Bike-Dreams : Paris-Brest-Paris



In a nutshell

Rest days

Paris, France
Paris, France

22 stages
4 days
Nantes, Brest, Saint Malo, Étretat

Total distance
Average distance
Total climbing
Average climbing
2.432 km
111 km
17.500 meters
800 meters
1.520 miles
69 miles
57.400 feet
2.600 feet
Road condition



Price full tour




100% paved

Saturday April 22nd, 2023
Wednesday May 17th, 2023

Mixture of camping (19) and hotels (8)

€ 3.795,-
€ 200,- for early registration

When you think about long distance cycling, you think about Paris-Brest-Paris. It started in 1891 as a challenging bicycle race of 1.200 kilometres from the French capital to the most western city of France, and immediately back. In an era when diamond safety frames and pneumatic tires were taking over from high-wheelers with solid rubber tires, Paris-Brest-Paris was an "épreuve", a test of the bicycle's reliability. The riders carried their own food and clothing and only Frenchmen were allowed to enter, 207 participated.

Nowadays Paris-Brest-Paris is grown into a mythical cycling event with thousands of riders from all around the world and is held every four years. The holy grail of long distance cycling is a kind of "Olympics" for determined cycling enthusiasts. They leave Paris in western direction, keep on riding, fill themselves up with energy bars and gels on the bike, continue during dusk and darkness, take powernaps in bus stops, reach almost straightaway Brest, and return to the French capital in the same rhythm. 1.200 km in less than 90 hours, the time limit.

Paris-Brest-Paris is a great event, but it's also a pity that such a rich and diverse part of France is traversed so quickly, partly passed in complete darkness, and so missing all attractive and historic sites. As you may expect from Bike-Dreams, we want to ride Paris-Brest-Paris in an alternative way. We take our time, we cycle along a varied mix of interesting places and have planned some rest days in between to absorb and enjoy the French splendour, style and gastronomy. From the fairy-tale castles along the Loire to the assault beaches of D-Day. From the prehistoric Carnac to the oyster farmers near Saint Malo. From iconic places of the Tour de France to the enchanted appearance of Le Mont Saint Michel.

We leave Paris via the leafy, bourgeois suburb of Versailles which hosts France's most famous and monumental château. After roughly 100 kilometres the glorious cathedral of Chartres looms up above the carefully preserved old city. Another 100 kilometres further we reach the Loire Valley. Kings, queens, dukes and nobles came here to establish feudal castles and, later on, sumptuous palaces - that's why this fertile river valley is sprinkled with hundreds of France's most opulent aristocratic estates. The Loire Valley is also known for its outstanding wines and lively, sophisticated cities, including Blois, Tours and Angers - that's why the entire valley is a vast Unesco World Heritage Site.

Cycling along the Loire we arrive after five stages in Nantes, the birthplace of Jules Verne. Shipbuilding anchored the city's economy until the late 20th century, but the artsy city on the banks of the Loire transformed itself into a thriving student and cultural hub over the last decades. A perfect place for a rest day.
Further west we arrive at the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean, and not just a normal piece of coastline, we arrive at the Passage du Gois. The causeway of more than four kilometres is flooded twice a day by high tide and is used occasionally in the Tour de France with some divergent experiences as a result.
We cross the Loire at the elegantly curved Pont de Saint-Nazaire, one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in Europe. It rises 61 metres above the water, which was enough to classify it as a 4th category climb in the Tour de France of 2011.

We continue our route to Brittany; a land of myths, legends, proud tradition and culinary wealth, where fiercely independent locals celebrate Breton culture, and where Paris feels a long way away. The region has a Celtic influence with a dialect related to Gaelic. Cycling is very popular in this region that produced Tour de France winners like Jean Robic, Louison Bobet and Bernard Hinault.

Thousands of years before the calendar era, and even predating Stonehenge, Carnac is a place which may not be missed. It's world's greatest concentration of megalithic sites, with no fewer than 3000 of these upright stones. They constitute an astonishing sight, and even though their purpose remains obscure, the area hums with mystery.

