Cycling in the Loire valley will introduce you an area once known as the Playground of Kings. In rural France, the region sits alongside the Loire river. A blanket of vineyards and beautiful stone towns make it something very special. It is one of the most awe inspiring places to go in France, and it is an incredible place for cycling. It’s known as the last wild river in Western Europe as it has never been canalised and has a world famous cycling route you must explore.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
As a UNESCO World Heritage site, you can expect something unique. The valley is full of beautiful châteaux, and if you are not looking at them, the landscape views are just as astonishing. The people who live in this region of France live an amazing quality of life and of course the food is excellent. Every meal out tastes made with passion and fresh local ingredients.
The Loire Valley has some of the world's most sought after wine grapes, and if you like dry wines, you're coming to a region that will tickle your tastebuds. The region has its own underground villages with homes, wine cellars, and even chapels. Da Vinci spent his final days, and we can understand why it is such a magical place for so many people to go an an adventure.
What to Expect
What can you expect from cycling routes in the Loire Valley? Well, you can expect beautiful cycling paths and roads with minimal traffic. It’s the perfect place for a cycling holiday and features an amazing cycle route which you have to explore, the legendary La Loire à vélo which is very flat, and so perfect for cycling with families or for beginners.
The Loire à vélo is a dedicated 800km bike route that goes on beautiful towpaths and quiet roads from the centre of France right out to the Atlantic. It passes through medieval towns that make you feel like you have stepped into the past. As far as cycling holidays go, the Loire Valley has a lot to offer, and in this article, we’re going to tell you all about it, and specifically, the route between Orleans and Angers, probably the most beautiful part of the route.
Best Routes in Loire Valley
When it comes to cycling in Loire Valley, you have a lot of choices when it comes to routes and roads. Our route has been put together by our experts to give you a little bit of everything on a bike trail and to take you past as many interesting sites in the area as possible along the River Loire.
Orleans to Blois
Welcome to Orleans. You are starting at the home of the Joan of Arc festival and one of France's most beautiful cities. Although a lot of Orleans was hit in World War 2, it still stands strong with a rich history and beautiful architecture. The city owes its development to the export from the river trading and was a central hub for many traders in the past who would frequently journey here.
Following the river, you will cycle out of the busy city and head south down to the first town of the Mount Sur Loire on beautiful riverside cycle paths and quiet roads. It was the site of the battle of the Mount Sur Loire in 1429 but now sits quietly. The main attraction here is the Château Meung Sur Loire which is a castle overlooking the town and is spectacular to go and look at.
You can read our in depth review of this section of the route here.
Although beautiful, you have to cycle on, and now you will continue following the river on quiet paths all the way down to Beaugency. We highly recommend our detour off the river climbing up to the world famous Chateau Chambord to check out the legendary castle. Chateau Chambord is a picture postcard French chateau, that looks as though it's been lifted from the pages of a Disney cartoon. It has also undergone major restoration with an eye watering €3.5m spent on its gardens alone. Check out this incredible video of the gardens here.
Riding to Beaugency
When you get to Beaugency, you find more gorgeous châteaux and plenty to go and check out, but if you don't fancy that, you might go to the Automotive museum to look at classic cars instead. This museum is not your typical car show and is full of weird and wonderful vehicles.
Although there is plenty to see, the pedalling must continue, and you are going to keep following the river on the cycle path. You will have a couple of bridge crossings, and we recommend these to get the best photos. After a short while and a bit of cycling on some quiet country riverside roads, you will get to Blois. Here this route finishes, but it doesn't go quietly. We recommend going to the centre and checking out the huge gothic cathedral towers which stretch over the cobbled town centre.
Blois to Tours
From Blois, you follow the river's cycle route through medieval towns and small villages until you get to Amboise. The city is known for the Clos Lucé manor house where the famous Leonardo da Vinci lived and died also. It towers over the city and is an incredible sight.
Cycling out of Amboise, the route is going to get quieter until the next major stop on the rivers cycling route which is Tours. This is known as the garden of France due to its wide open spaces and 19th-century botanical gardens, which not only have greenhouses but a petting zoo too. The city is full of great cycle paths and easy to navigate. While riding on we recommend keeping an eye out for the historic buildings and a huge number of places to dine and relax.
