Using public transportation for the first time in Athens can be an adventure to say the least; the best way to learn is to get out and immerse yourself in it. Traveling on foot is a great way to get a vibe of the city and take in the sights, especially since many of the main attractions are located in central Athens. However, for travelling longer distances, the transit system in Athens can take you to the furthest areas such as Piraeus, Lavrio, and Rafina.
The vibrant and populous city of Athens has made significant improvements in its transportation in recent years, particularly after hosting the 2004 Olympics. In efforts to modernize the transit system, Athens introduced the new “Athena card” in October 2017, a plastic card that has phased out the old paper tickets. Further, the implementation of the metal bars in metro has been added this year as a security feature and to deter people from riding the metro without a ticket.
The options for getting around in Athens include the metro, bus/trolley, tram, and taxi.
The metro is without a doubt the quickest and easiest way to get around Athens. Although it can be challenging to read the Metro signs that are sometimes may appear only in Greek, I was able to get a decent grasp of the Metro relatively quick. It’s quite straightforward as it comes only as three lines, making it easier to navigate compared to other cities like Paris with far more intricate systems.
Syntagma station in the center of Athens doubles as a museum, housing the antiquities and other archaeological artifacts discovered during the construction of the metro. Make sure to take some time to stop and check out the artful displays before or after your commute!
Suburban Railway (Proastiakos)
My very first experience with public transportation in Athens was the suburban railway; I remember my ride from the airport into the city as a pleasant one. The suburban railway (proastiakos) connects the Athens airport with central Athens, and also to the National Railway network.
If you’re looking to take a break from the hustle and bustle of a big city like Athens, the suburban railway offers access to major archaeological sites and tourist destinations to other cities in Greece, like Corinth, where you can plan a day trip with your friends or family.
Please note that there may be frequent strikes during summer 2018, and also that different fares apply. The standard 90-minute ticket for the Athens region covers all Proastiakos journeys from Piraeus to Magoula and Koropi stations, while different fares are charged for more distant stations. For more information visit the TrainOSE Website.
Taking the bus in Athens is not as enjoyable of an experience as the Metro; the Athens Urban Transport Organization S.A. (OASA)’s bus network can be confusing and unpredictable at times. Even using google maps, I often had a difficult time locating the correct stop as bus stops are often hidden away on side streets. During the first week, I heavily relied on helpful locals who would point me in the right direction.
The trolleys are similar to a bus but run on electricity and the signs for the stops are usually yellow. They are affordable and a 90 min ticket from the Metro can be used to connect with another bus, trolley or the tram. Lastly, the buses sometimes go on strike for several hours at a time as well.
The environmentally friendly tram connects Syntagma Square with the beach areas along the coast, including Glyfada neighborhood in the east and Piraeus in the west. There are 3 lines operating exclusively along the scenic sea-front promenade.
Line 1 “Syntagma – SEF” – linking downtown Athens to the Peace and Friendship Stadium,
Line 2 “Syntagma – Voula” – runs between the city center and southern suburb of Voula and
Line 3 “Voula – SEF” – running along the coastal zone.
The tram is an affordable option for unlimited one-way travel with up to 5 stopovers in 90 minutes. Within that time, you could easily stop at a local market for some fresh produce and then head to the beach for a refreshing drink by the sea.