Planning a long flight with a layover in Paris? Paris has so much to offer, even if you can only spend a day in Paris or less. From world-class museums to beautiful gardens and famous sites seen in films, there is much to see and do in the City of Light. Although Paris is the biggest city in France, the city is compact and easy to navigate by metro or by bike. So if your next flight includes a layover at CDG Airport don’t hesitate to experience some unique things to do in Paris. Here’s a taste…
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1- TAKE A (UNIQUE) WALK ALONG THE SEINE RIVER
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 layover in Paris and CDG airport is not the most exciting airport in the world, head out for a unique stroll in the City of Light.
From Paris airport to city, take the RER B and Metro (42min) and get out at Cité metro station. You’ve just landed to Ile de la Cité (Paris 4), the heart of Paris. From here look for Notre Dame’s twin towers, this will be the starting point of this unique walk.
First of all, 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 Museum. 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, in Paris 1. Designed for Queen Catherine de Medici in 1564, these gardens were re-landscaped in 1664 in a French formal garden style. Enjoy the green and flowers but also some sculptures by Maillol, Rodin, and Giacometti. 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 Paris airport so take the metro at École Militaire station to board on your last flight.
2-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 a day in Paris: street painters, nice cafés & crêperies and the enchanting sound of the accordions.
From Paris airport to city, in this case Montmartre, 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. Our 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.
3-ADMIRE UNIQUE VIEWS OF PARIS FROM (UNIQUE) SIGHTS
Climb the stairs of Paris’ most iconic monuments for unique views of the city. Our favorite 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).
4-UNIQUE DINER & DRINKS IN PARIS
Dinner time? If you found a great deal on a connecting flight through Paris, skip the Paris airport restaurants and head into the city. For a unique meal on your layover in Paris, head to Les Ombres, a restaurant located on the rooftop terrace of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris 7. Apart from its good French cuisine, the unique view over the Eiffel Tower will delight you.
Maybe you are just looking for a unique place to have a drink and wash down that terrible airplane food? With only a layover in Paris, it can’t just be any bar. Paris has some beautiful rooftops to enjoy unique views with your favorite cocktail.
In the summertime, the rooftop bars are the Parisians’ place to be. Try Le Perchoir du Marais (37 rue de la Verrerie, Paris 4), the most fashionable terrace of Paris with breathtaking views. The formula for happiness? Probably its cool decoration, good music and cocktails, trendy Parisians and good staples. Another cool address is Mama Shelter (109 rue de Bagnolet, Paris 20) and also The Balcony (221 Avenue Jean Jaurès, Paris 19). The second is located 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, Paris 6), 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 the Seine with its passing Bateaux Mouches.
There are so many cool rooftop bars in Paris that in the end, we decided to write a dedicated post . . .
Seems like it is too cold for an open-air bar? Head to the mythical Harry’s New-York Bar (5, rue Daunou, Paris 2), where the cocktail Bloody Mary was invented. Since its opening in 1911, Harry’s New York Bar was frequented by a number of famous American expatriates and international celebrities. Especially relevant are 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 layover in Paris will never be enough to admire the city’s amazing street art, its elegant covered passages, visit most of its world-class museums, some of them always for free, a French Cabaret at night or just enjoy the pleasure of discovering the city by bike. So what about Paris as the final destination next time?
LAYOVER IN PARIS – ADDITIONAL INFO & TIPS
CAN I LEAVE THE AIRPORT DURING A LAYOVER IN PARIS?
If your layover in Paris is at least 5-6 hours, YES, you should visit the city of Paris! However, keep in mind that if you booked your flights separately you will need to pick up the baggage at the airport and do another check in. In this case, allow extra time to do all this.
When you enter France & Schengen Area from non-Schengen Countries you must clear passport control at Paris-CDG. There are two queues at passport control: one for European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA), British and Swiss nationals, and a second for all other nationalities. A third queue “Fast Lane” is available for premium passengers and select non-premium passengers. It is difficult for us to tell you how long you will spend doing the passport control. In any case, allow extra time to do all this.
After some hours enjoying Paris, it is time to go back to the airport and get ready for your second flight. If long-distance flights are a bit of pain for you, check Arzo’s tips or Megan’s air travel tips to survive long-haul flights. Bon voyage!
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