Cheer on Wiggo with our quick guide to getting to Paris this weekend

Planes, trains, bikes and automobiles to the Tour finish on the Champs Elysees

by John Stevenson   July 20, 2012  

Eiffel tower.jpg

Fancy watching Brad Wiggins and Team Sky make their triumphant procession round the Champs Elysees when Wiggins becomes the first Brit to win the Tour de France on Sunday? It's not too late to hot-foot it to Paris by plane, train or automobile, or even, if you're feeling very keen and quick and live in the South-East, by bike.

Even a regular Tour de France stage is an amazing occasion, taking over the start and finish towns and with literally hundreds of thousands of people lining the route, partying and picnicking as they wait for the riders to flash past. The finale in Paris is unique because the circuits of the Champs Elysees make for a fantastic spectacle as the huge crowd cheers on the survivors of the world's greatest bike race.

For us Brits, the only way it could be better this year is if Cavendish wins the final sprint. He might not have quite the punch this year, but given he's taken the last three Champs Elysees sprints, and whole might of Team Sky will be focused on delivering him a fourth final-stage win, we wouldn't bet against him.

Convinced you should be in Paris on Sunday? What are your options? For starters you should aim to be arriving in Paris on Saturday evening so you can get up early and get a spot on the barriers to watch the race. The riders are due to arrive at between 15:44 and 15:54 but fans will have been there for hours by then. Take food, water, a hat and sun block – unlike the UK, France has sunshine (another good reason to go!)

Riding

If you're going to ride you probably want to get going, oh, about now. There are two 'official' routes for a London to Paris dash though of course there's nothing to stop you making up your own or mixing it up and taking the train some of the way.

Using the Dover-Calais ferry the route is a challenging 240 miles (385km). Alternatively, the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry brings the riding distance down to 156 miles (250km)

Flying

Not as hardcore, but rather more practical and we found plenty of tickets still available. At the time of writing Easyjet still had one spot left on its 19:00 flight from Luton to Charles de Gaulle for £125, and British Airways had seats on its 19:15 flight from Heathrow to Orly. We like Skyscanner for finding last minute cheap flights.

Driving & ferry

Get up early Saturday and head for Dover. Catch the 10:15 DFDS Seaways crossing to Calais and you'll have time for a nice lunch on the other side before completing the  trip to Paris. Cost is £184 for 2 adults and car return.

Alernatively, there's the evening sailing with LD Lines from Newhaven to Dieppe for £152.50. It sails at 23:00  and arrives at 04:00 with just 100 miles to drive to Paris.

Check out Ferry to France for prices.

The Chunnel

There are Channel Tunnel crossings still available for Saturday too, from £100 to £157. You could even get on very early Sunday morning, make it to Paris in time, then zoom back Sunday evening.

Eurostar

The luxury option, but an absolute doddle, getting the train from St Pancras to Paris and back will probably set you back about £300 at this late date, but you do get to watch the French countryside whizz by at 186 mph!

Parking

Bear in mind that parking in Paris can be a nightmare (or a great spectator sport if you enjoy watching people tap bumpers to squeeze into implausible spaces). If you're going to take your car, then plan ahead with parking and check out Eurotunnel's park and ride tips.

Hotels

Even the Tour de france doesn't manage to fill Paris's 150,000+ hotel beds, so there are still places to sleep available. We used expedia to find rooms from £105 at the three-star Doisy Etoile to £176 at the four-star Hidden Hotel Rating on the Rue de l'Arc de Triomphe.

No doubt road.cc readers will have loads of tips for travel and cheap accommodation in Paris, so let's have them!

Where to watch

The focus of the day is the Champs Elysees and there's no getting away from it: it's a great place to watch. The ideal spot is near one of the big screens so that you can follow the action as well as simply watch it flash past.

A fair chunk of the Champs is given over to corporate hospitality and VIP areas so you'll need to look for a spot with easy public access. For the last few years that has been down towards the Place de La Concorde. The best bet might be to start at the middle and work away from the VIP stands to find a spot.

