The Paris Métro or Métropolitain (French: Métro de Paris) is a rapid transit system in the Paris Metropolitan Area. A symbol of the city, it is noted for its density within the city limits and its uniform architecture, influenced by Art Nouveau. It is mostly underground and 214 kilometres (133 mi) long. It has 303 stations, of which 62 have transfers between lines. There are 16 lines, numbered 1 to 14 with two lines, 3bis and 7bis, which are named because they started out as branches of lines 3 and 7; later they officially became separate lines; the Metro is still numbered as if these lines were absent. Lines are identified on maps by number and colour, and direction of travel is indicated by the terminus.
It is the second busiest subway system in Europe, after the Moscow Metro, and the tenth-busiest in the world. It carried 1.520 billion passengers in 2015, 4.16 million passengers a day, which amounts to 20% of the overall traffic in Paris. It is one of the densest metro systems in the world, with 245 stations within the 86.9 km2 (34 sq mi) of the city of Paris. Châtelet – Les Halles, with 5 Métro lines and three RERcommuter rail lines, is the world's largest metro (subway) station. In 2016, it has been ranked as the best public transport system in the world by the ITDP with 100 percent of people in the city of Paris having an easy access to rapid transportation, ahead of 26 other international cities (including London, New York City and Tokyo). However, the system has generally poor handicapped-accessibility, because most stations were built well before this became a consideration.
The first line opened without ceremony on 19 July 1900, during the World's Fair (Exposition Universelle). The system expanded quickly until the First World War and the core was complete by the 1920s. Extensions into suburbs and Line 11 were built in the 1930s. The network reached saturation after World War II with new trains to allow higher traffic, but further improvements have been limited by the design of the network and in particular the short distances between stations. Besides the Métro, downtown Paris and its urban area are served by the RER developed from the 1960s, several tramway lines, Transilien suburban trains and two VAL lines, serving Charles De Gaulle and Orly airports. In the late 1990s, the automated line 14 was built to relieve RER line A.
Métro is the abbreviated name of the company that originally operated most of the network: La Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris ("The Paris Metropolitan Railway Company"), shortened to "Le Métropolitain". That was quickly abbreviated to métro, which became a common word to designate all subway networks (or any rapid transit system) in France and in many cities elsewhere (a genericized trademark).
The Métro is operated by the Régie autonome des transports parisiens (RATP), a public transport authority that also operates part of the RER network, bus services, light rail lines and many bus routes. The name métro proved very popular and was adopted in many languages, making it the most used word for a (generally underground) urban transit system. It is possible that "Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain" was copied from the name of London's pioneering underground railway company, the Metropolitan Railway, which had been in business for almost 40 years prior to the inauguration of Paris's first line.
By 1845, Paris and the railway companies were already thinking about an urban railway system to link inner districts of the city. The railway companies and the French government wanted to extend main-line railroads into a new underground network, whereas the Parisians favoured a new and independent network and feared national takeover of any system it built. The disagreement lasted from 1856 to 1890. Meanwhile, the population became more dense and traffic congestion grew massively. The deadlock put pressure on the authorities and gave the city the chance to enforce its vision.
Prior to 1845, the urban transport network consisted primarily of a large number of omnibus lines, consolidated by the French government into a regulated system with fixed and unconflicting routes and schedules. The first concrete proposal for an urban rail system in Paris was put forward by civil engineer Florence de Kérizouet. This plan called for a surface cable car system. In 1855, civil engineers Edouard Brame and Eugène Flachat proposed an underground freight urban railroad, due to the high rate of accidents on surface rail lines. On 19 November 1871 the General Council of the Seine commissioned a team of 40 engineers to plan an urban rail network. This team proposed a network with a pattern of routes "resembling a cross enclosed in a circle" with axial routes following large boulevards. On 11 May 1872 the Council endorsed the plan, but the French government turned down the plan. After this point, a serious debate occurred over whether the new system should consist of elevated lines or of mostly underground lines; this debate involved numerous parties in France, including Victor Hugo, Guy de Maupassant, and the Eiffel Society of Gustave Eiffel, and continued until 1892. Eventually the underground option emerged as the preferred solution because of the high cost of buying land for rights-of-way in central Paris required for elevated lines, estimated at 70,000 francs per metre of line for a 20-metre-wide railroad.
The last remaining hurdle was the city's concern about national interference in its urban rail system. The city commissioned renowned engineer Jean-Baptiste Berlier, who designed Paris' postal network of pneumatic tubes, to design and plan its rail system in the early 1890s. Berlier recommended a special track gauge of 1,300 mm (4 ft 3 3⁄16 in) (versus the standard gauge of 1,435 mm or 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) to protect the system from national takeover, which inflamed the issue substantially. The issue was finally settled when the Minister of Public Works begrudgingly recognized the city's right to build a local system on 22 November 1895, and by the city's secret designing of the trains and tunnels to be too narrow for main-line trains, while adopting standard gauge as a compromise with the state.
