A cycle ride is a great way to see the city from a new perspective. Paris has introduced more and more cycle lanes, car-free districts and bike-only routes in recent years to make it easy and fun to cycle around town. Hop on your bike and go for a spin!
Suggested cycling routes for exploring the capital
Route # 1: Classic Paris, along the Seine
This cycling route is the perfect way to admire Paris landmarks and must-see monuments.
1/ It starts on Place de l’Alma, from where you have a superb view of the Eiffel Tower. Don’t miss the Flamme de la Liberté (flame of liberty), a life-size replica of the Statue of Liberty’s torch in New York City. The flame was transformed into a memorial to Lady Diana after she lost her life in a car crash in the tunnel under the Alma bridge in 1997.
2/ Set off along one of those wide, beautiful Paris avenues: Avenue George V, lined with elegant private mansions, many of which now house foreign embassies. The route leads you to the Champs-Élysées; you will spot the famous restaurant Fouquet’s on the corner.
3/ Cycle down the world’s most beautiful avenue, with the Arc de Triomphe behind you, until you reach Avenue Winston Churchill. Turn into the avenue, which has two must-see museums – the Grand Palais to your right and the Petit Palais to your left. At the end of the avenue, you will find yourself back on the Seine quayside, right in front of Pont Alexandre III: by far one of the most beautiful bridges in Paris.
4/ Cross the bridge and bear left. The route hugs the bank of the Seine and leads you to Parc Rives de Seine, a riverside leisure area for pedestrians and cyclists only – the perfect spot for a pleasant summertime ride.
5/ When you find yourself under Pont de la Concorde, walk your bike back up to the quayside and then cross the bridge to take a spin around Place de la Concorde: it’s well worth the detour. Return to the quayside and continue on your route. You’ll see the Jardin des Tuileries on your left and, to your right, the Musée d'Orsay located inside the former railway station Gare d'Orsay on the opposite bank of the Seine. A short distance from here, you’ll spot the Louvre to your left.
6/ Continue cycling along the quay, past Pont des Arts, and cross the Seine on Pont Neuf to get to Île de la Cité. Circle the Île along Quai des Orfèvres until you reach Notre-Dame Cathedral, which you can visit free of charge.
7/ Now take Rue d’Arcole to reach Pont d’Arcole. Re-cross the Seine and keep going straight: you’ll find yourself on the square in front of the magnificent Hôtel de Ville de Paris (Paris City Hall) – the end point of this 6.5-km route.
Alternatively, you can re-cross the Seine via Rue de la Cité and cycle the same route the other way round to get to Pont de l’Alma along the opposite bank of the Seine.
Route # 2: Parisians’ Paris, along the canals
The Canal Saint-Martin winds its way through Paris over a distance of nearly 5 km, from Port de l’Arsenal, where it flows into the Seine, to Bassin de la Villette, where it becomes the Canal de l'Ourcq. This pleasant route follows the canal’s meanders.
1/ Make your way from Port de l’Arsenal, a picturesque little urban port, to Place de la Bastille with the towering July Column at its centre. Cycle past the huge steel and glass building housing the Opéra Bastille to get to Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. The Canal Saint-Martin runs underground here, beneath a covered-over central esplanade dotted with squares and boules pitches where big, bustling food markets are regularly held (the Bastille market every Thursday and Sunday, and the Popincourt market on Tuesday and Friday). The area’s cycle lanes are separated from car traffic, making for a stress-free ride.
2/ When you come to the junction of Boulevard Richard-Lenoir and Boulevard Voltaire, turn into Boulevard Voltaire on your left. Pedal onwards for a short distance and you’ll emerge into the vast Place de la République, a pedestrian-only zone dominated by a huge statue where walkers and sports lovers congregate. Cycle along the car-free stretch to the right to reach Rue du Faubourg-du-Temple and then the Canal Saint-Martin along Quai de Jemmapes. This is a favourite haunt of Parisians, who come here to picnic on sunny days, or to frequent the many bars and restaurants in the area.
