Discover Paris by Bike
Take a Solo Ride or Join a Tour in This Cyclist-Friendly City
by Michele Peterson
The sound of a marching band at the Eiffel Tower, the scent of spring blooms at Jardin des Tuileries, and the thrill of the find at the Carreau du Temple flea market—it’s hard to beat cycling for delivering so much of the rhythm of Paris in such a short period of time.
While best known as a city for walking, it’s possible for independent travelers to discover Paris by bicycle. And it’s not just for hard-core Tour de France types. Although Paris is already cyclist-friendly and boasts over 314 kilometers of bicycle paths, its “Paris Respire” or “Paris Breathes” program offers an added incentive to get behind the handlebars. Many of the major streets are closed to vehicle traffic on Sundays and holidays and reserved for the enjoyment of pedestrians, cyclists, and rollerbladers. Even the most wobbly rider will be inspired to soak up the fresh air and Parisian atmosphere.
Two convenient options for bike rentals include Roue Libre and Fat Tire Bike. The first, located on the Right Bank beside Forum Des Halles has a large selection of bicycles, but it is often fully booked so reservations are a must. Fat Tire Bike is near the Duplex Metro on the Left Bank. Both offer guided sightseeing tours as well as individual bikes for rent by the hour, day, or even overnight.
Choosing a cycling route is easy. Just follow the crowds or take a route that is off-the-beaten path. The choice is yours depending on your mood and cycling prowess. One good route passes along the banks of the Seine where the promenade is filled with young couples, families taking a stroll, and plenty of other cyclists. Despite the crowds, it’s easy to navigate a clear path. Then head across the Pont de Concorde and past the Place de la Concorde to the Jardin des Tuileries where you can stop, lock up your bike, and enjoy Monet’s Impressionist masterpieces in the recently re-opened Musee de l‘Orangerie. The Louvre is also just a short pedal or two away.
Another worthwhile route is to cycle to the historic Carreau du Temple flea market (located at the corner of Rue Picardie and Rue Perrée) in the 3rd Arrondissement. This once quiet section of the Marais between the Place de la République and Arts-et-Métiers is a neighborhood of renewed life. Its bustling and lively Sunday market stretches for several blocks and has everything from live chickens to antiques to fresh baguettes on offer.
No matter which route you choose, exploring Paris by bicycle has many advantages. In addition to taking you places you might otherwise not cover on foot, it wears off calories that can accumulate during those oh-too-frequent stops at tempting patisseries.