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In addition to providing efficient, inexpensive transport throughout some of the world's greatest cities, their most distinguished rapid-transit systems also provide an insight into history and society. Here are five outstanding examples.
Incorporating the Athens-Piraeus line built in 1869 as a steam railway and later of course electrified, the Metró Athínas began expanding in the 1990s, and now comprises three lines with 65 stations. Naturally, extensive archaeological finds from classical and Byzantine Greece were unearthed during these excavations, and many of the best pieces are displayed at the very central Syntagma Square station (top).
Gobierno de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires
Hispanic America's first metro rail was opened in 1913 in Argentina's capital with Línea, starting from the Casa Rosada presidential palace in Plaza de Mayo, where Evita Perón gave her famous balcony speeches. This runs to Buenos Aires's Congress building on Avenida de Mayo. Many stations of the Subte, as locals call it, are decorated with artwork from antique to contemporary.
Launched in 1896, the Budapesti Metró is the world's second oldest metro subway system (33 years after the first, in London), and the world's first to be powered by electricity. Riding this fairly shallow Metró provides a great tour of the highlights of Pest, including Andrassy Avenue, Vörösmarty Square, Cafe Gerdbeaud, St. Stephen's Basilica, the State Opera House, various distinguished theaters, and the House of Terror, documenting the horrors of life in Hungary under the Nazi and Communist régimes. Furthermore, at the Deák Ferenc Square stop there's an Underground Railway Museum documenting this illustrious history.
New York City
Opened in 1904, the New York City Subway is the world's largest rapid-transit system, with 36 lines and 468 stations, both underground and above ground/elevated, all operating 24/7. Though these days increasingly challenged in terms of service and cleanliness, it still provides fairly reliable access to much of the Big Apples five boroughs to a daily ridership of up to 6 million, with a central nexus at Manhattan's Times Square. The system has been gradually expanded over the years with new lines and stations, most recently in 2017.
The 118-year-old Paris Métro comprises 16 lines and 302 stations, covering much of the metro area and serving more than 4 million riders daily, with a nexus at Châtelet-Les Halles, one of the world's largest metro stations. Various new lines are under construction, with opening dates through 2024, and others in the works up till 2030. Many of the central stations are distinguished by their Art Nouveau style (above).