Cycling tours along the Rhine – 7 ideas

Updated on 2024-05-10
velo-rhin

Are you looking for ideas for easy, accessible bike rides in Alsace that are a little off the beaten track? See you along the Rhine! In this blog post, I'll give you some ideas for day-long bike tours along the Rhine.

Laurène
Laurène
Laurène is the blog's creator. Originally from Brittany but now living in Alsace, she has fallen in love with her adopted region and loves exploring its every nook and cranny to unearth great ideas to share with you!

Why pedal along the Rhine?

Along the Rhine, there are flat routes with no difficulties. The best-known cycle route is the Véloroute du Rhin en Alsace (Eurovélo 15), but you can easily do even nicer loops!

The banks of the Rhine aren’t the most touristy corners of the region, nor are they the landscapes you first think of when you think of Alsace, and yet… the Rhine is one of the region’s highlights! The other advantage of riding along the Rhine is that you can easily cross over into Germany, making this a cross-border route. Nice, right?

Cycling map

1. The 3-country loop

This bike route takes you south of Alsace, exploring the Pays de Saint-Louis on the French side, but crossing three countries: France, Germany and Switzerland. Leaving Saint-Louis, we follow the Canal de Huningue, offering pleasant stops to observe the rich biodiversity of Alsace’s Petite Camargue.

Crossing the Rhine island, between industrial heritage and nature reserve, we reach Germany via the EDF dam, to take advantage of the many cycle paths and discover Basel in Switzerland, including the Dreiländereck, where the three countries meet. Ending with a return to France along the Rhine, this cross-border loop offers a pleasant cycling experience, as it takes place mainly on cycle paths.

2. Cross-border loop in the Rhine region

Let’s go for a nice bike ride to discover the Rhineland! Do you know where it is? We are here in the north of Alsace (more or less at the level of Haguenau), in the zone located at the edge of the Rhine. A corner which is not the most known but deserves nevertheless largely to be discovered.

  • Landscapes of the Rhine area
  • Easy loop
  • Gourmet break at the port of Offendorf
  • Nothing!

Easy bike loops

The Pays Rhénan offers a wide range of cycling routes, from 7 to 40km. There is something for everyone! What do they have in common? They are accessible to all audiences. Indeed, the region is very flat and there are no difficulties to be expected on that side. In addition, there are beautiful bike paths that allow you to be safe. The Rhineland is therefore ideal for family bike rides.

Circuit “The Cross-Border

I tested the cycle tour called “Le transfrontalier”, which is 39km long. As you may have guessed, this loop allows us to play the border jumping game by cycling to our German neighbors. That’s one of the things I like about the Rhine region: the possibility togo to Germany easily by land or by ferry. The opportunity to make a small trip very easily!

The loop starts in the beautiful marina of Offendorf. You immediately feel like you are on vacation with all the boats on the water! This is also where you can rent bicycles if you don’t have any. If you follow the direction of the loop, you will start by following the Rhine on the French side. We are here on theEurovélo 15 and we go along natural reserves, it is pleasant. Then we take the ferry to Drussenheim (which is free of charge, also for bicycles) to cross into Germany.

On the German side, the bicycle paths along the Rhine are often not paved. I advise you not to choose too thin tires: prefer the VTC to the road bike, it will be much more comfortable. You can ride along the Rhine or in the typical landscapes of the Rhine area, between alluvial forests and water bodies constituted by former “dead” arms of the Rhine. It’s wild and really pretty, it makes for a very nice ride!

Finally, it is the return to France via the Freistett/Gambsheim dam. The return to Offendorf is done by a small road which is not particularly pretty but which is not very busy. Before returning to the port, you can stop in the center of Offendorf to visit a barge that houses the museum of inland navigation. Offendorf was indeed the largest village of boatmen in eastern France!

