Articles and Photos by David "Q." May                   All rights reserved ©2001-2012
Updated with maps 2010 - 2012

Last cycled summer 2001

Route 4: Towards Barbizon and Fontainebleau

How to Bicycle South from Paris

Cycle to Fontainebleau along the Seine bike path and through the Senart Forest

Maps:  Paris map, map for southeast Paris suburbs
      IGN regional map  #21. 

Nature of the Ride:

This complicated, varied, mainly flat, 75-80 kilometer-long (45-48 mile) route is principally — but not entirely — on bike paths and quiet suburban roads. You will ride along the Seine, in forests, suburban lanes, charming villages, and bucolic countryside.

View of the Fonteanebleau Chateau from the garden.
View of Fontainebleau chateau from garden

Four kilometers of this route does follow roads with light to moderate traffic: If this bothers you, sidewalks and detours may be taken to avoid the traffic.

The return to Paris is by the same route, on a subsequent day, or by train. Those with desire for a longer loop trip can map out a link that joins to Route 5, using quiet rural roads.

This route is the best way out of Paris towards the south or southeast of France, and is an easier and less busy, although longer, route, compared to route 5, to the southwest.

 

Sights in the region:

After the effort of the ride, it would be a shame not to enjoy the scenic resources of the region.  Stroll in the artist frequented town of Barbizon, and walk to the rock formations in the Fontainebleau forest***(* in the author's opinion) near Barbizon. The various gardens* of the Fontainebleau Château are beautiful and restful. (No bikes are allowed; bring a sturdy bike lock).  If you want to tour the interiors of the fabulous *** 16th – 19th century Fontainebleau Château, frequently visited by the French kings and by Napoleon, be sure to leave Paris early in the morning.  In the author's opinion, in Paris region, this château is second only to Versailles.

If you have time, spend a night or weekend in the region:  Road bike rides in the forest — on the roads — are pleasant on a hot summer day, (For rides on the often-sandy forest alleys, mountain bikes are a much better choice.) The forest is enclosed in an endless canopy, that I find somewhat claustrophobic, but at rock formations, there are breaks.  I would leave my road bike locked near the forest roads, and scramble among the rock formations on foot.

The town of Fontainebleau is charming, and has stores of every type.  Moret-sur-Loing*, 12 kilometers further southeast, also is quite charming.  Another Château in the region, open on weekends and with a famous garden, is Courance*. For a brief discussion of the routes to the south, see the end of this page.

Mill at Moret-sur-Loing (thanks to Damian Buckley for photo):
Moing-sur-Loing

 

There is a Relais and Château hotel (with a Michelin * restaurant) in Barbizon, and another * restaurant in Fontainebleau.  Accommodations in the region include hotels, inns, and chambres d’hôtes.

Fontainebleau (or villages in the region) would be an excellent first night's stop in a longer cycling trip heading south, southeast, or even southwest.

Directions:

To print itinerary, select the text below, and choose print selection.

Please follow this link for an explanation of the author's traffic ratings.

Reaching the bicycle path of the Seine:  

(1) From the place before Notre Dame Cathedral:  Ride your bike on the street along the left side of Notre Dame, and across the bridge ahead , to the Ile Saint Louis.  Turn right along the Quai d’Orleans, which curves left, to the second bridge crossing right to the left bank of the Seine.  Cross the bridge, turn right into the bike lane, heading back towards Notre Dame on the Quai de la Tournelle for 50 meters, then turn right again to into the driveway leading down to the lower level. At the bottom of the driveway make a u-turn, and follow the lower bank southeastward.

Bike path along the Seine (on right) near the Peripherique Highway.
Bike lane out of Paris

(2) An alternative from the Left Bank: Take the bicycle lane on Boulevard Saint-Germain (to the southeast) until it ends at the roadway along the Seine (or otherwise bike, to where Boulevard Saint-Germain intersects the Seine in the fifth arrondissement).  Dismount, cross Boulevard Saint-Germain and walk your bike 30 meters east along the riverside sidewalk of the Quai.  At the opening in the low wall, ride left, down to, the bike path on the river embankment, and continue southeastward).

Stay down (left) under the Austerlitz bridge (that is, don't take the more obvious bike route that goes up the ramp to this bridge). When the bike path emerges at the Charles de Gaulle bridge, beside the Austerlitz railway station, turn left and cross the bridge to the right bank, using the traffic-free bike path.  Turn right and follow the bike path (separated from the road) along the Seine, out of Paris.

