Essential Architecture-  Paris

Gare du Nord


Jacques Ignace Hittorff


Paris, France.






stone facade, steel and glass train shed


Utility Transport Railway station
  Front of the Gare du Nord
  Gare du Nord as seen from the Thalys platform
  Detail of the main entrance of the Gare du Nord
  Panoramic view of the arrival hall
  Departure board showing typical destinations
  Eurostar, Thalys and TGV trains fill the platforms on a busy Sunday afternoon during the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
  The new part with the hall for the RER lines

The Gare du Nord ("north station") is one of the six large terminus stations of the SNCF's main line network in Paris. It offers connections with several urban transportation lines (Paris Métro and RER). By number of travellers (around 180 million per year), it is the busiest station in Europe, and the third-busiest railway station in the world. The railway station serves trains to the north of France, as well as various international destinations such as the United Kingdom, Belgium and The Netherlands

The first Gare du Nord was built by Bridge and Roadway engineers on the behalf of the Chemin de Fer du Nord company, which was notably managed by Léonce Reynaud, professor of architecture at the École Polytechnique. The station was inaugurated on 14 June 1846, the same year of the inauguration of the Paris—Amiens—Lille line. Since it turned out to be too small, it was partially demolished in 1860 to provide space for the current station, the former station's façade was removed and placed in Lille.

The president of Chemin de Fer du Nord, James Mayer de Rothschild, chose French architect Jacques Ignace Hittorff. Construction lasted from May 1861 to December 1865, but the new station opened for service while still under construction in 1864. The façade was designed around a triumphal arch and used many slabs of stone. It is very ornate, with 23 statues representing the cities served by the company. The most majestic statues, which crown the building, illustrate international destinations (Paris, London, Berlin, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Vienna, Brussels) while national destinations correspond with more modest statues on the façade. The building has the usual U-shape of a terminus station. The main support beam is made out of cast iron. The support pillars inside of the station were made in Scotland, the only country where there was a foundry that was sufficiently large.

Like other Parisian railway stations, Gare du Nord rapidly became too small to deal with the increase in railway traffic. In 1884, engineers were able to add five supplementary tracks. The interior was completely rebuilt in 1889 and an extension was built on the eastern side to serve suburban train lines. There were further expansions between the 1930s and the 1960s.

Beginning in 1906 and 1908, the station was served by the Paris Métro: Line 4, which crosses Paris from north to south, and the terminus of Line 5, which extended to Gare de Lyon. In the 1930s, Line 5 was extended towards the suburbs of Pantin and Bobigny. Line 2 (station La Chapelle) is linked to the Gare du Nord via an underground tunnel. One enters the Métro station and, instead of climbing the stairs that lead to the elevated métro line (not all of Line 2 is elevated) descends several flights of stairs, before traversing a long, arched circular hallway to enter the gare.

Finally, in 1994, the arrival of Eurostar trains imposed a further reorganisation of the tracks:

Platforms 1 and 2: Service platforms, not open to the public.
Platforms 3 to 6: Terminus of the London Eurostar via the Channel Tunnel.
Platforms 7 and 8: Thalys platforms for Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany.
Platforms 9 to 29: TGV North, Main Line trains, then the Picard TER
Platforms 30 to 40: Suburban station
In the basement, platforms 41 to 44: RER station
There is a further construction project to build a connecting hallway between Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est, which is projected to open around the time when the new LGV Est begins serving the station.

2007 riot
An ordinary ticket inspection at Gare du Nord (RER level) turned into a riot that would last until late in the evening. On March 27, 2007, about 4:00 pm (GMT +1:00) RATP inspectors checked on a 33-year-old immigrant from Congo who did not have a rail ticket nor ID papers. Eyewitness accounts vary as to how the routine check was handled. Apparently the man was handled roughly and in turn punched one of the inspectors. The incident occurred in clear sight motivating commuters to support the man being held. Police back-ups were called, but the people supporting the man also called for reinforcements. Several hundred people (200 to 400, depending on witnesses) fought the police in the basement of the train station and in the connected metropolitan station for eight hours into the night. Some threw plastic bottles at police. Some rioters attacked windows, vending machines and shops in the main hall. Some also chanted slogans of "police are everywhere, justice is nowhere" and "down with the state, police and bosses." Officers arrested at least nine people and two others were injured.

In Popular Culture
The Gare du Nord served as decor in numerous French films, for instance in Les Poupées Russes.

In US movies, both the exterior and the interior of the Gare du Nord are seen in 2002 the film The Bourne Identity with Matt Damon and again in the trilogy's finale, The Bourne Ultimatum, released in August 2007. It was also seen in Ocean's Twelve in 2004.

It is also mentioned in "Polaris" by Jimmy Eat World off their album Futures.

The station is also mentioned in The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

The Station is seen in BBC Show Top Gear when Richard Hammond and James May need to connect to a TGV to get to Monte-Carlo in the race against Jeremy Clarkson's Aston Martin DB9.


See also
Gare de l’Est
Gare du Nord
Gare d'Austerlitz
Gare de Lyon
Gare Montparnasse
Gare Saint-Lazare