ONE of the most upbeat and functional aspects of city life in Athens despite the downbeat crisis Greece has been facing for far too long is the growing urban metro system.
When it first opened to the public, sparkling and polished, strewn with beautiful, sophisticated art (and stunning ancient ruins and even a still-running Ilissos river in Monastiraki station) everyone was impressed and excited, but also worried that it’s great appeal wouldn’t last. ‘It’ll get dirty, and unkempt and sad,’ we all assumed (take a look at the state of the 2004 Olympic venues today and you’ll quickly understand where we were coming from).
Ever since my first interview with Attiko Metro when the system first started running I was personally very proud that my city could produce such an impressive transportation system, especially after visiting so many run-down, dirty, smelly and dodgy metro stations in otherwise exemplary cities such as London and Rome. The sense of pride continues to ride high today, as it has remained beautiful, clean, shiny and above all, functional.
There is a constant addition of new extensions and lines (see map below) and the ticket, in relation to prices in most of Europe, remains very affordable at 1.20eur for 70 mins or 1.40eur for 90 mins. As of last year, commuters can also download the Athens Transportation App to help them plan their routes and schedules.
Syntagma (Constitution Square) if you fancy being in the heart of the action – although this station is the first to shut down when there are protests programmed, as this is where it all happens. In Syntagma you’ll find the Parliament building, Ermou shopping boulevard, lots of cafes and restaurants as well as plenty of nearby embassies and museums.
Monastiraki for flea market shopping in the flea market, a stroll into nearby Plaka or a visit to Psyrri
Kerameikos to have coffee, go bar hopping or have a bite to eat in trendy Gazi or to check out the street art in neighbouring Metaxourgeio
DISABILITY FRIENDLY: All metro stations have wheelchair-accessible lifts from the street level to platform levels.
After years off fighting for their rights, cyclists can use the last carriage for transporting their bicycles.
The metro stations in Athens are not just a place to jump on a train but also to take in some art, as many feature wonderful works, a combination of ancient finds from the construction of the metro lines and modern Greek art. Today 27 works by contemporary Greek artists (among them Mytaras, Andonakos, Chryssa, Fasianos) are hosted in 20 stations. For an interesting analysis of this see this article in Tafter Journal.
The Athens metro blue line will take you to the Eleftherios Venizelos international airport.
Air conditioning in summer is a big bonus!