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Unique things to do in Paris on a short layover

Paris has so much to offer visitors. From world-class museums to beautiful gardens and famous sites seen in films, there is much to see and do. Although it is the biggest city of France, Paris is compact and easy to navigate by metro or by bike. Even if you are on a short layover in CDG airport, there is plenty of unique Paris to experience. Here’s a taste . .

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Take a (unique) walk along the Seine

As big as Paris is, it is a surprisingly walkable city. One can spend a day on foot and not tire of the sights. Since you are on a short day layover and CDG is not the most exciting airport in the world, head out for a unique stroll in the City of Light.
Take the RER B and Metro (42min) and get out at Cité metro station. You’ve just landed to Ile de la Cité, the heart of Paris. From here look for Notre Dame’s twin towers, this will be the starting point of this unique walk.

Admire Notre Dame‘s main facade, this cathedral is a jewel of Gothic architecture and one of Paris’ main sights. The cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady of Paris (Notre Dame de Paris). You can see her represented on the rose-window.

Paris layover

If you look now at the ground, you should be able to find quickly (there are always some tourists around) a plaque indicating France’s km 0. All the French roads are measured from this point.

Paris layover

Now turn 180°, take rue d’Arcole and cross the bridge. You just reached Seine’s right bank.
Start walking North-West, always having the river on your left side. From here you have a better view of Ile de la Cité and you can admire sights like La Conciergerie (the building with the pointed towers), beautiful Parisian architecture or Pont Neuf (New Bridge), actually the oldest bridge in Paris.

Paris layover

Few minutes’ walk after Pont Neuf you will find the Louvre. Originally built as Royal Palace, it is today one of the best museums in the world. The Louvre deserves more than a short layover but still you can admire Pei’s glass pyramid located on its inner court.

Paris layover

Here we propose to leave the Seine’s right bank and enjoy a pleasant walk along the famous Tuileries Gardens. Designed for Queen Catherine de Medici in 1564, these gardens were re-landscaped in 1664 to give them their current French formal garden style. Enjoy the green and flowers but also some sculptures by Maillol, Rodin and Giacommetti. If you need some rest, the gardens’ two ponds are perfect for relaxation. This green stroll ends at Place de la Concorde with the Obelisk. Brought by Napoleon directly from Egypt, it was supposed to be a souvenir for his beloved Josephine.

Paris layover

For the last leg of the walk, cross Pont Alexandre III to the Seine’s left bank. The golden cupola just in front of you belongs to Les Invalides, a military hospital and Napoleon’s final resting place. Go on walking West, along quai Branly, to reach (or get a closer view of) the Eiffel Tower for your last selfies. By now, it’s probably time to go back to the airport so take the metro at École Militaire station to board on your last flight.

Paris layover

Enjoy Montmartre’s (unique) bohemian atmosphere 

Stretch those legs before getting back on your last plane and tour the city’s most famous “quartier” to enjoy its bohemian atmosphere. Montmartre has everything we imagine when we think about Paris: street painters, nice cafés &  crêperies and the enchanting sound of the accordions.

Take the RER B and Metro and get out at Anvers metro station (42min). From there, rue de Steinkerque takes you directly to Sacré Coeur Basilica, on the top of the hill. My suggestion here is to climb the hill for unique views of Paris and maybe a quick visit to the basilica. After that forget maps and itineraries and just get lost through these winding alleys to soak up Montmartre’s bohemian atmosphere.

Paris layover

Admire unique views of Paris from its (unique) sights

Climb the stairs of Paris’ most iconic monuments for unique views of the city. Our favourite ones are Notre Dame’s bell towers, Pantheon’s cupola (only from April to mid-October), Tour de Montparnasse, and Arche de Triomphe. Same, Eiffel Tower could be also a good option but the queue to climb is usually too long (and anyway, you want to have the Eiffel Tower on your pictures).

Paris layover

Unique diner & drinks

Diner time? If you found a great deal on a connecting flight through Paris, skip the airport restaurants and head into the city. For a unique meal on your short layover in Paris head to Les Ombres, a restaurant located on the rooftop terrace of the Musée du quai Branly. Apart from its good French cuisine the unique view over the Eiffel Tower will delight you.

