Traveling to Paris is like a dream come true but did you know there are more than two airports that contribute to the growing air traffic to the city?
When traveling internationally, chances are that your entry point to the French capital would be one of the airports (and sometimes trains, but that’s a whole other topic!). For seasoned travelers, navigating airports is a piece of cake but for newbies, it can be daunting to learn about the multiple airports in Paris and know which one is best suited for your itinerary.
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How many airports does Paris have?
Paris is served by 5 airports, although only 2 of them are truly Parisian while the other 3 can be found a little further away from the city. Aéroport de Charles de Gaulle (CDG) is by far the largest airport and connects Paris to international destinations. Aéroport de Paris Orly (ORY) is the second busiest airport and caters mostly to domestic travel within France, but does have a few international flights. Beauvais and Vatry are further away but are popular with budget travelers, and Le Bourget mostly caters to business flights.
Aéroport de Charles de Gaulles (CDG)
Aéroport de Charles de Gaulles, more commonly known as CDG, is one of the biggest and busiest European airports in line with Frankfurt and London Heathrow. Situated to the northeast of Paris, CDG is the main Parisian airport catering to the majority of international travelers. It is the main hub of AirFrance but also has a few low-cost international airlines like EasyJet and Vueling.
While Orly and Le Bourget were founded during the First World War, the CDG airport opened in 1974 to cater to the growing air traffic after the 50s and the 60s.
Interestingly, CDG was to become the second airport, and not the third, as they intended to close Le Bourget for scheduled flights after building the new airport. Originally named Paris Nord, and then Roissy (after the nearby town), it was later decided to rename the airport after the legendary President Charles de Gaulle.
With a daring and radical design for Aérogare 1, the airport was designed to handle the growing population and was an effort to hop on the modernization train along with other advanced countries like the USA and Germany. The design was also supposed to showcase the French grandeur and savoir-faire of its aeronautical teams.
CDG was built to handle different kinds of aircraft in bigger numbers. The Aérogare 1 (Terminal 1) was the centerpiece of Roissy. Built in the Brutalism style, the concrete circular building was to contain 10 levels, each dedicated to a single function like baggage handling, shops and restaurants, a train station to connect to the other terminals, border security checks, and many more.
It soon earned the nickname ‘Le Camembert’ (as its shape resembled the popular French cheese), and was described as fantastic, strange, functional, surreal, and sober. The ‘octopus’ style terminal 1 had a major flaw- it could not be expanded. Keeping this in mind, Terminal 2 was built in a more traditional linear style in 1981 and Terminal 3 in 1990.
Fun Facts about CDG
- There were initial plans to build an ‘Aerotrain’, a dedicated highspeed hover-train line to and the from the airport. Prototypes were also built with the same turbofan engine as those of Boeing 727 models.
- Sir Alfred Mehran (known as Mr. Nasseri in the beginning) spent 18 years of his life living in the alcoves of the different terminals of CDG. He fled from Iran in 1988, and when he failed to gain entry to the UK, he lived in the airport with all his belongings. He was taken to the hospital in 2006 and later accepted French residency. If you saw the 2004 Tom Hanks movie Terminal, it was based on this story!
How to get to CDG Airport
CDG is 15.5 miles (25 km) away from Paris but is well connected with RER B, and is around 30min from Gare du Nord. The RER B runs frequently throughout the day from 5 am to midnight. If you’re in a rush, the RER B also has a “fast train” that goes non-stop from Gare du Nord to CDG. CDG has two train stops- Terminal 1&3, and Terminal 2 (the last stop).
If handling the metro system with luggage sounds overwhelming, CDG also has a shuttle service from Paris Opéra, the Roissybus. It departs every 15-20 mins and reached the airport in one hour. The tickets cost around €13.70.
If you land at night, the airport has night buses (N140 and N143) from all 3 terminals that can take you to Gare de l’Est. The tickets can be bought from the metro stations or the driver for €8.
