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D10 Elbe (right bank)
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The Elbe cycle route, regularly voted Germany’s favourite, is an 800km descent from the Czech border through Dresden and Magdeburg to Hamburg and the coast.

There’s a cycleway on each side of the river: this map shows the right bank (heading downstream) but we’ve mapped the left bank separately. This side is a little more traffic-free, with 70% on cycleways and tracks. You can, of course, mix and match between the two banks.

This isn’t a pure riverside cycle path: the signposted route flits back and forth, sometimes a couple of kilometres from the water, sometimes right beside it on a high dyke. If anything, that makes this route through what would otherwise be fairly flat country more varied.

The rural reaches of the upper Elbe take their character from the vineyards – think Riesling and Müller-Thurgau. The Saxon capital of Dresden, despite the devastation of WWII, is a cultural and artistic hub. Magdeburg’s historic centre, too, suffered in the war: its subsequent communist past and 21st century revival has gifted it an unusual mix of architectures that rewards exploration.

The lower river is rich in wildlife including beavers and storks. This has been a busy trading river for centuries, and the villages are each miniature ports with riverfaring heritage. Hamburg, of course, remains Germany’s busiest port, and a true ‘water city’ with some 2500 bridges over its rivers and canals.

The route is signposted throughout with a curly ‘e’ symbol. There are more gravel sections on this bank than the left/western side, so road bikers may want to assemble their route accordingly. Accommodation is plentiful, but this can be an exceptionally popular route in the summer, so consider booking in advance – particularly at weekends.

The gradient is gentle enough that there’s not much to call between riding downstream and upstream – if anything, the wind is kinder heading upstream from Cuxhaven.

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Ridden this route? Write a ride report and share your experience…

Thu 10 Feb 2022, 14:01

We cycled a part of this route in september 2021, between Winsen and Havelberg (as a part of our trip from Hannover to Berlin), switching between the north and south banks.

Pleasantly surprised by it! The landscape further up river quickly becomes very open and beautiful, meadows, reeds etc, sometimes dotted with a beautiful old little town. Plus you get to cross the border between east and west, with the first East German industrial town Wittenberge as a big change from the red bricked Hansa towns you encounter before it.

Cycling infrastructure is great! If you want to get away from the main route, there's signs for cyclists marking the best/safest route & distance to each village and there's a lot seperated bike lanes.

Some highlights:

Cycling trough the forrest at Höhes Elbeufer, close to Lauenburg (managable on a road bike).

Seeing close to a hundred roe deer jumping away as we cycled the banks at sunset.

Getting invited for some doorstep beers (and even breakfast the following morning) by a very nice local in Werben, an beatiful old town.

Seeing cranes migrate.

Remnants of the Iron Curtain

Since the cycling path is often next to the dyke instead of on top of it, it's worth it to climb it once in a while to see the river flowing. If you're more lucky than us, you could probably spot an osprey or a white-tailed eagle hunting.

Take into account:

Life seems to close early (outside of the tourist season?), so finding a bar/shop/campground after eight wasn't always easy.

Doing a cycling tour trough Germany was a last minute plan when our plan A (France) went into lockdown, but we were very pleasantly surprised by the beautiful countryside and towns!

Wed 11 Oct 2023, 07:02

I rode the Elbe Cycle Route in August 2023. For anyone who may be planning on cycling this route my daily cycling blog including comments and photos is attached 😀🇨🇦