ATHENS | Exploring Line 2 and Line 3 of the Athens Metro


The Athens Metro is the primary rapid transit network of Athens, the capital of Greece. First launched in year 2000, the system gave the congested city a much needed public transit backbone.

The Metro has 3 lines – Lines 1, 2, and 3. Line 1 predates the launch of the Metro network, first opening on 27 February 1869 as the Athens-Piraeus Railway (subsequently renamed the Athens-Piraeus Electric Railway) and was progressively upgraded to a modern rapid transit standard. Lines 2 and 3 on the other hand, first opened in January and November 2000 respectively and were built as modern Metro lines right from the start. Line 2 runs from Anthoupoli in the northwest to Elliniko in the southeast of Athens, whereas Line 3 starts at Dimotiko Teatro (Δημοτικό Θέατρο) in the west at Piraeus, and heads east to the Athens International Airport via Doukissis Plakentias (Δουκίσσης Πλακεντίας).

I took the opportunity to explore all 3 lines of the Athens Metro during my winter 2022 visit to the city. To keep things simple, I explored short segments of both Lines 2 and Lines 3 within the city centre together. I’ve previously posted about my exploration of Line 1 to Piraeus (Πειραιάς), which can be viewed here.

Syntagma Metro station

I started my exploration of Lines 2 and 3 at the Syntagma (Σύνταγμα) Metro station, a key interchange between Lines 2 and 3 and the centrepiece of the Metro network. The station is named after the Syntagma Square (Πλατεία Συντάγματος) above it, with “Syntagma” referring to the Greek Constitution of 1844. It is the most important public square in Athens, and is located near key neighborhoods like the Plaka (Πλάκα), Metaxourgeio (Μεταξουργείο), Neapoli (Νεάπολη), and Kolonaki (Κολωνάκι). For tourists, the Square is also located many of the city’s main attractions and upscale hotels, meaning you will at some point pass through Syntagma Square on your way around Athens. There is also a tourist info point operated by This is Athens to the right of the Metro entrances.

Syntagma Square is also where you’ll find the X95 bus to and from the international airport, as well as an identically named Athens Tram stop.

Syntagma Metro station Archaeological Collection

Taking the escalator down into the station brings you first to a mezzanine level dedicated to an archaeological showcase. The exhibits at Syntagma are a collection of ancient pottery, stele, and columns unearthed during the construction of the station. These span a wide range of historical time frames, and represent a snapshot of Athens’ ancient history.

This archaeological display isn’t unique to Syntagma as various other Athens Metro stations also have similar displays of artifacts and historical ruins. Monastiraki (Μοναστηράκι) station, for example, features a prominent display of the ruins of the covered riverbed of the Eridanos (Ηριδανός) river in full view of passing commuters.

As someone from a city with a less than stellar museum scene, I felt the usage of otherwise empty space to showcase local archaeological artifacts to be quite applaudable. Athens is, after all, an ancient city, and maintaining prominent displays of the city’s history in full public view is frankly an effective way to sustain public interest in the field of archaeology. At the same time, it adds character to what is usually a utilitarian transport infrastructure.

Buying my Athens Metro tickets at Syntagma

The main concourse of Syntagma station is right below the architectural exhibits floor. Here is where you buy your tickets to enter the Athens Metro system.

The concourse is also where you’ll find another example of the Metro’s blending of public space and art. Look up and you’ll find a metal sculpture named “The Metro Clock” by Thodoros Papadimitriou (Θεόδωρος Παπαδημητρίου). For obvious reasons, the sculpture is best seen from the mezzanine level.

I bought my 90 minutes ticket for €1.20 from the ticket machines located in a corner of the concourse. These machines are convenient and easy to use, plus they accept cash and card. If buying from a machine isn’t your thing, there is also a staffed counter you can buy tickets from, though be warned that the queue can be time consuming.

With my ticket in hand, I tapped in at one of the many fare gates and turned left for Line 3.

Line 3 to Keramikos (Κεραμεικός)

My first impression of the system on the escalator ride down was that it wasn’t a flashy system. Riders used to the gleaming white panels and bright lights of newly built Metros in Europe, Southeast Asia, and East Asia will find the Athens Metro to be visually underwhelming.

For instance, the walls of the corridors and escalator shafts are painted in a soft beige colour, while the ceiling mounted lighting tubes emit halogen-esque colour tones. Rectangular marble tiles, the type not uncommonly found in homes and office buildings, also adorn some of the walls. The result is a lighting and aesthetic scheme that is easy on the eyes, but at the same time it does leave the 23 year old system looking its age.

Emerging from the corridors, I found myself on the westbound platforms in a wide and airy space. A good number of Athens Metro stations feature through platforms (i.e platforms on either side of the tracks), and the slightly vaulted ceiling panels give the space a sensation of height.The Metro does not use platform screen doors and allows for unobstructed views across the entire platform space. To mitigate the risk of people falling onto the tracks, a line of maroon coloured tiles stretching lengthwise along both platforms play the role of the traditional yellow line on platforms.

