Paris’ underground network is run by RATP and consists of two separate but linked systems: the metro and the Réseau Express Régional (RER) suburban train line. The metro has 14 numbered lines; the RER has five main lines (but you’ll probably only need to use A, B and C). Buses can be a scenic way to get around – and there are no stairs to climb, meaning they are more widely accessible – but they’re slower and less intuitive to figure out than the metro.
AMetro lines are identified by both their number (eg ligne 1 – line 1) and their colour, listed on official metro signs and maps.
ASigns in metro and RER stations indicate the way to the correct platform for your line. The direction signs on each platform indicate the terminus. On lines that split into several branches (such as lines 7 and 13), the terminus of each train is indicated on the cars and on signs on each platform giving the number of minutes until the next and subsequent train.
ASigns marked correspondance (transfer) show how to reach connecting trains. At stations with many intersecting lines, like Châtelet and Montparnasse Bienvenüe, walking from one platform to the next can take a very long time.
ADifferent station exits are indicated by white-on-blue sortie (exit) signs. You can get your bearings by checking the plan du quartier (neighbourhood maps) posted at exits.
AEach line has its own schedule, but trains usually start at around 5.30am, with the last train beginning its run between 12.35am and 1.15am (2.15am on Friday and Saturday).
AThe RER is faster than the metro, but the stops are much further apart. Some attractions, particularly those on the Left Bank (eg the Musée d’Orsay, Eiffel Tower and Panthéon), can be reached far more conveniently by the RER than by the metro.
AIf you’re going out to the suburbs (eg Versailles, Disneyland), ask for help on the platform – finding the right train can be confusing. Also make sure your ticket is for the correct zone.
Buses can be a scenic way to get around – and there are no stairs to climb, meaning they are more widely accessible – but they’re slower and less intuitive to figure out than the metro.
Local Buses Paris’ bus system, operated by the RATP, runs from approximately 5am to 1am Monday to Saturday; services are drastically reduced on Sunday and public holidays. Hours vary substantially depending on the line.
Night Buses The RATP runs night-bus lines known as Noctilien (www.vianavigo.com); buses depart hourly from 11.45pm to 6am. The services pass through the main gares (train stations) and cross the major axes of the city before leading out to the suburbs. Look for navy-blue N or Noctilien signs at bus stops. There are two circular lines within Paris (the N01 and N02) that link four mainline train stations – St-Lazare, Gare de l’Est, Gare de Lyon and Gare Montparnasse – as well as popular nightlife areas (Bastille, Champs-Elysées, Pigalle, St-Germain).
Noctilien services are included on your Mobilis or Paris Visite pass for the zones in which you are travelling. Otherwise you pay a certain number of standard €1.90 metro/bus tickets, depending on the length of your journey.
There are many transport hubs in Paris. In general, the city transport system is very well developed and you can get where you want without problems.
The Gare Montparnasse (Montparnasse Station), officially Paris-Montparnasse, is one of the six large Paris railway termini, and is located in the 14th and 15th arrondissements of Paris. The station serves intercity TGV trains to the west and south-west of France including Tours, Bordeaux, Rennes and Nantes, and suburban and regional services on the Transilien Paris – Montparnasse routes. There is also a metro station.
The Gare de l'Est (pronounced [ɡaʁ də lˈɛst], Station of the East), officially Paris-Est, is one of the six large SNCF termini in Paris. It is in the 10th arrondissement, not far from the Gare du Nord, facing the Boulevard de Strasbourg, part of the north-south axis of Paris created by Georges-Eugène Haussmann. It is one of the largest and the oldest railway stations in Paris, the western terminus of the Paris–Strasbourg railway and the Paris–Mulhouse railway.
Few roads don’t lead to Paris, one of the most visited destinations on earth. Practically every major airline flies through one of its three airports, and most European train and bus routes cross it. On public transport, children under four years travel free and those aged four to nine years (inclusive) pay half price; exceptions are noted.
Most international airlines fly to Aéroport de Charles de Gaulle (01 70 36 39 50; www.parisaeroport.fr), 28km northeast of central Paris. In French the airport is commonly called ‘Roissy’ after the suburb in which it is located. A high-speed train link between Charles de Gaulle and Gare de l’Est in central Paris is planned, but no track will be laid until 2019. When complete in 2024, the CDG Express will cut the current 50-minute journey to 20 minutes. Inter-terminal shuttle services are free. A fourth terminal is due to open by 2025.
CDG is served by the RER B line (€11.40, child four to nine €7.90, approximately 50 minutes, every 10 to 20 minutes), which connects with central Paris stations including Gare du Nord, Châtelet–Les Halles and St-Michel–Notre Dame. Trains run from 4.50am to 11.50pm (from Gare du Nord 4.53am to 12.15am) every six to 15 minutes.
Le Bus Direct line 2 (www.lebusdirect.com; 16-20 av de Suffren, 15e; mBir-Hakeim or RER Champ de Mars–Tour Eiffel) Links the airport with the Arc de Triomphe via the Eiffel Tower and Trocadéro; €17, one hour, every 30 minutes from 5.45am to 11pm.
