Cycling weekender: 6 great destinations for a mini-break in France
Are you looking for ideas of where to cycle on that next Bank Holiday weekend or want to take a couple of days off work and enjoy a cycling mini-break? With so much riding on offer in France, it should come as no surprise that many great options exist for you to experience a cycling weekend. Whether you prefer a relaxed cycle along a canal or perhaps want a challenging ride to the top of some cols, there is something on offer for all fitness levels. Here are 6 suggestions for a cycling weekend in France to help get you planning that next trip away.
Air – Charles de Gaulle and Orly Airports
Rail – Eurostar and TGV options directly into Paris city centre
When to visit: Year-round, there is no bad time to visit Paris. In winter the temperatures are colder but the city has fewer tourists as well.
Where to cycle: Hire a bike from the Paris city bike hire scheme and explore the city. Over 1000kms of bike paths to choose from
When many people think of France, Paris is the city that first springs to mind. Personally, we think one of the best ways to take in the delights of this beautiful city is on two wheels. Bringing your own bike with you isn’t necessary either. The Paris Velib city bike scheme now also includes e-bike options and these are a perfect and inexpensive way to explore the city.
Paris now boasts over 1000km of cycleways and that figure continues to grow with each month. Not surprisingly, you will find both tourists and Parisians alike choose the bike as the best way to get around. It is estimated that 15% of trips in the city are now taken by bike. Sections of the city are also car-free on Sundays which makes getting around that more pleasant.
Of course, if you want to cycle further beyond the city of Paris itself you can choose to take a ride along the Seine a Velo route and ride to Versailles and its surrounds. The Seine a Velo route is 420kms long so depending on how far you wish to travel you have many options to take in the sights surrounding the city.
With direct flights readily available from many major airports and accommodation options to suit every budget it is also one of the easiest places to book your cycling mini-break.
Air – Nice Airport – 6kms from the city centre
Rail – TGV fast train options directly into Nice city centre.
When to visit: Year-round. Avoid the month of August which is extremely busy owing to the French holiday season
Are you a road cyclist wanting to escape the colder temperatures of Autumn and be able to test your fitness on some famous cycling climbs? Then perhaps a cycling weekender in Nice is for you. Nice’s location in the south of France and by the Mediterranean means it enjoys milder temperatures than other areas in Europe during the colder months. It is also flanked by the Alps which means as soon as you cycle inland away from the coast, you can be enjoying some of the great climbing on offer here.
Climbs made famous by both the Tour de France and Paris Nice are all in easy reach, such as the Col d’Eze, Col de Vence and Col de la Madone. Due to the popularity of road cycling here you can also find bike hire readily available if you don’t plan to travel with your own bike.
Nice Airport is located just a few kilometres from the centre of the city meaning your transition from the airport arrivals lounge to those mountain roads need not be a long one at all. To discover more about the great cycling available in this area of France check out our dedicated Nice Ride Guide.
Air – Toulouse Airport – 40mins tram ride from the airport to the city centre
Rail – TGV fast train options directly into Toulouse city centre.
When to visit: May to September. You can of course visit year-round provided you don’t mind cycling in colder temperatures.
Where to cycle: Enjoy a cycle along the centuries-old Canal du Midi. Choose to ride just a few kilometres or perhaps go all the way to the Mediterranean!
Toulouse is France’s fourth-largest city and has great connections with an international airport as well as fast train options on the French TGV network. Being so well connected it is a great choice for a cycling weekend in France. It is also well situated on the route of the Canal du Midi which links the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. Built-in the 17th Century this Canal path is Europe’s oldest and also a UNESCO world heritage site. Indeed it was the first canal path to be built using locks and its design influenced others that have since been built including the Suez and Panama Canals. Cycling along the Canal du Midi is a very pleasant experience and something which is easily accessible from Toulouse city centre.
The Canal path itself takes on the contours of its surroundings, forever twisting and turning which makes it that more charming. The towpath in many places is lined with large Plane trees which are a magnificent sight. The gradients here are not steep and so it is a perfect option regardless of your fitness level and whether you plan to just take in a few short kilometres on either side of Toulouse, or perhaps want a multi-day trip and venture further. There are many operators who will organise to take your luggage to the next stop along the way, and there are numerous operators offering up accommodation along the route. The summer months can get quite warm so if you want to avoid the higher temperatures then we would recommend riding in the ‘shoulder season if possible.
