Guide of Paris Metro system, France

The Paris Metro system is the best way to get around Paris, with 16 metro lines and more than 300 metro stops that can take you anywhere in Paris in the most convenient way. Having become one of the symbols of Paris, it is characterized by the density of its network in the heart of the city and by its homogeneous architectural style influenced by Art Nouveau. The subway system directly connects train stations and airports, allowing travelers to arrive any corner in Paris without transfer to other traffic systems.

The Paris Metro is one of the public transport systems serving the city of Paris and its metropolitan area, offers a wealth of great choices for getting around the city. Paris Metro has sixteen mainly underground lines, totaling 226.9 kilometers and 308 stations, a extensive systems so that from almost anywhere in Paris it’s only a short walk to the nearest Metro station. Not only does the Paris subway system effectively take passengers to attractions in various districts, many subway stations themselves are scenic lines that combine different artistic and architectural styles.

The first line opened without ceremony on 19 July 1900, during the World’s Fair (Exposition Universelle). The system expanded quickly until World War I and the core was complete by the 1920s; extensions into suburbs were built in the 1930s. The network reached saturation after World War II with new trains to allow higher traffic, but further improvements have been limited by the design of the network and in particular the short distances between stations.

It is mostly underground and 226.9 kilometres (141.0 mi) long. It has 308 stations, of which 64 have transfers between lines. There are 16 lines (with an additional four under construction), numbered 1 to 14, with two lines, 3bis and 7bis, named because they started out as branches of Line 3 and Line 7 respectively. Line 1, Line 4 and Line 14 are automated. Lines are identified on maps by number and colour, with the direction of travel indicated by the terminus.

It is the second busiest metro system in Europe, after the Moscow Metro, as well as the tenth busiest in the world. It carried 1.520 billion passengers in 2015, 4.16 million passengers a day, which amounts to 20% of the overall traffic in Paris. It is one of the densest metro systems in the world, with 244 stations within the 105.4 km2 (41 sq mi) of the City of Paris. Châtelet–Les Halles, with five Métro and three RER lines, is one of the world’s largest metro stations.

The Metro is designed to provide local, point-to-point service in Paris proper and service into the city from some close suburbs. Stations within Paris are very close together to form a grid structure, ensuring that every point in the city is close to a metro station (less than 500 metres or 1,640 feet), but this makes the service slow 20 km/h (12 mph), except on Line 14 where the stations are farther apart and the trains travel faster.

Besides the Métro, central Paris and its urban area are served by five RER lines (developed from the 1960s), ten tramway lines (developed from the 1990s) with an additional four under construction, eight Transilien suburban trains, as well as three VAL lines at Charles de Gaulle Airport and Orly Airport. In the late 1990s, Line 14 was put into service to relieve RER A; it reaches Mairie de Saint-Ouen in 2020 constitutes the network’s most recent extension.

A large expansion programme is currently under construction with four new orbital Métro lines (15, 16, 17 and 18) around the Île-de-France region, outside Paris city limits. Other extensions are currently under construction on Line 11, Line 12, and Line 14. Further plans exist for Line 1 and Line 10, as does a merger of Line 3bis and Line 7bis.

The Paris Métro runs mostly underground; surface sections include sections on viaducts in Paris (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). Line 1 follows the straight course of the Champs-Elysées and on other lines, some stations (Liège, Commerce) have platforms that do not align: the street above is too narrow to fit both platforms opposite each other.

From the original plain white tilework and Art Nouveau entrances, the architecture of Paris Métro stations has evolved with successive waves of building and renovation. At the beginning of the 20th century, entrances to stations were equipped with aedicules designed by Hector Guimard; the dimly lit interior was covered in beveled white tiles. Since that time, the layout of stations has evolved according to the fashion of the time and the modernizations of the network. After several different types of decoration, replacing the original tiling considered to be out of fashion, metal bodywork from the 1960s, then orange tiling from the 1970s, the metro is back in the 21st century with its modernized characteristic original style.

Signage to identify metro stations is very important: it must be visible and recognizable from afar. The access stairs to the network on the public highway generally include an entourage, surmounted by a characteristic candelabra. The surroundings most often present a map of the network to facilitate the orientation of travellers. The stations of the Paris metro are indicated using different generations of surrounds, totems and aedicules, the style and appearance of which have evolved according to fashion and the evolution of the network.

