Richard Peace rides from Lille Eurostar to Paris via the Somme on this six-day cycling itinerary.
Distance: Approx 207 miles / 333km
Difficult: Relatively flat; difficulty therefore depends on how many kilometres you want to ride each day.
Download the GPX file for this route
Cycling from the UK to Paris has to be one of the most popular cycle trips made in northern France. There is of course the 247-mile 397km Avenue Verte from London to Paris using the 4-hour Dieppe ferry crossing. In 2018 I plotted out a 240-mile / 386km Calais to Paris route, taking advantage of the much quicker 1 hour 30 minute ferry crossing from Dover to Calais.
In a bid to find an even more quickly accessible and shorter route from the UK to Paris I’ve just ridden the 207 miles / 333km from Lille to Paris, using the Eurostar to get from London to Lille (trains take around 1hour 20-30mins to do this route).
We took folding e-bikes on the London to Lille Eurostar service but if you are taking full size bikes there are some fiddly rules to consider.
It's very largely on tarmac and there are also sections using the developing cycle network that is slowly but surely being put in place across the area. This includes many sections of the generally high quality Trans-Oise, plus Euro Velo route 3, Euro Velo 5 and local developments north of Paris at Epinay-sur-Seine.
I found occasional rougher sections; part of the Véloroute Vallée de la Somme south of Péronne (around 11 miles/17.7km) and the Avenue Verte for around 2.5 miles / 4km east of L'Isle Adam were the only real sections where slick tyres were not at home but there are obvious minor road route alternatives you can find on a map.
There is also plenty of canalside riding on huge, continental style waterways, the Somme canal and the Canal du Nord with sights simply not seen on much smaller UK canals.
The route itself is packed with interest, from lively Lille centre to historic Arras, Noyon and Compiegne and the charms of the Oise and Seine valleys to top off your final entry into Paris.
Lille hotel options:
Day 1: Lille to Arras, 40.5 miles / 65km
Lille is a lovely, compact and eminently explorable city. The centre is a quick cycle ride from the three train stations here (TGV, Flandres and Europe), up cycle-friendly rue Faidherbe and after the delights of the centre of life here, the place du General de Gaulle, you head west to the giant Citadelle, once a bulwark for Louis XIV’s armies against the Spanish but these days a pleasure ground-cum-garden.
Here you cross a small bridge to head south alongside one of the branches of the Deûle canal before a brief section of suburban roads takes you across the ringroad and along a narrow crushed stone path to Haubordin. Here you need to jiggle around a truly massive grain factory before a pleasurable section following the Deûle canal towpath.
There is some tricky navigation and occasional mixing with motor traffic to get from Lille centre to the towpath proper - the current projected line of Eurovelo 5 - but whilst any cycle signing is sparse it’s clear many sections are in use by locals as the quickest and easiest way to get about by bike.
These imperfections soon become worth any frustrations as an excellent broad tarmac path soon becomes the norm and passes through a string of well-used local nature parks.
The path ends at Pont-à-Vendin where connecting roads bring you to Lens centre. You would never guess this is the centre of the former mining belt south of Lille as today it is a busy, colourful and well-kept town with plenty of bars and restaurants and a good cycle lane connection to the Eurovelo 5 proper, hereabouts signed as the Véloroute de la Bassin Minière, along a fine traffic-free tarmac route.
It’s soon time to leave EV5 and follow unsigned minor roads to the remarkable site of Vimy Ridge, scene of a major WW1 assault by Canadian troops and a turning point in the war itself. There’s a majestic sculpture by Canadian Sculptor Walter S Allward which looks back over the mining landscape of the Lens area, with it’s spoil heaps and pithead gear, and bears the names of the 11,285 missing Canadians who died in France in WW1. The road leads very peacefully on to the education centre at Vimy Ridge where young Canadian volunteers are there to show you around the reconstructed trenches and crater-pocked landscape that once must have been the scene of unimaginable heroics and slaughter.
Quiet rural roads through corn and potato fields bring you to the suburbs of Arras where you negotiate your way to the lovely towpath of the Scarpe canal and from here it’s a short section on city streets to the incredible Place des Héros.
Day 2: Arras to Gueudecourt, 27.5 miles / 44km
Through historic Arras, with its many fine squares and parks, you are soon on cycle lanes at Dainville to pick up a traffic-free trail which is actually part of the Véloroute de la Mémoire. You soon leave this to head more directly south on a string of very quiet rolling minor roads to Bapaume, now a pleasant town with plenty of bars and cafes and green spaces, though historically a victim of many conflicts. A short final hop brings us to my accommodation at the lovely and peaceful Le Clos du Clocher at Gueudecourt.
Gueudecourt village itself is tiny but has a strong link to epic historical events. Near the tiny town hall a memorial garden is laid out commemorating Allen G.H. Ivy, an Australian soldier killed in the village, and created in part thanks to the efforts of his relative. It also details the WWI battle that took place near here as the Canadian Royal Newfoundland Regiment and British Essex regiment struggled to overcome entrenched Germans.
The tranquil garden at Le Clos du Clocher B&B couldn’t be more of a contrast to some of the WW1 battlefield encounters that once took place hereabouts, witnessed by Grass Lane Commonwealth War Graves and the ‘caribou statue’ (the Newfoundland Battlefield memorial) are both nearby.
Day 3: Guedecourt to Noyon, 46 miles / 74km
More quiet roads surrounded by vast wheat fields eventually find you descending to join the Somme canal at Cléry-sur-Somme from where it is a short hop down the good quality towpath to the historic town of Péronne, a short ride off the canal.
