How to get around Athens Greece during your city stay

Most visitors will find that the best ways to get around in Athens Greece are by walking and taking the metro or a taxi. This ultimate guide on getting around Athens includes walking, all public transportation options, taxis, tour buses, private vehicles, and more!

Athens Greece

Athens is the capital of Greece. It’s a large, vibrant city known as the cradle of democracy and Western civilization. People visiting Athens for a couple of days typically stay in the center of Athens, as this is where most of the ancient sites and other attractions are located.

Getting around downtown Athens is relatively straightforward. As many streets are pedestrianized, going around on foot is the best (and often the only) way to explore the city. The Acropolis, for instance, can easily be reached on foot from many hotels. You can also catch the metro for a few stops, or use taxis now and then.

Walking around Athens Greece

For longer distances, or if you are tired after a long day of sightseeing, there are several options for getting around in Athens. Apart from the metro, the public transportation system includes trams, buses, trolleys and the suburban railway. Taxis are also readily available and reasonably priced, compared to many other European cities.

Getting around Athens city center

Here are the best ways to travel around the city of Athens, for anyone planning to explore independently:

  • Walk around the historic centre of Athens
  • Try the hop-on / hop-off buses
  • Take the Athens metro
  • Hop on the Athens tram and go to the coast
  • Use the extensive public bus and trolley network
  • Discover the long-distance KTEL buses
  • Take a taxi / Uber or use a pre-booked transfer
  • Consider driving your own vehicle… if you dare!

Let’s have a closer look at each of these.

1. Walk around the historic centre of Athens

Athens city center, also known as central Athens or downtown Athens, is a fairly compact municipality. It is subdivided in several areas, such as Syntagma, Plaka, Anafiotika, Monastiraki, Psiri, Thisseio, Koukaki, Kolonaki and Pagrati.

Exploring Athens Greece on foot

Many of the areas downtown are pedestrianized with cobbled streets, so walking is a great – and often the only – way to explore. Just remember that you’ll need some comfy shoes with you – ideally with good cushioning!

Distances in central Athens

As an indication, here is how long it would take you to walk between certain points of interest:

  • Syntagma Square to the Acropolis – about 20 minutes
  • Acropolis to Monastiraki square – about 15 minutes
  • Monastiraki to the central food market – a short distance of just under 10 minutes
  • Acropolis to the temple of Olympian Zeus – about 15 minutes
  • Acropolis to the Panathenaic Stadium – about 20-25 minutes
  • Syntagma square to Monastiraki square – 10-15 minutes

You can only visit the Acropolis on foot

While a paper map is useful to have, Google maps is your best friend when it comes to navigating the cobbled streets and alleyways!

Here’s my favourite walk in Athens: How to see Ancient Athens for free.

Walking tour Athens

If exploring Athens on your own sounds intimidating, you can always book a walking tour. Some of these tours include a visit to the Acropolis and the Acropolis museum, while others focus on food, street art etc.

Here are some highly rated walking tours in Athens:

Street art in Athens Greece

Is Athens safe to walk around at night?

Depending on who you ask, you are likely to get different answers to this question. Many people will advise against walking near areas like Omonia, Victoria and Exarchia at night.

In any case, always be mindful of people around you, and stay on main, well-lit roads as much as possible.

2. Try the hop-on / hop-off buses

If you aren’t that keen on walking a lot, the hop-on hop-off buses are a great and comfortable way to see the main sites. They offer a great introduction to central Athens, especially if it’s your first time in the city.

Hop-on hop-off bus in Athens

Some of these bus routes will take you out of the center, so you can explore areas like Piraeus, Glyfada and the Athens Riviera.

For more information, check out this activity: Athens hop-on hop-off bus

3. Take the Athens metro

The Athens subway is an inexpensive, fast and reliable way to get around in Athens. Thousands of locals use it on a daily basis.

There are three metro lines, and trains run every few minutes:

  • Blue metro line: Airport – Nikea metro station,
  • Red metro line: Anthoupoli – Elliniko metro station,
  • Green metro line: Kifissia – Piraeus metro station.

Athens green metro line

Athens metro stations

All three lines pass by central Athens. The blue line and red line meet at Syntagma station, while the blue and green line meet at Monastiraki station.

Depending on where your hotel is in relation to the places you want to visit, you may have to switch trains at some point.

Athens metro tickets

To use the metro, you will have to buy one of the various types of paper tickets, known as ATH.ENA tickets. You can get them from the ticket machines at all metro stations. Then you will need to validate them before and after you travel on the metro system.

Using the Athens metro

As an indication of prices:

  • a single ticket is valid for 90 minutes and costs 1.20 euro
  • a return ticket costs 2.30 euro
  • a daily ticket, which is valid for 24 hours, costs 4.10 euro
  • a 5-day ticket costs 8.20 euro.