Looking down the platform, I spotted the standard displays of system maps, travel information, and advertisements. The platforms of both Line 2 and Line 3 stations are also fitted with benches that are painted in the colours of the line in question. On this Line 3 platform, the benches were naturally painted blue.

I had a 5-minutes wait before a 2nd Generation trainset built by Hanwha-Rotem, Mitsubishi, Vapor, and Knorr-Bremse whizzed through the station. First introduced in 2003, this train model supplemented the 1st generation stock first introduced in 2000 when the system first opened.

The interior of this 2nd generation stock is brightly lid with white wall panels. The fittings seemed to be well kept, and could easily pass for a much younger train set. You’d only get an inkling of its age when you step outside and catch a view of its rather dated exterior design.

Keramikos Metro station

I decided to limit the first half of my exploration for the day to Keramikos, only 2 stops away from Syntagma. With the short distance, we were soon pulling into the cavernous underground station.

Keramikos has a rather interesting history. It first opened on 26 May 2007 as part of the Line 3 extension to Egaleo (Αιγάλεω), but plans for the station actually date back earlier to the original scheme, though archaeological disputes over the location of the original station led to construction of Keramikos station being halted in 1998. The station was relocated, and construction resumed on the Keramikos station we see today. The younger age of the station meant that its furnishings are more “modern” as compared to the original batch of stations, including Syntagma station. What’s consistent is the display of route information on the platforms, which are standardised across the network’s infrastructure.

As an interesting note: The maps and informational posters are displayed behind a glass panel that is mounted on a hinge. This makes it easy to replace the posters as and when necessary. Much better than the wrap-around style display we see in Kuala Lumpur.

I took the escalator up to the surface where the architecture of the concourse reminded me somewhat of a budget version of the Canary Wharf Jubilee Line station on the London Underground.

The slightly more monumental style of architecture also extends to the surface entrance, where the station entrance is actually located in a sunken plaza. It’s a nice way to bring some landscaping to the area, and makes for a convenient meeting point.

Keramikos station is, of course, named after the Keramikos (Κεραμεικός) district of ancient Athens, the site of which is located just nearby. It wasn’t on my list of to-visits this time around, but just for the craic I decided to check out the walkability from Keramikos Metro station to the Keramikos proper.

Walking from Keramikos Metro station to the Keramikos

Leaving the expanse of the sunken Metro plaza brought me back into the typical Athens streetscape on Voutadon street (Οδός Βουτάδων). The pedestrian walkway here is quite narrow, and requires walking in single file alongside parked cars. This definitely isn’t a walkway to bring children on.

After some 10 minutes of walking, the ancient Keramikos district came into view on the other side of the road. Unfortunately this wasn’t the main entrance, which is located on the other side of the Keramikos site. Looking at Google Maps, it seems the better option is to take the Line 1 to Thisseio (Θησείο) Metro station.

I didn’t find the walk very pleasant in any event, but I suppose on the bright side it was “walkable”.

With the small excursion completed, I headed back to the Keramikos Metro station to begin the next part of my exploration.

Line 3 to Monastiraki

Heading back onto the platforms, I caught an Airport bound train to Monastiraki, a key station serving the touristy and historical Monrastiraki locale, as well as an interchange station with Line 1 of the Metro. Stepping off the platform at Monastiraki transported me back to the older architecture of the original section of Line 3. The ceiling of the Line 3 platform here was low, and covered in a layer of some sort of thick material which gave the space a more dingy vibe.

The platform has multiple escalators and lifts heading up to the concourse above. Instead of the usual paired escalators common today, the escalators heading up came in single sets only. This caused some congestion as tens of passengers from the train attempted to claim their spot on the single, relatively slow moving escalator.

The escalator ride up yielded some interesting views, as the escalator passed through what seemed to be a section of an intermediate level meant to separate departing commuters from those arriving at Monastiraki. Some grafitti was also seen scrawled on the tiles, but hey I guess it’s better than spray painting painted wall surfaces.

As I noted earlier, Monastiraki also features a display of the historical covered riverbed of the Eridanos River. This is a nice spot to stop by and soak in the not so mainstream parts of Athens’ long history.

With my mini exploration of Line 3 completed, I then headed back down to catch the train to Syntagma Metro station to begin the next part of my exploration for the day.

Line 2 to Akropoli

The next stop on my exploration was the Akropoli (Ακρόπολη) Metro station on Line 2. With Akropoli located one station south of Syntagma, I transferred from Line 3 to a southbound Line 2 train bound for Elliniko (Ελληνικό).

I found the transfer experience to be very straightforward, as I simply had to make my way up to the central concourse that I passed through earlier, and then walk across to the escalators for the Line 2 platforms for Elliniko-bound trains. This time, I hopped on one of the newer 3rd generation Hyundai ROTEM-Siemens trains. These were introduced in 2014 and feature largely the same interior as their 2nd generation counterparts, with the notable addition of LED route maps.

The train covered the short distance between Syntagma and Akropoli within 2 minutes, and soon I was standing on the southbound platforms of the Akropoli Metro station. These continue the same design language of the original sections of Line 2 and Line 3, and the platform benches are also in Line 2 red.