The original Art Nouveau entrances are iconic symbols of Paris. There are currently 83 of them. 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. Two original canopies still exist, at Porte Dauphine and Abbesses (originally located at Hôtel de Ville until moved in the 1970s). A replica of the canopy at Abbesses was installed at Châtelet station at the intersection of Rue des Halles and Rue Sainte-Opportune. 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.

Classical stone balustrades were chosen for some early stations in prestigious locations (Franklin D. Roosevelt, République). Simpler metal balustrades accompany a “Métro” sign crowned by a spherical lamp in other early stations (Saint-Placide). Minimalist stainless-steel balustrades (Havre-Caumartin) appeared from the 1970s and signposts with just an “M” have been the norm since the war (Olympiades, opened 2007). A handful of entrances have original architecture (Saint-Lazare); a number are integrated into residential or standalone buildings (Pelleport).

Paris Metro entrances are designed firstly to be visible and recognisable. They feature at least a column and a network map. Decorative styles have changed over the years. The art nouveau architect Hector Guimard, designed two types of entrances to metro stations, with and without glass roofs. Built in cast iron, they make heavy reference to the symbolism of plants and are now considered classic examples of French art nouveau architecture. 141 entrances were constructed between 1900 and 1912, of which 86 still exist.

The roofed variety, known as an édicule (kiosk), features a fan-shaped glass awning. Many examples also featured an enclosure of opaque panelling decorated in floral motifs (those at Gare de Lyon, now destroyed, and at Hôtel de Ville, now located at Abbesses, did not have panelling). The most imposing of these were built at Étoile and Bastille, on opposite sections of the inaugural line 1. Both of these were torn down in the 1960s. Today only two édicules survive, at Porte Dauphine and Abbesses (the latter having been moved from Hôtel de Ville in 1974). A third, replica édicule was erected at Châtelet in 2000.

The simpler open type of entrance, known as an entourage (enclosure), is framed by a “Métropolitain” sign held between two ornate, sinuously curved lampposts. These are designed strikingly in the form of plant stems, in which the orange lamp is enclosed by a leaf (resembling a brin de muguet, or sprig of lily of the valley). 

From 1904, the CMP employed the architect Joseph Cassien-Bernard to design a number of new station entrances in austere neo-classical stonework.  These can be found near certain important monuments, including the Opéra, the Madeleine and on the Champs-Elysées. After the end of the Belle Époque, new entrances were entrusted to various architects. These typically feature cast-iron balustrades in an elegant but sober style. Many of the entrances that were built by the Nord-Sud company on the present-day lines 12 and 13 retain elegant art nouveau style motifs on the tiling surrounding the walls of the stairwell.

Signposts of Metro, also known as masts or totems, distinctive Métro signposts were a 1920s innovation of the Nord-Sud company. In the early years, two styles arrived in succession. The Val d’Osne variant (named after an iron foundry, and visible at Saint Paul) consists of a globe-shaped lamp atop a “MÉTRO” sign surrounded by an ornate cast-iron frieze. The simpler Dervaux lampposts (named after their architect) became common in the 1930s, following the contemporary trend away from decorative embellishment.

After World War II, new Métro totems lost their lamps and became progressively more simple. The 1950s style features the familiar “MÉTRO” against a blue ring and a large red “M”. In the 1960s, the blue ring was replaced by two stainless steel rings. Subsequent masts have kept these rings, now framing a simple interior-lit yellow “M”.

Masts built since 1998 on line 14 are almost entirely novel, featuring a minimalist two-dimensional design but containing a hint of the original Guimard style in their plant-like verticals.

Ticket halls and corridors
At the entrance to the stations, there is generally at least one counter manned by an RATP employee as well as machines for buying tickets or coupons. Access to the “controlled zone” is via a turnstile which is released if a ticket or a magnetic coupon is introduced or if a Navigo pass is brought close to an ad hoc reader.

Ticket halls are typically found directly beneath the street. In the early years they contained little more than a kiosk for buying tickets, amid spartan decoration. From the 1930s, network maps appeared, including the popular plan indicateur lumineux d’itinéraires, a version with lights to indicate the fastest route to a given destination. From 1946 local street plans were installed, and later food dispensers and telephones. In the 1970s, shops appeared in certain stations where space permitted (for instance, Franklin D Roosevelt).

