After the success of the Loire cycleway, and the increasingly popular Rhône route, a route following the River Seine was surely a no-brainer.
From Le Havre to Paris, the 340km (210-mile) route follows the meanders of the sinuous Seine. That adds an extra 100km (60 miles) onto a direct route, but crucially, means almost no climbing. Only when the route departs from the river to cross the remote Vexin region will you need to change gears for one, not very arduous hill.
The Seine is a very different river to the slow-flowing Loire. From the Channel to the first lock just beyond Rouen, it’s a tidal, commercial waterway where you’ll regularly see ocean-going ships. Beyond there to Paris, you’ll still see plenty of freight traffic, tankers, and barges with the batelier’s little Renault or Citroën perched on the front. It may not have the châteaux of the Loire valley, but it’s still rich in heritage – Rouen itself, of course, and the ruins of Jumièges Abbey nearby.
The Seine doesn’t stop in Paris, and neither does the cycle route. You can continue another 100km to Champagne-sur-Seine along EuroVelo route 3. Eventually the intention is to follow the Seine valley further upstream to Troyes, but much of this is still awaiting path construction, and we wouldn’t suggest it as a cycling holiday yet.
Le Havre to Paris would be a very easy week. If you’re arriving on the ferry, perhaps plan it as a four-day tour to allow time for the train back. You don’t have to do the whole route, of course – the 225km (140 miles) from Le Havre to Vernon would make an enjoyable long weekend ride.
Not hard in the slightest. There’s barely a hill to trouble your pedals, except for the section between Vernon and the Paris suburbs. Here, the route departs from the river to take a quiet ‘inland’ course across the Vexin, shared with the Avenue Verte; but essentially it’s just one, not too taxing climb.
Any bike will do, subject to the usual strictures about reasonably robust tyres to cope with the few gravel path sections. (Most of those are on the Vexin, but these are easily skippable by following parallel roads.)
Yes: it’s cycle route V33. You’ll see distinctive orange ‘Véloroute du Val de Seine’ signs in the Seine-Maritime département. Across the Vexin the route and signposting are shared with V16 (the Avenue Verte), and after Paris, with EuroVelo 3.
There’s a short incomplete section between Val de Reuil and Vernon, but you can navigate this easily by following the south bank to Les Andelys, then crossing to the north bank – our route shows how.
SNCF run regular through trains between Le Havre, Rouen and Paris. Happily, these aren’t TGVs but the older Intercités stock, which have good bike accommodation. You don’t even need a reservation on this line, but turn up in good time for your train, and make sure getting to the ferry on time isn’t contingent on one particular train having enough free spaces!
For British cycle tourists, a ferry service formerly operated between Portsmouth and Le Havre, but this looks unlikely to return. Your best bet is to take the ferry to Caen (Ouistreham) and cycle 50 miles along the coast towards the Seine. This, of course, lands you on the wrong side of the river! Bikes are permitted to cross the towering Pont de Normandie, but you might find it more hospitable to head inland on the south bank of the Seine, crossing on the ferry at Quillebeuf or Jumieges.