The first line of the Paris's underground city was established in July 1900. Currently being the most comprehensive underground systems in the world, the Paris Metro has nearly 300 stations and over 130 miles of tracks, all within the 40 square miles of the Paris city limits. Daily, the metro covers over 600,000 miles, which is like going around the Earth 10 times, and transports 4 million people. It is known as the densest metro systems in the world.
Three Fun Facts about “Le Metropolitan”:
1. We may be able to thank the metro for creating the baguette.
Our walking tour guide told us we may be able to thank the invention of the beloved baguette to the rowdy metro workmen. Legend tells us that when the metro system was being built in Paris, the workmen from different regions just couldn’t seem to get along and the overseer of the project was concerned about violence in the dark, underground tunnels. At that time, everyone carried a knife to cut their bread, so the supervisor went to the bakery to request loaves that didn’t need to be cut. A loaf of bread was regulated by weight, so in order to make it thin enough to be easily torn, it ended up being long and slender. Thus the baguette was born. Today, the baguette is so cherished it has it own law. The French Bread Law states that traditional baguettes have to be made on the premises they're sold and can only be made with four ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. They can't be frozen at any stage or contain additives or preservatives, which also means they go stale within 24 hours.
2. The names and décor of the stations have significance.
Stations are named for war heroes, important battles, main streets, and people who have had a significant impact on French history. Each metro station also has a theme. For instance, at the platform of Richelieu-Drouot there is a touching war memorial carved into black marble by the sculptor Carlo Sarrabezolles which is dedicated to the metro railway agents who died in WWI. The walls of Concorde are covered in the writing of the Declaration of the Rights of Man from the French Revolution of 1789.
3. Music in the Metro is coordinated.
If you find yourself impressed by the quality of musicianship echoing through the halls, that is because starting in 1997, the Espace Metro Accords, or EMA, began holding auditions to decide which musicians would be allowed to showcase their music in the metro. Each year around 100 artists are picked and are given permission to perform for the 1.4 billion people that come through the Paris metro annually.
Fares are sold at automated kiosks and the information desk in the station foyer. Entrance to platforms is granted by automated gate, opened by tickets. Gates return tickets for passengers to retain for the duration of the journey, and it is recommended to always carry your tickets with you for your whole journey. Though there is normally no system to collect or check tickets at the end of the journey, and tickets can be inspected at any point. The exit from all stations is clearly marked as to the point beyond which possession of a ticket is no longer required. The standard ticket is ticket "t+". It is valid for a multi-transfer journey within 90 minutes from the first validation. It can be used on the Metro, buses and trams, and in zone 1 of the RER. Other RER tickets to places such as Disneyland, the Palace of Versailles and to the Charles de Gaulle and/or Orly airport are sold separately for additional cost.
There are also two types of passes you can purchase: the Paris Visite Pass or the Navigo Pass. The Paris Visite Pass is available in 1, 2, 3 and 5 day passes and can start any day of the week. The price ranges from 12€ to 65.80€ depending on the number of days and which zones you want covered. The Paris Visite Pass does have options that cover places such as the Disneyland, the Palace of Versailles and to the Charles de Gaulle and/or Orly airport. The Navigo Pass is available from 12.50€ to 22.80€ for a day pass, and 27.80€ for a week pass. It covers all zones including Disneyland, the Palace of Versailles and to the Charles de Gaulle and/or Orly airport. But note that is pass does have a downside, and was the major reason why we did not purchase this pass to our visit to Paris. The Navigo Week Pass is only valid from Monday to Sunday (with coverage ending Sunday at midnight), and is only on sale for the current week up until Thursday midnight. After Thursday midnight, all Navigo Week Pass sales (made from Friday 00:00 till Sunday 23:59) are only valid for travel for the following week starting Monday 00:01. For example, if you purchase Navigo on Friday at noon, you cannot use the Navigo Week Pass until Monday morning. Since we arrived Friday morning and were leaving Tuesday morning, the Navigo Pass did not make sense to purchase for our itinerary. We opted for single-fare tickets and purchased them in bulk from 5 to 10 rides at a time. In total, we spent less on our single ride tickets than we would have buying the 5-Day Paris Visite Pass we would have needed to enjoy our 4 days in Paris.
*For a map of Zones via the Central Paris zones, along with the RER zones, please reference the maps below.
The first travel tip would be to have a valid ticket while riding the metro. Though a single-fare ticket is valid for an entire continuous trip, including connections, be sure to keep your ticket until you leave the system at your destination. If you're caught without it or caught without a valid ticket, you can be fined an instant fine of 40€, payable in cash on the spot. We witnessed this on our trip to the Palace of Versailles. Upon exiting our train, a group of officers were waiting to validate tickets, and some unlucky foreign exchange students from London were fined for having invalid tickets.
The second travel tip would be to watch out for pickpockets. Although this should be a standard practice whenever you travel, the Paris metro can get very busy, leaving you little room for personal space. And while Paris has a lower incidence of violent crime than most major cities, it is wise to keep your wits about you and guard against pick-pockets. Pickpockets can be creative and sometimes work in pairs: One will stop suddenly at the top of an escalator exit, as though they dropped something; while you try to avoid running over him, you're jostled from the rear by the second one, who lifts your wallet. It is recommended that gentlemen carry their wallets in their jacket's inner pocket, rather than in a rear pants pocket. Likewise, ladies should hold their purses in hand, instead of slung from their shoulders. Thieves commonly cut the strap of a dangling purse with a utility knife. We did not witness or experience pickpocketing in Paris, but it's awlays better to be safe than sorry.
*All pricing and information above is from 10/1/19 and is subject to change.
*For Paris City Center Metro Lines and Zones: https://parisbytrain.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/paris_train_zones_map_2016.pdf
*For RER Lines and Zones: https://parisbytrain.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/rer.pdf