A Layover in Paris: Taking the Train from CDG Airport to Paris

A Mini Paris Layover Guide

Layovers are often a necessary part of international travel, unavoidable really. While I dreaded them when I was a young and inexperienced traveler, I have come to appreciate them as I get older and learn to take advantages of the options that are available. A frequent traveler lounge with hot food, showers and good wine is one of those things to take advantage of. Another is the ability to take a “day trip” into a new or familiar city while you wait for the next step in your travel.

A comfortable lounge and a trip into the city make a 12 hour layover feel like 15 minutes. Better yet, it takes a perceived negative and turns it into an opportunity. How many other things do you say that about?

This is actually one of the reasons why I chose the flights I did originally – to be able to have a full day to explore Paris during our layover. Even with flight changes and re-routing, we still had 12 hours in between flights, and planned to spend 6 of those hours in the city.

After showering and getting nourishment, we were ready to go to the city via train. But first, we needed to ditch our carry-on baggage, since we weren’t about to haul backpacks and laptop bags around Paris.

Fortunately, there is a service at CDG airport that allows you to leave your baggage with them, and it’s located right outside of the train station. For something like 6 Euro, you can leave your bags securely with them for 6 hours. If you are ever at CDG, it’s called “Mono” and it’s located in Terminal 2E.

With out bags checked away, we simply bought a round trip train ticket from the airport to downtown Paris. If you are ever taking a train from CDG airport to the city, you will find the route to be very convenient – the line stops at many major monuments, and we took the train right to the St. Michael/Notre Dame exit to see some churches.
Random Building Outside of St. Michel Subway Stop

We crossed the Seine (the river that runs through Paris – also the main landmark for where you are in the city) and checked out Notre Dame, but did not go in due to the long lines (I have actually been there before, so didn’t feel I was missing out).
From there we followed the river to check out many of the sights of Paris, meandering back and forth over bridges. One of the cool things we saw wasn’t a monument at all, but rather a pedestrian bridge with thousands of locks fastened to the chain link fence along each side. While I surely am not the first person to blog about that spot, it was a cool spot for some close up photography.

Pedestrian Bridge over the Seine River

Continuing on, we made it to the Louvre museum grounds, which is another gigantic tourist spot. This was my second time at the Louvre and both times the weather was so drab that I was left with a bunch of uninspired photos of the place. Maybe the third time will be a charm.

The Pyramid at the Louvre

After walking through the Louvre, we walked on into the gardens, which featured some interesting and odd statues that you wouldn’t normally see in the states. Nudity, bestiality, supernatural encounters and mythical beasts were all featured prominently throughout the park.

Odd Statue in the Gardens outside the Louvre

By now we still had 3-4 hours to kill and wanted to take a break from walking, so we had a glass of wine in the park right after the gardens. It was an average glass of wine, but hit the spot since we had not had wine in approximately 3 hours and this was our honeymoon dammit ;).

From there we started walking again, taking some photos of the Eiffel Tower peaking out across the river, and then walking over to Arc De Triumph for one last photo.

Arc De Triumf

With about 1 hour left before we had to pick up baggage from the holding area, we hopped onto the Metro and found our way back to the airport after a single train change (the Paris Subway is very easy to get around).

Paris is one of those cities where you can see all of the tourist attractions of note within a day or two, yet you get the feeling that you could spend two lifetimes in the city and not truly see everything.  We were content with the amount of Paris that we saw during our short layover.

Here is a complete gallery of the sights of Paris during our layover

About jeffsetter

I travel over 100 nights a year for business and leisure. Based in Minnesota, but my heart is all over the world. Travel has brought me to 4 hemispheres, 6 continents, 20+ countries and 40+ states. This blog is built to provide travel advice, share my experiences and open a new world to anyone who wants to listen.

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  • http://twitter.com/JY_C_ CarolynLee

    Hi! I have a 4-hour layover in Paris. I was wondering if there is ANY way I could have a glimpse of anything. So far all the forums I’ve read say it’s impossible to do anything in that time frame, but I still can’t seem to give up on the idea. Thanks!

    • http://www.jeffalytics.com/ Jeffsauer

      Hi Carolyn – I think that is enough time to get in at least a few sights. It probably takes 60-90 minutes from landing to get out of customs and into the city. Then it probably takes the same to get back. You might be cutting it close, but it can happen.

  • Becca

    Hi Jeff! I have 6 hours and 50 minutes between flights…Paris CDG ETA is 640am, ETD 130pm. Taking into account 3 hrs to get out/back in from CDG/city, what would you recommend would be the best sights to see with 3 hrs and 50 minutes available? Appreciate it! =)

    • http://www.jeffalytics.com/ Jeffsauer

      Becca – It depends on if you want to go quantity or quality. In 3 hours you can see a lot in Paris. I would recommend doing something similar to what I did and taking the train to near Notre Dame, and then walking around that area and the river to take in sights in that area. If you want to walk, this is probably all that you can do in the short amount of time given.

