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Graham Watson's Tour de France Travel Guide: The Complete Insider's Guide to the Tour!

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Graham Watson

Graham Watson's Tour de France Travel Guide: The Complete Insider's Guide to the Tour! Paperback – June 8, 2009

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Graham Watson's Tour de France Travel Guide lets cycling fans experience all the excitement of the Tour while navigating its many daily obstacles with the confidence of a local.

As cycling's leading photographer, Graham Watson has been in the right place at the right time during every stage of every Tour de France since 1977. No one knows how to get around the Tour like Graham. Graham shares his 31 years of Tour de France experience in this beautifully illustrated guidebook. Featuring over 200 of his award-winning photographs along with full-color maps, travel tips, checklists, and travel resources, this book presents a fresh and unique strategy for getting around the Tour's many opportunities for frustration to find a front-row seat for all the action. Learn where to eat, where to sleep, how to get around, how to see and photograph the race, and how to enjoy the greatest show on two wheels.

  • Print length 340 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher VeloPress
  • Publication date June 8, 2009
  • Dimensions 6.1 x 0.95 x 8.14 inches
  • ISBN-10 9781934030387
  • ISBN-13 978-1934030387
  • See all details

The Amazon Book Review

Editorial Reviews

"If you're heading to the Tour, or simply a cycling holiday in France, veteran cycling photographer Graham Watson's guide will prove to be a huge help, and entertaining too…Beyond its roots as a travel guide, Graham's book reveals photographic tips, includes 200 of his historic images, and provides the historical context that also makes this a great supplement for following the race at home, on TV or online." -- VeloNews magazine

"Surprisingly fresh and immediate, even funny at times. Graham really captures the reality of following the race. A book of random details could easily miss the bigger picture, the enormity of the event. His in-between-the-lines insights are what make this book a gem." --

"Finally there is a practical guide for the traveller wishing to experience the Tour de France close up and personal. Graham Watson's Tour de France Travel Guide distills his 31 years of experience following la Grande Boucle into a compact but comprehensive volume that no fan of the Tour will want to be without. The final chapter is the pièce de résistance as Graham Watson, the celebrated photographer, reveals how you too can photograph the Tour de France. I suspect that this book will be the most expensive one you will ever buy since I defy anyone after reading Graham Watson's joyful-fan-prose to not want to book a flight to France." --

" Graham Watson's Tour de France Travel Guide is engagingly and accessibly written and conveys the writer's evident enthusiasm for the delights of French cuisine, landscape, and winemaking even as it explains how to get along with recalcitrant French waiters or choose wine in a way that will impress them. This book is not just a guide to the Tour de France, it is worth reading as a guide to France itself, with a bunch of cycle racing thrown in for good measure." --

"Engaging and informative. Watson's intimate knowledge of France is equal to his impressive creative talent and skills in photographing the Tour." --

"After 31 years on the job, cycling photographer Graham Watson knows a few things: how to photograph a bike race, how to get around France, and how to track down a nice meal." --

"Even if you are not planning to visit the Tour next year, Graham Watson's Tour de France Travel Guide should prove to be an incredible travel resource for years to come. This book will leave you saying "some day, some day" and dreaming of the time that you will travel to see the grandest of the Grand Tours." --

"More than just a another traveler's guide book, Graham Watson's Tour de France Travel Guide is an intimate, all-encompassing guide to both the country and le Tour. Whether or not your trip actually materializes, devotees of the Tour will appreciate an escape from the dreary woes of the world (including cycling's doping issues) with this colorful and nostalgic journey through summertime France." --

"Graham Watson is the only photographer ever pointed out by the commentary team while a race is in progress. This is a gem of a book and reveals a side to Watson that most of us probably didn't know existed--he's a very impressive and accomplished writer." --

From the Publisher

  • "Finally there is a practical guide for the traveller wishing to experience the Tour de France close up and personal. Graham Watson's Tour de France Travel Guide distills his 31 years of experience following la Grande Boucle into a compact but comprehensive volume that no fan of the Tour will want to be without. The final chapter is the pièce de résistance as Graham Watson, the celebrated photographer, reveals how you too can photograph the Tour de France. I suspect that this book will be the most expensive one you will ever buy since I defy anyone, after reading it and not want to book a flight to France." --

About the Author

Product details.

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ 1934030384
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ VeloPress; Illustrated edition (June 8, 2009)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 340 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9781934030387
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1934030387
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.5 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.1 x 0.95 x 8.14 inches
  • #931 in Cycling Travel Guides
  • #3,092 in General France Travel Guides

About the author

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The 5-minute essential guide to the Tour de France


Cycling Tourism Sporting Activities

Échappée sur le Tour de France 2019 entre Albertville et Val Thorens, dans les Alpes.

Reading time: 0 min Published on 8 January 2024, updated on 18 April 2024

It is the biggest cycling race in the world: a national event that France cherishes almost as much as its Eiffel Tower and its 360 native cheeses! Every year in July, the Tour de France sets off on the roads of France and crosses some of its most beautiful landscapes. Here’s everything you should know in advance of the 2018 race…

‘La Grande Boucle’

In over a century of existence, the Tour has extended its distance and passed through the whole country. Almost 3,500 kilometers are now covered each year in the first three weeks of July, with 22 teams of 8 cyclists. The 176 competitors criss-cross the most beautiful roads of France in 23 days, over 21 stages. More than a third of France’s departments are passed through, on a route that changes each year.

A little tour to start

The first ever Tour de France took place in 1903. It had just six stages – Paris-Lyon, Lyon-Marseille, Marseille-Toulouse, Toulouse-Bordeaux, Bordeaux-Nantes and Nantes-Paris – and 60 cyclists at the start line. At the time, the brave cycled up to 18 hours at a stretch, by day and night, on roads and dirt tracks. By the end, they’d managed 2,300 kilometers. Must have had some tight calves!

Mountain events are often the most famous and hotly contested. Spectators watch in awe as the riders attack the passes and hit speeds of 100 km/h. In the Pyrenees and the Alps, the Galibier and Tourmalet ascents are legendary sections of the Tour, worthy of a very elegant polka dot jersey for the best climber…

The darling of the Tour

In terms of the number of victories per nation, France comes out on top, with 36 races won by a French cyclist. In second place is Belgium with 18 wins, and in third is Spain with 12. The darling of the Tour remains Eddy Merckx, holding the record of 111 days in the yellow jersey. This Belgian won 5 times the Great Loop as Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Michael Indurain.

‘Le maillot jaune’

The yellow jersey is worn by the race winner in the general classification (calculated by adding up the times from each individual stage). This tradition goes back to 1919. It has nothing to do with the July sunshine or the sunflower fields along the roads; it was simply the colour of the pages of newspaper L’Auto, which was creator and organiser of the competition at the time.

The Tour de France is the third major world sporting event after the Olympic Games and the World Cup, covered by 600 media and 2,000 journalists. The race is broadcast in 130 countries by 100 television channels over 6,300 hours, and is followed by 3.5 billion viewers.

The Champs-Élysées finish

Each year the Tour departs from a different city, whether in France or in a neighbouring country. Since 1975, the triumphal arrival of the cyclists has always taken place across a finish line on Paris’ Champs-Élysées. It’s a truly beautiful setting for the final sprint.

And the winner is…

Seen from the sky and filmed by helicopters or drones, the Tour route resembles a long ribbon winding its way through France’s stunning landscapes: the groves of Normandy, the peaks of the Alps, the shores of Brittany and the beaches of the Côte d’Azur. In 2017, it was the Izoard pass in Hautes-Alpes that was elected the most beautiful stage, at an altitude of 2,361 metres. Which one gets your vote?

Find out more on the official Tour de France site:

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The Dos and Don'ts of Tour de France Travel

A Miami-based photographer has learned some lessons from his two trips to France.

Miami-based photographer Alexander Aguiar traveled to France for the 2022 edition of the Tour de France. He shares with us some of his favorite images, as well as some travel tips, and photography dos and don'ts. Pro tip: Go with your mom (if your mom speaks French).

scenes from the july 2022 tour de france

Bicycling: Was this your first time spectating the Tour de France?

Alexander Aguiar: In 2019, My mom and I went to the Tour de France. We had a ton of fun, so there was an itch to go back (I have an itch for a third time). It doesn’t hurt that my mom is French. It was helpful to lean on her for translations since I don’t speak the language very well. I’ve been to France other times with my mom; it’s also nice to connect with my family’s heritage.

scenes from the july 2022 tour de france

Bicycling: Have you photographed other bike races or just the Tour?

Aguiar: The 2019 Tour was my first time photographing any type of cycling. I shot it on film, and I slightly regret not shooting it on a digital camera… which motivated me to go back for a second time. I don’t shoot the races too literally. I enjoy cycling and find the Tour to be incredible, but I don’t know all the riders competing, I don’t know all the teams, and I don’t know all the stats or standings for each stage. Instead, I focus on embracing the event with an “outsider’s” point of view (although I love my CAAD13, I don’t consider myself a cycling purist).

scenes from the july 2022 tour de france

Bicycling: When did you book your trip? Where’d you stay?

Book your car and flights early. But for hotels, I suggest pre-booking the first 2-3 nights of the trip and leave the rest up in the air. The original bookings I made weren’t as convenient as they could have been and added extra driving time onto already long days. Things will work out as long as you have a phone that can search the internet and make phone calls.

Bicycling: So you got around by car, not by bike?

Aguiar: We rented a car at Charles De Gaulle airport when we arrived, and I would recommend doing the same. But it makes more sense to finish the trip by taking a train back to Paris and leaving the car at the closest rental facility. We saved about 5 hours of driving back to Paris by doing that, which feels like a big deal when you’ve been driving nonstop for 10 days.

Occasionally you can park your car directly on the road that the cyclists use for the race. If road closures are an issue, pencil in a few miles of walking. There were multiple days where we logged 8-9 miles of walking, but I think we walked more than the average fan. Tour buses seem great if you want to have the logistical work taken out of the equation. I can see this being really valuable to bigger families with children.

scenes from the july 2022 tour de france

Bicycling: What else would you do or not do, again?

Aguiar: I'd like to go with my own bike or rent a bike; that would be a game-changer. Many fans bring their own bikes and ride the stages, which I had a greater appreciation for this year. Aside from the cool factor of sharing routes with the top cyclists in the world, having a bike also makes it a lot easier to get from your car to a viewing area.

scenes from the july 2022 tour de france

Photography Lessons Aguiar Learned

  • Get friendly with the locals. They’re helpful with directions, viewing locations, and parking in towns. Offer them a portrait in exchange.
  • Bring a bike or rent one in France. A lot of fans ride the routes before each stage officially starts, and they help with getting to locations when roads are closed to cars or when parking is far.
  • Stack up on baguettes, cheese, and meats for easy meals on the go. They're cheap, and tasty.
  • Arrive early to locations. That way you can meet other fans, wander around towns, take in the scenery, and get to claim your spot before things get crowded.
  • Don't expect everything to go smoothly. Roads will be closed unexpectedly, GPS and addresses may be incorrect. You just have to go with the flow.
  • Don't skimp on international cell service. You’ll need it for Google Maps, unless you are well versed in using actual maps.
  • Don't forget insurance for your car rental! My first TdF experience resulted in a dinged rental despite being careful with the car. Roads that are usually quiet are busy.
  • Don't forget to take in some views and take time to site see away from the race.
  • Don't arrive without a language translator. You can use Google, a friend (or mom) who knows French, or brush up on your own French before heading out

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Tour de France 2021: The Essential Race Guide

All you need to know, from the contenders to race and stage-by-stage analysis

Tour de France 2021: The Essential Race Guide

The 2021 Tour de France is almost upon us with the Grand Départ set for June 26, and 21 mouth-watering stages to look forward to as the race takes in Brittany, two individual time trials, a double assault on Mont Ventoux and the customary finish on the Champs Élysées in Paris on July 18.

The 108th edition of the race will see defending champion Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) aim to defend his crown against Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) and a host of other yellow jersey contenders over what is an intriguing and multi-layered route profile. 

After a mountain-heavy Tour de France in 2020, race organisers ASO have opted for a more traditional and classic affair this time around, with the race reverting to hosting two long individual time trials for the first time since 2013.

In fact, on the face of it, the profile and route of the 2021 edition of the Tour de France is somewhat of a throwback to a Jean-Marie Leblanc style of race – in that the route suits a strong time triallist and puts the pure climbers on the back foot almost immediately. However, there are deeper levels and dimensions to Christian Prudhomme’s opus. 

There are just three summit finishes in total, 58km of time trialling – a lot for a modern-day Tour – and eight stages for the sprinters. Prudhomme has also moved away from packing the route with a barrage of new climbs or prolonged periods in the Jura, Massif Central or Vosges mountain regions. 

That being said, Prudhomme has cleverly concocted a route that marries some of the most iconic of French cycling furniture – Mount Ventoux, Brittany, the Col de Port, Pau, and the Tourmalet – and blended those ingredients with several truly engaging aspects. 

There may only be three summit finishes, and many of the staple Alpine climbs are missing, but there are stages that could be defined just as much for their descents as the climbs they included, with ASO attempting to nullify the typically late mountain-top attacks by encouraging riders to go on the offensive even earlier.

Prudhomme may have built this Tour on traditional foundations, with two days in the Alps and five in the Pyrenees, but he has also taken risks too – something Leblanc rarely did. His 2021 route is peppered with stages that could easily be turned upside down by crosswinds and potential ambushes, especially around Narbonne, Nimes, and Carcassonne. The four days in Brittany – although a replacement for the Copenhagen Grand Départ – could see the race lead change almost daily, while the first time trial on stage 5 has enough road to create a pecking order and draw out the climbers ahead of the Alps.

Overall, this is a route that perhaps doesn’t ignite the immediate excitement or glamour that some of Prudhomme’s recent ventures have. Ventoux aside, there are no gimmicks, but this is still a highly engaging route and one that provides all the landscape the riders need to make compelling Tour de France.

The Tour de France contenders – Pogačar, Roglič and Ineos

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) celebrates the 2020 Tour de France victory

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) comes into the race as the reigning champion so the young Slovenian starts his Tour defence under completely different circumstances to last year, when he was somewhat of an underdog. His smash and grab at La Planche des Belle Filles last summer was nothing short of astonishing but it’s fair to say that he benefitted from the fact that he and his team didn’t need to control any of the race. Instead, they wisely allowed Jumbo-Visma to wear themselves out, but this time around Pogačar will not be afforded such comforts and from the moment he arrives in Brest for the Grand Départ the entire race will be watching his every move. That said, Pogačar’s UAE Team Emirates squad are far from average. In Marc Hirschi, David de la Cruz, Brandon McNulty, Davide Formolo, and Rafal Majka, the defending champion has the core of an excellent team. They aren’t the strongest team in the race but they don’t necessarily have to be. 

On paper, Pogačar’s main threat is the rider he crushed in the final time trial last year, Primoz Roglič . The Jumbo-Visma leader has spent the last few months secluded up at altitude, shunning the standard pre-Tour race programme for a tailor-made and extended period of training. He has not been seen at a race since Liège-Bastogne-Liège back in late April but the 31-year-old will no doubt bring his best condition to the race. There are reasonable questions over the current form of his team but while the Dutch outfit may not have the same sparkle they had last year, they are far from mediocre, with Sepp Kuss, Wout van Aert and Steven Kruijswijk providing worthy cover.

The strongest ensemble in this year’s race comes from Ineos Grenadiers who line up with 2018 winner Geraint Thomas , Richard Carapaz and Richie Porte among their cast. The British team, smarting from last year’s defeat, will be looking to win back-to-back Grand Tours after Egan Bernal’s Giro d’Italia success in May, and while they do not have a contender as lethal as Pogačar or Roglič, their collective muscle could be just as important. When the leading group are down to 10 riders in the mountains it’s possible that half of that contingent could be made up of Ineos riders and that's a level of dominance that cannot be ignored. Roglič and Pogačar cannot chase every move and while attacking might be the Slovenian pair’s best form of defense, they could just as easily become isolated.

For Ineos Grenadiers, the dilemma comes in the form of which leader to back. Thomas has the better Tour record, of that there’s no doubt, but he looked below his best at the Dauphiné while Carapaz dominated the Tour de Suisse. Porte is somewhat of a dark horse but the two time trials along the route probably edge Thomas ahead in the team pecking order.

Outside of the Ineos, UAE and Jumbo stables, there are a number of overall contenders with hopes of challenging for the podium. Marc Soler, Enric Mas , Miguel Angel Lopez and Alejandro Valverde are in line for protected spots at Movistar – although it’s surely Mas who leads the line after his fifth place last year. Julian Alaphilippe will shoulder Deceuninck QuickStep’s ambitions but will once again be forced to fend for himself in the mountains, while Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) looks to be back to his 2017 level when he finished on the podium.

There are three Australians – leaving Porte aside – with genuine top-ten hopes. Ben O’Connor has finished top ten in his last two weeklong WorldTour stage races and it’s little wonder that AG2R Citroën recently extended his contract. Lucas Hamilton has been given the responsibility of leading Team BikeExchange's GC bid with Simon Yates targeting stage wins, while Jack Haig was fifth in the recent Dauphiné and has an in-form Bahrain Victorious at his disposal.

