How to Navigate Paris' Airports

Orly or Charles de Gaulle? Beauvais or Le Bourget? Don't be perplexed by Paris' array of airports.

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Airport arrivals boards

More than 100 million passengers fly into Paris every year, meaning its airports serve a huge variety of routes. Whether you’re planning your first trip to Paris or count Paris as a home away from home, there's a high likelihood you'll be reaching the French capital by plane. Here, we here at Plum Guide are sharing all you need to know about Paris' airports as well as our tips and tricks for each of them.

Charles de Gaulle Airport

Charles de Gaulle (CDG) is not just the busiest airport in France, but one of the top aviation centres in the world when it comes to passenger traffic. Handling close to 70 million passengers every year, CDG is served by almost every top airline in the world. CDG is a little further out than Paris' second airport (Orly), but not prohibitively so, lying around 25 km to the north and easily accessible by public transport. There are three terminals and four runways, which can also accommodate large aircraft (meaning long-haul travel is on the cards). Terminal 1 is the oldest of the three terminals, and Terminal 3 is typically reserved for charter flights and smaller airlines. Terminal 2 is modern and expansive, with what seems to be a series of smaller terminals coming together through the various halls and lounges to make up the single large terminal.

Surprisingly for its size, CDG can be a little thin on amenities in some areas but further work is planned to bring this up to the standard of other international airports – you'll hopefully be able to freshen up with a pre-flight shower before too long. WiFi is provided free of charge to all passengers for the first 15 minutes but is a paid-for service if required for longer. Medical centres and multi-faith worship areas can be found in Terminals 1 and 2. Terminal 1 also offers Business Centre facilities including a comfortable lounge. There are plenty of retail outlets and opportunities to shop until you drop.. These include the usual duty-free outlets as well as shops specialising in jewellery, cosmetics and souvenirs.

Orly Airport

Paris-Orly is the smaller of the two main Paris airports, serving around 32 million passengers every year. It is, however, closer to Paris than Charles de Gaulle, lying just 8km south of Paris. If the roads are free of congestion, you can expect to be able to travel from the airport to the city in approximately 20 minutes. Orly has two terminals, West and South, and three runways. The third runway has been adapted so it can accommodate large aircraft such as the Airbus 380, giving more options for operators to fly into the city. Before Charles de Gaulle was built, Orly was Paris' primary airport.

This airport is a hub for a number of large airline operators including Air France, Corsair International and Aigle Azur as well as being a focus city for others such as easyJet, Vueling and Royal Air Maroc. Flights operate to locations across the Caribbean, Europe, North America, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. There is a dedicated business centre in the West Terminal. This can be accessed by all business travellers and offers space to work, hold interviews or conduct meetings.

Both terminals offer a wide range of retail outlets for shopping, including a wide selection of alcohol and cigarettes at duty free. There are also plenty of places to buy perfume, luxury food (delicate macaron from Ladurée, anyone?), clothing, baggage and accessories. There are a number of exclusive lounges in both South and West Terminals for anyone seeking to upgrade their pre-flight experinece, but these usually require a hefty entry fee and rather strict entry criteria. The majority of places to eat are before the security checks, meaning it’s easy to grab some food or enjoy a last coffee together if you’re dropping someone off. There are still some eateries beyond the security checks, but not as large a selection. Medical facilities can be found in both terminals, along with areas for prayer and worship.

Other airports

Though Orly and Charles de Gaulle make up the lion’s share of Paris' air traffic, they are not the only two airports serving the city.

Le Bourget is located just 7km from Paris, and at one time served as the city's main airport. The airport has long been a Paris fixture, having celebrated its centenary in 2014. With three runways and an area of 553 hectares, it’s a large space and it is still one of the busiest airports in Europe. However, it is now dedicated solely to business aviation and it also hosts the Paris Air Show – now you know why the name sounded familiar.

Aéroport Beauvais-Tillé is often cited as another Paris airport, but that might be a tad misleading, given that it lies 85km northwest of the city. A favourite among low budget airlines, Beauvais is worth considering if you love a bargain and don't mind a longer journey into Paris.

Getting to and from Paris' airports

Transport links between Paris and the two main airports are excellent, with travellers having a variety of options to choose between – ideal when time is of the essence and you're desperate to tick off some key sights on your 'things to see in Paris' list. There are bus services running from both airports to Paris, with the bus usally among the most cost-effective transport option. Services run approximately every 10-15 minutes during the day. Night buses are available from both but run less frequently.

The RER train service doesn't run directly from Orly airport to the centre of Paris, but a special airport line, OrlyVal, is available to transport passengers to the nearby RER station and also links up with the metro. In contrast, RER trains leave directly from CDG with two stations available. These services run from just before 5am to midnight. CDG also has the advantage of a high-speed train connection which runs from Terminal 2, plus a coach station situated in Terminal 1. In addition, the CDG Express Link connects Paris and CDG airport directly providing multiple transport options. Both airports can be accessed easily by road, Orly via the A106 and CDG via either the A1 or A3 motorways.

Breakfast in Montmartre, Plum Guide home in Paris

So, now that you've figured out Paris' airports, next up is finding the ideal base for your trip to the City of Love. Let Plum Guide's team of experts assist you in choosing where to stay in Paris. Whether you want a cosy home in Montmartre or an elegant apartment near Opéra Garnier, we've got something (remarkable) for everyone.

Golden Smoke, Plum Guide home in Paris

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