Tips for cycling in Paris

Local cyclist Mark Cramer has been cycling in Paris for more than a decade – he has these top tips to help you make the most of cycling in the French capital.

Canal Saint-Martin's protected bike paths make a scenic route. Photo: Toi & Moi
Canal Saint-Martin's protected bike paths make a scenic route.
Photo: Toi & Moi

Best time to roll: Sunday morning. The air is clean, you own the streets, and it’s almost as quiet as car-free Venise. But beware of broken bottles near curbs, the product of Saturday-night revellers.

Eye-catching historical neighbourhoods away from the tourist core: Canal Saint-Martin, (10th and 11th Arrondissements, with protected bike paths), Buttes-au-Cailles (13th Arrondissement), Les Batignolles (17th Arrondissement, with bike markings): three partly gentrified neighborhoods that retain a village atmosphere.

Country in the city: Bois de Vincennes (east side), Bois de Boulogne (west side) are obvious choices, but don’t miss the Promenade Plantée (Coulée Verte), an amazing green corridor with bicycle path, that gets you from Vincennes forest nearly all the way to Bastille, a treasure of landscape architecture that passes through the 12th Arrondissement.

Places to avoid (when possible): When choosing tour routes, be aware that the densest pollution is near the outer motorway (the Périphérique), Champs-Elysées and Place de l’Opera. Those with asthma or anyone susceptible to respiratory problems should avoid these places.

Mark Cramer has written books on social ecology, off-beat travel, and adjusting to foreign cultures. He does animated speaking engagements on these and other themes, with bicycling as a leitmotif and France as the context. You can reach him at [email protected]

Cycling in Paris

You can read more about how years of campaigning by cyclists ultimately led to a more cycle friendly Paris on our guest blog by campaigner Audrey de Nazelle.

See how you'd go cycling in Paris – take our cycling in Paris safety quiz.

The public bike sharing scheme, Vélib, has bicycles available for short trips all over Paris, including in the near suburbs. For day hire it may be chaeaper to rent from a bike hire outlet – for bike hire in Paris, see our France bike hire listings.

Cycling routes in and around Paris

Mark Cramer has written this article on great day and overnight trips around Ile-de-France that are accessible from Paris, this guide to getting out of Paris by bike and these 5 bike routes around Paris. See also Bruce McAleer's Cycling Fontainebleau to Milly for a lovely dayride outside of Paris.

Books and maps

Paris: Women & Bicycles is a photographic book by Gil Garcetti that celebrates cycling culture among the women of Paris.

For fans of cycle sport, Paris-Roubaix: A Journey Through Hell is a wonderful overview of one of the legendary one-day race. (Gerry Patterson cycled the route for Freewheeling France and has this report. His tips for surviving the ride are here).

Graham Robb (see our interview here), author of the excellent The Discovery of France, has written Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris, which includes Robb's discovery of a col in Paris.

For tourist guidebooks to Paris, see Lonely Planet's Paris city guide, the Pocket Rough Guide to Paris, or Time Out's Paris guide.

For city maps, see DK Eyewitness' tourist map or Michelin's Paris city plan. Michelin's Outskirts of Paris map is useful for getting in and out of the city. See also IGN's Paris and Surrounds map and IGN's Ile-de-France map.

Some of the walks in City Walks Paris: 50 Adventures on Foot can be adapted to two wheels if you want to see Paris' key tourist sites by bike.

Accommodation for cyclists in Paris

Finding a hotel with space to store your bike can be a challenge in Paris. Fear not, however, as we've done the hard work for you and uncovered these bike-friendly options – simply click on the icons below for details.

On the blog

Moselle

Alpine French School

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