It’s worth noting that these tickets can be used on all means of public transportation in Athens. You can purchase several single tickets in advance, or even a pack of 10+1 tickets, which gives you a small discount.

Is the metro in Athens safe to use?

I hate to say it, but like in any big city, pickpockets may operate on the metro. I’ve been using the metro system since the 90s and have never been robbed, but I know a few people who have.

As foreign visitors are often the obvious targets, please keep your belongings close to you at all times, and be aware of your fellow passengers. Consider using a money belt, a secret pocket or something else that a pickpocket can’t reach.

If you can, avoid the rush hour when the metro gets extra busy – roughly between 8.00-10.00 am, and 16.00-18.00 pm.

Here is some more information about how to use the Athens metro.

Construction of the Athens metro

I was fortunate to witness the construction of the Athens metro! So cool!

The suburban railway

Apart from the metro, there’s another train running in Athens, called the suburban railway (proastiakos in Greek). As a visitor, you are rather unlikely to use the suburban train, unless you are going straight from the airport to Piraeus port.

For more info on airport transportation, scroll down to the bottom of the article.

4. Hop on the Athens tram and go to the coast

A leisurely, although time consuming, way to travel around Athens is the tram. Trams run from Syntagma Square to the coast of Athens.

The Athens tram

One of the tram lines will take you to a coastal area called Voula, just outside the city limits. On the way, you will pass several beach areas, where you can spend a few hours swimming and relaxing on the beach.

You can get your tram tickets from the machines that are located at each tram stop. If you have already used a ticket for the metro, you can use the same ticket for the tram. Again, the cost is 1.20 euro for a single ride of up to 90 minutes.

For more information on tram routes and timetables, check out the Athens Urban Transport Organisation website.

5. Use the extensive public bus and trolley network

Apart from the metro and the tram, an extensive bus network and trolley network operate in Athens. These will take you pretty much anywhere in Athens and the numerous suburbs.

Trolleys in Athens Greece

The buses and trolleys are popular ways to get around Athens. However, if you only have a few days in the Greek capital you will probably find it mind-boggling to select which bus route to take, and where is the bus stop or bus station you will need to take it from.

If you are planning to spend a significant amount of time in Athens, it’s worth exploring the various routes, which will take you beyond the usual tourist destinations.

The best way to research bus routes is the OASA Telematics app, by the Athens Urban Transport Organization. Try to also get the help of a local 🙂

Athens bus fares

Ticket options for the buses and trolleys in Athens are the same with the metro and tram. So again, a single ticket which is valid for 90 minutes only costs 1.20 euro, and so on.

As a visitor, you are more likely to use the Airport Express Buses. There are a few different routes, which take you from the airport to key areas of the city, such as Syntagma and Piraeus port. Tickets for those buses cost 5.50 euro.

6. Discover the long-distance KTEL buses

Apart from the urban buses, there are other bus services around Athens, known as the KTEL buses. These buses serve areas beyond the city limits, such as the port of Rafina, Marathon and Sounio.

Take the KTEL bus to Rafina port Athens

You can find more information on their website, which, however, is not always up to date. If you are going somewhere for a day trip, make sure you confirm the time of the last bus. You don’t want to miss your return trip!

While in theory you can visit the temple of Poseidon on the KTEL bus, you will generally find it easier to take a tour. Here is some more information: How to get to the temple of Poseidon at Sounio

7. Take a taxi / Uber or use a pre-booked transfer

Another way to get around Athens is a taxi / radio taxi or pre-booked transfer. There are hundreds of taxis roaming the streets of Athens, and you will recognize them by their bright yellow colour.

A taxi in Athens

Taxi fares in Athens are quite low, compared to many European countries. As an indication, a taxi ride from Syntagma Square to Omonia would be at the range of 4 euro, which is the minimum price for a trip. A ride from Syntagma to Glyfada, on the coast, would be about 13-14 euro.

If you aren’t sure about hailing a taxi off the street, you can use apps like Uber, Beat or Taxiplon, or get a pre-booked transfer

Note: Visitors arriving on cruise ships will generally have very limited time in Athens. In cases like these, it’s probably best to book some sort of tour rather than rely on public transport. Don’t forget to ask your cruise company if you are arriving at Cruise Terminal A or Cruise Terminal B in Piraeus.

8. Consider driving your own vehicle… if you dare!

Should I try driving in Athens? I’ve been asked this question quite a few times, and my honest answer is, well, it depends… but probably no.

Should I drive in Athens Greece?

I’m an Athenian and have been driving in Athens for three decades now. Still, I think it’s a rather intimidating city to drive, especially if you are here for only a few days. This is why several car rental companies offer a pick up and drop off service outside central Athens!

