With the tourist experience becoming more and more sanitised, the gamble of the Mama Shelter creators has been to predict a desire in visitors to base themselves in a more working class, post-industrial landscape. Opened principally as a hotel, the Mama Shelter also operates as a bar, café and restaurant.
Designed in part by Philippe Starck, the curiosity of this discrete, black and white establishment is that it has been built in the footprint of a car-park, overlooking the disused Petite Ceinture railway line. It is in a fact a twin-establishment to an older East Paris icon, the Fleche d’Or café, which is situated opposite the hotel.
With 172 rooms, this is far from being a boutique hotel, but it does mean that very attractive prices (from 79 Euros) are possible. As each room also features an iMac, a fridge and basic cooking facilities, it can be used as the base for a very reasonable stay in Paris. For more casual visitors, it will be the long terrace overlooking the railway line, or the sleek café/restaurant that will be the principal attractions.
Seeing itself as a beacon for a new bohemia, the establishment is a success despite this rather artificial concept. In reality, the east of Paris has shifted upmarket in the last 20 years, so what exactly the hotel is providing shelter from is not clear. It does however offer reasonable prices and a pinch of something different, and that’s already not a bad thing in any city.