Lunch or snack on the waterfront at the Port of Offendorf

Here’s a place where you can take a well-deserved break after your cycling tour: the Offendorf marina and its Nautic restaurant. The food is very good (the homemade fish and chips is great!), and it’s also a good place to enjoy an ice cream (for the greedy, the whipped cream is homemade), all with a nice view on the boats. And if you have time and energy left, you can even rent a canoe, paddle or boat to go for a ride on the water!

3. Cycling in the Rhine valley

Here’s a great bike ride starting out from Mulhouse, exploring the Rhine strip. Don’t worry about the length of the circuit, it’s very easy! The ride starts at Mulhouse station and offers a variety of pleasant landscapes, between forests, fields and canals. Stops along the way include the Grange à Bécanes in Bantzenheim, with its collection of vintage motorcycles, the abbey church in Ottmarsheim, renowned for its Romanesque architecture, and the Niffer locks. For more information on this itinerary, read my article on cycling in Mulhouse.

4. Cycling around Seltz-Lauterbourg (40km)

Here’s a bike loop that will take you on a journey… Since it is a cross-border route, which passes through both France and Germany. This is the local loop 613 called “Le Rhin au naturel” from Lauterbourg, in the north-east of Alsace. A region that I discovered during this loop (yes, there are still corners of Alsace that I don’t know!) and that seduced me. This course is a little less than 40km long and is all flat .

  • Landscapes of the loop
  • Omnipresence of water
  • Fun to go from France to Germany
  • Terrace on the Rhine of the restaurant in Germany
  • Difficulties to pay by credit card in Germany
  • The work that made me get lost 😛

Eurovélo 15 between Lauterbourg and Seltz

From Lauterbourg, the route starts with the French part: after leaving Lauterbourg (not the most glamorous part of the route, but it goes fast!), you take the Eurovelo 15, which is theRhine Bike Route. This part of the loop is very pleasant because we are on a bicycle path all the way. If you are with your family, it is perfectly suitable because it is both flat and safe.

We drive on green roads, sometimes right by the Rhine, sometimes a little inland. In any case, water is never far away: between the Rhine, its dead arms and the gravel pits, the omnipresence of water is one of the elements that characterize this loop.

In Munchhausen, we arrive at the Sauer Delta nature reserve, an area remarkable for its landscape and biodiversity. The view from the bridge, with the village and the flat-bottomed boats, is really nice. It is also a pleasure to stop and take pictures everywhere… The color of the water is often surprising and one feels out of place. I really enjoyed this aspect!

Cycling in Germany

Arrived at Seltz, we pass on the German side by taking the ferry of Seltz (free, for the bicycles too) allowing to cross the Rhine. The route then passes through the Rhine’s backwaters, which are home to unspoiled nature, but also through the Goldkanal, a beautiful place to swim! Remember to bring your swimsuit if you want to take a swim break🙂

Attention: on this German part of the route, the road is not paved. It will therefore not be pleasant with a road bike, prefer a VTC. Another point to note is that there were important works in Germany when I did this loop: the bike path planned in the itinerary was not accessible, so I had to go further inland… As a result, I got a bit lost because I was trying to see the landscapes of the Rhine banks (of course!), which made me make a lot of detours. I would advise to wait until the work is finished but I don’t know when it will be finished… If not, take a map and be prepared to drive a few more miles 😉

Return to France

We then take the ferry back to Neuburg, which this time doesn’t take you from Germany to France, but… from the state of Baden-Württemberg to the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. We remain in Germany and, this time, the ferry is paying (2€50 for a cyclist): bring some change, they do not take the bank card. Just before getting back on the ferry, the Zollhaus restaurant offers you a pleasant break on the terrace. Again, just remember to bring cash as Visa or Mastercard are not accepted.

At the descent of the ferry, we find the Eurovélo 15 which makes us cross the border to return in France and then join Lauterbourg. If you want to continue the day, the Lauterbourg water sports center is really beautiful (with turquoise water) and offers swimming, surfing (yes!) and various water sports. Very nice!

