Have you found yourself in Athens on a holiday, and the sites are closed? Or perhaps it’s a rare rainy day and you’d like to find a way to stay under cover, yet still see some sites?
How about an Athens Art and Archeology tour, by metro?
As you can imagine, digging anywhere in Athens runs the risk of digging up something, so imagine when the city began constructing an underground railway system that runs directly through the entire downtown area? The result is perhaps the largest archeological excavation project every undertaken! In all, an area of almost 50 miles uncovered more than 50.000 ancient artifacts.
Today, 7 metro stations contain exhibits from the excavations:
- Evangelismos (Blue)
- Syntagma (Blue)
- Panepistimio (Red)
- Monasteraki (Blue)
- Keramikos (Blue)
- Acropolis (Red)
- Dafni (Red)
When planning your tour, you may choose to visit the stations in the order listed above, heading north from Syntagma on the Red line to Panepistimio, and then returning to Syntagma to continue your tour, or, you could continue on the Red line to Omonia Square (which has some interesting art on display by Greek artists), where you can transfer to the Green Line which will take you to Monasteraki where you can get back on the Blue Line to Keramikos.
Several stations also have interesting art, the Dafni station, with both its archeology and art, is worth a visit, as are the sculptures by Greek artists in the Evangeslismo metro station and the station at Syntagma Square (look up for the mobiles).
The cost of this tour fits everyone’s budget (1.40 euro cents for 90 minutes or 4.00 euro for the whole day!) – just be sure to purchase and validate your metro ticket (there are little towers where you need to insert your ticket, get it stamped, and then keep in on you at all times – they do random checks, and the fine is quite stiff!) If you are going to be moving about on the metro all day, consider a 24 hour ticket, which will run you 4.00 euro but is valid on the metro, the buses and the trolley, as well as the tram and the suburban rail systems (EXCEPT FOR THE AIRPORT).
It is also the perfect family tour of Athens, since kids love trains and moving about by metro breaks up the search for old rocks with rides up and down esclators, the train and a nice variety of archeological finds (the Monasteraki metro includes a peak at one of the rivers which once ran through Athens).
See if your kids can find the underground cemetery where the skeleton with two left legs is buried! (My nieces DID find it!)
If you are planning on a week in Athens, you may want to consider a week pass, which is valid on all transportation other than the airport, and costs 14 euro. The truth is that Athens is an extremely walkable city, so the chances are you will spend a lot of time outside of the metro – but having a week long pass means you never have to look for a place to purchase a ticket for the trolley or bus, and offers you the freedom to hop on and hop off at your leisure.
The above two passes (24 hour pass and 7 day pass) are not valid for the suburban rail line to the airport, though there was an announcement about a new pass that will be introduced in the Spring of 2012 that will include transport between the airport and downtown Athens. Watch for updates.