Complete Guide to Spotting at Paris Charles de Gaulle

Spotting at Paris Charles de Gaulle has become more difficult in recent years since construction work left the popular ‘mound’ in the central area much reduced in size, and with only limited views of the aircraft action.

Charles de Gaulle is France’s busiest airport and the main hub for national carrier Air France and its partners. The airport is managed in conjunction with Le Bourget and Orly airports, also within the Paris area.

 Paris CDG Air France

Other spotting locations do exist at CDG, but many are hard to find or require lots of walking. It is also difficult to predict which aircraft you will see as all four runways are in operation, and a long distance apart.

There has also been some confusion over rules whereby spotters wishing to photograph aircraft require a permit to do so.

Therefore, this guide to spotting at Paris Charles de Gaulle gives you everything you need to know on where to go, what you’ll see, and how to go about spotting there.

 

 

Charles de Gaulle Overview

By Dmitry Avdeev (Dmitry Avdeev, duzik@mail.ru) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dmitry Avdeev (Dmitry Avdeev, duzik@mail.ru) [CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

There are four runways at Charles de Gaulle, all parallel – two are situated on the northern part of the site, with two to the south.

CDG has three terminals. The original Terminal 1, with its unique group of satellite gate areas, is situated on the western part of the airport site. Terminal 2, which stretches along multiple concourses both north and south of the roadway, is to the east (Terminal 2G, used by smaller commuter aircraft, is even further east). To the north is Terminal 3, with its own smaller parking ramp.

To the west of Terminal 1 is an area of hangars, warehouses and aircraft aprons used by FedEx Express, and Air France’s maintenance.

To the south west of Terminal 2 is another large cargo area used by other carriers.

 

Airlines at Charles de Gaulle

CDG is a hub for Air France and its partners, as well as FedEx Express.

It is also a focus city for ASL Airlines France, Delta Airlines, easyJet, Vueling and XL Airways France.

Other notable airlines are:

  • Air Austral
  • Air Madagascar
  • Air Seychelles
  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Arkia
  • Camair-Co
  • Cobalt Air
  • Hainan Airlines
  • LATAM Brasil
  • Mahan Air
  • Tassili Airlines
  • Ural Airlines

 

Spotting Locations at Paris CDG

This map marks some of the known spotting locations around Paris Charles de Gaulle. Click on it to navigate and zoom in.

Spotting Mound

The mound is the central area of the airport, between terminals 1, 2 and 3, and where taxiways link the north and south parts of the airfield. For years this has been the location of choice for spotting at Paris Charles de Gaulle.

However, in recent years building work as seen the mound flattened into wasteland, and the opportunities for spotting and photographing reduced. It is difficult to see aircraft departing the runways, and you can’t always get a clear shot for photographs. The light is often in the wrong position too.

 

Terminal 1

By walking around outside Terminal 1 at the Arrivals level, you have views of different stands and aircraft coming and going from the terminal. Runway views are difficult, however.

Another location near terminal 1, on the opposite side of the taxiway to the Mound, is good for photography. Park your car alongside the road and walk around 100m to find the place where the view overlooks the taxiway and some parking stands. It is good for photography and you’ll see most movements.

 

 

Perimeter Roads

By William Verguet [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By William Verguet [CC BY-SA 4.0 or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

If you have access to a car, there are numerous opportunities around the perimeter for photographing aircraft on the runways through the fence. Many locals know of these places, which helps you to find where to go as you’ll see them parked up.

Route de l’Arpenteur along the northern boundary and Route Peripherique Sud along the southern boundary are the roads to aim for.

As always, don’t block the roads and comply with any instructions from the police.

 

Spotting Hotels at Paris CDG

There are two good spotting hotels at Paris Charles de Gaulle. They are:

Hilton Paris Charles de Gaulle
Roissypôle, Rue de Rome, Tremblay-en-France 95708 | +33 1 49 19 77 77 | www.hilton.com
Situated between the two terminal areas. Rooms on the fourth floor or higher offer views of the taxiways and some aprons – particularly rooms ending in 01 and 29. Windows next to the elevators also give views over the holding points, with chairs and power sockets to use.

Ibis Hotel
Roissy Aéroport Cedex
Roissypôle, Roissy 95701 | +33 1 49 19 19 19 | www.ibishotel.com
A more affordable option is the large Ibis hotel. North facing rooms have views over Terminal 3 and northern runways, and south facing have views over Terminal 2. The hotel is also located next to the Mound spotting location.

 

airportspottinghotelsadvert

 

Preserved Aircraft

Concorde Paris CDG

Preserved on poles near the taxiway at Paris CDG.

Paris CDG has one preserved aircraft in the form of former Air France Concorde F-BVFF (cn 215), which is mounted on poles alongside the road leading to Terminal 2, and close to the mound viewing area.

Whilst not preserved, a long-term airline resident at CDG is former Starjet Lockheed L1011 TriStar 500 A6-BSM (cn 1222), which has been grounded since it suffered an engine failure on takeoff in 2005. It is stored among the southern cargo apron and can be seen on takeoff or landing on the southern runways.

