Exploring Prague on two wheels
Where to cycle around Prague & why Czech bikers say “Ahoj”
The Czech Republic is known for its active, outdoor lifestyle, and biking is a popular leisure activity for Czechs of all ages. Although you’ll see geared up cyclists pedaling through the winter months, once the weather warms, biking season in full arrives to the heart of Central Europe. While parts of the country lend themselves to biking tourism (i.e. the rolling wine country of southern Moravia, the flat, scenic fishing ponds in South Bohemia or the long distance Greenway trail from Prague to Vienna), the capital city of Prague has surprising accessibility to rides for cyclists of all levels.
There is something special about seeing Prague and its surrounding countryside by bike. Without going beyond the city’s limits, you can cycle past streams, alongside cliffs and through dense forests. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to pretend you’re in the middle of nowhere, instead of minutes away from downtown. With the prevalence of trailside playgrounds and pubs for rest and refueling stops, biking is a perfect pastime for families with children. With the rising popularity of electric bikes, it’s also a good option for those who don’t have the energy to pedal steep hills but would still like to have a biking experience.
As one British friend commented when I told her we’d gone for a family bike ride on the weekend, “Everyone bikes here. I’m going to have to start.”
If you don’t own a bike or don’t know the city very well, getting started can be the hardest part. For some inspiration to hit the road, join the Bike to Work competition to be held in May in Prague and 25 other cities around the country. The event encourages residents to use bikes as transport to their daily activities and offers prizes in the categories of regularity, performance, cyclo-employer of the year, cyclo-measure and creativity.
Biking options around Prague
Ride options in and around Prague range from flat riverside paths to challenging single trek trails. One of the best aspects of biking in Prague is that you can usually find a ride that combines paved paths with terrain trails, allowing groups of different abilities to bike in the same vicinity.
For the easiest rides, cycle along sections of A1 or A2, the riverside paths that run on both sides of the Vltava River. These paths continue beyond the city’s perimeters and are popular with walkers, joggers and in-line skaters. See “A Family Ride” section for an easy weekend ride tip.
Popular biking spots for locals include Divoká Šárka, Prokopské údolí (Prokop Valley), Kunratický les (Kunratice Forest), Hostivařska Přehrada (Hostivar Dam) and Točná. Within these parks and preserves, you can find everything from riding high along the cliff’s edge to pedaling through the valley, from bumping over rough forest paths to meandering along creeks, between boulders or climbing steep hills.
For longer distance rides, try routes on the Prague to Vienna Greenways, a series of 250 – 300 miles of connected trails and country roads, including routes to castles, chateaus and UNESCO heritage sites. Check out the Friends of Greenways website for maps, brochures and tips about organizing specific tours.
Saying “Ahoj” to fellow bikers
There’s no place like on the bike to break down the boundaries between the formal and informal in the Czech language. When I first heard a biker greet me with “Ahoj,” instead of the traditional “Dobry den,” I assumed that I’d met a foreigner who got confused. It wasn’t until I’d heard other bikers call out “Ahoj” that my husband explained. Saying “Ahoj” while biking (or boating) in the Czech Republic is a customary curtesy greeting. It’s hard not to smile when someone’s whizzing by shouting out “Ahoj.” And in the often reserved Czech culture, a spontaneous smile is something I have learned not to take for granted.
The roadside “pit-stop” or “watering hole” culture for bikers is also laidback and friendly. In Prague, seasonal riverside pubs serve refreshments along the Vltava (i.e. beer, soft-drinks and quick foods like soups, grilled sausages, fried cheese, etc.) as well as other biking routes through the countryside around Prague. Restaurants with terraces, beer gardens and casual eateries also cater to the biking crowd.
General etiquette & information
Bikes are allowed on Prague’s metro system (look for metro cars that show the bike symbol), some tram lines and trains (some lines require advance bike reservations). They are also welcome on Prague’s riverside ferries, which carry cyclists to the A1/A2 paths on either side of the Vltava. Bikes are not allowed on public buses, so make sure that you don’t ride somewhere where you’ll need to return by bus. For more information on where you can and can’t take your bike, check out www.ddp.cz/skolem.
