The 6 Best European Rides to Indulge Your Senses

Delectable treats from the Frey Chocolate factory
Delectable treats from the Frey Chocolate factory
The Italians have a wonderful saying about the importance of food to their culture - “we live to eat and not eat to live”. This of course makes perfect sense in a country so blessed with culinary masterpieces that it’s worth visiting just for the food and wine. Which is exactly what Traveller journalist, Elspeth Callender discovered on her recent self-guided cycling trip along the Via Francigena from Siena to Rome. However, the culinary delights of Europe are not confined to Italy alone; whether its truffles in Croatia, chestnut beer in Corsica or dumplings in Moscow, there’s a smorgasbord of surprising gastronomical experiences waiting for you on your next active Europe holiday. So to get your tastebuds going, we’ve put together a list of regional specialities that you can try on your next active European cycling holiday. That way, you’ll be able to say: “I cycle, so I can eat”! 

EAT, DRINK & CYCLE IN CATALONIA

Manarola, Cinque Terre, nativity scene.Sample local produce in Barcelona's vibrant market La Boqueri Catalonia, that beautiful, culturally diverse region in Spain’s north east has a reputation for producing some of the country’s finest cuisine. Sample eggplants and bell peppers smoked on ashes, Spanish olives, cured meats, cheeses and toasted bread rubbed with tomato, olive oil, garlic and salt just for starters. And for dessert, try Catalan Crema, a delicious version of crème brûlée served with a glass of sweet muscatel wine. Experience the dishes and wines of Catalonia on our eight-day self guided Catalonia by Bike trip.

MASTER DUMPLINGS IN MOSCOW

Manarola, Cinque Terre, nativity scene.Traditional homemade Russian Pelmeni. Image courtesy of Wikipedia There’s more to Russia than just vodka, caviar and the 2018 (FIFA) Football World Cup. One of the most popular dishes in Russia is pelmeni, a traditional dumpling made of ground meat (beef, pork or lamb), wrapped in unleavened dough and boiled. Pelmeni comes in all shapes and sizes and can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways. Some people like them buttered, sprinkled with fresh dill and black pepper and then dipped in sour cream while others enjoy them with Dijon mustard and sour cream. Join a masterclass in making Russian dumplings on our new eight-day guided cycle “Russia: Moscow & beyond” trip.

BE BOLD IN SPAIN

Christmas tree lights up the square in Prague.There's no shortage of vineyards to explore and wines to taste in La Rioja. While it might be small in size, the province of La Rioja in northern Spain produces some of the country's best reds. There are more than 500 wineries dotted around the region’s rolling green hills. Pair your Rioja red with spicy chorizo, succulent roasted lamb, smoky red piquillo peppers, plump white asparagus or a fresh, milky cameros cheese and we bet you will be having more than “just a splash”. Find your perfect drop on our eight day Highlights of the Rioja by Bike self-guided journey.

TRY TRUFFLES IN ISTRIA

City centre of Ljubljana at ChristmasTry truffles in Istria. Image by Ivo Biocina, courtesty Croatian National Tourism Board While Italy’s Alba and Piedmont regions and Provence in France have long been famous for their highly prized truffles, the discovery of the world’s largest white truffle in Central Istria in 1999 put Croatia firmly on the truffle lover’s map. The Istrian white truffle, with its delicate aroma, is now considered one of the finest fungi in the world. It grows deep in the Motovun forest along with three varieties of black truffles. Try traditional Istrian pasta with black or white truffle, fish or shrimps with white truffle or steak with grated truffle. And for dessert, try truffle-infused ice-cream or chocolate cake with olive oil and truffles. Join the hunt for truffles on our five-day self-guided Paranzena Cycle Trail from Trieste, Italy to Porec, Croatia.

FIND YOUR SWEET TOOTH IN SWITZERLAND

Sinterklaas parade on the canals of Amsterdam.Discover the secrets of Swiss chocolate making. Image courtesy of Switzerland Tourism Ever since the first chocolate factory was opened by François-Louis Cailler nearly 200 years ago Switzerland has become a paradise for chocolate lovers. Swiss chocolatiers have also been responsible for producing choc delights such as truffles, pralines, cakes, and mousses. As they say in Switzerland, if nine out of 10 people say they like chocolate, the 10th person must be lying. Re-discover your love of chocolate on our new seven day self-guided Swiss Chocolate Cycle with visits to not one, but two, chocolate factories as well as the opportunity to create your own chocolate bar and learn the secrets of Swiss chocolate production.

FOLLOW THE BEER TRAIL IN BAVARIA

Traditional Christmas market in Jena, GermanyTraditional German food is enjoyed best with a beer. Image courtesy of Tim Charody. Any beer lover worth his or her stein will have heard of the Bavarian region of Franconia, home to a third of Germany’s breweries. A journey along the Bavarian Beer Trail takes you to the UNESCO city of Bamberg - with its half-timbered houses, nine breweries and more than 50 varieties of beer. It’s award-winning smoked beer is best enjoyed on a warm summer’s day in one of the beer gardens or ‘cellars’ perched on a hill above the old town. After an active day’s cycling we’d suggest you grab a table under a shady chestnut tree and order some Obatzda for starters, a creamy Bavarian cheese dip, served with dark rye bread, pickles and sliced onion. For something heartier, try roast pork knuckles or some of the variety of sausages for which the region is famous for. UK journalist Jon Holmes wrote about this trip for The Times and shared some of his thoughts. Get your thirst up on our seven-day self-guided Bavarian Beer Trail Cycle which winds through the Aisch Valley taking in Bamberg, Rothenburg and Nuremburg. And there's the option to upgrade to an e-bike!  
active Europe, Croatia, culinary, Cycling, food, Germany, Spain, Switzerland

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