|How to go from the AIRPORT to GARE MONTPARNASSE
in one easy lesson.
From Charles de Gaulle Airport
From Orly Airport
From Beauvais Airport
Ordering Airport Train Tickets, from Charles de Gaulle or Orly
Welcome to Paris. You have just de-planed, and you are still cursing the Wright brothers. Now you have to make your way to the hotel.
But first, you must figure out at which airport you have landed.
Most intercontinental flights come into Roissy, the name the locals give to Charles de Gaulle Airport. More often than not, you will be in Terminal 2. But USAir, United, Lufthansa, and several Asian / African / Middle Eastern carriers use terminal 1, instead. Budget and charter lines use Terminal 3 (Air Transat, Corsair...).
The other option (Paris’ other “real” airport) is Orly. Not much intercontinental service, but many intra-European flights.
If you were on a “low-cost” carrier, such as Ryanair, you may have landed at Beauvais.
Beauvais is not really a Paris airport at all: it is in the eponymous town, 90 minutes northwest of the city in normal traffic. You can go by train to some foreign countries faster than you can get to Beauvais.
No one at Blue Marble, nor any of our friends, has ever used Beauvais Airport, so we only know of it by reputation. (We take trains within Europe, even when they cost more we all have our luxuries). But we tell you what we know about making this trip.
Buying Tickets for the Airport Train (Orly or Charles de Gaulle)
If you wish to buy a ticket for the appropriate airport train through us, to avoid dealing with the issue in your post-flight fog (or to avoid ticket lines which can stretch to an hour in summer), you may do so. The cost is approximately 1.5 euros more than you would pay locally. Here is how to order tickets for the airport train.
If you do not already have your airport train ticket, get some euros from an airport exchange place before you get to the ticket counter. Credit cards without French “chips” are not accepted at all windows (nor in ticket machines).
From Roissy / Charles de Gaulle Airport
These are both names for the same place. The French do this a lot.
From Terminal 1. From the baggage pick-up, carefully follow signs for Paris Par Train (Paris by train). These will direct you to an elevator bank, hidden behind a wall between exit doors 34 and 36.
The elevators here have only two buttons: the one corresponding to where you are, and the other one. Push the other one. The elevator will take you down a few levels, and let you out by the opposite door.
In front of you and up a ramp is a little train station for something called the CDGVAL. Go there. Board the next departing train (really a people-mover: a rubber-tyred, 2 car shuttle with no driver), on either side of the platform. Ride 2 stops, to Roissypole, the name of the station for trains to Paris (the RER / métro trains). Two more stops would bring you to the “Gare TGV” (long-distance trains), and to terminal 2.
When you exit this first train, and go up a stair / escalator, you will find yourself in the hall of a much bigger train station. If you already have your ticket, turn left and then right to get to the platforms / trains. If not, turn right to get to the ticket office. Your train to Paris will leave from the far platform (any train on either side of the far platform will go to Paris). Now go on to Step 2.
From Terminal 2. Signs in your terminal will point you to RER / TGV or Gare RER / TGV. Don’t panic if the “RER “ and the “TGV” are inverted: they are still pointing to the same thing. This is the rail station. Paris par Train also works. As you face the street in front of your terminal, the station is to the right of terminals 2A, 2C, and 2F; to the left of 2B, 2D or 2E.
When you get to the trains, and are given a choice between RER and TGV, choose RER. This is the train into Paris. You will go down two levels to get to the main station hall, and another, third, level to get to the tracks. Be careful when you reach the platform: trains depart from both sides. Be sure to look at the departure board, which will give each train's departure time, to see which is leaving first. Also, be sure to look along the platform: short trains park at one end, and you may not even realize that the train is sitting in the station until it has pulled out! Now go on to Step 2.
From Terminal 3. Signs in your terminal will point you to RER / TGV or Gare RER / TGV. Don’t panic if the “RER “ and the “TGV” are inverted: they are still pointing to the same thing. This is the rail station. Paris par Train also works, as does Roissypole. A bit of a walk will bring you to the train station.
All the trains from the airport stations go the same place. If you do not already have a ticket, buy one in the ticket office, a level up from the trains. Keep this ticket safe, since you will need it several times during the journey.
Take the first train - they run about every 10 minutes. Locals make about 10 stops on the way into town; expresses run non-stop. Despite this, the first train to depart is the first to arrive: the “expresses” just run slowly, following the locals on their same tracks. But they are less crowded, which is nice if you have baggage.
