When I first arrived in Paris, I tried to avoid the Parisian métro as much as I possibly could. The horror stories I had heard about people getting their valuables stolen, the stations smelling worse than most bathrooms and the crazy amount of people all fighting for a spot during rush hour made me keep my distance at first.
Even though I now know that the métro isn’t all that bad, I’m kind of glad for my initial repugnance, because it pushed me to look to alternative ways to get around the city. And that’s how my love affair with Parisian buses began.
Sure, there are a few negative aspects to taking the bus: you can never really be certain the bus will actually show up on time (yes, I realize that this might be more than a tiny flaw for those with appointments to keep); they stop running as soon as the first snowflake hits the ground during the winter; they’re a bit slow; and they can, bien sûr, be canceled (without prior notice) due to Parisian manifestations.
But if you can overlook these minor inconveniences, buses have a lot going for them. First of all, you can actually see the city around you. Secondly, you (usually) don’t have to stand squeezed up against someone else’s bum or the unlucky person having a bad breath moment right in your face. And third, it doesn’t smell like a toilet.
The buses are also a great way to get to know the city! If you want to learn to live without that little map hidden in your bag or if you don’t want to stop and check your smartphone map every other second, the buses can help you get there. It’s also a terrific way to do some undercover sightseeing without having to get the label “tourist” stamped in your forehead. Skip those huge red tourist buses and do it like a local instead.
In a city like Paris almost all of the buses pass by different monuments and beautiful spots more than once, and if you have the time, you can truly get some serious sightseeing done on the way to your actual destination. Here are a few of my favorite bus lines if you want to get to know Paris a little bit better while enjoying the scenery along the way:
Bus number 24 goes all the way from Gare St-Lazare (in the 8th arrondissement) to École Vétérinaire de Maisons-Alfort (a little bit outside the city centre of Paris). On the way to the Gare St-Lazare you’ll pass the Jardin des Plantes and Notre Dame cathedral; then you’ll continue along the Seine to the Musée d’Orsay, Place de la Concorde, and Place de la Madeleine.
The 69 bus goes from Gambetta (in the 20th arrondiseement) to Champ de Mars (in the 8th) and back. If you take the bus towards the Champ de Mars you’ll see the following things along the ride: Cimetière du Père Lachaise, Bastille, St Paul, Musée d’Orsay, the Invalides and finally the Eiffel Tower and the Champ de Mars.
Another useful bus line when it comes to doing some sightseeing is the 96. It goes all the way from Porte des Lilas (in the 19th arrondissement) to Gare Montparnasse (in the 15th). You can hop on at any of these places that you’ll find on your way to Gare Montparnasse: Menilmontant, Le Marais, Hôtel de Ville, Île de la Cité and Place St Sulpice.
Bus 72 goes from Hôtel de Ville in the 4th arrondissement to Porte de Saint-Cloud in the 16th arrondissement. On your way to Porte de Saint-Cloud, you’ll pass by the Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries, and the Place de la Concorde. Then it continues along the Seine and passes by Trocadéro.
If you’re looking for a serious sightseeing experience, number 73 does it all. On your way from La Garenne-Colombes (a bit outside of Paris) to the Musée d’Orsay (in the 7th arrondissement) you’ll swing by the Arc de Triomphe, drive down the Champs Élysées to the Place de la Concorde, then cross the Seine to the Musée d’Orsay.
Number 67 goes right through the whole city! Going toward Pigalle (in the 9th arrondissement), from Stade Charléty (in the 13th) you’ll pass Place d’Italie, the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Île Saint Louis, Hôtel de Ville, Rue de Rivoli, Grand Boulevards and St Georges on your way.
- Try to carry exact change to make it easy for both you and the bus driver. A bus ticket is now 2 €.
- Validate your ticket in the machine next to the driver directly after you board the bus so the driver doesn’t have to yell “Madame, madame, validez votre billet!” in front of your fellow passengers (thereby totally ruining the Parisian/local act you’re trying to keep up).
- Always look at the very smart and detailed maps at the bus station to see which direction the bus is going in and which stop you’re hopping off at.
- Remember that buses here in Paris often take completely different routes on their way to and from their final destinations. So again, check the map!
- You can always plan your trip ahead on the RAPT website
- Download the Paris bus map to see which lines suit you best
- And of course, always great the chauffeur with a “Bonjour!”
- Note to the wise: the exception to these prescriptions might be peak rush hour (when it could take you days to get across town by bus) and hot and humid summer months, when the only enjoyable way to get around Paris is by Velib, bien sûr.
I hope you’ll enjoy the Parisian buses as much as I have. Bonne chance!
- Paris Breakfast explains how to take the bus in Paris through images! A great and easy way to get understand how to get around in Paris by bus.
- Dive Caroline lists bus number 69 as one of the buses with the best views along the way in the whole world
- Paper Blog has some great tips on taking the bus for the first time