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The Paris Métro or Métropolitain ( ) is the rapid transit system in Parismarker. It is a symbol of the city, notable for its station architecture, influenced by Art Nouveau. It has 16 lines, mostly underground, and a total length of 214 km (133 mi). There are 300 stations. Since some are served by several lines, there are 384 stops in total.

Paris has the most closely spaced subway stations in the world, with 245 stations within the City of Paris. Lines are numbered 1 to 14, with two minor lines, 3bis and 7bis. The minor lines were originally part of lines 3 and 7 but became independent.

Lines are identified on maps by number and colour. Direction of travel is shown by the terminus station.

Paris is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow. It carries 4.5 million passengers a day, and an annual total of 1.388 billion (2007). Châtelet-Les Hallesmarker, with 5 Métro lines and 3 RERmarker lines, is the world's largest underground station.

Brief history

The first line opened without ceremony on July 19, 1900, during the Exposition Universelle world's fair. The system expanded quickly until the First World War and the core was complete by the 1920s. Extensions into suburbs (together with Line 11) were built in the 1930s.

The network reached saturation after World War II. The Métro introduced newer trains to allow higher traffic. Further improvements are limited by the design of the network, such as short distances between stations. The solution was a second network, the RERmarker, developed from the 1960s.

In the late 1990s, the automated line 14 was built to relieve RERmarker line A.


Métro is the abbreviated name of the company which originally operated most of the network: the Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris, shortened to "Métropolitain". That was quickly abbreviated to Métro. The Métro today is operated by the Régie autonome des transports parisiens (RATP), a public transport authority that also operates part of the RER network, bus services and light rail lines. The name métro proved very popular and was adopted in many languages, making it the most used word for a (generally underground) urban transit system. It is also possible that "Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain" was copied from the name of London's pioneering underground railway company, the Metropolitan Railway, which had already been in business for almost 40 years prior to the inauguration of Paris's first line.

General use

Opening hours

The Métro network
Trains run from approximately 5:00AM to 1:00AM on every station Sunday to Thursday. The last train, often called the "balai" (broom) because it sweeps up remaining passengers, arrives at the terminal station at 1:15AM. The Metro has stayed open an hour later on Fridays (since 7 December 2007), Saturdays and on nights before a holiday, when the service ends at 0215.

The network stays partially open all night for New Year's Eve, Fête de la Musique or Nuit Blanche and other events.

Using the trains

Fares are sold at kiosks and at automated machines in the station foyer (see below for details). Entrance to platforms is by automated gate, opened by smart cards as well as simple tickets. Gates return tickets for passengers to keep.

In common with many metro systems of Europe, train doors on most lines do not open by themselves. It is necessary to lift a lever (on all train series built before 1977) or press a button on the door (later stock). Doors open automatically on the newest trains, on lines 1 and 14 (and increasingly lines 2, 5 and 9). Very high passenger numbers theoretically mean that passenger-operated doors cause inefficient dwell times, although Parisians are usually prompt at opening the doors and the driver enables them just before the train has come to a halt.


The standard ticket is ticket "t+". It is valid for a multi-transfer journey within one and a half hours from the first validation. It can be used on the whole Métro network, on buses, trams and in zone 1 of the RERmarker. The ticket allows unlimited transfers using the same mode of transport (i.e. Métro to Métro, bus to bus and tram to tram), between bus and tram, and between metro and RER zone 1. When transferring between the Metro and the RERmarker, it is necessary to retain one's ticket. The RERmarker requires a valid ticket for entry, even if it is only a transfer. It costs €1.60 or in tens (a carnet) for €11.60. The "carnet" tickets do not have a time limit.