Just looking for a unique place to have a drink and wash down that terrible airplane food? With a short layover in Paris it can’t just be any bar. Paris has some beautiful rooftops to enjoy unique views with your favourite cocktail.

In summer time the rooftop bars are the Parisians’ place to be. Try Le Perchoir du Marais (37 rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris), the most fashionable terrace of Paris with breathtaking views. The formula of happiness? Cool decoration, good music and cocktails, trendy Parisians and good staples. Other cool addresses are Mama Shelter (109 rue de Bagnolet, 75020 Paris) and The Balcony (221 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019), on the top floor of the Philharmonic of Paris, with a superb view of the East Side of Paris.

Paris layover

Up on the Roof (4 rue Danton, 75006 Paris), at the heart of the Latin Quarter, is a really different kind of place. This is a rooftop with a view on Notre-Dame, the Palais de Justice and of course the Seine with its passing Bateaux Mouches.

Too cold for an open air bar? Head to the mythical and warm atmosphere of Le Harry’s New-York Bar (5, rue Daunou, 75002 Paris), where the cocktail Bloody Mary was invented. Opened in 1911, over the years Harry’s New York Bar was frequented by a number of famous American expatriates and international celebrities such as Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, Jeremy Shaffer, Coco Chanel, Jack Dempsey, Aly Khan, Rita Hayworth or Humphrey Bogart.

Paris layover

via flickr CC @MitchBarrie

BUT Paris is much more than these unique proposals. A short layover won’t be enough to admire the city’s amazing street art, its elegant covered passages, visit its world class museums, some of them always for free, or just enjoy the pleasure of discovering the city by bike. So what about Paris as final destination next time ?

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56 Comments

  • Reply
    Debi McGrath
    04/23/2017 at 4:33 pm

    I have a 9 hour layover at CDG in September arriving at 10pm on a Saturday. Coming in that late at night what suggestions do you have? I’m thinking of taking my tripod and camera and just photograph the city at night….suggestions for best spots would be great.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      04/25/2017 at 9:35 pm

      Difficult question! Are you sleeping close to the airport, I guess? You can’t do that much if you rely on public transportation: after 23.00 last trains leaving from CDG to Paris are very seldom (latest one is at 23.50 and more or less the same schedule from Paris to CDG) so if your flight is delayed you may have to wait some time to take the train + you need 40 min to reach Paris. Taxi could be a solution but it is very expensive :-/

  • Reply
    Carmen's Luxury Travel
    03/30/2017 at 11:26 am

    Taking a walk would be my best advice! Paris has incredible museums but the whole city is just stunning to stroll through. Love your recommendations for bars! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      04/13/2017 at 7:23 pm

      I agree with you Carmen. If I really had to choose I would take the walk along the Seine, with a break on a rooftop bar 🙂

  • Reply
    Carol Colborn
    03/29/2017 at 5:43 pm

    This is a great short layover plan. Haven’t been to Paris in 30 years. I will take a short layover like this just to revisit!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/29/2017 at 6:02 pm

      Lol! Carol, I think this is an excellent idea! I also take long layovers on purpose sometimes, just to visit (o revisit) an interesting city 🙂

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      04/05/2017 at 10:25 pm

      Loooll. You know I believe you! 🙂

  • Reply
    Vicki Louise
    03/27/2017 at 2:31 pm

    These are great things to do when you’re short on time. We loved strolling along the banks of the Seine and visiting the Louvre at night when the pyramid is all lit up. There are so many iconic spots in Paris I just want to see everything every time I visit!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/27/2017 at 9:14 pm

      Very nice options, Vicki. The pyramid lit up at night is a very beautiful sight 🙂

  • Reply
    Stacey Veikalas
    03/27/2017 at 12:03 pm

    What a super way to spend a few hours in Paris! I love the walking and the little local places to have a drink! My perfect day wandering and a cocktail! Fun day!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/27/2017 at 9:15 pm

      Oh, in Paris there is a lot of walking and cocktails so you would be happy here, even for a short time!

