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February 4, 2016


The Métro Station ‘Cité’ and its Sounds

by soundlandscapes

WITH ITS UBIQUITOUS Hector Guimardentourage’ entrance, the Métro station Cité is the only Métro station on the Île de la Cité, one of the two islands on the Seine within the historical boundaries of the city of Paris.

Cité Métro Station

The entourage entrance was the most common of Guimard’s Métro entrances. Built in the Art Nouveau style the entrance has waist high cast iron railings around three sides with symmetrical raised orange lamps designed in the form of plant stems, with each lamp enclosed by a leaf resembling a brin de muguet, a sprig of lily of the valley. Between the lamps is the classic Metropolitain sign.

Of the 154 entourage Métro entrances built, some 84 still survive on the Paris streets.

Cité Métro Station

With the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris on one side and the medieval gothic chapel, Sainte-Chapelle, the Conciergerie (a former prison) and the Palais de Justice (all formerly part of the Palais de la Cité, a Royal Palace from the 10th to the 14th century) on the other, Cité Métro station lies at the historical centre of Paris.

Cité Métro Station

The station is on Line 4 of the Paris Métro system, the line that travels 12.1 km across the heart of the city connecting Porte de Clignancourt in the north and, since 2013, Mairie de Montrouge in the south. Until the extension to Mairie de Montrouge was opened, the southern terminus of Line 4 was the original terminus, Porte d’Orléans.

Métro Line 4 was the first line to connect the Right and Left Banks of the Seine via an underwater tunnel built between 1905 and 1907. At the time, this was some of the most spectacular work carried out on the Paris Métro system.

Crossing the Seine was achieved using caissons, assembled on the shore and then sunk gradually into the river bed. The metal structures of the two stations, Cité on the Right Bank and Saint-Michel on the Left Bank, were also assembled on the surface and then sunk into the ground to their final location.


Station La Cité. Fonçage du caisson elliptique à la fin de la station. Vue intérieure. Vers le boulevard du Palais. Paris (IVème arr.). Photographie de Charles Maindron (1861-1940), 18 janvier 1907. Paris, bibliothèque de l’Hôtel de Ville. © BHdV / Roger-Viollet

Image courtesy of Paris en Images

The Seine crossing was commissioned on 9th January 1910 … only to be closed a few days later, a victim of the great Paris flood of 1910.

Cité Métro station was opened on 10th December 1910.

Unusually for the Paris Métro system, the station only has one entrance, at 2 Place Louis Lépine and, unlike other stations on Line 4, the platforms are 110 m in length, longer than the 90-105m platforms at other stations.

Because of the station’s depth, passengers must walk down to a mezzanine level, which contains the ticket machines, and then down another three flights of stairs before reaching platform level. This is fine on the way down but, as I know all too well, it can be a challenge on the way up!

Cité Métro Station

The walls of the station at the entrance at the top and along the platforms at the bottom are lined with conventional white Métro tiles but the decoration of the space in between is curious.

Cité Métro Station

Here, the walls are lined with large metal plates with oversized rivets. I have no idea when these were installed or why, but they give the impression of walking through a huge metal tank.

Cité Métro Station

The station platforms are lined with overhead lamps reflecting the style of the original station lamps.

Until recently, Métro Line 4 had the distinction of using the oldest trains on the Paris Métro network, the MP 59.


Paris Métro train Type MP 59 : Image via Wikipedia

After serving for almost fifty years, these trains were withdrawn from service during 2011 and 2012 and replaced with the MP 89 CC trains from Line 1 when that line was automated.

Cité Métro Station

An MP 89 CC train at Cité station, formerly used on Métro Line 1

Sounds inside Cité Metro Station:

I began recording these sounds at the Cité Métro entrance in Place Louis Lépine, beside the flower market. I went down the steps to the mezzanine level, passed through the ticket barrier, and then descended two more flights of steps. From here, it’s possible to see and hear the trains passing below. I walked along the narrow passageway beside the riveted metal plates and down some more steps to the platform.

Watching and listening to the MP 89 trains entering and leaving the station was quite nostalgic for me since I know these trains so well. When they operated on Line 1, the nearest line to my home, I rode on these trains almost every day for the best part of thirteen years.

I was pleased to see my old friends again at Cité station busy carrying passengers on the second busiest Métro Line in Paris.

Having savoured the atmosphere of the station, all that remained was for me to bid my friends adieu and gird my loins for the climb out of the station back onto the street.

Cité Métro Station

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. hmunro
    Feb 4 2016

    Ah, mais comment ça me donne de la nostalgie ! You’ve somehow compressed a decade’s worth of my métro-riding memories into 20 minutes — and although some of the sounds may be jarring, every one of them rings true to my own experience. This one’s a recording for the permanent archives, Des!

    • Feb 8 2016

      Thank you, Heather.
      Sound is certainly a very powerful medium for conjuring up memories … and it seems to have worked for you in this case. I think there is something magical about mechanical sounds and particularly the sounds of the Métro. It always seems to me that the trains are alive, breathing and sighing just like we humans … or is that just my vivid imagination?

      • hmunro
        Feb 8 2016

        I don’t think it’s your imagination at all, Des — or if it is, I’m suffering from the same delusion because the trains seem alive to me too. (Especially during peak travel times, when I swear I can hear them literally groan under the weight of all those sweaty commuters.) As you say so well: There’s something truly magical about those mechanical sounds. And I’m glad you’re so diligently recording them!

  2. Feb 5 2016

    Loved it, I could listen to metro trains all day. Thank you.

    • Feb 8 2016

      Thank you, Piers. I agree with you, the sounds of the Métro are captivating.


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