Ferry – Services operate daily from Ireland and the UK
When to visit: Spring and Autumn/Fall. Be aware this area is particularly busy around the anniversary of the D Day landings on June 06 and the days surrounding it.
Where to cycle: Take a ride exploring the D Day landing beaches and other historical sites which are plentiful in this region.
If you want to combine a cycling weekend in France with some history then we think you can’t go wrong with a cycle in Normandy. This region is very rich in World War II history, and you can’t cycle too far without passing a memorial dedicated to the battles fought here during the D Day landings. Cherbourg is well-linked with ferry options from both the UK (departing via Portsmouth) and Ireland (from Dublin). There are marked-out cycle routes in the area which take in the D Day landing beaches as well as the American Cemetery and numerous museums. The Seine a Velo bike route also incorporates this area and you can choose to take in some of the marked-out routes while here. Feeling more adventurous and looking for a longer bike ride? Then you could look to take the marked route all the way to France’s most popular tourist site – Le Mont Saint Michel.
Air – Bordeaux Airport – 40mins bus ride to the city centre. Numerous international flight options.
Rail – TGV fast rail options directly into Bordeaux city centre
When to visit: Year-round. Although avoid late September which is when the grapes are harvested.
Where to cycle: Enjoy a scenic ride on the Roger Lapebie Voie Verte – taking you from the city out to the vineyards east of Bordeaux.
When many people think of Bordeaux their thoughts naturally turn to red wine. But did you know Bordeaux is also one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world? Thanks to its international airport and links to Europe’s fast train TGV Network, this city is a great option for a cycling holiday weekend in France. You could choose to just explore the city itself using one of the city’s hire bikes. There are hire stations for the bikes dotted all around the city and they are a great option for getting around. You can choose between conventional bikes or the e-bike variant as well.
Another fantastic cycle easily accessible from Bordeaux is to take the marked-out Roger Lapebie Voie Verte which is an old rail route that has been turned into a cycle trail. This route leaves the city behind and you pedal your way surrounded by lush green forests, interspersed with vineyards. The gradients aren’t steep and the scenery is nothing short of spectacular. Read our article Things to do in Bordeaux by Bike for more options about discovering this city and beyond by two wheels.
Air – Geneva Airport – 44kms from Annecy. Numerous international flight options exist to Geneva.
Rail – France’s TGV Fast rail provides options directly into Annecy city centre. Swiss rail also operates regular train services from Geneva Airport to Annecy (1hr 20mins)
When to visit: May to October will give you the best weather in Annecy. If you plan to road cycle the mountain passes will be clear of snow from the winter season. The month of August is particularly busy with French holidaymakers.
The beautiful city of Annecy, located in the Hautes Savoie region of France is a very popular holiday destination in France. From Geneva, it is easily accessible via regular rail services direct to the city centre. Whilst you could come to Annecy and do nothing other than marvel at the ‘Vielle Ville’, the old city with its canal-lined streets and beautiful multi-coloured buildings, we think cycling here is one of the best activities to undertake. With its location being right next to the beautiful, turquoise lake Annecy itself, you can enjoy one of the most scenic rides in France. On this ride, you can enjoy views over the lake itself and the beautiful big peaks of the Alps in the distance. Whether you are a leisure cyclist or perhaps cycle more regularly, this ride is one of the best in Annecy full stop and is very popular with both locals and tourists alike.
For the road cyclist of course there are some big mountain passes you can look to challenge yourself on, including the climb of Semnoz or the Col de la Forclaz. Both of these climbs have Tour de France Pedigree and you can find out for yourself what it is like to ride the climbs of the most famous bike race in the world. You can see more ride options for Annecy here in our detailed ride guides. Want to discover more about Annecy itself? Then be sure to read up on the Annecy Destination guide which includes lots of practical information for you to plan your weekend cycling holiday here.
Discover our comprehensive guide to planning a French Cycling holiday.
If you have never cycled in France before and are thinking of choosing it as your next cycling holiday destination, then you may be interested in reading our Comprehensive guide. We believe it has everything you need to know when planning your cycling holiday. The guide includes information such as:
- a map of some of the most popular cycling areas in France
- where to base yourself whilst on your cycling holiday
- cycling hotels and lodges – what you can expect from this type of accommodation
- bike hire outlets
- getting to and from France
- the best time of year to plan your French cycling holiday