Fulgence Bienvenüe project
On 20 April 1896, Paris adopted the Fulgence Bienvenüe project, which was to serve only the city proper of Paris. Many Parisians worried that extending lines to industrial suburbs would reduce the safety of the city. Paris forbade lines to the inner suburbs and, as a guarantee, Métro trains were to run on the right, as opposed to existing suburban lines, which ran on the left.
Unlike many other subway systems (such as that of London), this system was designed from the outset as a system of (initially) nine lines. Such a large project required a private-public arrangement right from the outset – the city would build most of the permanent way, while a private concessionaire company would supply the trains and power stations, and lease the system (each line separately, for initially 39-year leases).[further explanation needed] In July 1897, six bidders competed, and The Compagnie Generale de Traction, owned by the Belgian Baron Édouard Empain, won the contract; this company was then immediately reorganized as the Compagnie de Chemin de Fer Metropolitan.
Construction began on November 1898. The first line, Porte Maillot–Porte de Vincennes, was inaugurated on 19 July 1900 during the Paris World's Fair. Entrances to stations were designed in Art Nouveau style by Hector Guimard. Eighty-six of his entrances are still in existence.
Bienvenüe's project consisted of 10 lines, which correspond to today's Lines 1 to 9. Construction was so intense that by 1920, despite a few changes from schedule, most lines had been completed. The shield method of construction was rejected in favor of the cut-and-cover method in order to speed up work.Bienvenüe, a highly regarded engineer, designed a special procedure of building the tunnels to allow the swift repaving of roads, and is credited with a largely swift and relatively uneventful construction through the difficult and heterogeneous soils and rocks.
Lines 1 and 4 were conceived as central east-west and north-south lines. Two lines, ligne 2 Nord (line 2 North) and ligne 2 Sud (line 2 South), were also planned but line 2 South was merged with line 5 in 1906. Line 3 was an additional east-west line to the north of line 1 and line 5 an additional north-south line to the east of line 4. Line 6 would run from Nation to Place d'Italie. Lines 7, 8 and 9 would connect commercial and office districts around the Opéra to residential areas in the north-east and the south-west. Bienvenüe also planned a circular line, the ligne circulaire intérieure, to connect the six main-line stations. A section opened in 1923 between Invalides and the Boulevard Saint-Germain before the plan was abandoned.
Nord-Sud competing network
Main article: Nord-Sud Company
On 31 January 1904, a second concession was granted to the Société du chemin de fer électrique souterrain Nord-Sud de Paris (Paris North-South underground electrical railway company), abbreviated to the Nord-Sud (North-South) company. It was responsible for building three proposed lines:
- line A would join Montmartre to Montparnasse as an additional north-south line to the west of Line 4.
- line B would serve the north-west of Paris by connecting Saint-Lazare station to Porte de Clichy and Porte de Saint-Ouen.
- line C would serve the south-west by connecting Montparnasse station to Porte de Vanves. The aim was to connect B with C, but CMP bought before: B renamed 13, C 14. Both were connected by RATP as current Line 13.
Line A was inaugurated on 4 November 1910, after being postponed because of floods in January that year. Line B was inaugurated on 26 February 1911. Because of the high construction costs, the construction of line C was postponed. Nord-Sud and CMP used compatible trains that could be used on both networks, but CMP trains used 600 volts third rail, and NS −600 volts overhead wire and +600 volts third rail. This was necessary because of steep gradients on NS lines. NS distinguished itself from its competitor with the high-quality decoration of its stations, the trains' extreme comfort and pretty lighting.
Nord-Sud did not become profitable and bankruptcy became unavoidable. By the end of 1930, the CMP bought Nord-Sud. Line A became Line 12 and line B Line 13. Line C was built and renamed line 14, that Line was reorganized in 1937 with Lines 8 and 10. This partial line is now the south part of line 13.
The last Nord-Sud train set was decommissioned on 15 May 1972.
1930–1950: first inner suburbs are reached
Bienvenüe's project was nearly completed during the 1920s. Paris planned three new lines and extensions of most lines to the inner suburbs, despite the reluctance of Parisians. Bienvenüe's inner circular line having been abandoned, the already-built portion between Duroc and Odéon for the creation of a new east-west line that became line 10, extended west to Porte de Saint-Cloud and the inner suburbs of Boulogne.
The line C planned by Nord-Sud between Montparnasse station and Porte de Vanves was built as line 14 (different from present line 14). It extended north in encompassing the already-built portion between Invalides and Duroc, initially planned as part of the inner circular. The over-busy Belleville funicular tramway would be replaced by a new line, line 11, extended to Châtelet. Lines 10, 11 and 14 were thus the three new lines envisaged under this plan.