Wilco Kelderman forms part of a very strong Bora-Hansgrohe squad that includes Emanuel Buchmann and Patrick Konrad , and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) remains a threat even if his star has been waning for some time.

Along with Alaphilippe, the French have real hope via Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), who looks to be peaking on time this year after he faded in the second half of last year’s race, but it’s David Gaudu at Groupama-FDJ who instills the most belief from the home nation. With Thibaut Pinot still on the sidelines, Gaudu has the chance to stake his claim as a Tour de France contender in his own right. He was mightily impressive at the Vuelta last year, winning two stages and finishing eighth overall. This year the 24-year-old has been consistent and the next natural progression for him would be a top-five in Paris.

Israel Start Up-Nation arrives at the race with Michael Woods as their protected GC asset. That leaves four-time Tour winner Chris Froome to act in the unfamiliar role of road captain. 

Below those riders there are a number of talented outsiders worth watching, with Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana-Premier Tech), Esteban Chaves (Team BikeExchange), Michael Woods (Israel Start–Up Nation), Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), Dan Martin (Israel Start–Up Nation) and Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) are all flying under the radar.

The Tour de France sprinters – Ewan, Démare, Merlier, Cavendish or Bennett?

Team LottoSoudal rider Australias Caleb Ewan celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the seventh stage of the Giro dItalia 2021 cycling race 181 km between Notaresco and Termoli on May 14 2021 Photo by Dario BELINGHERI AFP Photo by DARIO BELINGHERIAFP via Getty Images

With up to eight stages within this year’s race intended for the sprinters, there’s no hiding away from the fact that the fastest riders in the world will be hogging their fair share of headlines in this year’s race. The first dedicated sprint stage arrives on stage three and other than the block of stages in the Pyrenees, the rest of the flat days are liberally dotted throughout weeks 1, 2, and 3. 

There are question marks over the participation of Sam Bennett , who is still recovering from a knee injury, and while Deceuninck-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere publicly announced that he has no ‘plan B,’ that’s not strictly true. Mark Cavendish – a 30-time stage winner – is waiting in the wings and after his recent exploits in Belgium, he looks like the fiery, competitive rider of old. Michael Mørkøv needs someone to lead out after all, and if Bennett proves unable to prove his fitness in time, the veteran Manxman could prove the perfect tonic for Lefevere’s unease. 

The fastest rider in the race, however, is likely to be Caleb Ewan , who looks like a prime contender for the green jersey, let alone a stage win or two. The Australian has almost the entire Lotto Soudal team at his disposal and, after his double at the Giro d’Italia, looks well on course to add to his tally of five Tour stages. 

When it comes to the WorldTour, Arnaud Démare has been a pale imitation of the rider who dominated the Giro sprints last year but his flat-track bully performances in recent months suggest that the Groupama-FDJ rider is approaching something like his best form just in time. Tim Merlier looks like a rider to watch after his stunning start to the year, while his Alpecin-Fenix teammate and leader Mathieu van der Poel can no doubt play a part on any stage that isn’t in the mountains or a time trial. 

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) can sprint with the best riders but his disrupted run-in and operation to remove his appendix has left question marks over his condition. Even a Van Aert at 80 per cent is a threat but Peter Sagan – the seven-time Green jersey winner – remains the biggest threat for Bennett’s title defence if the Irishman does make it to Brest. Sagan won a stage in the Giro and the points competition and, despite Bora-Hansgrohe’s insistence on stacking a team with climbers, looks like the favourite for all but the flattest of stages. Sonny Colbrelli has never won a Grand Tour stage but was in blistering form at the recent Dauphiné, while Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix), Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), Mads Pedersen (Trek–Segafredo), Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic), Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) and Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) are all worth a mention. 

The Tour de France Route – a stage by stage guide

All times local – CEST. All finish times according to the earliest predicted schedule. 

Stage 1 / Saturday June 26 / Brest - Landerneau, 197.8km / Times: 12:10 - 17:00

Stage 1 profile 2021 Tour de France

The 2021 Tour de France kicks off with what could be a thrilling stage between Brest and Landerneau. This is the first time since 2008 that the Tour has started in Brest but rather than opting for a prologue or short time trial ASO have decided to cram six climbs within the opening 197.8km of this year’s race. Although none of the ascents will worry the peloton too much, this has all the makings of a difficult day in the saddle with the pace likely to be relentless throughout. With no yellow jersey or pecking order established, tensions will run high, while the added complication from possible cross-winds will leave several overall contenders nervous.

Crashes, splits and tactical mistakes will all play a part but the gradient on the final climb does at least ease in the final 500 metres before the line. That said, many of the pure sprinters will have been distanced by that point and it should be a puncheur who comes out on top to take the stage and the first maillot jaune of this year’s race.

Stage 2 / Sunday June 27 / Perros-Gueirec - Mûr-de-Bretagne, 183.5km / Times: 13:10 - 17:30

Stage 2 profile 2021 Tour de France

Stage 2 of the Tour de France is a day of two halves. Unlike the opening day of racing, when the climbs were evenly spread out, stage 2 between Perros-Guirec and the top of the Mur-de-Bretagne has most of the six categorised climbs crammed into the second half of the stage, with two ascents of the Mur-de-Bretagne thrown in for good measure. That said, there’s relatively little in the way of flat roads between the start and the first climb at 72.8 kilometres.  

The finale is technical and we’re likely to see the same riders who contested stage 1 once again take centre stage. Assuming the peloton starts the final climb in one piece, the gaps between the overall contenders should be relatively small come the line but last time the race finished here, back in 2018, Daniel Martin attacked with around one kilometre to go and everyone of the top-three finishers in Paris lost time. Once again, this isn’t a day for the peloton to relax.

Stage 3 / Monday June 28 / Lorient - Pontivy, 182.9km / Times: 13:10 - 17:24

Stage 3 profile 2021 Tour de France

After two days that catered for the puncheurs the sprinters of this year’s Tour de France will be finally let off the leash. The stage departs Lorient, the hometown of former King of the Mountains winner Warren Barguil, but that’s where any attention directed towards the talismanic Frenchman ends, with the race hugging the coastline before heading inland, through the department of Morbihan, but before reaching the finish in Pontivy the peloton must climb the Côte de Cadoudal – known as the Breton Alpe d’Huez – and where stages have taken place in both 2008 and 2015. All the fine-tuning and training before the race will count for little in the heat of the finale and with such a huge prize up for grabs it may well come down to which sprinter, and his leadout, make the fewest mistakes.

Stage 4 / Tuesday June 29 / Redon - Fourgères, 150.4km / Times: 13:25 - 16:52

Stage 4 profile 2021 Tour de France

The Tour de France’s mini Tour of Brittany ends on stage 4 with another outing for the sprinters. At just 150.4 kilometres in length, this is shorter than the previous day and its part of ASO’s plan to increase the intensity within the race on days that might ordinarily set out as slow burners before igniting in a fierce sprint battle to the line. There are no categorised climbs to speak of between the start in Redon and the finish in Fougeres but this is a must-watch stage nonetheless. The entire stage takes place in the Ille-et-Vilaine region. The last time the race ended in Fougeres was in 2015 with Mark Cavendish taking the stage. It’s an identical finish this time around with the sprinters set to enjoy their second straight day of action before the stage 5 time trial. 

Stage 5 / Wednesday June 30 / Changé - Laval, 27.2km / Times: 12:15 - 16:50

Stage 5 profile 2021 Tour de France

The Tour de France leaves Brittany on stage 5 and shifts up a gear with the first of two time trials in this year’s race, and while the opening two stages may have provided brief glimpses of a fight for the yellow jersey the 27.2 kilometre test between Changé and Laval Espace Mayenne will cause major changes to the overall standings. This is the longest individual time trial the Tour de France has held in the opening week since the 2008 edition. That year a vast amount of time separated the top contenders with the top 20 riders spread out over approximately a minute and a half and, in a race that has so far been judged by seconds, the aftershocks from this stage could determine the pattern of racing for the next two weeks.

Stage 6 / Thursday July 1 / Tours - Chàteauroux, 160.6km / Times: 13:55 - 17:26

Stage 6 profile 2021 Tour de France

After the stage 5 time trial and a reshuffling at the top of the overall standings the attention turns back to the sprinters. However, while the stage profile looks tailor-made for the fastmen, with a limited amount of climbing on the menu, there is a threat of crosswinds and echelon action in this region if the winds pick up.

The 160.6 kilometre stage leaves Tours and heads east. For the first few hours of racing there should be very little to trouble the peloton as the race heads out of the cathedral city and ventures into picture-postcard châteaux and vineyard country. This should be a day for the sprinters, and Mark Cavendish won his first-ever Tour stage in the finish town of Châteauroux back in 2008.

Stage 7 / Friday July 2 / Vierzon - La Creusot, 249.1km / Times: 11:00 - 17:05

Stage 7 profile 2021 Tour de France

Stage 7 of the Tour de France is a day that should be finely balanced between a break succeeding or a reduced group of all-rounders deciding the day’s honours. The stage, which sees the race head east from Vierzon is the longest Tour stage in 21 years, totalling a whopping 249.1 kilometres.

This may not look like a day for the GC riders but this has potential ambush written all over it. The distance, coupled with the demanding second half will ensure only a small group contest the finish, and we could potentially see yet another change in race leadership.

Stage 8 / Saturday July 3 / Oyonnax - Le Grand Bornand, 150.8km / Times: 13:10 - 17:06

Stage 8 profile 2021 Tour de France

The hills on stage 7 were mere an appetizer for what’s in store on stage 8 of the Tour de France as the race heads into the Jura and Alpine mountain ranges for the first time this year. There may not be a summit finish in store for the peloton but with five categorised climbs, plus an uncategorised uphill start, this will be a rude awakening for the riders after a week of relatively flat racing broken up by the odd short, sharp ascent.

The stage culminates with the first category ascent of the Col de la Colombière and a finish at Le Grand-Bornand but before then the peloton will tackle some rugged terrain and obstacles in just 150.8 kilometres of racing. 

The addition of the Cote de Mont-Saxonnex, new compared to the 2018 version of this finale, just adds another level of difficulty to the stage. Back in 2009, when the race also climbed the Romme-Colombière combo several GC contenders, including Lance Armstrong, were dropped with Frank Schleck taking the honours.

Stage 9 / Sunday July 4 / Cluses - Tignes, 144.9km / Times: 13:00 - 17:30

Stage 9 profile 2021 Tour de France

Two years after a stage on the Tour de France to Tignes was washed away by flash floods ASO have made true on their promise of bringing the race back, and this should be another mountain blockbuster with five climbs peppered along the 144.9-kilometre route between Cluses and the ski station at Tignes.

After taking in some of the most stunning scenery of the race so far the riders begin the long descent down into Bourg-Saint-Maurice followed by the long steady climb of the Montée de Tignes. It’s 21 kilometres in length and starts off relatively steadily but as the road continues the climb the gradient really digs in around the point of the Les Brevières. This a brute of a climb and the gaps between the overall contenders could stretch into minutes, and while this isn’t a summit finish – with the road flattening out with 2 kilometres to go – it’s still the hardest stage of the Tour so far. 

Rest day 1 / Monday July 5

Stage 10 / Tuesday July 6 / Albertviille - Valence, 190.7km / Times: 13:05 - 17:23

Tour de France 2021 stage 10 profile map

  Following the first rest day in this year’s Tour de France the racing recommences with a 190.7km stage from Albertville to Valence. The race takes us away from the Alps and it’s a day for the sprinters but the threat of potential crosswinds and echelons in the final part of the stage makes this anything but an easy day in the saddle. Michael Matthews won a stage in these parts back in 2017, beating Edvald Boasson Hagen and John Degenkolb to the line in Romans sur Isère, on a day that was also hit by crosswinds. That day Chris Froome and Team Sky put Dan Martin and Alberto Contador to the sword and even though their time losses were manageable every second counts at this point.

However, assuming that the sprinters’ teams remain in contention this could be a hugely important day in the battle for the Green jersey with a flat run into Valence perfectly suited to a bunch gallop. Chepe González – who certainly wasn’t a sprinter – won from a breakaway in Valence all the way back in 1996.

Stage 11 / Wednesday July 7 / Sorgues - Malaucène, 198.9km / Times: 12:00 - 17:18

Tour de France 2021 stage 11 profile map

Stage 11 is all about the climbers with the race taking on the highly anticipated doubled ascent of Mont Ventoux. Before the riders get to the first ascent they leave Sorgues and take on two small fourth category climbs, the Cote de Fontaine-de-Vaucluse followed by the first category Col de la Liguière. The riders will then descend into Sault before beginning the first ascent of ‘the Giant of Provence’. The first time up takes the easiest of three possible routes to the top but it’s also the longest, with 24.3 kilometres of climbing facing the riders. The toughest gradient come into view around Chalet Reynard with the riders emerging from the tree-covered landscape and reaching the barren slopes that make Mont Ventoux so revered. At the summit the riders drop down into Malaucène for the first time via one of the fastest descents they’ll face in the entire race before taking a short uncategorised climb to Bédoin and then the final ascent of the Ventoux. At 15.7 kilometres long, and with an average 8.8 per cent, the road is simply relentlessly steep from the very start. At Chalet Reynard they hit the roads they climbed earlier before cresting the summit and taking on a second breakneck descent into Malaucène for the finish.

Stage 12 / Thursday July 8 / Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux - Nîmes, 159.4km / Times: 13:30 - 17:12

Tour de France 2021 stage 12 profile map

After the double ascent of Mont Ventoux on stage 11 the race returns to less testing terrain with a 159.4 kilometre stage from Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Nîmes. As with stage 10, however, appearances can be deceptive and despite only one short climb positioned mid-way through the stage there’s another chance that echelons and crosswinds could play their part in proceedings. At Vallon Pont d’Arc the stage heads south and into the Gard department. The exposed roads at this point could be a key if the wind picks up before the peloton hits the third cat climb of the Côte du Belvédère de Tharaux. With less than 30 kilometres to go the road heads due south to Nîmes for the expected bunch sprint, where Alexander Kristoff and Caleb Ewan are both past winners. This could be either a relatively quiet day in the Tour or one of the most intense battles of the race so far.

Stage 13 / Friday July 9 / Nîmes - Carcassonne, 219.9km / Times: 12:05 - 17:15

Tour de France 2021 stage 13 profile map

After finishing in Nimes on stage 12, the riders still left in the Tour de France will leave the same city in the Occitanie region of southern France and head towards the historical city of Carcassonne. On paper this looks like a relatively straightforward transition stage as the race tip-toes towards the Pyrenees but the finer details of this 219.9 kilometre jaunt tell a different story. Once more the threat of crosswinds loom large and while there is only one fourth category climb between the start and Carcassonne the majority of route is rolling. It’s no coincidence that no stage has ever ended in a bunch sprint in Carcassonne with Magnus Cort Nielsen winning from the break last time the race reached the walls of the medieval citadel that dominate the hill-top town, back in 2018.

Stage 14 / Saturday July 10 / Carcassonne - Quillan, 183.7km / Times: 12:15 - 16:48

Tour de France 2021 stage 14 profile map

For a second day in a row the Tour de France departs from the previous day’s finish and stage 14 of the race heads out of Carcassonne for a 183.7 kilometre journey south to the small town of Quillan. On paper this looks like a nailed on day for the breakaway with five categorised climbs peppering the route all the way towards the 17 kilometre descent from the top of the last ascent into the finishing town. The most likely scenario will see the sprinters’ teams sit back after the last few days of hostilities while the GC riders opt for a calm day given what’s ahead of them in the coming days.

The stage could be decided by the final climb of the stage, the Col de Saint-Louis. The ascent is 4.7 kilometres long and has an average gradient of 7.4 per cent and will provide the perfect launch pad for the remnants of the break to attack each other before the final descent to the line.

Stage 15 / Sunday July 11 / Céret - Andorre-La-Vieille, 191.3km / Times: 12:20 - 17:28

Tour de France 2021 stage 15 profile map

Stage 15 from Ceret to Andorre-La-Vieille is one of the hardest in this year’s race. There are four categorised climbs along the 191.3 kilometre route but three of them are first category ascents, while the riders will reach the highest point in this year’s race, topping out at over 2,400 metres. What’s more the final climb of the day, the Col de Beixalis, has the potentially to blow the entire race apart. From the intermediate sprint at Olette the road continues to climb towards the summit of the Montee de Mont-Louis. A descent follows but there’s little valley road before the riders begin to climb the secondary Cole de Puymorens – a 5.8 kilometre climb with an average gradient of 4.7 per cent. That climb will bring the riders to just under 2,000 metres, and there’s only a short descent before the first category climb of the Port d’Envalira – with the Souvenir Henri Desgrange going to the first rider to reach the Tour’s highest point. The following descent brings the race deep into Andorra before the assault of the Col de Beixalis looms into view. At the summit the road plummets back towards the centre of Andorra with a steep and highly technical descent towards the line.

