The Chronicles of Wanderlust.

Two globetrotters discovering the world – one adventure at a time.

Ranking 5 of Europe’s Best Metro Systems.

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chroniclesofwanderlust-europetransittickets

Some of our metro ticket stubs from Europe. Clockwise: Brussels, Paris (two types), Sweden (two types), London (four types), and Berlin.

Maze Hill, Troon, Grands Boulevards, Hufelandstraße, and Telefonplan. These terms probably mean absolutely nothing to you, but when we were in Europe, they meant home.

Whether you consider yourself a traveler or a tourist, it is always important to familiarize yourself with a city’s metro. A better understanding of these systems would ultimately save you time and avoid confusion or squabbles. In many major metropolitan areas, a sophisticated public transit system is already in place. Taking the metro to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ is both efficient and inexpensive (dependent on how often you use it, of course).

We relied heavily on the metro systems of London, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, and, to a lesser extent, Brussels when we visited Europe. There was always a station conveniently located near our residences and at our desired destination(s). At the end of the day, we even began feeling like locals because we had our routes and station names practically memorized!

If you’re planning a visit to any of the aforementioned cities, here are some interesting facts and helpful tips to know before you travel:

5. Brussels Metro (Brussels, Belgium)

Brussels Metro (Image: Wikipedia).

Brussels Metro (Image: Wikipedia).

Don’t let the plain, white ticket stub fool you. The Brussels rapid transit system is anything but boring. Officially opened in 1967 and with seven lines that meander under and around Brussels, its metro is the quickest way to make your way about town. There are four lines dedicated to its subway, and three convertible open-air tram lines. When boarding this metro at a less frequented station, it might be a challenge to learn the map. The one we found on the wall at Troon was strictly in Dutch and French; however, once you get the hang of this system, it should be a breeze! To simplify things, all metro lines are numbered rather than named which makes memorization theoretically easier.

Click to view a map of the Brussels Metro.

4. Berlin U-Bahn & S-Bahn (Berlin, Germany)

800px-U-Bahn_Berlin_Gleisdreieck

Berlin U-Bahn & S-Bahn (Image: Wikipedia).

The U-Bahn and S-Bahn (in service since 1902 and 1924 respectively) are two separately owned metros that operate in Berlin but share a unified fare system. What’s convenient about these metros are that they operate on an honour system, meaning there are no turnstiles or ticket takers. Passengers may purchase tickets from a touchscreen machine and manually validate them using the ticket punch located nearby. Costs of tickets are in Euros and vary by zone. Access to the light rail is located at the larger transport hubs such as Alexanderplatz. It is interesting to note that following the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, travel restrictions were imposed by the East Berlin government that prevented West Berlin lines to stop at East Berlin stations. One exception was Friedrichstraße (now a major shopping street and Checkpoint Charlie) which remained open and used as a transfer point to a West Berlin S-Bahn line and border crossing into East Berlin.

Click to view a map of the U-Bahn & S-Bahn.

3. London Underground (London, England)

London Underground. (Image: Wikipedia)

London Underground (Image: Wikipedia).

Nicknamed “the Tube”, the London Underground is among the world’s busiest and oldest metro systems (operating since 1863). What makes the tube so intriguing? It’s been featured in several movies, it’s notable catchphrase is “Mind the Gap”, and it literally sheltered Londoners during air raids in the First and Second World War. The Tube is usually on time, but in the event of a delay, service announcements provide passengers with complete details explaining why. At one point, we overheard that someone had jumped the platform along the Metropolitan Line. (Yikes!) Locals that ride the train are also very helpful to visitors. During rush hour, a gentleman kindly helped Vivian carry her luggage up a flight of stairs before continuing on his way to work. We felt slightly guilty because a simple “thank you” was not sufficient enough for his troubles!

Click to view a map of the London Underground.

2. Paris Métro (Paris, France)

Paris Métro (Image: Wikipedia).

Paris Métro (Image: Wikipedia).

There’s something alluring about the Paris Métro. It could be the romanticized French station names, or the musicians that woo passengers with live vocals, guitar and accordion while they commute. Either or, this metro (built in 1900) is among our favourites. Although the cars have endured a lot of wear and tear, and the stations could use a bit of a tidy, each line is numbered, not named for convenience, and the LED marquee posted at every station is always spot-on at predicting the arrival of the next train. Tickets can be purchased from a booth or machine (the former is less of a hassle), but are very small and easy to lose. A couple of our Métro memories include running into “The Guardian of Grands Boulevards” (a homeless man that always sat or slept in the same spot at our station), and picking out which trains ran on rails as opposed to rubberized wheels.

Click to view a map of the Paris Métro.

1. Stockholm Metro (Stockholm, Sweden)

Stockholm Metro (Image: Wikipedia).

Stockholm Metro (Image: Wikipedia).