Most lines would be extended to the inner suburbs. The first to leave the city proper was line 9, extended in 1934 to Boulogne-Billancourt; more followed in the 1930s. World War II forced authorities to abandon projects such as the extension of Lines 4 or 12 to the northern suburbs. By 1949, eight lines had been extended: Line 1 to Neuilly-sur-Seine and Vincennes, Line 3 to Levallois-Perret, Line 5 to Pantin, Line 7 to Ivry-sur-Seine, Line 8 to Charenton, Line 9 to Boulogne-Billancourt, Line 11 to Les Lilas and Line 12 to Issy-les-Moulineaux.
World War II had a massive impact on the Métro. Services were limited and many stations closed. The risk of bombing meant the service between Place d'Italie and Étoile was transferred from Line 5 to line 6, so that most of the elevated portions of the Métro would be on Line 6. As a result, Lines 2 and 6 now form a circle. Most stations were too shallow to be used as bomb shelters. The French Resistance used the tunnels to conduct swift assaults throughout Paris.
It took a long time to recover after liberation in 1944. Many stations had not reopened by the 1960s and some closed for good. On 23 March 1948, the CMP (the underground) and the STCRP (bus and tramways) merged to form the RATP, which still operates the Métro.
1960–1990: development of the RER
The network grew saturated during the 1950s. Outdated technology limited the number of trains, which led the RATP to stop extending lines and concentrate on modernisation. The MP 51 prototype was built, testing both rubber-tyred metro and basic automatic driving on the voie navette. The first replacements of the older Sprague trains began with experimental articulated trains and then with mainstream rubber-tyred metro MP 55 and MP 59, some of the latter still in service (line 11). Thanks to newer trains and better signalling, trains ran more frequently.
The population boomed from 1950 to 1980. Cars became more popular and suburbs grew further from the city. The main railway stations, termini of the suburban rail lines, were overcrowded during rush hour. The short distance between metro stations slowed the network and made it unprofitable to build extensions. The solution in the 1960s was to revive a project abandoned at the end of the 19th century: joining suburban lines to new underground portions in the city centre as the Réseau express régional (regional express network; RER).
The RER plan initially included one east-west line and two north-south lines. RATP bought two unprofitable SNCF lines—the Ligne de Saint-Germain (westbound) and the Ligne de Vincennes (eastbound) with the intention of joining them and to serve multiple districts of central Paris with new underground stations. The new line created by this merger became line A. The Ligne de Sceaux, which served the southern suburbs and was bought by the CMP in the 1930s, would be extended north to merge with a line of the SNCF and reach the new Charles de Gaulle Airport in Roissy. This became line B. These new lines were inaugurated in 1977 and their wild success outperformed all the most optimistic forecasts to the extent that line A is the most used urban rail line in the world with nearly 300 million journeys a year.
Because of the enormous cost of these two lines, the third planned line was abandoned and the authorities decided that later developments of the RER network would be more cheaply developed by SNCF, alongside its continued management of other suburban lines. However, the RER developed by SNCF would never match the success of the RATP's two RER lines. In 1979, SNCF developed line C by joining the suburban lines of Gare d'Austerlitz and Gare d'Orsay, the latter being converted into a museum dedicated to impressionist paintings. During the 1980s, it developed line D, which was the second line planned by the initial RER schedule, but serving Châtelet instead of République to reduce costs. A huge Métro-RER hub was created at Châtelet-Les Halles, the world's largest underground station.
The same project of the 1960s also decided to merge lines 13 and 14 to create a quick connection between Saint-Lazare and Montparnasse as a new north-south line. Distances between stations on the lengthened line 13 differ from that on other lines in order to make it more "express" and hence to extend it farther in the suburbs. The new Line 13 was inaugurated on 9 November 1976.
1990–2010: Eole and Météor
In October 1998, Line 14 was inaugurated. It was the first fully new Métro line in 63 years. Known during its conception as Météor (Métro Est-Ouest Rapide), it is one of the two fully automatic lines within the network along with Line 1. It was the first with platform screen doors to prevent suicides and accidents. It was conceived with extensions to the suburbs in mind, similar to the extensions of the line 13 built during the 1970s. As a result, most of the stations are at least a kilometre apart. Like the RER lines designed by the RATP, nearly all stations offer connections with multiple Métro lines. The line runs between Saint-Lazare and Olympiades.
Lines 7 and 13 are the only two on the network to be split in branches. The RATP would like to get rid of those saturated branches in order to improve the network's efficiency. A project existed to attribute to line 14 one branch of each line, and to extend them further into the suburbs. This project was abandoned. In 1999, the RER line E was inaugurated. Known during its conception as Eole (Est-Ouest Liaison Express), it is the fifth RER line. It terminates at Haussmann – Saint-Lazare, but a new project, financed by EPAD, the public authority managing the La Défense business district, should extend it west to La Défense – Grande Arche and the suburbs beyond.