(3) From the Bastille: From the Bastille, ride southeast (with the Opera of the Bastille on your left) on Rue de Lyon (bike-bus lane) for 250 m, past where the road forks left. At the traffic light, cross to the left following the bicycle markings, continue in the same direction as before besides a traffic island on your left, and then going left around the island and right onto Avenue Daumesnil. Your bike lane runs on the right side of the street (behind a little barrier), against traffic, with its own stoplights; use great care in crossing these intersections, where oncoming vehicles often turn accross your path  After the end of the Viaduc des Arts, the very long buildings on your left, bear right onto the street crossing at a sharp angle, the Rue de Charneton, passing in front of the Mairie (city hall) of the 12th Arrondissement. In about 500 meters turn right at rue Proudhon, pass under the tracks and in 700 meters (after several name changes) attain the main eastbound bike path along the Seine just before the Pont de Tolbiac. Follow the bike path (separated from the road) along the Seine, out of Paris.

Continuation for all starts:

Approximately 1.5 kilometers (0.9 mi)after passing under the peripheral highway, at the pedestrian-pipeline bridge (where Route 3 continues straight ahead), cross the Seine. Ramps back and forth on one’s left, lead up to this bridge.

The pedestrian, bicycle, pipeline bridge over the Seine:
P

If you come to the confluence of the Seine and the Marne, directly across from the unusual Chinagora Hotel and Restaurant, and you haven't crossed, go back! Once you have crossed, you'll have a side view of this landmark.    

Once down the ramps on the far side of the bridge, continue in the same direction as before, along the Seine, and in one block you will find the start of a bike path, which quickly turns south, as the river curves.

On Seine bike path looking back at bridge over Seine:
Bicycle Bridge over Seine looking back
Chinagora Hotel and Restaurant seen from Seine bicycle path.
Chinagora Restaurant from Seine bike path

Follow this waterside bike route south along the Seine. When, after 2.3 km, the bike path, on a sidewalk, arrives at a traffic light, with a bridge on your left, cross in the crosswalks to the far side of the roadway. Do not continue straight here on the sidewalk, but rather look 30 feet to your left for the continuation of the bike path.

Bike path along Seine south. Pass by the bridge in the distance.
Seine bridge
Seine bike path. Pass by this bridge as well.
Seine bridge

After another 3.6 km (2.1 mi), about 6 km (3.6 mi) form the beginning of the bike route (and about 14 kilometers from Notre Dame), you will pass under a  bridge over the river (not the suspension bridge, and not the curved autoroute bridge, but rather the next, rather plain bridge). Here you must follow the bike path markings: The bike path makes a sharp U-turn (clockwise) into a street, and briefly heads back north.  If you fail to make the U-turn, you will find yourself on a haulage path that eventually dead-ends, or you can turn right onto a road which leads towards Orly airport. See directions for riding to Orly Airport here.)

  Follow the street as it turns left (west), and crosses a little bridge over some railroad tracks.  Now turn right, and again turn right to attain the south sidewalk of the bridge over the Seine into Choisy-le-Roi.

View of Seine.
View of Seine

Take the first exit after the Seine, and, at the cross street, turn right (south).  After one long block,turn right into a little dirt lane that leads back to the water’s edge, where you take a pedestrian-bike lane to your left. (If speed is more important than the traffic-free water view, don't take the dirt road; just stay on the main road).  After one kilometer on the lane, the path turns left, back to the main road.  Further on, don’t pass under the bridge into the park (except, by all means, do detour for a look), but rather bear right. Continue south for 3 kilometers. If the normally light traffic on this road is heavy, you may use the sidewalk.

Look carefully for the appearance of a few houses on your right and stay right into the little lane in front of them.  (At this point, the road you have been on starts to climb and turns left to cross a rail bridge.)  The lane leads you into a 1 km long delightful tree-lined bike and pedestrian promenade. Near the train station in Villeneuve-Saint-George, follow the bike path signs (ride down and stay down). The path passes under a bridge and emerges as the right sidewalk of the very busy highway, called the Avenue of  Melun.

On the sidewalk, cross over a rail bridge, and at the first cloverleaf (in 0.5 km) exit right down the ramp, and turn left onto Avenue Jean Jaurès (which becomes Avenue de la Republique) towards Montgeron.  Pass under the main highway, and follow this avenue, always uphill (southeast) for about 2 kilometers. (The light to moderate or moderate traffic the author has experienced here is normally the heaviest of this itinerary; sidewalks are available; also, the hill is the longest.)  Near the crest of the hill, at a stoplight in Montgeron, take a right onto Rue Des Bois, and in two blocks, at the circle, bear left through the barriers onto the spacious Mall de la Grange (compacted dirt lane).  In several blocks an asphalt lane is available on the left side of the Mall.

