A local’s guide to taking the Athens metro

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

How to take 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 red and blue metro lines, which were 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 currently ends at Nikaia.

It is being extended all the way 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 I have found here (this website no longer seems to work). It also includes the suburban railway. The blue line has now been extended to Nikaia, three stops further out from Agia Marina.

Taking the metro from the Athens airport into Athens

As a tourist, this might be your first encounter with the Athens metro. I 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 9 euro
  • A return airport metro ticket, which costs 16 euro and is valid for 48 hours
  • The so-called tourist ticket, which costs 20 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 a good option, 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 1.20 euro
  • The popular bundle of 2 trips, which costs 2.30 euro
  • A bundle of 5 trips, which costs 5.70 euro
  • A bundle of 10+1 trips, which costs 12.00 euro

Types of Athens metro tickets

Passes for unlimited travel

  • A 24-hour pass, which costs 4.10 euro. This is valid for 24 hours from the time of first validation.
  • A 5 day ticket, which costs 8.20 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, I am 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 will focus 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?

I consider the metro perfectly safe to use and have only seen pickpockets twice in my life. However, pickpockets are known to operate on the metro especially in the summer, and tourists are 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 asking for money in the metro carriages. Do as you feel, but do be aware of your belongings – some of these people are not as innocent as you’d think.

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. 

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, usually with very little advance warning. They can be a major inconvenience for locals as well as travellers. Here is all you need to know about strikes in Greece.

Athens metro strikes

Very confusingly, the three Athens metro lines are run by three different companies:

  • green metro line, known in Greek as ilektrikos
  • red and blue metro lines, which are run by the main metro company
  • the train company, which runs the part of the blue line from Doukissis Plakentias to the Airport as well as the suburban railway.

A locals guide to taking the Athens metro

On some strike days, there’s a chance that only one or two of these companies will take part in the strike. So, a part of the metro network will be running normally. 

For example, there are days when the metro company is not on strike, but the train company is. On those days, the city metro will be running as usual, but it will be stopping at Doukissis Plakentias metro station. 

Sometimes, all three companies are on strike, so there is no metro at all. 

What should I do on a metro strike day?

Many travellers don’t really use the metro in central Athens, as it’s possible to walk around. Taxis are inexpensive and easy to find. I use an app called Taxiplon, which I’ve found to be very useful.

The green line is the one that you would use to go to Piraeus port. If they are on strike, I suggest you get a taxi. Buses from central Athens to Piraeus would take well over an hour as they stop multiple times. Plus they will be very, very crowded if there’s a metro strike.

If you are going to the airport on a metro strike day, you could take the X95 bus from Syntagma to the airport. It is likely to get crowded, so watch your belongings. Alternatively, you can take a taxi. Allow for more time to get to the airport, as there will be more traffic than usual.

Don’t worry too much though – strikes only happen a few times a year. Just be informed, and you can make alternative arrangements.

I always post about strikes on my Facebook page, so if you like it you will be on top of things. Remember that a strike may literally 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 some other countries, the no-eating / no-drinking rule within the metro is generally respected.

Sure, you can bring a bottle of water, and I 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.

More Athens Travel Guides

Planning a trip to Athens? You might also like to read this posts:

Vanessa from Real Greek Experiences

Hi! I am Vanessa, an Athenian, and I love helping visitors discover more about Greece. I hope this article about the Athens metro has been useful. If you have any questions, or any tips that I haven’t thought of, please post them below! 


15 thoughts on “A local’s guide to taking the Athens metro”

  1. I rode the metro from the airport to Syntagma where I had to change to ride just two stops south to my hotel. Between those two stops, I saw three families of pickpockets! One on the platform at Syntagma. When I waited till the last moment to hop on a different carriage, I was immediately surrounded by another group standing far too close than is normal on the pretence that the lady, with a big, empty loose bag hanging around her neck and hiding her hands while the ‘daughter’ tried to engage my attention to know if the next stop was Acropoli. I got off at my stop and saw the original group riding the escalator ahead swarmed around an elderly woman who was shouting at them. At which point I felt a hand in my (luckily empty) back pocket, a third group, this time of young girls. A horrible first experience of Athens, which despite that is a truly wonderful city. I’m used to city life and public transport, so I escaped, but so many people must be robbed. Just thought I’d relate, I was very surprised by your remark that you’ve never seen pickpockets

    • Jeez. I am very sorry you had this experience, and very glad that things turned out fine. As you will know, you are not the first person who had pickpocket issues… I do wonder sometimes if living here makes me oblivious to people behaving strangely. I do look like a tourist myself, but I’ve never had any issues at all. Well, I have actually been robbed on a bus here in Athens, but that was 20+ years ago! Again, glad you are safe!

    • Hello! You can use the same ticket. It is valid for 90 minutes, which should be enough to get you anywhere on the metro line. Hope this helps!

    • Hello! In the (unlikely) event that you run out of the 90 minutes, the exit doors will not open when you swipe your card on the machines. If this happens, normally more than one people will offer to use their own pass to open the gate for you. Similarly, anyone working at the metro station will actually open the exit gate for you. I have seen this happen many times, it can feel very stressful (especially if you are a visitor here!) but if you have a validated ticket it really won’t be a problem.

  2. Hi,

    Planning my first trip to Greece (very excited). Thanks for the helpful metro info! So, I’ll be in Athens for 10 days. My return flight leaves at 6am, so I won’t be able to use the metro to get back to the airport. I’ll get a taxi for that. So, I really only need a 1 way airport ticket to get into the city when I arrive. Then I’m thinking I’d get a bundle of 5 trips to start. Is that 2 separate tickets? (a 90 min to get from the airport into the city, then a 5 bundle to use while I’m there)

    Also, for my return taxi ride to the airport. If I need to be at the airport 2 hours ahead of my 6am flight, getting a taxi by 3 am should get me there in plenty of time, right?

    • Hello and thanks for your message! Yes, you only need the one way ticket from the airport to the city. The 5-ticket bundle is another ticket like you say, and it contains 5 trips (costs 5.70). You will have to validate the same ticket every time you go in and out of the metro and it will deduct a trip every time. There’s also a 5-day option which costs 8.20, and you can use it unlimited times within 5 periods of 24 hours. For your return taxi, I’m assuming you will be staying in the centre – yes this should be fine, there is not much traffic at all at that time of night so it would take you like 40 mins to get to the airport. Enjoy your time and feel free to message me with more questions or perhaps a walk!

  3. Fantastic detailed review of how to use the Metro, it was like you were taking me on the journey holding my hand. What seems obvious and simple to regular Metro users is not as easy to tourists. The photos were brilliant to show exactly what the machines look like. I have been to Athens a few times but was reluctant to use the Metro mainly because of the ‘unknown’ procedure of buying/using the tickets and the threat of the pick-pockets. I have always used the bus or taxi but now look forward to trying the Metro as I like to experience everything a place has to offer, thank you for your helpful advice.

    • I’m really glad this helps – and you are right, using the metro in a new city can be overwhelming. Do be careful with your valuables, as they seem to target tourists – you could always try to take the metro when in the city center, when you don’t have all your luggage with you, to see how it works. Safe travels!

  4. Hi thanks for information just 1 thing
    “There’s also a 5-day option which costs 8.20, and you can use it unlimited times within 5 periods of 24 hours. “

    This means that I can use it within 5 days unlimited??? Or 5 times within 24 hours
    Didn’t get it
    Can you explain

    • Hi! Sorry it’s unclear. It means that if you first validate it on, say, 13.00 on 19th May, it will be valid until 13.00 on 24th May. So, a total of five 24-hour periods!


Leave a Comment