2010 and beyond: automation
In work started in 2007 and completed in November 2011, Line 1 was converted to driverless operation. The line was operated with a combination of driver-operated trains and driver-less trains until the delivery of the last of its driver-less MP 05 trains in February 2013. The same conversion is on-going for Line 4, with an expected completion date in 2022.
Several extensions to the suburbs opened in the last years. Line 8 was extended to Pointe du Lac in 2011, line 12 was extended to Aubervilliers in 2012 and line 4 was extended to Mairie de Montrouge in 2013.
Accidents and incidents
Since the Métro was built to comprehensively serve the city inside its walls, the stations are very close: 548 metres apart on average, from 424 m on line 4 to one kilometre on the newer line 14, meaning Paris is densely networked with stations. The surrounding suburbs are served by later line extensions, thus traffic from one suburb to another must pass through the city. The slow average speed effectively prohibits service to the greater Paris area.
The Métro is mostly underground (197 km of 214 km). Above-ground sections consist of viaducts within Paris (on lines 1, 2, 5 & 6) and the suburban ends of lines 1, 5, 8, and 13. The tunnels are relatively close to the surface due to the variable nature of the terrain, which complicates deep digging; exceptions include parts of line 12 under the hill of Montmartre and line 2 under Ménilmontant. The tunnels follow the twisting lie of the streets. During construction in 1900 a minimum radius of curvature of just 75 metres was imposed, but even this low standard was not adhered to at Bastille and Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.
Like the New York City Subway and in contrast with the London Underground the Paris Métro mostly uses two-way tunnels. As in most French métro and tramway systems, trains drive on the right (the SNCF drives on the left). The tracks are standard gauge (1.435 metres). Electric power is supplied by a third rail which carries 750 volts DC.
The width of the carriages, 2.4 metres, is narrower than that of newer French systems (such as the 2.9 m carriages in Lyon, one of the widest in Europe) and trains on lines 1, 4 and 14 have capacities of 600-700 passengers; this is as compared with 2,600 on the Altéo MI 2N trains of RER A. The City of Paris deliberately chose the narrow size of the Metro tunnels to prevent the running of main-line trains; the city of Paris and the French state had historically poor relations. In contrast to many other historical metro systems (such as New York, Madrid, London, and Boston), all lines have tunnels and operate trains with the same dimensions. Five lines (1, 4, 6, 11 and 14) run on a rubber tire system developed by the RATP in the 1950s, exported to the Montreal, Santiago and Mexico City metros.
The number of cars in each train varies line by line from three to six; most have five, and eight is possible on line 14. Two lines, 7 and 13, have branches at the end, and trains serve every station on each line except when they are closed for renovations.
The first train leaves each terminus at 05:30: on some lines additional trains start from an intermediate station. The last train, often called the "balai" (broom) because it sweeps up remaining passengers, arrives at the terminus at 01:15, except on Fridays (since 7 December 2007), Saturdays and on nights before a holiday, when the service ends at 02:15.
On New Year's Eve, Fête de la Musique, Nuit Blanche and other events, some stations on lines 1, 4, 6, 9 and 14 remain open all night.
See also: Paris ticket "t+" and Public transport fares in the Île-de-France
Fares are sold at kiosks and at automated machines in the station foyer. Entrance to platforms is by automated gate, opened by smart cards and simple tickets. Gates return tickets for passengers to retain for the duration of the journey. There is normally no system to collect or check tickets at the end of the journey, and tickets can be inspected at any point. The exit from all stations is clearly marked as to the point beyond which possession of a ticket is no longer required. The standard ticket is ticket "t+". It is valid for a multi-transfer journey within one and a half hours from the first validation. It can be used on the Métro, buses and trams, and in zone 1 of the RER. It allows unlimited transfers between the same mode of transport (i.e. Métro to Métro, bus to bus and tram to tram), between bus and tram, and between metro and RER zone 1. When transferring between the Metro and the RER, it is necessary to retain the ticket. The RER requires a valid ticket for entry and exit, even for a transfer. It costs €1.90 or ten (a carnet) for €14.50 as of June 2017.
Other fares use the Navigo pass, an RFID-based contactless smart card. Fares include:
- daily (Mobilis; the Ticket Jeunes, for youth under 26 years on weekends and national holidays, is half the cost of a Mobilis pass).
- weekly or monthly (the former Carte orange, sold as the weekly Navigo ("hebdo") and the monthly Navigo)
- yearly (Navigo intégrale, or Imagine R for students)
- The (Paris Visite) travel card is available for one, two, three or five days, for zones 1–3 covering the centre of Paris, or zones 1–5 covering the whole of the network including the RER to the airports, Versailles and Disneyland Paris. It was conceived mainly for visitors and is available through RATP's distributors in the UK, Switzerland and Belgium. It may be a better deal to buy a weekly card (up to €10 saving) but a weekly card runs from Monday to Monday (and is reset every Monday), whereas the Paris Visite card is valid for the number of days purchased.