Other fares now exclusively use the Carte Navigo, an RFID-based contactless smart card. Particular fares include:

  • daily (Mobilis; the Ticket Jeunes, for youth under 26 years on weekends and national holidays, comes for half the cost of a Mobilis pass).
  • weekly or monthly (the former Carte orange, nowadays sold as the weekly Navigo hebdomadaire or "hebdo", and the monthly Navigo mensuel)
  • yearly (Navigo intégrale, or Imagine R for students)
  • The (Paris Visite) travel card is available for one, two, three or five days, for either zones 1-3 covering the centre of Paris, or zones 1-6 covering the whole of the network including the RER out to the airports, Versailles and Disneyland Paris. It was conceived mainly for visitors to Paris and it is available through RATP's distributors in the UK, Switzerland and Belgium. Interestingly enough if a traveler arrives on or near a Monday and stays for 5 days or more, it may be a better deal to buy a weekly card (up to €10 savings). However, the weekly card always runs from Monday to Monday (and is reset every Monday), irrespective of when it was purchased, whereas the Paris Visite card is valid for the number of days purchased.

Technical summary


The Métro has 214 km (133 mi) of track and 300 stations (384 stops), 62 connecting between lines. These figures do not include the RERmarker network. The average distance between stations is 562 m (1,845 ft). Trains stop at all stations. Lines do not share platforms, even at interchange (transfer) stations. This also applies to RERmarker lines.

Trains average 35 km/h (22 mph) with a maximum of 70 km/h (44 mph) on all but the automated, driverless trains of line 14, which reach 80 km/h. An average station-to-station trip takes 58 seconds. Trains travel on the right. The track is standard gauge but the loading gauge is smaller than on the mainline SNCF network. Trains vary from three to six cars. Trains on the same line always have the same number of cars. Power is from a lateral third rail, 750V DC, except on the rubber-tyred lines where the current is from guide bars. Lines 1, 4, 6, 11, and 14 are rubber-tyred.

The Paris Metro is designed to provide local service to Paris proper: stations in Paris are very close together, on average 548 m, forming a tight grid. The suburbs, however, are served by the extensions of lines requiring to go through Paris intra-muros to go from one suburban municipality to another. The low speed virtually banned commercial services to outer suburbs (far suburbs of Paris), which are instead provided by the RER.

The Paris metro is mostly underground; surface sections include sections on viaduct in Paris intra-muros (lines 1, 2, 5 and 6) and at the surface in the suburbs (lines 1, 5, 8 and 13). In most cases both tracks are laid in a single tunnel. Almost all lines follow roads, having been built by the cut-and-cover method near the surface (the earliest by hand). Hence line 1 follows the straight course of the Champs-Elyséesmarker and on other lines some stations (for example, Commercemarker) have platforms that do not align: the street above is too narrow to fit both platforms opposite each other. Furthermore, many lines have very sharp curves. The specifications established by the Paris Metro in 1900 required very low minimum curve radius by railway standards, but even this was often not fully respected, for example near Bastille and Notre Dame de Lorette stations. Parts of the network are built at depth, in particular a section of line 12 passing under Montmartremarker and all of the new line 14. The power supply is 750 volt DC lateral third rail.

The loading gauge of Paris Metro trains is relatively small compared to those of other metro systems, with capacities between about 600 and 700 passengers per train for the 1, 4 and 14, compared to 2,600 for the MI 2N rolling stock on the RER A. Unlike the networks in New York and London, all lines are the same size. A feature of the Paris metro is the use of rubber-tired subway trains on five lines: this technique developed by RATP in 1950 was exported in some networks (Montreal, Mexico City, Santiago). So the 1, 4, 6, 11 and 14 have special adaptations to allow the movement of subway on the tires fitted. The number of cars composing the trains varies according to the lines of 3 to 6 cars, the most common being 5, but should go up to 8 extensions at line 14. In contrast, trains on the same line have the same number of cars.

Only lines 7 and 13 have two terminal branches of different directions.

Rolling stock

The rolling stock has steel-wheel ("MF" for matériel fer) and rubber-tyred trains ("MP", matériel pneu). The different versions of each kind are specified by year of design (not year of first use).


