How to Use the Paris Metro
The most used means of transportation in Paris is the metro. Knowing how to use it is essential for you to get the most out of your stay and be able to visit all the attractions the city has to offer.
Although there is nothing like walking to get to know a city, the size of Paris sometimes makes it necessary to use some form of public transport to see everything there is to see in Paris. The French city has a good network of city buses, but the metro is undoubtedly the best option for getting around the city.
The Paris metro has been in operation for over 100 years and the city has been modernizing and expanding it to make it one of the largest subway transportation systems in Europe. Proof of its usefulness is that the distance between stations (more than 200) does not normally exceed 500 meters.
How the Paris metro works
The first thing you should know is that tickets for the Paris Metrocan be purchased both at the self-service machines in the stations and at the ticket offices. Not all of the latter are usually open, so I advise you to learn how to use the aforementioned dispensers.
One of the advantages of the automatic machines over the ticket counters is that the instructions come in several languages, including Spanish. Still, one of my tips for those traveling to Paris is to try to learn some French.
With your ticket purchased, you have to insert it into the turnstiles at the station in order to get through. Never forget to pick up the pass or ticket once you have passed the turnstile barrier. Keep in mind that, unlike the RER, you will need it to exit your destination station and the fines for not having it can be high if a control guard asks you for it.
Although it may seem obvious, make sure that the line is the one you are really looking for, as well as the direction in which the train is heading. On each platform you will be able to see the time remaining until the train arrives, although the wait in Paris is usually no longer than 4 minutes.
Unlike in other cities, to enter the carriage you will have to press a button, as the doors do not open automatically. You will have to do the same to exit the train.
Differences between the metro and the RER
Many travelers may be confused by the existence of two similar means of transport such as the Metro and the RER (Réseau Express Régional). The latter works as a kind of commuter train that takes you to locations near Paris but outside the city.
There are five RER lines, although it is most likely that you will only use three of them during your visit:
- Line A: connects Paris with Disneyland Paris and is one of the most popular ways to get to the park if you haven't booked an excursion from the capital.
- Line B: it leads to Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports.
- Line C: connects the French capital with the Palace of Versailles.
On the other hand, the RER is similar to the Metro in that both transports run through the city center, although the cost, speed and types of trains are different. If you take, for example, the RER Express, it is important to know that it does not stop at all stations.
Another important aspect is that, despite the differences, you will be able to use the same ticket for both types of transport in case you have to transfer between them.
Paris metro areas
When you first look at a map of the Paris metro, you will notice the division of the city into zones. It is a kind of imaginary rings that divide the city and that have their importance when using subway transport, as it affects the cost of it.
However, you shouldn't worry too much, as the vast majority of hotels and tourist attractions are concentrated in zones 1-3. Normally, you will only leave these zones if you are going to Disneyland Paris, Versailles or Charles de Gaulle or Orly airports.
Paris metro fares
Most people visiting Paris for a few days opt to buy the Metro ticket called T+. This is the cheapest and easiest option to use, but it is necessary to do the math to see if it is better to buy a pass.
The T+ Metro ticket is only good for one trip and can also be used on the RER, Parisian streetcars and public buses.
Each of these tickets costs just under 2 €, although if you buy 10 such tickets you will get a discount of around 40 cents per trip. Either of these options (the one-way and ten-way) can be purchased at the ticket offices of the stations or at the automatic machines with instructions in Spanish.
The option of 10 discounted tickets is particularly interesting if you are traveling in a small group and it is not convenient to buy a pass.
With a Metro T+ ticket you can travel in zones 1 and 2, both on Metro and RER. This covers a good part of the main attractions of the city, such as the most important museums in Paris.
Paris metro passes
If your stay in Paris is going to be prolonged(from 4 days in Paris, more or less) and you plan to use the Metro very often, it will usually be better for you to buy one of the existing passes. Note that this transport is no longer included in the Paris Pass tourist card, although it is still interesting for visits.
These passes allow you to use all types of transport in the different areas of the capital. If you are interested, you will be able to choose between the following:
- Paris Visite: until some time ago, this pass was included in the Paris Pass, but now it is necessary to buy it separately. Its possession allows unlimited travel for a period ranging from 2 to 6 days, depending on the mode for which you pay. It also includes discounts for some attractions.