3/ The canal resurfaces at this point, from where it is spanned by a series of bridges and footbridges. If you’re seized by a sudden urge to skim pebbles across the water at the little bridge fronting Rue Léon Jouhaux, there’s an obvious explanation. This is the spot where Amélie, the heroine of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s famous film of the same name, does exactly that. There is a swing bridge in front of Rue de la Grange aux Belles. Wait here for a while; you’ll soon see a barge or sightseeing boat passing beneath the bridge. A little further on is another place that has featured in a movie: Hôtel du Nord, the setting for the classic film by Marcel Carné.
4/ Keep cycling along the canal on Quai de Jemmapes until you reach Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad, with its beautiful rotunda housing a bar and restaurant. You can admire one of the canal’s double locks here.
5/ Further along, the route skirts Bassin de la Villette along Quai de la Loire, another favourite spot of Parisians in summer, and one of the locations of the Paris Plages event.
6/ Quai de la Loire takes you as far as Parc de la Villette, a 55-hectare park featuring large expanses of green dotted with artworks that you stumble upon in the course of your visit. It also houses the Grande Halle (used these days used to host exhibitions), the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, a decommissioned submarine, and the Géode (a giant metal sphere - la Géode closes its doors for two years from November 30, 2018, for renovation work), as well as imposing buildings designed by great contemporary architects such as Christian de Portzamparc, Adrien Fainsilber and Jean Nouvel, including the Philharmonie de Paris.
Good to know: if you’re in the mood to keep going after completing this 7-km route, the cycle path along the Canal de l'Ourcq continues all the way to Claye-Souilly, 25 km to the northeast of Paris.
Route # 3: The Left Bank from the Bois de Vincennes to the Bois de Boulogne
There are two huge parks on the fringes of Paris: the Bois de Vincennes on the city’s eastern edge and the Bois de Boulogne to the west. Each of these sprawling expanses of woodland spreads over an area of nearly 1,000 hectares. This route guides you by bike from one to the other, across the section of the city known as the Rive Gauche – the southern part of Paris, on the left bank of the Seine.
1/ In the Bois de Vincennes, set off from the path encircling the beautiful Daumesnil lake (where you can go boating) and head to Avenue Daumesnil, which leads you to the Porte Dorée. Pause along the way to admire the Palais de la Porte Dorée, an art deco masterpiece built for the 1931 Colonial Exhibition.
2/ Pedal along Avenue Daumesnil until you reach Place Félix Eboué, with its Fontaine aux Lions (lion fountain), where you turn onto Boulevard de Reuilly. From here, continue along Boulevard de Bercy to the banks of the Seine. This district – Bercy – is home to the French finance ministry, a huge white glass-fronted building in the shape of a liner jutting out over the Seine, and AccorHotels Arena, Paris’s biggest sports and show venue: a grass-covered, pyramid-shaped stadium.
3/ Cross the Seine on Pont de Bercy: the separated cycle lane on the bridge runs under the elevated metro. To your left, you’ll catch a glimpse of the four glass-fronted towers of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France François Mitterrand, each designed to resemble an open book. To your right, the big building with the striking green structure across its façade is the Cité de la Mode et du Design.
4/ Cycle along Quai d'Austerlitz for a 1.5-km stretch until you reach the Jardin des Plantes. This botanical garden is well worth a visit. Wander at will amid the flower-lined paths and tropical hothouses (note that you’re not allowed to cycle inside the garden, but you can push your bike while you explore). In need of a longer break? Then park your bike and visit the Ménagerie and/or the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution.
5/ Cross the garden to get to Rue Lacépède, which leads straight to the charming Place de la Contrescarpe – the perfect spot to enjoy refreshments on a terrace before setting off to climb the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève. Don’t worry, it’s just an uphill stretch with the Panthéon perched at the top. This is the famous Latin Quarter: Paris’s student district, where many higher education institutions are to be found, including the legendary Sorbonne University.
6/ Turn onto Rue Mouffetard (careful: this street has a contraflow bike lane), which becomes Rue Descartes further on. Then turn left into Rue Clovis. Look up: you’ll see the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont parish church to your right and, on your left, Collège Henri IV, one of the best schools in Paris. You’ll come out into Place du Pantheon right in front of the imposing monument in the neoclassical style after which the square is named. Its dome and portico drawing inspiration from Agrippa’s Pantheon in Rome make it instantly recognizable.
