In her essence, Athens is an adventurous city that thrives on spontaneity. It is my sweet and loving way of pointing out that it can, on occasion, feel somewhat disorganized. Chaotic, even. But surprise! The Athens Metro is one of the cleanest, safest, cheapest, most beautiful and reliable metro systems in Europe, if not the world. It gives riders access to 50,000 ancient artifacts, all on museum-quality display in six* of the central metro stations where they were unearthed during construction. Are you seduced? Want to know how to access this anomaly of public transportation?
Utilizing the Wonderful, Marvelous, Metro of Athens
All of the stations are marked with the Metro’s logo, an “M” that looks like rails.
The Venizelos International Airport and the Port of Piraeus, the two main points of entry into Athens, are both linked to metro stations. Upon arrival, free maps can be found at official counters.
There are three lines:
- The ISAP, or railway going from the northern suburb of Kifissia to the Port of Piraeus, is the Green line. Other useful stations that give access to touristic places and points of interest include the Monastiraki station (close to the Roman and Ancient Agoras as well as the Monastiraki flea market) and the Victoria Station which is very near the Archaeological Museum. FYI, this line actually dates back to the mid 19th century, making it the second oldest underground railway in the world!
- The Red line goes North to Agios Antonios and South to Agios Dimitrios. It includes several stations you will likely visit including Acropolis, the main square of Syntagma, Panepistimio just outside the National Library (a good point of entry into Kolonaki) and Omonia Square, very close to some wowza hotels like the Fashion Hotel and the Classical Baby Grand Hotel.
- The Blue line goes North to the Venizelos International Airport, Keramikos, the main station for the trendy area of Gazi and the archeological site of the Keramikos cemetery, as well as Monastiraki, Syntagma, and Evangelismos, the station near the Hilton hotel and the Ilissia area.
So now that you’re oriented, here are the details:
Tickets inside the city center are €1.00 for 1.5 hours, or €3.00 for an all day pass . You can also use the metro to connect to commuter rails or get to the airport for €6.
Once you’ve gone down the escalator (or lift for the disabled) you’ll see automatic machines where you can insert coins or cash to buy as many tickets as you need.
Validate your ticket, or else! If the fates have thrown a “check” by officials in your station, you’ll get a ticket costing much more than €1.
You’ll see various ways to descend to the rails. Look at the sign on the wall before the escalator and make certain that the stops written are the correct color of the line you need and the direction you want. If the station you want is written in gray, you’re going down the wrong stairs. Move to the stairs opposite and check again.
Electronic signs suspended from the ceiling give you the time until the arrival of the next train. The frequency of the trains depends on the day, the month, the hour… it can range between one every six minutes (stations in the city center) to one every twenty for the more suburban stations. Trains are less frequent on holidays, during the month of August, and late at night or early in the morning. The first trains run in the 5am hour and the last in the midnight hour, except for Fridays and Saturdays when it runs into the 1am hour.
As the Metro has been fantastically well kept since its construction in 2004, they require passengers to respect a few guidelines.
- No smoking, eating, or drinking in the stations or on the trains. This is strictly enforced.
- No vandalism or other acts of “self expression”
- and the unwritten rule is to let the others off before you get on, though this is rarely the case. Unfortunately it’s more of a wild sprawl through the doorway and dramatic monkey-arming it to the nearest pole. Alas. Such is the price of cheap, reliable transportation.
For some very good information on the Athens Metro including photographs of each station, visit their helpful website.
** Syntagma wins the prize for the most bone-chilling article on display with a 2400 year old human skeleton. Creepy!