Tours to Saumur
After you leave Tours, the next major stop on your cycling route is the town of Saumur, and here you will find the Château de Saumur. The Château was originally built as a castle in the 10th century to protect the invading Norman armies, and later, it was developed as a château.
Enjoy the Chateau's museum displaying archaeological finds or if you don’t fancy that, you have the cavalry museum, which houses hundreds of tanks, uniforms, and weapons.
Saumur to Angers
The last push on the bike will continue the pedalling alongside the river all the way to Angers which is your final destination. The road is lovely and quiet and the tarmac is smooth and fast if you choose to use the road, or you can simply carry on riding the Loire a Velo bike path next to the river. Angers in previous years was a stronghold for northwest France and is full of rich history, incredible architecture, and endless museums to visit. On our cycling route you will pass Angers and come in from the west. This cycling route is much quieter and gives you much more to look at. We recommend spending more than a day here as there’s so much to explore within the beautiful city streets. If you want to from here you can continue to Loire Atlantique out on the coast and even see the Saint Nazaire.
You can read our in depth review of the route between Blois and Angers here.
Why go Cycling in the Loire Valley?
When you think of going cycling abroad, France may be one of the first places that you think of going to because of the legendary Tour De France. The first assumption is alpine climbs and chasing pros around, but it doesn't have to be that extreme. This is why the Loire Valley is such an incredible place that is quickly becoming one of the most popular cycling destinations for recreational cyclists and for families who cycle. In this next section, we want to tell you why you should consider the Loire Valley as your next cycling holiday.
The Loire a Velo Cycle Path
If there’s one amazing thing the Loire offers, it is fantastic river lined path. Riding a bike in France is not always treated like exercise, it’s treated as more of a culture and so you can enjoy gentle riding all down the Loire a Velo.
Cycle Routes and Roads
When we speak about cycling infrastructure, the first place many people think of is Holland. France also has an excellent cycling infrastructure, and the Lorie Valley is an amazing example. It is filled with not just quiet roads but incredible cycle paths, which are designed for not just a short commute but long tours. The roads and paths are also very well maintained, and you're not dodging potholes left, right, and centre. It’s silky smooth riding and feels fast all the time and grippy. Any keen cyclist who has been to Loire will tell you about how good the bike paths are.
They Love Bikes
As a region, the Loire does get a lot of cyclists coming through, and it is an extremely popular place to holiday with a bike or to cycle out of Paris to. Hotels understand that many people want to stay with bikes, and they accommodate for cyclists so well. Even for locals cycling to get places is a very popular way to go, and many people choose a bike over a car for their lifestyle.
Many people come to the Loire Valley because there is so much to see. Not only are views of the Loire River special, but there’s so much more. The châteaus are just incredible to look at, and between towns can change architecture dramatically. You will be riding through medieval towns which tell a story while you're on your journey.
One thing that separates the region from others in France is the amount of history it has. It has been fought over by Atila the Hun, the Romans, and many more because of its riches. Everywhere you look has a story, and it has a huge amount of museums and historical tours to go and do while on your travels.
How can you not go to France and appreciate the food they create. The French just understand food, and with so many places to eat and drink, you have a huge amount of choice. It’s lucky that with all the cycling you will be doing, you will be able to try a bit of everything!
You will notice along the way the vast amount of vineyards as the Loire has a selection of world famous wines. If there’s one thing to look forward to at the end of a long day of cycling, it’s a glass of one of Loire Valley's famous dry white wines. The grapes here are very sought after, and we highly recommend a wine tasting session after a day's riding.
It's flat (relatively)
In the Loire Valley, and especially on the Loire a Velo, the terrain is very flat. It provides a great option for families who cycle, beginner cyclists or riders who just feel more comfortable on bike paths and away from traffic.
The weather in the Loire is great for cycling from about April through to the end of September. It's fresh either side of the summer and the summer months are very warm. It’s comfortable for cycling with the correct gear. It’s ideal cycling weather, and because it is fairly inland, it doesn’t see very high winds and is very comfortable to cycle in.
Tips for Cycling in the Loire Valley
Cycling in another country is amazing, but often it can be very different from where you cycle at home. You might face different rules and etiquette along the way that you will need to think about to ensure that you are not going to upset anyone. Here are our top tips when it comes to cycling in the Loire Valley alongside the great wild river.
Follow the Rules
French Law is quite different when it comes to cycling compared to other places, and you will find a few rules here that you are not going to want to break, or you could incur a fine. Here’s what you need to avoid.