The airport also offers shuttles to Disneyland Paris and Parc Astérix. The Disneyland Magic Shuttle costs €23 for adults, and €10 for children from 3-11 years. The Parc Astérix shuttle is for €5 from Terminal 3.
The airport also has a taxi service with a flat rate for different locations: €53 from CDG to Paris Right Bank and €58 from CDG to Paris Left Bank. The official taxi service is located near the arrival gates, and the taxis have an illuminated sign on the top of the vehicle. Make sure you confirm this pre-set rate when you get inside the taxi. Otherwise, you might get taken advantage of.
You can also pre-order a taxi using the G7 app. This is a good option if you have a group as you can be sure to get a van. NOTE: Using apps outside the US requires data on your cell phone. Plan accordingly with your cell phone provider. If you own your phone, then think about buying a sim card for Europe (we buy ours from Amazon) to use while you are in Paris.
For years we took the Air France bus into the city. IT was inexpensive €18 a person and there were multiple spots in the city it stopped. However, during the pandemic, it was stopped and never re-started.
Sheraton Paris Airport Hotel
One of my favorite things about CDG is the Sheraton. I have written an entire post about it! I often stay there on the night before returning back to the US. IT has been a haven when flights have been canceled. The interior is like the inside of a cruise ship and if you get a room on the runway side, you can watch the planes coming and going. They have a great bar too!
Aéroport de Paris Orly (ORY)
Smaller and closer to Paris, the Orly airport caters to domestic and Mediterannean flights, along with a few international destinations. Located 7 miles (12km) south of Paris, it was originally named Orly-Villeneuve Airport and was opened as a secondary airport to Le Bourget in 1932.
After World War II, the Orly Airport was rapidly expanded and soon became the AirFrance hub in 1952. While most of the traffic was transferred to CDG in the north, Orly remained an important airport and did not stop growing. In 1991, Orlyval was built to connect the Paris Metro to the airport and carry passengers between terminals.
It is the second most important airport in Paris. It is far less chaotic than CDG and is often a good choice to travel within Europe and for some long-haul flights to the Middle East, the Caribbean, and New York City.
It not only houses shops and eateries but also has a modern library in Terminal 4 with comfy leather couches and long tables. The rotating galleries at the airport also showcase Parisian masterpieces. The airport has an 80s-themed arcade with vintage video games.
Fun Fact about ORY
- When France was occupied by Germany during World War II, the German Army took charge of the airport, and such it suffered quite a bit of bomb damage. It was later rebuilt by the US Air Force, and placed under the authorities of Aéroport de Paris.
How to get to Orly Airport
Like CDG, the Orly Airport is connected to RER B by the Orlyval shuttle (a driverless metro line that carries passengers from RER B’s Antony station to the airport). The Orlyval is not included in any of the metro passes and requires an external ticket. A single-way Orlyval ticket costs €9.30, and a combined ticket of Orlyval and RER B is €12.05.
The Orlybus is another great shuttle service from Place Denfert-Rochereau, with a ticket costing €9.50. It also accepts Navigo passes.
Tramway line 7 (T7) connects the airport to Paris Metro line 7 at Villejuif-Louis Aragon. The tramway ticket costs €1.90, and the combined tramway and metro ticket is €3.80.
The Orly Airport also has a direct shuttle to Disneyland Resorts, provided by the Val d’Europe Airports shuttle (VEA). The ticket for a single adult is €23, and €10 for children from 3-11 years.
Paris- Le Bourget (LBG)
Paris- Le Bourget, which opened in 1919, was the first main airport in Paris. Located just 4 miles (7km) from Paris, Le Bourget has a rich cultural history and is the driving force of the Île-de-France economy.
The airfield was first used by Captain Lucca in October 1914 when he landed there looking for a suitable place to defend Paris from the Germans. Le Bourget airport was officially inaugurated in 1919. It grew and expanded, and by 1981, it became the symbol of civil business aviation and is now the leading business airport in Europe.
