Burgundy is a beautiful region in France known for its vast vineyards and delicious wines. In the idyllic landscape of rolling hills, there are so many picturesque villages, castles, abbeys and hundreds of centuries-old wineries. Burgundy is not only a popular destination in France for culture and wine lovers; nature lovers will also find plenty to enjoy there. Hikers often head for the Morvan thanks to its vast forests and lakes, whereas cycling enthusiasts particularly enjoy the area along the Loire river: the slightly less hilly, south-western part of Burgundy. In this blog, we’ll take you on our June trip through the cycling mecca, Burgundy on the Loire.
Burgundy on the Loire in a nutshell
In southwestern Burgundy lie the ‘départements’ of Nièvre and Saône-et-Loire. These regions are particularly well-known among hikers for the beautiful natural area of the Morvan but this area is also a favourite destination for culture vultures. There are many historic castles that adorn the landscape. You’ll also find old, particularly picturesque towns and villages, such as Autun, Chalon-sur-Saône, La Charité-sur-Loire and Nevers.
Furthermore, Burgundy’s Loire region is home to world-renowned wineries. Admittedly, this wine region is somewhat less well-known than, say, the Côte d’Or in Burgundy. But when we drop names like Pouilly-Fumé or Pouilly-sur-Loire among wine connoisseurs, their ears visibly perk up. Not surprising, really, because the mainly white wines from Nièvre, for instance, are of superb quality. In between cycling, we visited some wineries and tried a few tastings. Later in this blog, we’ll discuss them in more detail.
Biking through Burgundy on the Loire
In south-western Burgundy, you will find an extensive network of cycling paths and routes. The routes lead through idyllic landscapes with picturesque villages, beautiful castles and many vineyards. The big advantage of cycling in Burgundy on the Loire is that it is not too hilly. This makes this cycling area suitable for cycling enthusiasts of all levels. The main routes are part of the EuroVelo 6, a cycling route from the Black Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
The EuroVelo 6, also known as the river cycling route, is one of Europe’s most iconic cycling routes. This route follows the course of several small and three major European rivers: the Danube, the Rhine and the Loire. With a total length of over 3,600 kilometres, the river cycling route offers a great diversity of landscapes. Counted from the east, the French part of the route starts in Mulhouse (near Basel). The finish is then in Nantes, where the Loire flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The EuroVelo 6 also passes through Burgundy. Thus, the route first follows the Saône to Chalon-sur-Saône and then the Canal du Centre to Digoin. After Digoin, the route heads north parallel to the Loire. Just below Bonny-sur-Loire, you then leave Burgundy. These are the two main cycling routes in Burgundy on the Loire:
Canal du Centre – Cycle Route
The Canal du Centre Cycling Route is one of the most popular bike routes in Burgundy for good reason. Every year, thousands of cycling enthusiasts from all over the world travel the nearly 120 kilometres. The picturesque route takes its name from the Canal du Centre: a canal built in the 18th century to connect the Saône and Loire rivers.
The Canal du Centre Cycle Route passes through breathtaking landscapes and picturesque villages and towns. Think of Givry, Couches and Saint-Léger-sur-Dheune.
You’ll also pass interesting historical sites. Like the beautiful city of Chalon-sur-Saône, located on the river Saône. This city has a rich architectural heritage. Its historic centre has charming cobbled streets, ancient buildings and beautiful churches.
Another attraction on the route is the castle of Rully. This square keep from the 12th century is beautifully situated in the middle of a vineyard. In addition, don’t miss out on a visit to the medieval town of Saint-Gengoux-le-National. This town is also on the Mâconnais-Beaujolais wine route, but also partly on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella. Further down the route is the charming town of Digoin. This is where the Canal du Centre meets the Loire. A special feature of Digoin is especially the canal bridge over the Loire. Built in 1834, this canal bridge is accessible to boats, cyclists and pedestrians. By the way, a similar canal bridge – the Pont Canal du Guétin – can be found in Cuffy near Nevers. Cuffy is the official starting point of the ‘Loire à Vélo’ cycling route.
Cycling route ‘Loire à Vélo’
One of France’s most famous and popular cycling routes is the ‘Loire à Vélo’. Here, you follow the beautiful, nature-rich banks of the Loire, which, at 1,012 kilometres, is France’s longest river. The starting point is in Cuffy, near Nevers in Nièvre but just on the other side of the Loire. The end point is 800 kilometres away, in Nantes on the Atlantic Ocean. Only a small part of the signposted route actually passes through Burgundy.
During our visit to south-western Burgundy, we rode part of the ‘Loire à Vélo’. What struck us were the particularly well-maintained cycle paths. It is wonderfully quiet. This is partly because the stretches right along the banks of the Loire are completely car-free. What’s more, there are hardly any ups and downs. This makes the route particularly doable even for people without an e-bike.
We have to be honest, though, that some stretches along the Loire can be a bit boring for that reason. At least if you are an avid cyclist and do not shy away from cycling in the mountains. Still, what makes the route very worthwhile for us is that you do visit many picturesque towns. Including Nevers and La Charité-sur-Loire, which we will blog about soon. You also pass hundreds of vineyards in the AOCs of Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-sur-Loire. If – like us – you can enjoy a (particularly) good glass of wine, be sure to visit some wineries there.
