Paris Airport Charles de Gaulle: Instant Lounge, Instant Leisure

I didn’t know anybody who was excitedly looking forward to a stopover in Paris – notably at Charles de Gaulle airport.

Soyez bienvenus at the – free! – transfer lounge of Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
It’s not only comfy and cozy, it’s most of all hyper classy!
(Photo: Gwen Le Bras / Aéroports de Paris SA)

Well, this changed dramatically, and I’m here to show you what you are missing out on when you choose not to stop there.

The Cost-Comfort-Balance 

An unlimited urge to travel versus a pretty limited amount of money – how do you manage? I do it by travelling on a budget; and saving starts with the means of transportation – namely flights.

I have no intention to advertise for them, but it’s a fact that the national Dutch airline KLM has often the best deals, whether flying to Asia or to South America.
While I find that their service, at least in economy, is quite average, I’m always looking forward to my connection at Schiphol airport. It’s big, it’s entertaining and most importantly it’s quite comfortable: Many ‘themed’ waiting areas, furnished with all sort of large, soft seats and loungers – perfect to relax between flights.

I do not want to find myself in a situation where evacuation is necessary, but I wouldn’t mind someone chauffeuring me around a little bit on this chair while I’m waiting for my connecting flight at Schiphol airport.  

Like most airlines, KLM is part of an alliance, here it’s SkyTeam, and so is Air France, so that often I have to fly one way with KLM and the other with their French buddies. Which is fine when it comes to the flight itself – there Air France even takes the cake….metaphorically – and literally trades it for delicious food and very friendly service; a real treat for their customers.

When it came to the always obligatory stopover in Paris at the Charles de Gaulle airport, it was a different story: Terrible! Long, confusing corridors, hardly any store or restaurant or inspiration of any kind. Just dull and draining. I’ve never heard of anybody looking forward to a stopover at CDG.

The Cost-Time-Balance

This said, do I have to explain why I was pretty depressed facing my flight home from Rio de Janeiro, not only coming from from plus 40° C (over 100° Fahrenheit) and heading for minus 5° (sadly 23° Fahrenheit) – facing a stopover of over seven (yes, seven; as in….seven) hours at one of world’s most depressing airports?

Seven hours – in Paris too short to go downtown, especially after a 12 hours flight, and far too long not to get into a really bad mood.

But as I was dragging my feet as well as my hand luggage from the plane towards the next gate where I intended to sit for seven hours on a metal woven chair, embossing its design into my but, I spotted a sign: “instant Paris – free transfer lounge”. Free transfer lounge? At CDG? What could that possibly be – a complimentary cushion on the metal woven seating surface?
Grumpy and pessimistic, I followed the signs.

Remembering how my poor child had to sleep on uncomfortable metal seats, having only her plush penguin for a pillow. Well, at least in Paris, this misery is over.

I came to a large, white reception. To its left a gorgeous red sofa. Behind the counter a young man in a black suit looking at me in friendly anticipation. He was polite enough to ignore my traveller appearance of torn jeans and a hoodie stained from the French menu they served on the flight from Rio. And he was friendly enough to assure me that all the services in this area were completely free of charge.

Bienvenus à Paris

Whether Bauhaus or haunted castle style – every passenger waiting for the
connecting flights finds a quiet corner to relax, read or work.
(Photo: Gwen Le Bras / Aéroports de Paris SA)

I kept on dragging – feet and luggage – along a couloir, the hallway, which leads from the polished shiny white counter. To the left and the right are two different kinds of very comfy looking fauteuils – a Bauhaus-ish square kind with a middle grey cover.

To make up for the minimalist charm of these seats, the other kind looks a bit inspired by the Addams family: pseudo-baroque curvy shells in red and black.  Not my taste, but definitely very comfortable; plus the round shape certainly provides enough privacy to read or work undisturbed.

So does the whole arrangement, by the way: The furniture is positioned in a way that everybody is able to keep to himself if he so chooses.

The Cafeteria

If you don’t have your device with you, next to the hotel entrance is a large table
where you can use their pads for free – against the backdrop of the Eiffel tower.
(Photo: Gwen Le Bras / Aéroports de Paris SA)

Approximately halfway between the counter with the polite and friendly young man and a hotel entrance, the hallway opens to a sitting area with a food counter where they sell sandwiches, pastries and hot and cold drinks to be enjoyed in a very pleasant seating area.

