Ever had a long layover and dreaded the waiting around at the airport? Me too! So, when I recently had a 7 hour layover scheduled in Paris, I decided to get out of the airport and see how efficient I could be with my time. My challenge? To see as much as possible in a short amount of time and eat a delicious breakfast.
How Much Time Did I have?
Landing at 6 am and not departing until 1:30 pm, I conjured up the perfect plan to get a brief reacquaintance with the city I haven’t seen since first going abroad at 15! My six hour touring plan: take a train into Paris, first visit Notre Dame, eat breakfast at a Parisian Cafe and cap my visit with a photo stop at the Eiffel Tower before training back to the airport.
Read on to see how I maximized my time & euro to make the most of my layover!
Luggage & The Train
Upon deciding to leave the airport and head into the city, I needed to figure out what to do with my carry-ons. I had just a small backpack but looked into luggage storage to leave my items and roam freely. Charles De Gaulle airport train station does have luggage store that begins at 6 euro for 0-6 hours with prices increasing with amount of time using the lockers.
Ultimately, I decided to muscle through and keep my items with me so I could spend more time in the city and less dealing with finding the locker storage, checking them in and retrieving. However, this may be a great option if you have a longer layover or heavy items that you don’t want to be saddled with.
After going through customs (this may take up to an hour if the line is long or you don’t have express entry) and getting your passport stamped, you must go to the TGV-RER Railway station and purchase a round-trip ticket to Paris for 20 euro.
I took the train from CDG in the direction of Saint Remy and chose to depart the train at Saint Michel – Notre Dame. The ride took a total of 35 minutes and upon exiting the station, I came face to face with Notre Dame!
Amazingly, the massive, famous gothic cathedral had no line to enter. Disclaimer: it was near 8 am on a rainy Saturday morning which may have led to my good fortune. Free to enter but know that services are a regular occurrence so you may be required to refrain from taking photos or visiting certain portions of Notre Dame.
I spent a total of 3o minutes taking photos, exploring the cathedral and observing a small mass taking place then my belly began to growl.
After the cathedral, I walked along the west side Seine River to dine at a breakfast spot my friend recommended. Cafes are everywhere in Paris and all look yummy, but I was guaranteed great service could be found at Cafe de Flore on St. Germain. The recommendation was spot on!
The cafe with both indoor & outdoor seating, English menus and polite staff sat amongst a very posh shopping area. I chose a table outside, ordered an espresso, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. My salmon was served with a baguette and real butter – I ate all three! Yum!
Service was quick, delicious but pricey. The total bill was 45 euro including service fee. If you want less posh prices, try one of the smaller in and out cafes or pick-up a nibble from Carrefour sandwich. I wanted an upscale experience with locals dining next to me and this is exactly what Cafe de Flore delivered.
After dining on a scrumptious breakfast, I checked the clock and realized I had some extra time and the desire to walk a bit more. So, I walked 35 minutes to the Eiffel Tower for a few quick shots. It had been close to 12 years since I stood in the exact same place wearing a tight pink dress and black wedge heels taking a photo with the massive 984′ structure behind me but the same giddy feeling came rushing back. The excitement of those around me clicking their shutter buttons quickly as the soft morning rain fell was contagious.
Short on time, I had to quickly end my time at the Eiffel Tower without climbing it again. After a bit of a delay, I hunted down a taxi for hirei to take me back to the St. Michel – Norte Dame Station – paid 12 euro. Next, I used my return ticket to scoot back to the airport in 30 minutes. Making it a full morning of external sight seeing, eating and walking!
Something to keep in mind, you need to conscious of time it takes to get you through security entering back into the airport and transfer to your gate. You should allow at least 90 minutes to do so because the airport it quite crowded at any time of the day.
Cynthia is a recovering Travel Director turned TV host, creator of Her Drive Podcast, and lover of all things adventure, unicorns, van life, and wellness-focused. She can be found dining wherever octopus is on the menu.