If you’re a fan of vintage public transport, or just want to enjoy a free peek at some of Paris’ WWI-era omnibuses, then hop on the metro line 1 or 14 to the “Gare de Lyon” (RERs A and D also stop at this station). From the platform, follow signs for “Sorti N° 15: Maison de la RATP” and you’ll soon find yourself in a very modern stairwell (there’s an elevator on the left of the stairs if needed) leading to the lobby of the headquarters for the “Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens” aka RATP, Paris’ public transport authority in charge of running the Paris metro, bus, tram and RER lines.
Located between the Gare de Lyon train station and the Seine’s Right Bank, you can enter the Maison de la RATP through the iconic Art Nouveau “Metropolitan” sign at 189 rue de Bercy or directly from the metro station during the building’s opening hours, Monday-Friday, 7:30am-7:30pm. Once inside you’ll find a vast lobby surrounded by mezzanines, with garden planters and benches overlooking a line-up of four vintage autocars from the Compagnie Générale des Omnibus, which operated buses in Paris between 1855 and 1921, such as a Schneider H from 1916.
Open to the public, you can follow the stairs or ramps around the mezzanine to get a closer look and take as many photos as you like (but not touching, there are guards nearby). If you continue to the far end of the lobby towards the Quai de la Rapée exit, you’ll see another metro sign and – safe behind thick glass walls – a real “Motrice M.857 Sprague-Thompson” metro car from 1923 (photo below).
This garden mosaic shows Paris in white, surrounded by the Ile-de-France, and the Seine (black) running through it.
Bonus: the Maison de la RATP lobby is a nice shortcut between the Gare de Lyon and the Gare d’Austerlitz if you’re on foot, just cross the Seine at the Pont Charles de Gaulle once you’ve exited at 54 Quai de la Rapée.
Maison de la RATP
189 rue de Bercy, 12th arr.
Metro Gare de Lyon
Open Mon-Fri 7:30am-7:30pm (closed weekends and public holidays)