According to Czech Tourism’s website, while riding in the Czech Republic, you need a properly equipped bicycle (functioning brakes, a bell, red rear reflectors, a white front reflector, a red rear light, a white front light, front and rear fenders). Helmets are required for cyclists under 18. Bikers are subject to the same traffic rules as are motorists. Despite the prevalence of roadside pubs and vineyards, riding under the influence of alcohol is subject to a fine of up to 15,000 CZK. If you’re planning a wine tasting or heavy consumption of beer, best save it for the end of the ride.
Bike paths & signs
As of 2005, there were 28,282 km of cycling trails in the Czech Republic, including country roads, biking paths, off-road trails and long-distance trails. Road trails are usually on paved roads and marked with signs that show a bicycle symbol on a yellow background with a trail number and distance marker as well as a direction pointer (when trails cross). In addition to specific biking trails, there are also off-road trails shared by hikers and bikers and maintained by the Czech Hiking Society. These trails are usually through the forest, woods and countryside on field and forest paths. They are marked with striped signs (red, blue, yellow, green stripes with a white stripe above and below the colored one).
Biking and hiking trail maps can be found online or purchased at most Czech Tourism offices. There is a large Czech Tourism office at Old Town Square.
Order printed maps online: www.omnimap.com
For MTB bikers who want to get to know new terrain, visit single-trek bike parks, enduro centers or find out information about MTB events around the Czech Republic, check out www.trail-guide.cz. The site is currently available only in Czech, but will soon be translated into English. Another trail resource for hard-core adventurers is trail-busters.cz.
Local biking groups
Biking is such a popular activity here, for both locals and tourists, that it is possible to find online biking groups offering group rides and trail advice. To hear about group rides in the Prague vicinity, join the FB group called Bajkovani v Praze.
Renting equipment & organized tours
If you haven’t got a bike, it’s not hard to find a rental option in Prague to suit your need (electric bike, road bike, MTB, trek).
For a customized rental experience with a local feel, check out BIKO Adventures Prague, a bike shop specializing in MTB, road cycling, hiking and other adrenaline sports for English speaking clients. Located close to Prague’s city center in the Vinohrady (P2) neighborhood, BIKO rents equipment and offers organized tours from easy to advanced level. Join BIKO for an urban tour of Prague’s communist architecture or cycle out of the city on a half-day trip to Karlstein Castle, returning by train. BIKO has been rated by Lonely Planet, National Geographic and MTB World as well as other travel guides for their top-rate service and tours.
For those who prefer the comfort of an electric bicycle, Best Tour offers Prague by eBike, a three-hour guided tour of Prague’s top attractions, including Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town and more. The tour covers 15km within the downtown area and is a good way to pack in quality sightseeing without wearing out your legs. The tour is run daily from 1.4 – 15.11 and includes bike rental and hotel pickup. (Price 1450 CZK).
A family ride from Stromovka to Unetice
For a nice family ride, start in Stromovka Park and cycle over the river to the Prague Zoo. (Make sure to walk your bikes across the pedestrian bridge). Head past the zoo toward the village of Klecany. Stop for an ice cream or a cold beer at one of the roadside pubs. Take the bike ferry to the other side of the river. Pedal through the village of Roztoky past the villas in Tiché údolí, (Quiet Valley) to connect to an assortment of trail rides.
At the village of Unetice, you can stop either at the local Unetice Brewery or check out U Lasiku, a cozy, family-run café/pub serving fresh koláče (savory and sweet pies) made daily by the owner. Quench your thirst with their homemade raspberry lemonade or an unfiltered beer from the Unetice Brewery. If you don't have the energy for the return trip, cycle back to the Roztoky train station (or return to the paved riverside path and continue on to the train station in Uholicky) to catch a train ride back to Dejvice.
Distance from Stromovka to Unetice circa 15 km.
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