- Navigo Pass: in principle, this pass allows the same type of travel as the Paris Visite, but it only works for full weeks, that is, from Monday to Sunday. To buy it, you will need a passport photo.
Children under 4 years old can pay free on the Metro, while those between 4 and 10 years old only have to pay half.
Paris metro timetables and frequency
The first train of each line of the Paris Metro departs at 05:30 in the morning, while the last train leaves at 1:15 in the evening from Sunday to Thursday and at 2:15 on Fridays and Saturdays.
To find out if the train is the last one of the day, just look at the lights on the front of the train: if they are flashing, it is the last one. If you are unlucky and miss it, you will only be able to use one of the night buses to get around Paris.
Paris, the so-called Noctilien, or call a cab.
As for the frequency, it varies depending on the time of day, but in general you will not have to wait more than 4 minutes during most of the day.
Most important lines of the Paris metro
The Paris Metro has 16 lines to complete a transport network of about 200 kilometers. There are more than 300 stations in the city so that no Parisian or visitor has to walk too far to find one.
Each of the lines is numbered and assigned a color to distinguish them easily on a map.
Chances are that if you are visiting the city to see its best museums, monuments or gardens you will only use a few lines. In this aspect, there are three that stand out above the rest:
- Line 12: This line is going to allow you to see the interesting Montmartre neighborhood and offers several possibilities to reach the Sacré Coeur basilica. Likewise, its Concorde station is ideal to reach the Tuileries Garden, right next to the Louvre museum. Your next stops are also perfect for visiting the Musée d'Orsay.
- Line 6: the Charles de Gaulle Etoile station on line 6 will take you very close to the Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe. On the other hand, if you get off at the Trocadero stop, located in the square of the same name, you will have a great view of the Eiffel Tower. Line 6 will also allow you to reach the Montparnasse Tower and the catacombs of Paris.
- Line 1: the route of this line connects, among other places, the Champs Elysées with the Arc de Triomphe. On the other hand, if you get off at the Concorde or Tuileries stations, you can easily visit the Louvre. The trip can be extended to the Ile de la Cite, where you can see the wonderful Notre Dame Cathedral or the Conciergerie.
Note down these stations to reach your destinations more easily
To travel with the Paris Metro it is not only important to know the route of each line. Knowing the name of the stations you are most interested in is essential to avoid getting off at the wrong place. Here are some of the ones you may need:
- Champ de Mars: Champs de Mars and Eiffel Tower
- Opera: Opera Garnier
- Trocadero: Trocadero square and Eiffel Tower
- Abbesses: Montmartre
- Louvre Rivoli: Louvre museum
- Cité: Notre Dame Cathedral
- Saint Germain de Prés: St. Germain district
Paris metro stations worth visiting
The Paris Metro is not only a great means of transport, but many of its stations are tourist attractions in themselves. Thus, some of the oldest ones have modernist-style entrances, while other more modern ones have tried to give an original touch to their design.
One of the most attractive is the Arts et Métiers station (lines 3 and 11), which is decorated in a style reminiscent of Jules Verne's novels. On the other hand, it is well worth a look at the Cluny - La Sorbonne station to contemplate the fabulous mosaics that decorate its ceilings. Likewise, you should also look up if you pass by the Cité station to see its retro-style lamps.
Other stations, baptized as cultural, also have outstanding attractions. Louvre-Rivoli, for example, is decorated with copies of some of the most important works exhibited at the Louvre.
Although there are many stations with artistic design or decoration, my last recommendation will be Abbesses. Not only because it is the deepest of the entire Parisian network, but also because of the stupendous fresco there, representing a period in the history of France.
General tips for using the metro in Paris
A great tool to get around the Paris Metro without having problems is to download the Next Stop app, the official application of the company RATP, responsible for the management of the city's transport.
The app is in 10 languages, including English, and includes short audio guides to some of Paris' most important tourist attractions. If you're worried about the data costs involved, you're in luck, as it can be used offline.
On the other hand, it is also interesting to know that most of the metro stations in Paris have free WiFi connection and do not require prior registration.
If you are concerned about security, you should know that the entire network is monitored at all times by security guards, inspectors and security cameras. However, you should always be aware of your possessions in the busiest sections, as there may be pickpockets in the area trying to take advantage of the crowds.