On 26 June 2012 it was announced that the Métro would get Wi-Fi in most stations. Access provided is free, with a premium paid alternative offer proposed for a faster internet connection.
The Métro has 214 kilometres (133 mi) of track and 303 stations, 62 connecting between lines. These figures do not include the RER network. The average distance between stations is 562 m (1,844 ft). Trains stop at all stations. Lines do not share tracks, even at interchange (transfer) stations.
Trains average 20 km/h (12.4 mph) with a maximum of 70 km/h (43 mph) on all but the automated driverless trains of line 14, which average 40 km/h (25 mph) and reach 80 km/h (50 mph). An average interstation trip takes 58 seconds. Trains travel on the right. The track is standard gauge but the loading gauge is smaller than the mainline SNCF network. Power is from a lateral third rail, 750 VDC, except on the rubber-tyred lines where the current is from guide bars.
The loading gauge is small compared to those of newer metro systems (but comparable to that of early European metros), with capacities of between about 560 and 720 passengers per train on Lines 1–14. Many other metro systems (such as those of New York and London) adopted expanded tunnel dimensions for their newer lines (or used tunnels of multiple sizes almost from the outset, in the case of Boston), at the cost of operating incompatible fleets of rolling stock. Paris built all lines to the same dimensions as its original lines. Before the introduction of rubber-tire lines in the 1950s, this common shared size theoretically allowed any Metro rolling stock to operate on any line, but in practice each line was assigned a regular roster of trains.
A feature is the use of rubber-tired trains on five lines: this technique was developed by RATP and entered service in 1951. The technology was exported to many networks around the world (including Montreal, Mexico City, and Santiago). Lines 1, 4, 6, 11 and 14 have special adaptations to accommodate rubber-tyred trains. Trains are composed of 3 to 6 cars depending on the line, the most common being 5 cars (line 14 may have 8 cars in the future), but all trains on the same line have the same number of cars.
The Metro is designed to provide local, point-to-point service in Paris proper and service into the city from some close suburbs. Stations within Paris are very close together to form a grid structure, ensuring that every point in the city is close to a metro station (less than 500 metres or 1,600 feet), but this makes the service slow 20 km/h (12 mph), except on Line 14 where the stations are farther apart and the trains travel faster. The low speed virtually precludes feasible service to farther suburbs, which are serviced by the RER.
The metro is mostly underground; surface sections include sections on viaduct in Paris (lines 1, 2, 5 and 6) and at the surface in the suburbs (lines 1, 5, 8 and 13). In most cases both tracks are laid in a single tunnel. Almost all lines follow roads, having been built by the cut-and-cover method near the surface (the earliest by hand). Line 1 follows the straight course of the Champs-Elysées and on other lines some stations (for example, Commerce) have platforms that do not align: the street above is too narrow to fit both platforms opposite each other. Many lines have very sharp curves. The specifications established in 1900 required a very low minimum curve radius by railway standards, but even this was often not fully respected, for example near Bastille and Notre Dame de Lorette. Parts of the network are built at depth, in particular a section of line 12 under Montmartre, the sections under the Seine, and all of line 14.
Lines 7 and 13 have two terminal branches.
The rolling stock has steel-wheel (MF for matériel fer) and rubber-tyred trains (MP for matériel pneu). The different versions of each kind are specified by year of design. (C for Cab driver) and (CA for Cab Automatique)
- No longer in service
- M1: in service from 1900 until 1931.
- Sprague-Thomson: in service from 1908 until 1983.
- MA 51: in service on lines 10 and 13 until 1994.
- MP 55: in service on Line 11 from 1956 until 1999, replaced by the MP 59.
- Zébulon a prototype MF 67, used for training operators between 1968 and 2010. It never saw passenger service.
- Not yet in service
If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young
man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you,
for Paris is a moveable feast.
Since Paris is such a compact city (roughly 6 miles across), much of it can be covered on foot – especially the primary sightseeing spots in the city's center. There will be times, however, when a métro or bus ride is unavoidable – and even welcome.
History of the Métro
Wooden Métro cars placed
in service July, 1900
© Guillaume Potier
from Le Métro Parisien
(click to view gallery)
Evidence of plans to build the métropolitain (or the Nécropolitain, as it was dubbed by one wit) existed as early as 1845, though the first line was not completed until July 19, 1900. (Line 1, as it is still called, ran from Porte de Vincennes to Porte Maillot; it has since been extended – from Château de Vincennes to La Défense.) Following the construction of the Eiffel Tower by eleven years, this elegant transportation system stole the show, and remains to this day a model of efficient public transportation.
