If you’ve ever been to a busy metropolitan area with a subway system, you know what a blessed relief they are! No driving, no parking, no wresting with Siri to get the right directions to wherever you are going. While most subways these days are fairly nice and reasonably safe, there are a few subway systems that really deserve an award. And many of them have actually received awards. Here are several cities where you should skip the bus, the sidewalks, and the streets and opt for the subways instead! Of all the subway systems in the world, these ten are the very best.
10. Athens Metro
The coolest part of the Athens Metro is that its creation doubled as an extensive excavation revealing thousands of precious ancient artifacts. When you zip though the subway, you can’t help but think about the things ten feet away from the edge of the digging sites that didn’t get discovered. Perhaps you’re zipping past the next big archaeological discovery every time you ride the subway!
9. Seoul Metropolitan Subway
Talk about up to date—the Seoul Subway has a ridiculous amount of ultra-modern features, such as heated seats. The subway is made up of 20 lines that reach from the heart of Seoul as far as the surrounding satellite cities and the Incheon area. The lines are actually owned by four different companies, making the naming system a bit hard to follow, but otherwise working together seamlessly.
8. Stockholm’s Tunnel Rail
This is arguably the most beautiful subway system in the world! With extensive art and themed stations, this subway is a great way to learn about Sweden’s culture and history as you travel from place to place. About half of the tunnel rail is actually above ground, so you may also get the chance to see the open-air sights of Stockholm as well as the tunnels when you ride the rail. Unfortunately, graffiti and vandalism is a huge (and very expensive) problem on Stockholm’s Tunnel Rail. The city is putting forth extra security efforts to curb the problem of graffiti on the trains and walls.
7. Moscow Metro
The Moscow subway was designed with great care and excellent taste. The metallic art and marble interior makes it seem like an underground palace! There are constant updates and upgrades on the system, which creates an ongoing process of excellence in both efficiency and aesthetic appeal. The Moscow Metro is also one of the longest subway systems in the world as well as one of the busiest, and it has 14 lines that cross the city. Riding this subway is a must-do activity in Moscow, for sightseeing within the system as well as for transportation purposes. The stations and tunnels are just that cool.
6. Tokyo’s Subway
Tokyo’s underground transport system is like clockwork. It’s fast, on time, and mechanical. While visitors are in love with the fast and convenient metro trains, the onboard etiquette can be confusing and hard to keep up with. There are the somewhat obvious ones, like don’t smoke on the train. But then there are also points like no talking on cell phones, no letting your cell phone ring audibly, and no smelling stinky when you get in the train. Also, you should always defer your seat to a pregnant woman, and elderly person, or anyone with disabilities.
5. New York City MTA
The subway in New York City is the absolute best way to get around (unless you’re rich enough to own a private helicopter). With a quick swipe of your subway card, you can enter the subterranean stations and go anywhere you like in the city! The subway is an easy escape from the gridlock traffic that characterizes much of New York City’s streets, and it has over 450 stations that go virtually anywhere in the city. You can’t beat the efficiency of this 24/7 subway. As an additional attraction, the subways in New York are adorned with cultural and artistic touches. Many of the tunnels and stations have painted or tiled murals, and the city has a program to encourage musical performances within the stations.
4. Paris Metro
If you have read Les Miserables, you are probably more familiar with Revolutionary Paris’ underground sewage system than you ever wanted to be. But how familiar are you with modern Paris’ underground transport system? Unlike its 19th Century counterpart, the Paris Metro is an efficient, well-traveled system of 130 miles of tunnels that runs beneath the feet of Parisian pedestrians. Despite featuring tightly packed tunnels in only about 90 square miles of city, the Paris Metro is one of the busiest in the world.
3. Singapore MRT
Like many aspects of Singapore, the metro is modern, clean, and efficient. In fact, the Singapore subway is one of the most energy efficient in the world, which makes great strides in reducing the region’s carbon footprint. As a plus, SMRT tunnels double as bomb shelters and are entirely equipped with 3G service.
2. Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway
The Hong Kong subway is literally always on time, and it’s one of the cleanest and best-kept systems on the planet. The best way to use the Hong Kong MTR is to buy and load the swipe card, which can be used on pretty much all public transport plus some stores. The MTR system actually encompasses more than just the subway—above ground trains and buses all fall under the same umbrella as MTR, as well. This interconnectedness makes it even more convenient for travelers and commuters to get from place to place.
1. London Underground
The Tube was the first underground railway in the world. It was created in 1893, and modernized in 1905. Today, of course, it is must faster, cleaner, and more efficient than it has ever been in the past. Many travelers consider the London Underground to be the best subway system in the world. Not only does it serve London and its surrounding towns, but it also reaches Buckinghamshire, Essex, and Hertfordshire. Forget the bus! This subway takes you right where you need to go, wherever that may be.
Driving in a strange city can be daunting but, luckily, many of the top destinations in the world have great public transportation systems. These cities have some of the coolest and best subways in the world. Some are so amazing they may actually qualify as tourist attractions!
This feature originally appeared in The Vacation Times.