The Eiffel Tower, Bordeaux vineyards or the French Riviera from a bicycle perspective? Sounds like a dream come true, and these are just some of the possible attractions for those who want to spend time actively.
French cities boast an excellent infrastructure of bicycle paths and wide access to bike rentals. Alpine and Pyrenean trails with stunning views, canyons, lakes and excellent technical facilities encourage to try mountain climbing, trekking and winter sports.
To the Eiffel Tower by bike
The capital host numerous sports event – every year in July, the last stage of the prestigious Tour de France cycling race takes place under the Arc de Triomphe. From year to year, this great European metropolis is becoming more and more cyclist-friendly. It is worth following the example of the Parisians themselves and instead of being stuck in traffic jams filled with exhaust fumes, try a city bike. The city has created Vélib’, a great rental system that serves 1400 stations spread all over Paris and 400 on its outskirts, as well as has approximately 24 thousand bikes at its disposal. The most classic route goes along the Seine. On the boulevards, you can feel the spirit of the city while watching the residents walking and picnicking on the wharf. The shortest routes in the very centre of the city include the most important monuments: the Eiffel Tower, the Musée d’Orsay, the Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, the famous Rivoli Street, the Centre Pompidou, and the Bastille running up to the Canal Saint-Martin, where it is worth concluding the trip in one of the atmospheric bistros. You can also venture on a further, greener and less popular route, leading from the Bercy Park, through the Vincennes Wood and Saint-Maurice (the city of the famous Marquis de Sade) to reach Noisiel, where you can visit the museum of the famous French chocolate factory – Meunier.
On a vineyard trail
Lyon is a paradise for fans of French cuisine, the Lumière brothers’ cinema and cycling tours. You can easily ride on a bike through almost the entire city. More experienced cycling enthusiasts can ride to the famous Fourvière Hill and visit the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. On a clear day, you can see the white peaks of the Alps. Areas located outside the city can be a great idea for a cycling trip: the picturesque land of Beaujolais vineyards or the Dombes region, full of lakes and ponds where once frogs, popular in the French cuisine, were bred on a large scale. In turn, Bordeaux offers not only traditional trips for cyclists, but also bicycle cruises, i.e. boat trips along the canal des Deux Mers between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea, combined with visiting the surrounding vineyards by bike. The legendary Route des chateaux du Medoc, which leads from Bordeaux to the Gironde estuary, is the perfect route for a longer or shorter trip.
Road through an azure paradise
The French Riviera has over 1 800 km of paths running in the shade of big palm trees that overlook the sea. From the port of Nice, you can set off on a 20-kilometre trip to the Principality of Monaco just by riding along the coast, or choose a more demanding route (Corniche) and stop in the beautiful town of Eze, located on a hill at over 500 m a.s.l. The about 37 km long route from Nice to Cannes can be covered by bike, and passes through Cagnes-sur-Mer, the charming and historic city of Antibes, the beach of Juan-les-Pins, ending on the Boulevard Croissette and the famous stairs of the palace where the annual film festival takes place.
One of the most picturesque routes of the French Riviera is that leading along the Esterel massif. It also leads from Cannes to Saint-Tropez, although the 80 km route is considered difficult and demanding. The persistent travellers will receive a prize in the form of picturesque views of the sea, beautiful beaches, bays and resorts, such as Saint-Raphaël or Fréjus, full of palm trees, lush oleanders and atmospheric restaurants.
In an ice circus
Lourdes is located in the region of the High Pyrenees, at the foot of the famous Pic du Midi de Bigorre, where you can admire the purest of skies full of stars at night. Here, at an altitude of 2876 m a.s.l., there is an astronomical observatory. You can get to the summit by cable car, mountain trail or bike – with the last one being an offer only for true daredevils. Another attraction will be a trip to the beautiful Gavarnie Valley located in the Pyrenees National Park. This is where the Cirque de Gavarnie is located, i.e. the famous cirque surrounded by high rocky peaks – a true work of nature, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. From here, you can see the impressive Roland’s Breach. Nearby is the highest waterfall in France, Cascade de Gavarnie, with a fall of 422 m, and two other glacial circuses that encourage to a further hike: Cirque d’Eustabé and Cirque de Troumouse.
Baths, snowshoes and mountain lakes
Surrounded by the High Pyrenees and located about 30 km away from Lourdes, Cauterets was once a charming little village, which in the 19th century transformed into an elegant spa town. In summer, it is a perfect place for walking and hiking, whereas in winter it attracts tourists who are looking for a winter frenzy on the slopes. From here you can set off on, among others, a trail leading to the famous Pont d’Espagne, located in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park, and the Lac de Gaube situated at an altitude of 1725 m and at the foot of the impressive Vignemale massif. The area impresses with its unique flora and fauna: there are many rare species of animals and plants there. Cauterets is also one-of-a-kind place for fans of Nordic skiing, who can choose among 36.5 km of pistes for classic skiing, 6 km of snowshoe trails and 4 Alpine skiing routes. After a day of sporting activities on the slope, you can take advantage of the wide offer of the local SPA and health-saving thermal springs.
Skiing in the Alps
The proximity of the mountains and trails with varying degrees of difficulty make Lyon an excellent base for winter mountain escapades. From the city, you can start your journey to the Alps and the best ski resorts including France’s largest and world-famous Three Valleys resort in the Savoy region. Skibuses, which run every day from the Lyon airport, take tourists to the town of Montiers, located in close vicinity to selected resorts in all three valleys: Belleville, Meribel and Courchevel. The season lasts from November to the end of April, during which you can make use of over 300 pistes with a total length of over 600 km, 300 ski lifts and 120 km of cross-country trail. Every year, fans of the Three Valleys come here to enjoy perfect conditions for winter sports, weather and stunning views.