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Tours & Guides

Ultimate Paris Layover Guide: Tips, Tours, and Transit Advice


Charles de Gaulle terminal building pictures from landing plane
What is in this blog? Table of contents:

Paris. It’s known as the city of love to some, the city of light to many, and the city of delicious croissants to absolutely everybody! Whether you’re here for just a couple of hours or an overnight stop, there’s no two ways about it: Paris is an epic place to have a layover.

But where do you even start when it comes to planning your layover? Is it even possible if you’re in a time crunch?

In this guide, we’ll answer all of these questions and more, helping you to navigate the possibilities and logistics of turning your layover into a whirlwind tour of one of the world’s most enchanting cities.

And trust us, when you catch your first glimpse of the sparkling Eiffel Tower, all of those logistics will feel more than worth it.

Can You Leave Paris Airport during a Layover? 

Let’s start with the basics - you can absolutely leave both Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly airports during a layover provided you have enough time! And yes, even budget airlines fly to these airports.

From Charles de Gaulle, we recommend either taking the RER B train or a taxi, depending on how long you have for your layover. The RER B train line connects the airport with central Paris. The journey to Gare du Nord takes around 25-30 minutes and trains depart every 10-20 minutes.

If you prefer a direct route, taxis and ride-shares are available, with the journey to the city centre taking anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes.

Paris Orly airport is closer to the city centre, making it even more convenient for a layover. The Orlyval light railway connects the airport to Antony station. From here, you can catch the RER B train to the city centre in just 30 minutes. A taxi or rideshare will take you 20-30 minutes to reach the centre.

You don’t need to collect your luggage on most layovers, but if you do, be sure to arrange luggage storage at the airport beforehand.

Best Things to do during a Paris Layover

The infamous "Sinking House" in the Montmarte area of Paris
Montmarte 'Sinking House'

Want to know what to do during a layover in Paris? Well, it all depends on how long you have, and what’s most important to you.

We know it can feel a little overwhelming when it comes to planning your Paris layover itinerary, so we’ve created a few of our own (that you’re welcome to customise!) to take the stress out of your trip - even if you’re travelling solo!

We’ve used Charles de Gaulle airport as your base for transport instructions, but these itineraries work just as well from Paris Orly.

Let’s get started.

4 hours layover in Paris

A view of the eiffel tower from the Seine river in Paris at dusk
Eiffel Tower / Seine River

There’s no sugarcoating it - a four-hour layover in Paris is cutting things fine, but provided everything goes to plan, it can be the perfect opportunity to catch a glimpse of the city’s highlights.

Because of your tight window for sightseeing, we highly recommend booking a Paris layover tour. This way, you’ll reduce the risk of delays or complications and get to see more!

With that said, if you’re set on doing your 4-hour layover independently, we recommend catching a taxi straight to the Eiffel Tower. You probably won’t have time to go up, but the view from the Champ de Mars is second to none.

Snap a billion photos and sip a café au lait at a nearby cafe before catching a taxi back to the airport. Phew!

5 hours layover in Paris

Daytime picture of the Notre-Dame medieval catholic cathedral in Paris
Notre Dame, Île de la Cité

With five hours in Paris, you can breathe a little bit easier and soak up a couple of sights with enough time to catch your onward flight. We still recommend a layover tour for this duration, since it’s still quite tight. However, if you’re travelling independently, here’s our suggested itinerary:

Catch the RER B train directly to Notre Dame. The cathedral is still under construction, but it’s obviously still an unmissable Paris attraction. Plus, the area around Notre Dame, Île de la Cité, is gorgeous, perched right on the Seine, and you’ll love taking a wander around.

From here, catch the metro to the Eiffel Tower, which takes 20 minutes, snap your iconic Eiffel Tower selfies, and then catch a taxi back to the airport.

6 hours layover in Paris

Silver cars driving around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris
The Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile

Six hours gives you a decent window to see a couple of famous Paris sights without stressing too much, but, again, it’s still pretty tight!

Take the RER B train from the airport to Châtelet-Les Halles and walk to the Louvre Museum. If you have time, and it’s important to you, head inside to admire some of the most impressive and significant art in the world. If not, simply snap your photos of the iconic Louvre pyramid and stroll through the adjoining Tuileries Garden. It’s gorgeous!

If you skip the museum, you’ll still have time to wander to the nearby Place de la Concorde, where you’ll be rewarded with epic views over the Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe. It’s also where you’ll find the ancient Obelisk of Luxor, a 3,300-year-old Egyptian monument. Cool!

7 hours layover in Paris

Picture of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica with green trees in the foreground
Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Seven hours gives you a comfortable window to explore Paris on your layover and get a good taste of the city.

We recommend dedicating your layover to diving deep into Paris’ coolest bohemian neighbourhood - Montmartre. Take the RER B train to Gare du Nord and then switch to the Metro to Anvers, which will take you directly to Montmartre.

Here, you can visit the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, soaking up its stunning views of Paris, and check out the artists painting in the open air at Place du Tertre.

Oh, and did we mention that the Moulin Rouge is nearby? Be sure to snag a selfie with its iconic red windmill, and then hop on the Metro from Blanche to Victor Hugo and walk to Trocadéro to see the Eiffel Tower before heading back to the airport.