5. Cycling through the Rhine jungle

Here’s a looped bike route between France and Germany to discover the Rhine jungle. This is the Alsace à vélo BL976 “Jungle rhénane” loop. It is not always known, but the Rhine has many arms that have remained wild.

  • Easy ride (all flat)
  • Discovery of beautiful nature spots
  • A nice break on the Rhine
  • Passing from one country to another, by the Rhinau ferry and then by bridges
  • Markup at the end

The ride starts in Boofzheim, a village just before Rhinau. We’re here in the Alsatian Ried, which I’ve already mentioned several times: the Ried is an area on the Alsatian plain that is home to significant biodiversity. From Boofzheim, we go to Rhinau where there is… a ferry to Germany! The Rhinau ferry crosses the Rhine every 15 minutes, all year round. It can be used by car, by bike, on foot… And it’s free!

The ridecontinues on the German side by beautiful paths in the heart of nature: we ride in the Rhine jungle, it is really pretty. We then move away from the banks of the Rhine to cross small villages before returning to the Rhine, where there is a marina. Pay attention to the edges of the road you are driving along just before you get back to the shore: there are some very nice wooden sculptures installed all along! It is at the edge of the Rhine that I chose to make a small pause, there is a small snack with terrace on the Rhine where it is pleasant to stop.

A bridge then gives access to theisland of Rhinau, which hosts a National Nature Reserve on 250 hectares. Unfortunately, the bike ride does not allow you to discover this place, one of the most representative of the Rhine jungle, because the bike path runs along it. A huge straight line along the Rhine is waiting for you, it’s nice too but you’ll have to come back to Rhinau another time to walk around the island!

Back on the French side of the river, the route then takes small roads to reach Boofzheim, passing through Alsatian villages. The signposting is perfect at the beginning, in Germany, but then becomes very approximate for the last part in France. Take the GPX track, it’s easier 😉

6. Route between France and Germany in the Rhineland (26km)

Here’s another cycling loop in the Rhine region above Strasbourg. This is the BL 601 of Alsace à vélo entitled “Rhine activities”. An easy 25km bike ride from Drusenheim, crossing the border to discover the banks of the Rhine in Germany.

  • Discovering the wilder Rhine
  • Passage with the fun tray
  • Easy route
  • Too many roads but I propose an alternative 🙂

Across the Rhine on the Bac de Drusenheim

The bike ride begins in the village of Drusenheim. If you’re planning a picnic, I can’t recommend enough that you stop off at Galerie des Papilles, a great organic grocery store just a few minutes from the route, where you’ll be warmly welcomed. I had booked a vegetarian picnic basket which was really excellent.

Then off to catch the Drusenheim ferry. It’s free (including for bicycles) and takes just a few minutes to cross the Rhine into Germany. It’s super easy and quick, almost too quick as this mini cruise is quite enjoyable I must say! 😉

Cycling on German trails

The ride on the German side is mainly on gravel paths: I’d advise you to opt for a VTC or gravel bike, but not a road bike, you’d be in trouble.

The course is very pleasant. At times, we follow the Rhine, but there are also passages in the forest, allowing us to discover the wild Rhine. You may not realize it, but there’s a lot of beautiful vegetation to be seen near the Rhine! Trees reflecting on these abandoned arms of the Rhine, forming ponds of sorts, are always a sight to behold. Suddenly you feel like you’re away from the hustle and bustle, right in the heart of nature – perfect for a change of scenery!

The route sometimes passes along cycle paths, sometimes along small roads, but these are lightly trafficked, with slow-moving vehicles. It’s not a problem.

