The Best Cycling Routes in France

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If you’re looking for some great bike routes in France, look no further! Here are some of the best routes that France has to offer:


Alsace (Day 3)

Distance: 30 mi.
Elev. Gain: 1’300 ft

Biking the Alsace wine route from Obernai to Kaysersberg, you’ll get to see some of the best scenery that France has to offer. The route takes you through vineyards and quaint villages (including some villages that are listed as the most beautiful in France), with plenty of stops along the way for wine tastings.

Points of interest along the route:

Riquewhir: Officially one of the most beautiful villages of France. It is a very beautiful village and appears to have remained unchanged over the centuries, providing the visitor with a real feeling for how a village in the region would have looked 400 years ago. This village has fortified walls, stone entrance gates, cobbled streets lined with brightly painted half-timber houses, carved wooden beams and stone doorways, wrought iron signs for the shops, lots of flowers. Several of the most interesting houses and buildings are along the main street, the Rue du General de Gaulle, in Riquewihr. These include: the ‘skyscraper’ (no. 14), a five floor house which is one of the tallest in Alsace, the Courtyard of the nobles of Berckheim (no.38), a stone house with mullion windows and a hexagonal turret with a sun dial, the gourmets house (no. 42) is the house with the most ornately decorated facades in Riquewihr, the nail-maker’s house (no.45), whose timber frame has corner posts carved into statues of men. Among the other historical monuments in Riquewihr you can see the Dolder – this tower is also the upper gate of the town and the belfry. This is part of the original fortifications of the town. The fountain in front of the Dolder tower was originally used to check the capacity of wine barrels hence its name, the fountain of gauging. Another important tower is the Thieves Tower, pentagonal on the outside and square on the inside! You can still see the torture chamber inside the tower.

Kayzersberg: As you enter the town it has a nice main square surrounded by lots of painted half-timber buildings, and a very pleasant main street. Along the edges of the river there are numerous brightly painted half-timber houses, while the Weiss River is crossed by a lovely 16th century fortified stone bridge further adding to the charming picture – delightful! Another notable landmark within the town is the 13th – 15th century Church Sainte-Croix. The front facade is among the oldest parts of the church, and in roman style – enter the church through the ornately carved doorway to see the impressive 16th century altarpiece by Jean Bongart. You will see various other historical monuments as you explore, many dating from the 15th century such as the towers, bridge and ramparts, and the 16th century town hall, each adding to the charm of the town. From many parts of the town you can see the ruins of the Chateau de Kaysersberg poised on the hill above the town. An important route passes through the valley here (the Col du Bonhomme) that has been defended since roman times, with the castle being built in the 13th century. In the following centuries this was a prosperous town, apart from the years around the time of the Thirty Years War (and more recently during the Second World War). Kaysersberg is also the birthplace of Albert Schweitzer, a winner of the Nobel Peace prize, whose life – and in particular his work establishing a hospital and leper colony for the poor in Africa – is commemorated in a museum.

Ribeauville: The ancient town walls and associated towers (including the sturdy square Tour des Bouchers) can still be seen. Among particular highlights to be seen in the town are the 18th century Town Hall, the traditional wheat storage hall, and the Maison des Ménétriers (a particularly decorative 17th century house). There are also two churches and a grand stone building called the Sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Dusenbach. Running up the side of the hill above the village is a cluster of three castles (Chateau Saint-Ulrich, Chateau Girsberg and Chateau Haut-Ribeaupierre) that overlook the town and are easily accessible via a marked trail that passes all three castles.

