This article appeared on Travelers Today on May 4, 2013. (A direct link is available under Links to Articles.)
Seeing Paris by bicycle is almost perfect. Paris is generally a bicycle-friendly city. It has a bicycle rental system, the Velib, designated bicycle lanes (though it is still highly recommended to be extremely cautious as drivers and pedestrians do not always pay attention to cyclists).
One of the best ways to see Paris by bicycle is with the American-owned Fat Tire Bike Tour Company. Started in 1999, the company has been offering English-speaking biking tours that range from all day excursions to highlights of select monuments. They also offer two partial day tours, Paris by Day and by Night.
Paris by Night is the best tour. It consists of a four-hour ride around the city when it’s arguably the most beautiful and enchanting, which is after dark. (A time of day so enchanting that Woody Allen named a movie after it, “Midnight In Paris”).
The tour meets at the south leg of the Eiffel Tower and then walks back to the Fat Tire Bikes office for the bicycles. The guides assist in adjusting the seat and explain the way the tour works and how to be safe while riding through Paris traffic. Each group consists of about 20 people and one guide, with yellow safety vests for all group members to wear.
The tour begins with a 25-minute ride from the office to Notre Dame Cathedral. The guides have a lot of historical background they provide about each of the sites throughout the tour. Near Notre Dame, which is on the Ile de la Cite, the tour goes to the famed Parisian ice cream shop, Berthillon, located on the Ile St. Louis, the neighboring small island.
After enjoying ice cream, the tour continues up to the Sainte Chapelle, past the Louvre, which is breathtaking at sunset, with the rays of the setting sun against the glass triangle of the Louvre and the bricks of the museum against the fading sunlight with the fountain sparkling in a mostly deserted courtyard that would never look that way during the tourist packed crowd of earlier in the day.
From there, the tour continues over the pedestrian-only bridge that was constructed by Napoleon, the Pont des Arts. The cycling continues past the Place de la Concorde, where the guillotine beheaded political dissidents and royals during the French Revolution.
After biking through Paris at twilight, there is a boat cruise on the Seine. During the cruise, you are served red wine in plastic cups as you ride past many of the sights you saw earlier on the tour or perhaps earlier on your trip (the night ride is a great end to a trip to Paris). As you pass the Eiffel Tower, it lights up.
Then there was the ride down towards the Arc du Triomphe, where the structure was visible in the distance as we rode. There was a last chance for pictures and then the ride through the darkened streets of Paris back towards the office.
The Fat Tire night bike tour of Paris last approximately four hours, including a one-hour boat cruise. During that period, you will cover 8.2 miles on your bicycle. The night tour involves less stopping and talking, listening to historical facts than does the day tour. This allows you to better enjoy Paris at night. It is recommended to take the day tour as well, and follow it up with the night tour.