Abbesses station’s art nouveau entrance to the Paris Métro
No visit to Paris is complete without an exploration of one of the oldest, most efficient, and most elegant public transit systems in the world: the Paris Métro. This subway system is not just a way to get around the city; it has become a symbol for the City of Light, and has influenced countless other subway systems across the world. Unique art is not only displayed in metro trains in Paris, but whole stations and station entrances are part of the Paris Métro art as well.
A cast-iron Paris Métro sign. Photo by Fabio Venni.
The Paris Métro opened over 100 years ago, with stations designed by art nouveau architect Hector Guimard.
Guimard’s iconic designs, with cast iron entrances in floral and plant motifs, have given the Paris Métro its completely characteristic style.
Only two of Guimard’s original entrance designs survive: the Abbesses station on Line 12, which also features an enormous and ever-changing mural on the staircase walls, and the Porte Dauphine station on Line 2, which was inaugurated in 1900, the first year of the Métro’s opening.
However, inside the metro stations, old art is effortlessly supplemented with the new.
Paris Métro Stations and Art
The steam-punk style interior of the Arts et Métiers metro station in Paris
Over the years, the Paris Métro has become a living museum of style, history, and artwork. Take the Métro for a tour of the city, and you will get to know an underground world that often reflects landmarks and museums you can find aboveground.
The Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre Métro station entrance on Place Colette in Paris
For example, the Louvre-Rivoli station on Line 1 houses replicas of some of the most famous pieces in the Louvre Museum. This gives commuters and travelers alike the chance to feel the positive influence of artwork without having to step into a museum!
Similarly, the Arts et Métiers metro station (Lines 3 and 11) reflects the theme of the Musée des Arts et Métiers it was named for: in 1994, the whole station was redesigned in a steam punk style.
Furthermore, there are many more stations in the center of Paris with interesting designs. The walls of the platform at Concorde station on Line 12 are tiled, like many others in the Métro network. However, the tiles of this station are different: these tiles each contain a letter, and together, this wall of words spells out the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen from the French Revolution of 1789. If you’re into history, the Concorde station is a must-see.
If modern art is more your thing, check out the Place Colette entrance to the Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre station (lines 1 and 7), which offers a more modern sense of beauty. The entrance features arches covered in enormous glass beads, which makes this station very different from the typical art nouveau stations, but no less beautiful.
Explore the Paris Métro
Art in the Paris Métro: Concorde station with its lettered tiles
Many subway systems in the world have introduced art into their trains and underground stations in recent times. But the Paris Métro is different because here, art was a part of the metro from the very beginning. This means that there is over 100 years’ worth of art to be found in the Paris Métro. So on your next trips to Paris don’t focus too much on getting to different destinations in the city as fast as you can. Instead, take the time to notice your surroundings and to explore this beautiful transit system. The Métro isn’t just a quick and easy way to get around Paris; it also offers so many hidden gems along the way. To Parisians, something worth doing is worth doing with style—and any visitor to Paris can appreciate that philosophy.
You can find metro stations all around in the center of Paris, which means our vacation rentals are often close to some of the most iconic stations. These apartments can be a great starting point for your excursion of the Paris Métro and the city as well!
Where in the world is your favorite metro station?