- You can be fined 11 Euros for not having a road-worthy bike. Ensure yours is safe to ride.
- Although the region of wine, you cannot cycle over 0,2 mg/l.
- Helmets are not compulsory for adults but are for children.
- You shouldn’t use headphones or your phone while riding.
- Follow the road signs. Circular cycling route signs are mandatory. Square cycling route signs are advisory.
When are things open?
Although most things are open throughout the day from 8am-8pm, you might find midday some places in smaller villages may shut or even close early, so try not to rely on one place being open. Another thing to mention is the French take public holidays very seriously, and you will find very little to be open.
Food and Water
When cycling in the Loire Valley, you will pass through many places, so you don’t need to carry a huge amount of water and food. We do highly recommend having more than you need in case it gets a little hot.
Although it might not seem like you will need sunscreen every day in the Loire Valley will highly advise it. Cycling can give you great tan lines and sunburn. If you are out all day and next to a river, you must be safe.
Spares and Tools
Although the big towns and cities have bike shops, we still recommend carrying enough spares if you have a few punctures and tools to fix any on bike issues you might have while riding. We recommend multi-tool, inner tubes, patches, pump, gear hanger, and tyre levers.
Cash and Card
In the Loire Valley, most places take cards, but we do recommend carrying cash for those small little local cafes and shops that you might want to stop at for some very authentic coffee and food.
Things to do off the bike in Loire Valley
Although it may be a cycling holiday, there’s always time for a bit of sightseeing, and Loire Valley has a lot to offer in the way of tourist attractions. Here are our top picks of things to do while not riding a bike.
Cathédrale Saint Gatineau
Located in Tours, the incredible Cathedrale Saint Gatineau is a must visit location in the Valley. It’s huge as far as cathedrals go and is full of the most fabulous architecture. The building tells many bible stories not just on the walls but also in the incredible stained glass windows. We highly recommend going on a market day so you can enjoy that as well as it is right near and there are some incredible local goods and produce that must be tried.
Château de Chambord
Chambord is the emblem of the French Renaissance throughout Europe and the world. It was originally built to be a hunting lodge, and some say one person who had input its design was the incredible Leonardo Da Vinci. The gardens are phenomenal, and the royal stables are a must visit. If you take the tour and go and see the double helix staircase, it's nothing short of impressive. If you have watched Beauty and the Beast, you will recognise this incredible building. If you like this the Château De Cheverny, Château De Chenonceau, and the D’Azay Le Rideau are also spectacular.
Wine Tasting Loire Valley
While in Lorie Valley it would be rude not to try some white and red wine. Starting at Tours the local in an incredible wine tasting tour. You are taken to two local wineries in Vouvray and Montlouis, only a short ride from Tours, where you will have a guide walk you around the beautiful vineyards and take you to multiple different wineries. Not only that, you will get the chance to visit the wine cellars and also try some of the local foods that have been produced in the area. It’s an incredible trip out and will leave you with a love of a dry white French wine.
Why Love Velo?
When it comes to your cycling holiday, you have a few options to choose from, but why Love Velo? In this next section, we want to tell you all the reasons why cycling with us will give you an incredible experience matched by very few others.
We have sourced some of the best bike friendly accommodation possible in the area, which is easy to cycle to and can get you an excellent stay. We use high-end 3-star or 4-star hotels not guest houses. After years of exploring the area and creating routes, we understand where the best places are to stay.
Are you concerned about having to carry all your luggage around on your bike? Don’t be, because what we do is pick it up from your hotel after you leave and transfer it to the next hotel ready for you so you can expect all your clothes and everything you need ready and waiting as soon as you finish on the bike.
Bike Hire and Tools
We can provide you with an excellent hybrid bike ready for you to start taking on the miles ahead. It will come with tools, spares, and everything you need to get going. We recommend the hybrid bike for first time riders. If you don’t want a hybrid bike and feel a road bike would be more suited to your riding, you also have the option to upgrade if you want to go a little faster.
If there’s one thing we heavily pride ourselves on, it’s our routes, and when you come to the Loire Valley, you can expect some incredible routes that are going to show you the best of the region. We believe that cycling is the best way to explore, and knowing where to go will make the experience that much better. The La Loire à vélo can be complicated if you are unsure where you’re going. No IGN Maps, tourist offices, or search engines needed.