Discover a rich heritage along the cycle route Véloscénie

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NormandyParisCycling TourismCultural HeritageSporting Activities

Mont Saint-Michel et sa baie, point de chute de la Véloscénie
© M Lerouge - Mont Saint-Michel et sa baie, point de chute de la Véloscénie

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 15 March 2024

The 450-kilometre cycle route which connects Notre-Dame de Paris to the island of Mont Saint-Michel allows you to discover historic masterpieces along its course, including five monuments and traditional crafts, classified for their World Cultural Heritage value by UNESCO. Before you pedal to the metal though, here’s what to look out for between Paris and Normandy…

1 - Notre-Dame de Paris and the banks of the Seine

The forecourt of the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral is “point zero” for all roads in France. It’s also the starting point of Véloscénie. The awe-inspiring start to the route is famous not just for its glorious architecture but as a symbol of spirituality. Throughout its 850 year history, the cathedral has been given a starring role by many artists, including Victor Hugo in his famous novel the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Take the time to admire this remarkable building from outside. The inside is still closed following a damaging fire on April 15, 2019 (information on Notre-Dame de Paris). Before setting off on your bike, stroll along the banks of the Seine, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and admire the Point Zero geographic marker, an octagonal brass plate, in Notre-Dame square.

2 - The park and Palace of Versailles

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the Palace of Versailles and its grand park are an essential stop for any visitor to Paris. First created as a hunting lodge by Louis XIII in 1623, it became the centre of power in France when Louis XIV installed the court there in 1682 following a major update and expansion to the castle and grounds. The chateau was converted into a museum in the nineteenth century. The complex, including the park and gardens plus the Trianon chateaus, loved by Queen Marie Antoinette, covers a whopping 800 hectares.

3 - The cathedral of Chartres

Notre-Dame de Chartres was founded in the 13th century. It is a Mecca for pilgrims and has been a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site for 40 years. One of the best ways to visit this holy building and masterpiece of Gothic architecture, is to explore its crypt by candlelight. The night-time "Chartres en lumières" light show breathes life into the Cathedral and city monuments with unique projections of flamboyant animated paintings. Don’t forget to stop here as you cycle between the two key stages.

4 – Traditional craftsmanship of Point d’Alençon lace

Normandy is recognized worldwide for its specialist makers of Point d'Alençon lace, listed by UNESCO for its intangible cultural heritage in 2010. The extreme sophistication required to make the famous Point d'Alençon lace is demonstrated by the fact that to embroider something the equivalent size of a postage stamp, requires about seven hours work by experienced lace makers. The stages of this traditional craft, which earned Point d'Alençon lace the title of "queen of lace" at the London World Fair in 1851, is passed down through generations, between the lace maker and their apprentice. Great skill and dexterity are required to create the fragile lace with its motifs and ultra-fine stitching ... Discover some of the unique pieces and delicate work of the lace makers in Alençon’s musée des Beaux-arts et de la dentelle (External link). It’s certainly enough of a temptation to get off your bike in Alençon.

- Alençon Tourism - French only

5 - Mont Saint-Michel and its bay

The silhouette of Mont Saint-Michel is world famous. In 1979 it was listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site, as was the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel. It is also part of the Route of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle in France (Camino de Santiago). As such it has received an Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) UNESCO classification. This treasure trove of architecture and history culminates in its abbey. The unique bay, famous for its extreme tides, provides an extraordinary stop off on the Véloscénie route. An inspiring and beautiful finish to your journey…

- Destination Mont Saint-Michel

Listed UNESCO World Heritage sites for 40 years

Three of the five UNESCO World Heritage sites along the Véloscénie route celebrate their 40th anniversary in 2019: the park and Palace of Versailles, Chartres Cathedral and Mont Saint-Michel. They were among the first sites to be classified in France. Celebrations are being held at the three monuments including a special program at Mont Saint-Michel - French only.

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