Taking the Paris metro for the first time can be very intimidating. But don’t worry, because, in this guide, I’m going to teach you everything you need to know in order to take the metro without stress just like a real Parisian.
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The Paris Metro: Pros and Cons
- The metro is the fastest means of transportation to travel through the city. It avoids the busy traffic that the other means of transportation are confronted with.
- The metro stations are ideally located, which makes joining highly visited places such as the museums, the department stores, and the monuments easy.
- There are many metro lines (16) and stations (309) and you can reach any part of the city within a 20-minute walk from a metro station.
- The metro is in service as early as 5:30 a.m. and closes as late as 1:15 a.m. from Sunday to Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays, and on the eve of public holidays, it closes as late as 2:15 a.m.
- Line 14 and line 1 (which stops at important touristic sites) are automated, making them fully operational even during strikes.
- The large crowd during rush hours can make the trip uncomfortable or even suffocating. The risk of encountering pickpockets is also higher.
- The Paris metro cruelly lacks hygiene. Unsettling smells can be a real problem.
- Paris is quite often subject to strikes, making the metro hardly accessible.
- Metro trains are not adapted for travelers with massive luggage and not all stations are equipped with escalators and elevators.
- The elderly, the handicapped, and families traveling with a stroller can have a harder time accessing the metro.
- Sometimes, many links are needed in order to go from one place to another.
- There are often passenger incidents, which can disrupt traffic.
My tip: prefer taking an Uber or a taxi if you’re carrying a lot of luggage or if there are major disruptions on the metro. Otherwise, the metro is an excellent means of transportation.
Paris Metro Map
With its 16 metro lines stopping at 309 stations, the Paris metro network is one of the most dense in the world.
The metro lines are interconnected, allowing passengers to travel through the whole of Paris via the links between the metros, but also with the RER (high-speed train linking Paris to the suburbs), the tramways, and the buses.
The Châtelet station is notably known for being linked to as many as five metro lines (1, 4, 7, 11, 14) and two RER lines (A and B).
How to take the Paris metro?
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The metro entrances are easily identifiable with their signs indicating the name of the station and the metro lines that are in circulation.
You can buy train tickets right away:
- on the machines designed for this purpose
- directly at the ticket counter
This ticket is necessary to go through the turnstiles and access the metro lines. You can also get a subscription, but I will explain that in more detail later down below.
Inside the station, signs across the walls or hanging from the ceiling indicate the direction for each metro line. When you arrive at the right track, you’ll find a sign showing all the stops of the metro line.
Beware that the metro circulates in both directions. The direction is indicated on the sign at the entrance of the tracks as well as on the monitors hanging from the ceiling. Those monitors also tell the waiting time.
A tip for those in a rush: according to your destination, it will be better to be seated at the front, the middle, or the rear of the train. Some apps like Citymapper tell you the best position.
The Parisian public transport network is managed by the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens).
Metro service runs from 5:30 a.m. to 1:15 a.m. from Sunday to Thursday. On Friday and Saturday nights, and on the eve of public holidays, they run until 2:15 a.m.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that you can hop on a train two minutes before the end of service. Usually, the last departures are between 00:30 and 00:40 a.m., to arrive at the terminus at 1:15 a.m., Or between 1:30 and 1:40 a.m. to arrive at 2:15 a.m. So keep this in mind.
Metros run about every 2 minutes during rush hour (7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.), and every 4 to 5 minutes the rest of the time. Late in the evening (after 11 p.m.), you’ll have to wait 7 to 10 minutes.
To find out exactly when the metro runs, you can go directly to their official website.
The most practical way is to download the Ile-de-France Mobilités app, which allows you to follow the metro traffic in real-time, but also the traffic of all the other services run by RATP (bus, RER, tramway).
Traffic information (delays, line closures, suspicious packages) is regularly relayed, enabling you to anticipate your journeys as effectively as possible.
Tickets and Subscriptions to The Paris Metro
Good to know:
- The metro is free for children under 4, and children aged between 4 and 10 benefit from half-price on certain passes.
- The Ile-de-France region is divided into 5 zones: zones 1-3 serve Paris and the suburbs, while zones 4 and 5 serve the rest of the region (including Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports and Disneyland Paris).
