Spain draws in millions of travelers every year with its whirlwind of flamenco dancers and blue-flag beaches, its donkey-trodden sierra villages and famous tapas-filled cuisine. It’s also something of an adventure travel hub, especially for those who like hopping in the saddle. But what are the best cities in Spain for cycling?
Cue this guide. It runs through seven separate locations across the nation where we think you’ll be spoiled for choice as a two-wheel traveler. It’s got options on the desert-like Canaries and in the lush lands of the Basque Country, but also cities with welcoming urban cycle networks for more casual folks to boot.
There’s no real top season to hit Spain if you’re keen to cycle. Pro teams often head to the coastal towns of Calpe and Palma de Mallorca for the winter, when it’s a touch cooler but also dry. Training hubs like Girona then get popular as the spring and the summer swing around.
We’ll make it simple: There is no list of the best cities in Spain for cycling that’s worth its salt that doesn’t put Girona plum at the top. Why? Well, this town deep in the Pyrenean foothills of northern Catalonia is actually hailed as the cycling capital of the whole of Europe. It’s played host to countless pros in its time – including a certain Lance Armstrong – and continues to be one of the main training hubs for teams en route to the Tour de France and other major events. Basically, anyone who’s anyone in the world of cycling knows the name Girona.
Backing up the rep is a whole pintxo plate’s worth of famous cycling routes. Chief among them has to be the arduous climb to the top of Rocacorba mountain. At just under 10km, it’s not a long one. Throw in an average gradient of 7% and 2km sections that get to over 10% and it becomes a whole different beast. Pros on that will aim to crack the half hour mark and be happy with it!
For a slightly easier challenge, consider conquering the Mare de Deu del Mont instead. The gradients there are much mellower and you’ll be rewarded with ever-unfolding views of the wooded valleys around the southern Pyrenees. There are also even easier paths to hit along the Ter and Onya rivers, starting in Girona’s historic center itself.
We mention Arrecife not for the city itself but rather for what surrounds it. Welcome to Lanzarote, an island of wind-blasted summits, smoke-belching volcanos, and lava-carved beachfronts that look like something out of Planet of the Apes (we’re not making that up, the 1968 hit was actually filmed here!).
Anyway, Arrecife sits on the eastern coastline just a stone’s throw north of the airport. It’s very well linked to the main roads that creep into the heart of the island, which is where you can discover some seriously enticing Strava routes. Among them is the Timanfaya Loop, which rings active volcanic fields high up in the peaks, and the Mirador del Rio Northern Loop, which takes in old villages like Haría and lookout points above pink-tinged beaches.
Family cyclists might want to swap a base in Arrecife for a base somewhere on the south coast. The resort towns of Playa Blanca and Puerto del Carmen are good choices, both offering salt-washed promenade paths where you can lazily pedal along between swims in the Atlantic.
Calpe is best known for its sun-splashed beaches and idyllic Mediterranean coastal landscapes. It sits on a rugged stone headland smack dab in the middle of the Costa Blanca and gets super-busy when the warmer months swing around. We also think it’s among the best cities in Spain for cycling.
Why? Lots of reasons. First off, you’re looking at over 2,800 hours of sunshine per year in these parts, which means the asphalt and the trails are often kept dry for touring. Second, many of the mountain routes here aren’t hemmed in by forests, which means you get some fantastic views down to the shores and the Med. Finally, Calpe is a hotspot for major pro cycle training camps, so you’re in good company if you pick this for your next two-wheeled adventure.
Most of the top Strava routes in Calpe await in the sierras just behind the town. Stand outs are the wiggling Coll de Rates climb, which connects to a longer loop to make a 100km+ circle through craggy peaks. There’s also the harder Puerto de Tudons, which gets to 155km in total and offers sweeping panoramas of the Serra D’Olta mountains as it goes.
Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca is a cracking base for any budding road cyclist looking to explore the iconic scenery of southern Spain. The city itself will wow from the get-go, what with its historic old town and UNESCO cathedral. Then you get in the saddle and things take a turn for the even more dramatic…
Cue the Serra de Tramuntana. A whole chain of shark-fin limestone peaks that form the backbone of Majorca as a whole, the mountains are the perfect place for multi-day cycle tours. They contain some of the most famous loops in the Balearics, including the Cap de Formentor circuit and the Tramuntana Costal Road, where you’ll be gasping at the sheer-cut cliffs and pearly-blue swimming coves after every bend in the highway.
There’s also a super-easy family route running along the south coast of the island from Palma de Mallorca itself. It links up loveable resort towns like Playa de Palma and Portixol and offers ample pitstops at cantinas and ice-cream shops along the way. Stick to that if you’re coming with the kids in tow.
Swap the forever-sunny reaches of Andalusia and the Med for the wilder climbs of the north by choosing Oviedo for your next two-wheel trip. It’s a bit more off the beaten path but nonetheless one of the best cities in Spain for cycling, largely on account of the proximity of the Las Ubiñas-La Mesa peaks and the majestic Picos de Europa.
Both of those mean vast tracts of glacier-carved limestone mountains that wouldn’t look out of place in the midst of the Dolomites or the French Alps. We’re talking grassy meadows on high, mirror-like lakes, jagged peaks of cracked rock, and – of course – roadways swinging and weaving their way right through the middle of it all. You will probably still need a car to get to the main trailheads for cycling in those regions, though.
Oviedo itself is a doozy for more casual urban cyclists. You can whiz through the plazas here on the hunt for stunning sights like the Cathedral of San Salvador from 1388 and the Art Deco Casas del Cuitu buildings. Still on the lowlands but much more challenging is the eight-day Camino Primitivo, an ancient pilgrimage route that goes all the way to Santiago de Compostela.
We put Valencia on this list of the best cities in Spain for cycling mainly because it’s got a trump card up its sleeve for urban explorers on two wheels: The Jardines del Turia, or the Turia Gardens. One of the largest inner-city parklands in the country, it’s actually built on the old courses of the Turia River, which was redirected as a flood prevention measure in 1969. Today, you can whiz from one end to the other in the saddle and see some of the most incredible landmarks in the city as you go.
Start in the north, where the Valencia Bioparc offers glimpses of galumphing African elephants and long-necked giraffes. Move east from there to the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, for sightings of cutting-edge canvasses and installation works. Then bend south to the blooming Puente de las Flores, which comes to life in the springtime.
The undisputed piece de resistance of a cycle through the Turia Gardens has to be Valencia’s Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences). It’s an amazing all-in-one exhibition space that contains an IMAX theatre, an oceanarium, and a whole load more.
The capital of the Basque Autonomous Community is tucked deep between the gorges of the Parque Natural de Gorbeia and the peaks of the Aizkorri-Aratz plateau. It’s one of the largest cities in northern Spain, but somewhere that’s very often overlooked by travelers in favor of coastal spots like San Sebastian or even the capital of Madrid.
One category where it does stand out from the crowd is when it comes to biking. The town was rated as the single most bikeable city in the whole country for 2022. It scored highly on provision of cycles, urban planning in line with cycle paths, and continuity of inner-city cycle routes. It was also rated five out of five stars on the global classification, which means it’s up there with the best of the biking towns on the whole planet!
Getting in the saddle here is likely to be a true joy. It will take you through a 1,500-year-old town center that was first laid down by the Visigoths. You’ll see sights like the Cathedral of Santa María, a fascinating fortress-church that was built in the 1200s, and open Plaza Virgen Blanca, a square that’s topped with elaborate bronze statue works from the 1800s.
The best cities in Spain for cycling – our conclusion
Spain is a mecca for lovers of all things fixies and road bikes. There are cities here where you can whiz around on the gearless rig to see medieval Moorish cathedrals and wonderful plazas scented with tapas. But there are also wild sierra routes that will push the hamstrings to the full and reward with sweeping views of the Mediterranean coast and the beaches. This list of the best cities in Spain for cycling touches on both, hopping from the Basque Country in the north to the sunny Costa del Sol in the south.