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October 11, 2011


The Gare du Nord and Its Sounds

by soundlandscapes

THE GARE DU NORD is one of the six terminus railway stations in Paris and it’s the one I use most often.

It’s reputed to be the busiest railway station in Europe with 190 million passengers passing through it each year. That equates to the population of the United Kingdom, France and Italy combined, or the entire population of Brazil.

From the Gare du Nord French SNCF trains head to northern France, Thalys trains to Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany and the Eurostar to both Brussels and to the United Kingdom. The station is also home to some French commuter train services.

The original station was opened in 1846 but traffic expanded at such a rate that in the 1860’s the French architect Jacques Ignace Hittorff was engaged to redesign and rebuild the station.  His creation is the Gare du Nord that we see today.

For me, the Gare du Nord is the only station in Paris that has really distinctive sounds enveloped in their own distinctive acoustics. The other main Paris stations sound rather ordinary by comparison.

Inside the Gare du Nord:

The inside of the Gare du Nord is always busy with constant waves of people ebbing and flowing. Outside, the ebb and flow continues but less with people and more with traffic.

Just behind the Gare du Nord is a very busy bus station, which I know well. It’s from here that I catch my 43 bus home every time I arrive at this station after a rail journey.

Outside the Gare du Nord:

Parisian buses may not be the first thing that leap to mind when one thinks of the Gare du Nord but for me, these sounds are also an integral part of the Gare du Nord’s rich sound tapestry.

23 Comments Post a comment
  1. A few years ago, my family and I took the Chunnel train to Gare du Nor. As we were leaving the station, we noticed a guy carrying a few crates of champagne on a cart. He hit a bump in the road across and one of the crates fell down and crashed. So, yes, there was champagne running through the streets of Paris.

    • Oct 11 2011

      Thanks for the comment Michael. Wow, I wish I’d been there to see that! Paris is known for many things but champagne running through the streets is not usually one of them. I hope you enjoyed your trip to Paris.

  2. Oct 12 2011

    Sadly my view of the Gare du nord is that it is an appalling venue to travel through. Crowded, pushing, shoving. Signage is generally absent or wrong. It is kind of crazy when one cannot work out how to reach the eurostar level! the deparature lounge has the comfort of a prison.

    • Oct 12 2011

      Thanks for your comment Chris. I can sort of see where you’re coming from. 190 million passengers a year means that crowds are inevitable and I don’t like them either. I’m not sure when your visit was but the signage has improved of late. The Eurostar level has two entrances, steps for economy and an escalator for business class – you get what you pay for I guess. The Eurostar departure area is I agree overcrowded and pretty grim. St Pancras do it much better. But you have to agree that the place has character!

  3. Oct 12 2011

    forgot to add, nice photos!

  4. Oct 13 2011

    wow, such a great sense of space in this recording. Those quiet echoed voices in the distance help build a feeling of the distances inside the station. I imagine you positioned yourself in all sorts of places there until you got what you felt was just right. Nice one.

    • Oct 14 2011

      As I said in the post, the Gare du Nord has a vey distinctive sound quite unlike the other main stations in Paris. It would be hard not to get a good recording in this station.

  5. Angie
    Oct 14 2011

    This is awesome…..!!! I would love to hear the sound of the voice announcing the metro station from the metro 🙂 It would make me really happy! 🙂

  6. Apr 17 2012

    I want to find the sound which sounds before voice in train station. Can you help me?

    • Sep 28 2012

      Ok Dmitry, you can get the sound from Chris’s link in the next comment.

  7. Sep 28 2012

    Yesterday I picked up my girlfriend and I was intrigued by the sound that is played when there is a notification. The ‘Pa pa pa da’. I don’t know what it is. It’s like standing in a movie.

  8. Oct 6 2012

    I visited Paris for the first time earlier this year and of course arrived in Gare Du Nord. I’m an amateur electronic musician, and the 2 second jingle they play for announcements stuck in my head for the entire rest of my stay in Paris and well beyond! I’ve been looking everywhere for a sample of that jingle and finally found your blog. I really enjoyed hearing it again and actually I was wondering if you would mind if I use your “Inside the Gare du Nord:” recording as a sample in some of my projects? Is it possible to get the source file from you for higher quality?

  9. Matt Rogers
    Oct 7 2012

    Very interesting to read , I too have spent a lot of time in the station over the years. I’ve been looking online to try to find what the three tone chime (I believe It for the Eurostar itself rather than SNCF) that comes up very early on our sound bite inside the station. As it evokes a lot of good memories I would love for it to be the tone as my alert for texts etc on my phone. Do you have any idea where I could get a clean version of it?

    • Oct 8 2012

      The clean version was linked to me by soundscape himself. I must say that the clean version doesn’t sound as nice as hearing it in the station. The echo’s give it a more warm feeling. Anyway, enjoy.

  10. Oct 8 2012

    Matt, Aaron, you can find a clean version of the jingle here but as Thomas has said, it’s just not the same as the real thing. The Gare du Nord has a very special acoustic, completely different to the other Paris mainline stations, and this seems to give the sounds in the Gare du Nord a special edge.

  11. Oct 16 2013

    I absolutley love what you have shared hear. Oh the sounds of Gare du Nord. You brought it back to life for me. I had lived there for a year back in 2001. For some reason this train station is special to me for it’s uniqueness, culture and sounds. LOVE IT!

    • Oct 16 2013

      Thanks Eric. I’m pleased these sounds conjure up the Gare du Nord for you. Of the six main line railway stations in Paris, the Gare du Nord is the one that has the most distinctive sounds. It simply couldn’t be any other railway station!


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