Bicycle tourists embarking on the Seine à Vélo cycling route ride along the Seine, from Paris to Le Havre or from Paris to Deauville. Set off along car-free greenways, countryside paths and urban bike paths on your own, as a couple, with friends or family and cycle all the way to the sandy beaches of Normandy.
The Seine à Vélo route begins at the Paris Point Zero marker on the parvis of Notre Dame Cathedral. Head to the Right Bank on Boulevard Sébastopol. From here, it will take you only a few minutes to reach the Forum des Halles, the Bourse du Commerce-Pinault Collection or the Pompidou Centre. Keep cycling towards the north of Paris in all safety along bike lanes on streets, avenues and boulevards until you reach Place de la République, then along the Canal Saint-Martin until the water sports centre at the Bassin de la Villette. Turn off and head along the Canal Saint-Denis, which has a street art trail known as Street Art Avenue, featuring some 30 works on the official trail and another few works along a ‘fringe’ section. Stop to admire the impressive Stade de France, France’s biggest sport stadium. Then cycle through Île Saint-Denis to reach the attractive town of Chatou. From here, it is only a few minutes’ ride to the Île des Impressionnistes, which inspired many Impressionist painters including Alfred Sisley, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir and Edouard Manet. The Château de Malmaison, the private residence of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Empress Joséphine, is located nearby.
Just before you get to Place de la République, as you are riding along Rue de Turbigo, take some time to admire the Musée des Arts et Métiers in its beautiful setting. Once you reach Place de la République, it is worth making a detour to visit the Marais district, famed for its atmosphere, museums, historic streets, restaurants, the Place des Vosges and the Jewish neighbourhood. Another pleasant detour (before turning off to cycle along the Canal Saint-Denis) is a ride along the Canal de l’Ourcq in the heart of Parc de la Villette, which has a number of must-sees such as the Argonaute, the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, the Géode, the Zénith and the Grande Halle de la Villette.
The ride through the Yvelines and Val-d’Oise ‘départements’ from Chatou is done in three stages: 26 km from Chatou to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 48 km from Conflans-Sainte-Honorine to Mantes-la-Jolie and 26 km from Mantes-la-Jolie to La Roche-Guyon. Along this approximately 100-km stretch of La Seine à Vélo, you will be able to visit the royal town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and its château housing France’s national archaeology museum, the village of Frette-sur Seine, nicknamed the pearl of Val-d’Oise, the charming municipality of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, known as the capital of inland water shipping, the Villa Savoye in Poissy, a modernist manifesto by the architect Le Corbusier, and the vast leisure facility L'île de loisirs du Val-de-Seine in Verneuil-sur-Seine, as well as the magnificent collegiate church of Mantes-la-Jolie with its polychromatic roof. From here on, you will be entering the French Véxin regional nature park where, amid expanses of farmland and beautiful landscapes, are some must-sees. These include Vétheuil, which has a rich cultural heritage (winegrowers’ houses, a Renaissance church and Claude Monet’s house), the troglodyte church in Haute-Isle and the village of La Roche-Guyon, the last stop before Normandy and the only village in Île-de-France to boast the ‘Most Beautiful Villages in France’ label.
You will enter Normandy when you cycle through Giverny, where you can visit Claude Monet’s house and garden. The Impressionist painter lived here for 43 years and designed the water garden (a Japanese bridge, water lilies, a bamboo grove and weeping willows), which then provided him with endless inspiration. A short ride from here is the Musée des Impressionnistes, where the collection, exhibitions and workshops retrace the history of this major art movement. The town of Vernon on the opposite bank of the Seine with its relaxed pace of life and museum with Impressionist works is also worth visiting.
Continue cycling along the river until you reach the impressive Château Gaillard, built by Richard the Lionheart in 1198. The king also built the Abbaye de Bonport (1189), a Cistercian monastery that you will come across shortly before you reach Rouen – the administrative capital of Normandy, where you should take your time exploring its many treasures.
After Rouen, you will reach the port of Jumièges, having cycled through La Bouille and Sahurs, two villages that inspired artists such as Paul Gaugin, Camille Pissaro and Alfred Sisley. Here you will find sandstone and half-timbered houses, local food specialities and the ‘Meanders of the Seine’ regional nature park. In Jumièges, the route splits into two cycle paths – one along the right bank of the Seine leading to Le Havre and the other along the left bank of the river all the way to Deauville. Whichever one you choose, you will end up at the seaside!
The route leading to Le Havre lets you follow in the footsteps of Victor Hugo, particularly at Villequier; discover the remains of a Roman theatre and admire the architecture of the Pont de Tancarville, a suspended bridge. In Le Havre, make sure you see the city centre, which was rebuilt by Auguste Perret after the Second World War, the iconic St Joseph’s Church, and the famed beach huts on the city-centre beach – a longstanding tradition.
Along the route leading to Deauville, you will go through the Forêt de Brotonne (Brotonne forest) and the Marais Vernier marshes, and ride along the Seine estuary until Honfleur, a charming port town with picturesque streets. Then you come to the Pays d’Auge area, famed for its beautiful meadows and its cheeses, especially Pont-l’Evêque. The Seine à Vélo route comes to an end in the pretty seaside town of Deauville, known for its laid-back lifestyle, casino, racecourse and American Film Festival. While you’re there, take the opportunity to ride around Trouville-sur-Mer (a town dear to Marcel Proust’s heart), located next to Deauville on the other bank of the River Touques.
The bulk of the route is signposted. There are however a few sections where signage has not yet been installed. You can download the route map for these sections. The signs are easy to spot as they feature the La Seine à Vélo logo and the number 33 (the number of this particular cycle route in France). Along the way, you will find accommodation, restaurants, places to visit, tourist offices and **‘**Accueil Vélo’**** bike repair shops – this is an accreditation scheme guaranteeing a high quality of welcome and services to cyclists using French cycle routes. Among the establishments that have been awarded the label, the capital has several accommodation establishments (the HI Paris Yves Robert youth hostel, The Originals boutique, Hôtel Maison Montmartre and Aparthotel Adagio Paris Nation) and four bicycle rental companies (Vélos vagabonds, DolceVia, Paulette, Paris à Vélo and Paris Bike Tour the latter two also offer guided tours of Paris by bicycle).
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