We first saw this tip over on Lonely Planet and got a little excited (given our newfound pandemic obsession with cycling): La Seine à Vélo officially opened in October, following the Seine River from Paris to Honfleur and Le Havre in the Normandy region, a 420-kilometer (or 250-mile) cycling route that passes through the Seine Valley that inspired so many impressionists. Doesn’t it already sound like one of the loveliest new bike paths out there?
Imagine pulling out along the banks of the river, to Giverny and Claude Monet’s home and gardens, then on to Rouen, a medieval city and capital of the Normandy region that’s still rich with examples of Gothic architecture. (Make time for the Rouen Cathedral, which Monet painted some 30 times, and to learn about Joan of Arc’s history in this city.) The Paris-to-Rouen route would normally take just about 90 minutes to drive, but along the bike paths and small roads, it’s a multiday journey past riverside gardens and villages that allows for quieter moments. A few other highlights along the ride:
- The Abbaye Notre-Dame de Jumièges, nicknamed “the most beautiful ruins of France” by Victor Hugo
- The city of Les Andelys, with Château Gaillard built by Richard the Lionheart, high on a cliff overlooking the river
- La Route des Fruits, an orchard-filled stretch through the Boucles de la Seine Normande Regional Natural Park near Jumièges abbey
La Seine à Vélo finishes at an estuary, or fork in the road: You can continue on to Honfleur, a smaller (and incredibly picturesque) historic town on the estuary, or to Le Havre on the English Channel. Bombs rained down on Le Havre during World War II, but the city was rebuilt from 1945 to 1964 and now stands as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Developed in partnership with France Vélo Tourisme, La Seine à Vélo has a handy trip-planning tool on the official site that allows you to plug in your origin and destination. It then maps out a recommended route (and a quicker path, if you’re so inclined), with key details like total distance, hours it’ll likely take, elevation changes, and a turn-by-turn map. The entire route meanders more than a direct ride from Paris to Le Havre, but with all these Seine Valley sights along the way, who wants to take the quicker path anyway?