There is a certain kind of romance surrounding the Paris Metro. This most famous subway in the world snakes under the streets of Paris, connecting her neighborhoods, her arrondissements, like the arteries that channel the life force through a corporeal body. Her heart is Chatelets/Les Halles and she pumps the commuters through her tubes, feeding a need of the many – a safe ride to work, home, a destination on any one of her fourteen routes. There is a certain kind of romance, because not everyone, and probably not anyone, would agree with me that the Paris Metro is a romantic vision.
Riding through the tubes of The Metro does more than get us from one end of Paris to another, from Saint-Denis Terminus to Châtillon – Montrouge, Château de Vincennes to La Défense . The Metro gives us a unique cross sectional view of the humanity that calls Paris home – from the Yugoslavian refugees and Russian immigrants that entertain you with music and puppet shows, to the native Parisians, the immigrant Africans, Asians, Arabs, and expats, and even the tourists that populate the city, if even only for a day or two. They are all there, every few minutes, standing on platforms, walking through the maze of underground passageways, playing music in the halls, or begging on the stairs.
The crowded blue train cars make their way through the tunnels – past the murals of the Bastille and Abbesses, the copper submarine of Arts et Métiers, the faux museum display of sculptural replicas of the Louvre and the advertisements for the next Solde. The doors open, people exit, people enter. The Metro speaks in oms as the doors close, like a high pitched monk chanting in a temple. No one talks. The heat bothers everyone in the crowded cars, in both summer and winter. Everyone keeps to themselves. Except for maybe the teenage lovebirds or the tourists or the wide eyed babies. People read. People close their eyes. People ride.
Photo above is the copper lined Arts et Metiers Metro station
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The word Metro is short for the word Métropolitain and the first line was completed on July 19, 1900 (Line 1). The chief engineer was Fulgence Bienvenue and the artist Henri Guimard (1867 -1942) designed the green art nouveau Metro signs that adorn the first gateways to the underground.
You can find maps of The Metro inside the free guide magazines, as well as on the wall of each station. It’s always good to have a small map handy. That way you can plan your day in the hotel or a cafe and not waste time getting oriented underground or looking too much like a tourist.
Inside the Metro stations there are also Correspondence maps – electronic maps with little light bulbs marking each station. If you push the button next to your destination, the route between where you are at the moment and where you want to go will light up. This doesn’t always give the shortest route, but if you are lost in the system, it could serve as a lifesaver.
Each Metro train has a number, 1 through 14.
The number 14 line is the most recent addition to the system and is a technological marvel because it has no operator. This line is totally computerized.
The signs for each number also include the name of the line. This would be the last stops on either end. Example: Line 4 is called ‘Porte de Clignancourt/Porte d’Orlean’. The train is marked with the number and the name on the front of the train and in each car. You are going in the correct direction if your destination lies somewhere between where you are at the moment and the station at the end of the line.
When exiting the trains, you can find connecting trains by following the orange Correspondence (transfer) signs. To exit The Metro, follow the blue/white signs that say Sortie (exit).
Hours of Operation: 5:30AM – 12:30 (midnight:30) Plan your late night Metro trips carefully, or plan to take a taxi if you won’t be at a station before the last train leaves.
Single ticket bought in the Metro = 1,70 euros
Single ticket bought on the Bus = 1,90 euros
Navigo Découverte = The Navigo Découverte has replaced the Carte d’Orange. There are ten different versions of this Metro pass, depending on how many zones you want to travel in. You still need an extra passport size photo to get one. The plastic card costs 5 euros, and you can add 16.80 euros per week for the Navigo refill. The old Carte d’Orange passes were made primarily for locals who use the Metro to commute to work everyday or have a routine schedule. But you can make new Navigo work for you if you are staying for a long period of time and already know Paris well enough to know what kind of pass you will need.
Un Carnet = 10 tickets: 12,70 euros: This is the way to go if you are not staying for a full week. If you find yourself walking almost everywhere in Paris, a Carnet may be a better deal than the Navigo.
Un Carnet for children between the ages of 4 and 10: 6,25 euros
The RATP site now has a fancy interactive Metro Map – kind of like the one in the Metro stations with the lights that tell you which route to take.
Taking the Metro in Paris is almost like living underground. The maze of tunnels and walkways, signs pointing this way and that, boulangeries, alimentaires, musicians, and beggars give this underground part of Paris a life all of its own. Be prepared for walking a lot through the metro – from changing trains to finding the exit. Many of the stations were built before escalators, so there are a lot of stairs to climb.
Riding without tickets on the Metro, and getting caught, will bring you a hefty fine, payable on the spot. This writer has tempted fate too many times on this system and now rides with a pass or ticket at all times. ! There also seems to be more policing of the Metro Stations and checking for tickets these days.
Also – Beware of pickpockets. If you stay aware of your surroundings and your possessions, you will be fine. But don’t make a habit of carrying too many things or being leisurely with your bags. Women should always keep a hand on their bag, and wear a shoulder bag across the chest and facing front (or at least facing front if the strap isn’t long enough to cross your chest). Men should always be aware of the placement of their wallet. Keep Metro tickets in your pocket, separate from your wallet. This way would-be thieves will not see where you keep your wallet. What are they looking for? Money and passports.