For cycling aficionados there is something magical about cycling in France.
It’s a country which is steeped in the heritage and culture of the sport and has just about everything we cyclists need. From high mountain ranges, rolling terrain, quiet country roads, incredible vistas, courteous drivers, French cuisine and of course the Tour de France!
Someone once said that if God created a country for cycling fans then it would resemble France…
So, here are seven places that we recommend you seriously consider if you’re considering a cycling holiday in France.
Cycling in the south of France
1. Nice, Côte d’Azur
|Great for:||Beautiful coastline, culture, cuisine and famous climbs|
|Where to stay:||Hotel Le Saint Paul, Nice|
|How to get there:||Fly direct into Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (15 minutes’ drive to city centre)|
It’s well over 100 years since the Tour de France first visited the capital of the Cote d’Azur and in 2020, la Grand Boucle staged its Grand Départ in the city for the second time. Famed for its temperate climate, beautiful coastline and culture, Nice has attracted cyclo-tourists for many decades and has become a popular base from which to explore the roads beyond the city limits.
Lying in the foothills of the Alps, that surround the city, you can track west, on flat roads, to Antibes and Cannes, east to Monaco and Italy on the stunning Grand Corniche road or north into the Maritimes-Alpes for some testing climbs.
The Col de la Madone, a favoured training climb for the professionals who live in the area starts on the coast in nearby Menton. The hairpin laden and spectacular Col de Braus and the Col de Turini (used in Stage 2 of the 2020 Tour de France) are both within striking distance. Nearer to the city centre is the Col d’Èze, a climb made famous by the annual Paris- Nice stage race which has often used the ten-kilometre ascent as a time trial course.
Cycling in the south of France is a unique experience and the city of Nice is the perfect location as it provides all the amenities you could need for a French cycling holiday as well as some fantastic cycling routes to enjoy.
If you’re looking at bike holidays in France, then Nice is highly recommended.
Find out more
Check out our in-depth guide to the cycling around Nice and the Cote d’Azure, here.
|Great for:||Mont Ventoux and the idyllic landscape of Provence. This is old-fashioned France.|
|Where to stay:||Hotel Burrhus, Vaison-la-Romaine|
|How to get there:||Fly into Marseille, Nimes or Avignon (1 to 1.5 hours’ drive) / TGV to Avignon via Lille|
If you want to spend some time far from the madding crowd, then cycling in Provence provides you with a terrific opportunity of travelling in peace and tranquillity on quiet roads.
Through rolling countryside, lavender fields and vineyards punctuated by quaint villages, deep gorges and imposing chateaux, you will have the opportunity to explore classic France.
When people speak of both Provence and cycling the conversation is normally dominated by Le Géant de Provence or by its more popular name, Mont Ventoux. Probably the most famous mountain in all of cycling, the ascent of Ventoux has become legendary and attracts cyclists from all over the world with nearby Vaison-la-Romaine being a popular place to base yourself whilst in the area.
Renowned for its moonscape summit and the occasional strong mistral winds, Mont Ventoux is an unrelenting test of both cyclist and bike as the leg sapping 7% average gradient over 21 kilometres from either Bédoin or Malaucène slowly takes its toll (the ascent from the village of Sault is far easier). But the sense of achievement and stunning views at the top, not to mention the ensuing descent, are well worth all the suffering.
There’s more to cycling in southern France than Ventoux of course! Just to the south, near to the village of Monieux, is the spectacular Les Gorges de la Nesque which has to be seen to be believed as words can’t do its natural beauty sufficient justice. Further south still lies the Luberon natural park with vast forests, quiet country roads and hilltop villages such as those around Bonnieux – an area tailor made for bicycling in France!
Find out more
Check out our in-depth guide to cycling Provence and Ventoux, here.
If you want some support with your trip, you’ll also want to check out our pick of the best Provence bike tours.