  • Reply
    melody pittman
    03/27/2017 at 3:22 am

    I think I would prefer seeing Montmarte on a layover. Nice list of choices. I guess even seeing the glass pyramid at the Louvre would be better than nothing. I haven’t visited Paris but have been to the airport way too many times. LOL

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/27/2017 at 9:17 pm

      Oh, CDG is not the best airport to hang out for a while, unfortunately

  • Reply
    travelwithtarah
    03/26/2017 at 1:28 pm

    I’ve been to Paris a couple of times and think you definitely need more than a day to explore, but if that’s all you’ve got this is a great guide!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      04/13/2017 at 8:42 pm

      Oh yeah, just trying to be helpful for those who only have few hours 🙂

  • Reply
    Allison
    02/27/2017 at 11:35 pm

    Great read. I agree that Paris is relatively easy to walk around given how big the city is. Besides you discover a little more walking opposed to metro.

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    02/27/2017 at 4:59 am

    This is indeed a slice of Paris in a short time. A slice that will definitely leave you asking for more. The walk by the Seine sounds so romantic. We have taken a cruise on the Seine, but did not have time to take a stroll. Hope to get back to Paris to do this. But really loved your Parisian plan for a short layover.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/01/2017 at 8:39 pm

      Thank you Sandy 🙂 Next time come for more days to do what you missed, plenty of ideas here 😉

  • Reply
    Christopher
    02/11/2017 at 2:13 am

    First off, I’m loving the new look of the website. Great job!!! Second. These are amazing suggestions which remind me that I need to come back!!! Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower and the Louvre aside, what I really miss is simply sitting in the cafe’s along the Seine.
    Great post!!!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/13/2017 at 10:40 pm

      Thanks for your kind comment, Christopher. Hope you will make it to Paris again 🙂

  • Reply
    Rosemary
    02/06/2017 at 2:00 pm

    One of my favorite cities and one that I also called home for a couple of years. This is a great (short) itinerary for a layover. The only thing I would add is to make sure that there is no strike and that the RER B is running on all lines 🙂

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/08/2017 at 8:05 pm

      Thanks for the tip. I will try to add it somehow (difficult to know this or where to find the info if you are not a local)

  • Reply
    Hugo Cura
    02/05/2017 at 8:19 pm

    I have family in Paris and been to the city countless times but despite this never get tired of visiting a couple of times a year. There’s always something new and interesting to visit or revisit. Love Paris!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/05/2017 at 10:16 pm

      AAAAhhh so you don’t need a Paris layover post . . . cool, cool 🙂

  • Reply
    Drew
    02/05/2017 at 1:53 pm

    One of my fave cities. I’ve been a handful of times now, so tend to skip the museums and sites (though I still love to stop in at the Rodin Museum and Sainte Chapelle). Just walking around, popping into wine bars and eating an absurd amount of cheese is all it takes for a successful Paris visit!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/05/2017 at 10:18 pm

      So Rodin and Sainte Chapelle?? Interesting, interesting . . .

  • Reply
    Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie
    02/05/2017 at 4:37 am

    Great advice but oh how sad to be in Paris for just a short layover! I would definitely recommend Notre Dame just because it’s magnificent. I’d also head to the Musee de l’Orangerie. Those Monet panels are just breathtaking and not to be missed no matter how long one has in Paris.

  • Reply
    Penny Sadler
    02/04/2017 at 7:55 pm

    That Left bank right bank thing takes a bit of getting used to doesn’t it!
    Very nice tips and suggestions. I’d certainly make notes if I were traveling to Paris.

  • Reply
    Brianna
    02/04/2017 at 5:27 pm

    Paris is always a good idea . It’s been years since I’ve been and I really need to go back.

  • Reply
    Sarah Ebner
    02/04/2017 at 5:24 pm

    I love tips from locals and these are great. We very much enjoyed walking round Paris when we were there, but we also love seeing cities from up high, so the top of Eiffel Tower was good for us! Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the rooftop bars you recommend – maybe next time….

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/05/2017 at 10:25 pm

      Oh, rooftop bars is the new trend in Paris, you will have plenty to choose if you ever come back

  • Reply
    Nat Deduck
    02/04/2017 at 3:58 pm

    Paris is always a good idea, am I right? There’s so much to do and to see around! You made a great list here!