After the end of the town, when the lane comes to a T, angle right, pass under the highway,  and continue into the large Forêt de (forest of) of Senart. The forest of Sénart, the largest in the Île de France, extends over 6318 acres. At the T, at an only-somewhat-evident, giant traffic circle called the Carrefour de Montgeron,  turn left, follow the circle clockwise but for only a few seconds, and take the first exit left (heading back northeast on a bike path).  The path soon curves right.

The bikepath in the Senart Forest (Forêt de Senart).
Bike path in Senart Forest

Keep going straight (due southeast) for 1.8 km (1.1 mi) across the forest tuntil the paving ends at an automobile barrier (5th main crossing, i.e., one crossing after the diagonal road).  Bear right on a narrow, paved bike path through the woods, continue on, skirting a parking area, and when the path ends, keep straight on the compacted dirt road to the Faisanderie (about 2.7 km from the beginning of the bicycle path).

Faisanderie in Senart Forest

The “Faisanderie”— an interesting building (the pheasant building) with a grill in front is on your left.  The lawn on your right is a nice resting place.  From the Faisanderie, continue straight ahead on this lane (south) to the T, turn right, and then take the next left. You exit the forest 1.5 km from the Faisanderie.

Just before the easily seen highway, turn right on Route D331.  When, in 500 meters, D331 turns right, continue straight ahead onto the major highway, D31, riding in the breakdown lane.  In 0.5 km be absolutely sure to continue straight to the traffic circle.  Be very careful,you are crossing an exit lane that bears right.  (Bearing right would take you onto a major limited-access expressway.) 

Exit straight ahead from the traffic circle (still D31 – very light traffic).  Join the roadside bike path, which gradually curves to the left.  Continue for 1.5 km (0.9 mi) to the second traffic circle, then turn right into the Route of Lieusaint.  This curves left, and becomes the Route de la Montagne Saint-Germain, and descends continuously to a bridge across the Seine between Corbeil-Essones and Saint-Germain-lès Corbeil.  To continue towards Fontainebleau, turn left along the Seine (south).

Corbeil-Essones seen from Seine bridge — a short side trip.
Courbeil-Essones from across Seine

Corbeil-Essonnes, across the bridge, has some interesting architecture, particularly the “Grand Moulins” flour mill, and there are many stores and, sometimes,  an open air market.)  One-hundred meters in the direction of Fontainbleau, on the left, there is a patisserie with delicious eclairs (it closes for lunch between 1:30 PM and about 4:30 PM.)

 To continue towards Fontainebleau, you now ride south, soon uphill, for about 500 meters beside moderate-traffic.  Angle right onto a road signed for Saintry (light traffic), the Rue Bourgoin, which follows close by the sinuous Seine.  The road changes names several times:  Grand Rue Charles de Gaulle, Route de Morsang, Route de Saintry, Grande Rue, Route de Seine-Port, encore Route de Morsang, Route de Croix Fontaine, and Route de Saint-Assise, continuing near the Seine in charming exurbs. In Morsang-sur-Seine at the T junction, after  4.2 km (2.5 mi), turn briefly right then left and soon in Seine-Port turn breifly left then right.  This part of the trip, quite pretty, lasts 10.2 kilometers in total.

  At the merge with the main road, D50, stay straight, cross through the woods in a southwestern direction, and then cross the Seine into Ponthierry. Here you will ride on roads in light traffic for about one kilometer. The route, D50, turns left (third exit from traffic circle). At the traffic circle after the rail bridge take the the third exit, and at the next one, the first exit (sign "vers N7"). You pass a cemetary on your right, and at the intersection you have two choices. If you go straight ahead, you climb up to intersect with the National Route, where a left turn takes you directly towards Fontainebleau.

The wide shoulder of N7 is the shortest, smoothest, fastest ride towards Fontainebleau.  Most traffic takes the nearby superhighway; still there are cars and trucks speeding by.  To go this way, turn left onto NR 7 (and follow it when it bears right in one kilometer), and after 7 more kilometers, just after Chailly-en-Bière, turn right on D64 and follow it for 2 km to Barbizon.

