It’s been awhile since I have done a “Top Tuesday” or a “list” in awhile, so I thought I would do one on something I am really passionate about – transportation! Growing up in a city where no train existed and you did NOT take the bus, I never really had experience with it. When we came to visit Chicago growing up, we took a car or the Metra which is a commuter train. That was the closest thing I took to public transportation. When I went to France in high school was the first time truly experiencing public transportation while taking the Paris metro system. I still have the little purple tickets to this day, as I thought it was the coolest thing! To this day, I LOVE metros and subway systems – buses, nah, not my thing – but get me talking about trains? Yep, I can definitely tell you a thing or two about systems around the world. Here are my Top Five subway systems around the world:
1. Paris Metro – Paris, France…Obviously
Obviously, I am going to choose the Paris Metro system as the best subway system in the world. It changed my life and made me fall in love with the metro. I would take the metro every day if I could! Sure it isn’t the fastest, nor the cleanest (oh heck no), nor are all the lines air-conditioned, but my gosh I love it. You can literally get anywhere and everywhere you want with the Paris metro system. I knew it like the back of my hand when I lived in Paris and I found it the easiest to navigate. This is the point where most people will argue with me about the London Tube – and yeah, the Tube is great. But to me, it was way to overwhelming. Paris? Nope! Plus some of the older stations have the coolest signs!
One of the big reasons I love the Paris Metro is because of ‘ligne 6’ (line 6). It starts at the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysees and takes you to and past the Eiffel Tower, Montparnasse and beyond. It is also one of the few lines that go above ground. When you are coming from Montparnasse, headed towards the Eiffel Tower (Trocodero, Champs de Mar, Bir-Hakeim) you start underground and then suddenly you blast outside and you see the Eiffel Tower in all its glory. I recommend getting off at the Trocodero spot, as it crosses the River Seine, so you have a truly picture worthy shot of Paris – the Seine with the Eiffel Tower. It took my breath away the first time I saw it as I wasn’t expecting it. Can’t get any better than that!
2. Hong Kong MTR
Okay, maybe I am a little biased here because I keep choosing countries/cities I have lived in but the Hong Kong metro is literally one of the best, and typically tops most lists. I am just a bit more partial to Paris. Where the Paris Metro is slow, old, and smelly and the Hong Kong MTR is the exact opposite. You could literally eat of the floors of the MTR…I mean I wouldn’t, and you can’t eat or drink on the MTR (probably why it is so clean) but it really is that clean. I would see people get on quickly to sweep in-between less busy stops. It connects to the Shenzhen Subway/customs for an easy way to get to Mainland China. The MTR can get you to most places you want to on Hong Kong island and Kowloon side. The only issue is it struggles to get you to places such as Stanley, Repulse Bay, some of the islands like Lamma or Lantau – all places you can lounge around on beaches, shop, and be with wealthy expats if that’s your thing – but buses will get you there.
3. Seoul Metropolitan Subway – Seoul, South Korea
I worked with a lot of people in Hong Kong who worked in South Korea and everyone was like “OMG IT IS THE MOST AMAZING TRAIN SYSTEM EVERRRR”. Seriously, people who worked in Korea are obsessed with their time there, which I get, as I talk about France all the time. But seriously, they talk up the Seoul Metro System and it is amazing and expansive…but once you experience the Hong Kong life the Seoul system is a bit disappointing…because you have to wait 5 minutes for a train instead of 2. Yes, I am so spoiled. I am glad I didn’t go to Hong Kong first, because I have sometimes waited 23 minutes for Paris metros at the end of the night. However, as much as I kid about waiting a whole 3 extra minutes, the Seoul metro system is very impressive. Again, it s very clean and efficient and it goes EVERYWHERE. When I talk to my students who are interested in Seoul, I joke that the Seoul Metropolitan Subway goes out two hours in all directions, and I really feel like it does! As a result, it can make it very overwhelming (like the Tube) to figure out what line you need and where you need to go. However, still an extremely efficient and a reason why it is one of the best in the world!
4. The Budapest Metro – Budapest, Hungary
I could talk about Budapest all day. I think it is such a hidden gem in Europe and often overlooked compared to its neighbors Prague and Vienna. As a result, its metro is also overlooked because compared to Seoul, Hong Kong, and Paris, Budapest only has 4 lines…and they are so not updated. Line 1 of the Budapest Metro is the oldest electrified underground railway in continental Europe (take the London, you may have just beat Budapest but they can still claim for the continent!). While it might not be the chicest or the cleanest metro, nor certainly not the most efficient compared to ones above, Line 1 is a UNESCO World Heritage site and looks like it probably did when it opened.
5. Tokyo Metro/TOIE Subway – Tokyo, Japan
Yeah in case you can’t tell, Asia has some pretty darn awesome railway systems. So, it is no surprise that Tokyo is going to be on this list. While I have some reservations putting this one on my list for the sheer fact that during rush hours there are people hired to push people on the train. I kid you not, the trains are so packed that people help push others onto the train so the doors will close. NO THANKS! However, the Tokyo subway system, which is actually two systems together – the Tokyo Metro and TOIE Subway – are comprised o over 280 stations and 13 different lines. It is a very extensive and expansive system that can be quite confusing, but can get you every where you want to go; like Shibuya Crossing the rumored busiest road crossing in the world, and Shibuya Station being one of the busiest stations in Tokyo (correlation? I think so.)
The Tube – London, England
Sorry, if you go to England and Paris, you always leave liking one more than the other. I adore Paris. My sister loves London. I will always think Paris is better, she will think London is. Many of my friends share the same sentiments with me – one over the other. As a result, yes the Tube was the first and oldest subway system in Europe but it doesn’t beat the Paris Metro for me 🙂
MTA – New York, New York, USA
I am a Chicagoan so I can’t in good consciousness put the NYC subway in my top list…but lets face it, it is one of the best in the USA…. because the USA seriously has terrible subway systems compared to around the world. While the Chicago “El” will only get you from north to south in this city, NYC can get you anywhere and everywhere. It smells, it gets ridiculously hot in the summer, you never know what you may see on it, but that is what I LOVE about metro systems! So…I see you NYC.
Think I am missing one? Let me know in the comments below!