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.
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 OverviewThere 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
- 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.
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.
New buildings in this area mean it is largely useless. There is a preserved Concorde aircraft next to the road here (see below).
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 RoadsIf 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.
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.
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.
You can also try sending the letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.