Le Bus Direct line 4 (www.lebusdirect.com) Links the airport with Gare Montparnasse ( rue du Commandant René Mouchotte, 14e; 80 minutes) in southern Paris via Gare de Lyon ( www.lebusdirect.com; 20bis bd Diderot, 12e; 50 minutes) in eastern Paris; €17, every 30 minutes from 6am to 10.30pm from the airport, 5.30am to 10.30pm from Montparnasse.
Noctilien buses 140 and 143 (€8 or four metro tickets) Part of the RATP night service, Noctilien has two buses that link CDG with Gare de l’Est (MAP; rue du 8 Mai 1945, 10e) in northern Paris via nearby Gare du Nord (170 rue La Fayette, 10e): bus 140 (1am to 4am; from Gare de l’Est 1am to 3.40am), taking 80 minutes, and bus 143 (12.32am to 4.32am; from Gare de l’Est 12.55am to 5.08am), taking 55 minutes. RATP bus 350 (€6 or three metro tickets, 70 minutes, every 30 minutes from 5.30am to 11pm) Links the airport with Gare de l’Est ( www.ratp.fr; bd de Strasbourg, 10e, Gare de l’Est; €5.70, direct from driver €6). RATP bus 351 (€6 or three metro tickets, 70 minutes, every 30 minutes from 5.30am to 11pm) Links the airport with place de la Nation (2 av du Trône, 12e; mNation) in eastern Paris.
Aéroport d’Orly (ORY;01 70 36 39 50; www.parisaeroport.fr) is 19km south of central Paris, but, despite being closer than CDG, it is not as frequently used by international airlines, and public-transport options aren’t quite as straightforward. That will change by 2024, when metro line 14 will be extended to the airport. A TGV station is due to arrive here in 2025. Orly’s south and west terminals are currently being unified into one large terminal suitable for bigger planes such as A380s; completion is due in 2019.
(€13.25, children four to nine €6.60, 35 minutes, every four to 12 minutes) This line connects Orly with the St-Michel–Notre Dame, Châtelet–Les Halles and Gare du Nord stations in the city centre. In order to get from Orly to the RER station (Antony), you must first take the Orlyval automatic train. The service runs from 6am to 11.35pm. You only need one ticket to take the two trains.
Tramway T7 (€1.90, 40 minutes, every six minutes from 5.30am to 12.30am) This tramway links Orly with Villejuif–Louis Aragon metro station in southern Paris; buy tickets from the machine at the tram stop as no tickets are sold on board.
Two bus lines serve Orly:
Le Bus Direct line 1 (€12, one hour, every 20 minutes from 5.50am to 11.30pm from Orly, 4.50am to 10.30pm from the Arc de Triomphe) Runs to/from the Arc de Triomphe (one hour) via Gare Montparnasse (MAP; www.lebusdirect.com; rue du Commandant René Mouchotte, 14e; 40 minutes), La Motte-Picquet (MAP; www.lebusdirect.com; 88 av de Suffren, 15e; mLa Motte-Picquet–Grenelle) and Trocadéro.
Orlybus (€8.70, 30 minutes, every 15 to 20 minutes from 6am to 12.30am from Orly, 5.35am to midnight from Paris) Runs to/from place Denfert-Rochereau (MAP; 3 place Denfert-Rochereau, 14e; mDenfert-Rochereau) in southern Paris.
Aéroport de Beauvais (BVA; 08 92 68 20 66; www.aeroportbeauvais.com) is 75km north of Paris and is served by a few low-cost flights. Before you snap up that bargain, though, consider whether the post-arrival journey is worth it.
SHUTTLE The Beauvais navette (shuttle bus; €17, 1¼ hours) links the airport with Parking Pershing (16-24 bd Pershing, 17e; mPorte Maillot) on central Paris’ western edge; services are coordinated with flight times. See the airport website for details and tickets.
Gare d’Austerlitz (bd de l’Hôpital, 13e) is the terminus for a handful of trains from the south, including services from Orléans, Limoges and Toulouse. High-speed trains to/from Barcelona and Madrid also use Austerlitz. Current renovations will continue until 2021. Located in southeastern Paris.
Gare de l’Est (www.gares-sncf.com; place du 11 Novembre 1918, 10e) is the terminus for trains from Luxembourg, southern Germany (Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart) and points further east (including a weekly Moscow service); there are regular and TGV Est trains to areas of France east of Paris (Champagne, Alsace and Lorraine). Located in northern Paris.
Gare de Lyon (bd Diderot, 12e) is the terminus for trains from Lyon, Provence, the Côte d’Azur, the French Alps, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. Located in eastern Paris.
Gare du Nord (www.gares-sncf.com; rue de Dunkerque, 10e) is the terminus for northbound domestic trains as well as several international services. Located in northern Paris.
Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) The London–Paris line runs from St Pancras International to Gare du Nord. Voyages take 2¼ hours.
Thalys (www.thalys.com) Trains pull into Paris’ Gare du Nord from Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne.
Gare Montparnasse (av du Maine & bd de Vaugirard, 15e) is the terminus for trains from the southwest and west, including services from Brittany, the Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Spain and Portugal. Some of these services will move to Gare d’Austerlitz (by 2021, once refurbishment is complete). Located in southern Paris.
Gare St-Lazare (www.gares-sncf.com; rue Intérieure, 8e) is the terminus for trains from Normandy. Located in Clichy, northwestern Paris.