Paris is a city of art and culture. It is an open-air museum, where even a story of its railway stations is highly inspiring. The facades and roofs, as well as the arrival and departure halls of many of these stations, have been listed as French historical monuments. Many artists, painters and photographers find Parisian railway stations very inspirational, and they were also used as movie sets in numerous French and Hollywood movies. These stations are also the places where you can find many surprisingly good bars and restaurants. And of course, I almost forget to mention, they offer the connections to the rest of France and even international destinations in Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain.
The Gare de l’Est is one of the oldest Parisian railway stations. It was inaugurated by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, future Napoléon III, in 1849. Many stations had a very tumultuous history. Par example, the Gare de Lyon, built in 1855, was completely burnt during the Paris Commune in 1871, and the Gare de Montparnasse was a place of a spectacular accident in 1895, when the train instead of stopping, crossed the station, crashed through the wall and ended outside. The railway stations in Paris also played an important role in the history of the 20th century. During the World War I, the Gare de l’Est was a central place for the great mobilization of the French military troops leaving to the Western front. And at the end of the World War II, the Montparnasse railway station became the place where the German military governor of Paris surrendered to the Free French Forces. On the other hand, some Parisian railway stations lost their function and have been converted for other uses. That is the case of the Gare d’Orsay. This railway station, opened in 1900 for the Universal Exposition, houses today an art museum, where you can find the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world.
The Gare Saint-Lazare was a very inspirational place for the impressionist painters. Many among them, such as Claude Monet and Edouard Manet, even lived near this railway station and painted it. One of the most famous paintings is probably the “Gare Saint-Lazare” by Claude Monet from 1877. The Parisian railway stations were also often used as movie sets. There is a very interesting anecdote about the movie “Once upon a time in America” from 1984, directed by Sergio Leone. This movie was partly filmed in the Gare du Nord, that was arranged to evoke the Grand Central Terminal in New York. But the Gare du Nord was also the place where many other movies were filmed, such as “The Bourne Identity" with Matt Damon or even several scenes of TV series "Gossip Girl". The railway stations in Paris are also the places where you can spot some interesting artworks. In the hall of the Gare d’Austerlitz, you can admire two large acrylic panels on wood representing “Le Matin and Le Soir”, on the theme of Perseus' Voyage from 1987 by Valerio Adami.
The inspiring story of railway stations in Paris has to include great bars and tasty restaurants. Let me mention just some of them. Le Train Bleu (the Blue Train) is one of the most emblematic restaurants in Paris. Situated at the Gare de Lyon, this place was created especially for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. Above the Gare de l’Est is situated the most secret Parisian bar – Le Perchoir de l’Est. This mythical 400 square meter rooftop is a very charming place with the most relaxed atmosphere. Another great restaurant that you should not miss is the Etoile du Nord. This restaurant, located in the heart of the Gare du Nord, reinvents the spirit of old-time station buffets in a modern surrounding and offers most delicious meals.
Cover Photo © Credit to iStockphoto/YuliaGr
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