Cycling in Paris

Discovering Paris by bike offers a perspective of the city unlike any other. You’ll save time and unearth the city’s treasures simultaneously. Before embarking on your adventure, here are a few pointers in order to avoid a cycling catastrophe.

If you’d rather go solo, the best way to do it (and any Parisian would agree) is to take advantage of the Vélib’ system. This extensive and low-cost bike rental network allows you to rent bikes by the day or week. Make sure you buy your ticket on-line (www.velib.paris.fr) as the station meters only accept credit cards with micro-chips. You’ll receive a numéro d’abonnement to asked to create a password to use at the meters later on. When picking a bike keep in mind that a reversed seat signals damage. Once you’ve retrieved a bike, you’re good to go for 30 minutes before having to drop it off at any other station (otherwise you could be charged up to 4€/hour!). Don’t worry, 30 minutes is plenty of time to navigate from one site to the next.

Important Pointers about Cycling in Paris


  • Detailed city maps indicating Velib’ stations are available at just about any Presse or newspaper stand.

  • Paris is no San Francisco, but if you’re not in the mood to get sweaty, you may want to avoid some tiring ascents (i.e. Montmartre, the Buttes-Chaumont, and the Pantehon).

  • Parisians are notoriously aggressive drivers. Avoid areas such as the Champs-Élysées, Place de la République, Place de la Concorde, and Bastille if you’re not used to cycling in traffic.

  • You arrive at a station and there are no more open spots. Don’t fret! Go to the screen and press ‘plus d’informations’’ (button 4) followed by ‘chercher station à proximité’ (button 5) to see the nearest station with available spaces.

Biking Itineraries in Paris

This could take an entire afternoon (or day) depending on how frequently you stop. Grab a velib by Trocadéro or Iéna. Ride along the banks of the Seine, which largely have designated bike paths. You’ll pass the Grand and Petit Palais on your left, as well as Invalides on the right. Next come the Jardin des Tuileries and Louvre on your right and the Musée d’Orsay across the river. It gets tricky around Place de la Concorde, so make sure you stay on the bike path or cut through the Tuileries. You can cross at the Pont du Carousel and explore the Rive Gauche for a while, eventually taking Boulevard St. Germain until you reach St. Michel. Take Boulevard Saint Michel across the Île de la Cité and make a right on the Quai des Gesvres across the river.

The Hôtel de Ville will appear to the right. If you continue along the bank, once again, be sure to stay on the bike path. At this point you could also make a left behind the Hôtel de Ville and take the Rue des Archives to tour the Marais. When you arrive at the Archives Nationales, make a right on Rue des Francs-Bourgeois and continue past the Place des Vosges until you reach Boulevard Beaumarchais. Cross the boulevard turning right once you reach Boulevard Lenoir an instant later. There is a bike path on the far end of it that will take you all the way up to the fabulously bohemian Canal St.Martin. Head to the Bassin de la Villette near Stalingrad.

Take a look around and notice how far you’ve come from the chichi surroundings of the Eiffel Tower. The area around Stalingrad and Louis blank are quickly gentrifying! Once rather run-down neighborhoods, they have over the past few years been flooded by the diaspora of artists and hipsters taking advantage of the relatively low rents. Make sure you know where you are going, as some spots in the area (i.e. Barbes métro) can get pretty raw at night.

If you’ve got the energy, pedal up to the Canal de l’Ourcq which flows into the neighboring city Pantin. You can wrap up your bike tour by admiring the graffitied levees decorated by local underground artists. If you’re heading back to the city center and are too tired to cycle, jump on the RER E or the Line 7.

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