Had a few friends visiting me this weekend, from Munich and Vienna. I'd visited them 5-6 months ago and stayed with them and explored their cities. Like most European cities, they both have good public transport but somehow the system in Paris feels like it's on a different scale. Since all 3 of them were interested in exploring Paris, we spent a lot of time on the metro getting around the different neighbourhoods. There were a few things I'd noticed earlier but since these friends were around, I realised what makes the Paris metro system so good.
There are about 14 different metro lines which run through Paris, but there's no real centre for the metro lines to intersect in. Almost all 14 lines meet all the other lines at some point. There's no system of east-west or north-south. It's a crazy mesh of lines and it's incredibly dense. I don't think I've ever had to walk for more than 5 minutes to find a metro stop within the city. For almost 3 months now, I've crisscrossed different parts of the city for various reasons, and I don't think I've ever had to change more than once. That means it's pretty easy to guess how long it's going to take from place to another and also makes it less tiring. I don't know who the main planner of the metro was and if they employed some kind of algorithm to see how many lines are needed to make sure you only change once, but they did an excellent job. Each time I sit on a different line, I can count up to at least 10 different lines that it connects with, sometimes more than once.
The city of Paris is enclosed by a ring road and has an oval shape. That means the metro map actually resembles the city map. So, even if you're in Paris for the first time, you can figure out which part of the city you're in. This is in stark contrast to every other metro I've used, where figuring out how to get around by the metro is easy, but leaves you completely lost about the scale and orientation of the city. In other cities, there are times I've completely misjudged how far metro stations are, or on different occasions changed trains when I could have just walked. All metro stations are equipped with the main metro and suburban rail map, a bigger map of the city with the major landmarks and more detailed ones of the immediate neighbourhood. I have a map of Paris, but it's something I hardly carry with me while getting around.
Getting around Paris is fast and easy. I haven't gotten around to using buses, which are generally a better way of seeing a city, but the metro doesn't leave me feeling disoriented. And, unlike the price hikes in New York, London and Boston, the metro prices have remained unchanged since I last visited 5 years ago.