It’s a characterful little place, despite the fact that it has been even more devastated by a long series of wars than Bapaume. Set amidst lagoons, it has the Museum of the Great War, housed in an ancient castle, at its centre. There are also some remains of the medieval defensive city walls and gates and a good selection of shops and eateries.
South of Péronne you pick up the Somme canal towpath again but this gradually deteriorates to become a stony track by the time you get to Béthencourt-sur-Somme despite bearing official Véloroute 30 signs – there is a parallel road route that I would have taken if I’d known.
A brief road hop at Voyennes brings you onto the much better quality towpath of the Canal du Nord and for the final section into Noyon from near Frétoy-le-Château you are on the fast wide tarmac of the Trans-Oise cycle network, a developing and generally high quality ‘core’ cyclepath network across the Oise département.
Noyon itself is dominated by it’s huge cathedral and its fine surrounding squares and streets and makes a great stop off and the Citotel Le Cèdre hotel bang opposite proves a wonderful location.
Day 4: Noyon to Compiègne, 19 miles / 30.5km
Out of Noyon you briefly pick up the Canal du Nord again and skirt Pont L’Évêque, where the impressive Canal Latéral á la Oise runs into the even bigger and mightier Canal du Nord, a pretty spot to observe all manner of passing craft.
Eurovelo 3 signs take you to the crumbling remains at Ourscamp abbey which are in contrast to the bright new tourist office just across the way, with few other buildings in sight, making the whole ensemble a touch surreal.
After less remarkable villages you soon pick up the EV3 signs that guide you through the forest of Laigue on generally well surfaced roads, though on the middle section the signs go haywire and I loose the tarmac briefly to follow a much rougher track.
You descend out of the forest into pretty little Choisy-au-Bac then come alongside the river Aisne. The previously good EV3 signage disappears on the run into Compiègne but navigation is simply a case of hugging the river to arrive at Compiègne’s majestic bridge flanked by an avenue of plane trees. Again there’s plenty of interest in Compiegne, from historical sights such as the palace in the nearby forest and the elaborate town hall to the temptations of many bars and restaurants.
I stayed right next to the route at the attractive Hotel Des Beaux Arts which, which we we review here.
Day 5: Compiegne to L’Isle Adam, 49 miles / 79km
This is a day’s riding following Eurovelo 3 before joining the Avenue Verte at Pont-Sainte-Maxence where the two major routes join to follow the same roads and tracks until Senlis.
South of Compiègne you pick up the riverside route again – soon it is well signed and you’re out into the lush green landscape of the Oise valley. There are many wide sections of tarmac, though a few narrower ones and some showing signs of age with troublesome tree routes beginning to break up the surface.
Once out of the city proper there is a fine wide tarmac path, easy to follow through some wonderful river and lakeside scenery. More fine scenery through the lakes east of Pont-Saint-Maxence leads to a wonderful if slightly challenging climb through the Halette forest on a virtually traffic-free forest road on very smooth rolling tarmac. A short section of new, wide smooth crushed stone path takes you into the lovely old town of Senlis and it’s here you leave Eurovelo 3, continuing on the Avenue Verte through quiet, pretty villages of the Nonette valley to Chantilly with its incredibly popular Château and racecourse (careful navigation required across town).
After another virtually traffic-free section through the Forêt du Lys leads back to the Oise and the attractive villages of Asnières-sur-Oise and Beaumont-sur-Oise before a final run in to lovely L’Isle Adam with its bathing spots dotted about the river. The only downside is the terrible quality of the track coming into your final destination – some unrideable sand (!) and some rough stone – quite incredible on such a flagship route as the Avenue Verte.
Day 6: L’Isle Adam to Paris, 25 miles / 40km
From L’Isle Adam you head out into the forest on the lovely, arrow straight Route Forestal du Bois Franc. It starts off well-surfaced but there is a rather bone jarring section on cobbles at the northern end.
A string of villages lead you climbing around and over the Forest of Montmorency, passing through Villiers-Adam, Chauvry and Bouffément. At Montlignon you hit the northern outer limits of Paris’s urban tentacles, though everything still feels pretty rural at first.
Before long you pick up a series of cycle lanes through more recognisably urban settings, passing the racecourse at Enghien arriving at the beautiful waterfront of the lake here, backed by its huge casino. Joining the Allee Verte, a lovely traffic-free path past some fine residences, you weave your way on back streets and paths before a short section of main road brings you to the banks of the Seine at Epinay-sur-Seine. Here a fine towpath alongside the river takes you to the Avenue Verte at St Denis (there is a brief section where you need to leave the riverside before rejoining a towpath, now alongside the Canal St Denis – this whole Seineside section is earmarked to be official cycle path in the future though).
You can make a short detour off the official Avenue Verte to the centre of St Denis to experience its hugely colourful ethnic shops and have a chance to visit the basilica where many of France’s monarchs are interred in the crypt.
At Aubervilliers I left the Avenue Verte to head along a fine cycle lane paralleling the tram line that runs just inside and parallel to the péripherique then picking up a handy cycle lane into the centre near Gare de L’Est.
Paris hotel reviews:
- Cycling hotel review: Hotel Gavarni, Paris
- Cycling hotel reivew: Hotel de La Porte Dorée
- Cycling hotel review: Hôtel Le Versailles
- Cycling hotel review: Hotel Campanile Paris 19
About our rider
Richard Peace is the author of the official English-language guidebook to the Veloscenie Paris-Mont-Saint Michel bike route and the Sustrans guide to the London-Paris Avenue Verte. He also contributes to A to B magazine, Bike Europe and Eurobike Show Daily. You can see all Richard's books here.