Paris Métro lines

The additional regional express network: the RER


The typical Paris Métro station comprises two central tracks flanked by two 4 m-wide platforms. About 50 stations, generally current or former line termini, are exceptions; most have three tracks and two platforms (Porte d'Orléansmarker), or two tracks and a central platform (Porte Dauphinemarker). Some stations are single-track, either due to difficult terrain (Saint-Georgesmarker), a narrow street above (Liègemarker) or track loops (Église d'Auteuilmarker).

Station length was originally 75 m. This was extended to 90 m on high-traffic lines (1 and 4), with certain stations at 105 m(the difference as yet unused).

In general stations were built near the surface by the cut-and-cover method, and are vaulted. Stations of the former Nord-Sud network (lines 12 and 13) have higher ceilings, due to the former presence of catenary. There are exceptions to the rule of near-surface vaulting:
  • Certain stations particularly close to the surface, generally on line 1 (Champs-Elysées — Clémenceaumarker), have flat metal ceilings.
  • Elevated (above-street) stations, in particular on peripheric lines 2 and 6, are built in brick and covered by platform awnings (line 2) or glass canopies (line 6).
  • Stations on the newest line (14), built at depth, comprise 120 m platforms, high ceilings and double-width platforms. Since the trains on this line are driverless, the stations have platform screen doors.

Several ghost stations on the Paris Métro are no longer served by trains. Haxomarker, built on an unused section of track, is often used as a backdrop in films.

Interior decoration

Paris Métro train halls are decorated in a style defined at the Métro's opening in 1900. The spirit of this aesthetic has generally been respected in the various renovations since then.

Standard vaulted stations are lined by small white earthenware tiles, chosen because of the poor efficiency of turn-of-the-century electric lighting. From the outset walls have been used for advertising; posters in early stations are framed by coloured tiles with the name of the original network operator (CMP or Nord Sud). Stations of the former Nord Sud (lines 12 and 13) generally have more meticulous decoration. Station names are usually inscribed in white onto blue metallic plaques (CMP) or in white tiles on a background of blue tiles (Nord Sud).

The first renovations took place after the Second World War, when the installation of fluorescent lighting revealed the poor state of the original tiling. Three main styles of redecoration followed in succession.

  • Between 1948 and 1967 the RATP installed standardised coloured metallic wall casings in 73 stations (École Militairemarker).
  • From the end of the 1960s a new style was rolled out in around 20 stations, known as Mouton-Duvernet after the first stationmarker concerned. The original white tiles were replaced to a height of 2 m with non-bevelled tiles in various shades of orange. Intended to be warm and dynamic, the renovations proved unpopular. The decoration has been undone as part of the "Renouveau du métro" programme.
  • From 1975 certain stations were redecorated in the Motte style, which emphasised original white tiling but brought touches of colour to light fixtures, seating and the walls of connecting tunnels. The subsequent Ouï Dire style features audaciously shaped seats and light housings with complementary multi-coloured uplighting.

A number of stations have original decorations to reflect the cultural significance of their locations. The first to receive this treatment was Louvre — Rivolimarker on line 1, which contains copies of the masterpieces on display at the museum above. Other notable examples of theme-decorated stations include Bastillemarker (line 1), Saint-Germain-des-Présmarker (line 4), Cluny — La Sorbonnemarker (line 10) and Arts et Métiersmarker (line 11).