3. French Alps
|Great for:||An area rich in the sport’s history giving you some of the best cycling in France|
|Where to stay:||
Hotel des Alpes, Bourg d’Oisans
Hôtel Le Sporting, Morzine
CGH Résidences & Spas Le Coeur d’Or, Bourg-Saint-Maurice
|How to get there:||Geneva and Chambery are the nearest airports to access the area or alternatively you can use the TGV rail network to Lyons and change for onward travel directly into the Alps.|
A cycling holiday in the French Alps is probably one of the most popular choices for avid cyclists thanks to an abundance of ‘Tour de France’ climbs, hotels, restaurants and tourist friendly towns and villages. There are literally hundreds of cols to climb in this vast area so it’s important to decide where to base yourself beforehand, depending which mountains you wish to climb.
As a rough rule of thumb, the resorts of Morzine and Annecy cater for the north of the area, whilst Bourg-Saint-Maurice is the central hub and the small town of Bourg d’Oisans covers the south. Each area has a Hors Categorie ascent or two surrounded by a host of other well-known climbs. Our advice would be to choose your location around your climbs, for instance if you wanted to climb Alpe d’Huez, Col du Galibier, Col du Glandon and Col de la Croix de Fer then it would make sense to base yourself in Bourg d’Oisans.
Being centrally located in Bourg-Saint-Maurice positions you perfectly for the Col de l’Iseran, Cormet de Roselend and the Col de Madeleine. The Col de la Colombière and the Col de Joux Plan can be accessed from Morzine. There are obviously many other resorts and many other climbs, but planning is key when cycling in the French Alps.
Find out more
Check out our guides to
Want to know where to stay? Here are our picks of the best hotels on/near Alpe d’Huez.
Want some support with your trip? Check out our impartial pick of the best French Alps cycling tours.
Looking for an epic route through the Alps? The Route des Grandes Alpes is for you.
4. French Pyrenees
|Great for:||Not as densely populated as the Alps but equally as stunning in its beauty. steep ascents for the climbers!|
|Where to stay:||
Le Patio de Luchon, Bagnères-de-Luchon
Logis Hôtel Le Miramont, Argelès-Gazost
|How to get there:||The Hautes Pyrenees mountains are served by three airports namely Toulouse, Tarbes-Lourdes and Pau all of which are around a 2-hour drive away|
This 430 kilometre mountain range straddles the French-Spanish border (you can actually cycle across France through the Pyrenees). It provides plenty of fantastic cycling through its valleys, tarns and mountain pastures.
The major difference between cycling in the Pyrenees versus the Alps is the gradients. In the main, the alpine climbs tend to be longer with a lesser gradient whilst the Pyrenean ascents are normally shorter and steeper.
The spread of the major mountains is more compact in the Pyrenees, meaning that you can access many of them from one of the two resorts. The area is also generally rural and less commercially developed than in the Alps or other parts of France, so there are far fewer cafes and restaurants and it’s important to refuel when you see an opportunity.
The two main centres to stay, presuming you want to climb the well-known mountains, are Argelès-Gazost and Bagnères-de-Luchon.
These two communes are perfectly positioned either side of the legendary Col du Tourmalet. The Tourmalet is the most climbed mountain in Tour de France history, and also happens to be the highest mountain pass in the entire French Pyrenees.
From Bagnères-de-Luchon you can ride to the Col de Peyresourde, Col du Tourmalet (east), Hourquette d’Ancizan, Col d’Aspin and the Porte de Balès. Argelès Gazost serves the western approach to the Tourmalet, Hautacam, Luz Ardiden, Col d’Aubisque and Col du Soulor.
If you have the legs a two centre holiday will allow you to climb all the Tour de France classic climbs. This is one of the best places for cycling in France.
Find out more
Check out our in-depth guide to cycling from Argeles-Gazost here (for easy access to Hautacam, Luz Ardiden, Col d’Aubisque and the western approach to the Tourmalet).
Our guide to cycling from Bagnères de Luchon is here (for easy access to the Col de Peyresourde, Col du Portillon, Porte de Balès and Superbanères).
Cycling in northern France
Whilst the Tour de France only comes through these parts occasionally and there is a distinct absence of the big ticket climbs generally associated in this part of the world with cycling, France offers a fantastic network of well-maintained cycle paths that criss-cross the west coast. Additionally, the abundance of ferry routes makes this part of France extremely accessible.
So, if you’re looking for some flatter terrain, cooler summer temperatures than in the south or a more family orientated cycling holiday, then you might want to take a closer look.
