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Finding an amazing deal on a flight to Europe can sometimes mean you’ll get stuck with a long layover. But don’t think of it as a delay to your final destination; instead, consider it a bonus city to explore along your journey. For instance, if you find yourself with many extra hours in Paris, don’t just kill time pacing the airport. Here’s how to make the most of a long layover in the City of Light.

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First, some guidelines…

Leave your luggage
If you’re not planning an overnight stay in the city, don’t worry about dragging your luggage around while you check out the sites. Instead, take advantage of the luggage storage service offered at Charles de Gaulle airport. It’s located in Terminal 2 near the train station and will store your bags for up to 12 hours.

Consider your time
If your layover is around four hours, you probably don’t have enough time to leave the airport. But if you have five or more hours to work with, you should be fine. Remember, it’ll take about 30 minutes or so to go through immigration once you land, and about 40 minutes to to and from the city (via train or car) from Charles de Gaulle. It’s smart to factor those time sucks into your planning.

Opt for the train
It’s a better idea to take the train (RER B) from the airport for a couple of reasons: First, it’s cheaper than a taxi. Second, you don’t have to worry about traffic, which could also cut into your time. The train is clean, easy to find and drops you off right in the city center.

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Your itinerary
Take the RER B line to the Chatelet metro station, make a quick transfer to the RER A train and exit at the Auber metro station. And then get ready to hit the ground running. Paris is a great walking city, and you’ll be able to see many sites by foot.

When you exit the train, stop in a nearby cafe for a cup of coffee (and croissant…you are in France, after all) and then pop into the Galeries Lafayette. The massive department store is a shopper’s paradise, and even if you have no plans to splurge on designer goods, it’s still worth checking out to see the impressive art nouveau dome ceiling, which is very photogenic.

Palais Garnier

After a quick look in the store, head towards Rue Saint Honore, a busy shopping street featuring posh retailers such as fragrance label Diptyque and the cool indie store Colette, which features art books, hard-to-find designer collars and a “water bar,” serving more than 100 brands of bottled water. Along the way to this destination, you’ll pass by the Palais Garnier, which is the city’s famed opera house, and the Place Vendome, an impressive architectural square. Fun fact: Yoko Ono scattered a handful of artist Keith Haring’s ashes in this square.

Wander farther down Rue Saint Honore, and you’ll find yourself near the Palais-Royal. The massive palace and gardens is the perfect place to stroll and pretend like you’re living in the Paris of yesteryear.

After all this walking, you’ll probably be ready for a short break and a bite to eat. Paris is littered with charming cafes, and this area offers a lot of great ones. Find one where you can sit outside, order a glass of wine and a crepe, and just do a bit of people watching.
The Louvre is also nearby, so stop and take a picture of the museum’s famed glass pyramid. If you have time, check out an exhibit inside one of the galleries. FYI: The Louvre offers free admission every Friday night for visitors 26 and under, so expect a bigger crowd during that time.

Notre Dame

From there, head towards iconic Notre Dame. The Gothic cathedral is a site to behold and worth seeing in person. If the line’s not too long, check out the inside of the church. If the wait time is longer than you’d prefer, just enjoy the outside of the structure and pretend that you caught a glimpse of Quasimodo.

Next, walk over to Ile de St Louis, a small island on the Seine. Notre Dame is on the Seine’s other island (Ile de la Cite), but this one is less touristy, so you’ll feel like a local. Plus, it’s home to one of the city’s best ice cream shops, Berthillon, which offers mouth-watering chocolate ice cream and fruit sorbets so good that you’ll want to literally write home about them.

Luxembourg Gardens

At this point, it might be time to go back to the airport. But if you still have an hour or two to kill, head south to the Luxembourg Gardens, some of the most famous gardens in Paris. Grab a snack, and have a little picnic if time allows. This is a good spot to end your visit, because you’ll be near the Luxembourg train stop, which is where you can catch the train to get back to the airport.

And you’ll notice the Eiffel Tower was missing from this list of things to do. There aren’t too many other things to do around that destination, so it’s not worth a trip on such a quick visit. But as you walk around the city you’ll catch glimpses of the famous landmark, so you’ll definitely get your Eiffel fix on this little Parisian jaunt.

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Tagged: Europe, Paris

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Kevin Aeh

Kevin Aeh

Kevin Aeh is an editor/writer based in New York City. He covers lifestyle, travel, and pop culture; and his current obsessions include finding the best eye cream, booking a trip to Cuba, and binge-watching Lady Dynamite on Netflix. His writing has appeared in Time Out New York, Furthermore from Equinox, Refinery29, Vulture, and more.

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