Rest day 2 / Monday July 12

Stage 16 / Tuesday July 13 / Pas de la Case - Saint-Gaudens, 169km / Times: 13:05 - 17:21

Tour de France 2021 stage 16 profile map

Stage 16 sees the race head back into France, and while the 169 kilometre jaunt from Pas de la Case to Saint-Gaudens is far from easy, the profile suggest that the win could be decided by a break. That said, racing after a rest-day can often throw up some surprises and if one of the riders in the top-ten is showing any signs of weakness or fatigue, expect no mercy from their rivals. After the Col de la Core the riders will descend into the valley before hitting the Col de Portet-d’Aspet. They then descend – passing the Fabio Casartelli memorial – before the last and shortest climb of the day, the Côte d’Aspret-Sarrat. It’s only 800 metres in length but there are certainly some difficult stretches and with the finish just a few kilometres away it should provide an excellent launchpad for any last minute attacks.

Stage 17 / Wednesday July 14 / Muret - Saint-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet, 178.4km / Times: 11:50 - 16:49

Tour de France 2021 stage 17 profile map

The Col du Portet, first introduced to the Tour de France in 2018, returns this year and comes at the end of a crucial day in the Pyrenees. Starting in Muret, the route heads southwest and the opening 115 kilometres or so are relatively flat until the peloton reach Bagnères-de-Luchon – exactly where the 2018 Tour stage started. From there the riders will on the first of three major ascents with the Col de Peyresourde first up. The riders will then make a breakneck descent into Loudenvielle before tackling the Col d’Avet. It’s shorter than the Peyresourde but with a gradient averaging 8 per cent it’s a severe test. Another fast but this time technical descent follows before the road kicks up for the final climb and the summit finish atop the Col du Portet. The 16-kilometre ascent suits the lightweight pure climbers perfectly with a tough opening section as the road climbs towards Espiaube. At that point the gradient briefly eases before the riders turn right, thus avoiding the road towards Pla d’Adet, and take on a relentless section of switchbacks. The gradient reaches over 10 per cent in the final kilometre and the time gaps here could be race defining.

Stage 18 / Thursday July 15 / Pau - Luz Ardiden, 129.7km / Times: 13:35 - 17:19

Tour de France 2021 stage 18 profile map

Stage 18, the final mountain stage of this year’s Tour de France is arguably one of the hardest days in the race, with two massive Pyrenean climbs – the Col du Tourmalet and a blockbuster finish at the top of Luz Ardiden. What’s more, the stage is just 129.7 kilometres in length, meaning that there will be little to no respite.

There are two small fourth category ascents in the first 54 kilometres of racing – the Côte de Notre-Dame de Pietat, and the Côte de Loucrup, before an intermediate sprint at Pouzac From there the race heads through Bagnères-de-Bigorre and gently rises south through Campan and Saint-Marie-de-Campan before the race really starts on the slopes of the Col du Tourmalet. There’s then a rapid descent through Barèges and into Luz-Saint-Sauveur before the race reaches the Pont du Napoleon bridge. The riders then start the second straight HC-category climb of the day to the summit of Luz Ardiden. The climb is 13.3 kilometres in length, and while the opening few hundred metres are relatively easy the climb ramps up drastically after the first kilometre.  

Stage 19 / Friday July 16 / Mourenx - Libourne, 207km / Times: 12:20 - 17:06

Tour de France 2021 stage 19 profile map

With the Pyrenees in the rearview the attention turns back to the sprinters on stage 19 with a 207 kilometre stage from Mourenx to Libourne. However it will be a tough day for the sprinters to control. The distance, coupled with the fact that peloton will be exhausted from five days in the mountains, will leave a number of teams somewhat unwilling to control a peloton for a long day in the saddle. This could also be the last chance for teams without a sprinter or a GC rider to potentially rescue their race and with a lumpy opening 50 kilometres a bunch sprint is far from a certainty. 

Stage 20 / Saturday July 17 / Libourne - Saint-Emilion, 30.8km / Times: 13:05 - 17:19

Tour de France 2021 stage 20 profile map

At 30.8 kilometre in length, the individual test between Libourne and Saint-Emilion is a flat affair with small rises and long drags that will perfectly suit the time trial specialists. 

This is the course for the power specialists and even the technical sections along the route should be no problem for them. Any concerns will be purely reserved for the climbers, who after three weeks of racing could see their advantages obliterated in a painfully short amount of time. 

Stage 21 / Sunday July 18 / Chatou - Paris Champs-Élysées, 108.4km / Times: 16:15 - 19:00

Tour de France 2021 stage 21 profile map

After three weeks of drama and excitement the Tour de France arrives in Paris for the final stage and a showdown between some of the best sprinters in the world on the Champs-Élysées. For the fourth year in a row the final stage of the race starts in Chatou, just west of the capital, but the route initially heads east for a brief while before doubling back on itself. At this point the pace will be relaxed with teams and riders soft-pedalling through the opening kilometres and using the opportunity to celebrate their achievements and reaching Paris to complete the Tour.

How to watch the 2021 Tour de France – live TV and streaming

Read on to find out how to watch the Tour de France   via live stream, no matter your location, with  ExpressVPN .

The 2021 Tour de France will be broadcast around Europe and Eurosport. A subscription to  Eurosport Player  costs £6.99 for a single month, £4.99 for a year-long monthly pass, or £39.99 for a 12-month pass.

GCN+  will also air the race in the UK and in  select other territories  around Europe. A year’s subscription to GCN+ now costs £39.99 / €39.99 / $49.99 after the end of a promotional price in February. 

ITV4  will also be showing the race in the UK, with full full live coverage and highlights available. In Wales,  S4C  will be airing the race.

The Tour de France will be available to view in the USA on  Peacock Premium . A seven-day free trial is available, while a subscription to Peacock Premium will set you back $4.99 (or $9.99 without ads) per month.

FloBikes  will air the Tour de France in Canada. An annual subscription will set you back $149.  SBS  will air the race in Australia.

Around Europe, broadcasters include  France TV  in France,  ARD  in Germany,  Sporza  and  RTBF  in Belgium,  Rai  in Italy, and  RTVE  in Spain

If you live outside a broadcast zone or are on holiday outside your country and find that the live streams to be geo-restricted, you can get around this by getting access to them by simulating being back in your home country via a 'virtual private network', or VPN, for your laptop, tablet or mobile.

Our sister site TechRadar tested hundreds of VPNs and recommends the number-one VPN currently available as Express VPN. With  ExpressVPN , you can watch on many devices at once including Smart TVs, Fire TV Stick, PC, Mac, iPhone, Android phone, iPads, tablets, etc.

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.

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Tour de France 2024 route: the best places to stay

Tour de france 2024 is the first to start in in italy and finishes in nice instead of paris. here are the highlights on the route.

tour de france travel guide

T our de France 2024 is making an unusual break from tradition: for the first time in its 120-year history, it will not finish in Paris. This is because the dates of the 2024 race — Saturday, June 29 to Sunday, July 21 — are too close to those of the Olympics and Paralympics, which will be held in Paris and venues across France from July 26. So competitors will be winding their way from Florence through northern Italy and central France to reach Nice, where the race will end. The starting point marks another first, as it’s the first time Italy has hosted the Grand Départ . Some are already calling the route the hardest they’ve seen. To see a slice of the action and combine it with a mini-break, here are the best places to stay along the Tour de France 2024 route.

Main photo: a Tour de France fan having a devilishly good time (Getty Images)

This article contains affiliate links, which may earn us revenue

1. Florence

When June 29, Stage 1 On the south side of the River Arno, Piazzale Michelangelo, with its sweeping view of the Florentine skyline, is the postcard-perfect starting point of Tour de France 2024. From there, the race continues south out of the city, climbing through the Apennines towards the Adriatic coast and Rimini. En route, it will pass the Gino Bartali museum in Ponte a Ema, a tribute to the legendary cyclist who won the Tour twice, in 1938 and 1948. The official presentation of the teams takes place a couple of days before, on June 27, when they’ll depart from Palazzo Vecchio for Piazzale Michelangelo. Florence is very walkable so you can’t really go wrong by basing yourself somewhere in the historic centre. Try the Continentale, which is just steps from Ponte Vecchio and just about anywhere else you might want to see, whether it’s Pitti Palace or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Via dei Giraldi in the historic centre of Florence (Getty Images)

• Best hotels in Florence • Best affordable hotels in Florence under £150 • Best things to do in Florence


When June 30, Stage 2 Departing from the town of Cesenatico, just outside Rimini, the second stage is considerably gentler than the first. It’s still hilly, though, because the finale in Bologna includes two gruelling climbs to Basilica Di San Luca — a stretch that features in both the Giro d’Italia and the Giro dell’Emilia — before a finish at Piazza Maggiore. Fortunately Bologna is one of the most gastronomic cities in Italy , and a stay here is rewarded with the products of the region, among them Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma, mortadella di Bologna, Modena’s syrupy balsamic vinegar and fizzy lambrusco. You should just about get a glimpse of the finish line from Art Hotel Commercianti — if not, there’s the view of San Petronio, which is right next to the hotel.

Crowds at the Giro d’Italia in Bologna (Alamy)

When July 1, Stage 3 Stage 3 is one for the sprinters. The mostly flat terrain will take riders from Emilia-Romagna, through Lombardy, before finishing in Piedmont, where Turin is playing host to the finish line at Parco del Valentino. No visit to this city of elegant baroque architecture would be complete without a visit to the Museo della Sindone, which explores the history of the Shroud of Turin; there are also gems such as the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile, where the first Italian cars are housed, and the Museo Egizio, with its priceless collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts. Go for the Grand Hotel Sitea, which is centrally located and has a Michelin-starred restaurant.

The Basilica di Superga in Turin (Alamy)

When July 4, Stage 6 Incorporating a portion of the sublime Route des Grands Crus, Stage 6 is one that wine lovers will appreciate. Starting from Mâcon, the racers will tackle flat roads through vineyards before finishing in Dijon. The city is compact and walkable, but not especially touristic; among the highlights are the Palais des Ducs and the covered markets. What makes a stay here special is the city’s proximity to some of the most famous French vineyards, including those of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Check into the Grand Hôtel La Cloche Dijon – MGallery, which is close to the train station and the town centre.

The Church of Notre-Dame and traditional buildings of Dijon (Getty Images)

• Best vineyard hotels to visit in France

When July 9, Stage 10 After a rest day in Orléans — the first of the race — the tenth stage sets off from this Loire Valley city and through the Sologne forest before finishing in the village of Saint-Amand-Montrond. It’s worth getting here a day or two early as the teams will be using their rest day for active recovery so you’ll have a good chance of spotting them. In terms of things to do, this city was saved by Joan of Arc during its siege by English troops, and the Maison de Jeanne d’Arc is a tribute to her life. There are also lovely walks along the Loire and it’s within striking distance of the region’s grand châteaux, such as Château de Chambord. The Empreinte Hotel & Spa is right on the river and is surrounded by the most historic parts of the city.

The statue of Joan of Arc in the Place du Martroi in Orléans (Getty Images)

When July 12 and 13, Stages 13 and 14 Pau is an important stop on the Tour de France circuit, often serving as a base camp for riders either before or after the Pyrenees. In 2024, it will serve as the finishing point of Stage 13 from Agen, and the start of the gruelling Stage 14 to Saint-Lary-Soulan Pla d’Adet, a ski resort high up in the Pyrenees. Château de Pau is its main attraction; now a museum, it was here that Henry IV of France and Navarre was born in 1553. The rest of the city is not as interesting as the scenic countryside that surrounds it — plan an outdoor break of hikes and bikes here. Your hotel options are limited; try Hôtel Bristol Pau, a boutique hotel in the city’s atmospheric centre.

Fans cheer on the riders as they race through the countryside to Pau (Alamy)

When July 16, Stage 16 Appearing on the Tour de France circuit for the 20th time, Nîmes is a favourite staging stop for the race. Luckily for visitors, there’s plenty to see and do as well. The city was once an important outpost of the Roman Empire and the Arena of Nîmes is a prominent reminder. Delve into more of this this history at the family-friendly Museum Romanité, which has interactive elements that children will love. Also worth a visit are the Jardins de la Fontaine — one of the first public parks in Europe, on the site of an ancient spring. Stay at Margaret – Hôtel Chouleur in the heart of the city.

The historic centre of Nîmes (Getty Images)

When July 20 and 21, Stages 20 and 21 Nice is both the final stop of the Tour de France 2024 and a staging city. Stage 20 sees participants peddle through scenic mountain terrain to Col de la Couillole in the Alps, while Stage 21 is the individual time trial from Monaco. As the gateway to the Côte d’Azur, Nice hardly needs any introduction — like the rest of the French Riviera, the beaches are its top attraction. But stroll down the Promenade des Anglais or visit the Marché Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya and you’ll suddenly feel like you’ve moved in. Stay at Hôtel La Pérouse, which has some of the nicest views of the coastline and the Colline du Château just behind it.

Spectators get a great view of the Tour on the Promenade des Anglais (Getty Images)

• Best things to do in Nice • Best hotels in Nice

When July 21, Stage 21 The final stage of the Tour de France is a comparatively short 21-mile sprint from Monaco to Nice, and arguably one of the most exciting legs of the race. After all the excitement, head to the Monte Carlo Casino. Even if you don’t gamble, the architecture is worthy of a gander; outside, supercars pass with regularity through the throng of camera-toting tourists. For views of handsome yachts, skip the harbour and head for Port de Fontvieille instead — it’s much quieter and is close to the Prince’s Palace. Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo is the grande dame here, home to Alain Ducasse’s first three-Michelin starred restaurant, Louis XV, and with a view of the casino and the sea.

Visitors tour Monaco in summer (Alamy)

• Best hotels in Monaco • Best villas in France • Where to stay and what to expect at the Paris 2024 Olympics • Best affordable hotels in Paris

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Tadej Pogacar puts the hammer down on the climb to La Planche Des Belles Filles in 2020.

Tour de France 2021: stage-by-stage guide

This year’s race begins in France’s cycling heartland before heading to the mountains and a climax in the Pyrenees

Stage one, Saturday 26 June, Brest – Landerneau 197.8km

The Tour opens with a loop through France’s cycling heartland, home to heroes of the past such as the five-times winner Bernard Hinault, and present-day aspirants such as Warren Barguil. A hilly route travels south to Quimper then returns north to finish close to the start, up a steep two-mile climb tailor made for France’s biggest current star, Julian Alaphilippe, who will be under intense pressure to deliver the stage win and yellow jersey. With more brief ascents approaching the finish crashes are inevitable as the field fights for position before the closing hill.

Stage two, Sunday 27 June, Perros-Guirec – Mûr-de-Bretagne 183.5km

More little climbs for a first reshuffle of the overall contenders. Again it’s Alaphilippe’s favoured terrain – another short, steeper ascent to the finish – but the Mur is tackled twice, the first time with 17km to go. Another favourite will be the Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel, cycling’s most exciting talent, who is making his Tour debut. The contest to be at the front for the climb is as daunting as the ascent itself; a crash or puncture will be costly. Earlier, the race visits Hinault’s old stamping ground of Saint-Brieuc, and the Badger would definitely have relished this finish.

Stage three, Monday 28 June, Lorient – Pontivy 182.9km

The first routine stage, with more nods to Brittany’s cycling past and present. The start close to Barguil’s home town of Hennebont will draw plenty of “Wawa” fans, and the route travels down the coast to Carnac of stone row fame, then passes Plumelec and the Cadoudal hill, a celebrated local race venue. A bunch sprint finish looks inevitable; Mark Cavendish returns to the Tour with Deceuninck-QuickStep after Sam Bennett was ruled out through injury, with Australia’s Caleb Ewan a big rival for stage wins and favourite for the green jersey.

Stage four, Tuesday 29 June, Redon – Fougères 150.4km

The race ventures towards Normandy but stops just short of the border at another town with cycling history, home of the late Albert Bouvet, the legendary “Bulldog”, who became a mainstay of the group that organises the Tour. By now the daily pattern will have been set: an early break of a handful of riders from the lesser French teams, scooped up in time for a bunch sprint finish. Along with Ewan, other favourites include the evergreen Peter Sagan, France’s Arnaud Démare, Tim Merlier of Belgium, the Norwegian Alexandr Kristoff and perhaps the Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni.

Stage five, Wednesday 30 June, individual time trial, Changé – Laval 27.2km

A first proper sort-out with a time trial long enough to create gaps but short enough that they shouldn’t be definitive. It’s a classic rolling course, climbing from the start and again towards the finish, an initial chance to assess 2021 winner Tadej Pogacar, runner-up Primoz Roglic, and 2018 winner Geraint Thomas, while short enough to suit Alaphilippe. It also suits specialists such as Belgian Victor Campenaerts and Swiss rider Stefan Küng. This stage is in the Mayenne, home turf of Küng’s FDJ manager Marc Madiot, so he knows what he has to do: win.

Stage six, Thursday 1 July, Tours – Châteauroux 160.6km

It’s 13 years since Cavendish won the first of his 30 Tour de France stage wins here and he will get the chance to add to his tally after he made Deceuninck’s Tour team following the injury to Bennett. The bunch sprint is inevitable, with the same cast as on previous days and by now it should be pretty clear who is on top. After three sprint stages in four days, however, it’s time for something different.