Haut Koenigsbourg: The first explicit mention that is known was in 1147. It took its name from the original Königsburg (German, “King’s Castle”) in 1192. The castle location was easy to defend and also gave a clear view across important trade routes that passed through Alsace in the valley below. The original castle was largely destroyed in 1462, to be rebuilt at the end of the 15th century with more substantial defenses. This castle was to survive more than 100 years before being destroyed around 1633 after the 30 years war. The castle ruins remained unchanged during 200 years of neglect, and it was these ruins that were presented to Kaiser Wilhem II at the end of the 19th century, after Alsace was reincorporated into Germany following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Kaiser Wilhem then spent the first 10 years of the 20th century restoring the castle. During a visit to Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg you will first see the defensive ramparts and towers in the walls that surround the structure. Having crossed the drawbridge to enter the castle you can see the main living accommodation, the substantial keep, a deep well (crucial for a besieged castle), the kitchens, and an interior courtyard. Within the rooms you can also see the salle des fetes, with a large eagle symbolic eagle painted on the ceiling, which owes more to Kaiser Wilhelm’s imagination than a medieval recreation. There are also various other rooms and halls, and a wide selection of objects and furnishings covering a wide historical period, and many medieval weapons. Outside there is a recreation of a typical medieval garden. The high position of the castle on a rocky outcrop also mean it has some of the best views to be found in Alsace. In 1993, it was officially designated as a national historic site by the French Ministry of Culture.

Bordeaux (Day 1)

Distance: 19 mi.
Elev. Gain: 800 ft

It is a great experience to ride your bicycle from St Emilion to Pomerol through the village of montagne. This route takes you past by chateau Petrus and chateau Cheval Blanc, two of the most famous and prestigious wineries in Bordeaux. The scenery is stunning and the wine is some of the best in the world. This is a must-do for any fan of wine or cycling.

Points of interest along the route:

Saint Emilion: Saint Emilion is entered by way of one of the seven gates that are part of the original medieval fortifications. Saint Emilion and the surrounding region is a listed and protected UNESCO ‘World Heritage Site’, so future development is more or less impossible. Saint-Émilion’s history goes back to prehistoric times and is a World Heritage site, with fascinating Romanesque churches and ruins stretching all along steep and narrow streets. The Romans planted vineyards in what was to become Saint-Émilion as early as the 2nd century. The town was named after the monk Émilion, a travelling confessor, who settled in a hermitage carved into the rock there in the 8th century. It was the monks who followed him that started up the commercial wine production in the area.
The wine produced in St Emilion is only red wine and the grape used is called the Merlot. Chateau Cheval Blanc is the most famous wine in St Emilion. It has the highest classification called 1er grand cru classé and the only other domains that have the same classification in the area are Chateau Ausone, Chateau Angelus and Chateau Pavie. The vineyard of chateau Cheval Blanc date back to 1832 and the domain is 36 hectares. Wine is aged in brand new barrels each year, fermentation is between 18 and 30 days and wine stays in barrels for 20 to 30 months before being sold. Cheval Blanc sells 11,500 cases of 6 bottles each year.

Pomerol: The mostly small-sized producers in this area of about 7.60 km2 (2.93 sq mi) produce red wines. As in the neighbouring appellation of Saint-Émilion, the predominant grape variety is Merlot, often with Cabernet Franc and smaller quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon. Unlike other Bordeaux regions, Pomerol has no official wine ranking or classification. However, wines like Château Pétrus and Château Le Pin are priced as high as the classified first growths of the Pauillac and Saint-Émilion such as Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc.

Dordogne (Day 3)

Distance: 32 mi.
Elev. Gain: 2,400 ft

To ride your bicycle from Domme to Tremolat, you’ll go through some of the most beautiful villages in all of France. The ride goes through the towns of La Roque Gageac and Beynac et Cazenac two of the most picturesque stops along the way. In addition, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the Dordogne River and the surrounding countryside the whole way.

Points of interest along the route:

Domme: The village is located 250 meters over the sea level and overlooking the Dordogne. The town dates back to the 1300 and was used for protection during the 100 years war. It is now listed as one of the most beautiful villages of France. Perched above the Dordogne River, the village is a member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (The most beautiful villages of France).