While the engineer Fulgence Bienvenüe was in charge of construction, architect Hector Guimard is credited for the charming and elaborately sculpted Art Nouveau entrances. The system boasts 213 km (132 miles) of track and 16 lines (including two auxiliary lines), shuttling 3553 cars on a precise schedule between 303* stations (not including RER stations), 87 of these offering connections between lines. It is said that every building in Paris is within 500 meters (3/10 mile) of a métro station. Roughly 6 million people per day patronize the métro, which employed 10,141 (not including RER) in 2010.
The transit authority which operates and maintains the city's métro system, lines A & B of the RER (express trains), an extensive bus network, and four tram lines is called Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens. The RATP was created on March 21, 1948, by combining the assets of the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer Métropolitain de Paris (CMP) and the Société des Transports en Commun de la Région Parisienne (STCRP). RATP reported a total of 3.1 billion passenger journeys in 2011 (all forms of transport) and gross revenues of €2.35 billion (from bus, métro, RER fares) in 2012.
* Newest stations, lines, and opening dates: "Mairie de Montrouge" (line 4 terminus; 23 March 2013); "Front Populaire" (line 12; 18 December 2012); "Pointe du Lac" (line 8 terminus; 8 October 2011).
Monument aux morts, Richelieu-Drouot
métro station platform (line 8)
(click to enlarge)
Some of the métro stations are worth a visit in their own right. For example, the stop for the Louvre (line 1) gives one the impression that the train has pulled into the Museum itself: the immaculate marble walls are lined with exhibits and replicas of art works, with glass cases containing various sculptures.
On a platform of the Richelieu-Drouot station (line 8) is a war memorial, carved in black marble by sculptor Carlo Sarrabezolles in 1931. It is dedicated to the agents of the metropolitan railway who died in service for France during World War I.
The Arts et Metiers (line 11) station's platforms were redesigned in 1994 by Belgian comic book artist François Schuiten. The ceiling and walls are clad with riveted copper, punctuated with faux portholes – reminiscent of a Jules Verne science fiction novel.
On line 13, Varenne offers exhibits from the nearby Rodin Museum (including a replica of The Thinker), while Liège is paneled with beautiful ceramic tiles donated by the Belgian government. Abbesses (line 12) features elaborate murals in its 7-story spiral staircase descending beneath one of the more elaborate of Art Nouveau entrances.
AbessesPorte Dauphine 1Porte Dauphine 2mural 2mural 3mural 4mural 5mural 6mural 7The ThinkerArts et Métiersporthole 2porthole 3
- Stations are often named after the nearest square or street – which in turn may be named after an historic event or notable person.
- A number of stations, such as Avron or Vaugirard, are named after Paris neighborhoods (though not necessarily located in them), whose names, in turn, may be traced to former villages or hamlets that have long since been incorporated into the city of Paris.
- The use of double names, such as Reuilly – Diderot or Strasbourg – Saint-Denis, often dates back to two (or more) stations on separate lines that were originally named independently and became associated as interchange stations. For example, the station Marcadet – Poissonniers is an interchange station consisting of the original Marcadet on Line 4 and the original Poissonniers on Line 12. In many instances, however, the practice of double naming was extended to other stations, usually because these stations are located at the intersection of streets carrying these names. Examples include Alma – Marceau and Faidherbe – Chaligny.
- The RER-Métro hub at Châtelet – Les Halles (two stations joined together) is the largest underground subway complex in the world, connecting 3 RER lines and 5 métro lines.
- There have been periods of history during which a significant number of stations were renamed. For example, once Germany declared war on France in 1914, it was decided to rename Berlin as Liège and Allemagne (French for "Germany") as Jaurès. The period during which the most stations were renamed was undoubtedly the post-World War II period. To name a few, Marboeuf at the center of the Champs-Élysées was renamed Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1946 and Aubervilliers – Villette was renamed Stalingrad the same year.
Interior of a Sprague-Thomson first-class car,
seen during a special outing on 24 March 2007
(line 12) – note the leather seats
Though this author had to play the "dumb tourist" to avoid being severely fined by a contrôleur for riding in a first class car with a second-class ticket many years ago, the métro system – in a rare display of egalitarianism – did away with first class cars in August 1991.
A word of caution: though a single-fare ticket is valid for an entire continuous trip – including connections (up to 90 minutes) – be sure to keep your ticket until you leave the system at your destination; being caught without it means an instant fine of €40, payable in cash on the spot (unless you wish to acquaint yourself intimately with the French judicial system).
