Presided over by the historic clock tower of the Gare de Lyon, Paris’ 12th arrondisement is enjoying a creative renaissance, with innovative new openings, charming sights and local flavour bubbling to the top of travellers’ agendas
Le Viaduc des Arts
Full of designers and craftspeople, the 45 archways of this converted former viaduct are a treasure trove of wares, with jewellery, fine leather goods, custom furniture, artisan blown glass and ladies’ prêt-à-porter making up just some of the delights you can browse in the showrooms. You can also get creative yourself at Wecandoo, a space that organises artisanal workshops with local craftsmen.
Le Train Bleu
An art nouveau thrill, the famously opulent grande dame of Gare de Lyon is a station restaurant that rivals the best of them. In fact, it pretty much sets the benchmark. Follow in the footsteps of regulars past and present, including Coco Chanel and Brigitte Bardot, and sup on champagne, sample from the excellent, very traditionally French menu and make sure you’re not rushing for a train.
Walking down this cobbled, pedestrianised street feels like you’ve been teleported to a provincial French village. The 35 jauntily-coloured residences were originally built to house construction workers in the late 19th century. The trompe l’œil-style artwork on the pastel facades is a highlight: keep an eye out for the painted ivy, leaping cat and figures in the window at the corner of Rue de Bercy.
The City of Light has always had its share of effortlessly cool music venues, and atmospheric indie joint Supersonic is a current favourite amongst discerning Parisians. Housed in an old factory, drinks don’t break the bank and there are nightly gigs as well as rock and electronic-themed nights.
Place de la Bastille
The history-steeped square famous for the storming of the Bastille prison – and the Colonne de Juillet commemorating the 1830 revolution – is also a cultural hotspot. You can catch an open-air concert, go to the huge Bastille opera house for something more classical, or head to some of the laid-back cocktail joints around Rue de la Roquette, including local favourites Lone Palm and L’Entre Potes.
Just over the river, Paris’ 13th arrondissement is now the location of the world’s biggest start-up campus, drawing in creatives and emerging businesses and giving the fairly traditional, residential area some major buzz. The former railway depot is also home to the largest restaurant in Europe, an Italian food court emporium with a 1,000 seating capacity, a graffitied train car slap bang in the middle and alluring cocktail bar Capri Coco.
Rue de Charenton
There are some enjoyably eclectic independents to be found on historic Rue de Charenton and around, spanning quirky cafes, homeware stores, boutiques and Marché Beauvau, one of the city’s oldest market halls. It’s bustling with stalls brimming with cheese, meat, wine, spices, coffee and flowers. Outside, you can burrow through the regular flea market and try and find an antique, collectible or vintage clothing gem.
Heart of the action
Location is king in the case of the Courtyard by Marriott. It’s situated opposite Gare de Lyon, one of Europe’s biggest transport hubs, with daily departures to Euro Disney, high-speed TGV services to the south of France, Spain and Italy, as well as inner city travel. Taking in the local area via a good old-fashioned stroll will definitely reward you with enough Parisian highlights, though. The boho and artsy Le Marais is a hop and a skip north, or you can trace the Seine up to the boat-filled Bassin de l’Arsenal, then head up to Notre-Dame Cathedral – a surprisingly peaceful wander around this section of the river, before the clamour of Pont Neuf and other popular sights begins.
Sporting a more contemporary look than previous properties, the 249-room Courtyard Paris Gare de Lyon has been a bit of a design game-changer for the brand. The hotel has soaked up the heritage around it, with appealing touches within the décor. A swathe of green clambers aloft at the entrance, a living wall reflecting the importance of local green oasis, La Coulée Verte. Accents of acid yellow in the interiors tie into colourful nearby street, Rue Crémieux, while the hotel’s exterior is illuminated with the outline of a railway track by night.
Accommodation is spacious, with multi-functional seating areas and ample sockets that cover both work and play. The bathrooms have pristine walk-in showers and baths, and the comfy king-sized beds make relaxing in front of the TV tempting, but really, it’s the views that any guest will want to gaze at for hours on end. Staying at the hotel means you’re party to a panoramic view of Paris that includes the Eiffel Tower and Sacré-Coeur, and who could fail to be lulled into holiday mode by that legendary skyline?
There’s a draw for freelancers and entrepreneurs in the shape of stylish co-working spaces on the hotel’s first floor. There’s also a 24-hour gym to get the brain cells going again. And of course, you need to eat. The Kitchen & Bar dining area feels distinctly higher level than your average hotel food offering. Head Chef Mélissa Ravel, who’s previously worked at some top Parisian food spots, has a passion for finding the best local producers and using seasonal ingredients with a twist. The menu alternates authentic French fare with international dishes, and there’s also a decent selection of regional French wines to try alongside. marriott.co.uk