Although Charles de Gaulle has enough shops, bars and restaurants to keep travellers with a short wait for their flight occupied, if you are stuck at the airport with a longer layover time you might want to consider leaving the building for a couple of hours and exploring Paris itself. The city of romance has many fantastic attractions that are well worth a visit, with the most famous of them all being the Eiffel Tower, the iconic symbol of Paris that dominates the city skyline and affords fantastic views across the landscape. It is possible to see the Eiffel Tower if you only have a few hours to spare, although unfortunately you will need at least 6 hours to spare in order to make the return journey by rail which takes 1 hour each way. As you will need to check in at least 2 hours before your departure time, it is not recommended to attempt to go to the Tower if your layover is fewer than this amount of time even if you take a taxi.
The easiest way to get to the Eiffel Tower from Charles de Gaulle airport is to hire a taxi, which will take around 30 to 45 minutes to drop you off at the base of the Tower and shouldn’t cost more than €50. However this is a pricey option, so alternatively you can take the RER rail line to the nearest station, which is Champs de Mars Tour Eiffel. Walk to Terminal 1 or 2 and catch the RER B line in the direction of Paris city centre, disembarking at Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame. From here you must change on to the RER C line in the direction of Versailles Rive Gauche, getting off at Champs de Mars Tour Eiffel, which is roughly a 10 minute walk from the Tower. The total journey time is around 1 hour, and costs €9,10 per adult.
Below we’ve outlined some itineraries that take in the Eiffel Tower, dependent on how much time you have to spare between flights.
6 Hour Layover
You might be a little squeezed for time with only 6 hours as a layover, but it is entirely possible to visit the Eiffel Tower if you are organised and know what you are doing! If possible get a taxi to the Tower, as this will chop some time off your journey into the centre of the city and will make your ascent up the Tower somewhat more relaxed. When you arrive at the structure you could find long queues for tickets for both the lifts and the stairs, particularly if you are visiting in peak season and in the middle of the day. Therefore it’s best if you book tickets in advance online, either through the official Eiffel Tower website or by using a tour operator.
We recommend the Behind the Scenes Eiffel Tower tour, which is an hour and a half long and includes skip-the-line entrance to the lifts up to the second floor. You will get to see parts of the building that other people don’t and have all your questions answered by a well-informed guide, before being left to explore the rest of the Tower on your own. You should even have enough time to take the extra lift to the very top floor of the Tower if queues at the second level ticket desk are not too long, before hotfooting it back to your taxi and the airport to catch the second leg of your flight!
8-10 Hour Layover
With 8 to 10 hours between flights you have a little more room to be creative with your time, and have the option of taking either a taxi or the RER to the Eiffel Tower. You can take the risk of turning up and buying tickets on the day, which might involve queuing for anything between 20 minutes and 3 hours, or you can book tickets in advance as with the shorter layover option.
Alternatively, there are a number of great half-day tours that allow you to see a bit of the city as well as the Eiffel Tower in 5 hours or under, and depending on the timing of your arrival and departure from Paris you might well be able to take advantage of one and get a real taste of the capital. The City Sightseeing tour includes a coach trip around the main districts of Paris as well as skip-the-line entrance to the Tower itself and lasts for approximately 3 hours, with daily departures at 9am, 12pm and 2.45pm. The Paris in a Nutshell tour combines a coach tour with a cruise along the River Seine and lunch in the Eiffel Tower and is slightly longer, with each 5 hour tour departing at 9am and 12pm every day. If your gap between flights is in the evening, you will be fortunate enough to catch the city of lights illuminated and at its most beautiful, with both the Cruise and Illuminations and Dinner and Cruise tours departing around 6pm and lasting 4 hours each.
12+ Hour Layover
If you’re stuck with a really long gap between flights, don’t despair! Rather than resigning yourself to a day spent schlepping around airport shops and fast food outlets, escape the building and take advantage of the time you have to explore Paris and the Eiffel Tower in more depth. You can comfortably catch the RER into the city centre and have time to spare, and if you want to pack in a look around the capital as well as a visit to the Eiffel Tower there are a number of brilliant full-day tours that you can book on to in advance for a stress-free introduction to Paris.
The Minivan tour of Paris takes in Notre Dame, Montmartre, a Seine cruise and lunch on the Eiffel Tower and takes 8 hours, although it only departs at 8.30am daily so might not be suitable for everyone coming from the airport. Paris by Boat and Foot allows you to see the city from the river as well as walking around the streets and departs at 9am, lasting 7 and a half hours, and if you have 10 hours free you can embark on the Versailles tour which transports you to the opulent Palace of Versailles as well as to the Eiffel Tower later in the day. If your layover takes place in the evening instead, you can combine a Seine cruise, dinner at the Eiffel Tower and a show at the famous cabaret Moulin Rouge in a tour that departs at 6.15pm, lasting 7 hours in total.
Whether you choose to go it alone or book on to a tour, the Eiffel Tower is a real must-see and if you can fit in a quick visit whilst you are stuck in Paris it certainly beats the confines of the departure lounges! For more details about what there is to see on the Eiffel Tower itself as well as restaurants and other attractions in the area, visit Eiffel Tower Tickets and read through recommendations and reviews.