While Paris has a lower incidence of violent crime than most major cities, it is wise to keep your wits about you (particularly in the crowded venue of a métro station) and guard against pick-pockets, whose scams can be particularly creative at times. Perhaps as a testament to the Artful Dodger and Fagan's pick-pocketing ragamuffins in Oliver, the operatives ply their scam in pairs – frequently on the escalators on the way up to street level: One will stop suddenly at the top exit, as though he's dropped something; while you try to avoid running over him, you're jostled from the rear by the second one, who lifts your wallet.
It's recommended that gentlemen carry their wallets in their jacket's inner pocket, rather than in a rear pants pocket. Likewise, ladies should hold their purses in hand, instead of slung by their strap from the shoulders. Thieves commonly cut the strap of a dangling purse with a utility knife. (Refer to our page "Feeling Safe in Paris" for more tips.)
Should you happen to see everyone leaving a packed métro station following an announcement in French on the public address system, chances are you are witnessing one of their periodic strikes (or grèves). These manifestations occur from time to time when the unions are displeased with government, or during elections. Look at it this way: you'll get a chance to explore sections of Paris you might otherwise have only passed underground!
Maps & Directions
subway line 14
at Gare de Lyon.
© F. de La Mure / M.A.E.
Signage in Paris métro stations is abundant and easily followed: every station offers a big plan of the network outside the entrance and several inside. Lines are color-coded and numbered, and are also named according to the city gate (fr. porte) or suburban town at the end of the line.
For example, Line 4 running to the north will be indicated as going in the direction of Porte de Clignancourt, whereas its southern terminus (formerly Porte d'Orléans) was recently extended to Mairie de Montrouge. Some lines may end a few stops beyond the Periphérique (beltway surrounding Paris), into neighboring suburbs. Numerous interchanges (correspondances) make it possible to travel throughout the city in a more or less straight line. Châtelet has the longest interconnecting passageway between lines, with a 600-foot long moving sidewalk.
Free maps are also available at most stations, which provide the basics for navigation. If you want detailed breakdowns, we recommend the following, which are available at most newsstands and bookshops:
- Paris Plan par Arrondissement, le spécial poche (2012). Small paperback book with street index, detailed maps of each arrondissement showing métro / tramway / RER / Vélib' (bicycle) stations and taxi ranks, one-way & pedestrian streets, parking lots, maps of the Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes and La Défense, plus 9 pages of useful addresses. Editions Blay Foldex, priced around € 6.
- Paris Classique par Arrondissement. Pocket-sized, with fold-out map as well as more detailed maps of 20 arrondissements, 29 close suburbs, and index of streets. Éditions L'Indispensable, priced around € 9.
For the latest in subway technology, try the express stations' computerized route-finders: at the touch of a button, you'll be shown four alternative routes to your selected destination, on foot or by public transport.
Online Route Finder
The RATP web site offers a helpful tool (in English or French) to assist in planning your route(s) throughout Paris and its suburbs. Using their advanced search form, enter your starting and destination points (either by street address, subway stop, or even by monument – such as Tour Eiffel), travel date & French time (based on a 24-hour clock), type of transport desired (bus, rail, tram), and personal preferences (such as quickest route, least amount of walking, etc.). The system will then produce a map suitable for printing, containing detailed text instructions (lines, stops, and transfers where applicable) and estimated travel times. To plan your return trip, simply perform a new search in reverse.
Do not be surprised to find French text sprinkled liberally throughout so-called "English-version" pages. The RATP spends a lot of time rearranging its content (often for inexplicable reasons), and its English versions have suffered as a result.
Licensed musicians playing
in a Paris métro station
(click to view gallery)
Musicians in the Métro – A Thriving Alternative Scene
Anyone who has traveled by Paris métro in the last couple of decades and walked through some of the larger stations is likely to have witnessed the presence of buskers on the platforms and in the corridors, playing a wide range of music for the public's enjoyment. The talent varies from solo folk guitarists or accordionists to small reggae groups and even the occasional classical orchestra – some replete with as many as two dozen accomplished musicians.
The first-ever cultural event to be staged in the Paris métro, 1977's Métro Molto Allegro, was the musical affair that may have sparked a movement. In 1989, in collaboration with an association of street and métro musicians, the RATP gave its permission to around one hundred artists to perform in the métro stations.
By 1997, so many musicians had shown an interest in performing that the RATP decided to create a more substantial body to handle their applications, the Espace Métro Accords (EMA). To this day, the EMA continues to audition and select musicians – mostly semi-professional, some professional – who are looking for a place to showcase their talents and fine-tune their repertoires.
With the Rock en Seine (Saint-Cloud) and Solidays (Longchamp) festivals, tributes to Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg, the hugely popular concerts at Auber, the Paroles'n'Rock campaign and – of course – the métro's licensed musicians, the RATP's commitment to supporting music is evident for all to see.
Read more & see videos...
Music without boundaries...
