Journal

Paris by bike, with a GravelUp twist.

If you’ve read this far it must be because you’re interested in riding around the French capital. Well, you’ve come to the right place! Paris, city of lights, is world renowned for it monuments, classic street cafes and timeless charm. And rightly so. What’s less well known is the incredible gravel rides you’ll find right on the doorstep - from the Chevreuse Valley to the Forests of Fontainebleu or Rambouillet, or even the winding roads of Vexin. Think Arcadian landscapes, lush green forests and villages dotted with bell towers for a gravel escape from a time gone by. 

In this article you’ll find some ideas of routes to ride, the must-sees and some handy advice for your adventure. And if you’re lucky we might even tell you where you can rent top notch gravel bikes

Why a gravel bike is best to explore in and around Paris?

A gravel bike is the ultimate do-it-all bike, making it without a doubt the best choice if you’d like to explore, or re-explore, Paris from a totally different perspective. It’s the best of both worlds, with the robust tyres and responsive brakes of a mountain bike combined with the efficiency and smooth ride of a road bike. The ideal companion for the off road trails, forestry tracks or quiet back roads that you might want to explore, ones which will take you to the heart of Nature. 

With a gravel bike, every ride becomes an adventure. 

Despite its reputation as a bustling metropolis, Paris favours exploring just that bit further than you might initially think… You’ll be rewarded by getting far from the typical city sights. There’s plenty of surprises just waiting to be discovered by gravel bike in Paris!

Top 5 gravel destinations to best explore Paris

It might not be the most obvious gravel destination, but Paris and the surrounding areas are full of surprises. If you open your eyes and jump on your steed, you’ll find top notch trails either on a day ride or a point to point adventure.

  • Within the city walls

If you want to be part of the city and feel like a local, then bike is best! Take the time to pedal along the Seine from the Eiffel Tower to Notre-Dame, stopping at the Louvre and the Orsay Museum en route. The riverbank will give you a great view of some of Paris’ most renowned sights. 

If/when you need some calm or green space, you can lose yourself in the gravel trails of the Boulogne and Vincennes Woods, or admire the picturesque sights of the Saint-Martin and Ourcq Canals, which will take you to the edge of the city on quiet and beautiful trails. 

  • The Chevreuse Valley - an oasis on the edge of Paris.

Just an hour from the centre of Paris, the Chevreuse Valley is a cyclist’s paradise. Rolling hills, dense forests and historical monuments combine for a perfect place to let go for the day. 

Not to be missed en route - the Breteuil Castle and Vaux-de-Cerney Abbey.

  • The Forest of Fontainebleau - journey to the heart of local history and heritage.

Renowned for its sandstone rocks and enormous trail network, Fontainebleau is a perfect playground for a gravel adventure from Paris. Just 60km south of the city, you’ll find forest tracks and sandy trails to explore to your heart's content. 

Not to be missed on your journey - Fontainebleau Castle.

  • The Vexin Natural Regional Park - a perfectly preserved slice of rural life.

To the west of Paris you’ll find the charmingly rustic Vexin Natural Regional Park. Riding in the Vexin is to go back in time through hayfields, mediaeval villages and beautiful countryside. Savour the peace and quiet of this pristine and protected area, just a hop, skip and a jump from the hubbub of Paris.

Not to be missed en route - the Roche-Guyon Castle.

  • The Rambouillet Forest - where nature and serenity reign supreme.

About 50km west of Paris you’ll find the vast and diverse forest of Rambouillet that’s heaven for gravel riding. Calming clearings, country roads and trails leading to peaceful ponds tucked away in the trees, not forgetting the magnificent namesake of the forest, the Chateau of Rambouillet, there’s something to keep everyone happy.

Not to be missed en route - the Rambouillet Castle

If you’re still struggling for some inspiration for a gravel ride from Paris you can find our fave routes in our dedicated article Our Tips for Gravel Riding in Paris.

You’ll find all the info you need and more to get your adventure organised and have an awesome escape to the great outdoors.

5 unmissable sights near Paris. 

  • The Palace of Versailles

Historically the official residence of the King of France, the Palace of Versailles is one of the best known monuments in France. Built by Louis XIV, it’s best known for its gardens, the Hall of Mirrors and the Queens Rooms, and is THE cultural site to visit whilst near Paris. You’ll find it to the south west of the city. 

