Last Updated on April 29, 2022
Hotel channels the spirit of the 10th arrondissement
Gliding into Paris Gard du Nord aboard the Eurostar is always a thrill. Less so the long queue for a taxi or navigating le metro with luggage. What if a hotel was so close by that one simply left the station and half a minute later was standing at the reception desk? The 25hours Hotel offers just such a dreamed of location. It belongs to a German-based group of 25hours hotels dotted around Europe and now open in Dubai and the hotels offer a rather different ambience to the one guests might expect. Each hotel is designed to reflect the area in which it is located. In Paris, 25hours Hotel is situated in the 10th arrondissement, home to a diverse population many of whom have migrated from Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Kurdistan and China.
Approaching the hotel, guests see a typical 1870s Haussmann style building. 25hours hotel is emblazoned on the façade in huge neon letters. Walking in through the massive front doors is an eye-opening experience. A double volume entrance impresses with an enormous copper chandelier, sculptural installations and artworks, vast angled mirrors, a vintage motorbike, and artefacts hanging from every surface. It is a riot of colour and texture. Schindelhauer bicycles for hire are lined up in the reception area which resembles a well-curated marketplace. Many of the decorative items found in the rooms are displayed for sale in a small shop area alongside Reception.
Check-in was warm and efficient and in no time we were waiting for the gold door of the key card operated lift to open and whisk us up to the fifth floor. Parisian lifts are notoriously tiny and, at 25hours Hotel, they have been cleverly turned into mini art shows that make one wish to spend longer on the ride. Those who prefer to work off too many pastries by taking the stairs are treated first to an impressive broad staircase up to the first floor and then on to a wonderful spiral staircase that snakes up through the building, the rough plaster walls painted pink. On each landing, there is more artwork. The ladies’ and men’s loos are a decorative destination in themselves. Bold murals add extra visual excitement and are by NUNCA, a well known Brazilian street artist whose art reflects his ideas on multiculturalism and community.
Invited to review 25hours Hotel, we were allocated a Medium Plus room – there are 237 airconditioned rooms on six floors with seven room sizes ranging from small to extra large plus. You can arrange for parking with the hotel and bring your pet. When you book, do ask for a room overlooking the station. The hotel interior was designed by Dreimeta, a company that has applied African and Asian inspired design details. At first glance the bedroom appeared simply decorated, then I began to notice the detail. A large bed was raised on wine boxes and dressed with white linen and an African wax print throw and cushions which were colourful and inviting. The carpet was bright orange with a blue pattern which chimed with the bright orange walls and blue ceiling. Everywhere I looked there was exciting lighting from the custom-designed, three-way side lamps to the pendant lamp, made from recycled plastic, hanging over the bed. There was a small desk and a hanging rail above which was a sign saying Applause that lit up at night. A complimentary mini-bar contained a bottle of water, beer and a bag of crisps. A requested kettle arrived within minutes.
Looking about the bedroom I noticed an array of items the choice of which is explained in a leaflet that is handed out at Reception. Hence I discovered that the row of dolls in the room are copies of Africa’s first industrially produced dolls, made in Ghana. These Clonette dolls were very popular with children in the 1950s. Tin objects are hand made in Senegal and sold in Maison Chateau Rouge owned by three local designers. The mask was made from recycled jerrycans and local fabrics, combining past objects with contemporary craft. The South Asian community is represented by money tins which are often found in shrines and temples. The large, framed poster references the largest Tamil community in Europe which is situated nearby the hotel. Specially commissioned posters have been made for the rooms in the form of old-fashioned movie posters depicting the fictional film 25hours Express to Kollywood (the Tamil-language film industry) with the faces of the film stars being those of local residents.
An ensuite shower room had a rain shower and a basin with a designer tap. Some rooms have basins made from colourful ceramic bowls one might buy in a North African market. Natural vegan soap products are made with organic vegetables and herbs and are part of the Stop The Water While Using Me range.
Then there was the view! A French door opened onto a bijoux balcony with two metal stools and a tiny table. It overlooked the façade of the Gard du Nord. Being so high up, I came face to face with some of the 23 allegorical female sculptures on the façade that represent the towns that the railway serves. Down below were taxis and buses, people entering and leaving the station. A constant movement of humanity and yet in the room it was quiet. Suddenly I noticed that to the left of the station, on up the hill, stood the Sacre Coeur of which I had a commanding view. I could not wait until dark when I expected it would be lit up. Whether you like or hate the Sacre Coeur as a building, there is no doubt that it is a striking landmark and an iconic part of Paris.
When I could tear myself away from the view, I found an intriguing book on the desk. Entitled Portraits of Gare du Nord, it arose from an idea of CEO of 25hours Hotels, Christopher Hoffmann, which was to tell the story of the area. Written by Alex Toledano who wrote his PhD on post WW11 history of neighbourhood life in the 10th arrondissement, it is a fascinating account of 19 people who work around or in Gare du Nord. Some have businesses in the area, all have interesting stories. It is not often that a book in a hotel room keeps me reading late into the night.
