The Paris Metro is like arteries hidden under the city skin. These tunnels take you all over the city. I love rising from the Metro to find unexplored territory, or a grand sight right before me. Some people may be intimidated by the system, but it really is efficient and much more affordable than a taxi. I do have to warn you that it is not handicap-friendly. If stairs or some walking are challenging for you, it may not be the best mode of transportation. If you are looking for a how-to or some simple tips, read below for more information.
Finding a Metro is typically easy unless you are away from the city center. It can be handy to pick up a map that contains city streets and the Metro plan. Even if you aren’t staying in a hotel, you can probably sneak in to pick one up. If you are going soon, make sure the Metro map is updated. They recently expanded some of the lines, so it is important to have an updated map. You can always download a copy from the website as well.
Once you reach the Metro, you will descend to purchase tickets. There are some machines that only take cards. If you have a chipped card, you can use this, otherwise you will need a machine that accepts cash. Make sure you have bills less than 50 €.
If you plan on using the Metro more than a couple times, I recommend purchasing a carnet. This is a package deal containing 10 tickets for a little over 13 €. Some Metro stations have a person working if you need to ask questions, but don’t rely on that.
Your ticket will be good until you pass through an exit. You do not need a new ticket to change lines or go back if you made a mistake. You could technically explore all of Paris underground if you wanted to. Personally, I prefer the view above ground.
You’ve got your ticket, and you made it past the turnstile (sometimes this is more challenging than you would think), now what? This is where having a metro map can be helpful in creating a plan ahead of time. If you don’t have a map, there are maps posted on the walls. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the metro map, but you can click the map below to be linked so you can follow along. Let’s do this step by step:
1. Find the Metro stop you are currently in.
2. Find the Metro stop you want to go to.
3. If it is on the same line (color/number), then this will be really easy, but that doesn’t happen very often. Simply look in the direction you want to go until you find the last stop. You will use the last stop to help you determine which direction you will go. For example, if I was at Georges V and I wanted to go to Saint Paul, I would look for the sign that points to Chateau de Vincennes. Then I would follow the signs until I reach the tunnel where I wait for the train. Get on, and watch for your stop.
4. If you need to change lines, don’t fret. Do be prepared for some walking though. Some stations are small, while others may have you walking close to a half mile. Let’s say I’m at my home Metro stop of St. Paul and I want to go to Canal St. Martin. I look at the map to see how I can make the fewest connections possible. I notice that I will take line 1 to Chateau de Vincinnes to get on line 5 and exit at Bastille. Then I will determine what the last station is in the direction I want to go. I see that it is Bobigny Pablo Picaso, so I follow the signs that point to Bobigny Pablo Picaso. When the train arrives, I’ll hop on and get off at Republique to make my way to Canal St. Martin.
Want some practice scenarios? Check these out and look for the answers at the bottom of the post. Remember, there is more than one way to get where you want to go, but typically we want the most straightforward approach.
1. Hotel de Ville to Gare de Lyon
2. Abbesses to Châtlet
3. Opera to Tuilieries
After going through the turnstile, make sure you put your ticket in a safe place. I have never been on the Metro when they check your tickets, but I’ve heard from others that they do check. Hold onto it to verify you paid your way so you won’t be paying more later.
One of the most important points to remember is to watch your valuable items. The Metro is a mecca for pickpockets because we are easily distracted and the trains can become quite packed. Try to keep your hand over your purse or pocket with your wallet, or wear a moneybelt. Zippers and buttons are no match for pickpockets. To learn other tips, check out my blog post about the topic.
Now that we have a better idea of how to use the Metro, we will be ready for the first installment of Paris by Metro tomorrow. The first post will feature the Cité Metro stop and all of the wonderful sights within a kilometer.
1-Look for Line 1 and take the Metro that goes in the direction of Chateau de Vincennes. Get off at Gare de Lyon.
2-Look for Line 12 and take the Metro that goes in the direction of Mairie d’Issy. Get off at Concord. Find Line 1 and head in the direction of Chateau de Vincennes. Get off at Châtlet.
Look for Line 12 and take the Metro that goes in the direction of Mairie d’Issy. Get off at Madeline. Find Line 14 and head in the direction of Olypiades. Get off at Châtlet.
3-Look for Line 7 and take the Metro in the direction of Villejuif-Louis Aragon or Mairie d’Ivry (the line branches off, but this time it doesn’t matter which one you take). Get off at Palais Royal/Musee de Louvre. Find Line 1 and head in the direction of La Defense. Get off at Tuilieries (and enjoy the gardens :).
3 thoughts on “Paris Metro 101”
Wonderful start! Wish I had this Metro 101 to get me started the first time I went to Paris.
I finally decided to master the beast during my second visit. Once I set my mind to cracking the code,
it actually became easy.
I love using the metro in NYC, Montreal, and Boston. You can explore so much more in a shorter period of time. When our youngest two kids were 10 and 14 we took them to NYC for the first time. They were horrified that we were only going to use the subway…no taxis. By the end of our trip, the #1 thing they said they would miss? The subway!
Just this past week I was stopped 3 or 4 times by security after getting off to have my ticket checked. This hadn’t happened in the 5 previous weeks I was there. They wait around the corner in the exit hallways so that you can’t see them when you exit the train. They must be beefing up security recently.