Much of Paris’s charm is underground in the seemingly endless tunnels of Le Metro. Just as the surface city is distinct from any other major city in the world, so too is the city beneath.
The Paris Metro, or Metropolitaine, is 115 years old and consists of 133 miles of lines. More than 4 million people ride the Metro everyday.
Of course, you need a ticket to ride the rails around Paris. For extended stays in the City of Lights, we buy a Navigo pass. On this trip, Flat Stanley, has been hitching a ride with us by piggybacking on our Navigo passes.
The French definitely have a flair for style and the same can even be said of something as utilitarian as their transportation system. Hector Guimard started it all in 1900 when he designed the first entrances and signage, giving the Metro its iconic Art Nouveau look.
To see some of Guimard’s original work, visit the Abbesses station (pictured above) on Line 12 or Port Dauphine on Line 2.
The Abbesses station also features a long circular staircase with some bright murals. Having done both, I highly recommend going down the staircase as opposed to up to see the murals. Take advantage of an elevator whenever you see one in Paris!
While you get nice, whimsical murals at Abbesses, the Ourcq station features a work of art befitting its strange name. Looks more like a mangled dinosaur bone to me.
The Bastille station, as you might expect, pays tribute to those who stormed and destroyed the prison fortress in 1789 to launch the French Revolution.
But these Metro stations are unusual as most of the “art” you see in the Paris Metro is of the advertising variety. The billboards definitely keep you apprised of major exhibitions and events happening throughout the city.
You are also exposed to a diverse group of street performers, everything from classical musicians to pop singers (multiple languages) to traditional French accordion players. I enjoy them all except when they board your train and play within the confines of your railcar. You become part of a captive audience compelled to dole out a Euro or two for the unsolicited privilege of listening.
The major stations, such as Gare du Nord, are like giant multi-level shopping malls. The Metro lines, the ultra-fast French trains and commuter lines all converge at these main stations. In addition to getting anywhere in Paris, you can pretty much get anywhere in France — and Europe –via train. When you get your ticket to ride, also be prepared to walk…and climb a lot of stairways to heaven.