The next morning I went in search of one of those interviewed. Metin runs a cheese stall at Marché Saint-Quentin, the local covered market and we had a good chat about the book, his cheese and the neighbourhood. Later, wandering around the hotel from floor to floor, I realised that the large portraits of people on the walls in the public areas are of those who have been interviewed in the book and beautifully photographed by Juliette Abitbol and Edouard Sanville. The colourful frames reference the fabrics of the neighbourhood. Much of the decoration from wallpaper design to clothing displays by Chateau Rouge (a fashion brand based in the nearby 18th arrondissement neighbourhood of the same name), references the stories and livelihoods of the interviewees. As someone who loves design, I found this interweaving of personal stories of local people with the intricate decorative details of all areas of 25hours Hotel to be both absorbing and exciting. I felt as if I was on an adult treasure hunt. Portraits of Gare du Nord is on sale from Reception and I recommend it highly as a sociological and artistic book that certainly deepened my understanding both of the 10th arrondissement and how the hotel fits into the area.
On the first floor of 25hours Hotel is the in-house restaurant, Neni, a large space that overlooks the Gare du Nord and is decorated to celebrate women from across a range of cultures. This is reflected in the artwork on the wall to the boudoir like feel of the furnishings. The menu is Israeli-Mediterranean and is open for lunch and dinner. It is the same space that is used for breakfast. There are also two private dining rooms to hire for events.
Next to Neni is the Sape bar which is a dimly lit and atmospheric space, celebrating African music from the 1960s to 1980s and the Sapeurs – a Congolese dandy culture and social movement renowned for its African interpretation of Western men’s fashion. When we went for a nightcap, we took a good look at the walls which are covered with interesting artworks as well as a collection of record albums. Expect pops of bright colours, inventively crafted cocktails or mocktails, and the sounds of Papa Wemba.
At every turn and on every landing there are murals and visually striking pieces. Lots of fun ideas like the area filled with typewriters where one can type up a creative proposal (or anything else you like), pop it in an envelope and the hotel will post it to you. I wondered whether typing up the theme of the book that remains unwritten would help me get over the procrastination, but this is certainly a hotel environment that encourages creative thinking. Alongside is a co-working space with a large communal table, armchairs and lots of sockets.
When night fell it was hard to remove myself from the balcony where I was mesmerised by the illuminated Sacre Coeur and watching the nightlife in the street below. Once morning came we made our way to breakfast which was so vast that it kept us going until dinnertime. It is one of the best breakfast buffets I have had the pleasure to choose from. It is catered by Neni so there is a Middle Eastern section (my favourite) with various kinds of hummus (including beetroot with horseradish and curried mango), egg salad, a bowl of labneh with olives, bowls of sumac and za’atar to scatter should you wish. On the same counter were jars of cereal, muesli and granola with a tray filled with toppings – goji berries, blanched almonds, hazelnuts, dried fruits – as well as yoghurt and fresh fruit.
The continental section was copious with mounds of crispy croissants and pain au chocolat, brioche, baguettes and pain aux cereals that guests could slice, pots of lovely jams and a selection of hazelnut spreads. There were bowls with charcuterie and a cheese board with a lovely selection of French cheese. The English breakfast section was laid out in Staub casserole dishes which contained sausages, bacon, boiled and scrambled eggs, a platter of smoked salmon. The pièce de la resistance, for me, was the pain perdu – what in English is called French toast, here made from thick wedges of brioche. Simply heaven.
Orange and grapefruit juice are standard at a breakfast buffet but 25hours Hotel goes the distance in providing bubbly. I guess one could approach this as a bottomless bubbly breakfast, but you might need to spend the rest of the day sleeping it off upstairs. 25hours Hotel is the sort of place where there is always something quirky and fun to notice, from the napkins at breakfast with morning type messages such as ‘wake’ to the very amusing selection of signs to hang outside the bedroom doors. Yes, you could be left in peace all day in your room. However, Paris awaits outside the large glass doors of the hotel.
The hotel might not be your first choice if you enjoy a minimalist interior with lots of taupe and muted shades. However, if you want to experience a slice of Parisian life quite different to what you will find in the traditional tourist areas of the city, 25hours hotel will inspire and invigorate. I had never before stayed in the 10th arrondissement and found it to be fascinating. Wandering around is a good way to experience street life but you may also wish to take a walking tour. The 10th arrondissement is more central that I had realised, and we enjoyed a 15-minute walk to Canal St Martin and the multi-cultural and boho 11th arrondissement as well as a 45-minute walk down to the Louvre, the Seine and over to the Left Bank.
25hours Hotel has it all – fabulous ambience and exciting décor, warm, friendly and helpful staff, an inhouse restaurant and bar, a wonderful breakfast to wake up to, a central location for trains, bus or metro, and walking distance to many of the big museums. For those sights that are a bit further out – like the Eiffel Tower or some of the museums in the outer arrondissements – you might want to hire one of those bikes at Reception. Sizing up the desk in the bedroom along with the gorgeous view, I thought about how easily I could settle in for a few weeks to make a start on that book. This is a space simply buzzing with creative energy. You will certainly wish for that extra hour in the day.
25hours Hotel, 12 Boulevard de Denain, 75010 Paris