Hôtel Les Deux Gares is in the stealthily cool 10th arrondissement between the titular transport hubs of Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est.
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is the closest, around a 40-minute drive from the hotel, or a 30-minute train ride on the B line direct to Gare du Nord. Alternatively, fly into Orly Airport to the south of the city (an hour’s drive from the hotel).
The clue’s in the name – you couldn’t be better served for arriving by rail. With Gare du Nord on one side and Gare de l’Est on the other, trains flurry in from all over France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and the UK (and Eurostar stops here). Both terminuses also have Metro stops from which you can zip across the city.
Don’t be so gauche – Paris is for promenading in true flâneur style or trysting in the back of a taxi. And the Metro will easily get you where you need to go. If you do take the wheel (both gares have car-hire booths) there’s plentiful parking in the area (and hotel guests get 20 per cent off the local carpark a 10-minute walk away), and if you’ve driven over from another country, you’ll need a mandatory Crit’Air sticker denoting how eco-friendly your vehicle is (the cleaner it is, the better your parking opportunities).
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel’s neighbourhood (especially around the gares) is a little edgier and less polished than some, but as new hotels and restaurants open it’s earning some cachet of its own. The Little India area has some of the city’s best curry houses, the waterways of Canal Saint-Martin offer gentle boat rides and pretty picnicking spots (pick up champagne, caviar and other decadent treats at Julhès épicerie), and marchés Saint Martin and Saint Quentin showcase the area’s cultural diversity in delicious style. You’ll need to pound some pavement to see the main sites (the Louvre and Left Bank are about a 40-minute walk, Sacré-Cœur is 30 minutes away, the Eiffel Tower just over an hour), or hop on a bike for zippier sightseeing. See operas in opulent surrounds at the Palais Garnier, catch a quiet moment at the flower-strewn Jardin Villemin, pick up niche art tomes at OFR Bookshop and see what’s happening at envelope-pushing gallery Les Douches (formerly a bath house). And Musée des Arts et Métiers celebrates industrial design in the hallowed halls of an abandoned priory. And Père Lachaise Cemetery might not be everyone’s idea of a fun day out, but this sprawling necropolis holds the great and the good (Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Chopin, Colette, Jim Morrison and many more), some eye-catching mausoleums and curious memento mori: Georges Rodenbach’s zombie-esque tomb and Victor Noir’s aroused effigy – it’s good luck to give his erection a pat.
French cuisine may be better known for its butteriness, but in this corner of Paris, there are spicier offerings to seek out. Little India (between the Gare du Nord and rue du Faubourg-Saint-Martin) is where waves of Sri Lankan and South Indian immigrants settled, and they brought their A-game cuisine with them. Load your table with paneer beignets, dosas stuffed with potato masala, pilaus of all persuasions and chutney-topped idlis at Saravanaa Bhavan; tuck into true Tamil cuisine (and a very reasonable three-course lunch for €16) at Dishny; or pair the delicious street food at La Baranaan (hello, banana and pepper rhum babas) with something from their equally alluring cocktail list. Follow in designer Luke Edward Hall’s footsteps and spend the evening at raucously fun Aux Deux Amis, where elegant French dishes are paired with a long list of natural wines. On the banks of the canal, Le Comptoir Général bills itself as a museum celebrating African and Caribbean culture, but it’s so much more than that: a scene depicting a barbershop is where visitors can get their hair cut, a classroom is used as a daycare centre, and a dramatic exhibit referencing a 12th-century hunt for mythic Congolese dinosaur Mokole Mbembe is where humanitarian missions to the Congo are arranged. And alongside all the food for thought some top-drawer fish dishes are served, using catches from Normandy and Brittany. And, PNYB (Paris–New York burger) taps into the huge trend in gourmet burgers that’s swept Paris these past few years. The owner hand-rears the meat at Farm Ponclet and everything between the buns (and beyond) is carefully considered, plus the choice is wide, from pulled pork and bourguignon burgers to vegan and portobello mushroom takes.
Don’t arrive too hungry at Hollybelly for their excellent Australian-style brunch. It’s likely you’ll have to queue, so the trick is to be ravenous by the time you reach your table. You’ll want all the pancakes and eggy bits, plus coffee from noted roasters, but there are some house stand-outs, say the chicory-infused New Orleans iced coffee with condensed milk, home-made cola float and Brit-style baked beans. They’ve made their own beer with brewers Brique House too. For a banging brew of another kind, head to Palais Royal’s Café Kitsuné, whose coffee and chic interiors have earned wide acclaim.
‘Is this the place?’, you’ll enquire as you stare at the raggedy array of posters that cover Le Syndicat’s façade. But, persevere and you’ll find yourself in a louche French fantasy of hip young things and vaguely industrial decor. The barkeeps wear the Tricolore on their sleeves (not literally for these dapper folks), and the moreish cocktails are awash with cognac, crème de cassis, armagnac and other Franco faves. And, since you’re in France, it’s time for wine – neighbourhood bar Le Verre Volé doesn’t look particularly special, but settle in for the evening and you’ll see why it’s been so heartily embraced by residents: natural wines flow freely, there’s something drinkable to suit every budget and taste, and remarkably imaginative, daily-changing small plates will stop you from falling off your chair – the boudins blanc and noir are especially good.