The connecting corridors between the lines almost always require going up and down stairs: there are however some connections between platforms (Jussieu, Louis Blanc, etc.). The connecting corridors can be very long (Montparnasse – Bienvenüe, Saint-Lazare, Châtelet). Some stations are equipped with conveyor belts to reduce connection times (Montparnasse – Bienvenüe, Châtelet, Invalides).

Escalators made their appearance at Père-Lachaise in 1909, and numbered around 15 by 1930. There are 203 stations equipped with escalators but only 30 stations inJanuary 2021, including all those on line 14, have been made fully accessible to people with reduced mobility by creating lifts between the street, the ticket hall and the platforms.

The stations are basically laid out according to a standard structure. This includes access to the public road leading to a distribution room, connected to the platforms by corridors and stairs. The stations of the Paris metro are characterized by a unified style resulting from aesthetic choices defined in 1900, at its design, and whose spirit has generally been respected in modern achievements and the latest renovations carried out.

The walls and the vault of the stations are covered with small white earthenware tiles which was chosen because it made it possible to deal with the inefficient lighting techniques of the beginning of the 20th century. The walls of the stations were from the outset used as an advertising medium. The posters were framed with colored tiles topped with the operator’s logo (CMP or Nord Sud). The name of the station is written in white on a blue enamel sheet except for the North South line which used white tiles on a background of blue tiles.

The initial decoration choices were not questioned until the end of World War II. After the war, the generalization of neon lighting then highlighted the deterioration of the tiling of the vaults; to break with the uniformity of the white tiles and better highlight the advertising posters, the RATP installed between 1948 and 1967 a standardized and colored bodywork in certain stations: 73 of them received this decoration. This camber has since been replaced by a more recent decoration in half of the stations.

Cambering went out of fashion at the end of the 1960s; around twenty stations have been given a new decoration: the white tiles along the platforms have been replaced to a height of 2 m by non-bevelled 2-tone colored tiles: this is the “Mouton” style (Mouton-Duvernet station). This decoration which darkens the station is not generalized.

From 1975, the RATP chose to highlight the white earthenware tiles by playing on the lighting and the touches of color provided by the boxes containing the lighting and by the furniture. Several styles follow one another: the “Motte” style (parallelepiped lighting box) “Ouï Dire” with its audaciously shaped aluminum boxes, wave neon lights, and finally new neon lights.

Some so-called “cultural” stations have received particularly neat and original thematic decoration. The first to be fitted out was Louvre – Rivoli (line 1), with copies of masterpieces from the Louvre museum which it serves, exhibited in well-lit niches. Many more followed, with the most significant achievements being at Bastille, Hôtel de Ville and Tuileries (line 1), Parmentier (line 3), Pont-Neuf (line 7), Cluny – La Sorbonne (line 10) or Arts et Métiers (line 11).

Distribution rooms
When entering a metro station, travelers generally access the distribution room first. It bears this name because of the presence of the ticket sales counter, but also for its role of distributing travelers in the station to the various accesses to the platforms. Originally, the room was basic, only equipped with a ticket office placed in one of the walls. From the 1930s, it became more welcoming, with the presence of network plans, then luminous route indicator plans or PILI. Since 1946, maps of the area served have made it possible to locate the various accesses to the station on the road.

Gradually, various facilities complete the offer to travelers, with distributors of sweets, sometimes hot and cold drinks, and telephone booths. Finally, from 1970, shops appeared when there was enough space. In some cases, rooms that have become too cramped with the increase in traffic are enlarged. This is the case in Saint-Lazare,Montparnasse – Bienvenüe or Franklin D. Roosevelt with, for the latter, the construction of a mezzanine.

Plans luminous route indicators
The illuminated route indicator maps, abbreviated by the acronym PILI, are metro maps displayed in certain stations, which have the particularity of allowing travelers to draw routes from the station where they are, using a keyboard equipped with a button for each destination: the device then lights up a series of small bulbs on the map, one for each station crossed, in order to indicate the fastest route to follow. The PILI appeared in 1937 and was part of the plan to improve public reception initiated by the CMP during the 1930s.

