Paris Gare Du Nord is Europe’s busiest train station, so if you're a first time user, this guide to navigating the station, should help make sense of what can be a bewildering location.
Paris Nord's status is partially due to its role as one of the city's main commuter hubs; though the RER and Transillien trains, which serve locations close to Paris use different parts of the stations to the long distance trains.
The station is an enormous complex with multiple access points to/from the trains, particularly if you will be transferring between the RER/Metro and the part of the station which the high speed trains use.
Therefore the Gare Du Nord houses numerous shortcuts - very convenient for its regular users, but somewhat confusing if you're not familiar with the station.
It also houses a fairly large mall, which functions like a magnet to the youths who live to the north of the city centre.
The station also lives up to its name in two ways:
(1) It is located to the north of the city centre, in what isn't the smartest are of town (particularly on either side of the station).
So the more popular areas of the city are a Metro, RER, bus or taxi ride away.
(2) It does indeed serve destinations to the north of Paris.
In addition to the Eurostar trains to the UK and the Thalys trains to Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands - the TGVs to towns and cities in northern France including Arras, Boulogne, Douai, Dunkerque and Lille depart from here.
Paris Gare Du Nord has been improved for the better in recent years and the station has lost what could at times be a slightly intimidating atmosphere.
Completed building works have brightened up the mall and the main RER station, as well as making the access to and from the RER and Metro less confusing; there are also usually more staff on the platforms in the RER part of the station.
Also access to Metro Line 4 is being worked on; hopefully it will include better access to a part of the station, which wasn't step-free.
These works are a prelude to major re-construction, timed to coincide with Paris hosting the 2024 Olympics.
When arriving at Paris Nord station by Eurostar, Thalys, TGV, or Intercités trains, simply walk towards the front of the train to access the main concourse.
Heading to the main concourse is the only route for exiting the station or accessing the public transport connections.
When arriving by Eurostar or Thalys at the Gare Du Nord you don't pass through any checks - as these would have been carried out prior to boarding.
When you step on to the concourse, the taxi rank is over to the right, so the transfer between stepping off a high speed train and the taxi rank is comparatively straightforward.
It is step-free and avoids the crowds of people in the station who will be making their way to and from the commuter trains.
Though queues for the taxis inevitably lengthen after a Eurostar or Thalys arrival, so if you want to take a taxi to another station for an onward connection, it can be a good idea to make your way towards the front of the train prior to arrival.
The left luggage office 'Consignes' is at a lower level - next to the Lost Property 'Objets Trouvés' office.
The escalator which leads down to it is on the far right of the concourse when leaving the trains - it is by the Eurostar arrivals.
Like all left luggage desks at major French stations it is staffed, you can't just walk up to a locker, so allow time for this interaction, particularly when collecting bags.
The RER concourse is at a lower level, at the far left of the main concourse, when facing away from the trains.
The sign posting isn't the best and you may need to thread your way through the queues of people waiting for Thalys trains.
However, turning left and then heading straight ahead to the far side of the station is usually the easiest option for making this transfer.
That's because you can't miss the atrium that leads down to the RER and Metro station.
This is also the easiest route to follow to the Metro.
When you have reached the atrium leading to the RER and Metro, which is on the far left of the main concourse, you will see an escalator leading downwards.
At the foot of this escalator;
There are also lifts available, look out for the 'Ascenseur' signs.
Towards the back of the concourse opposite the voies/platforms/tracks used by the Thalys trains, there is another entrance to the Metro - but this passage way route to the Metro is no quicker and more confusing for first time users.
But when the concourse is exceptionally busy, using the passage way is a good alternative to making your way through the crowds waiting for trains.
Eight Things Worth Keeping in Mind if you will be connecting to the Metro or RER at the Gare Du Nord:
(1) The RER is the commuter rail system in Paris in which full size trains cross the city in tunnels - so in central Paris they have stations underground.
(2) At the Gare Du Nord the RER Line D is by far the quickest option if you're heading to the Gare De Lyon, or the area around it.
