Gare du Nord: 12 cheap & cool restaurants, hotels & bars
Eat, sleep and rave your way around Paris…
Whether visiting Paris or transiting at Gare du Nord, before boarding a train to Amsterdam or Brussels, you can eat, sleep and rave on the cheap around the station and neighbouring Gare de l’Est. From €2 beers to €19 nights in listed buildings, free entry clubs and €4.50 yum meals; from beef tartare Chez Jeannette to crazy nights Chez Moune, here are 12 cool, characterful and affordable places you can walk to from Gare du Nord.
Brittany is a 5 minute walk from Gare du Nord! The French region is served to you on sharing plates at the convivial La Pointe du Groin. Who better than a Michelin-starred chef – whose name and roots are “Breton” – to do justice to hot sausage in buckwheat crepe, lobster risotto, and a buttery Kouign Amann cake! Wash these down with handpicked wines, beers and ciders before a jolly payment moment: hors d’oeuvres come to €6-10, desserts and drinks are €2-4 and you will use “Groin coins” exchanged at the bar. Fancy something more traditional? Adjacent Breton-owned Chez Casimir and Chez Michel, have a similar well-priced, yet polished approach.
15 minutes south of Gare du Nord in the gentrified Faubourg Saint-Denis area, Chez Jeannette is what you’d expect an old Parisian bar to look like. Indeed, the zinc counter, neon sign, red banquettes and lampshades haven’t changed since the 1940’s…neither did the moustaches crowd. An all-day meeting place for coffee, foosball games and evening drinks, it also offers honest bistro food. Mains, such as tuna steak with ratatouille or beef tartare with fries, will come to €14, and beers start at €3. Even the prices are retro, given the area and the hype.
One of Paris’ distinctive smells is that of freshly baked bread and croissants exhaling from boulangeries. The gourmet Rue des Martyrs concentrates some of the best, 20 minutes of Gare du Nord, in bourgeois bohemian (“bobo”) South Pigalle. If you must pick one, Maison Landemaine makes pretty special fruit tarts (from €3.20) and is also famous for its golden crusted Tradition baguette (€1.10). Stuff it with slow cooked Paris ham and comté cheese from surrounding butchers and fromageries.
With a background in fashion, Christophe Vasseur switched to bakery aged 30. This new career got him crowned Best Baker 2008 by Gault-Millau restaurant guide. His pretty 1889 boulangerie, became an institution in the charming Canal Saint-Martin area, 15 minutes south-east of Gare du Nord. Grab an Escargot pastry (€3.30) or a Pain des Amis (€5.30). This organic thick loaf with smoky, nutty flavours is served at Paris most prestigious tables.
Five minutes from Du Pain et des Idées, off the Canal Saint-Martin, the Rue des Vinaigriers is sprinkled with cafes and restaurants (including a chippy!). Among them is La Taverne de Zhao, specialising in Chinese cuisine from the Shaanxi province. If you get a table (it’s small and you can’t book), warm-up with dumplings (€7.80), followed by spicy soups and stews (€9.50) traditionally cooked in a pot. Refresh yourself with their famous translucent noodles and cucumber salad (€7.50) and a bubble tea (€5.50). Otherwise, take a meat-bun (€4.50) away to the canal.
Tucked between Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est, this tiny Kabyle bar-cum-eatery is a gem. It’s well-liked by the locals for its Berber hospitality, varied live music events and delicious, generous portions of tagines and couscous (€13.50). The place in itself isn’t ritzy. It has its own charm, topped with cheap pints and cocktails (€5-6) and a lively atmosphere. No frills, all the chills.
You may think you’re not at the right place when you will walk into the listed lobby of the BVJ Opéra-Montmartre. In a beautiful 18th century building, this hostel boasts a precious courtyard, all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, and rooms from €19/night. It’s ideally located between the shops of Opéra, the hilly cobbled streets of Montmartre and the hip hood of Pigalle, 25 minutes west of Gare du Nord.
10 minutes from the station and Montmartre Sacred Heart Basilica, this hostel/hotel makes his guests feel at home. A home with a gym, foosball tables and a communal space where games and themed evenings take place. Rooms start at €17,50/night at the Vintage, part of HipHopHostels. They manage other cool Parisian accommodations worth checking.
10 minutes south of Gare du Nord, l’Ours – which means “bear” in French – is a pretty bear-themed cocktail den. The smiley mixologists craft inspired creations from interesting ingredients, such as earl grey-infused gin and rosehip vodka. Walls are covered with a quirky wallpaper of bears sipping cocktails! Join them for the Happy Hour. Cocktails are €6 from 5 to 9 pm, €8 after.
This quaint and welcoming wine bar is located 15 minutes north of the train station in the up-and-coming Goutte d’Or area, known as “Little Africa”. Bring your own glass/bottle or borrow the bar’s. This ecological and economic system reduces prices down to €3-7/75 cl. Stock-up on Côtes-du-Rhône and other carefully picked nectars, contained in stainless steel tanks. Line your stomach with soupe du jour (€4,50), tinned sardines (€6), platters of cheese, cured meat and other frencheries (€10-18). You can also join workshops to make your own wine. Cheers to that!
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Paris is no Provence but you can still enjoy a jolly game of pétanque (French boules) on the buzzing banks of Canal de l’Ourcq. You will play with one hand, while the other one holds a €2.50 beer from Bar Ourcq or wave to their DJ’s beats. They spin till the wee hours in the summer. During winter, locals cosy up inside and play the venue’s many board games.
If you want to get a sense of what the word “bon-vivant” means, head to Pigalle (20 minutes from Gare du Nord) and dance the night away in this old lesbian cabaret, turned into an underground basement club. Sharp and eclectic music acts attract a crowd of hipsters in the know, as well as the free entry on Wednesday-Thursday (or €10 Friday-Saturday with a drink).
There is only one Paris but if you want to eat, sleep and rave in other French cities, Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est are good places to start. You could jump on a train to Lille, a vibrant student city and the beer capital of France, or to Strasbourg, which has sweet Alsatian timbered houses, an enchanting Christmas market and the cheapest pints in the country!