So once upon a time, I was a crazy traveling woman. In a 30 day span, I traveled to Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Haiti. Not all at once, but it was a fun summer. Right before I was to move abroad, I scored a deal on a flight to Kenya through Delta Airlines. The ticket was $400 and I used that flight to travel to Tanzania and Ethiopia as well.
On the way home, my layover was 10 hours, so naturally I left the airport and looked around the city for awhile.
Charles de Gaulle Airport is not close to the city, so you will need to take the train into the city. I stored my baggage in the airport and purchased a train ticket into the city. This is one of the cheapest and quickest ways to get into the city. For about 9€, you can purchase a ticket for the RER Blue train and find yourself in the city in less than an hour. Make sure you take the train headed in the direction of Robinson, Antony or St-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse and the train will stop in central Paris stations such as Gare du Nord.
While you can make your way around Paris not knowing French, it was kind of challenging for me. At least the people I ran into did not speak English and I was looking like a crazy person. I got off at a stop and was turned around trying to look for the Eiffel Tower and tried to ask for directions. No bueno. But a kind stranger did point me in the right direction for the REC train where I got off at Champ de Mars station and found myself smack in the middle of everything and right near the Eiffel Tower.
I saw the tower and walked around to Trocadero where I sat at a cafe and chilled for a bit. After I wandered around the Eiffel Tower, I found my way down an avenue with shops and a McDonalds where I ordered myself a “Royale with Cheese” just so I can send a photo to a friend. (We both love Pulp Fiction)
Not realizing it, I walked right past the Arc de Triomphe. It was a great sight to see. I also ended up seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral while trying to grab a croissant first thing in the morning. Because I was running low on time, I took a taxi after I passed the Arc de Triomphe to grab a quick view of the Lourve and other sights.
I’ve since done some research and if I had to do a quick tour of Paris all over again, here is how I would do it (and how I suggest you do as well)
Free walking tours
There are a few options for free walking tours of Paris. The New Paris Free Tour will get you to all the Instagram worthy sights in under 4 hours. It works off of tips and doesn’t include any museum admissions, but you’ll be able to see the main sights that will give you a feel for Paris and having a guide will give you a bit of history and background to each place you see.
Ulmon is an app that gives you a city map that works offline, but it also gives you suggestions based on your interests. This is perfect because you can tell the app the highlights you want to see ahead of time and see reviews from other travelers and details about the place before you arrive.
Citymapper is another app that can help you plan your route via public transportation or a detailed bike route. You can chart out the sights you want to see and the app will take care of the best way to get there, helping you make the most of the time you have. If you’re not able to get a SIM compatible with Paris, you’ll have to plan your route ahead of time and take screenshots to be referred to later, as the app does not work offline.
The Paris Guide Monument Tracker is the best app I’ve discovered that offers descriptions to the monument and it’s history, and even has a quiz to test your knowledge later on and a treasure hunt that offers a fun way to get to know the city on your brief journey.
City Sightseeing Tours
In every city I visit, I often take a sightseeing tour bus. Especially when I don’t have a lot of time to explore or wander about. City Sightseeing Tour busses area. great way to see the city, explore the major sights by bus, and get some detailed and fun facts about the different historical sights and monuments. Most bus lines run in about 1.5 to 2 hours to competition, so you have time to hop off, explore, and catch the bus before heading back to your start point and dash back to the airport.
However long of a layover you have in Paris, I would suggest leaving the airport only if you have longer than 8 hours. It takes an hour to get to and from the airport by train – longer if you decide to take a taxi back. I would give yourself plenty of time to get lost, explore, and eat some good food.