Cycling in France: A beginners guide

Taking a break from the bikes in Burgundy | Jaclyn Lofts
Taking a break from the bikes in Burgundy | Jaclyn Lofts

When it comes to cycling in Europe, it’s virtually impossible to look past France as the best place to take your first trip.

Food, wine, beautiful villages - France is an ideal first time cycling destination world-class food and wine, beautiful villages, contrasting landscapes ranging from vineyards to alpine peaks - France is blessed with all the elements that make cycle touring fun and safe. What's more, the respectful attitude of locals towards cyclists should not be overlooked by first-timers. While countries around the world jostle with laws to help motorists and cyclists share public roads amicably, France is in a league of its own. In the French countryside, motorists must give cyclists a berth of at least one and a half metres, which is reassuring for travellers new to cycling holidays who want to explore the most visited country on earth.

So, now that you've got the country settled, the next question is where in France should you cycle? We've put together a list of our 5 favourite French cycling regions for beginners and explain why you should go to each, and when.

The Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is ideal for first time cycle holiday participantsThe Loire Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed treasure
Soak up the history and architectural legacy of the ‘playground of the Kings' as you cycle through the heart of the Loire, stopping to explore grand chateaux, drink wine from cellar doors and sample local produce from lively markets. Just a short train ride from Paris, this relatively flat and iconic region can be made even more comfortable on a centre-based trip, on which you'll only have to unpack once. Our 5-days self guided Loire Valley Castles cycling trip is a great option for beginners, with daily excursions ranging from 16-56km. Best time to travel: April to October.

Burgundy

Burgundy offers much more than just exceptional winesBurgundy offers much more than just exceptional wines It’s not just oenophiles who should consider heading to Burgundy to sample their Grand Cru wines. The region also boasts some fine examples of classic French landscapes of gorgeous medieval villages nestled in rolling hills - a shining example of this is the walled village and wine capital Beaune, which is surrounded by the famous Côte d'Or vineyards. Our short 4-days self guided Burgundy Highlights trip is a great trip extension for travellers wanting to delve further into the heart of the region and test the waters. Daily cycling ranges from 43-65km. Best time to travel: April to October.  

Alsace

Alsace is a delightful first time cycling experienceAlsace is one of France's most photogenic regions Visiting Alsace is like stepping into a fairy tale. It's arguably one of the most beautiful regions of France, with its timbered houses, cobblestone streets and colourful buildings. Because of its location on the French-German border, the cuisine is like nowhere else in France, heavily influenced by its German neighbours. Its beautiful capital, Strasbourg, is also the home of the European Parliament. Cycle through the heart of the Alsatian vineyards and soak up the region's most beautiful villages on our relaxed 5-days self guided Alsace Wine Route Cycle. Daily cycling ranges from 21-49km. Best time to travel: April to October.

Normandy

Cyclists near the Normandy D Day beachesCyclists near the Normandy D-Day beaches The WWII memorials scattered along the D-Day beaches is one of the many reasons to visit this luscious landscape along the north coast of France. There’s also the impressive abbey of Mont St Michel, the traditional chocolate box-style houses that dot the coast, and opportunities to taste cheese and sample Calvados as you cycle along the Cider Route. Learn about Vikings, William the Conqueror and the events of WWII on our 6-days self guided Cycle Normandy. Best time to travel: April to October.

Bordeaux

Cycling along the Garonne in BordeauxCycling along the Garonne in Bordeaux Bordeaux is synonymous with vineyards and some of the world’s best wine. Bordering the sun-drenched Basque country in the southwest of France, the region's coastline and landscapes along the Gironde River lend well to more gentle cycling itineraries. Vineyards have been thriving here for close to 20 centuries - the tiny wine capital of Saint Emilion is a testament to this and epitomises the region's outstanding food, wine, architecture, and rich history. Our 7-days self guided Bordeaux Vineyard Cycle is a great option for travellers wanting a good mix of activity and relaxation. Best time to travel: April to October.

>> Want to learn more about cycling in France? Choose from almost 50 self guided, small group and boat-based itineraries.
 
France, Cycling, Beginners

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