5. Normandy and Brittany
|Great for:||Family cycling in France due to its many kilometres of dedicated cycle paths.|
|Where to stay:||Mercure Hotel, Mont-St-Michel / Golden Tulip Hotel, Saint Malo|
|How to get there:||Eurotunnel via Calais / multiple ferries from UK and Ireland / fly into Rennes or Nantes (1.5 to 2.5 hours’ drive)|
The north western corner of France may not be your first choice for a cycling holiday. It doesn’t have the famous mountains of the Alps or the Pyrenees, but if you’re looking to do some road cycling in France it will still provide an opportunity to experience France by bike.
In 2016 the Tour de France staged its Grand Départ at the UNESCO listed Mont-St-Michel. Its architectural masterpiece of an abbey is one of the most loved landmarks in France.
There is an extensive network of cycle routes called greenways that take you away from the traffic and that are very well signposted. In Normandy alone you can choose from 500 kilometres of dedicated bike paths.
Likewise, Brittany’s tourism department has been working hard to promote cycling in the area and have upgraded hundreds of kilometres of disused railway lines and canal paths into greenways – there is now a traffic free 365-kilometre cycle path between Nantes and Brest.
6. Île de Ré
|Great for:||A family cycling holiday in France|
|Where to stay:||Hotel de Galion, Saint-Martin-de- Ré|
|How to get there:||Fly into Nantes (2 hours’ drive)|
Situated on the Atlantic coast of France in the Bay of Biscay and near to the town of La Rochelle, lies the island of Île de Ré. Folklore has it that half of Paris holidays on the island in the summer, flocking to its beautiful sandy beaches and sampling some of the best seafood in France.
One of the first things you notice about the Île de Ré is that everyone seems to travel on a bicycle! Unsurprising you may think when this tiny and flat island has over 100 kilometres of excellent cycling paths to enjoy. This is a great option for some easy cycling in France.
The Tour de France put the island on the cycling map as it was chosen as the finishing point of Stage 10 of the 2020 race.
Find out more
Check out our in-depth guide to the Ile de Re, here.
7. Loire valley
|Great for:||Long distance riding on dedicated roads/paths|
|Where to stay:||Hôtel Spa du Beryl, Saint-Brevin-les-Pins|
|How to get there:||Fly to Nantes or Tours|
Whilst cycling through France consider taking in the Loire Valley and trying out La Loire à Vélo (the Loire by Bike) cycling trail which is one of the best ways of discovering the area. It boasts 900 kilometres of well signposted and surfaced paths and roads that connects central France with the Atlantic Ocean.
La Loire à Vélo is also part of the 3,600-kilometre Eurovélo 6 route that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea.
One of the most popular long-distance endurance rides in the area is the 1000-kilometre route that tracks the River Loire from its source in the Massif Central mountains and descends past extinct volcanoes, crater lakes and deep gorges before joining the aforementioned La Loire à Vélo.
You can understand why this is a popular cycle route for biking through France as it runs right through the heart of the country as the Loire becomes the royal river, bounded by extravagant chateaux, fields of Charolais cattle and vineyards. The route passes through historic cities like Orleans and Tours, continuing past Angers and France’s fourth largest city Nantes before finishing at Saint-Nazaire.
What did you think of our selection? Where is your favourite place in France to cycle? Let us know in the comments below. We need inspiration for our next trips and guides!
If you want more information on any of the regions you’ve read about above, we have in-depth guides to many of them – they’re all available on our page that’s dedicated to cycling France.
If you’re looking for someone to help organise your trip, check our review of some of the top cycling operators in France, and our article on how to pick a French cycling holiday.
Trying to work out if you can fly to one of the destinations we mention from where you live? We like this map of airports in France (and the world) which shows all the world’s airports and their scheduled flights an connections. It’s a useful starting point for your research.
Looking for mountains but already done the French Alps? How about the Swiss Alps?
Looking for an organised cycling trip?
If you want someone to help you plan and book your cycling holiday, fill out this form. We aren’t a tour operator/agent but we work with lots of people who are and will do our best to put you in touch with someone that can help (within 24 hours wherever possible)!
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