Paris by bike – How to rent a bike in Paris in 2021!
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Last updated on 26th May 2021 by Lena
Who would have thought that renting a bike in Paris would ever be a good idea?
The days when cycling in Paris was mainly something for the brave, the drunk, or for bicycle couriers are finally over! I won’t lie, Paris is not Amsterdam. But thanks to the mayor’s focus on eco-friendliness and sustainability, more than 1000 km of cycle paths got created within the last few years, and a few hundred more are already planned. You can see the entire network here.
Popular bicycle tours in Paris
Content of this post
Even though you can easily rent a bike in Paris on your own, the most convenient and safe way to go on a bike tour in Paris is to join a tour with a local. To be honest with you, it took me years before daring to cycle around Paris. Even though there are cycle lanes all over town now, it still can be scary at times. Hence, if you are not 100% at ease, consider taking a tour with an experienced local to guide you and keep you safe. It’s an excellent way to discover some hidden gems in Paris.
Exploring Paris by bike became extremely popular during the past years and you find bike tours with different themes and as well different levels of fitness. Some operators are running their tours even exclusively with e-bikes.
Below you find the most popular bike tours in Paris and some additional information that lets you easily compare the different offers. If you are visiting Paris with kids or teenagers, please verify, if the tour you want to join has kid bikes available.
|Hidden Gems ⚡||4h||Electric⚡|
|Paris by Night||3h||Standard|
|Paris Highlights||3h – 4h||Standard|
Joining a bike tour or renting a bike on your own?
The big plus point of signing up with a guide is that you will not only learn interesting facts about Paris, but the tour also includes your bike and most important: helmets! When cycling through Paris and road traffic, safety is obviously a big concern, and helmets are strongly recommended. However, if you are a tourist in Paris and rent a bike at a low-cost bike-sharing service, helmets are not provided and your tour can easily become a risky adventure.
To help you decide whether you should opt-in for a guided tour or an individual rental, check the overview below:
|Organized Tour||Bike ike on your own|
|Duration||3-5 hours||1-7 days|
|Price||from €29||from €5|
|Electrical Bikes Available?||yes||yes|
|Safety Equipment||helmets included 👍||none|
|Local guide and Sightseeing?||yes||you’re on your own account|
Personally, I was hesitant to rent a Vélib for a long time but really started to love it some years ago. Today, it’s my number 1 means of transportation, especially since COVID-19 and experiencing every day how easy it became to navigate Paris by bike after I got used to it.
And I am not alone, moving around Paris by bike is as popular as ever and so are the bike-sharing services.
The biggest and most popular sharing service is Vélib‘. With around 1,100 stations all around Paris and more than 20,000 bikes available for rent, it’s the most accessible bike service in Paris. Some other companies tried to take root in Paris, but their bikes disappeared as quickly as they appeared. Only Uber is still providing bikes to rent but compared to Vélib’ they are rather pricey.
About the Vélib’ bikes
There are a few things you need to know before you get on your bike.
First of all, the bikes come in two colors – green and blue. The green ones are standard bikes and the blue ones e-bikes. The e-bikes still require you to paddle, but you are supported by a motor and cycling is rather effortless. You can choose on the display (the V-box) how much support you need and choose between 3 settings.
All Vélib’s are dock-bikes, and you must bring your bike back to a station to finish your ride. If you are not locking your bike properly, you will face a fee.
I recommend downloading the Vélib app to find the next station, free docking points, and also available bikes.
All bikes are equipped with front and rear lamps, a basket, mudguards, and a lock. For your own safety, I advise checking your bike carefully before setting off exploring Paris by bike. The service is heavily used, and many bikes have some defects.
You will find more tips on how to rent a Vélib and best practices on riding a bike in Paris further down.
Why using rental bikes in Paris is a great idea!
Since Covid-19, many locals discovered their bike as a real alternative to the Parisian Metro, and the improvement of the bicycle lines is playing in their favor. Moving around Paris by bike is not only the cleanest way of transport, but it is also surprisingly often as well the fastest.
Paris is a surprisingly small city and bike lines are connecting all major points and axis.
If you were about to travel from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre, you are in for a 30 minutes ride in public transportation, including one switch of lines. The same distance by bike would take you only 12 Minutes on secured bike lanes along the Seine.
Covid-19 info: While riding a bike, you don’t need to wear a mask.
How to rent a Vélib as a Tourist?
No matter if you decide to completely move around Paris by bike or if you are just in the mood to take a leisure tour around Paris, you need to sign up online to use the Vélib Service. I show you in the following you this works.
Pick the right plan for your journey
You have the choice between two options: the V-Découverte and the V-Séjour. Both are short-term plans that allow you to rent up to 5 Vélibs. The base price allows you to rent a bike as often as you like during a certain timeframe. However, you will still need to pay for the bike rental itself – unless you stick to standard bikes and never ride for more than 30 minutes.