La Roque Gageac: The village of La Roque Gageac is also a member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. Almost all the houses are built in the traditional yellow stone of the Dordogne area and with stone roofs. The most imposing building here is the Chateau de la Malartrie, at the western end of La Roque-Gageac. Surprisingly it is also one of the most recent, having been built in the 19th century. Although most houses in La Roque-Gageac are along the river, in other places the medieval houses have found the space to spread up the hill a little, towards the troglodyte caves set in the cliffs above. First passing an impressive renaissance style manor house (the 15th century Manoir de Tarde) with a large tower overlooking the village, you then reach the caves. These are in a naturally defended position and were developed as a fort from the twelfth century onwards. The narrow streets of La Roque-Gageac also pass through an interesting tropical garden as they climb up the hill below the cliffs. The palm trees and banana plants are able to grow here because the village is south facing and protected from north winds by the cliffs.

Beynac et Cazenac: The village of Beynac is set in the “Grand Site of Aquitaine” area, together with 6 neighboring villages awarded for their peculiar architecture. But Beynac has a character of its own: more defensive that Roque Gageac though more open than Domme, each step rewinds the time machine and offers a glimpse of a true simple medieval village life.
Nested between cliff and river, the walk up on tiny paved streets to the Château’s doors is steep but truly rewarding. This village, built on the cliffs along the Dordogne River, is today listed among the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’.

Tremolat: Like so many Dordogne villages, it is the overall appearance of the village that is its charm with the yellow stone buildings, a few small features to enjoy such as the frescoes in the church and an old bread oven, and a cafe where you can sit and enjoy the peace. Just outside the village itself there are viewpoints where you can admire the scenery – above all the views from the Belvedere de Tremolat are magnificent. The view stretches about 180 degrees across an enormous bend in the Dordogne River, with hills to the outside of the river and flat, agricultural land inside the loop.

Burgundy (Day 5)

Distance: 28 mi.
Elev. Gain: 1,900 ft

Riding your bicycle on the Burgundy wine route is an amazing experience. You’ll go through some of the most beautiful villages in France, including Aloxe Corton, Pernand Vergelesses, Nuits Saint Georges, and Vosne Romanee. The scenery is stunning and you’ll get to taste some of the best wines in the world. It’s an unforgettable experience that you’ll always remember.

Points of interest along the route:

Aloxe Corton: Aloxe-Corton, which may be used for red and white wine with respectively Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as the main grape variety. The production consists of almost only red wine, around 98%, and only around 2% white wine.

Pernand Vergelesses: May be used for red and white wine with respectively Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as the main grape variety. The production consists of a little more than half red wine, and slightly less than half white wine. The western side of the Corton hill is located in the commune, including vineyards of all three Grand Cru AOC’s of the hill; Corton, Corton Charlemagne and Charlemagne.

Nuit Saint Georges: Nuits-Saint-Georges was the site of the traditional Bugundian festival, la Saint-Vincent-Tournante, in 2007. It is a festival that celebrates the wine of a different Burgundian village each year.

Vosne Romanee: It produces the region’s most celebrated wines, all made entirely from the Pinot Noir grape. There can be little doubt that in the Cote de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée is the brightest star. Despite the monopoly control of four of the six grand crus, the village has at least forty growers sharing its vineyards. The Romanée-Conti vineyard dominates the village, with its wines among the most expensive in the world. It is a monopole of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Around 600 cases are made each year from the vineyard’s 1.8 ha. It’s highly sought after wine.

Clos de Vougeot: Vineyard, which was created by Cistercian monks of Cîteaux Abbey, the order’s mother abbey. The land making up the vineyard was purchased by the Cistercians, or donated to them, from the 12th century to the early 14th century.  The château du Clos de Vougeot, situated inside the wall, was added in 1551 by rebuilding and enlarging a small chapel and some other buildings previously existing at the site. Since 1945, this building has served as headquarters of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, a private wine society where you can only become a member by invitation.

Chambolle Musigny: There are vineyards classified as Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, the most famous of these Les Amoureuses, and 2 Grand Cru vineyards: Musigny and Bonnes Mares. Pinot noire is the main varietey.

Fixin: The church (built 10th & 12th century) stands in the middle of the vineyards, a masterpiece of Roman architecture. The oratory of St Anthony and the square bell tower date from 902. The eastern and western parts of the nave were rebuilt in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The apse was enlarged in 1720. The tower is now covered in glazed tiles.

