I transferred at Duroc to line 10, heading east, a route I’d taken dozens of times before. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary on my commute that day. But as I looked out the metro car into the blackness, I saw something new: a flash of graffiti, a pale gray light, the words…Croix-Rouge?
According to Wikipedia, it takes 6.9 seconds for the average train to pass through Croix-Rouge—long enough for a passenger like me to peek into the dark world of Paris’s “phantom” metro stations. Croix-Rouge is one of at least eight abandoned stations in the city, ghosts of the past and victims of chaotic urban development.
Today, the only people to visit these stations close-up are RATP workers and adventurous urban explorers, who risk getting caught (or worse) hiding from security cameras and sprinting down empty tracks. But you can glimpse most of these stations on your daily metro ride, if you know where to look.
1. Martin Nadaud (1905-1969)
Martin Nadaud, the oldest of Paris’s phantom metro stations, was named after a member of Parliament and revolutionary who lived from 1815 to 1898.
The station met its end when part of line 3 branched off to become 3bis in 1969. Although line 3 used to end at Porte des Lilas, including both Martin Nadaud and Gambetta, it was rerouted toward Porte de Bagnolet to serve residents further east. Martin Nadaud and Gambetta were so close that they simply fused the two into one large Gambetta station, with platforms for lines 3 and 3bis.
Today, when you transfer between 3 and 3bis, you are walking through a former train tunnel.
2. Arsenal (1906-1939)
On September 2, 1939, many metro stations in Paris were shuttered as employees from the Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris were drafted to serve in WWII. At the time, 173 stations were closed down temporarily.
“When the war ended, electricity was rationed and the metro ran a skeletal service,” explains RATP official Julian Pepinster. Several stations never reopened, and Arsenal (on line 5 between Quai de la Rapée and Bastille) was one of them.
Today, the station is used for training maintenance workers. But Republican Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet imagined more exciting uses for Arsenal and the other phantom stations during her mayoral candidacy; the mockups of Arsenal as a pool, night club, or dining hall are simply mesmerizing. (Unfortunately for those of us who wanted to swim in Arsenal, she lost the mayoral race.)
3. Gare du Nord USFRT (1907-1942)
Gare du Nord USFRT is the name for the former Gare du Nord station. It was once the terminus of line 5, but when the line was extended to Église de Pantin, the station had to be moved.
Today, the phantom station is used as a driver training center, complete with fake signals and signs.
4. Champ de Mars (1913-1939)
Another victim of WWII, Champ de Mars closed in 1939 and never reopened, apparently because it wasn’t a particularly busy station—which is surprising, since it’s located right at the base of the (you guessed it) Champ de Mars.
Today, you can catch a glimpse of it riding on line 8 between École Militaire and La Motte-Picquet—Grenelle—or peek at these ghostly photos of Champ de Mars from January 2017.
5. Haxo (built in 1921)
Originally meant to connect Porte des Lilas (line 3b) and Place des Fetes (line 7b), Haxo is one of two phantom metro stations that never saw a single passenger. After the city built it, the operator decided that it wouldn’t be busy or profitable enough to use—they didn’t even build entrances.
Last year, there was talk of putting it into service to connect lines 3b and 7b, so you could ride one train all the way from Louis-Blanc to Gambetta. But even if that plan goes through, Haxo will have waited more than 100 years to open.
6. Porte Molitor (built in 1923)
Like Haxo, Porte Molitor station was never used—and has no exits. Located between lines 9 and 10, it was meant to serve fans returning home from the Parc des Princes soccer stadium on game nights. Today, trains are stored there when they’re not in use.
7. Croix-Rouge (1923-1939)
Croix-Rouge was the terminus of line 10 when it opened in 1923, located underneath a crossroads by the same name (now called the Place Michel-Debré). Closed during WWII, however, it never reopened since it was so close to Sèvres-Babylone.
In the ’80s, artists turned its platforms into a beach scene; in 2007, the Bibliothèque nationale de France advertised erotic books there, with posters illuminated in red light and fluttering black curtains. But today, the station is simply dark and full of graffiti—an eerie sight for passengers like me.
8. Saint-Martin (1931-1939)
Saint-Martin, the newest of the phantom metro stations, also shut down during WWII, although it’s unclear whether or not it opened briefly thereafter. In any case, since it was so close to Strasbourg Saint-Denis on lines 8 and 9, it eventually closed for good.
Since then, its platforms have been home to epic advertisements for Nike, Microsoft, H&M, and the movie Prometheus, among others. The Salvation Army has claimed another part of the station for its work with the homeless during the day.