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Arriving and Departing Paris by Car

Le Périphérique
Le Périphérique

The Paris Road System

Drive carefully, but with a certain gallic flair if you can, and remember, the Arc de Triomphe is not the place for shrinking violets! But first you've got to get there. Two major ring roads run parallel to each other around Paris:

  • The périphérique intérieur, the inside ring, also known as the grands boulevards (don't mix this up with the other roads with the same name on the Right Bank) and
  • The périphérique extérieur, the outside ring, which is a major highway and from which portes (gates) connect Paris to the major highways of France.

The Périphérique ("le Périph") is a frequently congested stretch of 8-lane dual carriageway limited to 80 kph and does not feature a hard shoulder (this can be a trifle off-putting at times), and gives priority to entering vehicles. It was built in the early 1970s on the empty space left abandoned after the destruction of the defensive wall of Paris in the 1920s, and completed on April 25, 1973. It is the generally accepted boundary of the city, though it does not coincide with the administrative limits. It has an innovative feature where sensors in the road detect traffic speeds, and overhead electronic signs display the projected travel time to the next two or three exits.

The names of these major highways work on the same principle as the métro, i.e. you go in the direction which shows your final destination. So going in is not too difficult. On the way out, aim for the relevant "porte" from where your route takes off.

So if you're heading north, look for Porte de la Chapelle (Lille and Charles de Gaulle airport); east, for Porte de Bagnolet (Metz and Nancy); south, for Porte d'Orléans (Lyon and Bordeaux); and west, for Porte d'Auteuil (Rouen and Chartres) or Porte de St-Cloud.

Exits on the Périphérique

Next page: Transporting Your Car to Paris and to the South of France

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