It’s sort of like twenty thousand leagues under the ground. The Arts et Métiers station immerses the traveller in a submarine with the inner workings visible, a Nautilus coated in copper – the only material used - , a feeling reinforced by the presence of portholes on the platforms, each one opening onto little scenography. Unveiled in 1994 on the occasion of the bicentennial of the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts (Conservatoire national des arts et métiers). This decoration is the work of Benoît Peeters and comic book artist François Schuiten, authors of the series Les Cités Obscures and Revoir Paris
Crossing the Seine on board metro line 6 that takes the Bir-Hakeim bridge is highly recommended. Open in 1906 under the name of Grenelle, rebaptised Bir-Hakeim in 1949 when the Passy viaduct also got a status change, the above-ground station won the sub-title Tour-Eiffel in 1998, as it’s only 650 meters away. Renovated in 2008, it is now home to Night and Day, a double stained glass work displayed at each end of the glass roof, done by the American artist Judy Ledgerwood.
You’ll get your money’s worth in this station serving Pont-Neuf and the Monnaie, or the Mint of Paris. Huge coins decorate the walls, escaping from the frames enclosing them to cover the roof vault over the rails. Along the platform there’ an old money press, used to mint coins from the 16th to 19th centuries, especially the famous “Louis d’or” gold coin, and two display cases exhibiting real coins. A veritable heritage treasure.
Why not a bit of reading? You’ll find yourself surrounded by what seems an enormous word puzzle on the wall tiles of the Concorde station, on line 12: it actually spells out the 1789 Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen (Declaration of Human and Citizen Rights). This ceramic work dates from 1991 and is one of the numerous works of the Belgian plastic artist Françoise Schein on the topic of civic rights. This theme is also expressed in the Parvis de Saint-Gilles station in Brussels, Parque in Lisbon and Westhafen in Berlin.
On Métro Pigalle
In Pigalle, it’s a question of openings. In the plural so as not to scrimp on pleasure. And of the metro, just to cut short any lewd interpretation. With sinuous curves and wrought iron lamps, the first entrance, built in 1902 on line 2, is the work of architect Hector Guimard (1867-1942), in the purest Art Nouveau style. The second, constructed in 1910 for the opening of line A of the North-South network (present day line 12), is of more discreet charm.
On Y'a d'la joie
The station bears the name of both the automobile industry pioneer, and the village west of Paris where in 1777 the chemical product factory was built that would later produce “eau de Javel” or bleach in English. The life and work of André Citroën had been on exhibition for a long time in the station, before disappearing in the 2000s. However, since 2018, a long historical timeline with three tactile screens enable us once again to discover the double chevron brand
One hundred seventy-six, that’s how many steps you’ll have to climb from the platform to the street-level exit. The deepest metro station of the Parisian network is actually 36 meters below ground. In order to decorate the ascension, and at the time of the station’s renovation in 2007, the RATP (the Paris Metro administration) ordered fifteen original works from the artists association “Paris Montmartre”. For those disheartened by the winding staircase, you can take one of the two elevators in service since 1999, each one holding 100 travellers.
It was called Abbesses, in Amélie and Supercondriaque, Gare de l’Est in Une époque formidable, Concorde in Les Femmes de l’ombre, Opéra in A bout portant or Boissière in the clip That’s My People by the rap group Suprême NTM. Closed to the public since 1939, one of the Porte des Lilas stations has become a reputed movie set, serving as the setting for films, clips and commercials. Known as “Porte des Lilas-Cinéma”, the old cars by Sprague-Thompson can roll here as well as the models with tires, and all this over a kilometer of track up to Haxo, another “phantom station”.
With 507,867 travellers annually in 2013, this station is one of the least used in the Paris network. The construction of line 7 bis that stops here was not a small job as it had to cross old quarries, sometimes very roughly filled in, under the Buttes-Chaumont Park.
On Métro Blanche
Put into service in 1902, the station Blanche itself doesn’t offer much interest. But the entrance is near the famous Moulin Rouge (Red Mill) cabaret – indeed a colorful outing.