Whenever I visit a new city for the first time I tend to get out and see as much as possible on foot, the downside to this is that if you are doing this on your own you tend to sometimes miss out on the local knowledge of finding the best way of getting around a city and knowing the most practical way of seeing things.
One of the best way to combat this is to take a bike tour, and I can say that one of the best experiences I had while travelling around Europe was hopping on these city bike tours that take you around to the most sought after locations in a city within a couple of hours and allow you to have a lot of fun doing so in the process.
This is where bike tour company Fat Tire Bike Tours comes in offering some of the best and well researched tours I have experienced of four major European cities London, Paris, Barcelona and Berlin. On my visit to Europe a few years ago a friend and I made it our mission to do all four tours, if you do you score yourself a pretty awesome free T-Shirt so you can go around bragging to everyone you completed all four bike tours.
The first Fat Tire Bike Tour I jumped on was during my second day in London, this tour begins by meeting your tour leader outside Queensway Station right near Kensington Palace which happens to be one of the stops on the bike tour. Currently Fat Tire offer three different tour types in London with the River Thames Tour by day or night, the Royal London Tour or you can opt for a private bike tour.
On this occasion I took the Royal London Tour which has two departure times at 11am or 3:30pm, some of the highlights on the tour include cycling past the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abby, Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, St James Park, Green Park, Trafalgar Square and the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. Half way through the tour the group will stop for lunch (11am departure) at an English Pub located near Trafalgar Square.
The next Fat Tire Bike Tour I was able to partake in was part of an optional extra activity on my 49 Day Topdeck Mega European Tour in Paris. It was quite an experience for me arriving at the tour on time, I nearly missed out with the tour departing at 3pm and at this point I was rushing to try and make my way down to the bottom of the Eiffel Tower with the meeting point at one of the legs of the famous tower.
In Paris the company offers one bike tour either by day or night, I really wish to return one day and experience the night tour especially in a city such as Paris, the day tour starts at 11am but they have extra tours at 3pm in the busy season. Paris is a really bike friendly city with a flat landscape and grand wide avenues perfect for bike riding, so if you have a small element of doubt over doing a bike tour then don’t, they are not physically demanding at all.
The highlights you’ll get to experience along the Paris tour include the Louvre Museum, Tuileries Gardens, Eiffel Tower, Alexander III Bridge, Les Invalides and Nepoleon’s Tomb. For me I had already seen a lot of these places before the tour as it only started at 3pm on this occasion, but I still had a blast and it was great to hear more about these places from our knowledgeable guide.
One of my most memorable experiences from this tour was riding the bike through a Paris roundabout. They have strange road rules here (from an Australian perspective) the roundabout we went through was at the Place de la Concorde, roundabouts in Paris involve having to give way to vehicles entering a roundabout rather than giving way to vehicles already in the roundabout. So once in the roundabout you need to then stop and give way to other cars that wanted to come in the roundabout, that was a strange rule to take in and on top of that riding a bike on the opposite side of the road.
SANGRIA! More on that shortly, but the third tour with Fat Tire was this time in the Spanish city of Barcelona, famous for its hosting of the 1992 Olympic Games and they sure like to remind you of that when you get to Barcelona. In Barcelona there are two bike tours on offer, when I was there back in 2012 there was only the one tour on offer which was the Barcelona City Tour and is one of the longest tours out of them all lasting an enjoyable 4 hours.
We met our tour leader for the day at Placa St Jaume with the Fat Tire workshop just down a small alleyway from here. Our tour guide for the day was Bill from Adelaide, Australia which added to my tally of probably meeting more Australians in Europe than Europeans.
The bike tour took in all the main sights around the city such as the famous Sagrada Familia, Parc de la Ciutadella, the Olympic Village and Port Vell while our guide provided all the history behind all the buildings and the people that make up Barcelona. At the end of the tour we went to the beach for some Sangria, the problem then being we had to attempt to ride the bike back to the starting point of the tour, a little difficult when you just drank half a jug! But it was good!
Probably the best of the bike tours was left to last, Fat Tire offer a number of different tours in Berlin and this morning we met at the base of the Berlin TV Tower at 11am which involved us leaving our Topdeck walking tour of Berlin halfway through, but it didn’t matter considering we would be visiting all the same spots anyway and more, just on a bike instead.
When we arrived at the meeting point there were heaps of people joining this tour and little wonder as it is such a great tour filled full of iconic sights and so much history. There were so many people that about five different groups were formed of roughly twenty people, so a good one hundred people would have joined the tour, but even with the masses of people it was managed really well.
The tour took in all of the main sights of Berlin which included Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall, Hitler’s Bunker, the Reichstag and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. We learnt that despite how old Berlin looks, the city was completely destroyed at the end of World War II, since then construction has been on going to restore the city to its former glory with the idea of making it exactly as it once stood. This means despite the buildings looking like they are a couple of hundred years old, they are no older than me being only twenty to thirty years old.
Towards the end of the tour we had some lunch in a city park Beer Garden right next to a canal. It was quite awesome just to sit back chill out and have some traditional German food with a beer and watching the world pass by. If you only had to pick one of the Fat Tire tours this would be the one to pick.
Incase you were wondering… Yes I got my free T-Shirt in Berlin for completing all four tours, make sure you keep your stamped brochure with you to prove you completed all four tours.
For more information on Fat Tire Bike Tours be sure to check out the website links below and also the links to the relevant days spent in each city while travelling on the Topdeck Mega European Tour.