7/ Cycle round the Panthéon to reach Rue Soufflot, which leads straight to the Jardin du Luxembourg, another lovely Paris park inside which the Palais du Luxembourg, the seat of the French Senate, is located.
8/ Push your bike through the gardens (cycling is not allowed inside the park) to come out on Rue Bonaparte, which leads to another iconic Left Bank district: Saint-Germain-des-Prés. You’ll arrive on Boulevard Saint-Germain in front of the Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the two legendary cafés – Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore – where many artists, writers and philosophers were once regulars, among them Jean-Paul Sartre, Raymond Queneau, Giacometti and Picasso.
9/ Continue along Rue Bonaparte and turn left onto Rue Jacob, then take Rue de l’Université for 1.5 km until you reach the Esplanade des Invalides. This expanse of manicured lawn, where people come to have a picnic or to play a game of football in fine weather, offers a magnificent view of the Hôtel National des Invalides, which now houses the Musée de l'Armée.
10/ From here, head along Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg all the way to the banks of the Seine, then go down to the Berges de Seine, a riverside area open to pedestrians and cyclists only. Ride along the river for 3km to Pont de Grenelle. Along the way, you’ll pass the five gilded, onion-shaped domes of the Sainte-Trinité Russian Orthodox cathedral, and then the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac and its garden. The museum’s plant wall – among the most beautiful ones in Paris – makes it very easy to spot. Next, you’ll pass the distinctive iron silhouette of the Eiffel Tower (watch out: there are usually a lot of pedestrians on this stretch). Across the way, on the other side of the bridge, you’ll see the Jardins du Trocadéro and the Palais de Chaillot.
11/ Cross the Seine on Pont de Grenelle: you’ll ride over the Île aux Cygnes, featuring a replica of the Statue of Liberty – a gift to the French nation from the United States. Keep going straight down Rue de Boulainvilliers, passing the round building that houses Maison de la Radio, the headquarters of Radio France. Continue along Rue de Boulainvilliers, then turn left onto Rue des Vignes and head to the Jardin du Ranelagh. Inside the garden, get onto Avenue Ingres and ride along its tree-shaded cycle path, which leads you into the Bois de Boulogne.
By this time, you’ll have been riding for 17 km. Time to park your bike and enjoy the delights the Bois de Boulogne has to offer!
Route # 4: Off-the-beaten-track Paris, from Place de la Nation to Place de Clichy
This cycling route is an above-ground version of the metro Line 2 route through northern Paris. Nearly the entire length of the route is along a bike lane that is physically separated from car traffic.
1/ The route starts on the sprawling Place de la Nation. From here, head along Avenue Philippe-Auguste in the direction of the renowned Père Lachaise cemetery, the burial ground of many famous people, including Jean de La Fontaine, Chopin, Molière, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.
2/ The route continues along Boulevard de Ménilmontant, through the cosmopolitan districts of Ménilmontant and Belleville. Keep going straight along Boulevard de la Villette, still following the metro, which emerges from its underground route on Place du Colonel Fabien and becomes an elevated line at the big Jaurès crossroads. Here, you will cut across the Canal Saint-Martin.
3/ Boulevard de la Villette continues into the La Chapelle district, where you will find many Indian restaurants. Turn into Rue Pajol and make your way to Halle Pajol, a superbly restored former industrial building and the perfect place for a break, with a coffee shop and restaurant among other amenities.
4/ Make your way back to Boulevard de la Chapelle via Rue Marx Dormoy and keep following the elevated metro line. You will find yourself in the bustling, multi-ethnic Barbès district: one of the capital’s busiest areas. At the big crossroads where four boulevards intersect – de la Chapelle, Barbès, Rochechouart and Magenta – stop for a moment on the pavement in front of the Brasserie Barbès to admire the unusual architecture of the legendary cinema hall Le Louxor.
5/ Continue along Boulevard de Rochechouart, keeping an eye out on your right: you’ll catch glimpses of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica at the far end of the narrow streets leading off the boulevard. Rue de Steinkerque takes you straight to the Basilica. But be warned: it’s quite a climb!
