the archdiocese of Cologne, makes it easier to plan a church-themed cycling tour. Germany’s first cycling portal dedicated to churches presents tours that focus on the ecclesiastical and cultural sights en route. A unique feature of the site is that users can put together their own tour of churches, chapels and monasteries complete with text and photos. All of the available tours can be printed out or downloaded on GPS devices.
Everything in one place: Radroutenplaner NRW
The best comprehensive route planner for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia can be found on the website Radroutenplaner NRW. It allows users to plan every step of their route right from their front door and it also has suggestions for interesting cycling tours. According to the German Cyclists’ Association (ADFC), the planner is a leading product of its kind worldwide.