We cycle to the centre of Brittany, and the heart of Brittany's cyclisme, the Mûr-de-Bretagne. The local climb with a length of just 2 kilometres and an average of not even 7 per cent, makes it the "toughest" cycling col of the complete region. It's a must for our cycling tour, and also frequently for the Tour de France organisation. Cadel Evans won the stage up the Mûr-de-Bretagne in 2011, which was a start for his Tour victory. Ten years later it was Mathieu van der Poel who won the stage and took the yellow jersey in honour of his grandfather Raymond Poulidor.

We head further west to our halfway destination and second rest day: Brest. The maritime city suffered heavily during the bombing in 1944, but it has managed to reinvent itself. The city centre was completely rebuilt and Modernism, Neo-classicism, Art nouveau and Art Deco, all comes together.

Eastwards along the craggy northern coastline of Brittany, we pass quaint fishing villages nestled in beautiful bays, secluded sandy beaches and dramatic seaside scenery. One of the villages is Erquy, which is considered by many to be the birthplace of cartoon hero Asterix, the famous Gaulish warrior.
The marvellous Côte de Granit Rose - named after the pink colour of the rocky coastline -, and the Côte d'Emeraude (Emerald Coast) - is on our way before we arrive in the mast-filled port town Saint-Malo. This quintessential Breton port is a former island near the mainland. Originally designed as a citadel that during the Second World War was largely destroyed, except for the old walls. Saint Malo was rebuilt in its original style with granite houses that appear ancient. Cancale is a nearby tiny fishing village well-known among gourmands for its oysters. The prized shellfish has been collected here since Roman times, but oyster farming is more recent. At low tide, it is possible to see the beds spread out in the bay.

Not much further we arrive at one of France's most iconic images: the slender spires of the rock-top abbey and the stout ramparts of Le Mont Saint Michel rising dramatically from the sea - or towering over slick, shimmering sands laid bare by the receding tide. For one day, you would prefer a beachracer to cycle around this unique site in the world.
Le Mont Saint Michel is located at the border between Brittany and Normandy. A beautiful region with a variety of dramatic coastal landscapes and quiet pastoral villages.

But mentioning Normandy, is mentioning D-Day. 160.000 allied troops, supported by almost 7.000 naval vessels, stormed ashore on June 6th, 1944. We cycle along the 80 kilometres stretch of D-Day beaches: Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach. Halfway is the attractive and historic town Bayeux, which was the first French town to be liberated and is one of the few places in the area to have survived the Second World War practically unscathed. The nearby cemeteries are places of solemn pilgrimage.
East of the beaches we find Normandy's most charming port town Honfleur. The old harbour evokes maritime life of centuries past. We follow the coast till Étretat which is framed by twin cliffs, a favourite spot for painters such as Claude Monet. The village is a perfect base for wander up and down the shoreline or clamber up to the fantastic vantage points above the nearby chalk-white cliffs.

We cycle inland and follow the Seine for many kilometres. We don't miss out on Rouen. With its soaring Gothic cathedral, beautifully restored medieval quarter, imposing ancient churches and vibrant cultural life, is it one of Normandy's most engaging and historically rich destinations. Before we arrive in Paris, we pass the tiny country village of Giverny, which is a place of pilgrimage for devotees of impressionism, because Claude Monet lived here for more than 40 years in a rambling house with a huge garden that inspired him for many paintings.

The 1st edition of Paris-Brest-Paris starts Saturday April 22nd, 2023 in Paris. You finish your wonderful loop at the Arc the Triumph in the heart of the French metropolis after 26 days and 2.400 kilometres.

Our version of Paris-Brest-Paris is definitely not the shortest route between the two cities, and it's also not the toughest tour in our program, but it's another great tour in our varied selection of bike dreams. If you are looking for some pleasant flat and rolling cycling over quiet roads, every day some interesting places along the way, and want to explore this wonderful part of France in all her aspects - history, art, gastronomy, coastal scenery, architecture - than this one is yours.
The credo of Bike Dreams is : "Life is not the dreams you have, but the dreams you realize".