Exterior decoration

The Métro's original art nouveau entrances are iconic symbols of Paris, and 83 survive. Designed by Hector Guimard in a style that caused some surprise and controversy in 1900, there are two main variants:
  • The most elaborate feature glass canopies. Three still exist, at Porte Dauphinemarker, Abbessesmarker, and at the intersection of Rue des Halles and Rue Sainte-Opportune.
  • The rest have a cast-iron balustrade decorated in plant-like motifs, accompanied by a "Métropolitain" sign supported by two orange globes atop ornate cast-iron supports in the form of plant stems. One of such entrances exists at Metro Bellas Artesmarker station in Mexico Citymarker (albeit with a "Metro" sign), offered as a gift in return for a Huichol mural currently displayed at Palais Royal - Musée du Louvremarker station. A replica of these entrances was given as a gift by Paris to Chicago in 2001 and was placed at the Van Buren Street Metra Rail entrance in Chicago, Illinois, at South Michigan Avenue and East Van Buren Street. This sign says "Metra".

Later stations and redecorations have brought increasingly simple styles to Métro entrances.

  • Classical stone balustrades were chosen for certain early stations in prestigious locations (Franklin D Rooseveltmarker, Républiquemarker).
  • Simpler metal balustrades accompany a "Métro" sign crowned by a spherical lamp in other early stations (Saint-Placidemarker).
  • Minimalist stainless-steel balustrades (Havre — Caumartinmarker) appeared from the 1970s and signposts with just an "M" have been the norm since the war (Olympiadesmarker, opened 2007).

A handful of station entrances have entirely original architecture (Saint-Lazaremarker), and a number are integrated into residential or standalone buildings (Pelleportmarker).


Paris and the existing railway companies were already thinking by 1845 about an urban railway system to link inner districts of the city. The railway companies wanted to extend their existing lines to a new underground network, whereas the Paris favoured a new and independent network. The disagreement lasted from 1856 to 1890. Meanwhile, the population became more dense and traffic congestion massive. The deadlock put pressure on the authorities and gave the city the chance to enforce its vision.

Fulgence Bienvenüe project

On 20 April 1896, Paris adopted the Fulgence Bienvenüe project, which was to serve only the city proper of Paris. Many Parisians worried that extending lines to industrial suburbs would reduce the safety of the city. Paris forbade lines to the inner suburbs and, as a guarantee, Métro trains were to run on the right, as opposed to existing suburban lines, which ran on the left.

The first line, Porte MaillotmarkerPorte de Vincennesmarker, was inaugurated on 19 July 1900 during the Paris World's Fair. Entrances to stations were designed in art nouveau style by Hector Guimard. Eighty-six of his entrances are still in existence.

Fulgence Bienvenüe's project consisted of 10 lines, which correspond to today's lines 1 to 9. Construction was so intense that by 1920, despite a few changes from schedule, most lines had been completed.

Lines 1 and 4 were conceived as central east-west and central north-south lines. Two circular lines, ligne 2 Nord (line 2 North) and ligne 2 Sud (line 2 South), were also planned but line 2 South was merged with line 5 in 1906.

Line 3 was an additional east-west line to the north of line 1 and line 5 an additional north-south line to the east of line 4. Line 6 would run from Nationmarker to Place d'Italiemarker. Lines 7, 8 and 9 would connect commercial and office districts around the Opéramarker to residential areas in the north-east and the south-west.

Bienvenüe also planned a circular line, the ligne circulaire intérieure, to connect the six main-line stations. A section opened in 1923 between Invalidesmarker and the Boulevard Saint-Germainmarker before the plan was abandoned.

Nord-Sud: the competing network

On 31 January 1904, a second concession was granted to a company called the Société du chemin de fer électrique souterrain Nord-Sud de Paris (Paris North-South underground electrical railway company) and abbreviated to the Nord-Sud (North-South) company. It was responsible for building three proposed lines:

Line A was finally inaugurated on 4 November 1910, after being postponed because of the flood Paris experienced in January of that year. Line B was inaugurated on 26 February 1911. Because of the high construction costs, the construction of line C was postponed. The Nord-Sud company and the C.M.P company used compatible trains which could be used on both networks. However, the Nord-Sud network distinguished itself from its competitor with the high-quality decoration of its stations.