The École stream beside the scenic route to Barbizon.
Ecole Stream

However, unless you are pressed for time, you should consider taking the longer, more scenic back roads that pass through charming villages along the tiny École river.  To do this, immediately after the cemetary turn right (back north) on Rue du Vieux Moulin. When this curves left and intersects with N7 at a T, turn right and ride slowly, part way down the hill to the second street on the left (the first is do not enter).  At a light turn left (sign: "Domaine de Jonville".)  After Jonville, follow signs for Brinville, St.-Saveur and Perthe (total of 6.5 km — 3.2 mi).  Now, leaving D50, follow the sign to Chailly-en Bière (4 km), where you turn right onto N4 and immediately right again for Barbizon on D64 (2 km).

The lawns of the Chateau de Courances.

If you wish to vist the pretty gardens of the Chateau of Courances, they are located 9.5 km southwest of St-Saveur-sur_Ecole — via St-Germain-sur Ecole — and 7 km southwest of perthe — by D372.  The gardens are open to the public only from April to October, in the afternoons between 2 PM and 6:30 Pm on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

Robert Louis Stevenson house in Barbizon. Photo courtesy Damian Buckley.
Stevenson house Barbizon

The artist-colony of Barbizon deserves a close look.  Turn left off D64 on a one-way street (Rue Grande) that leads into the center of town.  After your visit, ride due east on the same road, and enter the forest.  Consider locking your bike and taking a walk on one of the trails among the boulders.

A cyclist poses by rock formations in the Fontainebleau Forest near Barbizon. Photo courtesy Damian Buckley.
Cyclist in Fontainebleau Forest

Turn right at the first intersection (Route du Bouquet du Roi) and follow this forest road up a steep hill.  Follow signs for Fontainebleau (the road changes its name to the Route du Château) .  At the Y, take the right branch.(If, at the Y, you were mistakenly to take the left branch, you would have to cross highway N7, often a daunting, dangerous task, and you would enter Fontainebleau north of the Château).  When you arrive at Highway D409, carefully angle across it, that is, go straight ahead (name change to Route de Plessis Mornay), . until the forest road ends.  Walk your bike accross the crosswalk (zebra crossing) at the light.  Then continue straight ahead on Rue Royale for one kilometer to the Château of Fontainebleau***.

Chateau de Fontainebleau (Michelin ***).
Chateau de Fontainebleau

This château (*** Michelin) is one of France’s most historic.  The French royal family and Napoleon I often visited.  Unlike Versailles (that is decorated in the style of the time with period furniture and objêts d'art purchased on the market), some rooms at Fontainebleau still have their original 16th – 19th century décor and furniture.  The Château gardens* are also worth a visit.  The town of Fontainebleau is prosperous and lively.

View of Château from gardens, Fontainebleau.
Fontainebleau gardens

Here is a link to a map of Fontainebleau-Avon. Bicycle parking for a good road bicycle is always an issue, but for an afternoon visit to the Château, it seem that the Vinci parking garage near the hâteau might allow bicycles in if you pay an appropriate fee. The garage is located off Rue Dénecourt, which runs on the north side of the Château, opposite the carousel (merry-go-round). There is an outdoor bicycle stand by the carousel and the parking stairs and a grille (metal fence) along Rue Dénecourt at the parking exit, and a fence (perhaps inappropriate) directly across from the main entrance to the Chateau.

To return to Paris by train, from the Château follow Rue Grande (heavy traffic – sidewalks available) northeast about five blocks, and bear right on Rue Aristide Briand (moderate traffic).  The railway station is on the right, in the town of Avon, 3 kilometers (1.8 mi) from the Château.  During most of the day, trains run at least hourly to Paris's Gare de Lyon, taking about 50 minutes.

Continuations South, West, or Southeast

For those riding to the South of France, a possible continuation might follow the Loing River towards Montargis (about 50 km), a interesting large town with a medieval center and many canals. From there to the west it is about 75 km to Orleans (heading towards the Loire Châteaux) or 35 km to Gien* on the Loire, and another 50 km to Sancerre*, heading towards central France. For information on Loire cycling in either direction, with special emphasis on the Chateaux region, see the Loire pages on my sister site, Europebicycletouring.com.

Alternatively, in about a 50 km ride from Fontainebleau you could reach Sens**, and then in another 50 km, Auxerre**, the gateway to Burgundy. You could follow the Burgundy Canal to the famous wine regions, or visit the famous Velezay Abbey. My page on Burgundy cycling on Europeabicycletouring.com has some information to get you started planning.

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