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 . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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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