The Greek capital is one of the oldest cities in the world, populated for more than 9 millennia. Many of the democratic ideas so standard to us today were born in Classical Athens, earning its title of Cradle of Western Civilization. Today it is the cosmopolitan center to Greece’s economy, politics and cultural life.
Here’s what you need to know for planning a hassle-free trip to Athens:
ARRIVING in Athens
Realistically, on a short trip, you’ll arrive in Athens by plane. But you could certainly also reach it by ferry, cruises, buses or by car.
If you arrive by plane, you’ll land in Athens Internation Airport (ATH), 33km away from the city center (Plateia Syntagmatos). There are some different public transport options but the most convenient is the
- METRO Line 3: direct connection running at 30 minutes intervals, with a journey time of approx. 55min to Syntagma Square. Tickets cost €8 each way or €14 for a return ticket.
The rail option will demand a change into the subway system and buses are never really comfortable. Both would take longer than the direct subway if your destination is central Athens.
When using taxis, beware of scams! Always agree on the price beforehand. The flat rates for downtown Athens are €38 (5am to midnight) and €54 (midnight to 5am).
Although it doesn’t really fit with the idea of weekend travel, in case you reach Athens by sea, you’ll arrive at one of its 3 ports:
- Piraeus, the biggest one, from where you can take Metro Line 1 to Monastiraki (Old Town, only one stop from Syntagma), with a journey time of 20-25min;
- Rafina, from where you can take the Orange KTEL bus, which departs every hour, with a journey time of 60-70min;
- Lavrion, from where you can take the same Orange KTEL bus, which departs every 30-60min, with a journey time of 2hours.
In case you arrive in either Rafina or Lavrion, booking a transfer in advance is extremely advisable.
There are no international buses arriving in Athens. But in case you are coming from another Greek city, you’ll likely arrive at one of its two main coach stations:
- Kifissos (aka Peloponnese): connected to the city center by local bus 051 (approx. 20min journey time) plus a few stops on the subway from M2/Metaxourghio Station;
Athens Liosion: closer to the city, connected by local bus A10/A11 (approx. 5 min journey time) plus even fewer stops on the subway from M2/Attiki Station.
GETTING AROUND Athens
The public transport system is operated by Stasy S.A./ΣΤΑ.ΣΥ Α.Ε. and includes the subway, suburban trains (within the urban section), trams, and buses.
It’s important to note that if you are staying in Athens city center proper, you’ll be able to cover the main spots on foot and will barely need to take any transport: just from/to airport. But if you prefer to not worry about it and always be covered, just go for time-based tickets:
- 24h or 5-days ticket: valid from first touch-in until time elapses, cost €4.50 and €9, respectively, excluding connections to the airport;
- 3-days Tourist ticket: valid for 72h from first touch-in, costs €22, including one trip from and another to the airport on Metro Line 3 or the bus lines.
However, if this is too much for your needs, a single ticket (valid for 90min) costs €1.40.
Tickets are loaded into an Athena Ticket (paper) or Athena Card (plastic), both rechargeable. The advantage of the Athena Ticket is that you can get it from any automatic ticket machine, but you can only recharge if the previous charge is finished. On the other hand, the Athena Card can only be purchased at ticket offices. Don’t forget to validate it each time you start a trip.TravelAfter5_Greece_Athens_Metro