Europe pioneered the underground rail, and by following the cultural and topological contours of each capital, metro systems are an excellent way to explore a city. Here are four of our’s favourite European metro lines.
Line 1, Budapest
Mexikói út Station, Budapest
Opened in 1896, Budapest’s beloved Line 1 metro is the 2nd oldest in the world, and was the first in continental Europe. Featuring quaint Austro-Hungarian stations and bright yellow rolling stock, the line runs 3.7km from Deák Ferenc tér in the centre of Pest to the majestic City Gardens in the North.
With frequent stops along the historic Andrássy Avenue, you’ll find most of Budapest’s older attractions; from the neoclassical giant, St. Stephen’s Basilica, to the stately Opera house, and Europe’s oldest and grandest thermal pools – the Széchenyi baths.
Line A, Prague
Malostranská Station, Prague
Prague is a city as romantic as it is obscure. Opened in 1974, under Soviet auspices, our second European highlight, Line A, is no less singular. Crossing the Vltava on an east-west axis, Line A and its stations are a happy but discordant mix of socialist brutalism and capitalist minimalism.
Slick modern trains roar past old communist frescos, and the longest (and perhaps creakiest) escalators in Europe do their daily dance before a backdrop of billboards.
Line A connects some of Prague’s most celebrated landmarks. With the venerable Charles’ Bridge, the medieval city centre and an old clock that drives the tourists absolutely mental, there’s no better way to see the history and the contrast of Prague, it all its varied phases.
Central Line, London
Bank Station, London
London can be daunting for tourists, but one way to get a feel for the all its colourful sights and suburbs is with the quintessential Central tube line. As the arterial route in the world’s oldest underground network, the Central Line is the longest and busiest in London. Opened in 1900 and with deep subterranean stations, it cuts right through the city, with stops unique in their diversity.
In the east are the charming cafes and back-streets of Notting Hill and Shepherd’s Bush. In the centre is the incomparable Hyde Park, the shuttered mansions of Mayfair, staid St Paul’s, and the twisted glass and steel towers of Bank financial district. To the west, you’ll find the grimy urban high streets of Shoreditch and Bethnal Green.
Avoid the morning commute, and with all the history around you – be sure to mind the gap!
Opened in 1902, the iconic U1 is the perfect way to see Berlin’s multifarious faces. Bursting with buskers, beggars, clubbers, and clinking Club Mates, the narrow trains twist and turn above and below ground for 8.8km; from the night-clubs of Friedrichshain to the ramshackle squats of Kreuzberg, and the glittering über-capitalist shopping strips of West-Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm.
Once bisected by the Berlin-Wall, the pragmatic Prussian stations and the dull riveted girders give the U1 a dirty, industrial chic that the city is so famous for. You’ll see gorgeous views of the Spree, perplexing fashion choices and a genuine insight into the local lives of this beguiling capital.