Guest blogger Richard Nahem (of Eye Prefer Paris tours) offers insider tips for eating, drinking, shopping and strolling within minutes of the city’s major railway stations in his article for The Guardian…
Canal St Martin – courtesy of france.jeditoo.com
Gare du Nord – Gare de L’Est
Head south down Boulevard de Magenta and you’ll find the trendy Canal Saint-Martin neighbourhood. Stop at Galerie Impaire (galerieimpaire.fr) at 47 rue de Lancry, an outpost of the innovative Creative Growth Art Foundation from California, and view the impressive artwork from self-taught artists and artists with disabilities. Feeling peckish? Worth waiting in line for are the delicious pastries at the boulangerie Du Pain et des Idées at 34 rue Yves Toudic (specialities include a delicious puff pastry with chocolate and pistachio paste). For a quick beer or some light eats, La Marine on quai de Valmy and Chez Prune on rue Beaurepaire are good bets right on the canal.
Gare de L’Est – oceansbridge.com
Gare de Lyon
If you walk down rue Abel to Avenue Daumesnil you will discover Paris‘s most unique park, the Promenade Plantée. Elevated above the city, this deserted commuter rail line was transformed into a park in 1989. Stroll among the blooms, as Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke did in the film Before Sunset. Below the park is Viaduc des Arts, a row of craftsmen’s shops and galleries featuring textile restorers, fashion designers and musical-instrument makers. The fabulous restaurant in the Gare de Lyon itself, Le Train Bleu, opened in 1901. The decor is stunning and it’s pricey but there’s a less expensive bar menu.
Head west down Rue Buffon and you’ll come across two calming oases: the first is the Jardin des Plantes, the botanical garden of Paris, with more than 4,500 plants covering 28 hectares. It also has a small zoo and four galleries of the Paris natural history museum. The second is the Grande Mosquée de Paris, an authentic mosque with a beautiful garden and gorgeous mosaic-tiled public areas and prayer rooms. Sip a mint tea at the cafe or, if you have time, enjoy a steaming plate of couscous or a tagine in the elaborately decorated restaurant.
Walk east down Boulevard du Montparnasse, make a left on Boulevard Raspail, and head to the Fondation Cartier museum. It houses contemporary and avant-garde art and its current exhibition (until 29 November) is “Born in the Street – Graffiti”, a history of the artistic movement born in the streets of New York during the 70s. Across the street is the Montparnasse cemetery, a lesser-known alternative to the Père Lachaise cemetery, where some prestigious literary and artistic figures are buried, including Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir (buried together), Samuel Beckett and Marguerite Duras. If you’re after some food, Wadja, on rue de la Grande Chaumière, is an excellent traditional bistro.
Gare St Lazare – Claude Monet – www.bridgemanartondemand.com
On Boulevard Haussmann is a gem of a small museum, the Jacquemart-André. This 19th-century mansion houses an impressive collection of 15th- and 16th-century Italian sculpture and works by Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Fragonard, Bernini and Botticelli. The cafe is one of the prettiest in Paris, and the tables on the terrace have a lovely courtyard view.