Gare de l’Est (East Station)
Gare de l’Est is one of the main train stations in Paris (the others are Gare du Nord, Montparnasse, Bercy, Gare St Lazare, Gare de Lyon), with links to three Metro lines, trains to Ile de France, to eastern France and beyond (think Mulhouse, Zurich, Frankfurt, Munich). It opened in 1849, and has seen many renovations and expansions over the years.
Here’s a historical tidbit: on October 4, 1883, the Gare de l’Est saw the first departure of the famous Orient Express to Istanbul.
The industrial, working class neighborhood around Gare de l’Est used to house noisy tanning and paper-making workshops next to the Canal Saint-Martin. Nowadays people come to stroll along the canal and neighboring, pedestrian-friendly streets. There was a major renovation of the station, finished in 2007, largely to spruce it up for the new TGV Est coming from Strasbourg and Germany.
One might wonder why I’m writing about a train station. Well, besides being a large station with connections to many places, it’s virtually a sight in its own right. It’s also an acceptable place to escape for a few hours if it’s cold and pouring with rain outside (we’ve done that!). Plus, it’s been an advertising site for a major company: Apple.
At the top of the ornate western façade of the station is a remarkable statue by sculptor Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire, which symbolizes the town of Strasbourg. The Alsace-style brasseries around the station show that this is the first refuge for travelers arriving from the east of France. There’s also a fairly up-market brasserie in the station called Flo, plus other more simple sit-down eateries.
The station was nicknamed “Chateau des courants d’air” (palace of drafts of air) by poet Jacques Reda, and I have to admit it is quite chilly in the winter months. Entrance halls lead to the platform concourses, all lined with lots of small shops, food stands, and different services, as well as a branch office of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Central Hall, with its immense glass roof, is mostly occupied by shops and could be mistaken for a commercial shopping center. Beyond this is Hall d’Alsace, where you can see a monumental fresco/painting by American painter Albert Herter (1926) depicting conscripts leaving for the western front during WW1. Why? The station is the terminus of a strategic railway network extending to the eastern part of France, and it saw large mobilizations of French troops, especially in 1914 at the beginning of WW1.
Train tickets are available in another hall, the Hall St Martin.
It’s a really busy station and Apple obviously thought it a good place to advertise. Each time we’ve been through in the last couple of years, Apple has been the major advertiser, notably in the platform concourses.
First there was a display of iPhone 5 pictures. Then, Apple organized a global “Shot on iPhone 6” advertising campaign, as a way of focusing attention on mobile photography. It ran over the last year, and we were lucky to catch it in Paris at Gare de l’Est in 2015. Apple has now assembled a Photography Kit for iPhone 6.
I posted a short article on this about a year ago, see here:
Now in 2016, we see many ads for the Apple Watch—Apple must have done well with all this advertising here.
Gare de l’Est (10th arrondissement). Actual address, rue du 8-mai-1945
Open daily 5am-1am