Note that a deposit of 300€ will be blocked on your credit card. Below you find an overview of the different prices that are applying.
|Duration||1 day||7 days|
|Base price for 1 bike (rides not included)||€5||€15|
|Base price for 2, 3, 4, 5 bikes (rides not included)||€10, €15, €15, €15||€30, €45, €60, €75|
|rental price standard bike||first 30 min. free, after €1/30 min.||First 30 min. free, after €1/30 min.|
|rental price e-bike||first 30 min. €1, after €2/30 min.||First 30 min. €1, after €2/30 min.|
Example: You sign up for one bike with the V-Découverte plan and pay €5 upfront to use the service. You then take 7 rides in Paris. 5 are less than 30 minutes, and you pick a standard bike, 1 ride last 45 minutes with a standard bike and the last one brings you home in the evening, it takes a little over an hour, and you pick an e-bike. Your credit card will be charged 6€.
What you need to pay and why:
5€ for the service
0€ for the rides with the standard bikes that last less than 30 minutes
1€ for the 45 minutes ride with a standard bike
5€ for the long ride in the evening that is just a bit over 1hour
How to activate your Vélib plan and unlock a bike
Once you signed up online, you will be provided with an 8-digit ID number and be prompted to choose a pin code. Keep that information safe, you need them to activate your subscription and rent your bike.
For renting a bike, simply use the V-box (the display located on the handle of each bike) to enter your ID number and pin, and press the green check button. It will take a few seconds until a “Go!” pops up on the display and the bike unlocked. You can then simply pull it out from the dock and start your journey.
How to return Vélib’ to a station
Once you finished your journey, you need to bring your Vélib’ back to a docking station. Simply push it back and wait until a “Stop” sign appears on the display. The display will turn off shortly after, and you can leave.
If you did not push your bike correctly in the station, just pull it out again and try again until it locks.
Tips on renting a Vélib’
- The green bikes are standard, the blue ones are e-bikes
- a Vélib’ with a saddle turned around is broken. It’s a friendly indication from the previous renter that you better don’t take this one. Don’t forget to return the favor if you pick a faulty bike yourself
- before you rent a Vélib’, check if the brakes and chains are working. For testing the chains just lift the back wheel and step on the paddle. Also, check if the tires aren’t flat
- when ending your ride, and you parked your Vélib’ at one of the stations, wait until the display on the Vélib indicates that you parked correctly
- download the Vélib app to easily find stations near you
- if you are on a budget, only use standard (green) bikes and switch them before the free 30 minutes are over
Crossing Paris by Vélib – sightseeing itinerary
Apart from moving from A to B, I do take some leisure rides through Paris from time to time. One of my favorite bike itineraries in Paris is a ride from the very east to the very west, just following the Seine. Most of the journey is on bike lanes, and it’s overall very easy to ride.
Paris from east to west along the Seine
You can start your tour at Porte de la Gare in the east and cycle until Pont de Garigliano in the west. When I did this tour some years ago, my idea was to follow the Seine from the point where it’s entering Paris until it’s leaving, preferably along the banks of the Seine, and not along the Street. However, today the entire stretch has a bike lane and you can take this tour by just comfortable cycle on street level if you like.
Starting at Porte de la Gare, you will probably not be super excited about this first stretch until Jardin des Plantes. It is a more industrial area than classic Parisian scenery. However, it is still an interesting part of Paris with the quite new part of the 13th arrondissement. The cycle lane is fully developed, and you should be able to leave this part quickly behind you.
However, you could also just skip this first section and start directly at the Jardin des Plantes and the Tino Rossi Park. This garden along the Seine and is open for cyclists. It’s not a big stretch, but it’s really nice, and it offers an excellent view of Île Saint-Louis and the back of Notre-Dame cathedral.
From the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower by bike
The following (short) section until the Musèe d’Orsay is a bit fiddly. You CAN continue partially along the shore, but the route is plastered with big cobblestones and not too great to ride. I suggest taking the first option to leave the banks and continue up the bike lane along the road.
From Pont Royal, you can access the Berges des Seines and enjoy a car-free cycle path along the Seine. The Berges is a car-free section along the Seine below street level that is transformed into a pedestrian area with different sorts of activities, bars, and picnic spots.
From there you can cycle all the way down until the Eiffel Tower, Bir-Hakeim, and the Square des Martyrs Juifs, a memorial for the deportation of the Jews during WW2. You can even extend your tour until Pont Garigliano and pass by the Ballon de Paris in Parc André Citroen.
Check out my video to get an impression of what to expect from the track along the Seine and see a few of the sights and landmarks that will be crossing your way.
Trip in numbers and facts
Distance: 14 km
Duration: 1-2h, longer if you do sightseeing
Vélib stations on this track: around 30
Sights and landmarks (amongst others)
- Jardin de Plantes
- Jardin Tino Rossi
- île Saint-Louis
- île de la Cité
- Shakespeare and Company
- Cathédrale Notre-Dame
- Saint Michel
- Pont des Arts
- Pont Royal
- Musée d’Orsay
- Place de la Concorde
- Grand Palais
- Eiffel Tower
- Ballon de Paris
- and quite a few other museums, like the Musée des Égouts, Musée d’Art Moderne, Maison de la culture du Japon, Musée de l’Orangerie, Institut de Monde Arabe and many more
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