Although Paris is a very walkable city, you may sometimes be feeling a little lazy, the weather may be poor or you may just want to venture outside the centre. In these cases, your first port of call when it comes to transport should be the Paris Metro.
There are over 300 stations being serviced by 16 Metro lines, so exploring the city on the subway is super easy!
Most lines run from 5.30am to 12.30am Monday – Friday, with weekends keeping lines running until 2.15am. Departure times of the first and last trains differ with each station during these times. But if in doubt, there is a chart on the wall of every station (either at the station entrance or on the platform) listing the departure times for both the first and last trains leaving that particular station.
Insider Tip: the RER trains look similar to the Metro, but it is actually a different train system. If you decide to travel further into France from Paris, then this would likely be via the RER trains. But if staying inside Paris only, it’s the Metro you want. The Metro stations will either have a large M over the entrance, or be called Metro or Métropolitain.
Purchasing Metro Tickets & Ticket Types
There are a number of tickets available to purchase, including single use tickets, books of multiple tickets, day passes, multi-day passes, weekly passes, you name it. To keep us all on the same page, tickets that are purchased individually are called un billet in French, whereas books of tickets are known as un carnet.
But which is the most cost effective?
The books of tickets (carnets) allow you to use the Metro and buses around Paris within zones 1-3. Books of tickets offer limited journeys (ie 10 or 20) and they are actually much cheaper than buying individual tickets.
There is also the Paris city pass (Paris Visite) on offer, which may help keep costs down with unlimited travel included in the price. It’s possible to get a pass from 1 to 5 days. Not only can you use unlimited transport, but you’ll also receive discounted entry to some museums and attractions too. These include: Centre Pompidou, Versailles Palace and the Notre Dame towers to name just a few.
My Advice: If you plan on using the Metro a lot each day, then the Paris Visite pass would be the best option. But if you choose to walk to most places with only getting a couple of Metros here and there, then a book of tickets would be best instead.
You should ensure that your ticket type is for the correct zone. This is easy to do as the Paris Metro is contained entirely in zones 1 and 2, except the La Défense station, which is zone 3. You’ll likely find that most tickets are for zones 1-3 only, but if you need to head out further, then this will take you into new zones. For instance, Charles de Gaulle airport is in zone 5 and Versailles is in zone 4.
Whichever ticket you decide to choose, you can buy them in advance or on the day via ticket machines at the Gare du Nord station, Charles de Gaulle Airport and other major stations.
One word of caution: beware of scams! In some stations, there are people who try to con unsuspecting travellers. The ticket machines really are super easy to use, and have a variety of language settings. But some will try to convince you that the machines are difficult or confusing to use – do not listen to them!
Major Paris Landmarks & Metro Stations
When keeping things slick and stress-free during your travel around Paris, it makes sense to find Metro stations near to your hotel and chosen landmarks ahead of your trip. This prevents you from having to spend valuable sightseeing time on planning journeys whilst you’re in the city.
Even if you wish to walk to most places, you’ll never know when you will become tired or need to hop on a Metro rather than walk. And in aid of keeping things super simple for you, here are the closest stations to each major landmark in the city, plus which Metro lines they are accessible via:
- Eiffel Tower: Bir-Hakeim (line 6)
- Arc de Triomphe: Charles de Gaulle Étoile (lines 1, 2 and 6)
- Champs-Elysees: George V (line 1), Franklin D Roosevelt (lines 1 and 9) or Champs-Elysees-Clemenceau (lines 1 and 13)
- Louvre: Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre (lines 1 and 7) or Louvre-Rivoli (line 1)
- Sacre Coeur: Anvers (line 2)
- Notre Dame: Cité (line 4)
- Jardin du Luxembourg: St-Sulpice (line 4), Rennes (line 12) or Notre Dames des Champs (line 12)
When it comes to the Metro, the lines are all colour-coded and numbered, keeping things nice and simple. Each line travels in two separate directions, which is indicated by the start and end stations on each line. For instance, when looking from left to right on the Metro map, line 1 starts in La Défense and ends in Château de Vincennes.
There are also some stations that serve more than one line, whereas some stations serve just one Metro line only. On the map, it’s super easy to spot those stations operating on more than one line, as they show a white circle or oval shape across all of the lines running through that station.
Take main station Châtelet for example: this station serves lines 1, 7, 11 and 14, which is shown by a white oval shape across the coloured lines. The brown dot inside the circle simply indicates that it is also the start or end point of a line (in this case, line 11).
This is all useful to know as it allows you to plan your route, ensuring you’re heading to stations that are serving the lines you need to use.
When understanding the Paris Metro for the first time, I find it pays well to make notes of example journeys you plan on taking using the Metro.
Take this example for instance:
Say your hotel is located in the 19th arrondissement near to the Belleville station, and you wish to head to the Louvre for some chic art. In order to get there, you would need to hop onto line 11 at Belleville, in the direction of Châtelet. You would need to head all the way to Châtelet, and then change to line 7 and finally get off at either Louvre Rivoli or Palais Royal Musée du Louvre.
I’d recommend planning a journey like this (and writing it down) for the common journeys you’ll need to take, or the main journeys you’ll be taking on each day. If you travel with a journal or guidebook with all of this written down, then it will definitely help shave minutes from each day.
Super Speedy French Language Guide
Despite most people speaking perfect English in Paris; when travelling to anywhere new, it pays to have at least a few words in your arsenal in case you do need them:
Goodbye: Au revoir
Thank you: Merci
Please: S’il vous plaît
Excuse me: Excusez-moi
Left: La gauche
Metro Ticket: Un billet
Book of Tickets: Un carnet
Metro Safety Advice
Although the Metro trains and stations are fairly safe, it pays to be on the lookout for pickpockets (as within any city). Ensure your bag, pockets and valuables are in your sight at all times.
Also, there may occasionally be con artists inside some Metro stations. Despite the ticket machines being easy to use with a number of different language settings, some will try to convince you that the machines are difficult or confusing to use. Do not listen to them! They are simply trying to whittle money from unsuspecting travellers.
Unspoken Rules of the Paris Metro
In large cities, there are always unspoken rules (especially when it comes to public transport). Here are just a few things to bear in mind when using the Paris Metro:
- When Metro doors open, stand to one side. This allows people to get off the train first, then you can get on.
- If the trains are busy, make your way as far back as you can go so that others can board the train without any delays.
- Stand on the right on escalators as people running up and down them will do so on the left. Don’t be that person who gets in their way!
- Paris Metros are very quiet, so avoid talking loudly on your phone or playing loud music. People are here for a quiet, hasslefree commute.
- If you spot performances on the trains or in the stations, then avoid watching unless you want to be pestered for money afterwards.
You should now be well equipped to work with the Paris Metro on your trip – enjoy! Where are you most excited to see in Paris first? Let me know in the comments section below…
Did you find this useful? Don’t forget to share it!