Paris once had a train line that circled around the city centre but when the metro was built in the 30s, the over-ground service was no longer needed and fell into disrepair. The disused railway track still exists today, marking out a 19-mile green belt of gardens, street art and old train stations that bit by bit are being turned into bars and restaurants.
Still called by its original name, the Petite Ceinture (little belt) or ‘PC’ for short, first opened in 1862 with 29 stations. Only 17 have survived and up till now all but five are still disused and have been turned into upscale restaurants, concert venues and arty bars with the environment and community-values at heart. Watch this space for more news as another 12 stations wait to be repurposed.
Le Hasard Ludique, the newcomer
After several years an various delays, Le Hasard Ludique bar, canteen and concert space finally opened its doors last April inside the former Saint-Ouen station. The owners, for whom the quiet community’s best interests are central to the project, hope to be a place where locals can meet up, have a drink, eat and listen to music by grass roots bands from around the world. The venue also hosts various events across the year like readings and DIY to wellbeing workshops.
La REcyclerie, the green hotspot
Across the railway from pioneering community garden project Jardins du Ruisseau, La REcyclerie is a bar inside the former Ornano train station. Oozing trendiness, it stands out (less and less) like a sore thumb among the scramble surrounding Clignancourt metro station. Reopened as a bar and canteen where recycling, reusing and rethinking how objects are used today is the main focus. Although we wouldn’t stop here for dinner (over-cooked, soggy fish and chips), we would happily settle in one of the reclaimed chairs for a beer or in summer, at one of the picnic tables that line the railway.
La Flèche d’Or, the golden predecessor (closed for now)
However, despite the hype around La REcyclerie, the clique behind the venue wasn’t the first to spot the dormant potential in Paris’ abandoned stations. In the early 90s a group of Beaux Arts students actually created a thriving concert venue inside what used to be Charonne station. La Flèche d’Or (the golden arrow), named after the train that linked Paris to (Calais and then) London, is located in the laid-back 20th arrondissement and alas, closed its doors at the end of 2016. Its future is uncertain, but rumour has it that it’s destined to become an O’Sullivans Irish pub, which has ruffled a few feathers in the area.
La Gare and the Brasserie Auteuil, swanky revivals
Two stations, both in the 16th, have also been entirely renovated and given a second lease of life. The old Passy-La Muette station was transformed and turned into La Gare, an enormous but chic neo-colonial style 250-seater brasserie and leafy terrace combed by a glass roof. North of the area, the Italian Brasserie Auteuil took over from Asian style bar and restaurant Mary Goodnight, homage to the 70s Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun, which in part was filmed in Bangkok. Today it has a leafy terrace looking out over the railway.
The bars and restaurants featured in the article:
La Flèche d’Or: 102 bis Rue de Bagnolet, 75020.
La REcyclerie: 82 Boulevard Ornano, 75018. Tel: 01 42 57 58 49.
La Gare: 19 chaussés de la Muette, 75116. Tel: 01 42 15 15 31.
Brasserie Auteuil: 78 Rue d’Auteuil, 75116. Tel: 01 40 71 11 90.
Le Hasard Ludique: 128 Avenue de Saint Ouen, 75018.