I will not go so far as to praise their cafeteria: It’s still the same (whereby hopefully ‘same’ only in the sense of identical) pretty dry sandwich made of a forearm long piece of baguette with a paper thin slice of ham, garnished with a tired lettuce leaf – 8 €uro = are you kidding me?! To get this pretty dry stuff down, you need to order some sort of drink with it. Like for instance a large coffee – which everywhere else would be a small or at most medium coffee – for 5 €uro = seriously?!

I forgive them. I had the pleasure to enjoy my totally overprized breakfast at the spotless eating area next to the counter, listening to very soothing, slightly jazzy versions of different songs from the charts. I don’t know whether it was due to the early hour or to this quite relaxing atmosphere that everybody was very quiet, even speaking into mobile phones pretty piano.

Only in front of the hotel entrance was a Chinese guest yelling into his phone, otherwise: silenzio!

In front of the hotel? Yap, if all the comfort they are offering for free is not good enough for you, you can check in at the Yotel at the end of the corridor. This hotel counts with many amenities and you can book yourself in already for a minimum of four hours.

If you just want to refresh yourself, you can access their shower area for 20 €uro.

The Lounges

While the walls in the hallway are mainly decorated with large scale mirrors – giving it, especially in combination with the pompous rococo-ish chairs, an air of Versaille – the lounge next to the seating area is decorated with pictures of Parisian icons. There is even a miniature wooden Eiffel Tower.

Next to the very comfy lounge, the smallest guest can play and build in their own little space – and learn to love flying with mummy and daddy.

Since you cannot go to see the icons, instant Paris! lounge brings the icons to you – like the Arc de Triomphe – or the inevitable Eiffel tower.
(Photo: Gwen Le Bras / Aéroports de Paris SA)

At this point I was already so impressed that I forgot about all the horrible hours I had spent at this airport in the past. They’ve made up for it big time. It couldn’t get any better!

It couldn’t? Well, walking further down the hallway, I stood corrected: Entering their library!

Their library is a real library with real books – and everything else that characterizes a library: Dim lights, silence, comfortable armchairs….and two of the most beautiful and most commodious sofas I’ve ever seen. Or sit on. Or laid on.
I crashed.

Can a sofa become a home? This light golden beauty can!
It’s not only one of the most beautiful sofas I’ve ever placed my behind on, it’s also incredibly comfortable.
(Photo: Gwen Le Bras / Aéroports de Paris SA)

These things are long. I am about 5″10 and as I laid down, there was still room for another person to sit (which of course no other person did!).

These things are wide. I am about…I don’t put it in numbers, but I’m big, and as I laid down, there was still room to move freely without falling down.

What can I say, guys? After I had spent a couple of hours at their library, I hated travelling on. I wanted to stay longer! I wanted to move in!

You know what? I think next time I buy a ticket via Paris, I might just skip the rest of the trip altogether and stay at CDG – it might be the best vacation in Paris ever.

You should pin this for your next trip via Paris – this experience is not to be missed:

24 hours in…PARIS

This is the latest issue of the new category on my blog which is designated to transform a – maybe forced – stay like a layover into a short extra-vacation. Of course these itineraries – one for a sunny and an alternative for a rainy day – are great not only for layovers but for any kind of a brief stay, e. g. during a road- or interrail trip through Europe.

Eiffel Tower
View of the Eiffel Tower from across the river Seine next to Palais du Trocadéro

Maybe you will think that 24 hours are far too little to explore the “city of lights”. Of course, you are right, but this applies to almost every popular stopover destination. However, if you follow my itineraries, you’ll be surprised how much you get to see and experience of the proverbial ‘savoir vivre’.

Good for – short term – travellers that France has this system of centrality so that basically all important exhibitions and shows are presented rather in Paris than in any other French city. Here the capital is a capital with a capital…P.

I was keen to find as many sights as possible located in one spot so that you don’t have to travel crisscross town, and the hotel is right next to Gare Montparnasse station where shuttles connect the city with both airports. And since Paris airports are not entertaining at all, you should definitely go downtown if you have a couple of hours.

?   Local Currency:

Euro (EUR) / 1 EUR = 1.14 US$ (July 2017) / current rate

?    Emergency Hotline:

Police 17

SOS – all services (recommended when calling from a mobile) 112

?    National Airline: 

Air France

?    Airports:

Charles de Gaulle / IATA-Code: CDG
Orly / IATA-Code: ORY

?    Tourist Info online and onsite:

Paris Tourist Office
Réception du Carrousel du Louvre
99 rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris

?    Getting Downtown and Back

There are many different possibilities to get in a fast and cheap way from the airport to the city center. I spare you the bus since it’s cheap, but not comfortable, and it takes forever. So let’s begin with the second cheapest way which is the RER, the local train. It costs 10€ one way and takes a little over 30 minutes. If you need to go to Gare Montparnasse, and you do if you follow my itinerary, you have to change at Gare du Nord to the Métro No. 4 towards Porte d’Orléans and get off at Montparnasse Bienvenüe, though.
The best bet for you is “Le Bus Direct” for 17$ (or 30€ round trip) which is…direct. It runs from 6 a. m. to 10.30 p. m. from Charles de Gaulle to the city center and from 5.30 a. m. to 10.30 p. m. from Gare Montparnasse every half an hour and takes 60 to 70 minutes depending on the traffic.
If you have a connection to Orly, there is a direct bus from Roissy (this is the name French people call the airport, so don’t let it confuse you).

Metro Entrance
Métro station Grands Boulevards – you’ll need to get here
for dinner.
© Paris Tourist Office. Photo: Henri Garat

No matter which one of the itineraries you follow, you will travel a lot on the Métro. However, since the Métro is really cheap, I cannot recommend the Paris Pass, especially since you can buy it only for at least two days, and with 135€ it’s far too costy.

One trip by Métro with all connections needed during 90 minutes cost you 1,90€. If you buy a ‘carnet’ which is ten tickets, it only costs you 16€ and will cover the day; I recommend that.

If you have luggage and do not spend the night, you can leave your belongings at the train station Montparnasse (“consigne”). It’s one of the very few options in Paris to store your luggage.

?    Morning Activities

Paris is – unless you have to live there – always romantic and nice. Of course it’s more fun to enjoy the city in the sun, so I keep my fingers cross for you and supply you with a helpful itinerary to make the best of your stay.

Cheese at Rue Mouffatard
France is simply cheese heaven – the variety of artisan
delicacies seems to be endless!
© Paris Tourist Office. Photo: Amélie Dupont

We’ll start the day at the most cliché French but also the most beautiful little street in Paris, the Rue Mouffetard. Yes, it’s cheesy, but I guarantee you that you’ll love it; and you’ll get excellent French cheese there, too.

To get there, take the Métro No. 6 (towards Nation) and change to line No. 7 at Place d’Italie (towards La Courneuve 8 Mai 1945) and get off at Censier-Daubenton. Walk down rue Daubenton and turn right into rue Mouffetard and there you are amidst the France you always dreamt of.

One advise if you intend to stock up on cheese and take it with you on a plane: Don’t put soft cheese in your hand luggage, it might be considered “cream” and confiscated! Don’t believe me? Read my earlier post!

Jardin du Luxembourg
Jardin du Luxembourg – a Parisian cliché amidst Parisian
© Paris Tourist Office. Photo: David Lefranc

Did you stock up on some baguette and cheese and a little wine? Looking for a place for a light morning picnic? Turn left at Place de la Contrescarpe and stroll down rue de l’Estrapade towards Jardin du Luxembourg where you can either sit on one of the lush, soft meadows or on one of the old, charming chairs around the basin and enjoy some rays of sun. To me this garden (=Jardin), a former royal estate – and there is still the Palais du Luxembourg, is one of the nicest Parisian parks. Between the manicured classicistic flowerbeds and terraces is lots of space for leisure activities, an old puppet theater, a romantic carousel, and more.

Notre Dame
This is what used to be one of the many, many Parisian
landmarks: The Notre-Dame Cathedral that got severely
damaged by a fire in April 2019.
© Paris Tourist Office. Photo: Jacques Bravo

It’s almost lunchtime, so let’s walk down Boulevards Saint-Michel towards river Seine. Cross the Saint-Michel bridge to walk along Boulevard du Palais. Walk on crossing Pont au Change leaving Paris’ most important island – Île de la cité – behind and catch the Métro No. 1 at Châtelet (towards La Defense) and get off at Franklin D. Roosevelt station: You are in the middle of the famous Champs Elysées!

Lunch – some of the best steamed or gratiné mussels at an unbeatable price – is waiting!

⛈    Morning Activities

It shouldn’t surprise you that it’s no biggy to spend an inspiring and fun day in Paris although it’s raining. Let’s visit some really cool museums – and I’m not mentioning the Louvre on purpose since you probably don’t need me to send you there. I’ll quote some others that are a tad bit less famous but absolutely worth a visit.

While I don’t recommend the Paris Pass, I highly recommend to get a Museum Pass. It’s for two days, which you might not need. But at a price of 48€ it still will pay if you follow this itinerary. And another advantage is priceless: You don’t have to wait in line (at least not in the regular, long line), but can walk straight in.

