Paris in Four Hours or Less
So your flight has a long layover in Paris and you’re stuck at Charles de Gaulle—so near and yet so far—for at least six hours. What to do? Admittedly, CDG is a lot nicer than a lot of other airports I’ve been in, but wouldn’t you rather see a bit of Paris?
In fact, you may be surprised by how much you can see and do in just a few hours—and still get back to the airport in time to make the next leg of your flight. Because you only have a few hours (and you won’t be able to do it all), I have chosen to focus on the 1st and 4th arrondissements in Paris because it’s easy to get there, and there’s such a variety of things to do in those areas.
When you land at Charles de Gaulle, you can either take a taxi for about 50 € and will take you about 45-50 minutes, depending entirely on traffic and delays. Or take the train from the airport directly into the city. It’s extremely efficient and takes about an hour.
Of you decide to take the train, check out this website Vianavigo to get schedules, routes, and updated travel info. Purchase a ticket that can be used for the metro as well (I usually get an all day ticket). There is one train that leaves CDG and does directly into the city. When you arrive in Paris, you need to transfer at Chatelet, hop on the Metro and take the M1 to the Louvre Rivoli stop. For museum lovers: The Louvre of course! You can check here to decide in advance what you want to see most. Check out the latest or special exhibits and see which ones interest you, and with such limited time you will need a strategy, here are some good tips on how to visit the Louvre. And while you are there, you may enjoy visiting a spot that Parisians go to relax, the beautiful Tuileries Garden.
If museums and gardens are not your thing, or if you are more in the mood to wander around and shop (and if you LOVE shoes like I do), then you will no doubt have to stop by the famous Christian Louboutin boutique (19 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 75001) (PHOTO). And not far away is Louis Vuitton (2 Rue Pont Neuf, 75001) or if you are looking for something chic and sporty Max & Co. (19 Rue Montmartre, 75001) is close by. If you forgot to pack something or need an essential, Rue du Rivoli is packed with trendy stores like Sephora, Adidas, Zara, and more.
In the mood for a sweet treat? On the corner, right near the Louvre-Rivoli metro stop you will find a crepe shop (filled with jam or Nutella!) and not far away is Pain de Sucre (14 Rue Rambuteau, 75003) which has the mouth watering chocolate éclairs and other divine pastries. If you’re a foodie (like me) and love to browse cooking stores, you have to stop by one of my favorite spots in Paris, E. Dehillerin (18 et 20, rue Coquillière - 51, rue Jean- Jacques Rousseau – 75001). E. Dehillerin has been selling all kinds of equipment for professional and amateur chefs since 1820. My parents brought home all sorts goodies (copper pots, knives, rolling pins…) 45 years ago that are still in the kitchen! Be prepared, it favors function over form, and you won’t find fancy displays. What you will find is almost any kind of pan, utensil, or other type of kitchen equipment you could possibly imagine including a mouthwatering variety of copper pots. The only caveat is that, as renowned chef Eric Ripert of New York’s Le Bernardin, has been quoted as saying, “You go to buy a knife, you end up with a pasta machine.”
Once you’re done there, you’ll surely be hungry, so why not stop for a glass of wine and a fabulous thin-crust pizza at the café right across the street. Then, once you’ve got your strength back, you can walk around the corner and check out La Bovida, (36, Rue de Montmartre – 75001) another gourmet shop with a much more William-Sonoma-like vibe—the only place I’ve ever seen purple Le Creuset cookware or cookie cutters shaped like the Eiffel Tower. And if you like baking equipment, stop by MORA (13 Rue Montmartre, 75001) which is right next door.
If neither old master artworks nor kitchens are your idea of a great way to spend an afternoon in Paris, you can walk or take the metro to the Hotel de Ville stop and see the greatest collection of modern art in all of Europe at the Pompidou Center. Or just enjoy the show outside where the famous Stravinsky Fountain features sixteen whimsical moving and water-spraying sculptures by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint-Phalle representing themes and works by the famous composer. Or simply enjoy the mimes and other street performers you are likely to encounter there.
And, as one would expect in a city where the most beautiful that is old constantly rubs elbows with the trendiest of the new, it’s just a short walk from the Pompidou to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, that marvel of gothic architecture that has been standing, guarded by its stone gargoyles, since the thirteenth century.
This short visit will no doubt leave you wanting more, but at least you’ll get on the train (or taxi) back to the airport knowing that you’ve seen at least a bit of Paris.
Essential information for you to have before you go:
~Travel totes- Pack a good roll-up, light-weight, travel-friendly shopping tote in your hand luggage. There is always at least one Longchamp tote in my bag, but I happen to like the Marina Bag 5 from Envirosax too, but you may have a favorite of your own. ~Rain gear. Check the weather, if in doubt have an umbrella or a travel raincoat like Rainwraps.
Download a few essential apps on your iPhone:
iTranslate - Makes you instantly fluent in more than 50 languages. Currency - My favorite exchange-rate calculator Boingo Wi-Finder - An app which allows you to locate Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide and makes it possible to use your phone or iPad even on airplanes.
And a few more of my favorite apps for the traveler...
Meet Carolyn W. Paddock
After more than 20 years in commercial and corporate aviation, I am delighted to bring my expertise to the world with In-Flight Insider. Based on my philosophy that not only should safety and comfort be mandatory, but glamour and elegance should be too. I have created a resource for the discriminating traveler that combines my hands-on experience gained with over nine million miles in the air with my knowledge of the most practical and luxurious travel products the world has to offer.
Carolyn has contributed her travel expertise to a range of national media outlets including The Washington Post, msnbc.com, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Robb Report, and creditcards.com, and Divine Caroline. She has also been featured as a travel expert for USA Today, AOL.com, Peter Greenberg’s Radio Show, Prevention’s “List Maker’s Get-Healthy Guide”, and SilverKris (Singapore Airlines’ in-flight magazine). Carolyn is featured as the travel style contributor for MedjetAssist’s website and their monthly newsletter as well as the travel expert for and GLOW Beauty Magazine.