8 hours layover in Paris

People looking at the Mona Lisa portrait painting in the louvre museum
Mona Lisa, the Louvre Museum

Eight hours in Paris is the perfect duration for a Paris layover. Here’s what we recommend you get up to.

Start your journey by taking the RER B to Châtelet-Les Halles, followed by a short walk to the Louvre Museum. Spend some time exploring those must-see pieces, including the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Then, stroll through the Tuileries Garden towards the Place de la Concorde, checking out the lovely fountains along the way.

Continue on towards Champs-Élysées and onwards to see the Arc de Triomphe, passing the impressive Petit Palais along the way. From there, take the Metro to Trocadéro for spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower. If you’re doing well for time, choose to go to the top before heading back to the airport.

10 hours layover in Paris

Purple glass art in the Sainte-Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle, Palais de la Cité

We finally have time for a long layover in Paris! With 10 hours and upwards, you’ll have time to relax on your layover, lingering at attractions that you’re most interested in and seeing many of the city’s top sights.

Here’s how to spend a 10-hour Paris layover:

Kick things off at the Luxembourg Gardens after taking the RER B from the airport to Luxembourg station. Enjoy the charming gardens, soak up the sights in the Latin Quarter and enjoy a meal at a cosy Parisian cafe. Next, head over to the Pantheon.

Here, you can admire its neoclassical architecture and check out the crypts of famous French figures from throughout history, including the famous author Victor Hugo. Make your way to the nearby Paris hidden gem of Sainte-Chapelle to ogle at its stunning stained glass windows, and then round off your fabulous day at the Eiffel Tower. What a day!

12 hours layover in Paris

Aerial view of people visiting the Musée d'Orsay with the large clock in the background
Musée d'Orsay, Esplanade Valéry Giscard

Paris is world-famous for its art, and on a 12-hour layover you’ll have enough time to check out some of the city’s most impressive galleries. Start at the Orsay Museum, easy to get to from the airport by taking the RER C to Musée d'Orsay. This museum, inside an old railway station, holds the biggest collection of impressionist masterpieces in the world!

Then, take a relaxed wander along the River Seine to the Trocadéro Gardens for a mid-morning snack and a laid-back view of the Eiffel Tower. You can’t go to Paris without seeing it! A short metro ride will drop you off at the Rodin Museum (Musée Rodin) to enjoy the artwork and the oh-so-pretty sculpture gardens.

You’ve seen the Eiffel Tower from afar, but now, it’s finally time to get up close and personal with it. Is there a better way to round off a long layover in Paris than by going to the top of the Eiffel Tower? We don’t think so!

Overnight layover in Paris

Over night in Paris, a bridge on the Seine river

If you have enough time for an overnight layover in Paris, you’re very lucky indeed, and we’re jealous!

Upon arrival, head straight to your hotel, which, if you’ve followed our guide, you’ll have found for a bargain! Then, visit the Montparnasse Tower for a jaw-dropping nighttime view of Paris, including the lit-up Eiffel Tower. It’s the most romantic sight in the city! If you have time, and if you’ve booked in advance, you could even catch a show at the famously racy Moulin Rouge.

After a good night’s sleep, start your day early with a quick croissant for breakfast before heading to the Louvre Museum. It opens at 9am, allowing you to beat some of the crazy tourist crowds that arrive later.

Dedicate the morning to exploring the fabulous collection, marvelling at the Mona Lisa and Liberty Leading the People before grabbing a quick lunch at the nearby Marais district. In the afternoon, visit the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmartre, soaking up the vibes of this quirky neighbourhood, before rounding off your dreamy day at the Eiffel Tower.

An overnight layover in Paris? Done!

Best Paris Layover Tours You Can Book

Available Paris tours available to book

Don’t want the hassle of planning a Paris layover yourself? We don’t blame you! Letting somebody else do all of the work is worth every penny if you simply want to enjoy the city without thinking too much.

Here are our favourite layover tours in Paris:

This private Paris layover tour is a whirlwind adventure through Paris’ top attractions, from the Eiffel Tower to the Moulin Rouge, the Louvre Museum, and even the Moulin Rouge, depending on how much time you have. There’s a 2-hour tour and a 4-hour tour, so no matter how long you have, you can still see a slice of Paris. Way more exciting than killing time in the airport before your next flight!

This attraction-packed private tour was designed specifically for layovers, and it’s available at any time of day or night. Even if your layover is at 3am, you can take advantage of exploring Paris at night, without the crowds! Oh, and the itinerary is flexible, so you can customise it for your personal tastes.

FAQs about layovers in Paris 

Do you have to go through customs on a layover in Paris?

Yes, if you plan to leave the airport in Paris during your layover you’ll need to go through customs and immigration. This will involve a passport and also potentially a visa check, depending on your nationality.

Is a 2 hour layover enough in Paris? 

A 2-hour layover in Paris is generally seen as the minimum feasible amount of time you’ll need to transfer through the airport to catch your connecting flight - it’s certainly not long enough to leave the airport during your layover.

Do you need to get a visa during a layover in Paris?

Depending on your nationality, you may need a transit or Schengen visa for Paris. Citizens of Australia, the US, and the UK can enter the EU Schengen Zone, including Paris, visa-free for up to 90 days per 180 days.

Some alternate free guides and tips:

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