Akropoli continues the trend of archaeology on the Metro with replicas of certain friezes of the Parthenon, which is located on, you guessed it, the Acropolis. Heading up to the compact concourse reveals a small display of pottery and a small portion of a mosaic. There are also info panels describing archaeological exhibitions done at the site of the station itself. All in all, it’s a very impressive and educational setup for a space that most pass through in a rush.

I tapped out of the system to take a better look at the rest of the concourse and the area aboveground. The compact size of Akropoli Metro station means that you are never too far away from the entrance and exits.

The layout of the concourse is also pretty straightforward, as the placement of the ticket machines are right across from one of the two entrances of the station.

Walking towards the entrance on Makrygianni Street (Οδός Μακρυγιάννη), I came across another set of Parthenon-themed replicas. This time, it’s a replica of sculptures from the east pediment of the Parthenon.

Now if you haven’t already realised, the choice of the friezes and sculpture that were replicated and displayed here are very deliberate: These are replicas of some of the friezes and pediment sculptures that were, to put it nicely, removed from the Parthenon by the 7th Earl of Elgin from 1801 to 1812 and taken to England. They now sit in a dedicated and somewhat dull gallery in the British Museum in London, separated from its fellow sculptures that are now displayed in the splendid Acropolis Museum.

The station has 2 entrances – one on Makrygianni Street, and one on Anthanasiou Diakou Street (Οδός Αθανάσιου Διάκου). The Makrygianni Street is the one to go for if you’re headed for the Acropolis Museum and the Acropolis, as it’s headed just across from the entrance at the Southern Slopes.

Line 2 to Larissa Station (Σταθμός Λαρίσης)

With Akropoli sorted, I headed back down into the Metro system for Larissa Station – my final stop for the Line 2 exploration. Larissa Station is Athens’ primary mainline railway station, and hosts all Hellenic Train intercity and Proastiakos suburban services serving the city. The name “Larissa” came about as the 1904-built station was originally named after the city of Larissa (Λάρισα) in Thessaly (Θεσσαλία) in what was then the northernmost point in Greece. It is now called “Athens (Αθήνα)” on the mainline railway network, but is still known colloquially by its old name and on the Metro network.

This time around, I caught a 1st Generation train from Akropoli to Larissa Station. These distinctive trains with bare corrugated metal outer bodies built by Siemens, Daimler-Benz, and Alstom first entered service in 2000 when the network opened and have remained in service in the 23 years since.

Larissa Station continues the trend of compact Athens Metro stations. It is only a short walk from the platforms to the exit. It is here where things get a bit interesting – I was fully expecting Larissa Station to be connected to the Athens mainline station, but what surprised me was that the design swapped out the usual exit fare gates for readers mounted on metal supports right next to the stairs for the surface.

There are no signs asking passengers to tap out of the Metro system at these readers, and as I completely failed to notice them until much later I effectively did not tap out at Larissa Station. I didn’t run into any issues with my tickets after that, so I suppose the setup at Larissa Station is a feature and not a bug. Now, the layout doesn’t let you waltz in without a valid Metro ticket either – The entry fare gates are located in a very small concourse space to the right of the exit corridor, and there are signs warning against entering the system via the exit corridor.

Connecting from Larissa Station to the Athens railway station

Now the Athens Metro offers a convenient connection to the Athens railway station, with an entrance/exit located right next to the station building itself. The rather curious bit is that there are no escalators or lifts up to the surface on the railway station’s side. That’s right, connecting from the Athens Metro to the city’s main train station apparently requires hauling your luggage up a flight of stairs to the surface.

To make matters slightly less convenient, the slightly raised exit portal is actually facing away from the main entrance of Athens railway station. This means you first have to haul your bags up a flight of stairs to the surface, down another short flight of stairs, turn 180 degrees in the opposite direction and walk to the main entrance, all while countless other people are doing the same thing in the opposite direction.

But wait a minute, you might ask, surely a lift is a no-brainer? Yes, you would be right – Larissa Station is actually connected to the surface with a lift, but it’s across the 6 lane road with no pedestrian crossings and is hardly useful for a traveler rushing to catch a train with their bags. Like it or not, hauling your bags up the stairs is the safer option here, but the experience is a far cry from many other major railway stations worldwide.

The sun was beginning to set at this point, concluding my short exploration of Athens Metro Line 2 and Line 3. I headed back down into the Metro system to catch a Line 2 train back to Syntagma.

Final Thoughts

This was a great opportunity to explore the implementation of a rapid transit system in an ancient and archaeologically significant city. I particularly enjoyed the use of otherwise empty space to exhibit archaeological artifacts, even if they were just replicas. The only thing that I wasn’t enthusiastic about was the lacklustre accessibility between Larissa Station and Athens railway station – This can and should be improved.

All things considered, though, Lines 2 and 3 of the Athens Metro are pretty good rapid transit lines.

Athens in Winter
Read more from our trip to Athens and Delphi in winter 2022.





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