The Musé de l’air et de l’espace is housed in what used to be the terminal building of Le Bourget airport, located to the North of Paris. Le Bourget served as the only airport of Paris for a long time. With the opening of Orly airport in the South and Charles de Gaulle airport close to Le Bourget, there was no longer any need for the facility. And so, in 1977 the airport was closed for international airline operations, and then in 1980 also for domestic flights. Today, Le Bourget only sees Business Jet traffic. If you’re flying in to Charles de Gaulle airport approaching from the West, you fly past Le Bourget at a fairly low altitude.
Getting to the museum
Le Bourget is located on the RER B suburban train line that connects the centre of Paris to Charles de Gaulle airport. From Le Bourget station you then need to catch the bus line 152, which takes another 15 minutes.
Otherwise, if, like me, you’re travelling from Charles de Gaulle airport, you can also catch the bus line 350 from Roissypole, which runs straight to the museum. The journey time is indicated in google maps as being 37 minutes, but in reality it’s more like 57 minutes.
A single entry ticket to the museum costs EUR16 for an adult and gives you full access to all the exhibit halls, as well the aircraft standing outside on the old ramp. Access to the interior of the two Concordes in the Concorde hall and to the Boeing B 747-200 is also included.
Your visits to the museum starts with a short tour through what used to be departures area, which takes visitors through the beginnings of aviation, from the Mongolfiers to Blériot. The building’s interior is beautifully restored to its original Art Deco splendor. I just find the building very romantic, it harks back to the good old days of travel that seem so impossible today.
By the way, the museum also has an excellent souvenir shop with a lot of interesting books published by the museum on various topics of aviation.
The Dassault Mercure
For me as an airline geek, the outdoor exhibits were certainly the most interesting. Just as you exit onto the the ramp, to your left there is the ill-fated and horribly unsuccessful French-built Dassault Mercure. Air Inter was the only airline ever to operate the Mercure, and I can actually still remember seeing them at Basel airport when I was a kid.
The Airbus A 380
Also on display is one of the Airbus A 380 prototypes. I’ve flown on the A 380 several times now, and although I still think the plane is ugly as sin, one simply cannot argue that it still is an engineering marvel. In Le Bourget you can walk around the aircraft freely. You get a good sense for the dimensions of the A 380 when you’re walking around it at ground level. Moreover, distances can be deceiving and it’s not until you try to take photos of the aircraft that you become aware of just how far away you have to stand to get it in one frame.
Boeing B 747-200
And then there is the old Boeing B 747-200 that used to operate for Air France. You can go inside this aircraft and have a look around.
Parts of the galleys and cabin have been restored to give visitors a glimps of what air travel used to be like in the early days of the wide-body jets.
And that includes access to the old First Class lounge on the upper deck.
The Concorde hall
The centre piece of the museum is certainly the Concorde hall, which houses one of the original prototypes as well as one Concorde that previously flew with Air France.
Both aircraft are accessible to the public, and if you’re interested in the history of Concorde, it’s quite fascinating to see the differences between the prototype and the production variants of the aircraft.
The Musé de l’air et de l’espace is a bit out of the way for a visit if you’re staying in Paris. Even so, if you’re interested in aviation in general and geek out when you see an airliner like I do, then I definitely think it’s worth a visit, despite the long schlepp to get there. I really enjoyed my visit, because it felt a lot like taking a step back in time.