Standing on the viewing deck of the Eiffel Tower and looking out over the elegant jungle of austere white buildings, packed together and stretching as far as the eye can see, it is easy to think that picking your way through the French capital’s infinity of boulevards, streets, and alleys on a bike would be a confusing and difficult endeavor. But alas, you would be mistaken. In fact, for such a large, bustling and busy city, Paris is actually surprisingly cyclable!
Exploring the planet’s most romantic metropolis on two wheels is a lovely experience. The city’s cycle routes will take you to parts of Paris that you may otherwise never see. Whether you are gliding along wide boulevards, meandering through magical alleyways, or investigating meticulously kept parks, seeing Paris by bike will be an experience you’ll never forget!
So here is our ‘idiot’s guide’ to cycling in Paris. We will give you some of the technical and logistical details you will need to know about, and also suggest two cool routes you can follow that will let you experience plenty of beautiful Parisian sights. Don’t forget to put the details you find most helpful and inspiring in your BUCKiTDREAM planner.
The Technical Stuff
Paris has over 430 miles of cycling routes, including dedicated bike paths separated from other traffic by physical barriers or by markings painted on the road, as well as specially marked bus lanes that have been widened for use by cyclists. Cyclists can also ride in both directions on certain one-way streets.
Paris has a bicycle hire scheme called Vélib. Approximately 15,000 bicycles are available for hire from thousands of bike hire stations across the city. When renting a bike, the first 30 minutes is free, and a person can make as many free under 30-minute trips as they want in a day. Once the bike has been hired for more than 30 minutes, a charge of €1 to €4 for each subsequent 30-minute period is charged.
It is also possible to hire a bike in Paris from a number of cycle shops. This could be better for you if you want something a little bit sportier than the plain gray, workmanlike Vélib bikes.
There are designated scenic parts of the city that are closed to traffic on Sundays and public holidays. These Itinéraires Paris-Piétons-Vélos-Rollers are for cycling and walking only. The number of these no-traffic zones continues to rise. Any bike shop or tourist information office will give you an up-to-date list of routes, no-traffic zones, and a map of the city’s cycle lanes.
Of course, always remember to follow the rules of the road, wear a helmet and maintain high visibility with fully-functioning lights.
Some Beautiful Routes To Explore
Now that you know what you are doing, here are two glorious routes you can follow around this elegant and cycle-friendly city.
Explore Paris’ Romantic Hidden Gardens This lovely bike ride showcases a beautiful variety of scenery, is approximately 11km long, and is made up entirely of bike lanes. Start at The Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad in the city’s 19th arrondissement. Cycle south on the right-hand side of Canal Saint-Martin. To your left, you can take a quick detour into Paris’s first public hospital. The spectacular Hôpital Saint-Louis is a red brick structure, supported by marble granite frames, built in the early 1600s.
When the canal disappears underground, cycle on along Boulevard Richard Lenoir until you reach Bastille. Cross Place Bastille, continue along Avenue Daumesnil and look out for the red brick aqueduct arcades to your left. When you reach Town Hall turn left for a few meters and then hang a right into Promenade Plantée, which is an elevated ‘linear park’ for cyclists and pedestrians, lined with plants and flowers.
Follow The Promenade Plantéé all the way towards Bois de Vincennes, a large forest on the east side of Paris. At the end of the Promenade Plantée, turn left for a block until Porte de Saint-Mandé, then turn right for two blocks until you enter the forest.
Once inside Bois de Vincennes, head to the lovely Lac St-Mandé, explore the gothic Chateau de Vincennes fortress with its huge moat, continue to the Maison Rouge gardens and art gallery, and finally settle for a well-deserved rest and some refreshments by the shore of Lac des Minimes.
Journey To the Highest Spot in Paris Start off at Metro Parmentier in Paris’ 11th arrondissement. Make the mild uphill climb along Rue Oberkampf. When you pass Bd de Belleville the street name changes to Menilmontant and the climb steepens. There are plenty of funky little bars and cafes along this steep route for you to stop off at and replenish energy stores.
Keep climbing and turn left on Rue du Télégraphe – soon you arrive at Rue du Belleville, which at 485 ft is the highest spot in Paris! Turn left onto Rue de Belleville and glide downhill.
At Metro Pyrénées, turn right on Pyrénées. In 200 meters you will reach Parc des Buttes Chaumont, one of the most beautiful parks in Paris, bedecked with rolling lawns, waterfalls, and a tall stone bridge. This park is steep and multi-leveled and the views it affords are well worth the aching calves!
So that was our ‘idiot’s guide’ to cycling Paris. Whether you are picnicking by the shore of Lac des Minimes or replenishing your glycogen stores in a cool bar on Menilmontant on your way to Paris’ highest spot, be sure to share your Parisian cycling experiences on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!