  • Reply
    Laura Lynch
    02/04/2017 at 2:13 pm

    Last year we did an 18-hour layover in Paris and though it as quick, it was really fun. You don’t have to have a lot of time to really experience something unique in Paris. Montmartre is one of my favorite neighborhoods.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/10/2017 at 10:30 pm

      A little bit too touristy, in my opinion, but definitely worth the visit. Good that you had fun in Paris 🙂

  • Reply
    Nancy
    01/28/2017 at 8:35 pm

    My favorite thing to do in Paris is to walk along the Seine. Once I decided to walk from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower. It was way further than I expected! When you take the Metro all the time you don’t really realize the distance. But it was one of the best walks I’ve taken there. You see so much and get a feel of how the local Parisian’s live.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/25/2017 at 8:11 pm

      Nancy, this is also my favourite walk 😉

  • Reply
    Louiela
    01/20/2017 at 3:57 pm

    I am such a slow wanderer and walking along Seine during a short layover would only make me feel bad. Or I have the choice to cancel my flight and stay for a few more days… 🙂

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/26/2017 at 11:13 pm

      Or even better, instead of a layover make Paris your final destination 😉

  • Reply
    Revathi
    01/20/2017 at 2:05 pm

    This is exactly what I was looking for. I usually get only a short time to explore places on my travels. Your unique collection is so inspiring me to get to Paris right away. All the pics are simply goegeous.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/26/2017 at 11:14 pm

      Thanks Revathi! Now you know what to do if you have a short time in Paris 😉

  • Reply
    Gokul Raj
    01/10/2017 at 6:03 am

    Also you have to take care that you do not get lost in the beautiful city or else you are gonna miss your flight.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      01/10/2017 at 8:35 pm

      I would not mind to miss a flight in Paris! 🙂

  • Reply
    Michelle
    01/09/2017 at 4:40 pm

    Such a beautiful city and so many memories. I really need to go back and explore again 😉

  • Reply
    Emily
    01/09/2017 at 4:11 pm

    A perfect walking itinerary along the Seine! I like the sound of the bars too; you can’t visit Paris without sampling the nightlife. Will save this for the next time I get to Paris.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      01/10/2017 at 8:36 pm

      It depends on the time of the layover. If it is during the day or in summer time I prefer the walking 😉

  • Reply
    Tara
    01/09/2017 at 2:25 pm

    What a tease to spend such a short time in Paris! I would definitely plan for a long layover, but I guess that even if I had a short time to spend, I would have to get out of the airport and enjoy it. I would probably find myself just walking the streets, soaking it all in – such a gorgeous city.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      01/10/2017 at 8:37 pm

      Wow, it is like if you were already here! Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • Reply
    Castaway with Crystal
    01/09/2017 at 11:43 am

    YESSSS I can’t wait to visit France and you just got me even more excited! Thanks for the post 🙂

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      01/10/2017 at 8:38 pm

      Any coming trip here? 🙂

  • Reply
    Kerri
    01/09/2017 at 10:47 am

    As always, the more time I spend in Paris the more I find more little tricks like this. The rooftop bars will be on my list next time.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      01/10/2017 at 8:38 pm

      Oh, there are plenty, for every taste! Especially in summer time

  • Reply
    Matilda
    01/09/2017 at 10:35 am

    Great guide. Makes me want to go back to Paris to do some of the things I missed.

  • Reply
    Lyssie
    01/09/2017 at 5:24 am

    I lived in Spain and never made it to France! It was right next door and I never got there. Next time I go to Europe, I’m going to try to book a layover in Paris and hit up everything you mentioned here!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/02/2017 at 9:49 pm

      Europe is small but there are soooo many interesting things concentrated that I can understand you never wanted to cross the Pyrennées 😉

  • Reply
    Lyssie
    01/08/2017 at 12:56 am

    I’ve always wanted to go to Paris! Now I know I can hit up all the main sights in Paris on a layover. Thanks for this!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/20/2017 at 10:50 pm

      You are welcome, Lyssie 🙂

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