How To Spend a Layover in Paris? (What To Do, Tips & More)

Palais-Royal, a great place to see during a layover in Paris

If you’re having a layover in Paris, it’s a lot of fun to explore the city.

Paris is a large city and there’s a lot to see and to do. You can easily spend months in the city and do something different every day. But if you’re only a few hours in the city, you can still see some of the highlights of Paris and that’s great.

In this guide, you can find a great itinerary with things to do during a Paris layover. Besides that, I’ll explain how to get to the city from the airport, and how much time you need to explore the city during a layover. I’ll also give some general information you should know if you’re in the city during a layover.

How to Get to the City From the Airport?

People on a street in Paris
People in Paris

How you need to get to the city from the airport depends on which airport you are coming from.

There are two major airports in Paris. These are Orly Airport and Charles de Gaulle Airport.

The fastest way to get to the city center from Charles de Gaulle Airport is by taking RER B. This is a train that is part of the train network of the Paris region. With RER B, you can go to the Saint-Michel Notre-Dame station.

From Orly Airport, the fastest way to get to the city center is by taking the Orlyval, which is a light rail shuttle, to the Antony station, which is a station that is part of the RER network. From here, you can ride RER B to the Saint-Michel Notre-Dame.

It takes you about 30-45 minutes from both airports to get to the city center.

Getting around Paris During a Layover

Buildings in Paris
Street in Paris

When you only have a few hours in the city, I recommend traveling either on foot or by metro.

The metro can take you everywhere in a quick way without delays caused by traffic, such as when you would get around by bus.

In the itinerary that you can find below, I’ll give recommendations for how to travel from one spot to the next.

When you are only one day in the city, you can get a one-day unlimited public transportation pass, which you can load to your phone using an app. When you want to travel by metro, I recommend reading my guide about how to get around Paris by metro.

How Much Time Do You Need to Explore the City During a Layover

There’s much to see in the city, but you can see the highlights in a short amount of time.

However, because it takes time to travel to the city center from the airport, and because you have to go back to the airport as well, I recommend having at least 10 hours between flights.

I made an itinerary for 12 hours in the city, which I think will give you the best experience when you have a layover in the city. I’ll indicate which activities you can skip if you have only 10 hours.

Things To Do During a Layover in Paris (Itinerary for About 12 Hours)

Take the RER Train to Pont de l’Alma

For your layover, I recommend taking the RER A train to Pont de l’Alma. If you first took the RER B from one of the airports to Saint-Michel Notre-Dame, you can transfer at that station and go to the Pont de l’Alma station by RER A.

You can find this station next to the Pont de’Alma, which is a bridge that is close to the Eiffel Tower. The station is located to the south of the bridge on the right bank of the Seine.

Have Coffee and Pastries at Le Café Pierre Hermé

View of Le Café Pierre Hermé
Le Café Pierre Hermé

When you are coming from the airport, you might be hungry. A great place to get food, which is located next to/above the station is Le Café Pierre Hermé.

This is a small pastry shop which has several locations in Paris. You can get great coffee drinks here, as well as amazing macarons or a croissant. This is a great way to start your time in Paris.

Walk Along the Seine and See the Eiffel Tower

View of the Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

From Le Café Pierre Hermé, which you can find next to the Seine River, you can go for a walk along the Seine.

There are two possible routes. You can walk along the river on the same level as the water, or you can walk along the beautiful esplanade that runs next to it. Both options are great.

From the station, you’ll have to walk along the river towards the Eiffel Tower (to the south). Along the way, you can enjoy beautiful views of the Eiffel Tower and the river.

Ride Metro Line 6 from the Bir-Hakeim Metro Station

Eiffel Tower view from metro line 6
Eiffel Tower from metro line 6

Because you only have a few hours during a layover in Paris, you don’t have enough time to go inside the Eiffel Tower and go to the top of it. So I recommend continuing walking along the Seine, away from the Eiffel Tower.

In front of the Eiffel Tower, you can also see the iconic carousel in front of the Eiffel Tower.

When you continue to walk along the Promenade d’Australie, you’ll end up at the Bir-Hakeim metro station.

From here, you’ll have to ride metro line 6 to Charles de Gaulle-Etoile.