The interactive light plan or PLI succeeded the PILI in the 1990s. It uses the multimedia resources of the CD-i, which, unlike its predecessor, allows it to be updated in the event of extension or modification of the network. Consisting of a touch screen for entering information by users, and light- emitting diodes on a paper map for displaying routes, it was installed in twenty stations in 1996.

In 2000, the PILIs inspired a work by visual artist Philippe Favier, based on texts by the poet Jacques Roubaud, in line with the tradition of the Ouvroir de Littérature Potential; titled PILI, it was installed in the Pyramides station on the occasion of the centenary of the Paris metro.

Since 2014 and a first installation at Charles-de-Gaulle – Étoile station (sinceFebruary 2016for the first metro station at Gare de Lyon on line 1), a few dozen so-called “Zenway” interactive maps designed by Ixxi, a subsidiary of RATP, are deployed; they are the heirs of the PILI. Usable in seven languages, they allow you to find a route by public transport, from a station to a metro station, tramway, RER station or a tourist site in Île-de-France, as well as to find information on the district.

Automatic gates
From the 1920s, to prevent travelers from accessing the platform when a train arrived, automatic gates were installed, the first at Jaurès station on line 2. The gates are controlled by the trains themselves, using pedals placed on the tracks. However, they can also be commanded by station leaders. Since the 1960s, they are no longer considered essential to the regulation of passenger flows and are therefore gradually being phased out.

A few remained within the metro enclosure such as, until 2011, at the Porte d’Orléans station. In 2018, there are still some, not used, at the Porte de Saint-Cloud station as well as at the Denfert-Rochereau station (line B of the RER), therefore outside the metro, on the platform in the direction of Saint -Remy-lès-Chevreuse.

Train halls
Paris metro stations can be built either underground, which is the case for the vast majority of them, or on the surface or on a viaduct. Underground stations are usually vaulted and have two platforms flanking two tracks. Some have their tracks separated by central abutments intended to reinforce the vault in unstable ground; this is the case under the Grands Boulevards (lines 8 and 9) at Saint-Georges (line 12) or at Buttes-Chaumont and Botzaris, on line 7 bis.

Flat-roofed train halls are of two common types. Elevated stations are the signature feature of lines 2 and 6. They are supported by iron columns, of which the exterior masonry features decorative motifs – of the Paris municipality and various wreaths and cornucopia. Stations on line 2 are covered by platform awnings, while those on line 6 have full glass roofs and opaque brick walls decorated on the outside with geometric motifs.

Concourses are decorated in Art Nouveau style defined at the Métro’s opening in 1900. The spirit of this aesthetic has generally been respected in renovations. Standard vaulted stations are lined by small white earthenware tiles, chosen because of the poor efficiency of early twentieth 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 operator (CMP or Nord Sud). Stations of the former Nord Sud (most of line 12 and parts of line 13) generally have more meticulous decoration. Station names are usually inscribed on metallic plaques in white letters on a blue background or in white tiles on a background of blue tiles.

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. From the end of the 1960s a new style was rolled out in around 20 stations, known as Mouton-Duvernet after the first station concerned. The 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 removed as part of the “Renouveau du métro” programme.

From 1975 some stations were redecorated in the Motte style, which emphasised the 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 multicoloured uplighting.A number of stations have original decorations to reflect the cultural significance of their locations. The first to receive this treatment was Louvre – Rivoli on line 1, which contains copies of the masterpieces on display at the museum. Other notable examples include Bastille (line 1), Saint-Germain-des-Prés (line 4), Cluny – La Sorbonne (line 10) and Arts et Métiers (line 11).

Various decoration styles
The layout and decoration of the stations have evolved significantly over time, depending on the fashion of the time and various attempts at improvement. Large-scale renovation of network stations since 1999is carried out under the name of the “Renouveau du métro” program. At the same time, the opening in 1998 of fully automatic line 14 brought the metro into a new era, with modern stations of vast dimensions and a new aesthetic.

Original CMP style (1900–1914)
The original decoration of the Métro’s underground train halls was austere. Stations featured plain white tiles, enamel plaques for the station name, a few wooden benches and the station manager’s kiosk in the middle of the platform. Within a few years advertising billboards and confectionery machines appeared. The now-famous beveled white tiles (of Gien earthenware) were chosen for their effective reflection of ambient light. Early-20th-century electric lighting had a strength of only 5 lux, making it impossible to read a book. Today’s fluorescent lighting can reach 200 lux.

