Four Stations in Athens

Riding the subway through the city is the best way to get around

By: Devin Galaudet

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After its Olympics renovation, the subway
remains clean and easy to use.
Before my first trip to Greece, reports from some well-meaning friends made Athens sound like a place to only skim across. They claimed it was just another big city and only a launching pad for many of Greece’s legendary islands. With the picturesque Santorini looming in my mind, I approached Athens unenthusiastically.

After venturing out into the city’s lively streets, however, I could not have disagreed more. I was surprised by a vibrant metropolis, balancing old and new with a variety of attractions that stood out as cutting edge or fantastically ancient, both traditional and experimental food on every corner and Byzantine priests strolling alongside young Greek hipsters.

I found the greatest surprise underneath Athens in its subways. While the city’s walls are routinely a haven for spray paint, the 2004 Olympics renovation has remained, and local pride has kept the underground spotless. With only three subway lines (blue, red and green), travel is uncomplicated and makes Athens’ maze of streets palatable. Better yet, the subways are fast, efficient and take visitors to most parts of the city. For example, the red line’s Acropolis Station is only minutes away from the station’s namesake and the city’s most important historical site.

Here are a few of my favorite underground stops for agents to pass along to visiting clients.

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The Plaka one of Athens’ hippest areas
is easy to reach by subway.
Omonia Station
Exiting Omonia Station is reminiscent of New York City. The area teems with crowded streets, delicious gyros and good shopping. It may be the most cosmopolitan area in Athens. While the beautification of Omonia Square failed, it is still a perfect spot for people watching, finding travel essentials and an orientating landmark. There are a number of accommodations in the area, including the five-star Classical Grand O Hotel and the four-star Hotel Acropol.

Syntagma Station
While the stately Parliament Building and National Garden are to the east of the station, the real experience lies to the west, just past the traditional pistachio vendors, at the Plaka. The Plaka is an explosion of souvenir stands that billow in all directions and hawk everything from souvenir T-shirts to handcrafted bouzoukis (a Greek instrument) and glass hookah pipes. After dark, the locals enjoy the hip pubs and popular eateries, such as Ydria, for reasonably priced patio dining.

Thesseion Station
Two stops away from the crowded streets of Omonia, Thesseion Station finds another kind of crowd. Keramikos Cemetery is 2,000 years old and filled with Greece’s distant past. Beyond the burial grounds is the site’s archeological museum. Within the burial grounds, visitors may want to keep an eye out for Keramikos’ only living residents, a family of turtles.

Evangelismos Station
Kolonaki is a charming neighborhood with cafes and quaint shops. I recommend taking Ploutarhou Street uphill to the Lycavittos Funicular and then to St. George’s Church for the best views in Athens. It is worth the exercise. On weekends, a flea market is held halfway up the hill.

There are two other key subway stops savvy agents should know. Piraeus is the end of the green line and a 25-minute ride from Omonia Station. This end of the line finds the harbor of the temperamental Aegean Sea and many of the famous Greek Islands. In the opposite direction, on the blue line, is El. Venizelos, which begins and ends 40 minutes from downtown at Athens International Airport.

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