Our notorious traffic jams, our weird driving rules, the local driving behaviour and the thousands of scooters and motorcycles are good reasons not to drive in Athens.

Yet, if you are keen on trying, read this article first, and make up your own mind! Tips on driving in Greece.

How to get to the city center or Piraeus port from the Athens International airport

Visitors to Athens will want to know the best way to get to the center from the Athens airport. Others may be heading directly to Piraeus port. Note that the ferry port and the cruise port are not in the same area of Piraeus!

All in all, there are three ways: by metro, bus, or taxi / pre-booked transfer.

Athens airport metro

The metro is a fast and reliable way to get to your accommodation from the Athens International airport. You will have to take the blue line from the airport, and perhaps change trains depending on where your hotel is.

One way tickets cost 9 euro, and return tickets cost 16 euro.

Take the Athens airport metro

For more information, check out this detailed guide: how to take the Athens airport metro. Includes information about how to reach Piraeus port on the suburban railway.

…as always, be mindful of your belongings!

Athens airport buses

The express bus X95 is another way to get from the airport to the center. As these buses run 24/7, they are suitable even if your flight lands past midnight. The bus stops are located right outside the airport building, and tickets cost 5.50 euro.

The express airport bus in Athens

Check out this detailed guide: how to take the Athens airport bus. Includes information about how to get to Piraeus from the airport.

Athens airport taxis and transfers

If you are travelling in a group, or if you’d rather avoid public transport after a long trip, a taxi is often the best solution. The taxi queue is right outside the airport.

Even better, you can pre-book a Athens airport transfer to your hotel. The driver will typically wait for you inside the airport, with your name on a poster! Here’s an excellent value private transfer for larger groups.

Getting to and from the Athens suburbs

The city of Athens is located in the prefecture of Attica, on the east coast of mainland Greece. While most visitors choose to stay in the centre, some of them will want to visit some of the Athens suburbs.

Similarly, digital nomads and expats who come to live in Athens, often prefer to rent accommodation in the suburbs, away from the centre. They can be a bit quieter and more relaxed, and it’s also a great way to get to know Athens better.

Athens urban area

The Athens urban area consists of the municipality of Athens along with 58 more suburbs. It’s a large area, stretching all the way to the following suburbs:

  • Piraeus port town – west
  • Glyfada / Argyroupoli – south west
  • Ilioupoli / Kesariani – south east
  • Agia Paraskevi / Ano Chalandri – east
  • Kifissia / Nea Erithrea – north

You can generally access these suburbs on the metro, bus, trolley and tram, or a combination of some of them.

If you are planning to spend a significant amount of time in Athens, you should consider getting a personalized ATH.ENA card. This is a plastic card with your photo and name, where you can store various ticket products, such as a monthly or annual ticket.

Athens public transportation card

For more information, check the official ATHENA card website.

Beyond the Athens urban area

There are also several suburbs outside the urban area of Athens. These can usually be accessed on the KTEL buses:

  • East Attica – e.g. Sounio, Lavrio, Vouliagmeni, Voula, Rafina, Marathon
  • West Attica – e.g. Eleusina, Kinetta, Megara.

Combined together, all these suburbs make the Athens metropolitan area. The total population is around 3.8 million people!

Temple of Poseidon in Sounion

FAQ about getting around Athens

Here are a few questions often asked by people visiting Athens:

Is public transport good in Athens?

Yes, the Athens public transport system is pretty good, and very affordable. If you are visiting for a few days, the easiest service to use is the metro. A single ticket only costs 1.20 euro while a 5-day pass is 8.20 euro.

Is there Uber in Athens Greece?

Yes, Uber exists in Athens Greece.

What is the most common transportation in Athens?

Thousands of people, locals and visitors, use the metro on a daily basis in Athens. You will also see buses, trolleys, taxis, private cars, and plenty of scooters and motorcycles.

Is there an app for public transport in Athens?

If you are planning to travel on buses and trolleys, you can download the OASA app. It offers information on all bus and trolley routes around Athens.

Where can I buy a ticket for public transport in Athens?

ATH.ENA tickets and cards are on sale inside all metro stations, and outside all tram stops. There are more designated points throughout the city.

Where can I find a bus timetable in Athens?

You can download the OASA app on your phone, or you can visit the OASA website. You’ll have to be somewhat familiar with the different suburbs to make sense of the bus routes.

What apps are there for taxis in Athens?

Uber, Beat and Taxiplon are some of the most popular taxi apps in Athens.

More guides about Athens and the Greek islands

If you found this article useful, take a look at these other ones:

Vanessa from Real Greek Experiences Hello! I’m Vanessa from Athens. I hope you’ve found this guide on getting around Athens useful. If you have any questions on how get from A to B in Athens, to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more Greek-related tips and photos!

 

 

 

 

Best ways to get around Athens Greece

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