What is the best way to get around Paris?
There is no best way. It just depends where you are going.
But here we will go through your options. We will use all of them on our tour, partially because we will always strive for the best use of our time and partially so you can see all of the options.
Paris is a walking city. Central Paris, where you will spend all your time, is fairly compact, making walking a good option. Many attractions are close together. In addition, there are so many amazing sights that you will miss many if you us the Metro or Uber to get from place to place. Walking is a great way to go.
In the post about our hotel for our 2023 tour, there is a list of distances from our hotel to some nearby attractions. Below is a more complete list. Keep in mind that we will not walk to all of these places, as some of them are too far (more about that in a second).
Best for Walking
- Opera Garnier: 700 feet away (3 minute walk)
- Printemps: 900 feet away (4 minute walk)
- Galleries Lafayette: .3 miles away (7 minute walk)
- Place Vendome: .3 miles away (8 minute walk)
- Place de la Concorde: .6 miles away (14 minute walk)
- Tuileries: .8 miles away (17 minute walk)
- Musee d’Orsay: 1 mile away (20 minute walk)
- The Louvre: 1 mile away (24 minute walk)
- Pompidou: 1.6 miles away (32 minute walk)
- Sainte-Chapelle: 1.7 miles away (35 minute walk)
- Arc de Triomphe: 1.7 miles away (37 minute walk)
- Invalides: 1.9 miles away (40 minute walk)
- Notre Dame: 2.0 miles away (40 minute walk)
- Eiffel Tower: 2.2 miles away (44 minute walk)
As you can see, some of these are too far to comfortably walk, and in any event we will want to preserve our precious time.
That said, walking is a great way to see Paris. Unlike cars, where you might be zipping by interesting places, or the Metro, where you won’t see anything at all, you are experience Paris as you move around. You can stop at places that interest you. You avoid the hassles of traffic.
When in doubt, walk. But there are a lot of places where that is just inefficient or inconvenient (and weather might be an issue). For those instances, a car or the Metro might be the best. So now let’s look at other ways to get around a bit faster.
As seen above, we shouldn’t plan on walking everywhere. Whether you are on your own or with my tour, time is limited. Sometimes, you will want to be in a car. That means either a taxi or an Uber, and I find that generally Ubers are best.
The Thing About Cabs
When you think about getting somewhere by car, you may immediately think about cabs. While there are definitely cabs in Paris – over 15,000, in fact – they usually aren’t the best option for traveling by car.
A big reason for that is that you cannot just hail a cab anywhere you want, but rather must go to designated cab stands to get a cab. This rule does appear to be loosening, but it is still the rule.
Another reason is that most of them only take cash. You cannot use a credit card. One exception is a company called G7, but they are definitely the exception.
If you decide to take a cab, the rates are fairly reasonable. The meter will start at 2.60 Euro at pickup with a 7.10 Euro minimum. Rates vary between 1.07 Euro / km and 1.60 Euro / km depending on the time of day and your location.
Cabs to/from Airport or Train Station
There are a few situations in Paris where a cab might make more sense than calling an Uber. These involve getting to and from the airport or train stations.
When you arrive at the airport (either one) or a train station, there will usually be a line of taxis waiting to take you. In that case, it might be quicker than calling an Uber. Just jump in the cab and go. Make sure you have cash though!
When it comes time to get to the airport or hotel, a cab might make sense here too. The main reason is that you can schedule them in advance. Ask your hotel to do this for you. That way you can be assured that a ride will be available when it is time to go.
Uber: The Better Option
For traveling within Paris by car, Uber is generally a better option than taxis. You can get them anywhere – you don’t have to go to a designated stand like you do for taxis. Uber works in France exactly like it does at home.
Uber has the additional benefit over cabs that you don’t need to be able to speak French to tell your driver where you want to go. You enter the address into the app when you request the Uber, so the driver already knows where you want to go when you are picked up. This can avoid confusion and awkward exchanges if you don’t speak French.
Obviously, using Uber gives you the other usual benefits of Uber, such as ease of payment and the rating system. Not having to pay at the end of a ride is particularly nice in Paris, where there is often not a good place for the driver to stop for any length of time.
Uber works great in Paris and you should take advantage of it. Be sure you have it loaded on your phone before you leave for France.
Bike or Scooter
We won’t be taking these as part of my tours, but if you are on your own and feeling a little adventurous, getting a bike or a scooter is a great way to see Paris. Central Paris has a bike lane on most streets, making this a safe and efficient option (this is a very recent addition).
You can rent bikes and scooters from many locations throughout the city. You will see the sitting out in designated parking areas throughout Paris. Some companies that have them for rent are Lime and Tier (for scooters) and Velia (for bikes). They are all app-based, meaning you download an app to your phone and use it to control and pay for the rental. The apps will tell you where to go to pick up or drop off your bike or scooter. You will see parking areas painted into the asphalt. You pick up and drop off your bike or scooter from one of these areas, and you have to finish the rental at one of these areas as well. In other words, you cannot just leave the bike or scooter laying anywhere on the streets of Paris.