Gambsheim fish pass

After about 13km, it’s time to return to the French side. There’s no need for a ferry here, as passage is via the Freistett/Gambsheim dam bridge. But beware of the route of this bike loop: just before the dam, it told me to take a busy road (the L87), which I don’t recommend. You can in fact pass under this road: before the loop shown on the map, which leads to the L87 road, don’t follow the route, but follow the bicycle sign indicating a small path to the right. It allows you to pass under the road, skirt it and exit onto the L87 at a point where you immediately have a cycle path. Much safer!

The passage over the dam bridge is impressive, but very safe: you cycle over a footbridge and then a separate lane for cars. You’re standing on top of the Rhine and realize just how wide it is, and how strong its current is! The lock here is also impressive, both for its height and for the size of its bins, which can accommodate huge barges.

The dam is equipped with a fish pass, designed to allow fish to pass the dam from downstream to upstream. This includes migratory fish (salmon, for example), but also many other local species. This is achieved by attracting fish to an artificial waterway with a certain flow rate (migratory fish swim against the current) which bypasses the dam. Once in the pass, the fish gradually climb over an 11-metre height, passing through a succession of interconnected basins, with the possibility of resting in each basin before moving on to the next (yes, it’s still an effort to climb!).

Visitors’ area Passage 309 allows visitors to discover the Gambsheim fish pass and how it works. Unfortunately, it was closed when I visited, but I think it’s well worth a visit, whether you’re an adult or a family.

Cycling in Alsace

The return journey to Drusenheim is mainly by road, although there is a cycle path between Herrlisheim and Drusenheim. It’s not the most pleasant part of the itinerary, and I’d advise you to do things a little differently. Here are my tips, which should make the course a little longer, but not by much, and a lot more fun!

Follow the planned route to Offendorf: it’s on the road, passing through a gravel plant, but it’s not very long. Then take a break in Offendorf. historically the largest village of boatmen in eastern France. It’s a pretty village, and depending on the day, you can visit the Musée de la Batellerie d’Offendorf, or simply enjoy the picnic tables in the shade in front of the museum-peniche (it’s only a short detour)! A very pleasant location.

Next, I recommend leaving the “Rhine activities” loop and opting for the Le Transfrontalier route as far as Drusenheim, which I’ve already tried out on another Rhineland cycling loop I mentioned above.

Instead of taking uninteresting roads, you’ll pass through the Offendorf forest nature reserve and the Offendorf marina, a place I really like. Take a break at the Nautic restaurant (for lunch or an ice cream) and enjoy the harbour atmosphere while admiring the boats: you’ll immediately feel like you’re on vacation!

Then you’ll follow the Rhine to the ferry terminal in Drusenheim, where you can return to your starting point.

7. Strasbourg tour, both sides of the Rhine

Here’s a bike ride from Strasbourg that will take you across the Rhine to our German neighbors. The itinerary only passes through bicycle paths, which is very pleasant to not worry about cars!

  • Nice and easy ride
  • Different landscapes: Rhine, forest, canal…
  • Bicycle paths all along the ride
  • Stroll between France and Germany
  • Small part along the road (but protected)

The ride starts in the Neudorf district of Strasbourg, in order to quickly reach the Jardin des Deux Rives (Franco-German garden located on both sides of the Rhine) and then cross the Passerelle des Deux Rives which leads to Germany. It then follows the Rhine, sometimes along the water’s edge, sometimes on small country paths, and at one point joins the famous Piste des Forts. This part of the ride is really lovely! Calm and bucolic as you wish…

We pass again in France by the Pfimlin Bridge then we follow a little the road: this part has nothing pleasant because very busy, but the cycle track is protected from the cars and we feel thus in safety. Note that there is currently work going on on part of the runway, but I was still able to pass through.

The itinerary then quickly reaches the Neuhof forest and its beautiful paths, then the banks of the Rhone-Rhine Canal which are also very pleasant. All that remains is to follow the canal to Strasbourg, possibly making a small detour if you want to go swimming in the Baggersee lake (a sign indicates it, count 10 minutes more to go and the same for the return): in the heart of summer, it can be a very good idea!