Paris CDG Airport Layover Sightseeing

paris cdg airport layover sightseeing

Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG) in Paris is located a minimum of an hour outside of the city center, making quick layovers in Paris a bit more time consuming. However, should you find yourself with over seven hours at CDG, you may want to make the effort to explore what is arguably the most romantic and magical city on earth. While a proper visit to Paris really does need more than a few hours, during a layover you can at least rest your eyes on the Eiffel Tower, explore the Louvre or wander the charming cobblestone streets of l’Ile de la Cité. Find a moment to squeeze in some wine and cheese at one of these iconic sites to round off the Parisian experience, before continuing onwards with your journey. Check out our guide below for information on what to do and how to do it!

Airport Overview

Unfortunately, Charles de Gaulle (CDG) has a reputation for being one of Europe’s worst airports, which makes layovers here less than ideal depending on which terminal you are using. However, given the lengthy connection between CDG and the city, if your layover is less than six hours, you are likely best to stay put. Given how long it takes to navigate the three terminals and eight satellite terminals, you may find the hours slip away quite quickly! Thankfully the airport is making a few efforts to become a bit more interesting – and French – so keep your eyes open for light therapy rooms and the Sound Corner as you aimlessly wander. For more information on the airport itself, check out our Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport Guide.

Sightseeing Options

Below are a few essential sights.

Eiffel Tower

eiffel tower

On a quick visit to Paris, it seems almost essential that you visit the city’s most iconic monument: the Eiffel Tower. Erected in 1889 for the city’s World Fair, today it is the most-visited paid monument on the planet. For many, a walk around the base and a picnic in its shadow on the Champs de Mars is completely satisfying. However, it is also possible to ascend to a number of different floors in the tower, for sensational views of the city. Complete your visit to the tower with a quick stroll along La Seine, and perhaps a glass of wine or champagne as the tower sparkles with lights in the evening.

Time Required: If you only wish to sit at the bottom of the Eiffel tower, a half hour should be plenty of time to walk the base and take a few pictures. If you do want to go up, give yourself a few hours. The elevator ride to the top is short – but the queues to go up can be lengthy. Note that this quote does not include travel time to and from the airport.

How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required.

The Louvre

louvre

The glass pyramid in front of the Louvre is perhaps Paris’ second most iconic monument, and the museum happens to be one of the world’s largest and single most visited ones on the planet! Of course most famously, it is home to Leonardo da Vinci’s famed Mona Lisa among other classic works of art. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, a former home of the French monarchy. Wandering the elaborately adorned hallways alone proves to be remarkable experience in and of itself, which is only further complimented by standing beside the Venus of Milo sculpture. The museum is located in the heart of the city, meaning that a visit here can also be combined with a stroll along La Seine, a walk through the Tuileries Gardens.

Time Required: The Louvre is massive, and fully exploring it could take a lifetime. For a quick layover visit, you’d be wise to budget 1 – 2 hours, depending on how thoroughly you wish to explore the various exhibits and the museum surroundings. Ticket lines can add to the overall time as well. Note that this does not include travel time to and from the airport.

How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required.

Ile de la Cité

ile de la cite

For a taste of classic French culture, shopping and cuisine, Ile de la Cité in the center of La Seine might be the perfect place to explore. The island’s most famous monument is of course the Notre Dame, but it is surrounded by a series of charming cobblestone streets that lead to the Palais de Justice and St. Chappelle Church. Stunning flats, delightful boutiques and sensational restaurants connect these treasured sights, which inevitably makes this a wonderful spot to stroll and window shop.

Time Required: We would recommend planning to spend at least two hours at l’Ile de la Cité, assuming you hope to see a few major sights, do a bit of shopping and visit a restaurant. More time of course gives you more flexibility. This estimate does not include transport time.

How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required.

Transportation

CDG is unfortunately quite far away from the city center. Both public and private transit options take a minimum of an hour to reach a primary terminal, with connections onwards adding a bit more time. If planning to visit the city, be sure to give yourself a healthy cushion for time.

Public transit options include:

  • Light train RER-B (stations at all terminals): This line connects CDG to central Paris (Gare du Nord) and the suburbs in roughly an hour. For fares and schedules: RER-B Website
  • Roissybus (stations in Terminal 2): Shuttle service that connects CDG with Paris (Opéra station) in roughly an hour.
  • Cars Air France line 2 (Terminal 2): Daily shuttle service between CDG and central Paris in roughly an hour

Private transit options include:

  • Taxis (All Terminals, Arrivals Level): Taxi stands available throughout the airport providing transfers into the city center and beyond

Before You Go: Layover Tips

Now that you are motivated and excited for your mini layover vacation, just make sure to check a few final logistical concerns off your list before you fully commit.

  • Do you need to organize a visa to leave the airport? Requirements change frequently and for each nationality, so be sure to seek out current details on the availability, cost and procedures of obtaining a transit visa.
  • When is your next flight’s check-in time? Make sure you double check with your airline exactly when you need to be at the airport – and plan your layover accordingly.
  • What are security wait times like at the airport? Some airports are notorious for long security wait-times, so be sure to do a bit of research in advance and factor that into your overall time-budget.
  • What’s happening with your luggage? When you check in to your first flight, be sure to confirm whether your luggage is checked through or needs to be picked up between your connecting flights.

Other Useful Resources

Finally, here are a few handy resources to help you plan your layover even more thoroughly:

buy a lounge pass