The Tourist's Guide to Paris' Airports

There are two main airports in the Paris area: Orly and Charles de Gaulle. Both airports are used extensively by travellers so if you have the choice, which one should you pick?

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Whether you’re planning a quick weekend break, or a more leisurely fortnight in the French capital, flying to Paris is a great way to travel. Far less hassle than other forms of transport, once you’re in the air you can simply sit back and relax.

More than 100 million passengers fly into Paris every year, making it a very popular route. Excellent links with other airports around the world mean that it’s very easy to organise with a wide selection of flight times.

Orly Airport: The Facts

Paris-Orly is the smaller of the two main city airports, servicing around 32,000,000 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 the primary airport for Paris.

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 in 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 the all-important duty-free cigarettes and alcohol. There’s also places to buy perfume, luxury food, clothing, baggage and accessories.

There are a number of special lounges in both South and West Terminals where passengers could feel more comfortable but there can be a substantial fee for admission. Strict entry criteria also applies and the lounges aren’t open to everyone.

The majority of places to eat are before the security checks so it’s easy to grab some food if you’re dropping someone off. There are still some eateries beyond the security checks, but not quite as many.

Medical facilities can be found in both terminals and there is also a range of faith areas for prayer and worship.

Charles de Gaulle: France's Largest Airport

Charles de Gaulle (CDG) is not just the busiest airport in France, but one of the top aviation centres in the world. 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 Orly, but not prohibitively so, lying around 25 km to the north. There are three terminals and four runways which can also accommodate large aircraft. 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 such as providing showers.

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, perhaps even more so than at Orly. These include the duty-free outlets as well as jewellery, cosmetic, luxury and souvenir stores.

Other airports

Orly and Charles de Gaulle are not the only two airports within Paris but make up the lion’s share of the traffic.

Le Bourget is located just 7km from Paris, and it used to be the main airport for the city. The airport has been around for a long time, 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 too.

Aéroport Beauvais-Tillé is often cited as another airport that serves Paris but it’s actually some distance away, lying 85km northwest of the city. This is the airport that many low budget airlines offer which is one of the reasons for its popularity despite the considerable distance.

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.

There are bus services running from both airports to Paris, a cost-effective 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 to 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 choices for transport.

Both airports can be accessed easily by road, Orly via the A106 and CDG via either the A1 or A3 motorways.

Whichever route you choose to travel by, both Orly and CDG have excellent transport links which are well connected and reliable.

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