top of page
  • Writer's pictureParisian Niche

A Guide to Getting Around in Paris: Buses


We have previously discovered and discussed the fabulous Parisian métro system. Today, let's take a look at how to get around above ground, on the Parisian bus system.

While the métro might be the quickest way about town (due to above ground traffic patterns and obstacles), the bus system should not be overlooked at all. It's a safe, efficient, and wonderfully architectural way to explore the city.


For the sake of playfulness, let's imagine that our bus is a time machine...

We're driving back all the way in time to the court of the Sun King himself - Louis the 14th. His team rolled out (get it?) a brand new inception of a public coach transport system.


Now to clarify, when we say his "team," we are really referring to the brain power of one Monsieur Blaise Pascal.

Pascal proposed this idea of passage to the Sun King and so enamored was he with the decidedly modern transport concept, that King Louis XIV granted Pascal a monopoly of sorts.

That's to say that no other transport coaches could be operated, other than the system and routes developed by Blaise. If you disobeyed and tried, you'd have lost your horses and vehicles - sheesh, just trying to make a living in the feudal times!


At its inception, there were five unique (if not close) bus coach routes. During this time, four of the five routes traversed the Jardin du Luxembourg (not too shabby, merci very much).

The fifth route circled the entirety of Paris, and was aptly titled the Tour de Paris.


The physical system was rather simple. We start with seven individual, horse drawn coaches.

Each coach could carry between six and eight passengers.

What could possibly go wrong?

That, P'Nichers, is called foreshadowing...


By royal decree, the only people who were permitted to ride the bus coach system were the aristocrats.

This excluded the vast majority of the population - the soldiers and peasants.

Let's just say that by 1675, it was au revoir bus coach system...


Let's jump back in our time machine bus coach and gallop forward to 1826. We're in Nantes, France. Monsieur Stanislas Baudry began his service of the very first French Omnibus system. Here, each horse drawn coach had the ability to carry up to sixteen passengers.


Now we're talking!

We're in 1828 now and the omnibus has been so well received, that it enters the Paris transportation system, with its premier route clip-clopping from La Madeleine to La Bastille (and back again). Soon, with no royal monopolies, profitable routes were operating all over and around Paris.


It would make sense that the man who has his personal stamp all over the iconic geography and face of Paris had his hands in the public transport system as well.

Georges-Eugène Haussmann (that's Baron Haussmann to you and me) took the nearly twenty operating bus transport companies and whittled them down to one company (again, back to a monopoly format) the Compagnie Générale des Omnibus (CGO).

In the mid 1850s, so popular was the bus coach service that over 6,700 horses were being used!

That's a lot of horses (and mess)... what to do?

Beep, beep, get in! We're headed to the new millennium, the 1900s!


Now, we are at engine based buses, operating regularly. That said, these times were not without their set backs.

Both World War I and World War II presented unique challenges that the French faced and conquered with their usual style and flair.

Vroom Vroom in our time machine bus to...

The decadent 1980s!

The buses we see today (under the RATP umbrella) with their signature while and teal coloring are on a consistent traverse about Paris.

These days, millions of riders choose this as their preferred way to get around town.


As we slow down our time machine to present times, it is important to note that France is in touch with climate needs and has ordered electric buses to their state of the art transport system.

This is a sign that the Parisian are not slowing down any time soon.

So, how to ride the Paris bus system?


First, you'll need a ticket. If you don't have a Navigo pass, you can get what is called a T+ ticket at métro stations, RER stations, and tabac locations. The cost is approximately €2 per ticket. You may also be able to buy one from the bus driver, with a step up fee (about 25 cents) added to your ticket fee.


Noting that most buses run regularly from around 7am through 8:30 pm, (the Noctilien is the name of the "night bus"), you will want to begin to chart your course. Note also, buses run around five to seven minutes apart in the daytime.

You will find a downloadable and savable Parisian bus route map here.

Annnnnd, we're off!


Now that you know your path, you must find your starting point, your first bus stop.

With approximately 70 unique bus routes all over Paris (heavily in zones 1 - 3), there are many choices for bus stops. As you can see here, they are clearly marked and should be easy to find and access.

As you board, you will note the bus number and line direction (end of route) for that specific bus.

Many stops are equipped electronically to advise when the next bus will arrive. As you see a bus approach, a simple wave of your hand will alert the driver to stop and pick you up to board.

Don't forget to say bonjour to your driver!


You will board the bus from the front, middle, or back doors. To open the doors, simply push the button next to the doors. You will punch your ticket (or wave your Navigo pass over the purple card reader).

Noting around 5 minutes between each stop (in fluid traffic), when you need to request a stop, press one of the red buttons and a "stop requested" light will appear by the driver.

Easy as a piece of gateau, right?


It is worth stating that like the métro, buses offer petty thieves the opportunity to snatch personal items, so as you would on the trains, make sure you safeguard your items and keep wallet, portable phones, and any other valuables safely stored away in a zippered bag or similar.

This way you can relax and enjoy the scenery!


And what scenery there is to enjoy!

Some of our favorite bus routes to enjoy the view commuting are:

- Bus 22 - Arc de Triomphe / Opéra

- Bus 38 - North / South Axis

- Bus 40 - Montmartre

* Formerly called Montmartrebus

- Bus 69 - The Greatest Hits


- Bus 72 - Right Bank Delight

- Bus 80 - Montmartre / Eiffel Tower

- Bus 86 - Bastille / Saint Sulpice

- Bus 89 - Latin Quarter

You can see this Bus 89 pulling straight up with a straight on view of Le Panthéon. Can you imagine this as you commute to and from the office? Oui, please!

Certainly there are more ways to get around Paris (did someone say water taxi / Batobus?) so we will look forward to you subscribing and zooming back into the Parisian Niche. Beep beep, et à bientôt!



Recent Posts

See All


Sep 01, 2022

As always, very interesting! I didn't know l'histoire, merci! :)

Sep 02, 2022
Replying to

merit bien - I am so pleased you liked it! :)

bottom of page