Since its creation, the EMA has received more than 10,000 applications, held over 4,000 auditions and authorized more than 3,000 artists to perform in the métro. Musicians who perform in the station corridors are as diverse as the métro passengers: all styles, ages, rhythms and nations are represented.
Twice a year, in spring and autumn, the EMA auditions hundreds of candidates seeking accreditation to perform in Paris' métro stations. Successful applicants (around 350 new musicians are accredited each year) agree to play only in authorized locations and to follow certain rules. These auditions allow young artists to find an audience and hone their musical skills.
Musical partnerships developed by the RATP also offer the most talented performers a chance to showcase their abilities live on stage at major music events, such as the Solidays festival (on the "Jeunes Talents" stage) or the Art Rock festival in Saint-Brieuc. For some of them, it could be their first step toward a brilliant career. After all, many of the music stars of today started out in the métro, including Alain Souchon, Manu Dibango, Jacques Higelin, Touré Kunda, Dany Brillant, Ben Harper, and – more recently – Laâm, Anis and William Baldé. In late 2008, Keziah Jones even returned to his former stomping ground for several special surprise concerts.
Espace Métro Accords – 102 ter, rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris | tel. 01.58.77.40.74 | e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Clandestine performances on the trains...
On any given day, passengers are also likely to witness untold numbers of clandestine, unauthorized performers throughout the métro network, whose talents may be somewhat less refined – perhaps they never sought an audition, or they might have been rejected by the EMA.
These 'rogue' musicians – usually traveling singly or in pairs – often hop on and off the trains, performing short concerts in between métro stops. While most of them are benign, some have been known to more aggressively seek donations from a captive audience of passengers. Our best advice, if this should happen to you, is to avert eye contact – unless of course you've become happily engaged in their craft!
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Guided Tours of RATP Facilities
Since 2011, the RATP has proposed a series of guided tours of its facilities for the general public, in partnership with the Seine-Saint-Denis departmental tourism committee.
This year-round program offers everyone a chance to get a look at RATP from behind the scenes. Did you know that, each day, 10 million trips are made on RATP networks? Or that 234 different professions contribute to the system's smooth functioning? As a local cultural activity that is both easily accessible and enriching, these guided tours also provide passengers the opportunity to meet and talk with RATP staff, and to share in the passion they have for their work.
A diversified selection of tours
Tour programs focus on RATP activities in several areas. The following are examples of tours which were conducted in March and April of 2013:
Operation of métro lines 7 & 7 bis, La Courneuve; new training center for bus drivers, Aubervilliers.
La Villette maintenance center (track equipment), 19th arrondissement; Saint-Ouen maintenance center (overhaul of métro equipment for lines 7, 8, and 13).
- Construction projects
Working site of the T8 tramway line, from Saint-Denis to Épinay and Villetaneuse
The tour price is €5 per person, per visit; minimum age is 16. For more details and to register, see the Seine-Saint-Denis tourism committee (content in French only). Participation is limited, so reservations should be made well in advance. You can also register your e-mail address to be put on a waiting list.
Wi-Fi Connections – Free & Fee-based
In addition to the many hundreds of wi-fi hotspots offered in parks, municipal buildings, cafés and restaurants across the city, Paris is also gaining some momentum with connectivity in its transportation hubs. In June 2012, the provider GOWEX announced coverage across parts of Paris' public transport system – including railway stations, commuter lines and bus stops. Paris' Métro stations already have wi-fi coverage courtesy of the service provider, SFR. However, SFR charges a premium for this service while GOWEX's offering is free.
As always, we advise users to exercise extreme caution when accessing the Internet via wi-fi, especially on free networks which often do not provide adequate levels of security against hackers and spoofers who can steal your banking and other passwords over the air. Be sure to install a competent personal VPN (Virtual Private Network) on your portable device or laptop computer before accessing any password-protected sites! Choose your VPN password carefully: 10 characters of mixed upper- and lower-case letters plus a string of difficult to guess numbers are best.
RATP Apps for iOS & Android
The RATP has released several apps for iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad and Android mobile devices:
- Visit Paris by Métro - RATP; free, not yet rated – View route maps of the Métro, RER and tramway lines. Display the streets of Paris with a map that is accessible offline. Download for iOS or Android.
- Paris Métro Map and Route Planner; free, 4½/5 stars – Whether you plan to visit the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre or Palace of Versailles, this highly-rated app will help you make the most of your time in the city; you'll never need a paper map again. Download for iOS.
- Paris Métro; $3.06, 4/5 stars – A superb map and route planner for the Paris Métro, RER and Tram transport systems. Offline routing; works anywhere, even underground. Download for Android.
- "J'aime ma ligne" (Love My Line); free, French only, 3½/5 stars – Practical and easy-to-use service lets you discover great places to visit along a given métro or RER-A,B line, including restaurants, cultural venues, and outdoor attractions. Download for iOS or Android. (see video)
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