A local’s guide to taking the Athens metro

Last updated on February 14th, 2020 at 09:04 am

You would think that taking the metro in Athens should be fairly straightforward. However, we’ve seen many people struggling. This isn’t only the case for visitors, but also for Athenians! Check our local’s guide to taking the Athens metro for some insights.

A local’s guide to taking the Athens metro

Sleek, modern, clean, bright, punctual, fast, convenient. These are just some of the words that people use to describe the Athens metro, which consists of three lines.

Visitors who came to Athens a few decades ago might still remember an older, rather scruffy metro line. For sure it was! The green line, which was launched in 1869, has recently undergone major refurbishment. The two newer metro lines, launched in 2000, have been a life changer for most Athenians.

Athens metro lines

The three Athens metro lines currently in use are known by their names and colours.

Line 1 – the green line goes all the way from Piraeus to the northern suburb of Kifissia. On the way, it passes by Monastiraki, Thissio and Omonia stations in central Athens. Most of the carriages have some graffiti.

Athens metro graffiti

Line 2 – the red line goes from Anthoupoli to Elliniko. Some of the most popular stops in central Athens include Acropolis, Syntagma, Panepistimio and Omonia. In some of these stations, you can see archaeological findings that were excavated while the metro was under construction!

Archaeological exhibition inside the Athens metro system

Line 3 – the blue line is the line you will use if you take the Airport metro. It passes by Syntagma and Monastiraki in central Athens, and ends at Agia Marina. It is currently being extended to Piraeus, though the works won’t be completed for another few years.

A metro train arriving at an Athens underground station

Plans are also underway for a Line 4, but that’s not going to be any time soon!

An Athens Metro map - Useful when taking the Athens metro

This is the best Athens metro map, which we have found here. It also includes the suburban railway.

Taking the metro from the Athens airport into Athens

As a tourist, this might be your first encounter with the Athens metro. We hate to say this, but it isn’t as easy to use as in some other countries!

Taking the Athens metro from the airport to the city center

To begin with, the airport metro station is not inside the airport building. Follow the signs to “Trains”, exit the airport building, then cross the street, and take the stairs up to the metro station. This is about a 5-10 minute walk.

Note that the airport metro station is also where the suburban railway departs from. Chances are that you are heading to central Athens, and therefore you will need to take the metro and not the suburban railway. If, however, you are heading to Piraeus, you can take the suburban railway which goes there directly, once an hour.

Athens airport metro

You can either get your metro ticket at the machines or in person from the friendly people behind the till. This might be a better idea, as you can then ask which platform to be on to get to central Athens. You can pay by cash or card, though some machines are occasionally broken.

The first metro departs from the airport at 6.30. The next ones depart every 30 minutes, with the last one departing at 23.30. The journey into central Athens takes about 40 minutes.

You can find timetables for the Athens airport metro here.

Types of Athens airport metro tickets

There are three types of Athens airport metro tickets that you can use:

  • A one-way airport metro ticket, which costs 10 euro
  • A return airport metro ticket, which costs 18 euro and is valid for 48 hours
  • The so-called tourist ticket, which costs 22 euro and is valid for 3×24 hours.

The tourist ticket includes a return trip to the airport plus unlimited transportation in the centre. If you are in Athens for three days, it’s definitely worth it, unless you are planning to just walk everywhere.

Types of tickets for the Athens metro

The metro is a super convenient way to get around central Athens. Though many of the sights are walking distance from each other, using the metro will definitely save you time.

There are two types of tickets for the Athens metro: single tickets, and passes.

Single tickets

  • A 90 minute ticket, which costs 1.40 euro
  • A bundle of 2 trips, which costs 2.70 euro
  • A bundle of 5 trips, which costs 6.50 euro
  • A bundle of 10+1 trips, which costs 13.50 euro

Types of Athens metro tickets

Passes for unlimited travel

  • A 24-hour pass, which costs 4.50 euro. This is valid for 24 hours from the time of first validation.
  • A 5 day ticket, which costs 9 euro.

If you are staying in Athens for a few days, the five day pass is by far the best option, unless you have already got the tourist ticket. In our experience, if this ticket is bought after midday, it is valid for the rest of the day plus five full days.

How to get your Athens metro ticket

You can either get your Athens metro ticket or pass at one of the machines in any metro station, or from a till in most metro stations. Note that some machines may be out of order. There will always be a couple of functioning ones though.

A local's guide to taking the metro in Athens

The tickets are made of fortified paper, at the size of a credit card. The paper tickets can be recharged, so instead of getting a new ticket you can just recharge your old one.

Step 1 – Select your language

Just select your language. For the examples below, we are using English.

Athens metro select language

Step 2 – Select the required service

For most people, the most common option is “Buy travel product”.

How to use the Athens metro

Step 3 – Choose your area of travel

For this example, we are focusing on the last option, “Athens area”. However, this is the menu where you can choose the airport tickets for the metro, suburban and buses.

Athens metro ticket options

Step 4 – Choose the type of Athens metro ticket

Confusingly, when you go to buy your ticket at the machine, the 90-minute single ticket option appears last! In any case, this is the one you need to get if you only want to use the metro once. Alternatively, just choose the bundle or pass that you prefer.

Types of Athens metro tickets

Step 5 – Pay for your ticket

You can normally pay for your Athens metro ticket by cash or card. Note that, sometimes, card readers don’t work with certain cards, so it’s a good idea to always have some cash readily available.

Where can I use my Athens metro ticket?

These tickets are valid on all transportation in central Athens, including buses, trolleys, the tram and parts of the suburban railway within Athens. They are not valid on the airport metro, suburban railway and airport  buses.

