The new face of Athens in the early 2020s – Pedestrian-friendly Athens

New, very important measures have been signed off in Athens. In an effort to increase vital physical space for pedestrians, vehicle movement has been banned in certain areas of central Athens. 

A new, pedestrian-friendly central Athens

The new measures are scheduled to come into effect as of mid-June. This will coincide with the beginning of the Greece tourist season 2020, and is in line with the COVID-measures in Greece.

Temple of Zeus and Acropolis at the background

With a few exceptions, vehicles will not be allowed in the following areas:

  • the picturesque area of Plaka
  • the area defined by Mitropoleos – Ermou – Athinas – Stadiou – Mitropoleos, which includes the Athens Central Market
  • the lower part of Ermou street, between Athinas and Agion Asomaton.

Greek ceramics in Plaka Athens

There will be certain exclusions, namely the following categories of vehicles:

  • vehicles belonging to residents of the areas
  • taxis, for pickup and drop off only
  • vehicles heading to official car parks
  • ambulances and medical services
  • emergency services
  • public transportation
  • delivery vehicles
  • vehicles used by government officials and other authorities

In addition, measures will be taken to increase space for pedestrians in other areas of the centre. These include Panepistimiou, Filellinon, Vasilissis Olgas, Irodou Attikou and parts of Stadiou streets. Stadiou street itself will remain open to vehicles.

Walking up the streets close to the Acropolis

The temporary measures are valid for three months to begin with, and possibly another three to follow. The fine for violating the new measures was set at 150 euro.

If you can read Greek, you can read all details at ΦΕΚ 1970/21-5-2020.

A new plan for Athens – A pedestrian-friendly city 

The above temporary measures shouldn’t really come as a surprise, and in fact they will not be exactly temporary. Actually, they are very much in line with the four-year plan that has been announced by the Municipality of Athens on 11 May 2020.

Walking Areopagitou Street in Athens

I have met plenty of visitors in Athens, and they often commented on the fact that Athens is not a very pedestrian-friendly city.

Dionyssiou Areopagitou street was pedestrianized in 2004, in time for the Olympic Games in Athens. In addition, parts of Ermou street and a few streets in Plaka are a no-go for vehicles. But that’s about it – there are rather few open spaces and pedestrianized areas in our city.

Athens is changing – The Grand Stroll of Athens

However, this is about to change. A great new plan was recently announced, called “Megalos Peripatos” of Athens, which we will liberally translate to “The Grand Stroll of Athens”.

A taverna in Plaka Athens

And it will indeed be Grand, as almost 7 kms of our city’s main streets and side streets will change! No vehicles will be allowed, and cycling lanes will be introduced, along with plenty of much needed space for pedestrians.

This will lead to the unification of the Historical Centre of Athens. The aim is to reintroduce the city of Athens to its residents and its visitors. It’s an ambitious plan, and talks have been ongoing for several decades.

Neoclassical buildings Athens

The new pedestrian routes will connect the historical neighbourhoods of Athens for the first time, and highlight our historical and archaeological treasures. The long-awaited changes will greatly enhance the everyday life of Athenians, and much of the project is scheduled to be completed by 2022. We are definitely looking forward to it!

How is Athens going to change in the next few years?

On the 14th May, the first change was revealed. Omonia Square has been revamped, with the installation of a brand new water fountain.

The new fountain in Omonia square Athens Greece

Here are some of the changes that you can expect in Athens in the next few years. If you are familiar with the city of Athens, have a look!

  • The whole Plaka area will become a car-free zone
  • The whole area referred to as “the Commercial Triangle” of Athens will be fully pedestrianized. This is the area defined by Mitropoleos, Athinas and Stadiou streets.
  • Mitropoleos Street, Athinas Street and the whole of Ermou Street will become car-free zones
  • A part of Panepistimiou Avenue will be pedestrianized, and a cycling lane will be introduced.
  • The part of Patission Avenue leading to the National Archaeological Museum will be pedestrianized
  • Vasilissis Olgas Avenue will be fully pedestrianized. As a result, Zappeion, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Panathenaic Stadium and Ardettus Hill will be easily accessible on foot
  • Herodus Atticus Street will be fully pedestrianized
  • Pavements around Syntagma Square will be expanded
  • Certain squares in central Athens will be restored

The Parliament House in central Athens

It is important to note that certain vehicles will still have access to the pedestrianized areas. As an example, visitors can still use taxis to travel to and from their accommodation in central Athens. Here is a list of vehicles that can still go around central Athens:

  • Vehicles belonging to residents
  • Emergency vehicles
  • Delivery vehicles
  • Garbage trucks
  • Vehicles heading to official parking spaces
  • Service vehicles for hotels in the area
  • Taxis, to pick up and drop off customers

If you can read Greek, you can see all details here. 

A recent example of Athens changing over the years – The Athens metro system

I grew up in Athens, and it’s been fascinating to see my city change over the decades. While I don’t think that Athens is the prettiest city in the world, I absolutely love some of its hidden corners. And obviously, our unique archaeological sites don’t need a special mention!

Inside the Acropolis Athens Greece

I still remember times with huge traffic jams and tons of smog, before the Athens metro system was introduced. While certain areas of the wider city of Athens still face traffic issues, the centre of the city is quite different to what it used to be.

As for the smog, there’s no comparison with 20-25 years ago – though new car technology has definitely played its part.

Driving in Greece - Athens traffic

The metro has helped our city immensely, and thousands of people use it on a daily basis. In addition, it’s a fast and convenient way for visitors and locals to travel to and from the airport.

You may be surprised, but the plans for the metro construction were received with mixed feelings back in the 1990s. Many people were negative, because there was a lot of hassle due to the construction works. In fact, the motto at the time was “the hassle is temporary, but the construction works are permanent”.

The Athens Metro system

The red and blue lines were officially launched in 2000, and they totally changed our lives. I don’t think many Athenians could imagine life without the metro anymore. In fact, it’s becoming hard to remember life without it – though you can get an idea on a strike day.

My opinion on the new plans for a pedestrian-friendly Athens

Similarly to the metro example above, there have been some reactions to the new announcements. But as far as I’m concerned, whenever a major change is announced in Greece, there is always a lot of skepticism.

In a nutshell, I’m very excited for these new plans, and am really looking forward to it. Unlike other opinions I’ve seen on social media, I can personally find no reason whatsoever to be opposed.

{I also hope that tasteful street art will remain in place, and that more will be commissioned. I’m aware that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I believe that it adds colour to our city!}

Street art in Athens Greece

So here’s what we should be expecting in the next few years…

  • More pedestrianized streets, wider pavements, more space to move around Athens
  • More public space and open squares
  • New cycling lanes and more bus lanes
  • A modern, safer city centre for residents and visitors to enjoy!

So yes – I am definitely looking forward to it, and will be monitoring changes closely!

What is your opinion on the new face of Athens? Feel free to comment below.

Athens Greece, a pedestrian-friendly city

2 comments

  1. Hmm, that’s interesting. I have been in Athens last year, and cars didn’t really bother me. Maybe I’m used to them living in my country. I will definitely go to Athens once more time in the future, so I’m curious to see the changes. Cheers from Poland!

    1. That’s great to hear! Arguably, for some visitors, cars aren’t such a nuisance as some of the most popular areas are pedestrianized already. For me as a local, the change will be fantastic! I was actually comparing Athens to parts of Warsaw and Krakow, which I both liked a lot. I thought that these two cities were both wonderful to walk through, with all the wide avenues and tons of car-free space!

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