Take on of the Ultimate Paris Bus Tours on Public Transit
One of the most efficient ways of seeing Paris is by using the metro. You can get from point A to point B fairly quickly if you use a combination of buses, metros and train stations. Although I lived in Paris for a year in the 80s, I was amazed when I returned to Paris that the public transportation system had been completed integrated so readily it is efficient and seamless from one form to another. You can get just about anywhere faster than ever. With this elaborate system, you would be ill-advised to drive a car in Paris. The buses have dedicated lanes which mean that during rush hour, you are more likely to get where you want to go faster.
The statistics for the bus system in Paris is staggering:
· 4,490 buses and 12,876 drivers
· more than 12,500 physical bus stops
· 347 bus lines, including 31 Noctilien (night bus) lines
· nearly 1 billion journeys each year
· 22 main bus depots and 3 alternate bus depots in Paris and Ile de France
· more than 200 towns and more than 2,000 train and metro stops (RATP and SNCF) served by the Noctilien (night bus) network
(source: RATP website)
This particular website happens to be my favourite for understanding the bus system. It is an interactive map from the RATP (the transit commission). It lets you see the individual routes from start to finish. This is very helpful when you are trying to track how to get from one part of the city to the other (especially if transfers are involved). It also helps you calculate bus routes and can integrate metro or RER routes. You have the ability to download the map or print it out if you want. Honestly, in this day and age, it is impossible not to use a mobile app. And you can download one specifically that can be used off-line. The APP that we used the most was the Visite Paris – Metro (Bus, tramways and RER). It is available in seven languages and compliments the Paris Visite pass (a reduced rate pass that lets you have unlimited trips for 1 – 5 days with further discounts at some of their location partners). Make sure to use these passes on consecutive days and remember it goes on a 24 hr clock so if you get into Paris at 10 pm it’s best to start your pass the next morning.
Although you can buy a Paris Visite pass that includes Zone 5 (so that you can commute into downtown Paris from either airport), you may want to opt for the shorter more direct bus via the Air France shuttle. This shuttle brings you to Port de Maillot at the northern part of the city, Charles De Gaulle/Etoile, Montparnasse or Gare de Lyon for either of the two airports in Paris.
My personal favourite way to travel is Paris is on a bus… not a tour bus but actual public transport (RATP) and get around the city. When I lived in France, I did not drive. I took public transport wherever I went. I lived in the 16th arrondissement on avenue de Versailles but I went to school at the Sorbonne – University of Paris IV. Sometimes it would take longer to get home on the bus, but I enjoyed the commute more because you got to see one of the most beautiful cities in the world just outside your window. I would take the #72 bus from the Hotel de Ville to just past Maison de la Radio France. On the way you saw the Paris Hotel de Ville (city hall), Chatelet, Pont Alexandre III (the most ornate and beautiful bridge in Paris), travel down rue Rivoli and see the fancy shops, pass the Louvre, Les Tuileries, the Palais Royal, le Musee d’Orsay, Les Invalides, the Champs de Mars and of course the Eiffel Tower and Palais Trocadero. This is by far, one of the most scenic bus route.
The majority of the route is on the right bank of the Seine river. If you want a tour of the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank, take bus # 63. It commences at Gare de Lyon in the east and makes its way through the university area, past the Cluny Museum, the iconic corner of St. Michel and Saint-Germain-des-Prés (where you can hop off and go to Shakespeare & Co. bookstore) or continue on to Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides. The bus then crosses over the Seine to Place Trocadéro (across from the Eiffel Tower) and ends at Porte de Muette in the swanky 16th arrondissement.
Maybe you just want to ride the bus on one of the most beautiful boulevards in the world. You can take bus #73 which will take you from Musee d’Orsay around the Place de la Concorde up to the spectacular Champs Elysee to see the most prestigious French retailers in the world and then around L’Etoile (or the Arc de Triomphe). The route will continue to La Defence and the modern Grande Arche. If you get there you will see a linear line through all the important archways of Paris all the way to the small Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in front of the Louvre.
If you wanted to see where Revolutionary History began, you would need to go to the Bastille. Also located there is the Opera Bastille the modern opera house of Paris. Begin your tour of the Right Bank here and take the bus #29 and head west. On this particular bus you will also see the oldest neighbourhoods of Paris. Get off at the Place Des Voges and visit Victor Hugo’s home where he wrote most of Les Miserables. You can also hop off at the Centre George Pompidou and visit the library, the museum of contemporary art or any number of chic thrift stores. As you progress you will see the stock exchange, the National Library, the original Opera and then make your way to les grand magasins or the hub of Parisian department stores (Les Printemps and Les Galeries Lafayette).
You could also take the route #69 from Bastille to the Champs de Mars at the base of the Eiffel Tower. This bus route would bring you down the famous rue Rivoli passing along the Louvre the Pont Royal, the Petite Carrousel, the Musee d’Orsay then heads west to Les Invalides and the Champs de Mars. So this route starts on the Right Bank and then crosses over to the Left bank.
Maybe you want to see Paris in all its glory. If you have the time you may want to take the Periferique Bus and Tramway route (PC1, PC3, 3A &3B). The Periferique is the ring road that goes all the way around Paris and crosses every gate or Port in the city. These ‘portes’ were the gates into the city. You would have to cross in (and pay a tariff to enter the city). There are officially four routes: North to South on the west side of the city (PC1), West to East (on the south side – Tramway 3A), Southeast to Northeast (Tramway 3B) and finally East to West on the north side(PC3). Take your pick: go clockwise or counter-clockwise. This is an interesting way to see the scope of the city.
No matter how many times I return to Paris, it is never long enough. I love many things about this city but one of the best is its bus routes.