Alternatively RER line B provides the train service between the Gare Du Nord and the two main airports in Paris - Charles De Gaulle and Orly.
(3) if you will be heading to the Left Bank area of the city (the south bank of The Seine), then taking RER line B is usually a better option than taking the Metro.
Line B stops at St Michel-Notre Dame - where connections are also available to RER line C, which stops at the Musée D’Orsay and Champs de Mars-Tour Eiffel.
Line 4 stops at:
Though as can be seen on the Metro map neither of these lines head west, so if your final destination is on the western edge of the city centre, making the one-stop hop on RER Line E to St Lazare can be the best option.
(5) It's a good idea to work out which Metro or RER line you will be taking before arriving at Paris Gare Du Nord.
Metro/RER maps at Gare Du Nord can be tricky to track down.
(6) Think twice about taking the Metro or RER if you have heavy luggage etc.
The majority of exits and interchanges on the Metro are NOT step free.
In the RER station at the Gare Du Nord, if the elevators down to the RER lines B and D platforms are out of order, you will have to use the stairs to access the trains, as there are no down escalators.
Also the majority of the ticket barriers at Metro/RER stations don’t accommodate large bags - and there are no luggage racks on the invariably crowded Metro trains.
(7) A zone 1 single journey ticket is valid for the RER or Metro - there are no specific RER tickets.
There are numerous ticket machines on the RER concourse, so many that the queues for the ticket office can be shorter – though the ticket booking counters can be closed in the afternoon/evenings.
The ticket machines have good English translation – but look out for the easy to miss ‘confirm your purchase button’.
You can also book multiple tickets – useful if you will also be using the RER on a return journey.
(8) The platforms/voies in the RER station station have been brightened up and there also usually numerous station staff on the platforms; which has made the RER station much more user friendly.
To Gare St Lazare:
The transfer to St Lazare station from the Gare Du Nord should take 10 - 20mins.
Take RER Line E, there are trains every 5-10mins to Haussmann – St-Lazare, which is also where those trains terminate.
There are short passage ways at both mainline stations connecting them to the RER Line E - but this is a comparatively straightforward station to station transfer.
The RER Line E station at Gare Du Nord is named Magenta.
To Gare Austerlitz:
Metro Line 5 (direction Place d'Italie) provides a direct link from Gare Du Nord to Austerlitz, but think twice if you have luggage.
The Austerlitz Metro station on line 5 is above ground and there are no escalators/lifts down to ground level - where the mainline trains depart from, you have no choice but to use the stairs.
The express trains from the Gare Du Nord all depart from the same part of the station, namely the main street level departure hall, located on the left-hand side of the station, when facing towards the trains.
At the Gare Du Nord the Eurostar services depart from voies (platforms/tracks) 3-6.
As the signposting at Gare Du Nord is comparatively poor, what can be bewildering is that when you enter the station, you can see the Eurostar trains right beside the main street level concourse, but you cannot access the trains directly from this concourse.
Instead the Eurostar departure hall, the ‘Hall du Londres’, is at an upper level - above the main concourse.
So when you enter Gare Du Nord don't head towards the Eurostar trains.
The access to this upper level is actually some distance from the voies (platforms/tracks) that the Eurostars depart from.
The escalators and elevators (ascenseur) leading up to Eurostar departures are located on the opposite side of the concourse to voies (platforms/tracks) 14 - 15.
Look out for the Union Jack on the rear wall of the station concourse.
Don't wait on the main concourse for the departure details of a Eurostar train to be confirmed - head directly for the check-in desks as soon as you arrive at the the Gare Du Nord.
Checking In for the Eurostar at Gare Du Nord:
Eurostar is currently recommending that that Standard Class And Standard Premier ticket holders should be at the Eurostar departure area 90-120 mins before departure; and that Business Premier ticket holders should be there 45-60mins prior to departure.
The departure gates will close 45 mins prior to departure for Standard Class And Standard Premier ticket holders; and 15 mins prior to departure for Business Premier ticket holders.
