Czech Republic: Follow the Elbe by bike

The Elbe is the second longest river in the Czech Republic and flows 370 kilometers through the Czech countryside. Next to the river is a beautiful bike path that leads to the German Cuxhaven, where the river flows into the North Sea. The first leg of this long-distance cycle route is that from Špindlerův Mlýn to Hradec Králové. A route of almost 90 kilometers, where you pass impressive baroque monuments and where the river never lets you down.

Pramen Labe, the source of the Elbe

The source of the Elbe is in the Giant Mountains. It is not possible to get here by bike, but there is a beautiful walk to the origin of the river. At the source, which is referred to as Pramen Labe, you can see the city arms of the Czech cities through which the river flows. The source is supplied with melting ice which then flows through the mountains via various streams. Clinking against rocks and with an occasional waterfall, the ice-cold water reaches the sports village Špindlerův Mlýn. Here the Elbe begins her journey to the North Sea in Germany, 1230 kilometers away.

A cycling route for everyone

The Elbe Radweg is indicated with yellow signs marked number 2. Due to the small differences in altitude, the cycle route is suitable for everyone. In some places you have to cycle on the motorway, but usually there is a paved bike path right next to the river. Although the Elbe has its starting point in the Giant Mountains, the Elberoute is only signposted from Vrchlabí. However, it is possible to start the cycle route from Špindlerův Mlýn. It is advisable to opt for the mountain bike path, so that you avoid the busier motorway.

The small and large Elbe

In Vrchlábi, a charming village with a Renaissance castle and half-timbered houses, the official cycling route goes by public road. More fun and bike friendly is to follow the small Elbe and cycle through the villages Dolní Lánov and Prosečné. This route is a bit quieter and you cycle under the cable car, which transports stones from the quarry in Černý Důl to the factory where they are crushed into grit. The Malé Labe is no more than a brook, but at the place Hostinné the water comes together and you quickly come across the yellow signs.

Surprise in the forest

The cycle route leaves the foothills of the Giant Mountains behind and the river also becomes calmer due to the less hilly landscape. The cycle route follows a winding motorway through the forest, where there is little to no traffic. In the forest you will be surprised with a fairytale dam. The Království dam, with its pointed gates and gates, looks like a castle and was declared a National Technical Monument in 1964. The dam was built on the occasion of the flood of 1897, but the construction was not finished until 1919. Dvur Králové nad Labem is the next city on the route. A neat bike path through meadows brings you first to the zoo of Dvur Králové. This zoo is known for its many African animals. The town of Dvur Králové is a picturesque town with a historical museum, the Sindelars’s tower and cozy restaurants.

Stunning architecture

From Dvur Králové to Kuks it is 8 km cycling and this place is the highlight on the route. The beautiful baroque complex sparkles on the hill. At the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century, Kuks was an important spa where rich people let themselves be pampered. Great parties were organized with the best musicians of that time and there were fountains with wine. The river Elbe left its banks in 1740 and the town flooded. The daughters of Špork, the founder of Kuks, had no money to restore Kuks to its former glory. As the town fell, the hospital for ex-soldiers remained. In the hospital you will find the second oldest pharmacy in Central Europe, which you can admire during a guided tour.

From branch city to provincial capital

From Kuks a cycle path winds towards Jaroměř, where the river is already a lot wider. After Jaroměř the cycle route continues to the fortified city of Josefov. The small fortress was built just like Terezín in 1780-1790 in defense against the Prussia. Special is to visit the underground corridor labyrinth. From Josefov to Hradec Králové you cycle both on the left and right of the Elbe. Hradec Králové is the largest city in the region and here the rivers Elbe and Orlice flow together. Hradec Kralové has about one hundred thousand inhabitants and has its origins in the 13th century. There are two beautiful squares in the old town center and along the Elbe is the East Bohemian Regional Museum. The city has two faces: On the one hand historical and on the other side modern, because of the buildings in Art Nouveau and Cubism.

Enthusiastic to also cycle the Elbe route? CzechTourism Benelux has cycling maps of the Elbe cycle route. These can be requested free of charge via

Tip: Czechs are real nature lovers and they also like to cycle on their bikes. You will be amazed about the number of athletes on the way. Take into account oncoming traffic or slightly faster pedals.

Tip: Kuks is photogenic, enchanting and very interesting. A visit to the special hospital is definitely recommended as is a bite to eat at restaurant Baroque with a view of the complex. The hospital is illuminated in the evening. Take an evening stroll through the village. Most tourists have then left and the illuminated building creates a unique atmosphere.

Tip: The Elberoute is very well signposted from Vrchlabí. Yellow signs with number 2 are encountered in many places. Nevertheless, it is advisable to have a cycling card at hand. There are so many other bicycle routes that it sometimes gets a bit cluttered.

Useful websites

Fietstraject Elberoute – regio Hradec Králové