Located in an increasingly popular part of the Right Bank dotted with trendy bars and restaurants, Generator Paris is part of a small chain that seeks to marry quality hostel with stylish hotel. They have nearly a dozen properties scattered across Europe and the one in Paris – where the city is trying to lure back tourists after last fall’s attacks – is just a five-minute walk from Canal St. Martin. It offers well-thought-out areas for socializing, modestly priced food and drink and a slightly quirky tone (don’t miss the life-size cow statue, behind bars, near the Ping-Pong table).
The 10th arrondissement remains in transition: Parents jog pushing posh baby carriages past homeless people who have set up tents; residents do yoga overlooking canal locks that hint at the area’s industrial history. The 10th feels more real than central Paris but is also farther from the core. Your feelings about the distance – a transit trip downtown requires two trains, or there’s a bike-share stand around the corner from the hotel – may depend on whether this is your first visit to the city.
In a city where few hotel balconies seem bigger than a Juliet, the 20-by-10-foot private patio in the terrace rooms is a godsend. A big hammock, a table, four chairs and two loungers offer plenty of options, but the prime real estate on mine was in one corner: from there we had a view of the Eiffel Tower, the Holy Grail for many tourists.
Whom you’ll meet
The crowd skews young, with a lot of people in their 20s and 30s killing time in what the place calls the “chillout area.” Pretty typical was the young man from Montreal, just arrived on his first backpacking trip to Europe, but there were also more established travellers coming through on business trips. It’s a broadly cosmopolitan crowd, with the cluster of guests gathered around a television to watch rugby commenting on the match in a babel of accents and languages.
Eat in or eat out?
The breakfast might be the best deal in the city. Five euros gets you an extensive selection of cereal, bread, ham, cheese, eggs and drinks. It’s not fancy but will set you up for a long morning of exploring. Get out into the neighbourhood for dinner. Less than 10 minutes on foot will get you a range of cheap-and-cheerful options. Street, a noodle joint on rue Eugene Varlin, offers fixed menus for 10 to 15 euros and has a popular following. Around the corner on Quai de Valmy is Bistro au fil du Vin, where locals come for attractively priced wines and huge helpings of couscous.
For a more memorable meal head a bit farther west to Richer (2 rue Richer), where the staff are knowledgeable about wine and the food is an updated (and better) version of what you’ll find in the city’s ubiquitous bistros. They don’t take reservations and be warned that people may start showing up well before the restaurant opens at 7:30 p.m.
If I could change one thing
Generator has to decide what it is. The place succeeds well as a hostel and as a young backpacker I would’ve been happy to find it. There’s even a coin laundry. But it is less certain in its role as a hotel. The fixtures can feel a bit flimsy and rooms lack some of the basic amenities. The bottle of sparkling water was a nice touch but there was no glassware. The facility also has rules against bringing in food and drink, leaving you to sneak in a bottle if you want a nightcap on your patio. All this would be fine except that, at $200 for a private terrace room, they’re competing directly with hotels downtown (albeit rooms that do not have a walkout). So Generator has to make a choice: Stick with being a hostel, a good one, or keep offering the hotel option and improve the details to make the price competitive.
Generator Hostel Paris, 9-11 Place du Colonel Fabien; generatorhostels.com. 46 private twin rooms from $150 (€98).
The writer was a guest of the hotel, which did not review or approve this article.