Gevrey Chambertin: It is situated on the Route des Grands Crus in the Côte de Nuits. The village is noted for the Grand cru Burgundy wine that is produced from its vineyards, the most famous of which is Chambertin. There are 9 grand cru out of the 32 in Burgundy (Ruchottes-Chambertin , Mazis-Chambertin , Chambertin-Clos de Béze , Chapelle-Chambertin , Chambertin , Charmes-chambertin , Griotte-Chambertin , Latricières-chambertin , Mazoyéres-Chambertin).

Morey Saint Denis: Within Morey-Saint-Denis there are five Grand Cru appellations five and 20 Premier Cru appellation.

Champagne (Day 2)

Distance: 34 mi.
Elev. Gain: 2,300 ft

There’s something truly magical about riding your bicycle through the Champagne region of France. The rolling hills, the beautiful vineyards, and the quaint villages all come together to create an unforgettable experience. The ride a combination of fields and vineyards before reaching Epernay the capital of Champagne. Then up to the top of the Montagne de Reims for some spectacular views before reaching the town of Hautvillers.

Points of interest along the route:

Epernay: It is also called the capital of Champagne. The most famous street in Épernay is the Avenue de Champagne which features the leading Champagne manufacturers. Épernay is best known as the principal “entrepôt” for champagne wines, which are bottled and kept in large cellars built into the chalk rock on which the town is built. The production of the equipment and raw materials used in the champagne industry is a major source of local employment. Brewing and sugar refinery and the production of hats and caps, are also major industries.

Two particularly noteworthy villas that you will see as you explore the town are the town hall and its impressive gardens (built in 1858) and the Chateau-Perrier, built in 1854 and notable as being the headquarters for the British, the Germans and then the Americans all during the Second World War.

Hautvillers: Hautvillers means “High village”. It is in the ancient Benedictine abbey of Hautvillers that the monk Dom Pérignon discovered the champagne wine-making process in the 18th century. Dom Pérignon’s tomb rests today in the chancel of the Saint-Sindulphe abbey church.

Corsica (Day 3)

Distance: 32 mi.
Elev. Gain: 3,300 ft

Cycling in Corsica is an amazing experience. The island is incredibly beautiful and the cycling is fantastic. The Col de Palmarello is one of the best climbs on the island and the descent to the Golf de Porto is simply stunning. The final leg of the journey takes you to the unesco world heritage site of Piana, where you can explore the picturesque village and experience Corsican culture.

Points of interest along the route:

Porto: Porto is a small village to the west of Corsica, ideally placed for exploring many of the highlights of this dramatically beautiful region of Corsica, with local highlights such as the Scandola Nature Reserve, Gorges de Spelunca, the Calanches de Piana and the Foret d’Aitone. The main site of historical interest in Porto is the 16th century watchtower – above all for the magnificent views that it provides, from its dramatic location on top of the red cliffs.

Calanche of Piana: Dramatic red rock formations rising nearly 300 meters high on the western coast are set against the crystalline Golfe de Porto (Gulf of Porto). The massive pink-granite mountains rise and fall dramatically with strange rock shapes plunging into the blue waters. The region is best seen at dusk, when the jagged landscape transforms into a luminescent glow of red as the sun sets. Boat excursions leave daily for the Réserve Naturel de Scandola on the Cape Girolata peninsula that protects indigenous wildlife in its extraordinary waters, inlets, and caves. Designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, both the reserve and rock formation region draw crowds of tourists during summer months.

Loire valley (Day 3)

Distance: 36 mi.
Elev. Gain: 1,400 ft

This ride is a combination of forest, countryside and famous chateaux such as Villandry, Sache and the chateau du Rivau. Pedal by sunflower fields before reaching the medieval village of Crissay sur Manse, one of France most beautiful village.

