Saturday, April 4, 2020 Edition: U.S. & World | Regional

10 Best Subway Systems in the World

If you’ve ever been to a busy metropolitan area with a subway system, you know what a blessed relief they are! No driving, no parking, no wresting with Siri to get the right directions to wherever you are going. While most subways these days are fairly nice and reasonably safe, there are a few subway systems that really deserve an award. And many of them have actually received awards. Here are several cities where you should skip the bus, the sidewalks, and the streets and opt for the subways instead! Of all the subway systems in the world, these ten are the very best.


1    London Underground

The Tube was the first underground railway in the world. It was created in 1893, and modernized in 1905. Today, of course, it is must faster, cleaner, and more efficient than it has ever been in the past. Many travelers consider the London Underground to be the best subway system in the world. Not only does it serve London and its surrounding towns, but it also reaches Buckinghamshire, Essex, and Hertfordshire. Forget the bus! This subway takes you right where you need to go, wherever that may be.
London Underground
2    Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway

The Hong Kong subway is literally always on time, and it’s one of the cleanest and best-kept systems on the planet. The best way to use the Hong Kong MTR is to buy and load the swipe card, which can be used on pretty much all public transport plus some stores. The MTR system actually encompasses more than just the subway—above ground trains and buses all fall under the same umbrella as MTR, as well. This interconnectedness makes it even more convenient for travelers and commuters to get from place to place.
Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway

3    Singapore MRT

Like many aspects of Singapore, the metro is modern, clean, and efficient. In fact, the Singapore subway is one of the most energy efficient in the world, which makes great strides in reducing the region’s carbon footprint. As a plus, SMRT tunnels double as bomb shelters and are entirely equipped with 3G service.
Singapore MRT
4    Paris Metro

If you have read Les Miserables, you are probably more familiar with Revolutionary Paris’ underground sewage system than you ever wanted to be. But how familiar are you with modern Paris’ underground transport system? Unlike its 19th Century counterpart, the Paris Metro is an efficient, well-traveled system of 130 miles of tunnels that runs beneath the feet of Parisian pedestrians. Despite featuring tightly packed tunnels in only about 90 square miles of city, the Paris Metro is one of the busiest in the world.
Paris Metro
5    New York City MTA

The subway in New York City is the absolute best way to get around (unless you’re rich enough to own a private helicopter). With a quick swipe of your subway card, you can enter the subterranean stations and go anywhere you like in the city! The subway is an easy escape from the gridlock traffic that characterizes much of New York City’s streets, and it has over 450 stations that go virtually anywhere in the city. You can’t beat the efficiency of this 24/7 subway. As an additional attraction, the subways in New York are adorned with cultural and artistic touches. Many of the tunnels and stations have painted or tiled murals, and the city has a program to encourage musical performances within the stations.
New York Grand Central Terminal

6    Tokyo’s Subway

Tokyo’s underground transport system is like clockwork. It’s fast, on time, and mechanical. While visitors are in love with the fast and convenient metro trains, the onboard etiquette can be confusing and hard to keep up with. There are the somewhat obvious ones, like don’t smoke on the train. But then there are also points like no talking on cell phones, no letting your cell phone ring audibly, and no smelling stinky when you get in the train. Also, you should always defer your seat to a pregnant woman, and elderly person, or anyone with disabilities.
Tokyo’s Subway
7    Moscow Metro

The Moscow subway was designed with great care and excellent taste. The metallic art and marble interior makes it seem like an underground palace! There are constant updates and upgrades on the system, which creates an ongoing process of excellence in both efficiency and aesthetic appeal. The Moscow Metro is also one of the longest subway systems in the world as well as one of the busiest, and it has 14 lines that cross the city. Riding this subway is a must-do activity in Moscow, for sightseeing within the system as well as for transportation purposes. The stations and tunnels are just that cool.
Moscow Metro
8    Stockholm’s Tunnel Rail

