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The Oldest Subways in the World

The Oldest Subways in the World

Public transport is a comfortable and fast way of getting around big cities, in fact, millions of people use it every day. Here at Civitatis, we want to reveal some of the oldest subways in the world, some of them are more than a century old!

Subway, metro, underground… Don’t miss the most curious facts about these interesting railways, read on to find out more!

London and the world’s oldest subways (1863)

One of the oldest subways next to Big Ben in London.
Underground sign next to Big Ben in London.

The underground or tube in London is the oldest transport system of its kind in the world. It opened on 10th January 1863 with steam locomotives. Today, there’s an underground network of 408 kilometres of active lines that will take you anywhere in the city. If you fancy finding out more fun facts about one of the oldest subways, don’t miss the London Transport Museum.

The Istanbul Tunnel (1875)

The Istanbul Tünel, opened in 1875.
Historic Istanbul Tunnel. 

The Tünel was the first underground train in continental Europe. This pioneer began running in 1875 and, despite its short distance of 573 metres, it carries 12,000 passengers every day. Make sure to visit on your next trip to Istanbul, the whole journey will only take you 90 seconds! You can also take the opportunity to enjoy a trip to Cappadocia.

Chicago ‘L’ (1892)

The Chicago 'L' outside, one of the oldest subways in the world.
Chicago ‘L’ exterior.

Do you know why the Chicago ‘L’ is one of the oldest subways in the world? Because it started operating on 6th June 1892, at the end of the 19th century! The origin of its name comes from the word “elevated”, as there are parts where the train comes to the surface. It’s the third busiest subway in the United States, with an average of more than 600,000 people a week. If you’ve purchased the Chicago Explorer Pass, you’re sure to use this subway to see all the city’s attractions.

It’s the third busiest underground in the United States, with an average of more than 600,000 people a week.

Glasgow Circular Underground (1896)

Glasgow Underground
Glasgow Circular Underground

In 1896, the only line for the Glasgow Metropolitan Railway, one of the oldest subways in the world, began to run. Today, this network is maintained on an exclusive basis. If you’re travelling in the area, you must take a trip to Loch Ness – will you be visiting the mythological beast?

Budapest’s historic metro line (1896)

The iron columns at one of the oldest subway stations in Budapest.
Budapest subway system

The Budapest metro has a total of 52 stations and only four lines. What is so special about the Budapest metro system? Line 1 was launched in 1896 and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. Some stations still have decor that will take you back to another era. If you visit this city by the Danube, we recommend taking a guided tour of its most iconic spots.

The Paris Metropolitain (1900)

One of the oldest subways with art nouveau elements in Paris.
Metro entrance with iron details in Paris

The fastest way to visit the iconic monuments around the ‘city of love’ is to use the métropolitain de Paris, one of the oldest subways in the world. The first line was inaugurated on 19th July 1900, and during its early years, a number of wrought-iron stations, influenced by the art nouveau movement, were installed. If you feel like exploring the historic centre, you can take a fascinating free tour – you’re sure to love it!

The Berlin U-Bahn (1902)

Berlin's legendary station with yellow tiles.
Interior of a Berlin underground station

The U-Bahn reaches 72 kilometres per hour, has 175 stations and almost 150 kilometres of track. This network, which was opened in 1902, has gone through different historical periods. During the Second World War it was used as a bunker and from 1945 until 1989 East Berlin citizens were restricted on the underground lines.

New York, the subway that never closes (1904)

Times Square Station. New York has one of the oldest subways in the world.
Times Square station

If you’ve visited the ‘Big Apple’, you’re sure to have had your picture taken with the subway sign. New York has one of the oldest subways in the world, which opened for the first time in 1904. It was built by 30,000 workers and on its first active day, 127,381 people used it. To visit iconic landmarks such as the Empire State or the MoMA, you’ll have to use this transport system. It’s even open 24 hours a day!

The Philadelphia SEPTA (1907)

Philadelphia subway station facade
Philadelphia underground station

This oldest subway has sections that run above and below ground. The network of tracks began in 1907, with 208 stations today, it’s the fastest way to see one of the oldest cities in the United States. If you want to learn about the history of Philadelphia, you can visit the Museum of the American Revolution.

Madrid Metro (1919)

One of the oldest subways in the world, in the heart of Madrid.
Gran Vía metro entrance, Madrid

Gran Vía, Sol, La Latina, Moncloa… These symbols of Madrid can be visited by public transport. The capital has one of the oldest subways in the world and the oldest in Spain. It was King Alfonso XIII who inaugurated it on 17th October 1919, which meant a change in the rhythm of life for the people of Madrid. If you’re visiting the city, don’t miss the abandoned Chamberí station. You can also round off your getaway with a ghost tour – don’t panic!

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