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4 hours in Paris

I am a solo female traveller, and I will have 4 hours to walk somewhere in Paris between flights at the end of July (8 hours total between arrival and departure).

Can someone suggest the best place to walk, perhaps have a cafe and have a taste of Paris? I could get off the train at Gare du Nord or at Ile de la Cite. Or somewhere else?

Thank you.

Posted by
8293 posts

I wouldn't want to do it myself, with only 8 hours, but here's a suggestion. Take the RER to Gare du Nord. At the back of the station, there is a bus terminal. Take the No. 42 bus and get off at Champs de Mars and voila! there's the Tour Eiffel. But you'll need to take some of your precious time to buy bus tickets. Walking around Gare du Nord might not give you the right impression of Paris, by the way.

Please be aware that going through security at CDG after you have had your little Paris fling can be a lengthy process, so allow plenty of time for that. If your first flight lands in Paris behind schedule, or it takes extra long to get off the plane, you will need to rethink the whole idea.

Posted by
73 posts

Thanks Norma. Yes, you are right about the time being short.

I really wanted a nice place to walk and stop and have a coffee. Just to get a taste. I'd rather not take a bus anywhere, so if there is somewhere I can walk to from one of the RER stops it would be better.

Or what about Roissy itself? Any thoughts?

Posted by
8293 posts

I know nothing about Roissy. Sorry. There is a bus, No. 351, which starts at CDG Terminal 2, and terminates at Place de la Nation. Nation is an interesting place for a walk with lots of cafés, shops and people. There are buses 3 times an hour and it costs 3 RATP tickets which you can buy from the driver. The drive into Paris takes just under an hour .... barring traffic difficulties, of course! As I said before, with 8 hours (to be realistic, probably less than that) I would just stay at the airport. Paris will be there for you when you can stay for a few days.

Posted by
3456 posts

Roissy is a village distinguished by two things: A jumble of modern hotels serving the airport (some with a free shuttle), and jets flying overhead all the time. It can be a pleasant stroll around the small village square and even smaller church, a cafe or two and a few shops. But it is not much more than a place to stretch your legs, and walking there from the terminals is not practical. While it does not look very far away (see Google Maps), the access roads to the airport are not built for pedestrians.
More generally, I would be cautious about how much leisure time you have. Even without luggage (presumably checked through) you should allow plenty of leeway for re-entering the airport through standard security, which at CdG can be slow. Even if you don't leave the airport secure area you will probably go through the airline’s own security check at the departure lounge. Especially for international flights, many airlines want you inside the lounge at least 45 minutes before the announced departure time and will close the airplane doors well before departure.

Posted by
5719 posts

If I were going to do this, I would take the RER B and get off at San Michel which brings you up right outside Notre Dame. You could have a nice stroll and grab coffee in this area and be convenient to the RERB to get back out to the airport. It takes at least an hour to get through immigration etc; it takes about an hour to get to Paris and back and you should have at least 2 hours for security for your onward flight. This gives you a max of 3 hours. I don't know where you are from, but if it is the US, you will not be able to use your American credit card in the machines to get RER tickets and the machines do not take Euro bills. So you should be sure to have the 20 Euro in coins you will need for your tickets, or also factor in a wait at a ticket queue. The last time we did this, the line to get RER tickets, recharge Navigos etc took over an hour.

the penalty for making a mistake is a stiff one -- buying a walk up ticket for your flight and perhaps having your return trip canceled -- so be conservative about all this if you decide to risk it.

Posted by
73 posts

Thanks, everyone. I guess I should just stay at the airport. Too bad. 8 hours is a long time!

Posted by
8293 posts

Yup, 8 hours is a long time .... just not long enough.

Posted by
580 posts

I second the idea of going to San Michel. Plenty of choices for coffee, you can stroll a bit around the Latin quarter, etc. Just keep in mind that you are taking a bit of a risk of missing your next flight. Probably a small risk, but still its there. Also while I normally advise against checked luggage, if you have your only carry-on you'll need to figure out how to handle that. Also it would be a good idea to research the RER departure times back to CDG to make sure you know what time(s) you can leave; not all RER trains thru Paris go there.

BTW there is a shortcut way to use American credit cards to buy metro passes, RER tickets, etc. And there is barely a line, so you'll be in and out in 10 minutes! Use one of the handy tourist info desks. I've waited in the long line to buy RER tickets at the train station in the airport, once I discovered this never again! Here is a link: http://en.visitparisregion.com/practical-info/tourist-information-desks-100180.html

Posted by
73 posts

Thanks so much, John. That is great information. I think I'll see how it goes -- maybe I'll get through everything more quickly than usual and have time for a stroll. Thanks so much for the link, too! Really appreciate it!

And I'd leave my carry-on luggage at Baggage du Monde. Maybe I'd have just 2 hours to stroll and have a coffee, but that would be fine, too.

Posted by
5396 posts

It doesn't happen often but ... leaving Paris for CDG last October the RER had a backup and the trip took over three hours. Luckily we were spending the night before our morning flight at an airport-area hotel so the delay was merely tiring and annoying, not disastrous. If you decide to try the quick visit into Paris, check with RER at the airport station about possible delays BEFORE you get on the train.

Posted by
73 posts

Thanks, Laura, for telling your story. It's definitely something to be aware of. Missing my flight isn't an option!

Posted by
16796 posts

You've received a lot good advice. Happy travels!