Right after the new year is one of the best times to hit Paris: the holiday crowds are gone, the shops begin fantastic sales for last season's lines, you've been on the road at least 16 hours, and your flight home was cancelled. Let's go!
A definite must for all visitors is the Terminal 2 Immigration Hall- a very popular attraction, be prepared to wait up to an hour in line to see the famed border police. Be sure to get your passport stamped as a reminder of your trip.
TIP To get a local's view, you need to familiarize yourself with the mass transit- from the airside shuttles between 2L, 2M, and 2F to the inter-terminal bus and the CDGVAL, it's easy AND free.
The heart of Paris CDG is truly Terminal 2. Be European, and stroll along these famous concourses, lined with all the powerhouses of the modern cosmopolitain airport. Stop into one of the famous black and gold Paul cafes, for croissants so fresh, they taste like they were only made yesterday.
You've cleared customs and integration, and worked out where you are, so it's time to visit one of the famed Parisian cafes: collapse in an exhausted heap in the Sheraton Bar (terminal 2). Order the "Cafe et 2 Pastries" (coffee plus two pastries) as you brush elbows with the business elite of world: you may even overhear quiet presentation rehearsals or pre-meeting discussions!
Marvel regretfully at the futuristic TGV station inside the terminal, and the bullet trains of Europe that link the cities together at nearly three times the time and expense of air travel. Catch a glimpse of the RER trains- placing the heart of Paris at your fingertips if you could drag yourself there and had the energy or cash to do anything more than listlessly stumble through the rainy streets and worry about missing your flight.
And what is Paris CDG without the shopping? Linger in the glittering duty free boutiques, filled with fine French chocolates, perfumes, van Gogh decorated bottles of absynth, Moulin Rouge tee shirts, and miniature glass Eiffel towers filled with cheap brandy.
If architecture is your thing, then look no further than Terminal 1. Take the CDGVAL to the end of the line. A brutalist icon from the 1960's, the radial terminal resembles a concrete stadium, with an open core criss crossed by covered escalator tubes. Groovy!
Many travelers pass through Terminal 3-Roissypole because it is an important transit link, but the building itself is an overlooked gem. A modern hippostyle hall with graceful board-formed concrete columns and glass all around, it is a quiet and light place to get away from the hustle and bustle of central Paris Charles De Gaulle.
You have a few hours, so stretch out away from the usual touristy terminals to get a feeling for the ile de France region. Take a trip off the beaten path to Aèroville, the fifth largest shopping center in France. Take the traditional bus from the passenger drop outside of terminal 3 straight to the mall after a short stop at the Novotel Convention Center. Inside the reflective glass walls, immerse yourself in the fabulous world of French fashion at boutiques such as Hennes & Mauritz, Zara, l'Occitane, and Lacoste. Sample the cuisine of the world at the hands of renowned French chefs at Mc Donalds, Pret a Menger, Dim Sum, Namaste, and Starbucks.
Aèroville is also home to the venerable bastion of le cinéma Français, EuropaCorp Cinemas, where you can take in some culture with a screening of the latest critical hit in Paris, such as StarWars: Le réveil de la Force.
End your stay with a trip to the Paris CDG of yesteryear. With a little effort, you can still experience the quaint and rustique past at Terminal 2G. Take a direct bus from 2E far from the bustling center and return to the 1980's small town airport. Just twelve gates, tiny city hopper jets, and an old man in a traditional uniform named Jaque who will feel inside your waistband and wand you at the security checkpoint.
TRAVELLING WITH LUGGAGE: many people have expressed concern about bringing their luggage to Paris CDG, but the airport is quite luggage-friendly, with many fun luggage activities and itineraries. You can take your luggage almost everywhere- it's a common sight to even see people with luggage in bars! In fact, be warned that your luggage may enjoy the trip more than you, so much so they might extend their stay an extra day or two!