Stage seven, Friday 2 July, Vierzon – Le Creusot 249.1km

The longest stage of the race; stages over 240km were once relatively common but are now a rarity. The first 50km will be hectic, as every rider aiming to win a hilly stage will have this one on his list; the battle to get in the day’s break will be intense. In the final 50km there are two climbs long and hard enough to dislodge the sprinters; if Sagan has not won a stage so far, the chances are he and his Bora team will target this one and aim to bring the race together in the final hour.

Stage eight, Saturday 3 July, Oyonnax – Le Grand-Bornand 150.8km

Tao Geoghegan Hart

After a transfer, it’s suddenly mountain time. It’s not the rudest of introductions but the Col de Romme-Col de Colombière diptych will whittle the main group down to 15 at best. The mountains jersey should change hands so there will be riders seeking out the early break to stake their claim on the polkadots. Expect a show of strength over the final climbs from a team looking to control the standings – Ineos most obviously, or Jumbo-Visma – and a stage win for a climber who can sprint such as Rigoberto Urán of Colombia or Tao Geoghegan Hart.

Stage nine, Sunday 4 July, Cluses – Tignes 144.9km

Unusually, this year the Tour bypasses the highest and most iconic Alpine passes, and today’s gloriously scenic Cormet de Roselend is about the best we will see of the massif . The long descents after the Col des Saisies and the Roselend will give weaker climbers a chance to get back to the front group before the final sort-out. The winner will probably come from an early move – the likes of Barguil or Nairo Quintana are obvious candidates – but the draggy Tignes finish climb will suit a rider like Alaphilippe or Thomas rather than a lighter pure climber. Then comes a rest day.

Stage 10, Tuesday 6 July, Albertville – Valence 190.7km

This might be more interesting than your average flat “transition” stage because there’s just enough climbing at key points to suggest that the sprint teams might not have it all their own way. If Sagan is feeling frisky he might try to burn off one or two of the heavier brethren, and if Ewan’s Lotto have lost riders who would normally work to control the stage, or if Deceuninck are marshalling Alaphilippe in the yellow jersey, the chances are a break will succeed with an opportunistic win for a rider like Thomas De Gendt or Søren Kragh Andersen.

Stage 11, Wednesday 7 July, Sorgues – Malaucène 198.9km

Given the reduced quota of climbing in the Alps, today’s unprecedented double ascent of the fearsome Mont Ventoux should be when a definitive picture emerges at the top of the classification. The second ascent of the “Giant of Provence” could do serious damage, particularly if the weather is hot. It’s a day for favourites like Pogacar, Roglic or Thomas to show what they have in the locker, but all eyes will be on Colombian Miguel Ángel López, winner of the Ventoux challenge in early June, posting the fastest time for the climb since 2004.

Stage 12, Thursday 8 July, Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux – Nîmes 159.4km

There are two scenarios for this run through the gorges of the Ardèche and the hills to the west of the Rhône. Either the race will follow the usual pattern of doomed breakaway, late catch, bunch sprint. Or the mistral will blow from somewhere between north-west and east and all hell will break loose late on as the bunch splinters in the wind. The former scenario favours the sprinters, the latter the strongest team in the race: Ineos or Deceuninck, with Sagan as a wild card. A windy day will offer Thomas or Alaphilippe the chance to gain time on the climbers.

Stage 13, Friday 9 July, Nîmes – Carcassonne 219.9km

The second longest stage of the race – and a rare day of over 200km – has a similar look to the previous one, with no major hills and roads that are innocuous enough in clement conditions but can be brutal in a cross wind. By this stage it should be clear who is the best sprinter and if Ewan is heading to achieve his 2021 target of winning stages in all three Grand Tours, also whether Sagan is en route to take a record eighth Tour green jersey or if he’s being threatened by an all-rounder such as Aussie Michael Matthews or Italian Sonny Colbrelli.

Stage 14, Saturday 10 July, Carcassonne – Quillan 183.7km

Only a few stages in this year’s Tour are hilly enough to deter the sprinters and favour the all-rounders as opposed to the pure mountain goats. This is the second, through Cathar country in the rarely visited eastern Pyrenees. Narrow, twisting roads and constant up and downs favour a breakaway, and the battle to be in it will be desperate as even after two weeks the majority of teams will have yet to win a stage. One for a rider like Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet, Bauke Mollema or Simon Yates if they are not involved in the overall battle.

Stage 15, Sunday 11 July, Céret – Andorre-la-Vieille 191.3km

This stage is almost bound to see an early escape contest the finish, because although the late climb of the Port d’Envalira is the highest point on the Tour it’s not steep enough to cause huge damage, so any sparring for the overall standings will come within Andorra on the Col de Beixalis. The overall contenders should finish together unless anyone is having an off day; this is a good one for the stage hunters such as Yates or France’s David Gaudu, but also the best descenders such as Bahrain’s Matej Mohoric and old fox Vincenzo Nibali. There then follows a rest day.

Stage 16, Tuesday 13 July, Pas de la Case – Saint-Gaudens 169km

Julian Alaphilippe

Five days of climbing in the Pyrenees is almost unprecedented for the Tour, and each is very different: today involves shorter, steep ascents, with the main sort-out likely to come on the Col de la Core before the final shootout on the Portet-d’Aspet. By this point in the race, each day’s breakaway will include many of the same riders, with teams getting increasingly panicked if they haven’t yet won a stage. The overall contenders will want this to be a controlled stage, but these roads are eminently suitable for skirmishing involving the likes of Alaphilippe or Daniel Martin of Ireland.

Stage 17, Wednesday 14 July, Muret – Sant-Lary-Soulan 178.4km

The first of two mountain-top finishes that should decide the race. There’s a lengthy, flattish preamble where a large break should gain several minutes – in recent years these have involved as many as 30 riders – while the final 50kms includes a daunting trio of passes, culminating in the hardest finish of the Tour, the super-steep 10 miles to the Col de Portet. López, Roglic and Pogacar will be the main men here, and the stage win should go to the best climber out of the break – a rider like Gaudu.

Stage 18, Thursday 15 July, Pau – Luz Ardiden 129.7km

Shorter and more straightforward than the previous day; the Col du Tourmalet is arguably the most iconic climb in the Pyrenees and Luz Ardiden one of the classic finishes. There is always room for a surprise attack but on paper, this stage should replicate the verdict of the previous day as it will favour exactly the same kind of rider. Again there should be a massive early escape involving climbers who are out of contention overall, but the brevity of the stage means they are liable to be scooped up late on leaving the stage win for whoever is in the yellow jersey.

Stage 19, Friday 16 July, Mourenx – Libourne 207km

The sprinters will have been attempting to survive for the last few days, with this stage and Sunday’s run in to Paris in their minds. That’s enough incentive for most of them but the outcome of the stage may depend on how many of their teammates have got through the mountains as well. Five successive mountain stages may see off more of the domestiques than usual, and it might see off sprinters who really can’t climb like Kristoff or Ewan. So it’s a day for perhaps a rider like Matthews or Colbrelli, who will deal with the mountains better than most.

Stage 20, Saturday 17 July, individual time trial, Libourne – Saint-Émilion 30.8km

This stage visits the village of Montagne, which will seem like a bad joke to the big-boned types who have grovelled through the Alps and Pyrenees. Since last year’s reversal at La Planche des Belles Filles the Tour has fallen back in love with time trials and this one is long enough to create a surprise or two. In theory the Tour will have gone through more than enough mountains since leaving Brittany to ensure that the strongest climber has ample margin to relax on this stage. But that’s far from certain – and therein lies the great fascination of this race.

Stage 21, Sunday 18 July, Chatou – Paris Champs-Élysées 108.4km

The traditional apotheosis. The Tour organisers have meddled with the sprint format only once since first finishing on the Champs in 1975. However, the other Grand Tours have always experimented with time trials on the last day and perhaps it’s time the biggest race of all tried something different. The club run pace start, the champagne drinking en route and the final dash up Paris’s grandest avenue does have a slightly hackneyed feel. Love it or not, it’s still a fantastic sprint.

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TOTAL: 3492 km

This will be the first Grand Départ in Italy and the 26th that’s taken place abroad  First finale in Nice. Due to the Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place in Paris, the race will not finish in the French capital for the first time.

Two time trials. 25 + 34 = 59km in total, the second of them taking place on the final Monaco>Nice stage. This will be the first time the race has seen a finale of this type for 35 years, the last occasion being the famous Fignon - LeMond duel in 1989.

Apennines (Italy), the Italian and French Alps, Massif Central and Pyrenees will be the mountain ranges on the 2024 Tour route.

The number of countries visited in 2024: Italy, San Marino, Monaco and France. Within France, the race will pass through 7 Regions and 30 departments.

The number of bonus points 8, 5 and 2 bonus seconds go to the first three classified riders, featuring at strategic points along the route (subject to approval by the International Cycling Union)these will have no effect on the points classification. Bonuses of 10, 6 and 4 seconds will be awarded to the first three classified riders at road stage finishes.

Out of a total of 39, the locations or stage towns that are appearing on the Tour map for the first time . In order of appearance: Florence, Rimini, Cesenatico, Bologna, Piacenza, Saint-Vulbas, Gevrey-Chambertin, Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, Évaux-les-Bains, Gruissan, Superdévoluy, Col de la Couillole.

The number of sectors on white roads during stage nine, amounting to 32km in total .

The number of stages: 8 flat, 4 hilly, 7 mountain (with 4 summit finishes at Saint-Lary-Soulan Pla d’Adet, Plateau de Beille, Isola 2000, Col de la Couillole), 2 time trials and 2 rest days.

The number of riders who will line up at the start of the Tour, divided into 22 teams of 8 riders each.

The height of the summit of the Bonette pass in the Alps, the highest tarmac road in France, which will be the “roof” of the 2024 Tour.

The total vertical gain during the 2024 Tour de France.


A total of 2,3 million euros will be awarded to the teams and riders including € 500,000 to the final winner of the overall individual classification .

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Stage Detail

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Florence > Rimini

It’s rare for the Tour de France to start with more than 3,600 metres of climbing – in fact it’s never happened before! – and it’s also the first time that the race has visited the home city of Gino Bartali. The succession of hills in Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna are likely to be the setting for an immediate and testing confrontation between the contenders for the title, particularly the climb into San Marino (7.1km at 4.8%), where the race will add a 13th name to its catalogue of foreign visits.

Cesenatico > Bologna

The passage across the Emilia-Romagna region is straightforward enough to begin with as it takes the peloton to Imola and its famous motor racing circuit. The final part of the stage, featuring the climb to the Sanctuary of San Luca (1.9km at 10.6%), the traditional finale of the Giro dell’Emilia, which will be tackled twice in the final 40km, offers fertile terrain for the peloton’s puncheurs.

Piacenza > Turin

The sprinters will have started the 2024 Tour with their teeth gritted, but now they’ll have something to sink them into with the finish in Turin. Prior to that, the peloton will pay a passing tribute to Fausto Coppi by heading through Tortone, where il campionissimo died. By that point, though, the sprinters’ domestiques will already be hard at work, their focus on ensuring a sprint finale. There’ll be little room for manoeuvre for the breakaway riders.

Pinerolo > Valloire

The race leaves Italy after a long climb to the resort of Sestrières, where Coppi triumphed in 1952, the border subsequently reached at the Col de Montgenèvre. Then, after ascending the Lautaret pass, the riders will tackle the 2,642-metre Galibier. This will be the first opportunity for the favourites to test themselves in the high mountains.

Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne > Saint-Vulbas

The race’s temporary exit from the Alps will be made via Chambéry. Soon after, the peloton will be in La Bridoire, where the finish of the Classique des Alpes Juniors is regularly held. That’s a race for climbers, but they won’t get a look-in here as they head for Saint-Vulbas. After the Côte de l’Huis, tackled with 34km remaining, the wide roads beyond will be ideal for keeping a close eye on the breakaway riders. The winner’s bouquet looks destined to go to a sprinter.

Mâcon > Dijon

Fans of medieval architecture will be treated to aerial images of Cluny Abbey and much more. The breakaway will set off with the ambition of holding off the peloton’s pursuit though the vineyards of the Côte Chalonnaise, but the sprinters should have the last word on the 800-metre straight into the prefecture of the Côte-d’Or.

Nuits-Saint-Georges > Gevrey-Chambertin

Individual time-trial

Great wines for great riders! But before venturing into the heart of the vineyards, the time trial specialists will spend almost two-thirds of this time trial on forest roads. The climb of the Côte de Curtil-Vergy (1.6km at 6.1%), which comes in the final section, will test their tolerance to pain. On the face of it, there shouldn’t be any big gaps between the best riders, but who knows?

Semur-en-Auxois > Colombey-les-deux-Églises

Although no altitude records will be broken, the first two-thirds of this stage does feature five categorised climbs. The relentless ups and downs may put a strain on the legs at the point when the sprinters’ team-mates are starting to think about setting up a bunch finish. But the last three kilometres of the final straight, which rise slightly but steadily, could be the ideal place to bring the peloton back together.

Troyes > Troyes

The Tour’s first week concludes with a new feature: white roads, which are already an emblematic feature of Strade Bianche and Paris-Tours. The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift made the first passage across Champagne’s gravel roads close to Troyes in 2022. There will be 14 sectors, including six in the final part of the stage, extending to 32km in total, each sector pitching the riders onto the gravel and into the dust.

Orléans > Saint-Amand-Montrond

Heading through the Sologne forest, it’ll be difficult to predict the outcome of this stage, as the weather may play a significant role. After leaving Issoudun, the riders will find themselves on roads exposed to the crosswinds that scattered the peloton a decade ago. With three changes of direction in the last 30 kilometres, there’s a real chance of echelons forming.

Évaux-les-Bains > Le Lioran

There’s only one stage across the rugged Massif Central, but what a stage it is! With 4,350 metres of vertical gain, the riders will have to be on their mettle at all times, and particularly in the final 50 kilometres, when the degree of difficulty rises a level with a series of very challenging obstacles: the climb to the Col de Néronne, then to the Puy Mary Pas de Peyrol with its fearsome final two kilometres, then continuing on to the Col de Pertus, the Col de Font de Cère and the ascent to Le Lioran. They provide all manner of opportunities for eager climbers to attack.

Aurillac > Villeneuve-sur-Lot

The aesthetic landscapes of the Cantal and Lot regions won’t distract the baroudeurs (breakaway specialists) from the knowledge that there’s something for them to play for. The terrain here is all hills, with the climb to Rocamadour standing out – it’ll be tackled in the opposite direction to the route taken by the 2022 Tour time trial. The second part of the stage is more suited to the sprinters’ teams that are set on chasing the break down. However, on two previous and similar stages into Villeneuve-sur-Lot, the breakaway managed to hold off its pursuers.

The Lot-et-Garonne serves up some lovely balcony roads early in the stage, when the formation of the breakaway will be closely monitored by the sprinters’ teams, who will have studied the route carefully. If they judge their effort correctly, they won’t be caught out by the day’s escapees. However, amidst the hilly terrain approaching the finish, the Blachon and Simacourbe climbs could pose a problem for those sprinters who don’t feel comfortable in the hills.

Pau > Saint-Lary-Soulan Pla d’Adet

The dynamic format of the first Pyrenean stage is accentuated by the fact that battle is unlikely to commence until the riders have gone through Lourdes. From that point, with 80 kilometres remaining, there’ll be a festival of climbing, featuring the Col du Tourmalet, the Hourquette d’Ancizan and the climb to Pla d’Adet. Fifty years on, the finish line will be exactly where it was when Raymond Poulidor celebrated victory in the 1974 Tour.

Loudenvielle > Plateau de Beille

The third Sunday of the Tour could prove crucial. Whatever’s happened on the previous days in the mountains, the terrain on this stage is ripe for revenge or confirmation, with 4,850 metres of vertical gain on the menu over almost 200 kilometres of racing. All manner of scenarios could play out, and it’s not unrealistic to imagine that team-mates of the GC contenders will attempt to infiltrate the breakaway climbing the Peyresourde. That would prove invaluable given what lies ahead, especially in a finale that features the climbs of the Col d’Agnes and the Port de Lers followed by the final haul up to Plateau de Beille.

Gruissan > Nimes

The sprinters may be heavily tipped for success when the race heads away from the coast near Narbonne, and maybe even when the riders pass over the Pic Saint-Loup. But the Mistral can blow fiercely at this time of year and could well upset the plans of the sprinters if those teams that feel at home when it’s windy end up scattering the peloton.

Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux > Superdévoluy

As the race homes in on the southern Alps, there will be no significant obstacles crossing the Drôme. The tests beyond that, though, are likely to encourage the formation of a large breakaway group, whose members will have a chance to shine, assuming they can deal with the climbs in the final 40 kilometres. We’ll get a clearer idea of this on the ascent of the Col Bayard, although the final selection should be made on the Col du Noyer (7.5km at 8.4%), with the final decision coming on the approach to the Superdévoluy ski station.