Nord-Sud did not become profitable and bankruptcy became unavoidable. By the end of 1930, the C.M.P bought Nord-Sud. Line A became line 12 and line B line 13. Line C was never built.

1930–1950: The first inner suburbs are reached

Fulgence Bienvenüe's project was nearly completed during the 1920s. Paris planned three new lines and extensions of most lines to the inner suburbs, despite the reluctance of Parisians. Bienvenüe's inner circular line having been abandoned, the already built portion between Duroc and Odéon for the creation of a new east-west line which would become today's line 10 and it would be extended west to Porte de Saint-Cloud and the inner suburbs of Boulogne.

The line C planned by Nord-Sud between Montparnasse station and Porte de Vanvesmarker would be built as an initial line 14 (different from present line 14). It would also extend north in encompassing the already built portion between Invalides and Duroc which was initially planned as part of the inner circular.

The over-busy funicular to Belleville would be replaced by a new line, line 11, which would be extended to Châteletmarker. Lines 10, 11 and 14 were thus the three new lines envisaged under this plan.

In addition, most existing lines would be extended to the inner suburbs. The first to leave the city proper was line 9, extended in 1934 to Boulogne-Billancourt; more would follow it in the 1930s. World War II forced authorities to abandon projects such as the extension of lines 4 or 12 to the northern suburbs. By 1949, eight lines had been extended: line 1 to Neuilly and Vincennes, line 3 to Levallois-Perret, line 5 to Pantin, line 7 to Ivry, line 8 to Charenton, line 9 to Boulogne-Billancourt, line 11 to Les Lilas and line 12 to Issy-les-Moulineaux.

World War II had a massive impact on the Métro. Services were limited and many stations closed. The risk of bombing meant the service between Place d'Italiemarker and Étoilemarker was transferred from line 5 to line 6, so that most of the elevated portions of the Métro would be on a single line: line 6. As a result, lines 2 and 6 together now form a circle.

It took a long time to recover after liberation in 1944. Many stations had not reopened by the 1960s and some closed for good. On March 23, 1948, the C.M.P (the underground) and the STCRP (bus and tramways) merged to form the RATP, which still operates the Métro.

1960–1990: the development of the RER

The network grew saturated during the 1950s. Outdated technology limited the number of trains. That led the RATP to stop extending lines and to concentrate instead on modernisation. The MP 51 prototype was built, testing both rubber-tyred metro and basic automatic piloting on the voie navette. The first replacements of the older Sprague trains began with experimental articulated train units and then with mainstream rubber-tyred metro MP 55 and MP 59, some of the latter are still in service today (line 4 and 11). Thanks to newer trains and better signalling, trains ran more frequently.

The population of Paris boomed from 1950 to 1980. Cars became more popular and suburbs grew further from the city. Paris' main railway stations, ere the termini of the suburban rail lines, were overcrowded during rush hour. The short distance between metro stations slowed the network and made it unprofitable to build extensions.

The solution in the 1960s was to revive a project abandoned at the end of the 19th century: joining suburban lines to new underground portions in the city centre. The system would be known as the réseau express régional (regional express network) (RERmarker).

Metro escalators.
The RER plan initially included one east-west line and two north-south lines. RATP bought two unprofitable SNCF lines—the Ligne de St-Germain (westbound) and the Ligne de Vincennes (eastbound) with the intention of joining them and to serve multiple districts of central Paris with new underground stations. The new line created by this merger became line A. The Ligne de Sceaux, which served the southern suburbs and was bought by the CMP in the 1930s, would be extended north to merge with a line of the SNCF and reach the new Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airportmarker in Roissy. This become line B. These new lines were inaugurated in 1977 and their wild success outperformed all the most optimistic forecasts to the extent that line A is the most used urban rail line in the world with nearly 300 million journeys a year.