Single ticket: ticket t+
This ticket can be used on the metro, RER, bus, and tramway, and remains valid for 1 hour and 30 minutes from the time it is validated, as long as you don’t leave the network.
Several media are compatible with the ticket t+:
- The classic paper ticket
- The Navigo Easy
- Smartphones via the Ile-de-France Mobilités app
It costs €2.10 each, and the “carnet” of 10 costs €16.90 in its digital form.
The physical form of the carnet costs €19.10, but will no longer be available for sale from September 21, 2023.
The ticket t+ is particularly practical for short stays, where the average use is at least two tickets a day.
Daily tickets: Navigo Day and Mobilis Day
These tickets allow unlimited travel for a whole day in the selected zones.
The Navigo Day can be recharged on all the Navigo passes and on the Ile-de-France Mobilités app.
As for the Mobilis Day, it comes in the form of a magnetic coupon on which you have to write your name and the date of use.
Both start at €8.45 / day for two zones.
My advice: choose the one at €11.30 that covers zone 1-3. This will be more than enough to visit Paris. I also recommend the Navigo Day, which is much easier to use and can be recharged directly on your phone.
Weekly ticket: Navigo Weekly
This ticket allows unlimited travel in the whole of the Ile-de-France region ( zones 1-5) for an entire week!
You can recharge this pass on the following media:
- Navigo travel card and Navigo Découverte travel card
- On the Ile-de-France Mobilités app
The ticket costs €30 / week for all five zones. Ideal for frequent commuters.
Please note: the Navigo Weekly is only valid for the current week. This means that if you subscribe to this pass on Thursday, you’ll only be able to use it until Sunday… and not until next Thursday. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a 7-day pass.
The best for tourists: Paris Visite
If you’re planning to spend at least 5 days in Paris, this pass will be your best ally.
It allows you to visit Paris for 1 to 5 consecutive days in zones 1-3 or 1-5 depending on the package you choose.
Like the Mobilis Day, the Paris Visite comes in the form of a magnetic coupon on which you have to write your name and dates of use.
What makes it different is its sliding scale price. Starting at €13.55 / day, the 5-day pass costs €43.30, i.e. €13.20 less than if you had taken 5 Mobilis Day or 5 Navigo Day.
So, it is a very good deal if you’re planning a 5-day trip to Paris, especially since it gives you special cultural and commercial benefits.
For the young: Navigo Jeunes Week-end
People under 26 y/o have access to a €4.60 / day ticket for zones 1-3 on Saturdays and Sundays and public holidays.
It can be recharged on all Navigo travel cards and on the Ile-de-France Mobilités app.
One-way ticket: Origin-Destination ticket
Perfect for a single trip in the Ile-de-France region, its price varies according to origin and destination but does not exceed €5.
It’s also available in a “carnet” of 10 costing no more than €40, for a unit price capped at €4. Not a bad deal, is it?
Where to buy the tickets and the subscriptions?
There are several ways to buy tickets and get a subscription:
They can be found at all metro, RER, and tramway stations. They can be found at some bus stations too.
On the machine, you can buy paper tickets or recharge your Navigo travel card and pay by cash or CB.
Some machines also issue Navigo Easy travel cards for €2, so you can buy one and recharge it straight away at the same machine.
Located in all metro stations, as well as RER stations and some bus stops, ticket counters are identifiable by their blue signs. They offer ticket sales by credit card only, and subscription to Navigo Annual, Monthly, Weekly, Améthyste, and Liberté +.
RATP agencies offer a complete service, including ticket sales, Navigo subscription, travel card recharging, and after-sales service.
They are also an information point.
Agence RATP Gare de Lyon – Place Louis Armand, 75012 Paris
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. | Saturday: 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. | Sunday: closed
Agence RATP Gare du Nord – Place Napoléon III, 75010 Paris
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. | Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
RATP Denfert-Rochereau agency – 3 place Denfert-Rochereau, 75014 Paris
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. | Closed on weekends
Agence RATP Etoile – Place Charles de Gaulle, 75017 Paris
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 7 am-7 pm | Closed on weekends
Agence RATP Nation – 15 Place de la Nation, 75012 Paris
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. | Closed on weekends
There are many RATP-approved shops (newspaper kiosks, tobacconists, etc.) selling t+ tickets, and travel cards for Navigo Day, Jeunes Week-end, Navigo Weekly, and Navigo Monthly.