Gap > Barcelonnette

The altimeter drops temporarily, although the sprinters will still have to go right to their limits in order to claim the final bouquet within their grasp. That’s down to the fact that once the peloton has admired Lake Serre-Ponçon, the day’s attackers will have a few hills to exploit as they seek to maintain their lead. A strong puncheur might be able to go clear on the Côte de Saint-Apollinaire, and they’ll even more opportunity to do so on the Côte des Demoiselles Coiffées.

Embrun > Isola 2000

The menu for this ultra-mountain stage could well make you dizzy, but it’ll also whet the appetite of the very best climbers. Although the stage is less than 150km long, the riders will climb above 2,000 metres on three occasions, the biggest test the climb to the summit of La Bonette, the highest road in France at an altitude of 2,802 metres. Its 360-degree panorama is breath-taking.

Nice > Col de la Couillole

The Paris-Nice regulars will be racing over familiar terrain, but that won’t make things any easier if the contest for the Yellow Jersey is still raging, particularly over such a short distance. Battle could commence as early as the climb to the Col de Braus. There will then be no respite on the climbs of the Cols de Turini, de la Colmiane and finally de la Couillole, the final ascent extending for 15.7km at an average gradient of 7.1%. We’ll all be holding our breath!

Monaco > Nice

Everyone remembers the last occasion the Tour finished with a time trial, when Greg LeMond stripped the yellow jersey from the shoulders of Laurent Fignon on the Champs-Élysées in 1989, by just eight seconds. Thirty-five years on, we can but dream of a similar duel, involving two or three riders, an authentic athletic confrontation whose outcome would determine the final podium of the 111th edition, and the first to finish far from its familiar Parisian setting, the ultimate finale destined for Place Masséna, just a few pedal-strokes from the Promenade des Anglais.

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5 activities along the 2023 Tour de France route

5 activities along the 2023 Tour de France route

The Tour de France is on once again! One of the most celebrated sporting events in the world, the Tour continues to captivate global audiences year after year. With its gruelling routes through breathtaking landscapes, fiercely competitive athletes, and rich history, the Tour de France stands as an unparalleled sporting event.

If you’re visiting the Tour this year, you may also be interested in checking out some other activities along the route. In today’s article, we’ve compiled a list of five activities that you can enjoy while visiting different stages of the Tour.

History of the Tour de France

The Tour de France is a global phenomenon

Starting in 1903, the Tour de France is arguably the most prestigious bicycle race in the world. It is held annually for three weeks and has become an iconic event in French culture. The event was initially created to drum up publicity for the sports magazine, L’Auto, by editor Henri Desgrange and rugby and cycling reporter, George Lefèvre.

READ MORE : Here are 10 tourist attractions to visit in France

The Tour has seen many thrilling victories, heartbreaks, and scandals throughout its history. One of the most remarkable aspects of the Tour de France is the stunning backdrop it provides. As riders pedal through France and occasionally cross into neighbouring countries, they are treated to breathtaking landscapes, picturesque villages, and iconic landmarks.

The physical demands placed upon the riders are extraordinary, requiring exceptional fitness, mental fortitude, and strategic thinking. As the riders jostle for position, battling for precious seconds, each stage becomes a high-stakes battle of strategy and endurance. The sprint finishes and mountain climbs often create nail-biting moments that leave spectators on the edge of their seats.

A unifying global event

The Tour de France has a unique ability to bring people together from all corners of the world. Each summer, fans line the roads, wave flags, and cheer on their favourite riders. The event attracts a diverse international audience, fostering a sense of camaraderie and unity among cycling enthusiasts worldwide. Additionally, advancements in technology and media coverage have made the race accessible to a broader audience, allowing fans from across the globe to experience the excitement and drama in real time. So, you don’t have to be right there amongst it to see all the action unfold!

What to see along the 2023 Tour route

Whether you’re a cycling enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking for an inspiring experience, the Tour de France is a fantastic event to explore. Here are five activities you can enjoy on the 2023 Tour de France route:

Swim in the Combloux Ecological Mountain Lake

Stage 16 of the 2023 Tour sees competitors completing an individual time trial from Passy to Combloux. While in Combloux, why not check out the renowned Ecological Mountain Lake? This lake has been created to allow visitors to swim in water that has no chemical products and is heated solely by the sunlight overhead. You can even grab lunch and watch people enjoying the water.

Visit the pubs along the route

If you’re visiting France for the Tour, you might be looking to explore a number of the local pubs along the Tour route. owayo has put together a convenient interactive map to help punters find the cheapest pint on the Tour. Explore some of the local haunts while cheering on your favourite athletes.

Marvel at the Monastere Royal de Brou

With the building completed in 1532, this Gothic church is filled with an array of breathtaking statues, tombs, and stalls. The church is located in Bourg-en-Bresse, where the 18th stage of the 2023 Tour is completed. Those that enjoy architecture and history won’t want to miss this remarkable sight.

See the Lion of Belfort

The 20th stage of the Tour this year begins in beautiful Belfort. Here, visitors might like to check out the famous Lion of Belfort, a red sandstone piece created by the legendary sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi in 1880. This sculpture honoured the French resistance at the Siege of Belfort from December 1870 to February 1871. Bartholdi would later go on to sculpt the Statue of Liberty.

Stroll along the Champs-Élysées

One of the most famous streets in the world, the Champs-Élysées is the finishing spot for the final stage of the tour. Take a walk along the street and explore the cafes, bars, and luxury shops that are on offer. It’s also an ideal spot to take in the atmosphere of the Tour and watch the athletes arrive for their final sprint.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to some of the activities you can do while visiting the Tour de France this year. Whether you’re cheering on your favourite athlete or seeing some of the sights along the route, there’s plenty to explore along the Tour!

  • Tour de France

Kenny B


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My niece and I attended this terrific workshop. We learned a lot and had tons of fun. The bread and pastries were amazing. It was great to get behind the s...

For all the millions of French people that live in its many vibrant cities, the idea persists that theirs is a rural country. The importance of the land reverberates throughout French culture, something you will truly understand when you travel to France.

Where to go in France

Best time to travel to france, itinerary for when you travel to france, culture in france, cuisine in france, alsace and lorraine, alsatian food, four fabulous alsace fortresses, the route des vins, the wines of alsace, “la grand boucle”.

France boasts metropolitan powerhouse cities that represent the countries accumulation of wealth, evident in the astonishing variety of places to visit, from the Dordogne's prehistoric cave paintings and the Roman monuments of the south, to the Gothic cathedrals of the north, the chateaux of the Loire, and the cutting-edge architecture of the grands projets in Paris. This legacy of history and culture - le patrimoine - is so widely dispersed across the land that even the briefest of stays will leave you with a powerful sense of France's past. After reading this region-by-region overview, you might want to arm yourself with 20 fun facts about France.

Travelling around France is easy. Restaurants and hotels proliferate, many of them relatively inexpensive when compared with other developed Western European countries. Train services are admirably efficient, as is the road network – especially the (toll-paying) autoroutes – and cyclists are much admired and encouraged. Information is highly organized and available from tourist offices across the country, as well as from specialist organizations for walkers, cyclists, campers and so on.

The Rhône valley

As for where to go in France, Paris, of course, is the outstanding cultural centre, with its impressive buildings – not least Frank Gehry’s stunning new Fondation Louis Vuitton – and unparalleled art, nightlife and ethnic diversity, though the great provincial cities – Lyon, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille – all now vie with the capital and each other for prestige in the arts, ascendancy in sport and innovation in attracting visitors. Marseille, in particular, has a host of exciting new cultural institutions, a legacy of its year as European Capital of Culture in 2013.

For most people, however, it’s the unique characters of the regions that will define a trip. Few holiday-makers stay long in the largely flat, industrial north, but there are some fine cathedrals and energetic cities to leaven the mix. The picture is similar in Alsace-Lorraine where Germanic influences are strong, notably in the food. On the northern Atlantic coast, Normandy has a rich heritage of cathedrals, castles, battlefields and beaches – and, with its cream-based sauces, an equally rich cuisine. To the west, Brittany is renowned for its Celtic links, beautiful coastline, prehistoric sites and seafood, while the Loire valley, extending inland towards Paris, is famed for soft, fertile countryside and a marvellous parade of châteaux. Further east, the green valleys of Burgundy shelter a wealth of Romanesque churches, and their wines and food are among the finest in France. More Romanesque churches follow the pilgrim routes through rural Poitou-Charentes and down the Atlantic coast to Bordeaux, where the wines rival those of Burgundy. Inland from Bordeaux, visitors flock to the gorges, prehistoric sites and picturesque fortified villages of the Dordogne and neighbouring Limousin, drawn too by the truffles and duck and goose dishes of Périgord cuisine. To the south, the great mountain chain of the Pyrenees rears up along the Spanish border, running from the Basque country on the Atlantic to the Catalan lands of Roussillon on the Mediterranean; there’s fine walking and skiing, as well as beaches at either end. Further along the Mediterranean coast, Languedoc offers dramatic landscapes, medieval towns and Cathar castles, as well as more beaches, while the Massif Central, in the centre of the country, is undeveloped and little visited, but beautiful nonetheless, with its rivers, forests and the wild volcanic uplands of the Auvergne. The Alps, of course, are prime skiing territory, but a network of signposted paths makes for great walking too; to the north, the wooded mountains of the Jura provide further scope for outdoor adventures. Stretching down from the Alps to the Mediterranean is Provence, which, as generations of travellers have discovered, seems to have everything: Roman ruins, charming villages, vineyards and lavender fields – and legions of visitors. Its cuisine is similarly diverse, encompassing fruit, olives, herbs, seafood and lamb. Along the Provençal coast, the beaches, towns and chic resorts of the Côte d’Azur form a giant smile extending from the vibrant city of Marseille to the super-rich Riviera hotspots of Nice and Monaco. For truly fabulous beaches, however, head for the rugged island of Corsica, birthplace of Napoleon and home to an Italian-leaning culture and cuisine and some fascinating Neolithic sculptures.

Discover more places in France


  • Languedoc Travel Guide
  • The Limousin, Dordogne and the Lot Travel Guide
  • The Loire Travel Guide
  • The Massif Central Travel Guide
  • Normandy Travel Guide
  • The north Travel Guide
  • Paris Travel Guide
  • Poitou-Charentes and the Atlantic coast Travel Guide
  • Provence Travel Guide
  • The Alps and Franche-Comté Travel Guide
  • The Côte d’Azur Travel Guide
  • The Rhône valley Travel Guide
  • The Pyrenees Travel Guide

The climate in France can be tricky to navigate when deciding the best time to visit. The north experiences similar weather to the UK, often being wet and moderately unpredictable. The south is significantly warmer, particularly behind the Mediterranean coastline. Briefly speaking, the best time to visit is during late spring to early autumn, when the temperature is warm and crowds are not swarmed with tourists.

If visiting for the first time, or as a returning traveller, planning an itinerary ensures you experience as much of the country as possible, particularly if driving. The diversity of France's beautiful landscape means there are many routes to choose from, so if you have a particular mission in mind, check out our range of itineraries , or alternatively plan a tailor-made trip with one of our experts. For inspiration, we've created an itinerary below.

Tailor-made travel itineraries for France, created by local experts

An active walking tour out of the way in France

14 days  / from 3860 USD

An active walking tour out of the way in France

Your trip starts with an in-depth introduction to France in Paris: several unique day excursions connect you with local Parisians to show you their city and way of life. Afterwards continue south to start a few days walking journey through Southern France before ending around Avignon.

Southern France – Walks in the Alpilles and Lavender fields

10 days  / from 2411 USD

Southern France – Walks in the Alpilles and Lavender fields

Start your tour in the coastal city of Marseille, exploring Cassis on the way. Around the Alpilles in Provence, you will be provided with detailed walking materials to explore the area on foot, from both Les Baux and St Remy. End your tour in famous Avignon.

Tasting Eastern France

12 days  / from 2948 USD

Tasting Eastern France

A delicious yet active journey through Eastern France. Start your trip in Lyon with some unique food tours before setting off on a 4-day walk across the Beaujolais region. Almost every day ends with a wine tasting in your guesthouse, soothing for body and soul.

Days 1 - 3: Paris

Your travels to France would not be complete without visiting the iconic Eiffel Tower in the heart of Paris. Tick of the main sites on the checklist; the Louvre Museum, the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe. Enjoy exploring the charming streets, stopping off for macarons in delightful little cafes.

Days 3 - 5: Epernay, Champagne

Take a trip to Epernay, the birthplace of Champagne. Enjoy a glass of authentic bubbly whilst taking in the beautiful landscape of rolling green hills. Go wine tasting, cycle along the vineyards, take morning walks, and explore the charm of the small town. Simply enjoy the countryside of France.

Days 5 - 7: Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is a place of fairy tales, explore the many Chateaux and immerse yourself into feeling like you have stepped back in time. Chateaux of the Loire Valley is an impressive example of French Renaissance architecture and is a good starting point. Other monumental castles to look out for include those at Ambroise and Nantes. Take part in a tour, also possible along the Loire River, and explore the historical towns and get a real feeling for French history and culture.

The importance of these traditions is felt deeply by the French state, which fights to preserve and develop its culture perhaps harder than any other country in the world. Private companies, which also strive to maintain French traditions in arenas as diverse as haute couture, pottery and, of course, food, are perfect examples of this. The fruits of these efforts are evident in the subsidized arts , notably the film industry, and in the lavishly endowed and innovative museums and galleries. From colonial history to fishing techniques, aeroplane design to textiles, and migrant shepherds to manicure, an array of impressive collections can be found across the nation. Inevitably, however, first place must go to the fabulous displays of fine art in Paris, a city which has nurtured more than its fair share of the finest creative artists of the last century and a half, both French – Monet and Matisse for example – and foreign, such as Picasso and Van Gogh.

French cuisine is as varied as it's landscape, as the creator of the Michelin Star, France takes its food reputation seriously. Dive in deep to France's food and drink culture, that will have you eager to travel to France as soon as you can.

From traditional village boulangeries cooking fresh bread and croissants to high-class restaurants, you'll notice the always pleasant aroma of delicious dishes being cooked. Popular recipes to look out for include ratatouille, bourguignon and crepes. Drink-wise, France boasts some of the best wines, and of course, there is Champagne.

Top image: Le Mont Saint-Michel, France © canadastock / Shutterstock

Disputed for centuries by French kings and the princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and subsequently embroiled in a bloody tug-of-war between France and Germany, France’s easternmost provinces, Alsace and Lorraine , share a tumultuous history. It’s no surprise then that almost everything, from the architecture to the cuisine and the language, is an enticing mixture of French and German – so much so that you might begin to wonder which country you’re actually in.

Cute Hansel-and-Gretel-type houses – higgledy-piggledy creations with oriel windows, carved timberwork, toy-town gables and geranium-filled window boxes – are a common feature in Alsace, especially along the winding Route des Vins , which traces the eastern margin of the forests of the Vosges mountains. This road also represents the region’s chief tourist raison d’être – wine – best accompanied with a regional cuisine that’s more Germanic than French, although you’ll find plenty of creativity in modern Alsatian cooking. Ruined medieval castles are scattered about, while outstanding churches and museums are concentrated in the handsome regional capital of Strasbourg and in smaller, quirkier Colmar . Bustling Mulhouse stands out for its industrial heritage and entertaining nightlife. A noticeably wealthy province, Alsace has historically churned out cars and textiles, not to mention half the beer in France.

Alsace’s less prosperous and less scenic neighbour, Lorraine, shares borders with Luxembourg, Germany and Belgium. The graceful former capital, Nancy , is home to a major school of Art Nouveau and is well worth a visit, as is leafy Metz , with its sparkling new contemporary art gallery. The bloody World War I battlefields around Verdun attract a large number of visitors, as does the zoo in Amnéville , one of the largest in France. Gastronomically no less renowned than other French provinces, Lorraine has bequeathed to the world one of its favourite savoury pies, the quiche lorraine , and an alcoholic sorbet, the coupe lorraine .

Top image: Cathedral of Our Lady, Strasbourg © Travelerpix/Shutterstock

Alsatians are hearty eaters, with their local cuisine characterized by generous helpings of pork, potatoes and spaetzle (a type of pasta usually fried in butter). But the region also has an international reputation for gastronomy, with exciting, new and well-established Michelin-starred restaurants dotted across its towns and villages.

The classic dish is choucroute , the aromatic pickled cabbage known in German as sauerkraut . The difference here is the inclusion of juniper berries in the pickling stage and the addition of goose grease or lard. Traditionally it’s served with large helpings of smoked pork, ham and sausages, but some restaurants offer a succulent variant replacing the meat with fish ( choucroute aux poissons ), usually salmon and monkfish. The qualification à l’alsacienne after the name of a dish means “with choucroute ”. Baeckoffe , a three-meat hotpot, comprising layers of potato, pork, mutton and beef marinated in wine and baked for several hours, is a speciality. Onions , too, crop up frequently on menus, either in the guise of a tart ( tarte à l’oignon ), made with a béchamel sauce, or as flammeküche ( tarte flambée ), a mixture of onion, cream and pieces of chopped smoked pork breast, baked on a thin, pizza-like base.

