Paris is a huge city with so much to see and do, but despite its size, it’s so easy to get around. The public transport system is excellent so it’s possible to hop from one attraction to the next without any trouble, meaning that you can pack lots of great activities into a short weekend break. Here’s a short guide to getting around quickly and easily, from your arrival right up to your departure.
Arriving by air
Paris has two major airports – Orly and Charles de Gaulle. All the big airlines fly into these two airports. There’s another airport called Beauvais, which is quite a bit further out of Paris. It’s served mainly by budget airlines such as Ryanair. If you don’t mind a rather long journey into Paris, it can be a good cheap way to fly to the city.
Charles de Gaulle airport is in a suburb to the north east of Paris called Roissy. It’s about 23 kilometres from the city centre and it’s well connected by public transport. The Roissyrail train line is part of the Réseau Express Regional (RER) system – a suburban train network. There are trains every 15 minutes from terminal two and terminal three, which take you to Gare du Nord. If you arrive at terminal one, a shuttle bus will take you to the Roissyrail station. If you prefer to take the bus, there’s a Roissybus every 15 minutes from terminal one and terminal two. It terminates at the Opéra metro station in the centre of Paris.
Orly is a little closer to Paris – it’s 13 kilometres south of the city centre. There’s a bus/train connection called Orlyrail. You’ll be taken by shuttle bus to the RER train station and from there it’s a short journey to Gare d’Austerlitz. There are connections every 30 minutes. If you prefer just to take a bus right into the city centre, there are lots of other frequent shuttle services – Orlybus, Orlyval, Air France buses and Jetbus.
The city of Beauvais is approximately 85 kilometres north of Paris. Its shuttle service is scheduled according to flight arrivals at the airport, with a coach leaving 20 minutes after every arrival. It takes just over an hour to get into the city centre. If you prefer to take the train, you could take a taxi to the train station in Beauvais – it’s only 15 minutes’ drive from the airport. The train journey takes just under an hour, arriving at Gare du Nord. The other option is to take a taxi all the way into the city centre, but this can take up to an hour and a half depending on traffic and is very expensive – it could set you back up to 150 euros.
Arriving by train
The national and international train networks in continental Europe are excellent and often the most efficient way to get around, and the Eurostar from London is often the best way to get to Paris from Great Britain. There are six mainline train stations in Paris and all of them are linked to the métro system so it’s easy to get around once you arrive in the city. Here’s a guide to train arrivals in Paris:
Gare de l’Est – east France, Austria, Germany and eastern Europe
Gare du Nord – north France and Germany, Eurostar, Belgium, Netherlands and Scandinavia
Gare St Lazare – north France
Gare de Lyon – south France, Switzerland, Italy and Greece
Gare Montparnasse – south west France
Gare d’Austerlitz – south France and Spain
Paris has an integrated public transport network of buses, RER trains and the metro. It’s called the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens). You can easily hop from bus to train to métro using the same ticket and it’s cheap and efficient. You can buy an RATP transport map that shows all the bus, metro and train lines and their connections. You can buy one day passes or several day passes, which can save a lot of hassle as well as a lot of money. Sometimes the tickets even offer discounts to museums and galleries
Buses are a great way of seeing a lot of the city as you travel. There are bus stops everywhere, each of which has detailed information on what buses stop there, what route they take and their timetables. It’s a very easy method of transport and is good to use in conjunction with the métro.
Paris is famed for its brilliant underground system with its iconic Art Nouveau station entrances. The Métropolitain (metro) makes city centre travel so simple. It runs about 21 hours per day and is replaced by an excellent system of nightbuses in the middle of the night, so you’ll never get stuck. Don’t be put off by the complex network of tunnels and lines – it’s incredibly easy to find your way around as all the lines are colour coded and there are maps and signposts everywhere.
The Réseau Express Régional is the suburban train system used mainly by commuters into and out of Paris. If you want to travel a little further out of town, it’s the best way to go. The trains are fast and frequent.