You'll need to get there fairly early to get a spot near the front; there are often other entertainments and races before the main event arrives.

The Champs Elysees isn't the only spot worth checking out though. The Rue de Rivoli and the Quai des Tuleries also offer good vantage points and are on the finishing circuit. The peloton enters that final circuit via the Quai des Tuleries and the final kilometre Flamme Rouge is on the Rue de Rivoli.

Paris doesn't like to lose its cool too much over a big event, especially one that comes there every year. Away from the Champs Elysees the crowds won't really start to throng the barriers until surprisingly close to the start of the action. Be aware that if you lose your place, though, it's gone. Some argue there isn't much point in getting to the Champs Elysees too early because it can be hard to defend your turf amid the general craziness.

We'd suggest that whatever spot you choose, you take a fairly relaxed approach, soak up the atmosphere, enjoy being a part of British cycling history (hopefully) and bask in the smug feeling of being able to tell your friends 'I was there'.

Another way to enjoy the day is to catch the race somewhere on its approach to the city centre, but not on the final circuit, then repair to a bar or cafe (making sure they have the TV on) and enjoy it all from there.

Wherever you choose, one thing is guaranteed: you'll have a great time!

10 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Arise Sir Brad!

cycle more, work less!

posted by trek7000 [46 posts]
20th July 2012 - 12:11

4 Likes

OK, but for those of us who can't get to Paris, where are the favoured UK vantage points? I'm in the south-east so I'm going to head for LMNH.

posted by robert_obrien [118 posts]
20th July 2012 - 14:49

3 Likes

Currently on the Eurostar, looking forward to seeing Cav take the stage on Sunday, a repeat of today's stage would be perfect!

posted by bikewithnoname [33 posts]
20th July 2012 - 15:49

3 Likes

Hi Robert,

Here's a list of pubs, and clubs we know of showing the Tour live on Sunday

http://road.cc/content/news/62216-tour-de-france-parties-where-go-watch-...

If anyone knows of any more please add them in

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4160 posts]
20th July 2012 - 17:09

5 Likes
ColT's picture

posted by ColT [225 posts]
20th July 2012 - 19:15

3 Likes

Crowds disperse at the end and leave more ringside seats for the procession of all teams at the end - the yellow jersey team going round last of all.

posted by paulbetts1968 [51 posts]
21st July 2012 - 7:35

6 Likes

ColT - doh! Fixed.

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [1235 posts]
21st July 2012 - 9:56

0 Likes

"Some argue there isn't much point in getting to the Champs Elysees too early because it can be hard to defend your turf amid the general craziness."

I second that. Couple of years ago I witnessed a gang of french old ladies push a couple of brits over the barriers in a row over a viewing spot (to be fair the brits were acting like d*cks and throughly deserved it). Took a couple of gendarmes to calm things down.

I found it relatively easy to find a spot on the Champs, but you will need to get there a good couple of hours in advance, and don't expoect to be able to wander off for a beer and still retain your spot!

I'd recommend getting off the tube at Etoile Charles de Gaulle (the Arc de Triomphe, basically) and walking down from there. Getting off at the Champs Elysees station will bring you out right into the busiest bit, where all the corporate stuff is.

posted by chris75018 [100 posts]
21st July 2012 - 10:41

4 Likes

Thanks for the list of pubs. Much more convenient than LMNH. How is everyone getting the time off? You can't all be orphans AND divorcees. I have a disinterested wife, two indolent daughters and an overgrown hedge. At two-ish I'm going to have to give it the Capt Oates...'I'm going outside...'

posted by robert_obrien [118 posts]
21st July 2012 - 23:03

4 Likes

BTW I know he's a cyclist but from today's Guardian...
'Four-time Olympic gold medalist Sir Chris Hoy believes a Tour de France victory from Bradley Wiggins would be ‘one of the greatest achievements by a British sportsman ever’.'

posted by robert_obrien [118 posts]
21st July 2012 - 23:22

3 Likes