Nord-Sud style (1910–1930)
To attract travelers, the Nord-Sud Company, which built what is now line 12 (line A, Porte de Versailles to Porte de la Chapelle) and part of the northern section of what is now line 13 (line B, Saint-Lazare to Porte de Clichy and Porte de Saint-Ouen) chose a more elaborate decorative scheme for the interior of its stations than that of the CMP. Most of the tile was the familiar white beveled type, but the white tile was complemented by arches of colored tile over the vault and garland-like swags on the walls. This complementary tiling was color-coordinated: brown for normal stations, green for terminal and transfer stations, and pale blue for the station Madeleine (the reason for this station’s particular color scheme has never been fully explained). These colors matched the colors of the tile borders on the station’s poster frames, nameplates and corridors.

The most impressive feature of the Nord-Sud stations were the station names themselves, executed in large tile mosaics with white letters on a blue background. Blue and white tiling above the two tunnel entrances also indicated the destination of the trains (for example, “Dir. Montparnasse / Dir. Montmartre” on line 12).

Today, only a few stations – Solférino, Liège, Porte de Versailles, Porte de la Chapelle, Porte de Clichy, and Pasteur – retain much of their original Nord-Sud tiling, with Solférino the most intact example. There are a number of stations on line 12, including Falguière, Marx Dormoy, and Convention, whose Nord-Sud tiling is intact but has been covered over and hidden from view since renovation in carrossage style in the 1960s. As the RATP renovates these stations, it has generally removed the original tilework and installed replicas. Many stations, including Sèvres-Babylone, Notre-Dame-des-Champs, and Lamarck – Caulaincourt have undergone renovations to restore the Nord-Sud decoration damaged or destroyed in earlier renovations.

CMP interwar style (1920s–1950s)
Between the 1920s and early 1950s, the CMP responded to the aesthetic challenge of the Nord-Sud stations by introducing a more elegant décor in newly constructed stations. Experiments were made with both tiled and enameled nameplates on line 8 stations between Porte d’Auteuil and Opéra, and in the newly constructed (in 1916) line 7 stations Pyramides and Palais-Royal. The CMP rolled out its final chosen design in 1921 in three newly built line 3 (now 3bis) stations from Gambetta to Porte des Lilas. Primarily, the CMP borrowed the Nord-Sud’s idea of station names executed in blue and white earthenware tiles. The CMP also tiled its poster frames with more elaborately decorated borders of honey or ochre-colored faience, featuring floral and organic motifs. Art-deco-inspired geometric variants of this tiling were introduced later, including at Charenton – Écoles (opened 1942).

Carrossage (metal paneling) (1952–1968)
Starting in 1952, a series of pilot renovations were carried out. These consisted of renovating stations by applying sheaths of metal paneling (known as carrossage) along the sides of the stations, hiding the aging tilework. This proved to be cheaper than refurbishing the tile and increased the amount of space available for advertising posters whose revenues contributed to financing the renovation. Public reception was favourable, and so the programme was extended to many other stations, with the prototype at République becoming the standard after some further slight modifications.

The standard style eventually adopted throughout the network featured light yellow paneling with forest green accents, complemented by brown and yellow enamel station nameplates. Between 1960 and 1968 approximately 70 stations were paneled in this style. But paneling had serious drawbacks that quickly became apparent. It used space on the platforms, making stations feel more cramped, and it rendered maintenance of the underlying tilework difficult.  In the 1980s and 1990s, the RATP refreshed the carrossages by painting them white with trim in an array of bright colors (red, yellow, yellow ochre, green, and blue), in an effort to relieve the monotony of so many identical stations. The paneling is currently being removed as part of the Renouveau du Métro programme. As of 2009, a few carrossage stations remain on lines 3, 4 and 12, and all are scheduled for replacement in the next few years.

Mouton-Duvernet style (1968–1973)
Tiling made its return in the late 1960s, with the renovation style known as Mouton-Duvernet. The style’s signature was the warm and dynamic colour orange, in variegated shades. Flat (non-bevelled) orange tiles covered the station walls but not the roof, which was simply painted in a neutral (and often dark) tone. The fluorescent-light housing, placed over the train tracks, was rectilinear and coloured in matching orange.