Not only is this metro line a quick and easy way to get to the next spot of this itinerary, but it also provides you with an incredible view of the Eiffel Tower. That’s because it crosses the Pont de Bir-Hakeim overground.

See the Arc de Triomphe and Walk Along the Champs-Élysées

Arc de Triomphe from below
Arc de Triomphe

When you ride the metro to the end station, Charles de Gaulle-Etoile, you’ll end up at the next spot, which is where you can see the incredible Arc de Triomphe.

The Arc de Triomphe is a huge, historic triumphal arch that was made to honor the people of France who fought and died during the Napoleonic Wars and French Revolutionary. On it, you can see all kinds of symbols, as well as the names of all French victories and famous French generals.

View of the Champs-Élysées

The Arc de Triomphe is located on a square where 12 avenues end up. One of these avenues is the Champs-Élysées, one of the most famous streets in Paris.

You can go for a walk along this avenue, where you can find shops, cafes, restaurants, and other types of venues.

Take the Metro to Tuileries

After seeing the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées, it’s time to go to the next stop on this itinerary.

For this, you have to ride the metro again. You can ride metro Line 1 from the Charles de Gaulle-Étoile station (the station underneath the Arc de Triomphe).

From this station, you need to ride Line 1 to Château de Vincennes and get out at the Tuileries station.

Have Lunch at Café des Tuileries

Location: 210 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris

Outside of Café des Tuileries
Café des Tuileries

The exit of the Tuileries metro station is next to Café des Tuileries and Café Kitsuné Tuileries, which both are great cafes.

If you want to have lunch, you can have that at Café des Tuileries. At this cafe, you can choose from classic French dishes, such as French onion soup.

The cafe has both an indoor and outdoor seating area. The outdoor seating area is located underneath the arcades along Rue de Rivoli. When you have lunch here, you can get a view of both the Tuileries Garden (where you’ll go next) and Rue de Rivoli.

Café Kitsuné Tuileries can also be a great cafe to check out. You can get all kinds of drinks here, including a delicious matcha latte (plant-based milk is available). When you decide to have a drink here, you could get a sandwich or other food at the next stop.

Explore Jardin des Tuileries

Chairs at Jardin des Tuileries
Jardin des Tuileries

Across the street from both cafes, you can find the Tuileries Garden, which is a great place to see during a Paris layover.

This is the largest public garden in the city, and it is located between the Louvre Museum and Place de la Concorde.

The garden dates back to the 16th century and was created as a garden for a former royal palace that doesn’t exist anymore.

The garden is perfect if you want to go for a relaxing stroll or sit down and relax at one of the iconic green chairs that you can find throughout the garden.

In the garden, you can see two large and beautiful fountains, with chairs next to them.

Furthermore, there are several restaurants in the garden and there is a sandwich cart close to the Louvre.

See the Louvre

Outside of the Louvre
The Louvre

Although you don’t have enough time to explore the collection of the Louvre Museum, I still recommend going to the Louvre.

The museum is located in the historic Louvre Palace, which is a beautiful building that dates back to the 13th century, although the building was changed many times. The building was used as a royal residence for about 400 years.

The Louvre is the most-visited museum in the world and its collection includes lots of objects from all around the world and from many periods in time. For example, you can see objects from ancient Egypt here. The Mona Lisa is one of the most famous objects at the Louvre.

In addition to seeing the historic architecture, you can also see the modern Louvre Pyramid at the Louvre. This is a large glass-and-metal pyramid.

Go to Palais-Royal and Visit Galerie Vivienne

Location: 4 Rue des Petits Champs, 75002 Paris (Galerie Vivienne)

Columns at Palais-Royal
Colonnes de Buren at Palais-Royal

From the main courtyard of the Louvre, you can walk towards the next stop of this itinerary. For this, you have to walk through Passage de Richelieu, which is a covered passage in the north wing of the Louvre.

When you walk through it, you’ll end up on a square. Turn left on the square, and immediately right, and you’ll end up in front of the entrance to Palais-Royal.

You can explore Palais-Royal!

Palais-Royal is a former royal palace with a beautiful courtyard garden where you can go for a walk while looking at the beautiful historic architecture.

You can also see the Colonnes de Buren here, which is a modern art installation that consists of black-and-white columns that vary in height.

