Whenever I spend time in Europe, I appreciate the ease with which I can move around most cities, not to mention how convenient it is to take trains to travel from country to country. Here are my top three picks for European cities that, thanks to their public transportation systems and layout, are easy to get around.
I may be biased because I lived in Paris, but I find it to be one of the easiest European cities to navigate. This is, in large part, due to the efficient Métro system. Métro lines are color coded, and the direction the train is going is indicated by the stops at the end of each line. Métro stations are numerous and easy to find. Most Métro lines run from approximately 5:30am until 12:40am. Paris’s arrondissement (district) system helps visitors quickly understand the layout of the city. The arrondissements are numbered, and spiral out from the Seine river that splits the city into two banks: Rive Droite (Right Bank) and Rive Gauche (Left Bank). One can quickly get an idea of where any location in the city is simply by asking for the closest Métro stop, arrondissement, or one of Paris’s many easily recognized landmarks.
Instead of being split by a river (like Paris), Berlin was, of course, split by a wall for nearly thirty years. Although the wall fell in 1989, many of the neighborhoods that took shape when the city was divided into East and West Berlin are still intact. This historical division makes Berlin, a large city, easy to navigate. Each neighborhood has a name and many are centered on a “main” street or thoroughfare. The public transportation system (both the buses and the underground S-Bahn and U-Bahn) are well organized and efficient. Most underground lines run from 4am until 1am (some lines run for 24 hours on the weekend). When my map (or rather my map skills) failed me, I had no problem finding a friendly local to help me out.
Known for its modern subway system and convenient buses, Madrid is a public transportation dependent traveler’s dream. The Metro de Madrid runs from approximately 6:00am until 1:30am daily. The city is organized around plazas that serve as a communal gathering space (you’re sure to find bars and restaurants lining them). Madrid’s main tourist sites are easily accessible, especially the city’s largest art museums (Reina Sofia and Prado), which are located within walking distance of one another.