 

Paris Photography Permits

Whilst aircraft spotters are generally understood and left to get on with their hobby at Charles de Gaulle, a number of years ago a system of providing permits for those wishing to take photographs of aircraft.

A great deal of confusion has existed surrounding this, however for many spotters the process is quite efficient and pain-free providing enough time is left for the permit to be granted.

In order to get a permit for photography at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Le Bourget airports, you need to sent a document containing your details by post.

The document needs to include:

  • A passport photograph of the applicant to be sent with application.
  • A scan of your passport personal details page.
  • The surname, first name, place and date of birth of the person authorized to photograph.
  • Home address
  • Email address
  • The obligations
  • The sanctions

 

To save you time, here’s an example (in French) for you to enter your own details and send off.

 

You should send your request to:

Service du préfet chargé des aéroports de Roissy et le Bourget
A l’attention du Commandant Xavier HUBY
Roissypôle Le Dôme
1, rue de la Haye
CP 10977 Tremblay-en-France
95733 Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle Cedex

Expect permits to be sent to you, by email, within 30 days.

Therefore, plan enough time before your trip to make sure it arrives.

The permit is valid for a period of 3 years, meaning you can make multiple trips for spotting in Paris. In many cases you will never need to show anyone the permit, however the police are known to ask to see it if they see you using a camera.

 

If you have any feedback on spotting at Paris Charles de Gaulle, or on your experiences in with the photography permits, leave a comment below.

 

world-airports-spotting

 

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23 Responses

  1. Darren Scott says:

    I do appreciate your reports Matt, but all the info here is pretty much dated .
    There is no mention of the new Ibis Styles hotel which opened last year.
    Do you know if there are any decent views from as I am booked to stay in June.

  2. Matt Falcus says:

    Hi Darren. As far as I know the Ibis Styles is similar to the other Ibis. I will investigate and report back!

    Thanks
    Matt

  3. Darren Scott says:

    I’ll be happy to pass on my findings when I get back.
    Just realised i’m off in May and not June.
    I’m off to China in June and if you need any info please let me know.
    Keep up the good work

  4. I dont know why anyone would not like this post. This is a great site, and I have read all of your posts! Keep up the good work!

  5. Mark Harrop says:

    Hi Matt. Thanks for great info as per. I’ll be flying into CDG in March but not for spotting / photography primarily. Do you know if I need a permit inside the terminals for shots etc ? It will only be for a few hours. Great books by the way. Have them all.

  6. Matt Falcus says:

    Thanks Mark.
    Officially yes you need the permit, but if you it discretely (as you always should inside a terminal) in the short time you’re there you’ll probably be fine.
    Matt

  7. Matt Falcus says:

    Thanks Jamesh!

  8. Darren Scott says:

    I haven’t said I didn’t like the report if you are referring to me !!
    I quite clearly said it is pretty much known information that is easily available.
    There is clearly no new information in relation to the new hotels that have recently been built

  9. Matt Falcus says:

    It’s ok Darren, not sure they were referring to you. All comments welcome!!

  10. Matt Falcus says:

    Please send any updates, trip reports, snapshots of photos, hotel reviews to mattfalcus@hotmail.com

  11. Danny McCloy says:

    Keep the reports coming every bit of info all helps.
    And we spotters need as much extra help can get
    Thanks

  12. Matt Falcus says:

    Thanks Danny! What other airports do you want to see guides on?

  13. I would like to say that I was not Referring to Mr. Darren Scot in my comment. I would also like to Ask if you could do a guide on spotting in Bangkok.

    Thanks,
    Jamesh

  14. Darren Scott says:

    Any info on some of the lessor known Chinese airports would be great.
    I’m visiting Kunming ,Chongqing and Hangzhou in June.
    There are very few reports on these on the web.

  15. Matt Falcus says:

    I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime, please let us know what the spotting situation is like after you’ve visited these airports!

  16. John Millar says:

    Any updates on good places to take pics. Going in July and already have a permit.

  17. Laken walker says:

    Hi Matt I’m going to Paris in 2 weeks and I’ve just seen this about the permit, do you think I will be fine ? Thanks

  18. Matt Falcus says:

    Hi Laken, security personnel often ask spotters for their permits if they are using cameras. I don’t think you’ll be able to get the pass within 2 weeks. You’ll have to be very discreet.
    Matt

  19. John Millar says:

    No current updates on where are good places to spot? Staying in the Pullman Hotel.

  20. Liav Zimelman says:

    Hey, does the permit have to be sent over to France by mail? will they accept it if it’s sent by E-mail?

  21. Matt Falcus says:

    Yes it needs to be in the post, not email.

  22. Colin Smith says:

    Unless things have changed since I received my photo pass in November, both the application and the pass were sent by email.
    Which I think is now a requirement.
    You must enclose an attachment with a photo copy of the photo page of your passport.
    Another place for photos if you are not mobile. is outside above the TGV station Terminal 2.

  23. Matt Falcus says:

    Hi Colin, I recently sent my application by post and received it back by post after around 2 weeks.
    Thanks for the photo location tip!
    Matt

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