Paris Gare de Lyon – What to do in and around?

The next time you have a few hours to spare at the Gare de Lyon, don’t waste it in some run-of-the-mill coffeeshop scrolling away on your smartphone – get out and explore! There are several historical highlights close by, as well as great sustainable options for lunch or coffee. Put your luggage in a locker and start discovering. Here are our top ten tips for you.

1. Le Train Bleu

This iconic gourmet restaurant located inside the railway station is the embodiment of opulence and grandeur. Bathed in sumptuous gold leaf and rich royal blue, with elegant chandeliers and rococo décor, ceiling frescos and lush stucco, Le Train Bleu is truly something to marvel at. The food itself is a sublime gastronomic experience – and you don’t even have to leave the station! Don’t feel like fine dining? There’s also a lounge bar where you can enjoy small dishes and a drink.

Restaurant: Open daily from 11:30 AM to 2:45 PM and from 7 PM to 10:45 PM.
Lounge bar: Open daily from 7:30 AM to 10:00 PM.

2. The Gare de Lyon itself

The magnificent Gare de Lyon is one of seven terminus stations in Paris and is itself well worth seeing. The building was constructed for the World Exposition in 1900 and boasts a distinctive 67-metre clocktower, a richly decorated façade and a grand interior. The ticket area is adorned with a beautiful fresco 100 meters long depicting the destinations you can travel to from the Gare de Lyon. Cities are painted according to distance, with Paris first and Menton, on the Italian border, last. (Currently under renovation.)

The entrance to the Gare de Lyon in Paris

3. Coulée Verte René-Dumont (or Promenade Plantée)

A stone’s throw from the Gare de Lyon is the Coulée Verte, also known as the Promenade Plantée – a tranquil park to have a stroll and unwind in. Built in 1988 on a former railway line, the park has provided a green oasis above road level long before New York’s High Line. The promenade is 4.5 km in length and leads to the Bois de Vincennes, the largest public park in Paris. Walk out of the station, take Rue de Lyon and you will arrive at Avenue Daumesnil where the entrance is located.

4. Viaduc des Arts

Below the Coulée Verte on Avenue Daumesnil, the brick arches of the former railway tracks have been converted into trendy shops, studios and boutiques. Jewellers, chocolatiers, artists and other craftspeople have transformed the area into an artisan’s heaven. Mingle with the well-heeled crowd, stop for a coffee and a slice of cake or do a spot of window-shopping – who knows what treasure you’ll find.

5. Jardin des Plantes

Opposite the station on the other side of the river lies the beautiful Jardin des Plantes, a 23-hectare botanical garden. Besides exotic flowers, statues, fountains and walking paths, you’ll also find a zoo, a natural history museum with the impressive Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, a winter garden, a rose garden and much more. From the station, cross the Seine at Pont Charles de Gaulle or Pont d’Austerlitz. (Admission is free.)

6. Place de la Bastille

Walking down Rue de Lyon from the Gare de Lyon, you’ll soon reach the impressive Place de la Bastille where, until the French Revolution, the infamous Bastille prison once stood. In the centre of the square is the Colonne de Juillet, which celebrates the “Three Glorious” days of 27–29 July, 1830, an uprising which saw the abdication of Charles X. Victims of the uprising are today buried under the column. You can also admire the modern Opéra Bastille by architect Carlos Ott, inaugurated in 1989 to commemorate the storming of the Bastille two centuries prior.

7. Arsenal

Next to the Place de la Bastille is the Bassin de l’Arsenal, a marina in the centre of Paris. In addition to walking along the quay admiring the moored boats, a beautiful park has also been laid out at the eastern end of the harbour. This area ends with a lock which ensures a difference in water level between the harbour and the Seine. Next to the lock there is a passage to the Quay of the Seine – a lovely place for quiet walk.

8. The banks of the Seine

No trip to Paris would be complete without a walk along the Seine. The city’s famous river conveniently runs right next to the Gare de Lyon – a brief 5-minute walk from the station. Head northwest on your riverside walk, taking in the charming Île Saint-Louis before ending up at Notre Dame. The views are especially good at sunset.

9. Cité de la Mode et du Design

As soon as you cross the Seine from the Gare de Lyon via Pont Charles de Gaulle, your gaze is drawn to a giant green caterpillar on the wall of a 1907 depot which now houses the Cité de la Mode et du Design. Here, it’s all about innovation, culture and style – and you will find exhibitions and installations by photographers, stylists, architects and urban planners. Enjoy a drink with a beautiful view of the Seine and the city from the rooftop bar. You can also indulge yourself at Wanderlust, a hip nightclub with a restaurant and terrace.

10. Parc de Bercy and Bercy Village – Cour Saint Emilion

Walk down Rue de Bercy between the railway lines and the Seine and you’ll eventually arrive at the Parc de Bercy, an oasis of green right next to the river. This beautiful yet overlooked park has a lot to offer, including a rose garden, vegetable garden and water features, as well as beautiful walkways and works of art. At the end of the park, you’ll find Bercy Village, a hidden shopping street with charming eateries and terraces located in former wine warehouses.

Time for Coffee

Getting hungry? Check out Comptoir Veggie at 75 avenue Ledru Rollin, a sustainable place that offers 100% plant-based snacks and meals. In the Station Bar, part of the adjoining Mercure Hotel, you can also have a coffee and escape the crowds.

Lily Ovaa
Born and raised in the Netherlands, Lily fell in love with France as a student and never left, settling in Paris. Passionate about languages, she works as a freelance translator. For Railtripping, she explores the best local, sustainable and off the beaten track places in and around Paris.

Translated by: William Simpson. Photos by: Bart Giepmans.