6/ At this point, the route takes you into one of the districts most popular with Parisians for nightlife and partying: Pigalle. The right side of the Boulevard de Rochechouart is lined with some of the city’s funkiest concert venues: the Elysée Montmartre, the Trianon, the Boule Noire, the Cigale, the Divan du Monde … and, on Place Blanche, the unmissable Moulin Rouge, Paris’s most famous cabaret.
It’s possible to extend this 7-km route and continue on to Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is located, through Parc Monceau and Place des Ternes. All you need to do is to cycle straight along Boulevard des Batignolles, Boulevard de Courcelles and Avenue de Wagram for another 3 km.
These 4 routes will show you 4 different sides to Paris. And if you’d like to keep going, you can – as far as Mont-Saint-Michel! The Véloscénic bike route will appeal to intrepid cyclists: it’s a 450-km trip from Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris all the way to the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey.
5 useful tips for cycling in Paris
Cycle lanes in Paris
The City of Light has a large network of cycle lanes, and new lanes are constantly being added in various districts of the capital. Designed specifically to allow people to get around Paris safely by bike, the lanes are marked out using white lines, signs and bicycle symbols. Boundary markings are placed on the road, and occasionally on pavements or bus lanes.
A brochure titled Paris à vélo, le bon plan (available at the town hall of every Paris arrondissement and at the Maison du Vélo, 37 boulevard Bourdon, 75004 Paris) has a map of all the cycle paths and routes in Paris. The Geovelo app lets you plan your journey on the basis of different criteria (shortest route, flattest route, etc.). You can either opt to be guided by voice commands or follow the instructions displayed on the screen of your smartphone.
Safety and the highway code
The most important thing is to ride safely! Exploring Paris by bike can be very enjoyable – but do make sure you follow basic safety rules and, of course, the highway code. The same rules apply to all road users, and cyclists can be fined, just like car drivers, for failing to comply. You are not allowed to ride on the pavement, in pedestrian-only areas, or in enclosed gardens (the only exemption is for children under the age of 8).
Before you set off on a cycle ride through Paris, you should also make sure you have all the mandatory equipment: a bell, two working brakes, front and rear lamps, and reflectors on the wheels and pedals. It is compulsory for children under 12 years of age to wear a helmet.
Every year, the City of Paris organizes a car-free day. Since 2015, the day without my car initiative in end-September / early October each year has transformed the French capital into a paradise for cyclists for one whole Sunday. And, during the Paris Respire event, cars are banned in many districts including the Canal Saint-Martin, Abbesses, Rue de la Roquette, Quai de la Loire and Butte-aux-Cailles, with only cyclists and pedestrians allowed on the roads on Sundays and holidays.
Bike rental in Paris
There are many bike rental places in Paris. Paris Bike Tour and Paris à vélo, among others, have a wide range of bikes for rent: city bikes, VTT (dirt bikes), VTC (all-terrain bikes) and electric bikes. They also rent all the necessary equipment: helmets, baskets, baby seats, side panniers etc. Comfortable Dutch bikes, both traditional and electric, can be rented from Holland Bikes Tours and Rentals.
Guided bike tours
It’s perfectly possible to explore Paris by bike in the course of a guided tour of one or several of the capital’s iconic districts. Companies such as Fat Tire Bike Tours, Paris à vélo, Blue Fox Travel, Paris Bike Tour and Holland Bikes Tours and Rentals organize a number of themed bike tours with a guide, with themes ranging from ‘Unusual Paris’ to ‘Eternal Paris’. These unusual tours led by experienced guides are generally suited to the whole family. They are offered in several languages. Some companies make electrically-assisted bikes available to customers.
The Paris Rando Vélo association organizes free bike tours through the city. The Paris by Night tour takes place year all year round on Friday evenings, while the ‘Balades dans Paris’ tour is on the third Sunday of each month. The starting and end point for all these bike tours lasting approximately 2 hrs and 15 minutes is the square in front of the Hôtel de Ville. No prior registration required: just show up with your bike at the meeting point (Hôtel de Ville de Paris) at 9.30pm on Friday or at 10.30am on the third Sunday of the month. Anyone can join these tours.