Van Goghs and Renoirs, a boat ride down the Seine, sipping Champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower, strolling through outdoor markets — choosing what to do first in Paris is difficult in the best way possible.
A friend celebrated her 50th birthday in Paris and recommended seeing it by bike, specifically a cycling tour with Tours By Locals. Having not really ridden a bike for several years, I was unsure about the option but decided to give it a whirl with my family in tow.
Romain hosted us on our 4-hour tour through the city, and while there were a few tense moments dodging pedestrians, we saw, and learned, a lot during our thoroughly enjoyable ride.
Get To Know The Neighborhoods
The beauty of a bicycle tour is being able to cover a lot of area in a short period of time compared to a walking tour. We moved from neighborhood to neighborhood visiting the Marais district, St. Germain, Saint-Louis and City Islands, the Latin Quarter, and more, stopping at sites along the way as our guide explained the unique history of each area. Even when we were moving, riding along the quaint cobblestone streets, passing by tranquil gardens and cafes was a treat.
Bike Along The Seine
This portion of the tour felt like a scene from a movie, and I mention it for that pinch-me moment reason alone. There was something magical about biking along the Seine, passing the beautiful bridges, with the Eiffel Tower in the distance. It was a Saturday and the area was busy, but not overly crowded, with locals lounging in chairs along the river and playing games with friends.
We even rode through Tunnel des Tuileries, where the city invited artists from around the world to turn the tunnel into a unique art gallery.
While the ride along the river was occasionally interrupted by my maternal concern when my 9-year-old boys rode a bit too close to passersby, it was magical nonetheless.
See The Major Sites
We didn’t feel like we missed anything after our tour was over. Quite the opposite. We visited Notre Dame Cathedral, The Pantheon, Luxembourg Gardens, and Musee d’Orsay, explored the Roman ruins, and rode across Love Lock Bridge. A walking tour would have allowed for more lingering at the sites, but I liked the bike tour for getting the lay of the land, knowing we would return to spend more time wherever we wanted.
While we didn’t ride by the Eiffel Tower, it didn’t matter because it’s something you’ll want to experience separately anyway, and you can see it from so many areas of the city that it’s really part of the experience, even if from a distance.
A Personalized, Private Tour
Romain is a licensed tour guide, which as you’ll learn on any tour, is important in France. He’s a former history teacher and not only shared important Paris and French history but also American history, stopping outside the building where the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Revolutionary War.
The best part of the tour? It was private. Just the four of us and Romain. Seeing other biking groups with 12+ in tow made me appreciate our intimate group, where we could go at our own pace, and any and all questions were answered.
The Ride Is Relatively Flat
I walk much more than I ride a bike, so I wasn’t sure how things would go winding through the streets of Paris. The ride was relatively flat — no steep hills to climb — although I did walk up the ramp from the Seine.
The trickiest part of the ride, for us, was dodging the people. It was a busy Saturday in August, and everyone was out and about. I had recently ridden a bike in Cologne, Germany, and the custom there is to use your bell to let folks know you’re coming and they’ll jump out of the way. That is not the case in Paris. Quite the opposite. Using your bell is frowned upon, and bicyclists are expected to navigate around the people, who, by the way, are not concerned with your presence in the least!
We were mostly on uncrowded streets, but the few times we did encounter crowds, I found it easier to get off and walk my bike than to try and keep my balance while not hitting anyone.
Final Thoughts: I find a tour invaluable when getting to know any new city and a bike tour really is an amazing opportunity to cover a lot of ground. It also felt nice to get a little exercise, especially when one of our main activities in Paris was enjoying all of the amazing Patisseries!
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