How to get there: RER regional train C or mainline trains from Gare de Montparnasse.

  • The Vaux-le-Vicomte Chateau

You can’t mention Versailles without also mentioning Vaux-le-Vicomte, and vice versa. 

If you haven’t heard of it, this Baroque castle was a main source of inspiration in the construction of Versailles and is equally famed for its gardens and sumptuous interiors.

Similar yet different, the candlelit evenings from June to September are a real treat, with thousands of candles illuminating the castle and gardens. 

How to get there: Train from the Gare de Lyon, then a local bus or taxi.

  • Giverny and Claude Monet’s house.

Made famous as the home of French painter Claude Monet, this small village in Normandy, some 75km NE of Paris, attracts millions of visitors each year. The superb gardens, famous waterlilies and Japanese Bridge that inspired such a large part of Monet’s work are a sight to behold, and make for a refreshingly cultural break in a gravel ride or weekend away from the city. 

How to get there: Train from Gare Saint-Lazare to Vernon, then bus or bike!

  • The Chateau of Chantilly

50km to the north of Paris, this Chateau houses an incredible collection of works of art as well as a magnificent library. The gardens are the work of the famous landscaper André le Nôtre, and are as remarkable as the castle itself. Of particular note are the “Grands Écuries” stables, known as the largest and most sumptuous in Europe.

How to get there: Train from the Gare du Nord to Chantilly-Gouvieux.

  • Chartres and the “other” Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Chartres Notre-Dame Catherdral is a gothic masterpiece. Famous for the remarkable stained windows (there’s over 170!) and the incredible condition that the cathedral as a whole is in, Notre-Dame has been a major place of pilgrimage for centuries. As a bonus, from mid April to mid October every year, light shows are projected on the town's principal buildings, making for an incredible open air spectacle. 

How to get there: Train from the Gare Montparnasse.

Handy advice for gravel riding in and around Paris. 

Because every adventure needs some planning, here’s some helpful tips to help you plan your next adventure from Paris:

  • Plan your route

There’s definitely no shortage of gravel routes to choose from in Paris, the tricky bit is choosing which one! If you don’t know where to start, get in touch with us with your requirements, and we’ll put together an adventure that ticks all your boxes right from the capital. 

If you’d like to spend a weekend exploring Paris, or fancy organising a trip with friends or colleagues but don’t have the time, our team would love to help you!

If you’d rather plan your trip on your own, make sure you highlight the different points of interest that are dotted along your route. You’ll need a map and /or a GPS bike computer to help you navigate and not miss a thing. 

  • Prep your bike

It’s really important before you head out on the trails to make sure your gravel bike is well maintained, and as ready for an adventure as you are. You’ll need the right tyres for your route and to have checked your brakes are in perfect working order. Don’t forget water, snacks and a puncture repair kit just in case. Even if you’re riding close to Paris, you could still find yourself deep in the jungle!

If you don’t have a gravel bike (yet!) but have been toying with adventure for a while now, we also rent high end gravel bikes, both traditional and electric, from French brand Origine. 

  • Stay safe

Even if it’s not compulsory, we recommend that you wear a helmet and brightly coloured or high-vis clothing on your gravel rides. Make sure you follow the rules of the road, including the French give-way to the right, and as you’ll be passing through protected areas ensure you respect the environment.

  • Use public transport

To avoid riding through busy areas with lots of traffic you can simply jump on the train with your bike. Getting a one way ticket (aller simple) allows you to maximise your ride and time on the trails with an A to B journey. A great trick for any time pressed graveller!

Discover Paris by gravel bike - a tailor made adventure from GravelUp

Our experts have put together routes from Paris that prioritise exploration and adventure above all else. So whether you are just starting to ride gravel, or are already a convert, we have an adventure that’s just right for you! 

All our trips are led by a qualified guide, and supported by a professional and experienced team for your comfort and safety. Our guides are on hand to encourage and support you with their knowledge and experience. 

We also offer gravel bike hire in partnership with the French brand Origine. Our bikes are high end models, and we have a range of sizes of both traditional and electric bikes so there’s something for everyone. 

All that’s left for you to do is start your adventure, GravelUp will take care of the rest.

→ Find out more about Paris

→ Get in touch with us for a tailor made trip.

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