I can list many reasons why we love the Stockholm Metro. Yes, it’s always nice to commute with polite transit users aboard a clean and efficient train; however, it’s even better when the metro system itself goes above and beyond the norm. In Stockholm, there are several stations that have been tunneled through rock and stone. Rather than installing walls or apply crown molding on the ceilings, artists have taken the liberty to create the world’s largest art exhibit since 1950. Some stations might share a similar resemblance to a cave or a mine shaft, but around every corner is something worth snapping a picture of. If you need proof, check out these photos. Furthermore, Stockholm’s Metro tickets are all computerized. Don’t be deceived by the paper ticket stub in your hand because embedded inside is a chip!

Click to view a map of the Stockholm Metro.

Travel Tip & Hacks:

  • Complimentary maps of these city’s metro systems are usually available at the information booths. All one must do is ask!
  • If you have trouble finding a map (or a map in English), pop into any notable hotels and the concierge would be more than happy to provide you with one.
  • Foreigners are always a target for theft so be careful of your belongings – especially in Paris where it’s notorious for pickpockets.
  • Always expect the unexpected. These are public systems after all and delays will inevitably occur!

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Author: MaitoMike

University graduate with a background in history, archaeology and museums. Armed with a passion for travel, writing, food and culture, the best of these worlds are showcased on the Chronicles of Wanderlust. Happy travels!

19 thoughts on “Ranking 5 of Europe’s Best Metro Systems.

  1. I am probably a little biased but I think the London Tube system is great! Never had any problems at all and always found it to be efficient. Of course it’s busy during morning and afternoon rush hours but that’s the same anyway! Will be checking out Paris’ system in a few weeks so will report back then! Great post guys!

    • You know, when I was first introduce to the London Tube and their railway system, I was completely blown away. I thought it was the greatest metro system ever! Everything ran on time, we never had a problem, it was great! But then along came Paris.. it looks older and grungier, but you’ll learn to love it. Looking forward to your report!

  2. i love metros and railways.. just to add another note to your post.. you got to check out the one in Copenhagen.. there is a special carriage for bikers to bring their bikes on… i really love it.. :D thank you for the post.

  3. i love metros and railways.. just to add another note to your post.. you got to check out the one in Copenhagen.. there is a special carriage for bikers to bring their bikes on… i really love it.. :D thank you for the post.

    • Thank you for the comment, Angela! I love metros and railways, too – been fascinated by them since I was a child. The MRT system in Singapore was and still is in my books for top-notch metros, too! I will certainly have to visit Copenhagen to see what all the hype is about. I’ll let you know when I do visit! =)

      P.S. We have another giveaway that might interest you. It has to do with something you sent us. Details in a few days!

  4. I love me a Metro system too, and missed them a lot while we were in South America for the last 10 months. Coming back to Europe (we’re from London) it has been such a treat to be able to get around cities on our own using public transport. I now appreciate the London Underground much more than I used to, partly because I now don’t have to travel on it during rush hour, which can be a special kind of hell!

    • I’m guilty of complaining about rush hour on metros at times, but you’re absolutely right. When you’re away in a country that doesn’t offer rapid transit or a convenient mode of transport to take you around the city, you realize just how privileged you are at home! I love the London Underground as well and even though we broke a sweat trying to catch our flight one misty September morning, I hold absolutely no grudges!

  5. How sad, I have only ever done one of these…. bad traveller I am :)

    • I wouldn’t say you’re a bad traveler, friend! But I would suggest that you leave donkey chasing for another day (even if it’s just one day) and visit at least one of these cities to see what their metros are like! ‘;)

  6. The Pairs pass allowed me to travel on anything and everything at any time day and night, you name it I was allowed on it. Pricey but well worth it!

    • With that pass alone, you can pretty much explore the entire city. Everything one can possibly want to visit is so conveniently located and there’s a station everywhere you need to go! Pricey, indeed, but certainly well worth it. =)

  7. Have been on all of these, too. From this selection, Paris and Berlin are probably my favorites. Not necessarily in that order. :)

    • Hard to pick between the two. In fact, it was hard for me to pick out of the five I have listed! They were all unique and equally top-notch. What are your thoughts on Stockholm’s metro? T-Centralen was still under construction (partly) when we visited.

  8. Definitely biased… but London tube is brilliant! (Even though there are delays on a regular basis, and it probably doesn’t compare to tubes of Asia, but STILL). I personally love how you can see how multicultural London is just by sitting on the tube – you see people from every mix of background there is. So proud, I am.

    • It IS brilliant! And it’s not just the tube, but the railway, too. We stayed out in Maze Hill and having to take both the tube and rail everyday allowed us to appreciate your metro/transit system so much more. The only real problem we encountered was when we had to catch a flight during rush hour in the morning, but even then, the delays weren’t extreme. Proud you should be! Thanks for the comment, Lily!

  9. Metros are such a great, quick way to get around cities (although you do miss out on the sites above ground!). I have to recommend Bucharest’s metro system – it’s bang on time, not crowded at all, and ridiculously cheap. I was very impressed!

    • Agreed! I have yet to visit Romania, but when I do plan a trip to Eastern Europe, I’ll be sure to explore the Bucharest metro. It’s really neat to see how various cities cope with public transit and adapt to the demands of the population. Collecting ticket stubs quickly became a new found hobby of mine. =)

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