What the hell is the Ile de France? Well, it is a funny name, translated as the Island of France. Unless you’re a Francophile, you wouldn’t know that this is the official geopolitical region that encompasses Paris. By virtue of its containment of Paris, the region is the most visited region in France. Problem is, very few of those visitors leave Paris and its famous suburbs such as Versailles.
So, if you are into some hiking and cycling while visiting Paris you will definitely want to know that this region outside the city is fantastic for both! First, you can get outside of Paris very easy by RER train or SNCF Banlieu trains from any station serving the other provinces of France. Here are some of my suggestions based on personal experience:
Foret de Saint Germain en Laye – can be reached by RER or SNCF train. RER is easier, and there is a stop right at the edge of this huge park. It may be called a forest, and it is, but it is a carefully managed with straight rows of trees. No matter, the point is that there are many many trails great for hiking, running, or mountain biking. Now, you can take a bike on the RER train, just avoid the rush hours in Paris. Where can you get a bike in Paris – many places. Try “Paris a Velo”, or Roue Libre.
Road cycling in the region around Cergy-Pointoise: you can ride to places like Auvers dur Oise – famous Van Gogh painting and hangout – as well as Isle l’Adam and many, many more villages in the department. Here, I suggest you contact the tourist office for Ile de France for some free brochures and suggested cycling routes. Try Ile de France
Hiking/walking: numerous options. Of course, walking in Paris is about as good as it gets anywhere for urban walking scenery! If you have anything left and want to walk around; check out the castle of Chantilly and the medieval village of Senlis. There are some walking paths between the two which can both be reached by SNCF trains from Gare du Nord. Again, see free maps and brochures from Ile de France or even Paris tourist office.
Some closer options within the city include: Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne. Check with the office of tourism for suggestions as these parks are huge and also, you should confine your walking in these large parks to daylight hours.
Other very charming places to see: I suggest for you independent types for cycling to find your way around this area: Marne area between Meaux, Disney, all the way down to Provins. Wonderful green rolling countryside with lots of small little farm roads that are great for cycling. Go down to FNAC and get yourself a good IGN map of the Marne area east of Paris and pick your way around – its beautiful here!