There’s a certain romantic charm to the idea of working from French cafés. It makes us feel like the latest rising literary sensation of the Belle Époque. But even when working in a café matches the idyll (we’re talking café allongé on a sun-soaked terrasse, the scent of warm, flakey pastry tickling your nostrils), nomadic work life can be detrimental to our bank balances and waistlines in equal measure. On the flipside there’s screaming children, sticky tablecloths and coffee spilt all over our notebooks to contend with.
Fortunately, France has embraced coworking spaces with a zest that very few other countries can match, with almost 3,000 across the country. Forget drab, beige office blocks where you’ll jam the printer on purpose just to break the 9-5 monotony, these coworking spaces will have you handing back your days of annual leave to hang out there. What Monday blues?
1. The one that makes us believe
La Chapelle, Bastia, Corsica
France may be a secular country but La Chapelle leaves us feeling devout. Built in, you’ve guessed it, an old chapel, the inside has been modernised and is light and airy, but retains some of the period features which give the place charm (meet me for our weekly catch-up at the altar).
The abundance of plants reminds you that you’re in the sunny south, and the beaches are close enough for a lunchtime dip (15 minutes walk, tried and tested). Bonus points awarded for their superior coffee selection: an entire wall of different flavour pods.
2. The ski in, ski out
The Ski Locker, Chamonix, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
The Ski Locker doesn’t sound like a place to work at all, and it’s true that here the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ puts a lot of emphasis on ‘play’. Namely on the 150+ kilometres of ski pistes in Chamonix.
So you’ve skied to the office, now what? Settle in at the world’s most chilled-out coworking space. Small, sociable, and salopettes > suits, The Ski Locker even offers memberships for your canine companion.
3. The show pony
Kwerk Bianfaisance, Paris, Île-de-France
If creativity is inspired by our surroundings, coworkers at Kwerk, Paris, will surely become some of the greatest artists of our time. A mash-up between a theatre, opera house and a natural history museum, it’s filled with giant, white animal sculptures, a roof terrace with a view over the Eiffel Tower, and nine on-site sports rooms for everything from boxing to yoga.
There’s an on-site barista, a bar and conference rooms so inspiring you’ll cinch that business deal before you’ve even said a word. I’ll meet you by the enormous white elephant sculpture to toast to that.
4. The one for coworking veterans
Darwin, Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine
In an old military barracks in Bordeaux, Darwin Coworking raises the bar for character. The vibe is shabby chic: exposed beams and warehouse-style pillars interspersed with the sort of squishy, well-worn sofas you’d find at your grandparents’.
If your ‘mission’ has you working late into the evening there’s an organic grocers and restaurant on site, which certainly beats army rations. ‘Nomad’ (hot desk) memberships start from a very reasonable 165€ a month.
5. The community collective
L’Atelier des Médias, Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
A coworking space can have all the bells and whistles it likes, but what really makes an office is the community. When the pandemic confined us to our kitchen tables, did we miss the ping pong table our employers bought to appease us for yet another year with no pay rise, or did we miss cosy chats with colleagues over coffee?
Lyon’s l’Atelier des Médias was the first coworking in the city, started by a group of journalists in 2007. It’s collaboratively run, and the 60-odd members all form different teams with roles such as planning public events, office socials and skill-sharing sessions between coworkers.
When you’re spending more on your desk and super-fast broadband connection than on your monthly rent, a reality check is needed, but l’Atelier des Médias costs just €102 a month. Panoramic views over the River Rhône seal the deal.
6. The one with the best coffee
Hubsy, Paris, Île-de-France
I can wax lyrical all I like about high-speed internet and wide screens, but everyone knows that the most important ingredient to a successful coworking is the coffee. Hubsy Café and Coworking, in République, Châtelet-les-Halles and Saint-Lazare, roast their own coffee beans in the city. Better still, cups of joe are unlimited here, as are the snacks, you only pay for time spent.
7. Everybody’s going (kite) surfing
Kite Office, Merville-Franceville-Plage, Normandy
Kite Office makes a ski commute look mainstream: here you can kitesurf up to the old farm which has been converted into a coworking space (okay, I exaggerate, it’s an 800m walk from the beach).
Designed for ‘working holidays’ rather than full-time use, Kite Office has charming bedrooms equipped with desks, unlimited coffee and fruit, bikes, board games and a complimentary bottle of wine included upon arrival. The icing on the cake, though, is the kitesurfing school less than a kilometre away. In the pipeline are sister coworking spaces Ski Office, Wine Office and Yoga Office. ‘Workcation’ sounded like a dirty word until I saw this.
8. An island in the city
The Island, Montpellier, Occitanie
This tropical oasis isn’t actually an island, but The Island coworking, complete with tortoises in the garden, is as close to The Galapagos as you’ll get in mainland France. An explosion of colour, workspaces are decked out with wicker lampshades and plants galore.
The garden is vast and alongside the tortoises are hedgehogs, birds and a fishpond, plus plenty of hammocks for two-legged members to enjoy a lunchtime siesta. No Teams backgrounds are needed here, your surroundings already look like the Caribbean.
Lead photo credit : France is jumping on the bandwagon of chic coworking spaces © Shridhar Gupta on Unsplash
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