Paris Airport Guide
Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport is Europe’s second busiest airport, and one of the main aviation centers of the world. While it does not traffic in as many passengers as London Heathrow, which is currently Europe’s busiest airport, Charles de Gaulle, also known as Roissy Airport, is perhaps one of the most functional hubs in all of Europe. Served by just about every major airline in the world, the airport connects travelers to Paris and the rest of France, and also provides ground and air links to continental Europe.
Located about 16 miles northeast of Paris, the airport features 3 terminals: an older antiquated Terminal 1, a vast complex of halls that compose Terminal 2, and a smaller Terminal 3, which serves smaller airlines and charter flights. The terminals are connected to, among other things, France’s high-speed rail network of TGV trains.
Despite the airport’s vast size, the most noticeable innovation of Charles de Gaulle is its functionality. Most sections in the vast Terminal 2, for example, feel like small airport terminals. Once inside, travelers are treated to efficient queues, dramatic natural light and comfortable, though limited, amenities. No matter which terminal you end up in, here are a few pointers.
Most flights will most likely arrive in Terminal 1 or Terminal 2, both of which were designed by Paul Andreu, the longtime head of Aeroports de Paris, the authority that runs the facility. Terminal 1, which opened in 1974, was designed with a plan like an octopus -- 7 terminals surround a main circular building. The terminal was heralded for its avant-garde design but was not popular due its problems with circulation. Currently it serves a majority of the Star Alliance airlines.
A majority of CDG’s flights operate through Terminal 2, which in reality is almost a full airport unto itself split into 6 halls. The older airport buildings (2A, 2B, 2C and 2D) are fully connected with the modern airy spaces of 2E and 2F. (The spaces are so striking, in fact, that the terminal is featured on the cover of the U2 album All That You Can’t Leave Behind.)
Coming and Going From Paris
Charles de Gaulle is served by just about every imaginable transportation link, and a marvel of public transportation. The fastest and most direct way to get to and from the city of Paris is via the RER (9 euros), Paris’s commuter train, with express and local trains that will link to the Paris Metro service every 10 to 15 minutes and put you in the center of Paris in 30 minutes.
Destinations Beyond Paris
Destinations outside of Paris are linked to Charles de Gaulle Airport via the TGV, which serves major cities such as Lille, Marseille, Lyons and Toulouse, and also Brussels in Belgium. Because of the efficiency and speed of the TGV, flying into Charles de Gaulle and taking the TGV is often an effective method of traveling to other cities within Paris or Belgium.
Charles de Gaulle is not outfitted with shower facilities and rentable business-class lounges. Business-class lounges will have such amenities, but for those not traveling in those classes, some of the nearby hotels, including the Hotel Ibis and the Hilton, offer rooms with showers for a fraction of the day rate. Such offers are always dependent on the hotel’s occupancy, so always call in advance.
Future Airport Enhancements
Charles de Gaulle has been notoriously thin on amenities, failing to keep up with its more modern rival airports in Europe. The airport even acknowledged this recently with a groundbreaking for a Satellite 4 building that will include shower facilities and upgraded dining. The facility will be built in 2014, and the airport continues to make strides for travelers.
Current Airport Amenities
Duty-free shopping is available at all the terminals, although 2E seems to host the best selection of boutiques, ranging from Yves Saint Laurent and Dior to Salvatore Ferragamo. Food options include staples like the Paul chain of bakeries and La Maison du Chocolat.
Also located in 2E is a recent addition, cinema suites, where travelers can watch films and TV series on personal televisions. Gradually, these facilities will be installed in every terminal. Within 2E is also Be Relax, a massage and spa service that offers manicures, pedicures and massages. Kiosks are located in other Terminal 2 areas except for 2B.
Wi-Fi is available all over the airport, and all travelers are provided free internet for the first 15 minutes. To stay longer, the rates vary from 1.90 euros for 30 minutes to 9.90 euros for the entire day. Dedicated wireless computer kiosks, called Atlanteam, are available in terminals 1, 2E, 2F and Terminal 3.
NYC-based writer Andrew Yang frequently used CDG airport as a European transit hub, and enjoyed elite frequent-flyer status on Air France from 2008-2010.