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 the Athens city center. Most of the carriages have some 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 Athens was under construction!
Line 3 – the blue line is the line you will use if you take the Airport metro. It passes by Syntagma Square and Monastiraki in central Athens, stops at Piraeus port, and terminates at a stop in Piraeus called Dimotiko Theatro.
Plans are also underway for a Line 4, but that’s not going to be any time soon!
This is the best Athens metro map that you are likely to find on the internet 🙂 It also includes the suburban railway.
Taking the metro from the Athens airport into Athens
As a tourist, your first encounter with the Athens subway might be at the airport. I hate to say this, but it isn’t as easy to use as in some other countries!
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 another service, the suburban railway, departs from. If you are heading to central Athens, you will need to take the metro and not the suburban railway.
If, however, you are heading to Piraeus, you can take either service, as they both go there directly. There are two metro trains and one suburban train every hour.
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.
The first metro departs from the airport at 6:32, and the last one departs at 23:32. The journey into central Athens takes about 40 minutes, and Piraeus is just under an hour away from the airport.
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 30 days
- The so-called tourist ticket, which costs 20 euro and is valid for 3 x 24 hours.
The tourist ticket includes a return trip to the airport plus unlimited transportation by metro, bus, trolley, tram and suburban railway in Athens. 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 – Athens metro ticket price
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 transport tickets for the Athens metro: single tickets, and passes.
- 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
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 my experience, if this ticket is first validated 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 subway ticket / pass at one of the vending machines in any metro station, or from a till in most metro stations. Occasionally, some machines may be out of order – just go to the next machine.
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.
Step 2 – Select the required service
Most travellers will need to select the option “Buy travel product”.
Step 3 – Choose your area of travel
At the next menu which comes up, you can choose several types of tickets, including the airport tickets for the metro, suburban and buses. For our purposes, we will choose the last option, “Athens area”.
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.
Step 5 – Pay for your ticket
You can normally pay for your Athens metro ticket by cash or card. I’ve noticed that, sometimes, card readers don’t work with certain cards. It’s always a good idea to have an alternative card, or some cash.
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.
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 Athens pass, which only costs 27 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.
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. If you are in Athens for a couple of days, it isn’t really worth applying for 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 subway Athens 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.
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.
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.
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 pass the gate along with them.
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.
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 about 0:30 (1:30 on Fridays and Saturdays).
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: metro Athens opening hours.
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.
Very confusingly, the three Athena metro lines are run by three different companies:
- green metro line, known in Greek as ilektrikos or ISAP
- 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.
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.
When all three companies are on strike, 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 is quite helpful – here is a list of more useful apps for your trip to Greece.
If you want to go to Piraeus port from central Athens, you could get either the blue or the green line. If both companies are on strike, I suggest you get a taxi or, even better, a pre-booked transfer.
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 or pre-booked private transfer. 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.
Unfortunately, strikes are often announced literally on the day before they happen. Always make sure you check close to your trip. I always post about strikes on my Facebook page, so follow me and you will be on top of things.
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, Athenians don’t always let the passengers off the train first. You will see many locals rushing to get into the carriage before passengers have had a chance to step 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. If you need tickets, it’s best to get them elsewhere if you can, as there are always long queues.
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.
Last, but not least: throughout 2022, it is mandatory to wear a medical mask on the Athens metro. Even if you are not used to wearing one any more, you’ll need to have one with you for the underground in Athens.
More Athens Travel Guides
If you are planning a trip to Athens, you will also like these posts:
- Tips for staying cool in the summer in Athens
- How to get a SIM card in Athens and Greece
- The Athens combined ticket for the archaeological sites saves you money
- 20 best museums in Athens Greece
- How to see Ancient Athens for Free
- Shopping in Athens
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. Here’s another one with all the ways to get around Athens, including all you need to know about the public transport system. If you have any questions, or any tips that I haven’t thought of, please post them below!