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Subways are an essential part of getting around most major cities. Navigating these underground mazes can often be a challenge, particularly for foreign tourists. The following article takes a look at some of the best and most interesting subway maps from around the world.

London

The first map of the London Underground dates back to 1908 when the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, in conjunction with 4 operators of underground trains created a geographical representation of the directions of lines and locations of station. These were overlaid on the city’s major landmarks and roads, but the map proved to be limited and difficult to read.

The current, diagrammatic design was created in 1931 by Harry Beck, a London Underground employee who observed that the location of the stations in relation to overground landmarks was irrelevant. Beck presented stations in their relative, rather than absolute positions, in a design that is much more user-friendly for commuters.

New York City

The current New York City Subway map is based on a 1979 design by Michael Hertz Associates and is widely recognised as a design classic. The map has been the subject of several works of art, including those by noted artist Alexander Chen.

Due to the complexity of the system and its design, the map is not geographically accurate but represents stations alongside the city’s major streets, helping commuters to easily find their way around.

Moscow

The Moscow metro system opened in 1935 with an 11 km line and 13 stations, it has grown to reach 301.2 km with 182 stations and is used daily by around 6-9 million users making it the second-busiest subway in the world behind Tokyo.

Akin to the London and New York subway maps, Moscow follows a topological structure, with rings to demonstrate the major stations and landmarks. It took designers Art Lebdev almost 4 years to develop the latest design which they claim is: “Recognizable, yet truly novel, able to satisfy both passengers’ demands and design requirements.”

Tokyo

The subway in Tokyo is part of the most extensive rapid transit system in the world. The 14 lines and 282 stations serve nearly 8 million passengers every day making it the busiest system in the world.

The subway’s map features an innovative design which features both Japanese and English language versions of station names. The stations are consecutively numbered on colour-coded lines, meaning that commuters who don’t speak either language will find it easy to navigate.

Paris

The Art-Nouveau Paris Metro is the second busiest in Europe behind Moscow, carrying around 4.5 million commuters each day, almost 1.5 billion annually.
A revised version of the original Parisien subway map was conceived by Harry Beck, the man responsible for London’s Underground map. However, despite being widely celebrated by graphic designers as a triumph, it was never used by the French authorities. The current design features a common topological design with numbers and colours to identify lines and stations.

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  • Anonymous

    I don’t know why exactly, but I have a subway map fetish.  I’ve amassed over 70 digital versions of subway maps from around the world, most of them in a printer ready, high resolution format. I went as far as touch up about 40 of them to display in large and small collections.  The touch ups were largely to remove things like advertisements, but also to tweak the backgrounds in some so that they would have a more similar aesthetic.  You can see an example of one installation at http://www.technotarek.com/images/subway_maps.jpg.  Contact me if you’re interested in learning more.

    • Timothy Arnold

      Hey really interested in your maps, i like your installation.

      Where can i get some copies of them?

      Thanks heaps

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been collecting digital versions of these and many other subway maps for the last couple of years.  Personally, while the ones cited here are traditional favorites, there are some other really cool ones.  For example, check out Stuttgart sometime. I’ve amassed around 70 so far and, after some graphic touch-ups, started putting them into little/medium art installations.   You can see a sample here: http://www.technotarek.com/images/subway_maps.jpg.   

  • Info

    The map for New York City is actually that of Toronto, Canada …

  • http://www.logoblog.org Logo Design

    Very interestin maps! its seem nice Graphic Designing lol!

  • http://drawne.com Andy Feliciotti

    Why isn’t Washington DC on the list

  • http://tenml.com Tenman

    it’s to hard for me to understand.
    i think the design process looks really complicated.

  • http://www.pragmaticdesign.co.uk Web Design Wolverhampton

    Harry Beck, creator of the iconic (and much copied) London Underground map was an electrician, I believe, and set out to create a “circuit diagram” of the Underground. Originally hated by LU management, the rest is history…

  • Jonathan

    LOL they mixed up the New York and Toronto Pictures