France is a very popular holiday destination, as tens of thousands descend on the country each year to experience the amazing food, top-notch culture and picturesque scenery.
While many rent a gîte in the country or stay in the heart of Paris, a great way to experience France is with a cycling holiday. With this you can move around the country, experiencing a range of different sights that you might not get to see on a typical holiday.
Read on to explore 10 famous places you might want to visit during a cycling holiday in France.
Why Go On A Family Cycling Holiday In France
Cycling holidays are a great bonding activity, as you explore the country with your loved ones, experiencing the culture and staying in places you might not normally consider seeing. It also has the benefit of being a holiday which will keep you fit! Many people feel regretful about the amount they eat and drink after a holiday, but if you’re cycling multiple hours each day, the meals become less like treats and more essential meals to give you the energy you need!
Famous Places To Visit In France
Hooked On Cycling has put together this list of famous places to visit in France during a cycling holiday. This includes individual attractions and regions that will let you explore the rich culture and history of France. This is not an exhaustive list, but ten we have chosen to highlight:
1. The Eiffel Tower
We’ll start with one of the biggest draws to France, the Eiffel Tower. Constructed as the centrepiece of the 1889 World’s Fair, it has now become one of the most recognisable structures in the world and a global symbol of France. Standing at 330 metres tall, it provides an epic view of Paris. And don’t worry about that height, there’s a lift as well as stairs!
2. Normandy Beaches
The Normandy Beaches are an important part of history that you can explore in France, the site of the famous D-Day landing during World War 2. The five beaches span over 70km, with many memorials and museums to visit to commemorate what occurred.
3. Champagne Wine Region
The Champagne wine region is located within the historical province of Champagne in the northeast of France. If the name isn’t obvious, it is best known for the production of the sparkling white wine known as champagne. EU law means only wines that come from this region can use the term champagne on their products.
Mont-Saint-Michel is a tidal island just off the coast of Normandy. It is a commune with a population of less than thirty, set only a few hundred metres from the mainland. It is only accessible by a single road, and this road is only accessible at low tide.
It remained unconquerable during the Hundred Years’ War and was then used as a prison due to the natural deterrence. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that remains a popular tourist attraction.
5. Côte d’Azur
The Côte d’Azur, known also as the French Riviera, is a section of coastline in the Southeast corner of France. It is known for its fashionable design and view of the Mediterranean. Thousands flock there during the summer to bask on the beaches, with towns such as Nice and Cannes being popular destinations for wealthy travellers.
If you’re looking for stunning scenery, head to Provence! It is probably one of the best-looking parts of France if you’re obsessed with nature. Full of olive groves, lavender fields and tiny villages, it is the perfect way to get back to nature. Sample the food from this region to try some of the best herbs, vegetables and olive oil made fresh from fields right outside.
7. Mont Blanc
You may want to pack your thermals before heading to Mont Blanc. The highest mountain in the Alps is located on the French-Italian border and is extremely popular for climbing, hiking and winter sports. Even if you don’t head directly to the mountain, it is a stunning backdrop to ride against.
Pilgrims from all over the world descend on Rocamadour every single year to see the sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the other historical monuments there. Apart from this, the scenery is stunning, set into a gorge with a view of the River Dordogne.
9. Bayeux Tapestry
The famous Bayeux Tapestry is a 230 feet cloth that depicts the events leading up to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, culminating in the Battle of Hastings. A stunning depiction of history, it currently hangs in the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux. This museum is located in Bayeux, where you can also explore its role in World War 2 as the first city of the Battle of Normandy to be liberated.
10.Paris of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is a former royal residence built by King Louis XIV in the 17th century. Originally just a simple hunting lodge built by Louis XIII, the new king expanded the grounds into a palace. He loved his palace so much that he moved the seat of his court and government to Versaille in 1682, with the royal family only returning in 1789, nearly 100 years later.
The palace and park were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979 and nowadays the palace is a popular tourist attraction, with a museum of French history within it and a 800 hectare estate to explore.
Experience The Tour de France
While it does not have one specific location to visit, the Tour de France is an amazing thing to witness for a cycling fan in France. It is a multiple-stage bicycle race that consists of 21 stages over the course of 21 days. First organised in 1903, it has been held every single July since then, apart from stopping for periods due to the two World Wars.
The route changes each year, but covers around 3500 kilometres with around 20-22 teams of 8 riders taking part each year. The first winner was French/Italian road bicycle racer Maurice Garin who also won the second Tour de France, however had his title stripped under allegations of cheating. France has produced the most winners over the years, with Belgium, Spain and Italy all having over ten winners.
Here in the UK, we’ve had six winners over the years including Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas and our major winner Chris Froome, who won the race 4 times between 2013 and 2017. The Tour de Frances Femmes took place in 2022, the first women’s race since 1989 and was won by Annemiek van Vleuten from the Netherlands.
If you’re planning on visiting France in July on a cycling holiday, be aware that the Tour De France may be occuring, so you’ll want to plan your trip around this to either incorporate it or make sure you avoid the races. People camp out on the route to get a great view, sometimes for weeks before.
The 2023 race is starting in Bilbao Spain on the 1st of July and ending at Champs-Élysées in Paris on the 23rd July. It is returning to the Puy de Dôme for the first time since 1988 and will cover a lot of land in central France including Bordeaux and Limoge. So if you’re trying to avoid the busy sections, we recommend holidays in the North and West of France!
Cycling Tours In France From Hooked On Cycling
Isn’t France filled with some absolutely amazing places to visit? Now that you’ve found out a bit more about the wonderful locations and landmarks you should put on your French bucket list, maybe it’s time to book that cycling holiday in France so you can check a few of them off!
Here at Hooked on Cycling, we have a great selection of cycling breaks in France for you to choose from, including getaways for all ages and abilities. So you can head out on a solo trip, a cute romantic getaway or a family holiday fun for everyone involved.
Our French self-guided cycling trips will take you across the length and breadth of the country, exploring everything from the mountain ranges and countryside to modern cities and rural towns, all while sampling the spectacular food and drink that has put France on the culinary map.