Alsatians are fond of their pastries . In almost every patisserie, you’ll find a mouthwatering array of fruit tarts made with rhubarb (topped with meringue), wild blueberries, red cherries or yellow mirabelle plums. Cake-lovers should try kugelhopf , a dome-shaped cake with a hollow in the middle made with raisins and almonds.

For the classic Alsatian eating experience, you should go to a winstub , loosely translated as a “wine bar”, a cosy establishment with bare beams, wood wall panels and benches and a convivial atmosphere. The food revolves around Alsatian classics, such as choucroute , all accompanied by local wines (or, in a bierstub , beer).

A thirty-minute drive north of Metz lies Amnéville , an easy-to-overlook town off the A31 motorway. But, just outside, in the Parc Amnéville-Les-Thermes , there is a gigantic tourist site with a conglomeration of attractions, cinemas, restaurants, spas and hotels you'd expect to see in North America rather than Europe. There are three large spas , Centre Thermal St Eloy (with a more therapeutic-medical orientation), Thermapolis (relaxation for all the family) and Villa Pompéi (offering massage and beauty treatments), which have been built over natural thermal springs; there are also sports arenas that include France’s only indoor ski slope, an 18-hole golf and mini-golf course, a “Fitnessium”, an ice-skating rink and an Olympic-size swimming pool.

But the main attraction is the zoo – one of the largest in France. You need a car to get there – and to move around the site. The zoo holds a large number of rare species; many of them are photogenic mammals, such as snow leopards, Siberian tigers, dwarf hippos and a big number of monkey species. In 2015, a new arena was opened to host a choreographed tiger show (1–3 times daily). Feeding of animals takes place several times a day; the wolf-pack feed is the biggest draw.

Alsace is dotted with medieval fortresses, heirlooms from a quarrelsome past. Here’s a rundown of the very best castles in the region:

Bernstein Explore the marvellous ruins of this castle perched 562m up on a rock overlooking Dambach-la-Ville. It’s a 45-minute walk from the village past the chapel of St-Sébastien or a drive up the D35, turning left at Blienschwiller towards Villé on the D203 and then following the sign to Bernstein on the GR5 until the Schulwaldplatz car park. From there it’s a gentle 20min walk uphill through a spruce forest. Free access.

Haut Koenigsbourg A massive pile of honey-coloured sandstone that sits astride a 757m bluff, this castle dates from the twelfth century. It was heavily restored in the twentieth century under the tenacious management of Kaiser Wilhelm II and is today one of the most visited monuments in France – try to come midweek or out of season to avoid the crowds. It is a stunning spot with fantastic views on a clear day.

Château Hohlandsbourg Six kilometres outside Eguisheim, this enormous castle surrounded by massive walls is the largest in the region. It was extensively damaged during the Thirty Years’ War but there’s still plenty to see, including beautiful gardens. The castle is also a venue for cultural activities, music concerts and children’s workshops – check the website for events.

Château Kintzheim Small but wonderful ruined castle built around a cylindrical refuge-tower and located just south of Haut Koenigsbourg. Today Kintzheim is an aviary for birds of prey – the Volerie des Aigles – and puts on magnificent displays of aerial prowess by resident eagles and vultures.

Metz (pronounced “Mess”), the capital of Lorraine, lies on the east bank of the River Moselle, close to the autoroute de l’Est linking Paris and Strasbourg. Today the city has another connection to the capital in the much-lauded satellite branch of the Centre Pompidou . Along with its rather splendid cathedral , a strong dining scene (inspired by the Renaissance writer and famous gourmand, Rabelais, who lived here for two years), large and beautiful flower-lined public spaces and riverside setting, the honey-coloured city of Metz is something of an undiscovered gem.

The city’s origins go back at least to Roman times, when, as now, it stood astride major trade routes. On the death of Charlemagne it became the capital of Lothar’s portion of his empire. By the Middle Ages it had sufficient wealth and strength to proclaim itself an independent republic, which it remained until its absorption into France in 1552. Caught between warring influences, Metz has endured more than its share of historical hand-changing; reluctantly ceded to Germany in 1870, it recovered its liberty at the end of World War I, only to be re-annexed by Hitler until the Liberation.

Metz is, in effect, two towns: the original French quarters of the vieille ville , gathered round the cathedral and encompassing the Île de la Comédie , and the Quartier Impérial , undertaken as part of a once-and-for-all process of Germanification after the Prussian occupation in 1870. Developing with speed and panache is a third section: the Quartier de l’Amphithéâtre , south of the train station, heralded by the Centre Pompidou and the adjacent sports stadium – shops and offices are slowly following.

Centre Pompidou-Metz

The Centre Pompidou-Metz , the first decentralized branch of the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris, opened with much pomp and ceremony in Metz’s Quartier de l’Amphithéâtre in May 2010. Designed by architects Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines, it’s a curious, bright white building resembling a swimming stingray and, with its huge glass windows and wooden scaffolding, is extremely light and inviting. The same spirit reigns here as in Paris: showing off a varying percentage of the Parisian stock, the aim of the museum is to bring modern art to the masses, and judging by the queues it’s working. Expect to spend around two hours here; there’s a café, as well as workshops for children (ask at reception for details).

A large, sprawling, industrial city 35km south of Colmar, Mulhouse was Swiss until 1798 when, at the peak of its prosperity (founded on printed textiles), it voted to become part of France. Today it bills itself as a “museum town”, with at least four that might grab your interest. It’s much cheaper to stay here than in neighbouring Colmar (or Basel), plus it offers the best nightlife in Alsace should you find yourself there over a weekend. The hôtel de ville on the central place de la Réunion contains a beautifully presented history of the city in the Musée Historique . The Neo-Gothic cathedral opposite the museum was built in 1866, replacing a twelfth-century church, yet its fourteenth-century stained glass is considered the most beautiful in the Upper Rhine; this is the only Protestant cathedral standing in a main square in France.

Cité de l’Automobile, Musée National-Collection Schlumpf

The city of Nancy , on the River Meurthe, is renowned for the magnificent place Stanislas, cited as a paragon of eighteenth-century urban planning and today the finest in France. For its spectacularly grand centre, Nancy has the last of the independent dukes of Lorraine to thank: the dethroned king of Poland and father-in-law of Louis XV, Stanislas Leszczynski. During the twenty-odd years of his office in the mid-eighteenth century, he ordered some of the most successful construction of the period in all France. The city is also home to some impressive examples of Art Nouveau furniture and glassware hailing from the days of the École de Nancy , founded at the end of the nineteenth century by glass-master and furniture-maker, Émile Gallé.

From the gare SNCF , walk through Porte Stanislas , straight down rue Stanislas to reach the Rococo place Stanislas . Both this gate and Porte St-Catherine opposite are meticulously aligned with place Stanislas’s solitary statue – that of the portly Stanislas Leszczynski , who commissioned architect Emmanuel Héré to design the square in the 1750s. On the south side of the square stands the imposing hôtel de ville , its roof topped by a balustrade ornamented with florid urns and winged cupids. Along its walls, lozenge-shaped lanterns dangle from the beaks of gilded cockerels; similar motifs adorn the other buildings on the square – look out for the fake, two-dimensional replacements. The square’s entrances are enclosed by magnificent wrought-iron gates; the impressive railings on the northern corners frame fountains dominated by statues of Neptune and Amphitrite.

Stanislas Leszczynski

Stanislas Leszczynski , born in the Polish–Ukrainian city of Lemberg (now Lviv) in 1677, lasted just five years as the king of Poland before being forced into exile by Tsar Peter the Great. For the next twenty-odd years he lived on a French pension in northern Alsace, but after fifteen years Stanislas’s luck changed when he managed, against all odds, to get his daughter, Marie, betrothed to the 15-year-old king of France, Louis XV . Marie was not so fortunate: married by proxy in Strasbourg Cathedral, having never set eyes on the groom, she gave birth to ten children, only to be rejected by Louis, who preferred the company of his mistresses, Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry. Bolstered by his daughter’s marriage, Stanislas had another spell on the Polish throne from 1733 to 1736, but gave it up in favour of the comfortable dukedom of Barr and Lorraine. He lived out his final years in aristocratic style in the capital, Nancy, which he transformed into one of France’s most beautiful towns.

Flanked to the west by the rising forests of the southern Vosges, which stretch all the way down to Belfort, Alsace’s picturesque Route des Vins (“Wine Route”) follows the foot of the mountains along the western edge of the wide and flat Rhine valley. Beginning in Marlenheim, west of Strasbourg, the route, on or around the D35, snakes its way over 180km to Thann, near Mulhouse, through exquisitely preserved medieval towns and villages characterized by half-timbered houses, narrow cobbled streets and neighbouring ancient ruined castles – testimony to the province’s turbulent past. The route is blanketed with neat terraces of vines, which produce the famous white wines. Tasting opportunities are plentiful, particularly during the region’s countless wine festivals that mainly coincide with the October harvest.

The old centre of Colmar , a thirty-minute train ride south of Strasbourg and lying east of the main Route des Vins villages, is echt Alsatian, with crooked half-timbered and painted houses. Its small canals and picturesque narrow streets are a flaneur’s paradise. This is prime Elsässisch-speaking country, a German dialect known to philologists as Alemannic, which has waxed and waned during the province’s chequered history. As the proud home of Mathias Grünewald’s magnificent Issenheim altarpiece – on display in the Musée d’Unterlinden –the town is a magnet for tourists all year round.

Musée d’Unterlinden

Colmar’s foremost attraction, the Musée d’Unterlinden is an even richer experience after a lengthy period of renovation and extension. The core of the collection is housed in a former Dominican convent with a peaceful cloistered garden; it includes the museum’s biggest draw, the Issenheim altarpiece , which is thought to have been made between 1512 and 1516 for the monastic order of St Anthony at Issenheim, whose members cared for those afflicted by ergotism and other nasty skin diseases. The extraordinary painted panels are the work of Mathias Grünewald (1480–1528). The luridly expressive centre panel depicts the Crucifixion: a tortured Christ turns his outsize hands upwards, fingers splayed in pain, flanked by his pale, fainting mother and saints John and Mary Magdalene. The face of St Sebastian, on the right wing, is believed to have been modelled on Grünewald’s own likeness. The reverse panels depict the annunciation, Christ’s resurrection, the nativity and a flamboyant orchestra of angels, all splendidly bathed in transcendental light. On the rest of the panels, you’ll find a truly disturbing representation of the temptation of St Anthony, who is engulfed by a grotesque pack of demons; note the figure afflicted with the alarming symptoms of ergotism.

The renovated convent is now linked via an underground gallery of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century art to a brand-new wing, which houses modern and contemporary works, and to the town’s former municipal baths, re-imagined as a venue for cultural events. Highlights include Impressionist paintings by Monet and Bonnard, plus a couple of Picassos.

Verdun lies in a bend of the River Meuse, some 70km west of Metz. Of no great interest in itself, what makes this sleepy provincial town remarkable is its association with the horrific battle that took place on the bleak uplands to the north between 1916 and 1918. In 1916, aiming to break the stalemate of trench warfare, the German General Erich von Falkenhayn chose Verdun as the target for an offensive that ranked among the most devastating ever launched in the annals of war. His troops advanced to within 5km of Verdun, but never captured the town. Gradually the French clawed back the lost ground, but final victory came only in the last months of the war with the aid of US troops. The price was high: hundreds of thousands of men died on both sides. To this day, memorials in every village, hamlet and town of France are inscribed with the names of men slaughtered at Verdun. Not far from Verdun’s railway station, the Rodin memorial , a disturbing statue of winged Victory, stands beside a handsome eighteenth-century gateway at the northern end of rue St-Paul where it joins avenue Garibaldi. Nearby, a simple engraving lists all the years between 450 and 1916 that Verdun has been involved in conflict. The fourteenth-century Porte Chaussée guards the river-crossing in the middle of town. Beyond it, further along rue Mazel, a flight of steps climbs up to the towering Monument de la Victoire , where a helmeted warrior leans on his sword in commemoration of the 1916 battle, while in the crypt below a roll is kept of all the soldiers, French and American, who took part.

The battlefields

The Battle of Verdun opened on the morning of February 21, 1916, with a German artillery barrage that lasted ten hours and expended two million shells. The battle concentrated on the forts of Vaux and Douaumont, built by the French after the 1870 Franco–Prussian War. By the time the main battle ended ten months later, nine villages had been pounded into oblivion.

The most visited part of the battlefield extends along the hills north of Verdun, but the fighting also spread to the west of the Meuse, to the hills of Mort-Homme and Hill 304, to Vauquois and the Argonne, and south along the Meuse to St-Mihiel, where the Germans held an important salient until dislodged by US forces in 1918. Unless you take an organized tour the only viable way to explore the area is with your own transport. The main sights are reached via two minor roads that snake through the battlefields: the D913 and D112.

Despite the long, tall bottles and Germanic names, Alsatian wines are unmistakably French in their ability to complement the region’s traditional cuisine. This is white wine country – if you do spot a local red, it will invariably be a Pinot Noir. Winemakers take advantage of the long, dry autumns to pick extremely ripe grapes producing wines with a little more sweetness than elsewhere in France, but good wines will have a refreshing natural acidity, too. Each of the three main grape varieties listed below can be made with a sweetness level ranging from off-dry right through to “Séléction des Grains Nobles” for the most highly prized dessert wines ( vendages tardives being the label for the slightly less sweet late-harvested wines). Grand Cru labelled wines come from the best vineyard sites.

Riesling The ultimate thirst-quencher, limey, often peachy, excellent with fish dishes and choucroute .

Gewurztraminer Alsace’s most aromatic grape, with roses, lychees, honey, spices and all manner of exotic flavours. Try with pungent Munster cheese or rich pâté.

Pinot Gris Rich, fruity, smoky and more understated than Gewurztraminer. A versatile food wine; try with white meat in creamy sauces and milder cheeses.

Other wines you’re likely to come across include the grapey Muscat , straightforward Sylvaner , and delicate Pinot Blanc/Auxerrois , which also forms the base of the region’s excellent sparkling Crémant d’Alsace . Pinot Noir is used for light, fruity reds and rosés.

• With a land area of 547,000 square kilometres, France is the largest country in the EU; its population of 66 million is second only to that of Germany.

• France has a long secular republican tradition dating back to the revolution of 1789. Yet the majority of its population is Roman Catholic – nominally, at least – and there’s a substantial Muslim minority of around 8 to 10 percent.

• Annual GDP per capita is around $44,000, making France one of the world’s richest countries, but unemployment is a persistent problem, at around 10 percent. Taxes are high, at around 43 percent, but so is social spending, at almost 30 percent.

• France remains by far the world's most popular tourist destination, with some 82 million visitors annually.

• The French film industry is the world’s third most prolific, after the US and India, with around 215 million tickets sold annually.

• Contrary to its self-image as a bastion of gastronomy, the country is also the second largest consumer of McDonalds’ burgers after the US, flipping more than a million Big Macs daily.

• A great source of confusion when meeting and greeting French people is the double kiss, or bise . When it is appropriate, and how many times to do it, which cheek to start with, whether to touch or air kiss, what to do with your hands, or whether it’s better to shake hands instead, are all matters that vex the French just as much as foreign visitors – not least because norms vary between regions, social situations and age groups. When in doubt, hang back, copy what everyone else does, and go left for the first one.

• In 1910, a law was passed in France forbidding couples from kissing on train platforms to avoid delayed departures. The law is still in place, though no longer enforced.

Each year, in the sweltering heat of July, millions of people take up positions on roadsides around France to cheer, shout and bellow cries of encouragement to a pelaton of nearly 200 cyclists as they speed past in a stream of day-glo lycra. Millions more watch on television – though few of them are cycling aficionados. Because the Tour de France is far more than a mere bike race. For the French, it’s a national institution; a symbol of unity; a chance, as the riders pit themselves against the toughest terrain the mighty héxagone can throw at them, to admire the scenic splendour of the country in all its summer glory, with the fields of the Garonne’s sun flowers in full bloom, the Côte d’Azur at its most sleek, and the craggy Alps basking under boundless blue skies.

Started in 1903, the Tour was born out of the rivalry between two sporting papers, L’Auto and Le Vélo , as a ruse to boost sales. The passion it incited nearly scuppered the event in its second year, when riders were beaten up by rival fans and cheating was rife (racers were spotted jumping into cars and taking trains). These days, in the wake of a series of high-profile doping scandals, performance-enhancing drugs pose the main threat to the survival of the 3600-km (2200-mile) race, though La Grand Boucle (the “Great Loop”), as it’s known, still casts a powerful spell over the nation. And it’s not just an obsession for the French; in 2012, Britain’s own Bradley Wiggins clinched the title – the Tour’s first British winner – successfully ensuring a new and ardent fan base just across the Channel.

For your average Frenchman, any recipe for a relaxing summer’s evening would have to include the three Ps: plane trees (or palms at a pinch); pastis ; and that most quintessentially French of games, pétanque . You’ll see this Gallic version of bowls played on countless squares across the country, where groups of mostly middle-aged men in baggy shorts congregate around gravel-and-dirt boulodromes to lob heavy metal boules at diminutive wooden ones called cochonnets (literally “piglets”). Pétanque matches played after work and on weekends are part and parcel of the daily rhythm of life, especially in the south.