It is up to you to allow time to pass through check-in and board the train.
Though SMTJ once arrived at check-in (pre-pandemic with a Standard Class ticket only 20 minutes before departure time, a truck had hit a railway bridge, which has caused big delays to the RER Line B trains.
The check-in staff were aware of the situation and couldn't have been more helpful, I was offered a ticket on the next train, but thanks to their efficiency I made it just in time.
At the Gare Du Nord;
Aim to be at Gare Du Nord a minimum of 15 min before departure if you will be taking a THALYS train; all Thalys passengers now have to pass through security checks.
Prior to the confirmation of the specific voie (platform/track) that a Thalys service will be departing from, you can join the queue for Thalys departures.
When you enter from the front of the building, or ascend up from the metro/RER and look towards the trains, these voies (platforms/tracks) are in the left departure hall and over to the right
They are at street level, so they have particularly easy access from the taxi drop off areas and bus stops.
Check the electronic screens marked 'Grande Lignes' for the details of the TGV, Thalys AND Intercités (IC) departures.
The specific voie (platform/track) that a TGV, Thalys or IC train will be departing from is not usually confirmed until around 15 -20 mins prior to departure.
If you can’t see the station that you’re travelling to on the departure screens - find your train using the train number.
This will be a 4 digit number, which will be printed on your ticket - so match this number to the train number that will be on the departure screens.
If you have ticket for a TGV or Intercites train issued by a machine or booking office, don't forget to stamp it using the yellow machines at the entrance to the voie/platform/track.
There is no need to stamp any other type of ticket.
At the Gare Du Nord, the Metro and RER stations now share a bright and airy atrium which links the parts of the station that they use, with the main concourse above.
Using it is now the easiest to follow route between these trains and the express trains.
It is at a lower level from where the main line trains depart - but there are escalators and lifts up to the main concourse.
When you ascend up into the main part of the station, which you will see above you, you'll need to head to the other side of the concourse for the express trains.
The atrium is located on the side of the concourse which is used by the commuter trains.
If you arrive at the Gare Du Nord by RER then depending on what route you take to exit the RER part of the station, you MAY find yourself in a fairly smart shopping mall.
This can be a tad disconcerting as it won't seem like you're in a station at all.
The signs in this mall pointing the way to 'Grand Lignes', which you need to follow to the high speed departures, can be hard to spot; most people will be heading for the commuter trains.
But once you find these signs keep walking ahead, you may see other 'Grandes Lignes' entrances over to the right, but ignore this short cut; which is for the benefit of regular users of the TGV trains.
It can be a long-ish walk, but ultimately you will find yourself in the atrium, which leads up in to the main part of the station, which you will see above you.
QUALITY HOTELS/HOSTELS with easy access to Gare Du Nord/Paris Nord:
The area around Gare Du Nord is packed with hotels, but only those that are listed below have user excellence ratings of above 80%, so if you want/need quality accommodation within 10mins walk of Gare Du Nord, it pays to book ahead.
Hotels within 10 min walk of Paris Gare Du Nord station:
The Whistler - stay in a railway themed room!
Highly rated hotels with direct public transport links to Paris Gare Du Nord:
The Paris Metro and heavy luggage aren’t particularly compatible, but if you don’t want to take a taxi to accommodation in other areas of Paris, the other options listed below are exceptional hotels that have direct RER or Metro links with Gare Du Nord.
For these three hotels take RER Line E one stop to Haussmann Saint Lazare:
Les Bains Hotel (5mins walk from Etienne Marcel station on Metro Line 4)
Edgar Hotel (5mins walk from Strasbourg St Denis station on Metro Line 4)
Crowne Plaza Paris Republique (5mins walk from Reublique station on Metro Line 5)
Le Mareuil Hotel (5mins walk from Reublique station on Metro Line 5)
RER Line D links Paris Gare Du Nord to Paris Gare De Lyon, so staying in the area around Paris Lyon station can be a good option, even if you are taking a train to or from Gare Du Nord.
This is one of more than 300 station guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.