This is arguably the most beautiful subway system in the world! With extensive art and themed stations, this subway is a great way to learn about Sweden’s culture and history as you travel from place to place. About half of the tunnel rail is actually above ground, so you may also get the chance to see the open-air sights of Stockholm as well as the tunnels when you ride the rail. Unfortunately, graffiti and vandalism is a huge (and very expensive) problem on Stockholm’s Tunnel Rail. The city is putting forth extra security efforts to curb the problem of graffiti on the trains and walls.
Stockholm’s Tunnel Rail
9    Seoul Metropolitan Subway

Talk about up to date—the Seoul Subway has a ridiculous amount of ultra-modern features, such as heated seats. The subway is made up of 20 lines that reach from the heart of Seoul as far as the surrounding satellite cities and the Incheon area. The lines are actually owned by four different companies, making the naming system a bit hard to follow, but otherwise working together seamlessly.
Seoul Metropolitan Subway
10    Athens Metro

The coolest part of the Athens Metro is that its creation doubled as an extensive excavation revealing thousands of precious ancient artifacts. When you zip though the subway, you can’t help but think about the things ten feet away from the edge of the digging sites that didn’t get discovered. Perhaps you’re zipping past the next big archaeological discovery every time you ride the subway!
Athens Metro


Driving in a strange city can be daunting but, luckily, many of the top destinations in the world have great public transportation systems. These cities have some of the coolest and best subways in the world. Some are so amazing they may actually qualify as tourist attractions!


  1. BB
    July 7, 2017 - 5:54 pm

    The Tokyo subway system is far superior to the NYC one in many respects. I’ve been to both this month and was aghast as how dirty and loud and not on time the NYC system is. The Tokyo one is ridiculously clean. You cite “rules” about not talking loudly but I think London does that too and you say you have to give up your seat to pregnant ladies, disabled people and old people but NYC has that in the train too and why wouldn’t you do that as a polite person? Why is that a negative? It’s…

  2. Anthony
    August 4, 2017 - 7:20 pm

    I am a Singaporean currently living in London as a permanent resident. London’s underground tube lines such as Bakerloo, Victoria, Central and even Piccadilly aren’t clean at all! Often you’ll find left over food, cans, bottles and newspapers littered in the train cabins. Sometimes you can even smell urine. I’m extremely surprised London Underground was voted as number one in the world! Believe me Hong Kong’s MTR and Singapore’s MRT are far superior than London Underground.

  3. James Smart
    August 23, 2017 - 12:32 pm

    I’ve been a subway enthusiasts, but sometimes things don’t work out as planned or envisaged. However, the last time I was at Moscow Metro I could tell that its indeed one of the best subways anyone could think of. The marble interior made me feel I was in a new world. In fact, it should be a must-go for everyone!

  4. August 23, 2017 - 3:32 pm

    I thought the trains in Bangkok, Thailand were pretty good. What I really liked about them was how everyone patiently queues to get on the train – no running, or pushing or crushing. They alway seemed to be on time as well. If you ever write an article about the worst subways, I would definitely suggest Mexico City – definitely one of the worst subway experiences of my life was there.

  5. Caitlin
    August 23, 2017 - 3:57 pm

    As someone who is not native to a metropolitan area sporting such feats of civic engineering, I have to say that all of the options sound both magnificent and slightly daunting! I have traveled to Paris, but did not use the metro and I have to say that absolutely has to beat the alternatives to getting around the city. The traffic while driving is beyond awful, especially near tourist attractions and in a tour bus. There is even a stop that has access to an entrance of the Louvre, called Palais…

  6. Halyna R.
    August 23, 2017 - 5:12 pm

    I was surprised to find out that a subway system can be more than just means of transportation. I’ll make sure to take that into account when planning my next trip. The Athens Metro caught my attention in particular. As for Tokyo’s Subway rules, they seem very reasonable to me. They should be applied universally, not only for subways but for other means of transportation as well. And as it was mentioned in another comment, giving up your seat to pregnant women is simply polite. But there’s a…

  7. Christabel Cynthia
    August 23, 2017 - 5:53 pm

    Being a lover of traveling by bus, I never saw much goodies linked to the subway system. It dawned on me that I’ve been missing out on a lot after reading this article. I’ll be in Athens for a business before the year runs out, and will be moving a lot. With the excavation displaying artifacts, the Athens Metro is a must visit for me.