The game was invented in 1907 in the town of La Ciotat on the Côte d’Azur by an enthusiastic bowler whose rheumatism prevented him from making the usual extended run up. Instead, he devised a version of his favourite sport in which the bowler’s feet stayed planted firmly on the ground ( pieds tanqués ). The pitch was shortened accordingly, and after the local bar owner firmed up a set of rules, the new game quickly caught on. A whole lexicon has evolved around pétanque to describe different throws and scenarios. Each team, for example, has a mix of “pointeurs” (pointers), players who place the ball as closely as possible to the jack, and “tireurs” (shooters), whose job it is to displace the opposition’s balls with spectacular lobs. If the throw falls short, it’s a “palouf”. If it nudges one of the other team’s balls, it’s made a “biberon”, or “baby’s bottle”. “Faire la Micheline” means to turn up for a game without your own set of boules. “Faire la chanson” refers to attempts to distract the opposition by chatting between points. And, most insulting of all for wannabe pétanque players from the UK, “faire de l’anglais” describes a totally hopeless throw.

Finally, if you’re lucky enough to spectate at a complete whitewash, you’ll experience the most ribald of all pétanque traditions, “Kissing the Fanny”. When a team or individual player loses by 13 points to zero they have to kiss the bare buttocks of a statue or framed picture of a lady named “Fanny”, usually kept in the nearest bar expressly for the purpose.

Travel advice for France

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written by Rough Guides Editors

updated 12.03.2024


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France Travel Blog

Tour de France 101 – The Basic Facts

Tour de France 101 – The Basic Facts

So, you’re going to France in July, and you’re aware that there’s some big bike race that goes on then. But beyond that, you don’t know anything about the Tour de France. Well, pull up a chair, kiddos – this is  Tour de France 101 .

The truth is that while you could spend your whole life learning about the intricacies of this popular sport, there’s no need to do that. You can learn enough about the Tour de France to get into the spirit while you’re in France – and perhaps even catch a stage or two in-person – without investing in a pair of spandex shorts and memorizing the history of the race. I learned to love cycling in 1996, and although I could talk about it at length for hours with anyone who might be interested (anyone? anyone?), I’ve boiled down the basics of what you’ll need to know to enjoy the spectacle and not be completely in the dark.

Welcome to the Tour de France for Beginners

First, we’ll start with some cycling vocabulary, so you know what I’m talking about further down this page. Then we’ll move on to the basics of the Tour de France, and the various Tour de France jerseys to look out for. And then, if you haven’t completely gone cross-eyed, there’s some Tour de France trivia at the end!

Tour de France Basic Facts

Tour de France Vocabulary

Even if you’re able to catch coverage of the Tour de France in your native language, some of the words you’ll hear are still going to be French. And even some of the English words are confusing if you don’t know what they’re talking about. Here are some of the main words you might hear when you’re listening to race coverage.

  • allez  (ah|LAY) – This French word means “GO!” and it’s what you’ll hear people yelling at the riders as they pass.
  • attack  – A sudden attempt to get away from another rider, often when one rider senses another isn’t able to keep up, in an effort to drop the lesser rider.
  • bonk  – Known as “hitting the wall” in marathon running, this is when a rider completely runs out of energy; often, it’s actually a visible phenomenon when it suddenly looks as if peddling the bicycle up a hill is more than the cyclist can manage.
  • breakaway  – A rider or group of riders that takes off from the front of the pack.
  • bridge the gap  – When a rider or group of riders is attempting to reach a group farther ahead, either a breakaway group or the main field if a rider has been dropped.
  • chasers  or  chase group  – Riders who are attempting to “bridge the gap” to catch the lead group, also known as a “chase group”.
  • directeur sportif  (spor|TEEF) – A French term, this is the manager of the team, and is akin to a coach in that he’ll dictate strategy for the team.
  • domestique  (doh|mess|TEEK) – A French term, this is a rider who sacrifices any individual honors to the team leader who is in contention to win; these riders are hired specifically for their “workhorse” ability to protect the interests of the team leader.
  • drop  – To leave another rider or riders behind by attacking; dropped riders expend much more energy to catch back up to a group, and are therefore less able to counter any subsequent attacks.
  • G.C.  – Stands for “General Classification,” and is the overall standings for the race on any given day.
  • hors categorie  – A French term (first word is pronounced like “oar”), this is the classification given to the most difficult mountain climbs; it’s often abbreviated as H.C.
  • lead out  – An often sacrificial move where one rider begins a sprint to give a head start to a teammate on his rear wheel, who then comes around at an even faster speed to take the lead.
  • maillot  (my|OH) – A French term, it means “jersey;” you’ll hear it when they’re talking about the leaders of the different competitions, like the “maillot jaune,” or “yellow jersey,” as the race leader.
  • pace line  – A line of riders taking orderly turns at the lead and staggered so that each rider will get maximum protection from the wind.
  • peloton  (PELL|uh|tahn)- A French term, this is the main group of riders, also known as the “pack,” or “bunch” or “main field”.
  • stage  – An individual day’s race in a longer event which lasts over several days.
  • time trial  – An individual race against the clock where riders begin at specific intervals and are attempting to ride the same course as everyone else in the shortest possible time; often called the “race of truth;” a variation sometimes seen in races like the Tour de France is the  team time trial , where an entire team will race together, the clock stopping only when the 5th racer crosses the finish line.

Tour de France Basics

  • Distance:  Varies year to year, generally more than 3,500km (2,200mi) total
  • Duration:  Roughly 3 weeks of racing; recently it’s a 23-day event with 2 rest days (so 21 days of racing)
  • Objective:  Finish the race with the lowest accumulated time

Tour de France Basic Information

The Tour de France is a “stage race,” meaning that each day of racing is a “stage” with an individual winner, but the total time raced over all the stages is what adds up to determine who the winner of the entire Tour is. The overall winner at the very end is determined by cumulative time – each day, the rider’s times are added up, and at the end of the race, the one who has ridden all the stages in the least amount of time is the winner. This rider doesn’t even have to have won a single stage of the race in order to win the whole thing.

But some riders will never be in contention to win a Tour de France – so why do they participate? For some of them, there are competitions within the Tour that can give them a huge amount of prestige. If you think of the entire three-week race as an umbrella, you can picture several other smaller umbrellas underneath it, which are the competitions  within  the competition, so to speak. These can be for things like the best overall young rider or the best overall mountain climber, and each individual day’s race (each stage) can be considered one of these sub-competitions, too. So while there’s only one guy standing on top of the podium in Paris, there are lots of opportunities to win things in the Tour de France – and winning anything during the Tour is a major addition to a cyclist’s resume.

What this means from a spectator’s point of view is that while it can be fun to follow the race from start to finish for the whole three weeks, you don’t need to wait that long to see someone raise a bouquet of flowers on the podium and get kissed by the pretty Podium Girls. Every day of racing ends with a podium presentation for the leaders on that day, as well as that day’s stage winner. So enjoy as much (or as little) of the Tour de France as you like.

Tour de France Jerseys

These are the jerseys riders in the Tour de France. They are trying to win. They can change hands daily, but the guy who’s wearing each jersey on the last day of the race is the overall winner of that jersey. The yellow and white jerseys are based on cumulative time, while the green and polka-dot jerseys are based on cumulative points awarded.

  • Maillot Jaune  – Yellow Jersey, worn by the overall race leader each day.
  • Maillot Vert  – Green Jersey, worn by the rider who has accumulated the most “points” each day (points are awarded at sprints, so this is generally considered the sprinter’s jersey).
  • Maillot a Pois Rouges  – Polka-Dot Jersey, worn by the rider who has performed the best over the classified climbs each day; this rider is also called the “King of the Mountains”.
  • Maillot Blanc  – White Jersey, worn by the best-placed overall rider under the age of 25 each day; this is known as the “Best Young Rider” competition.

Tour de France Trivia & Tidbits

  •  Each day, the cyclist who’s in the lead overall and gets awarded the yellow jersey for that day also gets a  lion stuffed animal  as part of his prize. Why? The sponsor of the yellow jersey is the French bank, Credit Lyonnaise. Get it? Lyonnaise – lion.
  • The rider in the last place each day on the overall G.C. is called the  “lanterne rouge,” or “red lantern,”  referring to the old red lights which used to hang on the caboose (the last car) of trains. There are websites dedicated to the lanterne rouge each year – not to mock them, but to point out that although they came in last, they could probably still kick most cyclists’ asses.
  • The journalists who follow the Tour de France vote at the end of every day and award one rider the designation of  “Most Aggressive Rider”  – but this isn’t for someone who’s pulled on the boxing gloves. This award goes to the rider who put in the most attacks during the day, and you can pick him out because the number on his jersey the next day is red numbers on white instead of black numbers on white.
  • Cycling fans who line the roadsides often paint messages to their favorite riders on the roads themselves (you’ll see painted roads all along the Tour route).  One iconic image to look out for is the pitchfork, which is painted by Didi the Devil  – he’s a big-time cycling fan from Germany who’s actually sponsored. He paints pitchforks in several places leading up to where he actually positions himself that day, and you can’t miss him. He’s the big bearded guy wearing a devil’s costume, complete with red spandex tights.


Peter is the editor of France Travel Blog. He has traveled to France many times and is ready to share the knowledge in this travel guide for France.

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Epic Road Rides

Watching the Tour de France in person: essential tips for following the Tour de France!

Watching the Tour de France in person is a magical experience. The Tour is the most famous cycling event in the world and you get the chance to experience the electric atmosphere and history being made in front of your eyes.

Yes, the television coverage and aerial shots of chateaus, mountains and charming villages are fantastic, but being on the ground is something else. Following the Tour de France and spectating it live is something special.

Epic Road Rides reader, Ben Davies, knows quite a bit about this – he’s planned trips for him and his friends to spectate the Tour de France every year since 2016. He has kindly written this DIY Tour de France bike tour/spectator guide to help make it easier for anyone wanting to do the same.

Ben says: “My first year following the Tour was spent chasing my tail around France due to being “over enthusiastic” in my estimation of what was involved. I hope my mistakes will help me to assist so you can avoid the same pitfalls!”.

So without further ado, here’s Ben’s Tour de France spectator guide. Enjoy!

If you’re looking for an organised tour to watch the Tour de France, read this in-depth article .

1. How do you decide which stages of the Tour de France to watch in person?

My usual starting point is to look at the route map and the location of the stages.  I look for a number of stages that are close to a central location in order to avoid too much travel.

From there I look for well known places and try and plan a cycle route for us taking in “icons” and as much of each stage as we can get away with (before getting booted off the course – more on that below !).

We’ve watched everything from a Grand Depart to flat sprint stages and stages in the high mountains too – but these days we tend to miss out long flat stages as there’s not a lot of action. The peloton comes past at a rate of knots so you don’t get to see a great deal.

Most week-long trips would allow you to fit in each type of stage, though our favourites are the mountains. You can get close to the action, test yourself out with the riding and get enough time to see the riders pass slowly enough to pick individual favourites out. The publicity caravan also passes slowly enough to give more chance of being able to pick up some Tour souvenirs (AKA “Tour tat”)!

One of my top tips is to think about the riders’ rest days. For example, last year I did a bit of research in the Roadbook (more info below ) and found the various hotels the teams were allocated. I decided Mr Cavendish and team Di Data would benefit from our company the following day.  We got up early and went by the team hotel to check things out.  After a chat with the mechanics, who were busy working on the bikes, we discovered the guys would be setting off around 10:00am on a “spin”.  After some breakfast we made our way back to the hotel car park and joined the team for a ride round Lake Annecy – spectacular!  We also saw Movistar and AG2R out with groups of fans too. This was one of my favourite days ever on a bike!

A note of warning: if you do this, use your common sense. Give the riders room to do what they are there to do – ride.  Don’t get in their group or too close as they don’t want you to be responsible for a crash. Don’t be too pushy and pester them for selfies and autographs. When the moment looks right, then ask, preferably either at the start or end, not whilst they are taking a nature break (as someone did when we were there…)!

Chris Froome cycling the Tour de France 2016

2. What’s the best way of getting to the Tour from the UK?

Travelling across the Channel to France can be fairly cheap especially on the more unpopular timed crossings. However, be warned: the ferry companies often seem to raise the prices when the Tour is on as they know more people will want to cross.  Book early!

I use to book crossings as soon as the dates/routes/plan becomes clear.

For planning your trip across France, ViaMichelin gives cost options and alternative routes for specific vehicles.

3. How do you find out detailed information on each Tour de France stage?

I always download the “Official Roadbook” (the one issued to the teams) that becomes available on the Velorooms website .

The Roadbook shows profiles, timings, road closures, team hotels – the lot!  It’s a fantastic resource.

I usually print off the pages for the week we’re doing and take the relevant pages each day so I can refer back to them regarding locations and times etc.

4. How do you decide where to stay?

Once I’ve decided how long we’ve got and what area we want to focus on, I try to find a few possible locations spread over a few days of the Tour being in the particular area.

I use Google maps try and make sure the location to park the motorhome and base ourselves in is central to the routes we’re going to watch.  I use which is a specific motorhome parking app to search for recommended parking spots for the motorhome. However, during the Tour, I’ve found most towns and villages are very relaxed about parking presumably as they know you’re not going to be there too long.

I’ve previously parked in sports centres, supermarket and railway station car parks with no problems at all. I’ve been welcomed into strangers’ houses and even joined a village street party (at their request) to celebrate the Tour passing through that day. It was great – we were fed and plied with beer/wine!

Of course, if you’re not in a motorhome it’ll still be a similar process: you’ll be looking for accommodation that’s central to the stages you want to watch.

Example: in 2018, we drove from Calais down to Annecy for the Tour’s rest day there (more on rest days  above !). From there, a central point somewhere near Annecy around Albertville and Bourg St Maurice worked well, giving us opportunities to ride out to each day’s route, take in a climb or two and catch a start and a finish whilst not needing to move the motorhome between stages. It meant we could enjoy cycling each day, usually taking in as much of the route as we could, and avoid too much travelling.

Don’t do what I did in my first year spectating the Tour de France. Due to bad motorhome positioning, we ended up travelling each night until after midnight trying to catch the next day’s stage.  After watching the stage, we had to cycle back, wash, change, load the bikes and travel hundreds of miles plus try and eat somewhere along the way! It wasn’t much fun!

Small town on the Tour de France route perfect for spectating

5. How do you find accommodation and bike hire for your Tour de France spectator tour?

If you’re not in a motorhome, be aware that hotels and guest houses will get booked up very quickly once the route details are released by the organisers around October of the preceding year. This is particularly the case in the mountains and especially where the area you want to go is where the Etape du Tour is also being held.

In terms of bike hire, we’ve always taken our own bikes, but I’ve had friends who tried to hire bikes at Mt Ventoux over a Tour de France weekend and found they were sold out until the day after (when there were plenty available!). Admittedly this was an extremely busy location, but I think most places get booked up quickly when the Tour is in town. Again, book early!

6. How do you get to the Tour de France route on the day?

My advice is to cycle to the route and along as much of it as possible in order to scout out the best place to watch from (more on this below ).

I’ve found advertised Tour de France road closures are usually not too strict for cycling to your chosen viewpoint as they are meant for motor vehicles. That said, there are some very over-enthusiastic gendarmes that won’t let you past their posts once the “fermée” or “route barée” time kicks in.  They usually shout “pied” (walk) which we do until out of sight before hopping back on and continuing (if safe to do so) for as far as we can… Obviously we stay vigilant and if we hear any sirens, traffic or the caravan is near we dismount and get out of the way immediately.

At the summit of the HC Col du Pre

7. Do you have any tips for picking your spot to spectate the stage?

Places on iconic climbs such as Mt Ventoux, Alpe d’Huez etc get filled up very quickly, especially near the finish line.

We generally aim to ride as much of the climb/route as possible early on whilst looking for good viewpoints, bars, cafés or any vantage points (rocky outcrops or overlooking gardens etc) that would be good as the peloton passes.

It’s then fairly easy to drop back down to our chosen spot on that day’s route once we’ve completed as much of the route as we can. The beauty of having the bikes is that if our chosen spot turns out not to be good enough then we can move on to another option.

Check the Roadbook. For example, the “feed zone” offers a different experience of the Tour and a chance to chat with soigneurs and watch them interact with their teams. Feed zones also have areas where bidons are to be thrown away by the riders. Sometimes they’re not that busy meaning there’s plenty of bidons to go around.  The soigneurs sometimes have “spare” bidons and musettes that the riders didn’t or couldn’t take whilst in the zone.  Often, they’re not interested in carting them about or won’t get another chance to pass them to their riders, so will hand them out once the peloton has passed.

Another thing to look out for is if the route does a loop and this will allow you to see the peloton in action more than once. For example you watch from point A then as they cycle more of the loop you can use the Roadbook to check the times and cycle to point B to catch them again.

Also look out for large car parks at a depart/arrivee village.  These are often used to stock up the caravan with goodies and provide a great opportunity to blag some swag.

Avoid the crowds.

