‘Instagrammable’ pictures usually consist of crystal clear waters and untouched golden sand, and whilst there’s plenty of those things on many of our tours we’re keen to show there’s also a very different kind of sightseeing – one of fascinating history and eye-catching architecture.
As the famous saying goes ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and a building deemed ‘ugly’ to some, will be beautiful to many others.
Below we’ve highlighted some of Europe’s most intriguing architectural spectacles, from concrete brutes to dazzling modern buildings that delight and perplex in equal measure. You can visit and stop-off at these buildings on selected European cycling holidays.
An alternative cycle route...
Elbe Cycle Path, Czech Republic/Germany
Freewheel’s Elbe Cycle Path tour takes you from the heart of Prague to Dresden in Germany with options to extend all the way up to Hamburg. Amongst the picturesque landscapes and lush greenery, you’ll cycle past some stunning architecture on your 8 day journey. A building known as The Dancing House of Prague is dubbed by some locals as ‘The Drunk House’. Designed in collaboration between Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić and Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry it provides a startling new focal point on the Prague skyline.
And whilst in Prague, check out the Žižkov Television Tower. At 216 metres (709 feet) high, this imposing structure was revolutionary when it was built in the late 1980s and it remains a fascinating window into the Czech Republic’s communist past.
Žižkov Television Tower, Prague
The Elbe Cycle Path passes through Hamburg and is home to one of the most Europe's most unique structures. The Feldstrasse Flakturm in the St. Pauli district was built by Nazi Germany in 1942 to shelter 20,000 people and store large amounts of provisions. Each concrete wall is 3.5 metres thick and the bunker is virtually indestructible.
Feldstrasse Flakturm, Hamburg
Florence to Rome, Italy
Two of Europe’s most famous cities, Florence to Rome will enchant you with their unspoilt villages, fine food and pretty countryside, but there is an uglier side to their history. Architecture was considered very important to Italy’s fascist government and the surviving buildings from this time are often striking, despite their tragic past.
The Santa Maria Novella Railway Station in Florence became a prime example of Italian modernism whilst Foro Italico – a sports complex - was built to host the Olympic Games of 1940 in Rome. Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in the EUR Quarter is one of Italy's best examples of fascist architecture and one of Rome's most famous modern buildings.
Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, Rome
Innsbruck to Munich, Austria/Germany
Wondrous mountain scenery, fortified castles and gorgeous monasteries will thrill the view-hunters amongst you, but for those looking for an alternative view our Innsbruck to Munich trip has plenty to offer. Each stop up the mountain on the Nordpark Cable Railway in Innsbruck benefits from its own unusual design, while Swarovski World in Wattens is home to one of the most unique park experiences in the world, celebrating all-things crystal.
The cycle tour ends in Munich and whilst the famous city centre sights of Marienplatz and the numerous beer halls are obvious places to visit, we recommend heading to the Olympiastadion. Built for the 1972 Summer Olympics, the roof is a masterpiece of stadium architecture with the tent-like canopies covering the seats. The stadium has been used as the venue of the 1974 FIFA World Cup Final, 1988 UEFA European Championship Final and the famous 5-1 win by England against Germany in 2001.
Basel to Strasbourg, Switzerland/Germany/France
Famous vineyards, traditional towns and medieval castles will please most sightseers, but our Basel to Strasbourg cycle tour has some hidden, ‘ugly’ treasures too. Like something from a sci-fi movie, The Signal Box in Basel acts as both protective housing for the electronic equipment inside and a stunning piece of post-modern thinking.
Along the way, you could stop off at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein to see the architectural playground where several of the world's most famous architects such as Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry have designed buildings to showcase their unique individual talents.
Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is equally space age in appearance and provides a striking home to this important institution, whilst the revamped Strasbourg train station has gained a unique glass shell that covers the historical facade.
Gare de Strasbourg, Strasbourg
Geneva to Lyon, Switzerland/France
The iconic fountain at Lake Geneva serves as an appropriate starting point on our Geneva to Lyon tour, but waterside views and luscious fields aren’t all you’ll have to look at.
Believe it or not, Lyon is home to one of the most visually astounding car parks in the Parking des Celestins. Inspired by the design of Tuscan wells, it is often listed amongst the most surprisingly impressive constructions in the world.
Science buffs will find themselves in heaven with a trip to CERN – the world’s foremost centre for scientific research and home of the Large Hadron Collider – whose famous grounded globe is a sight to behold in itself, especially at night.
Large Hadron Collider, Geneva
Brussels to Bruges via Ghent, Belgium
Belgium plays host to some of the finest examples of classical architecture and inspiring landscapes in all of Europe, but our Brussels to Bruges via Ghent trip has plenty of quirky stops to make along the way.
The Atomium for example is a uniquely shaped building made up of numerous stainless steel spheres that form the shape of an iron crystal unit cell. And if politics is more your thing, you can’t miss the newly refurbished EU Headquarters in Brussels, now fronted by a spider’s web of recycled window frames in a staggering feat of architectural innovation. The Berlaymont building that houses the European Commission will also be a familiar sight due to its almost daily appearance on news bulletins.
Accommodation and bike hire is included on all cycling holidays and your luggage is transferred each day to your hotel, giving you less to think about and more time to cycle!
To check trip availability or to find out more, call our Reservations team on: 0161 703 5823.