France scraps plans to revamp Paris’ rundown Gare du Nord station

France's national rail operator SNCF has scrapped plans for a controversial renovation of Europe's busiest train station, Paris Gare du Nord, in the run-up to the 2024 Olympic Games.

France scraps plans to revamp Paris' rundown Gare du Nord station
Gare du Nord station in Paris. Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP

SNCF, which made the announcement late Tuesday, blamed the decision on “unacceptable” cost overruns. In July, the main contractor, Ceetrus, warned the final bill would be triple earlier estimates of €500 million.

The decision also comes after the contractor warned of “considerable” delays, meaning that the new station would not be ready for the Olympics as initially planned.

The SNCF subsidiary in charge of stations, SNCF Gares & Connexions, accused Ceetrus of “serious failure” and terminated its contract.

The project had aimed to triple the size of the station, from where trains depart to Amsterdam, Brussels and London, as well as destinations in northern France.

It is the first thing many tourists in Paris see, as it is the arrival point for both the Eurostar and the public transport connections from Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports into the city centre.

But it has long been slammed as dirty, crumbling, chaotic, confusing and a haven for pickpockets.

Paris city hall had fiercely criticised plans to turn the station into a major shopping and entertainment hub, saying it would be out of character with Gare du Nord’s multi-ethnic neighbourhood.

Well-known architects had also slammed the colossal project.

SNCF said it would carry out a “quick adaptation” of the station to welcome visitors both for the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and the Olympics a year later.

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5 lesser-known museums in Paris to visit this summer

The city of Paris will be transformed to host the Olympic Games this summer, which means accessing certain landmarks and museums may be a bit more involved than it usually is. Here are some alternative, off-the-beaten-track museums worth visiting.

5 lesser-known museums in Paris to visit this summer

If you are visiting Paris during the Olympic Games, be prepared for large crowds and long lines outside of the most famous museums and landmarks.

On top of that, many Olympic events, including the opening ceremony, will take place in the centre of the city, meaning there will be security zones set up along the Seine river. 

It will be important to plan ahead to make sure that you do not need a QR code to enter certain areas.

You can use the website Anticiper les Jeux to see if the address you wish to visit will be in a security zone. Once you have checked that, you should go to their website to find out if you need to take any additional steps, like reserving in advance.

READ MORE: How to check for Paris Olympics disruption in your area

While it will still be possible to visit many of the city’s iconic museums, such as the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, most will require advanced reservations, with modified hours and access to the museum or monument altered due to security zones.

So you might want to consider the museums that are not close to the Olympics security zone.

Here are some options;

READ MORE: Hotels, tickets and scams: What to know about visiting Paris for the 2024 Olympics

Fondation Louis Vuitton – Opened in 2014, this French art museum and cultural centre is sponsored by the LVMH group and its subsidiaries. The building itself is something to behold – designed by architect Frank Gehry. This summer, it will host a special Matisse exhibit (Matisse, L’Atelier Rouge) in collaboration with several other international museums.

Normal tickets cost €16, though there are discounted options available.

The centre is located at 8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, which is located just to the west of Paris in the Bois de Boulogne.

Musée nationale de l’histoire de l’immigration – Recently reopened after a long closure and complete refurbishment, the permanent exhibit follows the history of immigration in France from 1685 to present day, via a fascinating combination of research and scientific data plus archive documents, newspapers, photographs personal testimonies and even a music booth.

The temporary exhibition tells the story of the modern Olympics, with a particular focus on women’s sport and the political dimensions of the Games. 

Full priced tickets cost €10. It is located at 293, avenue Daumesnil in Paris’ 12th arrondissement.

Musée Picasso – The museum boasts the largest collection of Picasso paintings in the world and has regular temporary exhibitions of other artists with connections to the Spanish painter.

Tickets cost €16. The museum is located at 5 rue de Thorigny, in the Marais in the 3rd arrondissement – although in central Paris, it will not be within any security zones. 

READ MORE: Five of the best off-the-beaten track museums in Paris

Musée de la Vie romantique – The former home of the Dutch-born painter Ary Scheffer, this is now a museum dedicated to romantic art in Montmartre. The first floor is dedicated to novelist George Sand. This summer, the temporary exhibit focuses on Théodore Géricault, to mark the bicentenary of his death.

The permanent collection is free, while the temporary exhibit tickets are €10. The museum is located at 16, rue Chaptal in Paris’ 9th arrondissement, near Montmartre – it also boasts a beautiful garden with a tea room, perfect for tea and cake after your visit.

Musée Marmottan Monet – One of Paris’ under appreciated fine arts museums, the Musée Marmottan houses a collection of art from France’s Napoleonic times, as well as several paintings by Impressionist painters, including one of the world’s largest collections of works by Claude Monet. On July 26th (the day of the opening ceremony) the museum will close early at 4pm but otherwise is open as normal.

Tickets cost €14. The museum is located in the west of Paris, at 2 Rue Louis Boilly in the 16th arrondissement, away from the Games activities and events.

What about the iconic museums and landmarks?

Eiffel tower – Be aware that the Tower is close to a Games venue. It will remain open during the Olympics period apart from the day of the Opening Ceremony (July 26th). However between July 18th and July 25th the Tower is in a security zone so you need to reserve in advance, though you will not need a QR code. More info here. From July 27th onwards the Tower will be open with normal visiting hours.

Louvre – During the Games, the Louvre will remain open to visitors, except for July 25th and 26th. However, all visitors from July 1st to September 8th must book a ticket ahead of time. A QR code is not required to visit the museum. You can find more info about Olympics related disruption/changes for the Louvre HERE.

Tuileries – the gardens will be closed on August 28th and throughout the Games it will be in a security zone, meaning vehicular traffic will be severely limited – although pedestrians can still access it without a QR code.

Musée d’Orsay – The museum will be closed on July 25th and 26th. From July 18th to 24th, it will remain open, but reservations will be compulsory. A QR code is not required. For the rest of the Games period, the museum will be open, but they will not offer late-night entry. More info here.

Versailles – The château, as well as the gardens will remain open to the public throughout the Games, with normal visiting hours. More info here.

Musée de l’Orangerie – The Musée de l’Orangerie will be open during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, it will be closed on July 20th, 25th, 26th, as well as August 26th and 28th. All visitors will need to make an online reservation in advance. Between July 18th and 24th, you will need a QR code to enter the security zone, and this may take up to eight days to process. More info here.

Grand Palais – Normally a museum, this landmark will instead host several Olympic events during the Games period and is therefore closed to normal visitors.