Musée d'Orsey
The beautiful sculpture patio under
one of the antique clocks of
Musée d’Orsay.
© Paris Tourist Office. Photo: Amélie Dupont

The first museum to visit is the Musée d’Orsay on the banks of river Seine. Getting there from Montparnasse-Bienvenüe station is quick and easy, just take Métro No. 12 (towards Front Populaire) and hop off at Solférino.
The Museum is housed in a former train station, the Gare d’Orsay. This station was built for the Paris International Exposition and used till 1939 by the trains going South West. In 1977 on an initiative by former president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing the station was transformed into a museum, that opened in 1986. Today the Musée d’Orsay houses about 4000 paintings from the era 1848 to 1914 on 16.000 square meters/ more than 172,000 square feet.

Musée d’Orsay 
62, rue de Lille
75343 Paris
Phone: +33 – 1 – 40 49 48 14

The Monet masterpiece in the Orangerie’s basement: just a
tiny snippet of the nymphaeas decorating two entire halls.

I hope you are very much into French impressionism since also this venue houses some of the most important paintings from this art epoch.
But half of the exhibition space is made available for eight huge nymphaea paintings by Claude Monet. They are arranged in two oval halls and make these a “Sistine Chapel of Impressionism” like André Masson called the arrangement.

Musée de l’Orangerie
Jardin des Tuileries
Place de la Concorde
75001 Paris
Phone: +33 – 1 – 44 77 80 07

The museum is open from Wednesday to Monday from 9 a. m. to 6 p. m.

To get to the historic ‘Jeu de Paume’ building that used to house all the impressionist treasures before they’ve found a new home at the Musée d’Orsay you only have to cross the gravel way of Jardin des Tuileries. Today there is no permanent collection at the Jeu de Paume, but they are organizing great photo and movie exhibits.

Galerie du Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
Phone: + 33 – 1 – 47 03 12 50

The gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a. m. to 7 p. m. (Tuesdays to 9 p. m.)

I guess by now you’ll be really hungry. Let’s get a great lunch right on the Champs Elysées. You can either walk there in about 25 minutes; or you take Métro No. 1 (towards La Defense) and get off at Franklin D. Roosevelt station.

?     Lunch

Mussels at Léon
A little Belgian ‘savoir vivre’:  A pot of mussels in broth,
an order of fries and a nice Belgian beer.

This restaurant, popular with the locals and tourists alike, is a chain serving all sorts of mussels, traditionally with a huge side of fries (actually you can order as many fries as you like – “à volonté”).

Léon de Bruxelles 
63 Avenue Des Champs Elysées
75008 Paris
Phone: +33 – 1 – 42 25 96 16

The restaurant is open from Sunday to Thursday vom 11.45 a. m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday to 1 a. m.

?    Afternoon Activities

Arc de Triomphe
Busy Champs Elysée leading to the
Arc de Triomphe – what a triumphant view!
© Paris Tourist Office. Photo: Jacques Lebar

I assume after lunch, and being on the most Parisian shopping street, you’d like to do some (window-)shopping!? Doing so, keep walking towards the Arc de Triomphe. Once you get there, you can either climb up the Arc to have a great view on all of Paris – or you are satisfied with just turning around and look back at the never ending traffic stream on the Champs Elysée.

Now, at Charles de Gaulle – Étoile, hop on the Métro No. 6 (towards Nation) and get off at Trocadéro.
You can see the Eiffel tower from almost every spot in the city – but the unbeatably best view you’ll have from Palais du Trocadéro, an exhibition venue, built in 1878 for the Paris International Exposition.

Enjoy the manicured garden and then cross the Pont d’Iéna towards the Eiffel tower. Depending on your time management you might want to go up the tower or go on a cruise with “Bateaux Parisien” who have a terrible website so I at least found the sightseeing cruise info in English for you.

Of course you can also just stroll across the Champ de Mars and enjoy your wonderful afternoon in Paris.

To get to the traditional restaurant Bouillon Chartier – this one is not to be missed! – you walk back across the Pont de Iéna to the Métro station with the same name and take Métro No. 9 (towards Mairie de Montreuil) and get off at Grands Boulevards station.

⛈    Afternoon Activities

Musee d'art moderne
The masterpiece of the Musée de l’art moderne: Raoul Dufy’s
Electricity Fairy – a mural of 10 x 60 m (33 x 196 feet)
© Paris Tourist Office. Photo: Amélie Dupont

If it’s not raining too hard, you might walk up the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe and either climb up or take Métro No. 6 at Charles de Gaulle – Étoile  (towards Nation) and go to Boissière.

If you want to skip the Arc and go to the next gallery straight from the restaurant, you take Métro No. 9 at Franklin D. Roosevelt station (towards Pont de Sèvres) and get off at Iéna.

Here are two fantastic art venues in one building – I love Paris! The Palais d’Art Moderne houses a nice permanent collection of modernism and adds temporary exhibitions worth seeing.

Ragnar Kjartansson
Ragnar Kjartansson: Seul Celui qui Connaît le Désir 
Yes, it is unique to show a chamber drama at an exhibition;
usually images are more static.

The Palais de Tokyo has no permanent collection but original and delightful exhibitions of contemporary artists. The Palais de Tokyo is definitely one of my top ten art venues world wide.

If it’s not raining too hard, you can walk a little towards Palais du Trocadéro to have a good view at the Eiffel tower (actually the first picture of this post was taken from there).

To get to the traditional restaurant Bouillon Chartier – this one is not to be missed! – you walk back to Métro station Iéna and go by train No. 9 (towards Mairie de Montreuil) to Grands Boulevards station.

Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris 
11 avenue du Président Wilson
75116 Paris
Phone: + 33 – 1 – 53 67 40 00

Palais de Tokyo 
13 Avenue du Président Wilson
75116 Paris

?    Dinner

Enjoy some traditional French cuisine.

Chartier has been a Parisian culinary institution for over a hundred years now. Especially since they combine substantial, traditional French cuisine with witty, fast service in a truly original, communicative, fun setting – and all this at more than reasonable prices. I already made (facebook-) friends for life here!

Bouillon Chartier
7 rue du Faubourg Montmartre
75009 Paris
Phone: +33 – 1 – 47 70 86 29

Good news: They are open every day from 11.30 a. m. to midnight.
Bad news: They are not taking reservations (and sometimes the queues are long…)

?   Nightcap

Why not combining the nightcap with a visit to one of the most important art venues Paris has to offer – why not visit the Centre Pompidou!?

If you’re not too tired, coming from Chartier, you can walk down Rue Montmartre, this will take about twenty minutes. Otherwise you can take Métro No. 9 at Grands Boulevards (towards Mairie de Montreuil) and change to No. 4 at Strasbourg-St. Denis (towards Mairie de Montrouge) and get off at Étienne Marcel.

Centre Georges Pompidou
The unusual facade of the Centre Georges Pompidou.
© Paris Tourist Office. Photo: Fabian Charaffi

This year it’s the Centre George Pompidou’s 40th birthday! Architects Richard Rogers from Britain and Italian Renzo Piano competed against 681 rivals from 49 countries – and won the bid. The center opened on January 31, 1977. This building made of 15 000 tons of steel and 11 000 m² glass might be unusual and probably an work of architectural art – I still don’t like it. But I like a lot what’s in it: Huge galleries housing an extraordinary permanent collection from modernism to contemporary and always a hand full of special exhibits. There is a big book shop and and a cinema and a cool restaurant and bar all the way up overlooking all Paris.
So after you’ve seen the great art, let’s go upstairs for a drink.

Musée National d’Art Moderne
Centre Pompidou Place Georges Pompidou
75004 Paris

The Galleries are open from Wednesday to Monday 11 a. m. to 9 p. m. (Thursday to 11 p. m.)
They are closed on Tuesday and 1st of May – that’s it, otherwise always open.
This view speaks for itself, right!?
© Le Georges Restaurant

The restaurant – which also has a spacious terrace – is open from noon to 2 a. m.
Kitchen is open until midnight.

To access Le Georges Restaurant between noon and 8:50 p. m., you should use the elevator on the Centre Pompidou Plaza, on the left from the main entrance.  After 8:50 p. m. access is granted at the entrance by the escalator facing 50 rue Rambuteau. (Warning: Their website is very misleading especially regarding the hours; I had to read the French version to get it straight.)

Like the Museum, Le Georges is closed on Tuesdays.

Phone: +33 – 1 – 44 78 47 99

To get back to your hotel, take Métro No. 4 at Châtelet (towards Mairie de Montrouge) that takes you to Montparnasse-Bienvenüe in less than 10 minutes.

?    Accomodation

Especially if you are on a layover and need to get back to the airport in the early morning, staying close to Gare Montparnasse is highly recommendable. Since everything, and hotels, too, is quite expensive in Paris, this accommodation in a very Parisian style is perfectly located and actually quite a good deal.
To get to Gare Montparnasse from here, you can either walk about

Hotel Transcontinental 
155 avenue du Maine
75014 Paris
Phone: +33 – 1 – 45 39 20 20

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