  8. Mitchell
    August 24, 2017 - 6:03 am

    The New York subway looks great. Quite aesthetically pleasing judging from the photo here but I think London subway is the best. I’ve been there twice, not trying to be biased here but speaking base on my experience. They are all good though.

  9. Joanne
    August 24, 2017 - 7:35 am

    Wow. The subway is my favorite means of transportation by far. I always end up using it the most everywhere I travel. No traffic, and great temperature makes it the fastest most comfortable way to get somewhere. It’s always a good experience. The Moscow and Stockholm ones are really impressive. I have to go see them! I can’t believe that one in Athens is actually a subway though. It looks so fun. Can’t wait to see them all 🙂

  10. Kevin
    October 23, 2017 - 3:16 pm

    Not sure how many subway system you actually have tried in the world. Have you tried Taipei MRT? The system is very modern, efficient and meticulously clean, both in the cars and the stations. With 131.1 km in length (and still expanding), the scale is not up to the level of NYC yet, but it is a much better and pleasant ride than that dirty unattractive NYC subway.

    • Danny
      November 6, 2017 - 7:55 pm

      I agree with you. Taipei is a lot better than NYC subway. The stations are very clean and are very accessible. Many NYC stations are dirty and some are just scary. 🙂

    • kk
      January 21, 2018 - 12:35 am

      agree!! i doubt the author has been the rest of metro systems in the world….NYC ranks the top 10? LOL

  11. Kang Boon Yeong
    November 13, 2017 - 10:28 pm

    I am a Singaporean, I do not agreed that Singapore subway should be ranked 3.
    Since 2011 till today, Singapore subway ( MRT) had countless of breakdown. It sure was 1 of the best in the world but now… I would say yes Hong Kong, tokyo Seoul and Taipei train system would be better than Singapore

  12. November 20, 2017 - 6:24 pm

    I am 11 yrs old and I enjoy the Singapore MRT out of all of them. I live in NYC so the MRT is like a rocket compared to the dusty NYC subway. But in Orchard (singapore’s Busiest subway stop) the door closed on my arm. Luckily my dad was able to open the door just in time with the help of my mom. My mom had a red mark for 3 days afterward.

  13. Seoul
    November 21, 2017 - 2:21 am

    Seoul metro system must be ranked 1. Its cheap (1-2 dollars depending on how long you want to go) wifi available anywhere, clean, transfer for free buses to subway and vise versa, and every stops has screen doors which prevent any accidents such as suicides from people, and has real time informing system , supporting 4 languages for announcement, 5 languates for charge on cards, and has very convinient card which is called ‘ T money’ used to buy any convininent stores, movies etc.

    • kk
      January 21, 2018 - 12:39 am

      seoul metro network is extensive, but kinda old. few escalators available to exit, which is a nightmare for travelers. Definitely not the top 3.

  14. Lets
    January 1, 2018 - 7:14 am

    The Madrid metro is by far the best.More than 350 lbs of track and 340 stations in a city with a population of 6.6 million people.
    Together with an overground network of more than 200 stations.
    Go figure.

  15. GS
    January 31, 2018 - 6:25 am

    I am surprised Taipei is not on your list and your listing is questionable. The ranking must be based on punctuality, commuters’ satisfaction, the percentage of breakdown, cleanliness, safety and subway station facilities, amongst others. These are ranked low for most of your nominated metros.


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