Honestly, this is my favorite way to get around Paris. You are above-ground seeing everything and can go at your own pace. And it is fun. But I understand it isn’t for everyone. As a result, we won’t be taking these as part of my tours. But if it sounds interesting and fun to you, I encourage you to try it on your own while you are there.
The Paris Metro might be the best public transportation system in all of Europe. If you are going a long distance within Paris, this is almost certainly the fastest option.
Within central Paris, the lines run underground. You go down stairs to the station, and enter by sticking your ticket into the machine, which allows you to pass. The lines are mapped by color and number, and will also be labeled with the last stop on the line. This will make sure you are going in the right direction. There are Metro maps in every station and you can also download the app, which will have the map and other information as well.
Cost of the Metro
The Metro is definitely the cheapest way to get around Paris (well, besides walking, of course). The cost of a single ride is only 1.90 Euro. That includes connections.
You can also get a Navigo card, which will get you unlimited rides for a full week. It also includes RER and bus rides as well. It costs 30 Euro for the week plus a one-time 5 Euro charge to get the initial card. Keep in mind that if you want to go this route you will need a passport photo for the card.
Metro Stations Near Us
How convenient the Metro will be for you depends largely on how close you are to a Metro station. And then on whether there is a line that will take you directly to your destination of if you need to transfer.
For purposes of our 2023 Paris tour, we are staying at the Hotel St. Petersbourg and there are four stations within close proximity of our hotel. They are:
- Auber Station (RER line A): 600 feet away (3 minute walk).
- Havre Caumartin Station (lines 3 and 9): 900 feet away (4 minute walk).
- Opera Station (lines 3, 7, and 8): 800 feet away (4 minute walk).
- Madeline Station (lines 8, 12, and 14): .3 miles away (6 minute walk)
Some Key Destinations
Let’s look back at the list of attractions (from the section on walking) and see which make sense to use the Metro to reach. We can overlook any of the really close places (since it is easiest to walk). But then let’s take a look at how you might get there by Metro. Here’s a list for you:
- Place de la Concorde (direct). Start at Madeleine Station, then take line 8 or 12 directly to Concorde station.
- Tuileries (1 connection). Start at Opera Station, then take line 7 to Palais Royal Musee du Louvre, then transfer to line 1 to Tuileries station.
- Musee d’Orsay: (1 connection). There is a Musee d’Orsay station but it is difficult to get to. Instead, start at Madeleine Station, take line 12 to Assemblee Nationale station, then walk from there (400 m).
- The Louvre (direct). Start at Opera Station, then take line 7 directly to Palais Royal Musee du Louvre.
- Pompidou (direct on RER). Start at Auber station and take RER line A to Chatelet Les Halles.
- Sainte-Chapelle (direct w/ walk). There is a Cite station that is next to Sainte-Chapelle, but it involves transfers. Instead, start at Opera station and take line 7 to Pont Neuf and walk from there (600 m).
- Arc de Triomphe (direct). Start at Auber station and take RER line A directly to Charles de Gaule Etoille station.
- Invalides/Napoleon’s Tomb (direct). Start at Madeleine station and take line 8 directly to Invalides station.
- Notre Dame (direct w/ walk). There are closer stations, but they involve transfers. For direct route, start at Opera station and take line 7 to Pont Neuf and walk from there (1 km).
- Eiffel Tower (1 connection). Start at Havre Caumartin station and take line 9 to Trocadero station. It is a 900 meter walk down to the Eiffel Tower. There are closer stations, but they involve transfers.
- Montparnasse (direct). Start at Madeleine station and take line 12 to Montparnasse Bienvenue station.
- Sacre Couer/Montmartre (direct w/ walk). Start at Madeleine station and take line 12 to Abbesses station. From there it is a 500 m walk to Sacre Couer, or you can take the funicular up (station is at Place Suzanne Valadon and Place Saint-Pierre).
Hours of the Metro
The Metro hours are fine for all but the most aggressive of schedules. It opens at 5:30 am and runs until 1:15 am on weekdays, and until 2:15 am on weekend. The RER hours are basically the same, daily from 5:30 am to 1:20 am.
The only issue we could possibly have on one of my tours is that sunrise will be very early while we are in France. For our 2023 tour it will be at 5:55 – 6:00 am, depending on the day. If you wanted to be someplace in time for sunrise and were reliant on the Metro, that would be cutting it very close.
All things considered, the Metro is the fastest way to get around Paris. The key to the Metro is to understand the routes so that you can judge if you can get there without more than one connection. The Metro can be a hassle if you have to change lines. I personally don’t use it if getting where I want to go requires changing trains more than once. Walks within stations can take a significant amount of time.
One downside is that the Metro isn’t the best way to see Paris. Since it is underground you see nothing along the route.
That said, the Metro is cheap, safe, and fast. We will make liberal use of it on our tours and I recommend you get familiar with it if traveling on your own.