The top 10 most beautiful metro train transport systems in the world

Most of the time, heading into a metro or subway system is an exercise in functionality – they're grim, murky places you need to enter to get from A to B relatively quickly. Some of the world's metros, however, aren't content to settle for this, and sprinkle a little fairy dust around to make them far more appealing.


Lisbon's stations have been used as a showcase for the country's beloved tile art ever since the metro system was built. The simple geometric patterns of the earlier stations have been complimented by rather more extravagant efforts elsewhere. Cais Do Sodre goes in for a giant Alice In Wonderland-style rabbit, and Oriente is covered in works by artists brought in from five continents to do their thing.


Many of Stockholm's stations look like elaborately painted caves, and the Swedish capital's metro giddily bills itself as the world's longest art exhibit, with 110 kilometres of tunnels. Almost all the subway stations have sculptures, mosaics, paintings, reliefs and installations, with the Kungstradgarden station looking like an archaeological excavation. Meanwhile, Ostermalmstorg is ablaze with women's rights- and environmentalist-themed art.


Moscow's extensive metro system involves lots of very deep stations that were partly designed as bomb shelters. They're a real hodge-podge too, some boasting laughably earnest Stalinist art, such as the mosaics of happy workers at Kievskaya and the black marble and soldier sculptures at Ploshchad Revolutsii. Komsomolskaya is the most impressive though, painted to look like a yellow baroque palace, and with crystal chandeliers dangling from the roof.

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There are some treasures hidden inside the Paris Metro stations – Louvre-Rivoli has replicas of ancient art and statues from the Louvre Museum, for example. But it's the old-fashioned art nouveau signage and entrances that make most of Paris' stations so swoony. Many of these were created by art nouveau movement heavyweight Hector Guimard, and have been imitated around the world.


Several stops along lines 1 and 6 in Naples have been designated as "art stations" and deliberately designed to look pretty. Of these, Toledo is the masterpiece, regularly cited as one of the world's most stunning metro stations. The blue-and-white mosaic tiling makes it look like a twinkling, starry sky, and  riding up the escalator feels like ascending to the heavens.


Much of Chicago's L network isn't underground at all, and what makes it viscerally cool is that it rattles along on elevated tracks above the road. There's something rather steampunk about this, and the L trains have featured in numerous movies. They're noisy as hell, but there's a romance about them that no other city manages to match.


The latter section of the Market-Frankford Line in Philadelphia also runs above ground and passes a series of 50 murals painted high on the walls of buildings. Collectively, these are known as the Love Letter, and are by artist Stephen Powers. All are fairly simple messages to an imagined object of affection, using images from what's nearby – bacon and eggs near a cafe, a camera near a photographic store, for example. Mural Arts runs tours pointing the murals out on weekends. See



When the Athens Metro was being built, the excavations uncovered all manner of historical treasures. And, instead of shunting off all the finds into museums, some were incorporated into the station designs. So Akropoli has 1500-year-old mosaic floors and 6th-century oil lamps, while Monastiriki's centuries-old ruins come with a long buried, forgotten-about stream trickling through.


Washington DC's startlingly brutalist stations carry a space-age look that was in vogue in the 1960s. The curving concrete tunnel roofs, made up of tessellated squares, are defined by their lack of decoration, but manage to be  tremendously distinctive. They could be ugly – but instead look rather epic.


The strength of the world's oldest underground railway network is in its variety. There's plenty of detail to be uncovered, while stations have vastly different looks. Westminster, for example, looks rather like it should be on the Death Star in the Star Wars movies, but Baker Street has Sherlock Holmes silhouettes on its tiled walls and Leytonstone has mosaics commemorating Alfred Hitchcock. Many of the most gorgeous facades are the work of Leslie Green, who used colourful tile-work to elevate the likes of Mornington Crescent, Covent Garden and South Kensington above the humdrum.

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