Tour de France

Düsseldorf to Paris – Tour de France Destination Guide

Touring across nearly 2500km with around 200 participants across 23 days, Tour de France is one of the largest sporting events on the planet. It began in 1903 with just 60 cyclists and has survived two world wars. Several billion people watch the event, either in person or in any of the 188 countries it is broadcasted.

Commencing in Düsseldorf with the Grand Départ, the race takes a cross-continental route through Germany and Belgium, ending in France at the iconic Champs-Elysees. The atmosphere hovers amongst viewers and cyclists alike, vibrating across the tarmac and whistles between the grass. You can almost hear it buzzing, transported from destination to destination on the spokes of the wheels of the riders.

Following this route, at least in part, gives you access to breath-taking, and often rather unexplored, areas of Europe.

Düsseldorf

Firmly established as an artistic and cultural hub, Düsseldorf has a thriving art and fashion scene. Its art academy, founded in 1773, has set the groundwork for Düsseldorf’s cultural legacy, with museums and galleries galore. Fashion events take place throughout the year as students and upcoming designers flock here for inspiration from both the culture and the architecture, which is almost a fashion statement in itself.

The post-modern structures that continue to be erected here symbolise the new, progressive Germany at the forefront of art and commerce, alike. Expect impressive and eccentric buildings. The playhouse, designed in the 1960s, is particularly interesting. It’s curved, layered design seems to represent the free-flowing movement of art, theatre and performance within, with an all-white exterior that portrays the playhouse as a blank sheet to be coloured by the creations of artists.

However, take a walk just further down the Rhine and you’ll feel as if you’ve time-travelled as you arrive in the Altstadt, or old town. Not only is the nightlife here as youthful and vibrant as ever, with 260 bars in this area alone, but the architecture is just stunning. St Lambertus Church and Neanderkirche Bolkerstrasse dominate the skyline above the Rhine.

At the very north of Düsseldorf is Kaiserswerth, a district that dates back to the 8th century. The remarkable castle and church ruins here make for an interesting wander. Depicting the infinity of time as greenery begins to root itself in what was once the foundations of a revered establishment, it is a demonstration that ‘Nothing beside remains. Round the decay/ Of that colossal Wreck’.

You may be surprised at how you enjoy the local dish, pork knuckles. Make sure to wash it down with a stein of beer in a local Keller, a German tavern, for a truly authentic experience.

Liège

Sitting on the banks of the beautiful River Meuse, Wallonia’s largest city, Liège is the next main stop for cyclists on the Tour.

Once again, architecture is a prominent feature in this central Belgian city. The Curtius Museum, a renovated 17th century mansion exhibiting archaeological artefacts and art, attempts to explain the history of art from the prehistoric age to modern day. The huge, lobster-red structure is rather difficult to miss. Make sure you give yourself enough to fully explore this interesting museum.

Fall into a fairytale at Château de Jehay. Dating back to 1550, the unusual grey and white brickwork makes it seem all the more celestial, especially as looks as though it almost sinks into the water below. The grounds span 22 hectares and the Château, itself, boasts one of the largest collections of English art in the country.

Take a trip underground to the Blegny-Mine. Much of Liège’s economy depended on the mining industry here, though, as the mines have now closed, you can now visit them as a historical location. It is, in fact, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hiding 30-60m below the surface. Tour guides are retired miners so you can really get a taste of their experience, with stories you would not hear anywhere else.

 

Photo credit: Dennis Jarvis

Longwy

Perhaps the quietest town on the route, Longwy in France is the last stop before Paris.

Officially built as a city in 1679, as commissioned by Louis XIV, a hexagonal fortification was constructed in order to act as a defence from Luxembourg’s army. Walk along at least part of the fortress to really absorb the city’s historical heritage.

After you’ve explored the centre, take a stroll up Mont Saint Martin for the medieval church at the very top. From here you can see France, Luxembourg and Belgium, making it one of the best viewpoints in the region.

A rather quirky interest affiliated with Longwy is their pottery making. For a history of this visit the Museum of Enamels and Earthenware or find a local, independent pottery shop to see art deco designs on perfectly-moulded earthenware.

 

Photo credit:  Esther Westerveld 

Paris

And finally, we reach Paris.

The Tour de France route actually gets in most of the capital’s top sights. So why not try it for yourself? With bicycle hire available on almost every street, ignore the underground and see the city in the fresh Parisian air.

Cycle along the Seine and take your pick of world-famous monuments to discover. Sitting on the Seine you’ll find the strikingly Gothic cathedral, Notre Dame. The almost white exterior depicts an innocence that is immediately made debateable by the more extravagant design, demonstrating perhaps the religious dichotomies of light and dark, good and evil. From here follow the Seine until you reach the Louvre, the world’s largest museum. Simply wandering round the grounds is impressive, but housed inside is some of the finest art on the planet. Cycle through Jarden des Tuileries until you reach Place de la Concorde, the public square which saw a flood of bloodshed during the Revolution.

Head up to the Grand and Petit Palaces, just a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe. However, don’t head there just yet. Instead, cycle over the famous Alexandre III Bridge, marked by the enormous golden structures at the head of it. Once you’re on the other side of the Seine, you’re a short bike ride from the Eiffel Tower. If you time it right you could even have your lunch or dinner as a picnic on Champs des Mars, gazing up at the structural wonder of the Tower as you feast on French delicacies including brie, fresh baguettes and, of course, a glass of wine.

A journey back over the Invalides Bridge will take you over toward Champs-Elysees and the final leg of your own journey. Cycle to the summit of this luxurious and wealthy avenue, under perfectly-pruned trees and passed designer stores and high-end hotels. At the apex of the street is the famous Arc de Triomphe, the finish line of the Tour de France. Representing victory after a long and difficult venture, it is the perfect image for the end of the Tour de France.

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