Most visitors arrive in Athens by way of air, landing at Athens International Airport. Hub for Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air, the airport is quite well served by carriers from Europe, North Africa, Middle East, and even North America.
After going through customs (or not if you are a European citizen arriving from another Schengen country), you’ll need to find your way to the city. Taxis typically cost more than €30 (even if you pre-book with a certified company) and driving a rental car in Athens is sort of a rollercoaster ride you’d probably want to avoid on your first day.
So, you are left with these options: express bus, suburban rail, and metro.
Taking the express but to the city center
All buses arrive at the Departures Level and depart from the Arrivals Level, between exits 4 and 5. You really don’t need to wait too long to catch a bus to the city center from the airport. Χ95 connects to Syntagma Square, Χ93 to Kifissos Coach Station, Χ97 to Dafni Metro Station and X96 to Piraeus.
The single fare is €6 (to Syntagma, info valid in 2017). Tickets can be bought directly from the drive or from the existing booth. Travel time to Syntagma is about 90 minutes.
When you need to get to the airport, it’s advisable to allow for at least 2 hours for the bus trip from the city center to the airport. So plan accordingly, also allowing for 2 hours for security and other formalities. Once in front of the airport, enter either terminal (A or B) and look for your flight. If the gate is not announced, wait until the information is available, then proceed to boarding pass check, passport check and then security check. Should you fly low-cost carriers ((Ryanair, EasyJet, Vueling, Eurowings)), you will have a lot of walking to do to get to the new terminal built just for them.
Taking the suburban rail or metro to the city center
The airport is also connected to the city center via the suburban rail, which links to Athens Central Railway Station (Larissis Station).
A fast way to get from the airport to the city center is by metro. The Blue line (Line 3) connects the airport to Syntagma (where you can change to the red line, for Omonia) or go to Monastiraki (where you can change to Green Line for Piraeus. The single fare is €10 but a group ticket for 2 persons is €18 (info valid in 2017). The travel time is about 40 minutes (to Syntagma).
Tickets (for both metro and suburban rail) can be bought from the automatic machines, which are very easy to use. They have English as an option, so it’s very easy to get the tickets (the ticket booth are not serviced anyway, at least that was the case in Monastiraki or Syntagma in the early morning).
When going to the airport, look for the airplane sign on the front of the train. Also, the train in announced on the panels (in English, too). They do stick to the timetable available here . Journeys to the airport are scheduled every 30 minutes. Allow for 1 hour to get to the airport by metro and another 2 hours to get through security and other formalities. The metro does not run 24/7. The first metro leaves Egaleo at 5:30 a.m. and the last at 10:55 p.m.
Once you get to the Airport station, you need to walk a bit to get to the Terminals. Follow the signs to the terminal (take a right after you go up the stairs leading from the station), but be careful that you’ll have to cross the road in front of the Terminals. Enter either terminal and look for your flight. If the gate is not yet announced, wait until the information is available and proceed to the respective terminal (A or B). If you fly low cost (Ryanair, EasyJet, Vueling, Eurowings) you will have to do a lot of walking until you get to the additional terminal which was built just for them.
>>read about the Budget Airlines that Fly to Athens
More photos from the airport:
Photo credits: Cristina Puscas
Note: the article was first written in March 2012 and updated in May 2017.