The 90-minute ticket, or any single ticket in a bundle, is valid for 90 minutes since its first validation, and can be used on more than one means of transportation. You can use the same ticket to take the metro first, and then the tram, a bus or a trolley.

A locals guide to taking the metro in Athens

If you buy a bundle of 5 or 10 tickets and end up using several tickets in one day, you will notice that only 4 tickets will be deducted from your bundle, as there is a daily cap. This is the same principle used by the Oyster card in London, as well as other cities.

Are there any reduced fares for the Athens metro?

If you are staying in Athens for longer than a few days you could consider getting a monthly metro pass, which only costs 30 euro. To obtain the monthly pass you must apply for a personalized card, which looks like a credit card and will have your photo on the right hand side. You can apply for a personalized card in most metro stations.

A locals guide to taking the metro

If you are a senior over 65, a student under 25, or a child under 18, you can use the metro at a reduced fare. To be eligible, you must have some proof of ID, and students additionally need a student card.

Any reduced ticket will need to be stored on a personalized card, so if you are in Athens for a couple of days it probably isn’t worth it.

Children below the age of 6 can travel for free on the metro and the other means of transportation in Athens.

How do I use the Athens metro ticket?

To use your ticket, you just need to scan in and out for the gates to open. You will see the card scanner on all metro gates. There are similar scanners in buses, the tram and the suburban railway.

Athens metro where to validate your ticket

Note that gates can only be used from one direction. The gate you need will always have a green sign, whereas if you see a red sign people will be coming from the opposite direction. In busy stations it can get a bit mad during rush hour.

A local's guide to using the Athens metro

The card scanner will also show you your balance, in Greek only. This particular ticket was a five day pass, and there was still one day left. The single ticket will show your balance in minutes.

Using the Athens metro

Occasionally, the ticket won’t work properly, and the gates will not open. Don’t worry – you can always seek assistance from a metro employee, though sometimes they are a little hard to find. Alternatively, just follow someone else getting out of the metro – most people will be happy to help you.

In any case, it’s unlikely that you will be in any trouble as a tourist, unless you have no ticket at all. In that case, there is a hefty fine of 84 euro, or 42 if you pay on the spot.

Is the Athens metro safe to use?

We consider the metro perfectly safe to use and have never seen any pickpockets. However, note that pickpockets are known to operate on the metro especially in the summer, and tourists are fairly popular targets. It is likely that you will read a few reports on several forums or FB groups.

Quiet time in Athens metro

Please be mindful of your possessions, and consider using a moneybelt or other safety precautions that you are comfortable with. As for backpacks, always keep them on your front, close to your body.

Sadly, these days you may come across people playing music, or asking for money in the metro carriages. Do as you feel, but do be aware of your belongings.

What are the operating times of the Athens metro?

The Athens metro has fairly long operating hours. The green line operates from 5.00 until 01.00, while the blue and red lines operate from 5.30 to 00.30. On Fridays and Saturdays, the blue and red lines operate for an extra two hours, closing at about 02.30.

During peak hours, there is a metro every 3-5 minutes, while late in the evening you may wait for around 10 minutes or so. There are less frequent metros on weekends, public holidays and August.

You can find the Athens metro extended timetables here.

Athens metro strikes

From time to time, the unions in Greece announce strike days. These may be announced just the day before. If you are planning to take the metro to get to the airport, make sure to check if there are any strikes on the day before your departure.

Athens metro strikes

Very confusingly, the three Athens metro lines are run by three different companies. So on some strike days, only part of the metro network runs normally. Here is a brief explanation, and what you should know if you are planning to use the Athens metro on a strike day.

The old green line is run by a separate company. This is the line that you could use to go to Piraeus port, and if they are on strike the best idea is to get a taxi. Buses going from central Athens to Piraeus would take well over an hour as they stop multiple times, and on a strike day they will be very, very crowded.

Why does a train strike affect the Athens metro?

The newer blue and red lines are run by the main Metro company. However, the part of the blue line from Doukissis Plakentias metro station to the Airport station, belongs to the train company, which also runs the suburban railway.

Sometimes, it could be that both the metro and train companies are on strike, so there is no metro at all. However, there could be days when the metro company is not on strike, but the train company is.

A locals guide to taking the Athens metro

On those days, the city metro will be running properly, but it will be stopping at Doukissis Plakentias metro station. If this is the case, you can either take the X95 bus from Syntagma to the airport, or take a taxi.

Don’t worry too much though – strikes only happen a few times a year. Just be informed, and you will have no problems!

We always post about strikes on our Facebook page, so if you like the page you will be on top of things. Remember that strikes in Greece may be announced the day before, so make sure you check close to your trip!

Anything else I need to know about the metro in Athens?

Yes, there are a couple more things! Unlike most countries you’ve been to, over here people don’t necessarily stand to the right on the escalators. Regardless, please try to stand to the right, especially if you have luggage.

Additionally, we don’t always let the passengers off the train first. You will see many locals rushing to get into the carriage before people are out. Just take it as one of our quirky traits, and be prepared to stand your ground!

Some stations will be very busy during most of the day. The busiest station is Syntagma, the only station where the red and the blue line connect. It’s best to get your tickets elsewhere if you can.

Syntagma metro station Athens

You will notice that the Athens metro is generally very clean. Unlike other countries, the no-eating / no-drinking rule within the metro is widely enforced.

Sure, you can bring a bottle of water, and we suggest you do, especially if you are going to the Athens airport on a hot summer day. At the same time, please avoid eating and leave the metro as clean as you found it.

Taking the metro in Athens

We hope that our post has been enlightening! If you have any more tips for using the Athens metro, please feel free to share them below.

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