      If you want to take the train, may I suggest a full day metro pass that allows you to see many sights. This is something I did in a previous visit to Paris and it allowed me to see the Arc de Triumf, Sacre Coeur, the Eiffel Tower and many other sights in the same day. I would say decide on the sites you want to see first and plan on whether you want to go quality or quantity and the choice should be clear. Allow for 30 minutes travel between sites on the metro and 30 minutes at each stop. The Eiffel Tower is probably an hour wait if you want to go up to the top.

  • jayson

    hi jeff..i will be having my returning flight this coming september to jeddah,saudi arabia..and i requested to my company to add a 1 day layover in paris..im filipino citizen can i leave the airport just to see some views outside of paris even witout transit visa?what do i need to get out in the airport while waiting my flight to my final destination..thank you.

    • http://www.jeffalytics.com/ Jeffsauer

      Jayson – I would check with your countries consulate in France to see what Visa requirements they have to enter the country. I was able to enter with my US passport because of reciprocity, but not sure on the Philippines.

      • jayson

        thank you for the info..but somebody told me i can get transit visa in the airport itself in paris..is this true?

        • http://www.jeffalytics.com/ Jeffsauer

          I don’t know.

  • Reon

    Hi Jeff. I am part of a group of seven university students who will have a 8 hour layover in Paris on our way back to South Africa from Croatian Summer School. None of us has traveled internationally before and this will be our first time. Any suggestions of how we can get the most out of our experience as we all would love to see Paris.

    • http://www.jeffalytics.com/ Jeffsauer

      Hello Reon,

      This is a good question and hopefully I can help. The first thing to know is that it will probably take 1-2 hours to get out of the airport in Paris after landing. In addition, you will need to be back about 2 hours before your next flight to be safe. After that it takes 30-60 minutes to get into Paris from CDG airport. That basically leaves you with about 3 hours to explore.

      Paris is fairly easy to navigate, and you can see a lot in Paris over 3 hours, but I would plan on choosing 1-2 sights and sticking to those areas. The area we chose on our layover was to go to the Notre Dame cathedral and to then walk around the many landmarks around there. If you look at a Google map you should see several places highlighted that you might like. I loved the Luxembourg gardens, which are not too far away. You could also see the Eiffel tower, but might not have enough time to make it to the top because of the long lines.

      As for getting there, you can take a train right into Paris from the airport or a taxi. If you’ve been on trains before, this is probably the most affordable option. If you are concerned for time, then a taxi is probably not a bad way to go because you set your schedule.

      Have fun in Paris, but realize that you will only have 2-3 hours to explore in reality.

      Jeff Sauer

      • Reon Davids

        Thanks Jeff. I think one of the things everyone wants to see is The Eiffel. But I want to fit in Norte Dame. I do not think I will make it into any of the sites but I guess for now just being there will give me pleasure enough.

  • Ray

    Hi Jeff, I have a 10 hour layover in Paris on my flight home from Greece. I’m gonna use this time to explore a little, but I’m a little unfamiliar with the procedure. I’m worried about my checked baggage as I have been told by a Delta employee that with a long layover you are responsible for getting your bags to your connecting flight and I have also been told the airline transfers it for u. I have read online the airport has luggage storage. Do u have any info on this or know the checked luggage procedure?

    • http://www.jeffalytics.com/ Jeffsauer

      Your checked bags should go all of the way through to the final destination. 10 hours is not a “long” layover by their standards, so everything should be checked through.

      If you have carry on bags, there IS storage in Paris at the airport. It is near the train station. We used this storage before we went into the city and it worked great.

      Just make sure your bags are checked through to final destination at your originating airport and you shouldn’t have any problems. It’s only when you enter the US that you need to grab your bags and then re-check them after clearing customs.

  • Melinda M

    I travel frequently but this will be my daughter’s first time anywhere (she’s 19). We have a 9 hour layover in Paris, so I want to be able to take her to see some of the sights. I have never left the airport during a layover so this will be a first for both of us. I’m a little nervous about leaving and making it back on time. We are going to check pretty much everything except our purses so we don’t have to worry about luggage. I speak zero French so I’m also concerned about getting on the right trains to and from the airport.

    • http://www.jeffalytics.com/ Jeffsauer

      The trains should be easy. Assume 1 hour to clear customs on the way out and 2 hour to clear on the way back (super conservative) plus 1-2 hours via train to Paris and you have at least 4 hours to explore. That means 1-2 destinations. I highly recommend the Luxembourg gardens and Norte dame for a short layover.

  • Philip

    Thanks for the info Jeff. I have an 20hr layover in Paris. Do you recommend getting a hotel closer to the airport or somewhere in the city, if so which areas? We are hoping to see Versailles if possible. If not, just stroll through the cafes. We’ve been to Paris and seen most tourist attractions except Versailles.

    • http://www.jeffalytics.com/ Jeffsauer

      I’m not sure about the logistics of going to Versailles, but it seems like it might be possible with a 20 hour layover.