After about a 30-minute ride, your train goes underground and stops at a station called Gare du Nord, where it will idle for a minute or two. Start paying attention here.
Stay on board, and ride 5 more stops (about 8 minutes), getting off at Denfert-Rochereau. To help you prepare to detrain, the stop before the one you want is called Port-Royal.
If literally everybody gets off your train at the Gare du Nord, and an announcement is made, it means that there is a strike. These are different from North American versions. They don’t stop trains from running, they just mix them up a bit. Their only practical effect is to make you change trains here at the Gare du Nord. You can ask us about this entertaining cultural phenomenon when you hook up with us, but in the mean time get off, go upstairs one flight.
Now follow signs for the connecting line 4 of the métro, which read “Direction Mairie de Montrouge,” or “M 4 Mairie de Montrouge.” These will bring you to a métro platform. Take any train that comes on this platform, 14 stops to the Gare Montparnasse. The station is actually called Montparnasse-Bienvenue.
You have detrained at the Denfert-Rochereau station. Towards the rear of the train, follow signs for the connecting Line 6, travelling in the direction of “Charles de Gaulle - Etoile.” This is not the same Charles de Gaulle as the one you have just come from. You will need to use your ticket again, the same one that got you this far, to pass through some ticket barriers on your way to your new platform.
Take any train that comes on this platform, 3 stops, to Montparnasse.
To exit the station in the direction of the trains, follow signs for whichever you see of “TGV” or “Trains Grandes Lignes;” sometimes translated as “Main Line Trains.” These will lead you up, through some ticket barriers, and up another pair of escalators to the station.
Find your train on the departure monitor (its track will typically be posted about 20 minutes prior to departure). If you are travelling on a railpass (as opposed to a point-to-point ticket), do not forget to go the ticket window to have it validated. If you have a point-to-point ticket, you must date-stamp it (composter, in French) in one of the little yellow machines at the track gates. It is NOT VALID until you do!
Orly airport is in a state of flux. While all inter-continental airlines are currently in the south terminal, there is discussion of moving some to the west one (those are Orly's only two terminals). The following information assumes that you arrive at the south terminal, or Aerogare Sud. If you arrive instead at the west terminal, follow signs to reach OrlyVal (“Paris by Métro”), take the automated people-mover to Antony (the first stop), and start reading these instructions in the 2nd paragraph of step 2, below.
When you exit the baggage pick-up area and pass through customs at Orly Sud, you will find yourself inside the terminal building, facing the street. Outside the terminal, above the roadway on a viaduct, is a green-and-white train. This is what you want to ride. The little ticket hall is inside the terminal building, a bit to the left in the corridor that you are standing in once you clear customs.
If you do not already have a ticket, use one of the multi-lingual machines to buy one to Paris. You will need euros to do so.
Go up the escalator which leads to the platform, and get on the first train. They all go to the same place in the end: the Antony railway station. This is where you want to go. It is the 2nd stop, after Orly-Ouest, and the total ride takes about 10 minutes. Do not be alarmed when the train reverses direction at Orly-Ouest - it is still doing what you want it to.
When you reach Antony, get off. Go through the turnstyles, along the short moving sidewalk, and up the escalator to your left. This brings you to the platform for Paris. Walk towards the left when you reach the platform if there is no train waiting, since you will need to be at the far front end of the approaching train when you get off.
Take the first train that comes. They all go where you need them to. Depending on whether or not you are on an express, this trip will take between 12 and 20 minutes.
When the train comes to the Denfert-Rochereau station, get off. To help you prepare, the previous stop (for expresses and locals alike) is Cité-Universitaire.
You are now at the start of step 3 in the Charles de Gaulle instructions, above. The connection to line 6 will be towards the front of your train as you get off. Follow the rest of those instructions to get to the Gare Montparnasse.
Beauvais Airport is not really a Paris airport at all. As it's name implies, it is in the town of Beauvais, 90 minutes north of Paris. A shuttle bus meets most flights, and operates from the Beauvais airport to the Porte Maillot, a large traffic circle on the eastern edge of the city.
From Porte Maillot, take métro line 1 in the direction of Château de Vincennes, 2 stops to the Charles de Gaulle - Etoile station. Change there for line 6, which only operates in one direction from this point (towards Nation).
Now take line 6 for 11 stations to Montparnasse-Bienvenue.