At Palais-Royal, underneath the arcades of the courtyard, there are also many restaurants and cafes. For example, you can find Café Kitsuné Palais Royal here, where you can get a drink.

After exploring Palais-Royal, you can walk towards the northeastern entrance of the landmark.

From there, you can walk through Passage des 2 Pavillons, which is a small covered passage (you can see the stairs of the passage when you are at the entrance/exit of Palais-Royal).

At the other end of the passage, you can see the entrance of Galerie Vivienne, which is one of the most beautiful covered passages in Paris.

Galerie Vivienne from the inside
Galerie Vivienne

This covered passage is an indoor shopping street that dates back to the start of the 19th century.

Galerie Vivienne is home to many stores and other venues, and the gallery has a beautiful design.

Ride the Bus to Moulin Rouge

After seeing Galerie Vivienne, it’s time to go to Montmartre!

If you only have 10 hours in the city, I now recommend going back to the airport. From Galerie Vivienne, the closest station on the RER B train line is the Châtelet–Les Halles station station. From the covered passage, you can walk to that station in about 10 minutes. Along the way, you can see the Bourse de Commerce, which is a historic exchange building.

When you have a longer layover in Paris, you can ride bus 74 to the Blanche station. The total journey time from Galerie Vivienne, which includes walking a bit, takes about 25 minutes. Riding the bus is easy, and you can use the same type of ticket that you use for the metro for this. You can read my guide to getting around Paris by bus if you want to know more about this.

At the Blanche station, you can see the iconic Moulin Rouge, which is one of the most famous cabarets in the city.

Walk to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Sacré-Cœur from below

From here, you can walk along Rue Lepic and Rue des Abbesses to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, and see the architecture and shops of Montmartre while walking.

Rue Lepic is a famous street where well-known artists used to live. For example, this is the street where Vincent van Gogh and his brother lived.

Along the way, you can also see the Wall of Love, which is a large wall with on it, the sentence “I love you” in many different languages.

You can walk towards Square Louise Michel, which is a large square on a hill with steps that you need to climb to go to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.

You can also decide to ride the funicular and get to the top in a quick and easy way. For this, you can use the same type of ticket that you also use to ride the metro and the bus.

From the top, you can get an incredible panoramic view of Paris that will amaze you!

The Sacré-Cœur Basilica, one of the best landmarks in Paris, is also interesting to see.

Have Dinner at La Maison Rose

Location: 2 Rue de l’Abreuvoir, 75018 Paris

Exterior of La Maison Rose
La Maison Rose

From the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, you can walk along Place du Tertre, a famous square that is known for its art scene and where you can see lots of artists, and Le Consulat, which is a famous restaurant that many famous artists visited in the past, to La Maison Rose.

La Maison Rose is a very old and cute pink house. Nowadays it is a restaurant that serves simple and seasonal dishes.

If you have enough time still you can have dinner here, otherwise, seeing the building is a great activity as well.

Keep in mind that this is one of the most popular restaurants in the city, so you need to make a reservation if you want to have dinner here during your layover.

Leave from Lamarck – Coulaincourt

After seeing La Maison Rose, you can walk along Rue de l’Abreuvoir, an old and famous street where you can get a view of the Sacré-Cœur to the Lamarck-Coulaincourt metro station.

This is a metro station that looks beautiful from the outside. You can see a red metro sign, steps, and beautiful architecture here that can be great to capture in a photo.

From the metro station, you can ride the metro to either the Gare du Nord or the Châtelet–Les Halles stations (you’ll have to transfer metro lines one time). From those stations, you can ride RER B to Orly Airport or Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Layover in the City Map

Some General Information to Know For a Paris Layover

Eiffel Tower in Paris
Eiffel Tower

When you are going to spend a few hours in Paris, you should find out if there’s an annual event taking place in the city that might require you to change your plans. For example, when there’s an event at the Champs-Élysées, you might not be able to go there or drive a bus through it.

Also, sometimes there is construction on the RER train, which means you’ll have to travel by bus to the city, which takes longer.

More Paris Travel Guides

Bridges in Paris

Shopping streets in Paris

As you see, you can have a lot of fun in the city even if you’re there for a very short time. Have fun during your layover in Paris!