Because of the enormous cost of these two lines, the third planned line was abandoned and the French authorities decided that later developments of the RER network would be more cheaply developed by the SNCF company, alongside its continued management of other suburban lines. However, the RER developed by the SNCF company would never match the success of the RATP's two RER lines. In 1979, SNCF developed line C in joining the suburban lines of Gare d'Austerlitzmarker and Gare d'Orsaymarker, the latter being converted into a museum dedicated to impressionist paintings. During the 1980s, it would also develop line D, which was the second line planned by the initial RER schedule, but would serve Châtelet instead of Républiquemarker to reduce costs. A huge Métro-RER hub was created at the Châtelet-Les Hallesmarker station, the world's largest underground station.

The same project of the 1960s also decided to merge lines 13 and 14 to create a quick connection between Saint-Lazare and Montparnasse thanks to a new full north-south line. Distances between stations on the lengthened line 13 differ from that on other lines in order to make it more 'express' and hence to extend it farther in the suburbs. The new Line 13 was inaugurated on 9 November 1976.

1990–2010: Eole and Météor

In October 1998, the line 14 was inaugurated. It was the first fully new Métro (not RER) line in 63 years. The project, which was known during its conception as Météor (Métro Est-Ouest Rapide), is still the only fully automatic line within the network. It was also the first to feature platform screen doors to prevent suicides and accidents.

It was conceived with extensions to the suburbs in mind, similar to the extensions of the line 13 built during the 1970s. As a result, most of the stations are at least a kilometre apart. Like the RER lines designed by the RATP, nearly all stations of line 14 offer connections with multiple Métro lines. The line currently runs between Saint-Lazaremarker and Olympiadesmarker. Lines 7 and 13 are the only two on the network to be split in branches. The RATP would like to get rid of those saturated branches in order to improve the network's efficiency. As such, a project consists in attributing to the line 14 one branch of each line, and to extend them further into the suburbs. This project has not yet been approved.

In 1999, the RER line E was inaugurated as the latest extension of the network. Known during its conception as Eole (Est-Ouest Liaison Express), it is the fifth RER line serving Paris. Currently, the RER E terminates at Haussmann - Saint-Lazaremarker, but a new project, financed by EPAD, the public authority managing the La Défensemarker business district, should extend the line west into La Défense - Grande Archemarker and the suburbs beyond.


  • 10 August 1903: The Couronnes Disaster (fire), 84 killed.
  • 30 August 2000: an MF 67 rolling stock derailled due to excessive speed and unavailable automatic cruising at the Notre-Dame-de-Lorettemarker station, 24 slightly injured.
  • 6 August 2005: fire broke out on a train at the Simplonmarker station. The fire injured at least 19 people before it was extinguished. Early reports blamed an electrical short circuit as the cause.
  • 29 July 2007: a fire started on a train between Varennemarker and Invalidesmarker stations. Fifteen people were injured.

See also


  1. Metro systems by annual passenger rides
  3. Press statement from RATP 2 October 2007
  6. Statistiques STIF rapport 2005 [1] states 297 stations + Olympiades + Les Agnettes + Les Courtilles
  7. On January 1, 2006, a test was done with few lines opening at night on main stops only


  • Bindi, A. & Lefeuvre, D. (1990). Le Métro de Paris: Histoire d'hier à demain, Rennes: Ouest-France. ISBN 2737302048. (French)
  • Descouturelle, Frédéric et al. (2003). Le métropolitain d'Hector Guimard. Somogy. ISBN 2850568155. (French)
  • Gaillard, M. (1991). Du Madeleine-Bastille à Météor: Histoire des transports Parisiens, Amiens: Martelle. ISBN 2878900138. (French)
  • Hovey, Tamara. Paris Underground, New York: Orchard Books, 1991. ISBN 0531059316
  • Lamming,C.(2001) Métro insolite, Paris: Parigramme, ISBN 2840961903
  • Ovenden, Mark. Paris Metro Style in map and station design, London: Capital Transport, 2008. ISBN 978-1-85414-322-0

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