Points of interest along the route:

Chateau de Sache: The château is said to date from the 16th century; built on older foundations.  The then-owner of the château, Monsieur de Margonne, was an old friend of the Balzac family and treated the novelist as if he were his own son. In 1952 the château was converted by the owner into a museum to commemorate Balzac. Located in the heart of Touraine, Château de Saché provided a setting that helped inspire some of Honoré de Balzac’s finest work. From 1830 to 1837 – the most prolific years in his career – the author of La Comédie Humaine found a perfect refuge there. At work in his little room on the second floor, he wrote parts of several of his greatest masterpieces, including Le Père Goriot, Illusions Perdues and La Recherche de l’Absolu.

Crissay sur Manse: The pretty small houses typically date from the 15th and 16th centuries and are built in the very-white stone that is characteristic of the region. Among particular monuments in Crissay-sur-Manse you can see a substantial 15th century castle, now in ruins; the 16th century village Church of Saint Maurice, and a traditional washhouse on the Manse River. The local white rock is called tufa and is soft enough to be carved quite easily, hence its widespread use in the decorative elements of buildings in

Normandy (Day 1)

Distance: 15 mi.
Elev. Gain: 700 ft

Riding your bicycle in Normandy is an amazing experience. The town of Arromanches is particularly beautiful, with its quaint streets and lovely views. The batteries de Longues-sur-Mer are also worth a visit. They offer an incredible glimpse into the history of the region and are a great place to explore.

Points of interest along the route:

Arromanches: Arromanches is a pleasant seaside town, which is famous for the part it played in the D-day landings on June 6 1944. Arromanches was in the forefront of the landings as its beach, designated Gold Beach during the operations, was one of the beaches selected to receive the man-made landing harbors, known as the Mulberry Harbors. Remains of the Mulberry Harbor can still be seen at Arromanches with a couple of the concrete harbors sat on the beach and a line of them to be seen in the sea. One of the pioneering achievements of D-Day, the Mullberry harbour was built by sinking 146 caissons (hollow rectangular concrete boxes) to form a semi circular harbour wall, with further protection from a breakwater of scuttled ships behind.  Floating piers and pontoons, which could rise and fall with the tide were used to create 10 miles of waterborne roads over which vehicles and equipment could be driven ashore. The concept was created by Winston Churchill and all the construction was completed in England.  The supplies were towed across the English channel and put into position the day after D-Day.  Due to the failure at Dieppe in 1942 the allies knew some method of unloading equipment must be in place.  Within 3 days the Mullberry harbour at Arromanches became the largest harbour in the world discharging 7000 tones or more of war material per day.

Batteries de longues-sur-Mer: The construction of the battery of Longues-sur-Mer was started in September 1943. In March 1944 only two of these were finished. But in May the whole battery was completed, in time for the coming invasion. Each case mat was constructed from 600-m³ concrete and four tons of steel. The walls and ceilings were two meters thick and could withstand Allied bombardments. The heaviest bombardments came between May 28 and June 3, 1944. Over 1500 bombs rained down on the battery. Despite that some bombs of 2000 kg were dropped that created holes of 7 meters deep, there was only just minor damage. Even the 1500 tons of bombs dropped in the night of June 5 and 6, left the battery mostly unscratched.

Provence (Day 3)

Distance: 34 mi.
Elev. Gain: 2,600 ft

This scenic ride allowing you to discover the villages surrounding Gordes. Start with a visit of the village of Roussillon, famous for being one of the world largest orchard deposit. Later, keep cycling through the villages of Menerbes and Lacoste listed as some of the most beautiful in France. Of course, no visit to Provence would be complete without crossing the famous Pont Julien bridge. This Roman bridge is over 2,000 years old and is one of the most iconic landmarks in the region.

Points of interest along the route:

Joucas: Located between two of the “most beautiful villages in France,” Gordes and Roussillon, Joucas is a small hilltop village of Monts de Vaucluse. From the village you can see the surrounding plain and ochre hills of Roussillon. Like other hilltop villages in the region, the village location was selected in part due to the good views, which allowed inhabitants to see enemies approaching from far away. Joucas was part of the fief of Agoult during the 11th and 12th centuries, and then ruled by the Knight Hospitaliers of Saint John. The village was deserted during the 14th and 15th centuries. Reinhabited in the 16th, it changed hands several times during the Wars of Religion.