Cyclorail du Sancerrois
Bike part done, but you can still pedal a bit more? Then take a ride over France’s longest railway bridge after your cycling route! From Domaine de Port Aubry near Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire, you can take a beautiful trip across the railway on a steel pillion bike. Sure, this is of a totally different order than regular cycling. But we had so much fun on our trip that we definitely wanted to share our adventure with the Cyclorail du Sancerrois.
Click on the picture for a video of our bike ride over the railroad bridge
From the starting point, you first cross the 826-metre-long railway bridge over the Loire. The ride continues through a wooded area but also between vineyards. You cross two more bridges: a bridge over a tributary of the Loire and a 40-metre-high viaduct overlooking Saint Satur. The route is 13 kilometres long in total, namely 6.5 kilometres out and also 6.5 kilometres back.
If you still have time to spare during your cycling holiday in Burgundy on the Loire, this is an activity not to be missed! What made it so special for us was the natural surroundings and the stunningly beautiful views. Apart from that, it was also just great fun!
The Nièvre wine region: fantastic wines from Burgundy on the Loire
Earlier, we visited the world-famous Côte d’Or region, in eastern Burgundy. The wine region is particularly known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. These grape varieties thrive on the Côte d’Or’s chalky soils and temperate climate. During our trip through Burgundy on the Loire, we were introduced to the Nièvre wine region. The Côte d’Or and Nièvre are both in Burgundy and have a similar climate. Yet there are important differences between the wines produced by the regions.
The wine region of Nièvre mainly produces white wines, mainly made from the grape varieties Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The soils in Nièvre consist mainly of pebbles and clay, giving the wines a slightly different taste and character than those from the Côte d’Or. The wines from Nièvre tend to be slightly fresher and livelier than those from Côte d’Or.
Whatever your preference, be sure to visit one of the many wineries. Having trouble choosing? In Pouilly-sur-Loire, there is a great information centre with an innovative museum. You learn more here about the AOCs of Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-sur-Loire. You can also do a wine tasting here. Prefer wine tasting at a winery? There are numerous options for this in Nièvre. Where we went was Domaine Langlois. The couple Catherine and Michel Langlois have been running this domain since 1996. They now manage 17 hectares of vineyards in Pouilly-Fumé and Coteaux du Giennois. Be warned: the wines they serve here are particularly delicious! So, our advice would be to plan your wine tasting after the cycling day.
We made this trip including bike tours at the invitation of Burgundy Tourism. We compiled the content of the blog independently and objectively based on our own impressions
Practicalities for your cycling holiday through Burgundy on the Loire
Burgundy is located in the western part of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. To the west of Burgundy is the Centre-Val de Loire region.
Want to cycle in Burgundy on the Loire with your own bike? Then the car is the best option. Otherwise, the train is a comfortable alternative. You travel very easily via Paris to Nevers.
Spring and autumn lend themselves best to a (cycling) holiday in Burgundy. This is because it can get quite hot in the summer months. In addition, August is a busy and therefore expensive month to travel in France.
Yes indeed! There are several transport services that can take your luggage to your next accommodation on the route. This is great because cycling with little luggage will relieve your calves and legs. On the whole route from Nevers on the ‘Loire à Vélo’ to Nantes you will have to rely on Bagafrance. You can also use the services of Deliverbag.
But perhaps the most ideal way is to organise things through accommodation affiliated to ‘Accueil Vélo’. Such accommodation offers not only luggage services (free or chargeable), but also other services. For instance, they have covered and locked bicycle storage, as well as a complete bicycle repair kit, facilities to wash and dry clothes, and facilities for charging your e-bike.
In Burgundy, the regional rail network (TER) is well developed. Provided there is space, you can bring your bike for free. Nor do you have to dismantle it.
In Burgundy on the Loire, there are several bike hire companies where you can rent quality bikes. So, you don't necessarily need to bring your own bike. On the France vélo Tourisme website, you will find a comprehensive list of locations along the cycling routes described in this blog.
After a day of cycling, you obviously need to replenish your energy reserves. The beauty of Burgundy is that this can be done in culinary, Burgundian fashion almost everywhere in the region! Treat yourself to authentic French dishes in local restaurants, such as coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon and escargots. Don't forget to try the famous local cheeses from Burgundy. And find a pairing wine to go with it! A cycling holiday in Burgundy on the Loire is not only a feast for the eyes, but certainly for the taste buds too.
There are plenty of accommodation options available. From charming bed & breakfasts and cosy inns to luxury hotels and holiday homes, there is something for everyone. Because of the extensive facilities of the ‘accueil vélo’ especially for cyclists, the advice is to stay mainly at such accommodations. The accommodations are either on the cycling route or up to five kilometres away from it.
- Accommodations with ‘accueil vélo’ label around La Charité-sur-Loire.
- Other accommodations near La Charité-sur-Loire
- Accommodations with ‘accueil vélo’ label around Pouilly-sur-Loire. TIP: We stayed at La Pouillyzotte, another accommodation with the accueil vélo seal of approval. Very pleasant, relaxed bed & breakfast. Ask for one of the two cabins in the backyard!
- Other accommodations near Pouilly-sur-Loire