- Buses There's a network of buses that go everywhere. There are no printed maps, though.
- Metro Fast and efficient and most useful for visitors.
- Tram Slow but scenic way to the coast.
- Suburban rail Not commonly used by visitors, but an alternate way into the city from the airport.
- Taxis Very affordable, and very much part of the 'public transport' system.
- Walking Almost certainly what you'll be doing the most!
Bus & Trolleybus
Local express buses, regular buses and electric trolleybuses operate every 15 minutes from 5am to midnight. In lieu of maps, use Google Maps for directions or the trip planner on the website of the bus company, OASA (click 'Telematics'). The most useful lines for tourists are trolleybuses 2, 5, 11 and 15, which run north from Syntagma past the National Archaeological Museum. For all buses, board at any door; swipe your ticket on validation machines.
Express buses from the airport run 24 hours, and also require a dedicated ticket, purchased from a kiosk by the stop.
Buses to Moni Kaisarianis depart from beside the Athens University building at Panepistimio.
The metro is preferable, but after it stops at midnight, you can still get to Piraeus on the bus:
From Syntagma Bus 040. On Filellinon just south of Syntagma to Akti Xaveriou (every 10 to 20 minutes from 6am to midnight, half-hourly after).
From Omonia Bus 500 Opposite the town hall south of Omonia to Plateia Themistokleous (hourly from midnight to 5am, starting in Kifisia).
Car & Motorcycle
Athens' notorious traffic congestion, confusing signage, impatient drivers and narrow one-way streets make for occasionally nightmarish driving.
Contrary to what you see, parking is actually illegal alongside kerbs marked with yellow lines, on footpaths and in pedestrian malls. Paid parking areas require tickets available from kiosks.
The metro works well and posted maps have clear icons and English labels. Trains operate from 5.30am to 12.30am, every four minutes during peak periods and every 10 minutes off-peak. On Friday and Saturday, lines 2 and 3 run till 2.30am. Get information at www.stasy.gr. All stations have wheelchair access.
Line 1 (Green) The oldest line, Kifisia–Piraeus, known as the Ilektriko, is slower than the others and above ground. After hours, a night bus (500, Piraeus–Kifisia) follows the route, stopping outside the metro stations.
Line 2 (Red) Runs from Agios Antonios in the northwest to Agios Dimitrios in the southeast.
Line 3 (Blue) Runs northeast from Egaleo to Doukissis Plakentias, with airport trains continuing on from there. Transfer for line 1 at Monastiraki; for line 2 at Syntagma.
Athens' taxis are excellent value and can be the key for efficient travel on some routes. But it can be tricky getting one, especially during rush hour. Thrust your arm out vigorously…you may still have to shout your destination to the driver to see if he or she is interested. Make sure the meter is on. It can be much easier to use the mobile app Beat (www.thebeat.co/gr) or Taxiplon – you can pay in cash. Or call a taxi from dispatchers such as Athina 1, Enotita or Parthenon. For day trips, Athens Tour Taxi comes recommended.
If a taxi picks you up while already carrying passengers, the fare is not shared: each person pays the fare on the meter minus any diversions to drop others (note what it’s at when you get in). Short trips around central Athens cost about €5; there are surcharges for luggage and pick-ups at transport hubs. Nights and holidays, the fare is about 60% higher.
Tickets & Passes
The transit system uses the unified Ath.ena Ticket, a reloadable paper card available from ticket offices and machines in the metro. You can load it with a set amount of money or buy a number of rides (€1.40 each; discount when you buy five or 10) or a 24-hour/five-day travel pass for €4.50/9.
Children under six travel free; people under 18 or over 65 are technically eligible to pay half fare, but you must buy the Ath.ena Ticket from a person at a ticket office. If you're staying a while, you may want the sturdier plastic Ath.ena Card, also available at ticket offices; you must load at least €4.50 to start.
Swipe the card at metro turnstiles or, on buses and trams, validate the ticket in the machine as you board, and keep it with you in case of spot-checks. One swipe is good for 90 minutes, including any transfers or return trips.
Suburban rail is fast, but not commonly used by visitors – though it goes to the airport and as far as Piraeus and the northern Peloponnese. The airport–Kiato line (€14, 1½ hours) connects to the metro at Doukissis Plakentias and Neratziotissa. Two other lines cross the metro at Larisis station.
A short funicular railway runs up Lykavittos Hill.
Athens' trams are slow but can make for very picturesque journeys, particularly once you're following the lines along the coast to either Glyfada or Piraeus. There are three lines:
Line 1 (red) Connects Kasomoule with Piraeus.
Line 2 (green) Connects Kasomoule and Glyfada.
Line 3 (blue): Connects Piraeus with Glyfada.
Trams run from 5.30am to 1am Sunday to Thursday (every 10 minutes), and to 2.30am on Friday and Saturday (every 40 minutes). Ticket vending machines are on the platforms.
Central Athens is compact and good for strolling, with narrow streets and a lovely pedestrian promenade. From Gazi in the west to the Byzantine & Christian Museum in the east, for example, takes only about 45 minutes – so you may find you need a transit pass very little or not at all. In summer, however, take the punishing sun into consideration.