One of the beautiful things about Paris for the visitor is that you don’t need to rent a car to get around easily. Paris is a very walkable city, and its metro system is extensive and useful for getting from one part of the city to another. During my time in Paris, I used the metro every day. At first, I found it a bit mind-boggling. I’m used to Montreal’s metro, which only has a few lines, making it easy to navigate. Paris has 16 metro lines, so it’s a bit more complex. It took me two days to figure out the metro map so I could start plotting my own routes instead of asking for help from hotel staff.
The line I found myself using the most was Metro Line 8. All three of my hotels were located along the line, and so were many of the sites and attractions I wanted to see, as well as dining options and transfer hubs. Metro line 8 runs from Balard station to Creteil-Prefecture station. It connects the town of Creteil to Paris neighborhoods and tourist attractions, criss-crossing the Seine and running through several arrondissements. The stops I used most, and which might be of most interest to other visitors to Paris, were:
Porte Doree – This was the last station I used going in the direction of Creteil-Prefecture, because one of my hotels (Hotel de la Porte Doree) was located on this block. It’s very much a locals neighborhood. I highly recommend the Hotel de la Porte Doree as a place to stay during your trip to Paris. (I will be reviewing it separately later.) There is an aquarium just down the street, though I didn’t visit it myself.
Bastille – This stop is located at the former site of the Bastille prison in Paris (which no longer exists). It was a convenient hub from which to transfer to other lines, such as the 1 to the Louvre. It’s a lively neighborhood at night, ideal for people-watching, and has a great variety of dining options (and bars) at various price ranges–from a crepe stand to fast food restaurants to ethnic eateries to cafes, bistros and restaurants. No matter what your price range and food preferences are, you’re sure to find something here. I also liked the diversity of ages represented in this neighborhood, especially at restaurants. The Opera Bastille is located here (not to be confused with the historic Opera Garnier). I had the best meal of my trip here at a cafe called Cafe DesPhares.
Republique – This metro station is beneath Place de la Republique, which is ringed with brasseries and cafes and was near my first hotel, Hotel L’Annexe. It is also a handy place to transfer to other lines on the metro, including the 11 line which takes you to Hotel deVille and Chatelet near Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter.
Opera – This is the metro station to exit if you want to see the Opera Garnier, the historic Paris opera house (Academie Nationale de Musique). And believe me, you do want to see the Opera House. The architecture of this building is impressive, to say the least, and the neighborhood isn’t so shabby, either. The Ritz Hotel is here, as are several very high-end fashion stores. While you’re in the neighborhood, walk around the corner and take a look at Place Vendome. In the square, you will see a towering column with a statue of Napoleon at the top.
Madeleine – At Madeleine, you can transfer to the 12 line, which will take you to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur.
Concorde – Concorde is beneath Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris. This is where many Parisians (including Queen Marie Antoinette, King Louis XVI, and Maximilien Robespierre, among others) lost their heads (literally and figuratively) at the guillotine during the French Revolution. Today, it’s a lovely square with beautiful fountains and monuments, and a sight-seeing ferris wheel from which you can get terrific aerial views of Paris for 10 Euros. It is also at the foot of the Champs Elysees. At the other end is the Arc de Triomphe. If you’re in good shape, the distance to the Arc is easily walkable. Along the way are many stores and restaurants. On the other side of the Place de la Concorde are the Tuileries Gardens, which lead to the Louvre, and the Musee de l’Orangerie. In the square, you will find a large Egyptian obelisk from the Luxor Temple which was a gift from Egypt to France.
Invalides – You can transfer at this stop to the RER C line, which will take you to the Palace of Versailles. Nearby attractions to the stop are Les Invalides, a military museum where you can see Napoleon’s tomb (and learn more about France’s wars). The Rodin Museum is also quite close by (across a street from Les Invalides).
La Tour-Maubourg – This stop is located right next to Les Invalides as well.
Ecole Militaire – This was the stop I used for my last hotel, Hotel Le Tourville. It is very close to the foot of the Champs de Mars, the walk to the Eiffel Tower. There were several cafes on this corner, including La Terrasse, where I had dinner my last three nights in Paris. (They speak English very well and have tasty desserts.) Naturally, it’s a very touristy neighborhood. But if you’re looking for a cheap bite to eat, wander down Avenue de Tourville, where you’ll find a small pizza shop. There, you can get a large slice of pizza for 3 Euros, either to go or to eat at one of the handful of tables they have.
It’s amazing how much of Paris you can see and experience from one metro line, isn’t it? My advice to you if you’re traveling to Paris is learn the 8 line. It will get you almost everywhere you want to go, one way or another.