Lonely Planet Writer

Eat, drink and be entertained at former railway sites in Paris

Train stations can be busy, stressful places, but visitors to Paris this summer can now enjoy music, food, drink and entertainment at derelict railway sites that have been transformed into stunning creative spaces. This forms part of a broader movement in Paris that recognises the need to tackle environmental and social issues by adding more local arts venues and promoting greener ways of living.

The interior of Freegan Pony, a vegan restaurant set up in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. Image: Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

The Appel à Manifestation d’Intérêt initiative was launched by SNCF, France’s national rail company, which was previously engaged in long-drawn-out battles with art collectives that squatted in its disused sites. But now by working in collaboration with artists, it is endeavouring to transform the abandoned railways into a unique expression of French culture and art.

There are 14 projects in the initiative, including La Station in the 18th arrondissement, which is a platform for emerging local music, as well as cooking, gardening and recycling projects. The newly-opened Grand Train was built on the site of a former SNCF depot, and it features a train exhibition, live music, restaurants and a bar.

Grand Train in Paris features a train exhibition, live music and restaurants. Image: Grand Train
Grand Train in Paris features a train exhibition, live music and restaurants. Image: Grand Train

Then there’s Case, a series of shipping containers  that will serve as exhibition and event spaces focused on promoting sustainability. Based in the 10th arrondissement, these containers will offer galleries, a coffee and wine venue, an Indian restaurant and organic burger joint.

Paris is embracing greener ways of living these days, and in 2014, mayor Anne Hidalgo invited Parisians to discuss projects that would improve life in their city. Under another project called Reinvent Paris, architects were invited to submit designs to transform the use of public spaces.


One such project was Freegan Pony, a vegan restaurant set up in a storage space in the 19th arrondissement. While it is temporarily closed for the summer for maintenance, it uses unsold produce from a food market to create dishes such as ratatouille and stir-fried vegetables in an effort to reduce food waste. Customers buying these dishes are asked to pay what they wish.

For further information on Appel à Manifestation d’Intérêt, see here.