Around 20 stations were renovated in this way between 1968 and 1973, including Étoile, Oberkampf, Raspail and Commerce. The Mouton-Duvernet aesthetic was intended to lend warmth and colour to hitherto plain station interiors. It was also self-consciously modern, a product of its iconoclastic era. However, the orange tones were quickly perceived as garish and aggressive, and the overall aesthetic as rather gloomy because the vault remained in shadow and the orange tiles did not reflect light as well as the white. The style is being withdrawn in the context of the Renouveau du Métro programme.

Andreu-Motte style (1974–1986)
The Andreu-Motte style, named after designers Joseph-André Motte and Paul Andreu, prevailed in station renovations between 1974 and 1984 and affected around 100 stations. It represented a compromise between colourful innovation and the classic white aesthetic of the Métro.

Where the existing beveled tile was in good repair, the Andreu-Motte style was applied over the original tile, but in stations where more extensive tile replacement was called for, the beveled tiling was replaced by flat white rectangular tiles. To introduce color into the stations, a coordinated colour scheme was added to elements of the train hall – the seating, light housings, and walls of connecting corridors. Five main colour schemes were used: yellow, red, green, blue and orange. An aim was to facilitate subliminal recognition of stations by passengers, since particular stations took on colour identities – for example, Ledru-Rollin is blue and Voltaire yellow.

The other innovation was a tiled ledge along the base of the station wall, in the station’s signature colour. On this were placed individual seats in a sculpted single-piece style which has since become closely associated with the Métro. These seats, also called Motte seats, were ultimately introduced throughout the métro network, even in stations not renovated in the Motte style.

Ouï-dire style (1986–1988)
The most recent genuinely original style used in renovations of early Métro stations is known as Ouï-dire (“Hearsay”), after the design firm responsible for the design. Beginning with Stalingrad (line 7) in 1988, around 30 stations were decorated in this style. Ouï-dire’s main component was a new light housing, cradled by distinctive scythe-shaped supports. Its hidden upper side projected light through colored filters directly onto the ceiling of the vault, illuminating it in a rainbow of multiple colors.

The style initially featured distinctive seating complemented by high, “sit-lean” benches, but these fixtures proved difficult and costly to maintain and in many cases were replaced by standard Motte-style seating in the 1990s. The tiling in almost all of the Ouï-dire stations was replaced by the flat white Motte rectangular tiles. As with the Motte renovations, three distinct color schemes (red, yellow and green) were put into place, with each station’s chairs, light fixtures, and poster frames built in matching colors, but the effect was more subtle than the use of color in the Motte stations.

In the 1990s, over years of exposure to the ultraviolet fluorescent light, the colored refractory panels progressively lost their color, and the RATP judged it too expensive to regularly replace the panels to maintain the colored light directed onto the vaults. With the RATP’s commitment in the 2010s to progressively install energy-saving light-emitting diodes LEDs throughout the metro network, it has now become possible to restore color to the 27 Ouï-dire stations. Colored LEDs imitating the original design began to be installed in Ouï-dire stations in 2014.

Météor style (1998–present)
A case apart, the new line 14 (originally known as Météor, or Métro Est-Ouest Rapide) represented a blank slate for station decoration. Following the logic of the stations’ capacious volumes, the RATP opted for minimalism, with an emphasis on space, light and modernity. Specifically, the stations should represent “a noble public space, monumental in spirit, urbane in its choice of shapes and materials.” In practical terms, this meant a diversity of materials. Walls are panelled in steel, stone and frosted glass, while platform floors are marbelled. Elsewhere, the dominant surface is polished bare concrete.

The first seven stations of the line were designed by Jean-Pierre Vaysse, Bernard Kohn, Antoine Grumbach and Pierre Schall. The decoration of Mairie de Montrouge station, opened in 2013 on line 4, includes elements of the Météor style alongside entirely new features such as corrugated metal panelling.

Bruno-Gaudin style (1996–present)
In 1996 Saint-Augustin on line 9 was chosen as the trial station for a new renovation style. Its original feature is a new light housing (known as the Bruno-Gaudin light fixture) with a wide wave-shaped reflecting surface which is attached to and follows the curve of the vault, hides the bare fluorescent bulbs seen throughout the metro after World War II, and also hides cables efficiently. The style, which focuses on maximizing the amount of light in the stations and hiding unsightly fixtures, also returns to the classic beveled white tile, which reflects light better than all other types that have been used on the system.