These shops also sell Navigo Easy and Navigo Découverte travel cards.
Provincial stations and airports
Many shops outside Paris sell Ticket t+, Paris Visite tickets for zones 1-5, and Orlyval tickets, so you can stock up on tickets before you leave for Paris.
From the Comité Régional du Tourisme
Tourist Information Points (Points Information Tourisme) are the first port of call for visitors to Paris.
They are located in the arrival terminals of Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly airports, as well as in Paris at the Galeries Lafayette, Versailles, and Disneyland Paris.
On the Internet
Visit the iledefrance-mobilites.fr website to subscribe, recharge, and order your travel cards.
Metro Lines to Paris Train Stations
Paris’ numerous train stations make the city accessible from all over France and even from Europe’s largest cities. They are also well connected to the public transport network, particularly the metro.
Metro Lines to Paris Touristic Sites
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Some metro lines are nicknamed “tourist lines” because they stop close to major tourist attractions:
Which metro lines are the most saturated?
Line 1: serves major business districts such as La Défense and Châtelet, and passes through highly touristic areas such as the Champs-Elysées and the Louvre.
Line 4: runs through central Paris, stopping at popular stations such as Châtelet, Gare du Nord, and Montparnasse-Bienvenũe.
Line 13: connects the northern and southern suburbs of Paris, passing through densely populated areas. Montparnasse-Bienvenüe and Saint-Lazare stations are particularly saturated at rush hour.
Line 14: serves major business districts such as Bercy, Châtelet, and Saint-Lazare, and attracts many workers.
What are the metro rush hours?
- Morning: 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.
- Evening: 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
What are the best times to avoid the crowds?
During off-peak hours, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
How do connections work with other means of transport, such as RER, buses, or tramways?
Metro/metro and metro/RER connections are made within the stations themselves. Simply follow the signs to the right platform. As you remain within the network, you don’t need to punch a new ticket.
Connections with the tramway are, of course, made outside, so you need to get out of the metro. And since you’re leaving the metro network, you need to punch a new ticket. The same applies to the bus.
Are there pickpockets in the metro? How can I avoid them?
Yes, pickpockets can be present in the metro. They’re particularly prevalent on lines like 1 and 7, which are highly frequented by tourists.
There’s no real way to avoid them, but you can protect yourself by looking after your personal belongings. Keep your belongings on you, for example. Pickpockets are very good at opening handbags and backpacks. Purse snatching is also quite common.
Are there public restrooms in the Paris metro?
Yes, but only in a few stations. Here’s a list of the network’s public restrooms and their locations.
How can I get real-time information about delays or service interruptions on the metro?
The various metro lines all have an official Twitter account on which they relay information in real-time.
Are there any baggage restrictions on the Paris metro?
Suitcases, bags, and other packages must not exceed 75 cm.
Long packages must not exceed 2 meters in length, and their dimensions must not exceed 20 cm (skis are accepted, for example).
Which metro stations are the prettiest?
Abbesses (line 12): its entrance is in the shape of a Guimard kiosk, designed by the French artist of the same name, and its interior is decorated with colorful earthenware tiles and artistic frescoes along the corridors.
Louvre-Rivoli (line 1): close to the famous museum, this station displays reproductions of some of its works, such as the Venus de Milo and the Pharaoh statue. There are nine statues in total.
Pont Neuf (line 7): from its full name “Pont Neuf La Monnaie”, it’s easy to see why huge coins decorate the station’s enclosure. Showcases of rare coins and an old money balance add to the station’s charm.
Concorde (line 12): this station plunges you into the heart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with its text inscribed right on the walls.
Cluny la Sorbonne (line 10): a stone’s throw from the Sorbonne University, this station is decorated with mosaics by Jean Bazaine and features the signatures of famous literary figures such as Rimbaud, Sartre, and George Sand.
I aim to share my tips and recommendations for the beautiful country of France. My goal is to help you plan your next adventure, whether it’s a weekend getaway or a once-in-a-lifetime trip. From finding the best hotels and restaurants, to discovering unique activities and sights, I’ve got you covered!