Walking and cycling in France is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a holiday here, and is very popular. Every level can be catered for so you will be able to find something that suits you.
You can either book everything yourself independently, or go on an organised tour.
We’ve put together some information on this page about walking, hiking and cycling in France, which we hope can help you with the practical side of things, as well as some ideas on where in France you can go, depending on your interest.
Why Go Walking and Cycling in France?
France is great for hiking and cycling (and all sorts of outdoor pursuits…) – plenty of space, a huge variety of landscapes, good roads, and clearly marked footpaths. Cycling is a national sport in France and is a big part of french culture.
Walking and cycling holidays in France can give you a unique and special way of getting off the beaten track and seeing places that many tourists will never see. You can really get to the heart and soul of the country, on a level that you can’t quite get through driving.
France has around forty nature parks, boasting a huge variety of flowers, plants, birds and mammals. Many of the walking and cycling trails pass through these parks.
Walking and Cycling In France:
When To Go
This will of course depend entirely on which region of France you will be spending your holiday.
Provence is beautiful in spring, and is a good temperature for walking and cycling.
In northern France and the mountain areas, July or August are good times to go.
Best Places for
French Cycling Holidays
Where you decide to go really depends on your fitness level and what kind of scenery you’re looking for.
The Loire is one of the most popular and gentle of cycling regions in France, because the roads are mostly flat.
At the other end of the scale, the most challenging routes are around the Alps and Pyrénées.
For something different…
…how about having your walking or cycling holiday in Brittany?
Walking in Brittany
The weather is mild, and the scenery is wonderful both on the coast and in the inland areas.
Walking and Cycling in France:
Maps and Guides
France has an extensive network of marked walking trails, called Sentiers de Grande Randonnée. These are run by the FFRP (Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre – the French Long Distance Walking Association).
FFRP publish guidebooks (Topo-Guides) which are mostly in french however might still be worth getting if you have at least a basic understanding of the language.
They include detailed maps as well as info on accommodation. They can be expensive though and are not the easiest to find outside of France (especially the english speaking ones). Stanfords in the UK sell Topo Guides, you can order them online and they deliver worldwide.
If you’re looking for simple, easy walks, the best thing to do is to pop into your local tourist office where you are staying; many of them will provide maps for short walks in the area.
Cycling in France:
Bringing your own bike
If you’re planning a cycling holiday in France and want to bring your own bike, this can be done, with a bit of advance planning.
If you’re flying, you can contact your airline in advance to find out if extra charges or booking procedures apply and how the bikes need to be boxed up.
Eurostar and most regional trains have special compartments for storing bikes; you’ll most likely need to book a spot in advance and pay a small fee. Your bike will be put on a separate train and for you to collect later at the destination. (Note: we’ve heard that the TGV (high speed) trains don’t accept bikes).
If you’re hiring a car, you can request bike racks if required.
You have a few options here…
You can organise your bike rental in advance, with a company such as BikeRentalsPlus (www.bikerentalsplus.com).
If your idea of cycling in France is a little more relaxed and low key (eg a leisurely pedal down the road to check out the cheese shop, or going to the park for a picnic lunch), many gites and bed and breakfasts have bikes that you can borrow, often for free. The standard of the bike may not be up there with Tour de France () but will probably be fine for short excursions.
You can also enquire at the local tourist office who will be able to advise you where you can rent bikes in the local area (some tourist offices rent out bikes as well).
Did you know that Paris has a bike rental scheme (set up by the city council)? There are ‘stations’ located throughout Paris for collection/drop off. They have a website (in french!). You basically pay a subscription fee – depending on whether you want short or long term rental.
Cycling Vacations In France….All Organised For You
If you’re keen on cycling in France but don’t have the time to organise everything (ie accommodation, route planning etc) there are specialist companies that can help you out.