If a stage finishes on top of a mountain there is sometimes no access for the team coaches/trucks who are left at the foot of the climbs. The riders have to make their own way back down to the coaches by cycle – blowing their whistles so the crowds part – and it’s quite easy to wait a while and join them as they make their way back down.  We’ve ridden down off Planche des Belles Filles chatting with various stars – very memorable!

Spectators watching the Tour de France in person

8. What time should you get in position to watch the Tour come through?

This depends on how busy the location is. For example, Alpe d’Huez fills up from first thing in the morning, whilst lesser known stages are easy to get a spot on up to about an hour before the peloton comes through.

Occasionally we have been blocked by gendarmes and have been made to stay exactly where they say, but even then we’ve managed to move around a bit and found a better spot.

9. What should you take with you each day?

This depends on the length of your ride and what’s on route. Use Google Earth to do a bit of research beforehand and decide on supplies for your day.

There is normally a village of some sorts near to viewpoints where supplies can be bought, as well as local entrepreneurs that set up pop-up snack bars. However obviously they cannot be totally relied upon, so we also usually take some extra sandwiches and a few cans of pop/water in a rucksack which is replaced with Tour stuff (see below ) as the day progresses.

Make sure to take a bag or rucksack to put all your “Tour tat” in! They they throw loads out as the caravan passes through and everybody loves a madeleine or an LCL branded cap, right?!

Collection of items picked up on the Tour de France route after watching the Tour in person

10. Do you have any tips for how to be a good Tour de France spectator and make the most of your day?!

We’ve all seen the videos and pictures of spectators causing crashes whilst watching the Tour. The following “rules” should help make sure you don’t get caught up in disaster.

  • Don’t swing on or lean too far over the barriers. Riders passing close can get caught up in disaster this way.
  • Don’t leave it until the last minute to step back from your “brilliant” vantage point directly in front of an approaching rider.  Someone may be stood directly behind you; next thing you’re all on the tarmac. Not the best way to get your face on TV!
  • Be careful of camera straps, rucksacks and bags that may get caught, tripping you (and maybe the yellow jersey) up.
  • Take all your litter home, including gel wrappers, or find a convenient bin/bag to place them in.
  • Smoke bombs and flares… Really. Just don’t even think about it.

On a more positive note, I’d also suggest not spending too much time focusing (get it?!) on your pictures/videos. The peloton passes quickly in most places and if you’re concentrating on getting images then you’ll miss them. There’s always chance for a few snaps, just try not to miss the main event!

Once the peloton, and more specifically the “broom wagon”, has gone through there will be a car with a flashing headboard telling you the road is re-opened. At this point you’re free to cycle away. Beware that the roads can be very busy and there are plenty trying to imitate the descending skills of their heroes, though usually nowhere near as good!

Team car on the Tour de France route

11. Any final thoughts?

Don’t forget that the Tour will only take in certain climbs in certain areas that you may be in too.

For example, it’s a shame to be on the doorstep of the Ballon d’Alsace and only go up Planche des Belles Filles. So do some research in the area you plan to visit and maybe even take a day off from the Tour to tick off some bucket list adventures.

Epic Road Rides gives great information (the France cycling guides are all here ) and suggestions on various routes in your chosen area but and can also be useful resources.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short guide and that it helps you avoid some of our early mistakes.  If you would like any further information, then please just ask in the comments below.  Safe travels and enjoy your trip!

Big thanks to Ben for all his Tour de France tips! There are some really useful pointers in here and we hope you use them to have a fantastic trip!

Have you planned a DIY Tour de France spectator tour?

Have you got some tips for watching the Tour de France in person?

Any questions?

Let us know in the comments below!

And finally, if you want to go on a supported tour to watch the Tour de France, where all the planning is done for you, read this article .

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Ben Davies

Ben Davies is an Epic Road Rides reader who also runs Velomoho He got in touch to tell us about his Cinglés du Ventoux trip and his frequent trips to watch the Tour de France (check out the separate article on that here).

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2023 Tour de France: A visual guide to cycling’s most challenging race

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the number of competing teams in the Tour de France. The correct number is 22.

The 110th edition of the Tour de France , the most challenging and best-known bicycle race in the world, starts July 1 in Bilbao, Spain, and ends 2,115 grueling and painful miles later on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris on July 23.

In France, the tour is more than a three-week race – it's a cultural phenomenon . Ten million to 12 million racing fans will line the roads of the course to cheer on 176 riders among 22 teams.

Around the world, millions will watch on broadcast TV or streaming services. 41.5 million viewed the 2022 race on the French public service broadcaster France Télévisions alone.

And while nearly 200 riders compete, only one will win.

The race: More than 2,100 miles in 21 days

The Tour de France is actually a collection of 21 single-day races, called stages, over 23 days. (Two rest days are built in.) The stages range from:

  • Flat (8 stages): While the route is not always flat, racers usually ride together in a large group called a peloton . Flat stages end with riders breaking away by themselves or a large group sprinting together.
  • Hilly (4 stages): Considered more arduous than a flat stage but less difficult than a mountain stage.
  • Mountain (8 stages): First introduced in 1910, mountain stages are the most challenging. This year, riders will climb the 6,939-foot Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees.
  • Time trial (1 stage): Individual riders race against the clock. The 2023 time trial is 13.7 miles. The other stages average to 105 miles, and the longest stage is 130 miles.

Tour route is different every year

The Tour de France has been held annually – except for war years – since 1903. While the format stays the same, the route changes every year, alternating between a clockwise and counterclockwise circuit of France.

It's designed by two men, Christian Prudhomme , a former TV journalist who is general director of the tour, and Thierry Gouvenou , a former pro racer who is the tour's race director. Prudhomme decides the general route and Gouvenou maps out details , linking towns and cities together.

The tour was confined to France in the early years but has expanded beyond French borders. The Grand Départ , the start of the race, was held outside France for the first time in 1954, in the Netherlands.

Other nations have hosted the Grand Départ, including the U.K. in 2007 and 2014.

Since 1975, the final stage has ended in Paris . In 2024, however, the race will finish in Nice .

Do women compete in the Tour de France?

Women have competed, but not directly with men and not over the same distances. Women have raced on smaller editions of the tour over the years, once in 1955 and again from 1984 to 1989. That series was canceled over financial problems.

Other equivalent events such as la Grande Boucle Féminin were held, but these did not last.

The women's tour was revived in 2022 with 144 women competing in the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift , a smaller version of the men's event with 640 miles over eight days.

Femmes avec Zwift returns this year , with women riders racing eight days over a 594-mile course.

Which riders are favored to win this year?

The top three contenders according to Cycling News are:

How does a rider win the Tour de France?

The overall winner is the rider with lowest accrued time over the 21 stages of the race. It's possible to win the tour without winning a single stage – American rider Greg LeMond won in 1990 without a stage win. Roger Walkowiak of France won in 1956 without winning a stage.

Overall leaders wear a distinctive yellow jersey as long as they're in the lead. The jersey can be worn by a number of riders throughout the race. Its use was introduced in 1919.

There are also secondary honors, such as the award given to the rider who scores the most points, earned by finishing among the top 15 in a specific stage.

There's also the King of the Mountains award for the rider who gets the most points in categorized mountain climbs.

Domestiques are the tour's unsung heroes

Winning riders don't win by themselves. They get crucial support from teammates, called "domestiques," the French word for servants, who support the lead rider and the team overall.

Domestiques assist by:

  • Bringing food and water to teammates.
  • Helping leaders with flat tires and mechanical breakdowns, including giving top riders their own wheels or even bikes to continue the race.
  • Riding in front of top riders to provide a windbreak.
  • If a top rider falls behind, domestiques will lead him back to the pack.

The windbreak technique is called drafting, in which domestiques cut the wind ahead of the top rider. Cycling sources say the top rider conserves 15% to 40% of his energy in drafting.

Riding in front of the pack is exhausting. Domestiques often trade off places in front of the top rider.

How physically demanding is it?

The race is considered one of the most difficult athletic events in the world. Participants are:

Riders can be injured in collisions or crashes. Broken bones, concussions and dislocated shoulders are common.

What do the jersey colors signify?

Tour riders wear the distinctive uniforms of their teams, but you'll see four jerseys with special colors and significance.

Tour de France terms you should know

  • Peloton: A French term meaning "group." It refers to the main pack of riders.
  • Breakaway: One rider or a group of riders who have outdistanced the peloton.
  • Attack: When a rider or riders race away from the group.
  • Team leader: The best rider on the team.
  • Time trial: A race against the clock.
  • Rouleur: A steady rider with a consistent pace.
  • Slipstream: The relatively still air behind a rider, used by followers to overcome air resistance.
  • Drafting: Taking shelter in the slipstream of the rider ahead.
  • Sag wagon: A vehicle that picks up riders who are no longer able to continue.

What do the riders win?

The tour says, "A total of  2.3 million euros  (about $2.5 million) will be awarded to the teams and riders including €500,000 (about $531,820) to the final winner of the overall individual classification."

Who are the legends of the Tour de France?

Past multiple winners include:

  • Fausto Coppi | Italy, 1949, 1952
  • Jacques Anquetil | France, 1957, 1961-64
  • Eddy Merckx | Belgium, 1969-74
  • Bernard Hinault | France, 1978-79, 1981-82, 1985
  • Greg LeMond | U.S., 1986, 1989-90
  • Miguel Indurain | Spain, 1991-95
  • Chris Froome | Kenya, 2013, 2015-17

American Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France a record seven times from 1999 to 2005, but he was stripped of his victories by the International Cycling Union in 2012 over allegations of using illegal drugs. He admitted to years of performance-enhancing drug use to Oprah Winfrey in a televised interview. 

How to watch the Tour de France

Coverage of the 2023 Tour de France will be carried on :

  • NBC Sports: Will broadcast select parts of race.
  • Peacock : Will stream all race stages.
  • USA Network: Will show condensed live coverage.

SOURCE USA TODAY Network reporting and research; Associated Press; VeloNews;;;


Everything you need to know about cycling in France your independent guide

Tour de France 2024 route: Stage-by-stage guide

The 2024 tour de france will take place from  june 29 to july 21 – and it will be a truly unique event, starting in italy and finishing – for the first time – somewhere other than paris . .

Tour de France 2024 route stage by stage

  • Finding accommodation for the Tour de France
  • Finding bike hire for the Tour de France
  • Tour de France road closure information
  • Advice for watching the TDF in person
  • Advice for watching the TDF in Paris  (but not in 2024!)
  • Beginner's guide to the Tour de France
  • Riding Etape du Tour
  • 2024 Race Guide and Official Program

Tour de France 2024 route map

The 2024 Tour de France will be the 11th edition of the great race – and there are  few sure things in life: birth, death, taxes and the Tour de France ending on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. But not in 2024. For the first time, the race will finish in Nice – on the south coast of France – instead of Paris thanks to the 2024 Olympics Games, which start in Paris on July 26. 

The Tour runs from Saturday , June 29 to Sunday, July 21, so it was decided that authorities in Paris would have enough on their hands with the Olympics to handle the logistics of another major spectator event.

But it's not just the finish that will be new for 2024: the start – the Grand Depart – will be held in Italy for the first time. The Tour de France is back on Giro d'Italia territory for the 12th time but it's the first time the race has started this side of the border. 

The full route will be announced later in 2023 and details stage maps are usually then released each May online and  in the official race program (we'll post links to that once it's available) .

We have this page for Tour de France road closure information , which we also update with 2024 information after the 2023 race is done and dusted.

See here for accommodation near the route (again, it will be updated once we know the full 2024 route).

Where to find more useful information: the Official 2024 Tour de France Race Guide is the place to go. We'll include links here when it's available

Stage 1: saturday, june 29 - florence to rimini, 205km.

After leaving Florence, the peloton will roll through Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna to a seaside finale in Rimini. There will be some 3700 metres of climbing today. The route also dips into  the principality of San Marino, taking to 14 the number of countries that have hosted the Tour .

Stage 2: Sunday, June 30 -  Cesenatico to Bologna, 200km  

Say two starting near the station in Cesenatico – the final resting place of Marco Pantani. It's then on to another tough day of climbing on the road to Bologna .

Stage 2 Tour de France 2024

Stage 3: Monday, July 1 –  Piacenza to Turin, 225km   

Today will be a day for the sprinters  in Turin, the capital of Piedmont – a regular sprint finish on the Giro d'Italia .   

Stage 4: Tuesday, July 2 – Pinerolo to Valloire,  138km   

The Tour goes up with its first giant on the road: the Galibier at 2642m.  

Stage 4 Tour de France 2024 Galibier

Stage 5: Wednesday, July 3 – St-Jean-de-Maurienne to Saint-Vulbas, 177km

A sprint finish.

Stage 6: Thursday, July 4 – Macon to Dijon, 163km

A sprint finish with an 800m final stretch .

Stage 7: Friday, July 5 –  Nuits-Saint-Georges to Gevrey-Chambertin,  25km Individual Time Trial

An ITT through the vineyards of Burgundy.

Stage 8: Saturday, July 6 – Semur-en-Auxois to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, 176km

Five climbs in the first part of the stage could put a strain on some sprinters' legs.

Stage 9: Sunday, July 7 –  Troyes to Troyes, 199km

Fourteen sectors of white roads, 32km in total onto the gravel and dust.

Tour de France 2024 stage 9

Rest day: Monday, July 8 –  Orleans

Stage 10: Tuesday, July 9 – Orleans to  Saint-Amand-Montrond , 187km

The wind could play a major role, like in 2013 when unexpected echelons marked the stage .

Stage 11: Wednesday, July 10 –  Évaux-les-Bains to Le Lioran,  211km

Some 4350m of vertical gain, Néronne, the Puy Mary Pas de Peyrol, Pertus, Font de Cère.

Stage 11 2024 Tour de France

Stage 12: Thursday, July 11 – Aurillac to  Villeneuve-sur-Lot , 204km

The breakaway triumphed in Villeneuve in both 1996 and 2000 .

Stage 13: Friday, July 12 – Agen to Pau, 171km  

Pau, a Tour regular is here again.

Stage 14: Saturday, July 13 – Pau to Saint-Lary-Soulan Pla d'Adet, 152km

The first day in the Pyrenees, and a real challenge with famous climbs on the menu .

Stage 14: Pau to Saint-Lary-Soulan Pla d'Adet, 152km

Stage 15: Sunday, July 14 –  Loudenvielle to Plateau de Beille, 198km

Six climbs and 4850m of climbing for Bastille Day .

Stage 15 Tour de France 2024

Rest day: Monday, July 15 –  Gruissan

Stage 16: tuesday, july 16 –  gruissan to nimes, 187km.

The sprinters may be heavily tipped for success, but the Mistral can blow fiercely at this time of year and break up the peloton.

Stage 17: Wednesday, July 17 – Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Superdévoluy , 178km

An ideal route for a large breakaway, but the climbers will also have a chance to shine .

Stage 17 2024 Tour de France

Stage 18: Thursday, July 18 – Gap to Barcelonnette , 179km

Breakaway? Sprinters? It's anyone's guess .

Stage 19: Friday, July 19 –  Embrun to  Isola 2000, 145km  

The ultimate giant is back on the Tour: the Cime de la Bonette and its 2802m of altitude .

Stage 19 Tour de France 2024

Stage 20: Saturday, July 20 -  Nice to Col de la Couillole, 132km

This will be a  mountainous stage from the coast at Nice inland to Col de la Couillole.

This stage doubles as L'Etape du Tour sportive route on July 7. ( See the full route map here ).

2024 Tour de France Stage 20 Saturday, July 20 - Nice to Col de la Couillole, 132km

Stage 21: Sunday, July 21 - Monaco to Nice individual time trial, 35km   

A break with tradition and an enforced finish in Nice, on the southern coast of France, due to the 2024 Olympics taking over the capital, Paris this week. The  21st and final stage will be contested in a 35km individual time trial from the glitzy streets of Monaco to Place Masséna in Nice. For the first time in a long time, the last stage may not be purely ceremonial. The yellow jersey could be won – or lost – today. 

2024 Tour de France route Stage 21: Sunday, July 21 - Monaco to Nice individual time trial

Bike hire for watching the Tour de France

A reminder that if you need bike hire during the Tour de France you should book early. It ALWAYS sells out and it can be very hard to find quality carbon road bikes closer to the time.  More info here .

2024 Tour de France Race Guide

Get the official 2024 Tour de France Race Guide:  We'll post links here when it's released.

See here for bike-friendly accommodation

Related articles, 2024 tour de france program and race guide.

  • 2023 Tour de France program and race guide
  • Tour de France 2023 route: Stage-by-stage guide
  • Tour de France 2022 route: Stage-by-stage guide
  • 2019 Tour de France Official Race Guide
  • Tour de France 2021 route: Stage-by-stage guide
  • Tour de France 2020 route: Stage-by-stage guide
  • 2022 Official Tour de France program and race guide

On the blog

2024 Tour de France program and race guide

AVAILABLE TO ORDER NOW! The official Tour de France 2024 race program and guide includes all the route maps for each stage, plus stage start and end times, and team and rider profiles.

Posted: 23 Apr 2024

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