The airport is close to the Paris-Le Bourget Exhibition Park which hosts the International Paris Air Show every two years.
Fun Facts about LBG
- In 1927, Charles Lindbergh landed in Le Bourget after flying across the North Atlantic. It was the first non-stop solo crossing by plane. Also known as the ‘flying madman’, the American aviator performed a heroic flight of more than 33 hours and was welcomed by a huge crowd.
- Adolf Hitler began his first (and only) tour of Paris from Le Bourget Airport in 1940.
- The airport was featured in Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code.
How to get to Paris Le Bourget Airport
Although the closest to Paris, Le Bourget does not have a direct connection from the city center. You can take the RER B in the direction of CDG and get off at Le Bourget station. During the Paris Air Show, the Le Bourget Museum offers a free shuttle from the train station to the museum/airport. If there is no free shuttle, you will have to take two buses, Line 133 and Line 152.
Bus line 350 from Gare de l’Est, Gare du Nord or Porte de la Chapelle takes you to the nearest stop, Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace.
Alternatively, you can take metro line 7 to the end in the north (La Courneuve – 8 Mai 1945) and switch to bus line 152.
Located 50 miles (80km) from Paris, the Beauvais-Tillé airport is the third international airport in the city. It is the perfect choice for travelers on a budget as it caters to low-cost flights like Ryan Air and Wizz Air. It is commonly known as the low-cost airport but remains an important hub for airlines flying to major European cities.
The airport was initially built in the 1930s and was occupied by the German forces and was liberated by the Allied ground forces in 1944. It was soon taken over by the United States Army Air Forces. The French gained full control of the airport in 1945. In 1950, it became a NATO Emergency airfield controlled by the French Air Force. It was rebuilt as a civil airport in 1955 and reopened for commercial use.
The airport is located in a city called Beauvais, the capital of the Oise department, and has become a popular tourist destination thanks to the airport. The city was known as the “City of Tapestry Making” and has an interesting history of textile manufacturing dating back to medieval times.
How to get to Beauvais Airport
The Paris Beauvais Airport offers a non-stop shuttle service from Porte Maillot. You can book the tickets online or at the point of service. The ticket for adults costs €29 for a return trip and €15.90 for one way, and the tickets remain valid for one year from the date of purchase. The travel time depends on the traffic so ensure you have at least 3 hours on hand before your check-in at the airport.
You can also take the TER from Gare du Nord which takes you to the town of Beauvais (5.5km away from the airport). A single-way ticket costs €15.40.
The Paris Vatry Airport is the furthest from the city center, around 93 miles (150 km) east of Paris in the Champagne-Ardenne region. Similar to Beauvais, Vatry caters to low-budget airlines like Ryanair and Spanish Iberia. The airport caters to passenger transport, flight training, cargo shipping, and private aviation. The runway at Paris Vatry is one of the longest runways in Europe.
The minor international airport was initially an airbase in 1953 and was switched to civilian use in 2000. The Vatry Air Base’s construction began during the Cold War, but when the French withdrew from the NATO military structure, the Vatry Air Base was shut down. It was then under the control of the French Air Force until 2000.
The region around the airport is full of art, history, and more importantly, Champagne. The airport is just 20 mins away from Châlons-en-Champagne, also known as the sparling Venice. Cities like Epernay, Reims, and Aube are a drive away and come with exciting ways to discover the historical Champagne region.
How to get to Vatry Airport
From Gare de l’Est, you can take a train to Châlons-en-Champagne or Reims, and a taxi from there to cover the remaining 16 miles (25km). You can also book on-demand shuttles or taxis by contacting the companies. The entire list is available on the Vatry Airport website.
Time for boarding! If you are visiting from the United States, CDG is going to be your main airport in and out of France. But if you are going to other destinations after your visit to Paris, you have options!
How about you? Have you flown in or out of any of these airports? Do share!
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