Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) is the largest and busiest international airport in France, with over 76 million people passing through its 3 terminals in a good year. With nearly 500,000 flights arriving from and departing to destinations around the globe each year, it’s the 9th busiest airport in the world and the 2nd busiest in Europe, after London’s Heathrow Airport.

Located just 23 km northeast of central Paris, Charles de Gaulle Airport is a convenient way for tourists to arrive at the French capital. Furthermore, being such a busy airport, the airport is naturally very well developed, with a huge array of services available for arriving and departing passengers.

What are the highlights and features of Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport?

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is technically not in Paris, but in the suburban commune of Roissy-en-France, which is why it’s sometimes known as Roissy Airport. However, it’s significantly closer than Paris Beauvais Airport. Paris Beauvais is about 68 km north of the city centre and serves far more international carriers than Paris-Orly, which is the city’s main domestic airport and is about 14.5 km south of the Seine.

The airport opened in 1974 as a dedicated international airport, taking the pressure off the aging Orly Airport. Its iconic circular hub – Terminal 1 – was designed by Paul Andreu, who also led the further expansion of the airport. It now covers 32.38 sq km, with 4 runways and 3 terminals.

Inside the airport, you’ll find a wide array of international restaurants and shops as well as banks, ATMs, currency exchanges, mail offices, lounges and free Wi-Fi throughout. Terminal 2, being the largest of the 3, has the best selection and the most impressive duty-free offerings. You can easily find both familiar chain restaurants and many unique dining outlets here. Terminal 3, being mostly for low-cost carriers, has the smallest selection of shops and eateries – expect little more than a couple of sandwich shops.

photo by Dmitry Avdeev (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

How to get to and from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport?

There are several options for getting from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to the city. You can rent a automobile from a full array of national and international companies based in terminals 1 and 2, with offices generally open from the first flight to the last. Alternately, you can catch a taxi cab from the ranks outside the baggage claim neighborhoods of all 3 terminals. The drive to the city centre should take about 40 minutes, depending on traffic.

A cheaper option is to take the train from one of the airport’s 2 stations. Station 1 is next to Terminal 3 while Station 2 is under Terminal 2. There are 2 services available from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport – the high-speed TGV, departing from Station 2 to destinations across France and even into Belgium and the Netherlands, or the regional RER B, which stops at both stations.

You also have 2 choices on the RER B: a non-stop express service to Gare du Nord or a slower service that makes all of the stops in between. There are usually 4 trains per hour for both services. It’s worth noting that, being a cheap, convenient and regional commuter service, the RER B tends to be uncomfortably crowded. If you want to transfer directly from Paris-CDG to Paris-Orly to change to a domestic flight, the RER B is your best option.

Bus services from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport are cheaper than the train, but a lot slower. Options include the Roissybus non-stop service to the Opéra metro station and the ‘Magical Shuttle’ to Disneyland Paris, as well as local bus 350 and 351 that hit all the stops to Gare du Nord or the Nation metro station respectively.

photo by Burkhard Mücke (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

Good to know about Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

It may seem obvious, but Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is huge, especially Terminal 2. That being the case, it’s particularly wise to wear comfortable footwear because you’ll be doing a lot of walking between checkin and your gate. If you use a wheelchair, you’ll find that the airport is well designed for your convenience, but that doesn’t make the distances any shorter.

As you make your way around the terminals, be sure to look out for the impressive art exhibitions on the walls and in the 250-square-metre Espace Musées in Departure Hall M, Terminal 2E. The museum hosts 2 unique exhibitions per year, while artworks throughout the airport are rotated periodically.

photo by Ecliptics (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

Location: 95700 Roissy-en-France, France

Phone: +33 (0)1 70 36 39 50

Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveler