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Paris Metro Stairs

Hello,
I just heard from my travel partner that there are TONS of stairs going in and out of the Paris Metro and the elevators/escalators are basically non-existent. I've been told some have 6 flights of stairs ?? One person I am traveling with has difficulty with more than 2 flights of stairs. What can we expect ? I have started teaching myself the bus system, figuring I'd use this for shorter trips and use metro for longer distances. With stairs being an issue, is busses just a better idea ? Thanks !

Posted by
20321 posts

RER lines generally have escalators and/or escalators. Also the No 14 line has these at all stations. Otherwise, yes, stairs are the rule. But most of the lines are just beneath street level, since they were built with the cut-and-cover method. The one deep station that comes to mind is the Cite station on the island in the Seine where the No 4 line has to go deep to get under the river. It has elevators on both platforms, but they don't go to street level. You still have to go up one flight of stairs. Also, not all of the lines are below ground. Sometimes, you take the the stairs up to elevated stations.

But buses work well too. Slower, but the views are better.

Posted by
5687 posts

A smart phone would make navigating Paris's bus system a whole lot easier. (Metro too.)

Posted by
27359 posts

I imagine there are other sources of this information, perhaps easier to use, but I found this Metro/RER schematic that shows which stations are wheelchair accessible, which is at least a start. An escalator, obviously, doesn't help someone in a wheelchair, so folks just wanting to avoid stairs may have additional options. And if you can do a flight or two stairs, that opens up still more possibilities.

I hope one of our Paris residents can provide a link to more complete information. I suspect there's a website that allows you to click on individual stations and see their layouts, but I don't know what website that would be.

Speaking as someone who lives in a city with a Metro, I can tell you that elevators and escalators are sometimes out of service, so there are no absolute guarantees.

Posted by
784 posts

Stairs are also a problem for me, so I rely mostly on the bus for getting around Paris, reserving the Metro for long trips. However, do send one of your group down to the information/ticket booth in a Metro station to get a "Plan Deux" map, which has a large-enough-to-read Metro map on one side and a bus map on the other. Very handy for route planning. Even if there is an escalator in a Metro station, it usually only goes up one level (often to street level) and there won't be one for all exits, and there are often short flights of stairs to access the platforms. Buses are your best option, but be flexible and patient as they can be slow and sometimes are rerouted due to traffic, demonstrations, or mysteriously.

Posted by
8171 posts

The metro is not for people who struggle with stairs. The bus system kneels, people with disabilities can claim seats (better have a cane for that if not elderly) and goes everywhere. The metro not only has lots of stairs, but transfers sometimes involve long walks underground. The deepest metros e.g. Lamarck Caulaincourt and Abbesses and a few others have elevators but most metros that do have escalators do not have them to the street and of course not between platforms for transfers; escalators are often broken. You can get a bus map booklet at a newsstand to make planning with buses easier. And bus stops have electronic signs which alert you to route changes and the time of the next bus. They also have detailed maps of the route. Note the penultimate stop so you can ring for your stop as the buses as in the US only stop at stops where someone is waiting or someone has signaled they want to get off.

Posted by
2023 posts

Many times escalators are not working--have seen this plenty of times. I remember taking the RER into Paris (Luxembourg Stop) and a very long flight of nonworking escalator steps were being used as a staircase which was not fun with luggage. We got to Lux stop and found two flights of stairs that added up to 40 steps. Some metro maps will indicate which stations have elevators. Definitely Les Abesses.

Posted by
2532 posts

Keep things in perspective: if you can handle two flights of stairs, you can handle most of what the Paris Metro will throw at you. If you can't handle one flight of stairs, you will have trouble using the Metro just about anywhere.

Posted by
3200 posts

The Metro in my experience sometimes has escalators and lifts; but if they are broken they often are not fixed for months.
I have been in Paris twice in the past two years.
The first trip, my RER station at Luxembourg had escalators that were both broken at either end of the very long platform, and this year they were both working.
Go figure.
You can't rely on something that says there IS an escalator or lift; as it won't actually tell you if it's working or not at the time you plan to be there!
The bus system is really excellent, and so easy to use.
Download the RATP app on your phone or tablet, and you can very easily plan out routes.
I have been raving about all the transport systems is Paris for years: they're so good.

Posted by
2466 posts

If you have only visited Paris twice in 2 years, that doesn't prove anything.
Most of the repairs of the escalators are done within 24 - 48 hours.

It is true that there are many flights of stairs in some stations. But not all of them - most have 2 or 3 flights of stairs (about 22 steps each flight).

Get the "Bus Plan - L'Indispensable" at the nearest kiosk - it's the blue one, costs about 6 EU.
It has a 2 page map, and all of the stops, going in order.
EDIT By the way, the bus does not always "kneel" - janet is wrong about that.

Or, you can use this website, if you have an exact address:
www.ratp.fr

Posted by
2466 posts

Ligne 4 out of Chatelet is also out of service. Go to La Cite if you need the RER's.

Posted by
64 posts

Wow, I was looking so we're trying my hand at the Metro, but you all have me pretty put off on it now. Buses are looking like a much better option and walking for shorter distances

Posted by
6625 posts

Try the Metro by all means, especially for longer trips where the time you save can be worth some steps. I don't know any stations with six flights of stairs. More typically there's one flight down from the street, and then smaller numbers of stairs along the tunnels, depending on where you're going. If you're a group, some without stair problems could scout routes for others. And, as others have noted, you can get maps that help you choose the most accessible routes and stations. Hopefully you won't have to avoid the Metro totally, just use it strategically. The bus has definite virtues but is much slower for longer trips. You've gotten good advice about using it.

Posted by
2466 posts

The bus is normally slow - it depends on where you are staying.

And some routes do not run on Sunday.

I would adjust your time frame, if you want to go to a museum, or something.
It will take time for the bus to arrive - normally 11 to 20 minutes for some routes - and you will have to count on about 45 to 60 minutes, depending on where you are staying. Some routes will be shorter.

Posted by
2059 posts

I also have trouble with stairs. We were in Paris last October and mainly took buses. We often enjoyed seeing the neighborhoods and drove by several unknown restaurants, bakeries we decided to go back. We also often walked. Distances are not bad between the major sites.

Posted by
2349 posts

When you don't have problems with stairs, you don't tend to even notice the small steps. You just go up or down those small flights of 6 or 8, walk a bit, go up another 10, etc. You don't think there are "lots of stairs." But when you have knee problems, or coordination issues, you notice them. Even little flights can be a problem. And sometimes it seems like there are cartoon steps in front of you that just keep going and going.

Depending on your travel partners tolerance for stairs, you should probably minimize your Metro use. Buses will be much better. They are not without their own issues. Sometimes you'll need to walk around an area to find exactly which stop is the right one. Or the bus will pull over, the driver will say something you don't understand, and everybody will get off the bus. Will there be another one? Will you be allowed back on that one? Who knows.

Posted by
8171 posts

Karen's point is a good one. I remember taking my mother to Italy when she was 80 and several times taking her places like beautiful gardens which were flat (in my memory) as she was mobility impaired. The gardens of the Villa d'Este for example were flat and perfect except when we went there was no special access for the mobility impaired and she would have had to walk down an enormous set of flights of stairs to get to the garden and then back out again which she couldn't do. There were stairs everywhere where I had been and not noticed them, but I really noticed them when traveling with someone for which they were a struggle. The metro is that way. I use it and much prefer it to buses but although now elderly myself with some issues, I can still manage stairs well enough to use the metro. If you are able, you don't notice how often there is a flight of stairs here or there. The metro is fast and efficient; the buses drive me crazy -- it takes forever and often you don't get a seat. But if you have mobility issues they are far better and someone with mobility issues can claim a seat. As noted before, you will have better luck with that if you are not very old (75 is the definition of 'senior' for claiming a seat) if you use a cane.

Posted by
776 posts

Actually being over 75 puts one in only the 7th category of those "entitled" to seats on the bus. The list is posted behind the bus driver's compartment. A few of those ahead in the line are mutilated war veterans, blind, aged with a card issued by their arrondissement maire, pregnant women, disabled and others. When you visit Paris outside the tourist areas, you will notice lots of very old, like me. This aging of the population has greatly affected bus ridership as the topic of this series of posts indicates . . . .metro stairs are now a no no for many more Parisians who are living longer , , ,but with knee problems. This changing demographic is one of the many reasons bus routes next year will undergo great changes.

Posted by
8171 posts

I only noted 75 as the magic age because in the US people 65 assume they are entitled to such privileges and sometimes even 62.

Posted by
2349 posts

And AARP sends you that damned card when you turn 50! Rude.

One of our group last year can walk for miles without complaint. But she has depth perception problems and stairs are a problem, especially going down. She's very slow on them. And if they are spiral or wonky at all, it's really a problem. We took the elevator up the Arc de Triomphe, but those last stairs were hard for her. Then at the top, the level changes without warning. I would not take her up there again.

When you do use the Metro, try not to rush. "Oh, look, hurry, a train is pulling up." None of that. Let everybody go at their best pace and catch the next train.

Posted by
3240 posts

Metro and buses in Paris make a good touring combination. If you exit into a metro station that turns out to have too many stairs or a broken elevator just get back on the train and go to the next stop. It is not as if you are stranded. On one of my visits to Paris, I was limited by a health problem which meant my climbing hills/stairs was difficult. The metro did not bother me. Your person doesn't have to race up the stairs, just stay to the right. Also, have you ever tried the slight pressure from behind on the butt to the limited person...it's amazing how much easier going up becomes for that mobility challenged person. You could use that as a last resort. :)

Posted by
1625 posts

What is your friends difficulty? Is it that they can't do lots of stairs or must take it slow? I was surprise to see people with mobility issues down in the metro, taking it slow, resting when needing to, no one appeared irritated with them.

As someone with very bad knees (advanced osteoarthritis in both knees) who loves to take the metro and knows that all of Europe has lots of stairs, from museums, hotels and just going to the bathroom at a restaurant...I get cortisone injections in both knees before each trip. I also do knee strengthen exercises to build the muscle around them. Even then, I use the handrails and go at my pace. We make sure to give ourselves enough time to account for my pace. I actually am so much more fit at the end of each trip than at the beginning, we take lots of video and you can see where I am struggling up stairs (stubbornness makes me press on) and at the end where I am much more comfortable.

You can also use Uber or a Taxi or just walk if close enough. And by the way, if you ask a Parisian directions everything is "Very close..you can walk" which means less than 5 miles probably...LOL...they are used to walking and close is relative to them, not us. Anything more than two miles is far to me.

Posted by
52 posts

Bus is great. Read RS’s very simple and clear discription of Paris buses that run along the river to all major sights. This alone is worth the price of the book.

Posted by
2466 posts

Uber is useless, unless you have paid for its services in advance.
It cannot pick up passengers on the street, can't pick up passengers at the airports or train stations unless you have already paid.
In addition, Uber cannot use the dedicated bus lanes, so will be slower than usual.

Just hail a regular Parisien taxi from a busy street corner.
Green means it's good, Red means it's full.
The minimum rate for a short run is 7 EU.

Or you can use the G7 App or website - in English:
www.g7.fr/en/

Posted by
1162 posts

I do fine with stairs, but I still prefer the buses. Sure they're a little slower, but thelet you actually see the city rather than tunneling underground with the commuters who are in a hurry (and aren't on vacation). When I'm on vacation, I like to slow down a little and actually see the city.