As a cycling destination, Germany is vastly underrated. It's a country that has so many great locations to offer, and Heidelberg is our pick of the crop because it's such a pleasant surprise.
The city enjoys a perfect location about halfway between Frankfurt and Stuttgart, along the Neckar river. Many travel guides will tell you it's a must miss. They say it's overrun with marauding visitors – a classic trap of the tourist variety. We say that's hogwash if you're a cyclist, especially when you get outside the Altstadt (old town) and into the surrounding countryside.
The area is best thought of in three sections. To the north-east there's the wonderful Odenwald and its endless climbs, small roads, green fields and dark forests. To the sout-east there's the Kraichgau, where the rolling hills are reminiscent of Flanders' Vlaamse Ardennen, complete with steep climbs on forgotten farm roads. To the west it's flat all the way to and beyond the Rhine. While these flatlands won't get any tourist accolades, they're hugely enjoyable for cyclists.
The climbs of the Odenwald aren't huge. Generally, they're in the 10- to 30-minute range. But there's nothing quite like a ride that includes five or six 15-minute climbs – there's a sense of accomplishment that comes with ticking off each ascent.
The city of Heidelberg can be hectic. But as soon as you turn onto any of the countless roads that take you into the Odenwald, or head up the Königstuhl, which overlooks the castle, you'll find yourself away from the crowds. It's a quiet paradise worth savouring.
Why not use Heidelberg as a base for the perfect bonus ride on your way to or from Frankfurt? We've stopped there a number of times in the past before continuing on to Italy or back to Frankfurt airport.
What's on offer
– A little bit of everything: middle-grade mountains, hills, beautiful forests, quiet roads and the Neckar Valley.
– Great riding just 100km from Frankfurt, which has one of the busiest airports in Europe.
– Despite what the travel guides might say about Heidelberg, there's nothing quite like riding up the Neckar Valley and seeing the gorgeous city come into view.
– Your fill of classic German fare.
– Heidelberg has one of the longest (1.6km) pedestrian-only zones in Europe. It's well worth a stroll.
– For the best view of the riverside city, head up the Philosophenweg. You can ride to the gardens at the top, or walk up via the tiny cobbled lane called the Schlangenweg.
Why it's best
Heidelberg is a popular tourist destination but the beautiful area just outside of it is much quieter. It's a veritable playground for the adventurous cyclist.
How to get there
Fly into Frankfurt – from there you're only a short train ride away.
We recommend staying on the eastern edge of the city, so you can get to the meat of your rides without hassle.
Altavelo, Bergheimer Str 101, Heidelberg 69115. It's not the most fully stocked shop but it's a central place for a quick, dependable service.