It’s hip, trendy, it has a… Wait a minute. A luxury penthouse? In a hostel? I had to see this. So I pushed aside my preconceptions about hostels and kept an open mind. When I arrived there was already a sign that something was different. Beyond the accomplished neo-rural interior, the marked difference was in the people. A family pushing a baby stroller, a businessman in a sharp suit, a mature solo traveller, and three teenagers, all checking-in at the same spot.
Forget everything you know about hostels. Generator has already opened in Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dublin, Hamburg, London, and will shortly inaugurate Amsterdam and Rome. With 950 beds, Generator Paris is the largest and coolest hostel in Paris. It is located in a repurposed office building, across the street from the Colonel Fabien métro stop, in the increasingly gentrified 10th arrondissement, where emerging new gastronomic talent has settled around the Canal St. Martin, an easy walk from the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est.
The Generator common areas are sleek, well thought out and promote –but don’t forcefeed– conviviality. One of few nods to a traditional hostel is that some of the rooms are arranged in a dorm configuration for 4,8 or 10 guests. Another sign is that there are no TVs in the room (instead, there’s a large TV in the common area). As for me, I went for the conservative option and stayed in a hotel-style double. When on the road for work, I am happy with a crisp comfy bed, reviving shower, fast Wi-Fi and strong coffee. The Generator ticked all those boxes and more. The staff was friendly and efficient. Within two minutes I had the key card in my hand. The room was a traditional double with everything you would expect from a designer (and more expensive) establishment. Fast Wi-Fi everywhere, spotlessly clean, and quiet. The comfy twin beds smoothly slid on a rail to become a queen-size.
If you opt for the dorms you’ll find that each bunk bed has a partial privacy screen, bedside USB ports, power outlets, and LED reading lamp. The bed linen is included and a towel can be borrowed for a small fee, and there’s a locker room if you want to leave your bag after checkout to wander the Paris streets unburdened until your departure time.
The truth is that when it comes to sharing personal space, I am a little bit with Sartre… ‘l’enfer, c’est les autres’. But while I was quietly reading on one end of the low-slung Moroccan seating of the chill-out room, young guests from different nationalities were exchanging their impressions of Paris in faltering English, laughing, giving each other tips. It was uplifting. It occurred to me that more hotels should have a chill-out room.
The Fabien café/restaurant on the ground floor serves home-style meals and snacks, from snails to hamburgers, or my very comforting roast chicken and mashed potatoes. Prices are reasonable – remember we are in Paris. There are few other places where you can have a decent omelette for €4. There’s a funky-chic bar in the basement, with a métro inspired décor, where the Generator event ambassadors organise parties with local DJs, themed soirées and pop up concerts, to integrate with the local scene. In the summer the rooftop terrace will open with a gorgeous view of Sacré-Cœur while you sip your mojito.
There were a few teething problems as in any new opening, like the continental breakfast slowed down by an uncooperative bankcard reader. During the wait I chatted to a teacher leading a school trip of very polite lycéens from Pontarlier. ‘This place worked really well for us,’ he said, ‘The students paid for this trip by organising events; they worked really hard, so we were very happy to find such a convenient location, contemporary feel, and comfortable accommodation at such a great price’. If you had told me just a day ago that I would be enjoying sharing my breakfast with a gaggle of teenagers, I would’ve had my serious doubts, but Generator Paris marked a before and after. While I would have been a militant avoider of hostels before, now I know that if I had stayed anywhere else I would have missed something very special.
France Today correspondent Sylvia Edwards Davis was a guest of Generator Paris.
11 Place du Colonel Fabien, Paris 10th Métro: Colonel Fabien
+33 (0)1 70 98 84 00
E-mail: [email protected]
Shared rooms from €25 per person, doubles from €98 per room.
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