Ménerbes: In the years after 1945 the region offered cheap holiday homes. By 1960 the village was half depopulated but was the residence of Dora Maar, one of Picasso’s models, and the widow of artist Nicholas de Stael, and holiday homes of a London art dealer and a French diplomat, whose visitors to Ménerbes thus included many artistic notables. Ménerbes became known in the English-speaking world since 1990 through the books of British author Peter Mayle, tales of a British expatriate who settled in the village of Ménerbes. One of his books was made into a film A Good Year (2006) directed by Ridley Scottand starring Russell Crowe, which was filmed nearby in the region.

Lacoste: Lacoste is best known for its most notorious resident, Donatien Alphonse Francois comte de Sade, the Marquis de Sade, who in the 18th century lived in the castle overlooking the village. Following a series of incidents involving local women and the police, the Marquis fled the country but was eventually imprisoned. His castle was partially destroyed in an uprising in 1779 and was later looted and plundered by locals. Fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who has partially restored it and holds cultural events there, now owns it. During World War II, the French Resistance took their foothold in the steep Luberon Mountains around Lacoste, and trenches and barbed wire still exist in the forested area in the valley, where resistance fighters prepared to square off with German troops. Today the Savannah College of Art and Design hosts four quarters of classes for art students and professors from all corners of the globe.

Bonnieux: It is one of the many historic “hill villages” in the region. :  The village of Bonnieux is perched on a narrow, steep ridge, rising up from a flat plain to the 12th-century “Eglise Haute ” church at the top with its high, pointed steeple. Access to this “vieille église” is via 86 steps going up from the village. Take a fast hike from bottom to top, winding up through the narrow streets passing in arched tunnels beneath the houses, up the 86 steps, and you’ll earn the spectacular view, shaded by tall pine trees and magnificent centuries-old cedars. Just out of the village to the east, you’ll find signs along the road to the Fôret de Cèdres (cedar forest). A lovely little park with lush green grass is hidden out past the end of the high church at the top and has a view of the gorges cutting through the Luberon to the south, behind the village. The newer “église neuve” church with its high, pointed steeple sits prominently out on the slope in front of the lower village. This fine church is considered “new” because it was built just yesterday, in 1870.
A road also winds back and forth up through the village, passing small squares with shops and cafés at different levels. There are a number of small shops with pottery, artisanal items, and one with beautiful hand-woven wool items. The shops are spread out enough to be unobtrusive.

Pont Julien: It is a roman stone bridge over the Calavon river dating back to 3 BC. Originally, it was built on the Via Domitia, an important Roman road which connected Italy to the Roman territories in France. It was used for car traffic until 2005, when a replacement bridge was built to preserve it from wear and tear.

Roussillon: It lies within the borders of the Parc Naturel Regional de Luberon. In the French natural regional parks, new economic activities may be developed only if they are sustainable. It is noted for its large ochre  deposits found in the clay surrounding the village. Ochres are pigments ranging from yellow and orange to red. One of the former ochre quarries can be visited and is known as the Colorado Provençal. Roussillon is famous for the rich deposits of ochre pigments found in the clay near the village. The large quarries of Roussillon were mined from the end of the eighteenth century until 1930. Thousands of people found work in the quarries and factories. Nowadays the mining of ochre is prohibited here, in order to protect the sites from degradation or even complete destruction. Because during the 18th century the demand rose for pigments to be used in the textile industry, the mining of ochres in Roussillon intensified. Numerous quarries and ochre factories, some of which can still be seen today, were situated near the village. During the 20th century, mining techniques were modernized, which meant that more profitable ochre mines became exploitable. This resulted in a gradually closing down of ochre mines in and around Roussillon. From the1980s, tourism has replaced ochre industry as a source of income.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

Albert Einstein

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