For this reason, Bruno-Gaudin can be seen to represent a return to the design charter of the original Métro of 1900, and represents a kind of “neo-CMP” aesthetic. The style has also seen the introduction of a new type of seating: a curved, rounded, individual seat called the coque, or shell model, after its distinctive shape.

This extremely successful style has been used by the RATP in all of the major station renovations undertaken since 1999 as part of the Renouveau du Métro program. The style also lends itself to both minor and major renovation schemes. In stations that have the beveled tile already, renovation in Bruno-Gaudin style is fairly straightforward; other stations have been entirely retiled in the classic white tile to bring them into conformity with this style.

In some stations, the Bruno-Gaudin wave light fixture cannot be used due to the particularities of the vault or, in the case of stations with Nord-Sud decor, because it would obscure particular decorative features. For these cases, the RATP has developed a secondary type of lighting fixture consisting of a long, compact tube of extremely luminescent fluorescent light that is suspended from the ceiling of the vault, over the train tracks, rather than being attached to the walls of the vault itself. This light fixture has the benefit of being equally bright as the Gaudin model, but is very discreet, and allows the RATP to work around the particularities of many stations.

Renewal of the metro
Today the renovation of stations operates according to a double objective of clarity and cleanliness. This large-scale renovation program is known as “Un métro + beau”. The luminosity is increased by the use of lamps, generally white, whose power makes it possible to cover a maximum surface and by a refreshment of the white paint which diffuses the light better. The structure is clarified by embedding the many networks (water, electricity, compressed air) which previously ran along the corridors at the top of the vault. The repair of the tiles is carried out with the laying of drains at regular intervals in the wall, to minimize infiltration or at least channel it. Finally, the advertising panels are rearranged.

Cultural stations
Under the impetus of André Malraux, then Minister of Culture, a first station, Louvre, which has since become Louvre – Rivoli (line 1), was fitted out in 1968 with a decor imitating stone, statues, shop windows, so to constitute a gateway to the Louvre Museum. The operation was a great success and caused a sharp increase in attendance at the resort.

The development of several dozen stations followed. Among the main ones: Concorde (line 12) presents the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen on its tiles, Pont-Neuf (line 7) presents the Monnaie de Paris, Varenne (line 13) has casts of statues introducing the Rodin museum, Parmentier (line 3) explains the history of the potato, Arts et Métiers (line 11) highlights the eponymous museum with a copper decoration evoking the interior of a submarine, National Assembly(line 12) the silhouettes of the deputies and Chaussée d’Antin – La Fayette the theme of America. For their part, Hôtel de Ville (line 1) evokes the history of the place of strike and the common house, Cluny – La Sorbonne (line 10) the writers of the Latin quarter, Basilique de Saint-Denis evokes the said basilica and Bastille the French Revolution.

In 2000, to celebrate the metro’s first centenary, eight stations were redecorated, each with a specific theme. Bonne-Nouvelle evokes cinema, Carrefour Pleyel (line 13) music, Europe (line 3) European construction, Montparnasse – Bienvenüe the technical history and the personnel of the “They make the metro” network, Pasteur health, Saint- Germain-des-Prés (line 4) literary creation, Tuileries (line 1) the history of the metro and heritage through the century and Villejuif – Léo Lagrange (line 7) the theme of sport.

Underground Paris Tourism
There is an alternative underground walking tour and discover a new side of the Paris subway system. Discover the secrets of the Paris metro on a unique subway tour while supporting cultural exchange and heritage preservation..Retrace a century of Paris history and culture and see how the metro has changed over time..Visit some of the most beautiful subway stations in Paris and learn how they were built.

Explore the originality and rich history of the Paris metro, from the decoration to the frescoes to the choice of layout. See how the Paris metro compares to the subway of other cities. At Abbessess and arrive at Palais-Royal, passing by Liège, Saint-Lazare, and les Champs Elysées to discover a century of progress. Share historical anecdotes and funny stories you won’t hear anywhere else as they make parallels between Paris of the past and the city today.