Accessible Athens: Getting Around the Greek Capital With Limited Mobility

A high-tech lift system transports wheelchair users with ease to the Parthenon
A high-tech lift system transports wheelchair users with ease to the Parthenon | © Sven Hansche / EyeEm / Getty Images
Photo of George Mouratidis
27 January 2020

For those with limited mobility, discover how to experience Athens to the fullest.

More and more of Athens’s key sites are becoming accessible to wheelchair users | © Cavan Images / Getty Images

Many tourists with limited mobility are apprehensive about visiting Athens for the first time. This city is, after all, well known for its hilly terrain and cobblestone streets. While Athens does present a few mobility-related challenges, that doesn’t mean it’s not an accessible city. Indeed, the Greek government has made great strides towards creating a capital that’s more convenient for wheelchair users.

Visitors needing to rent a wheelchair on their trip to Athens should first contact their hotel to see if they offer assistance | © Labylullaby / Getty Images

While Athens still lags behind many other European capitals in terms of accessibility, there have been improvements. Especially in the centre, new ramps and tactile paving tiles have been installed, while illegal parking has been reduced.

Transportation options in Athens

While all buses in Athens are wheelchair-friendly, the Athens Metro is undoubtedly easier to navigate. For some journeys, taxis may be the most efficient option for those with limited mobility.

The Athens Metro offers the most efficient and user-friendly way to navigate the Greek capital | © photooiasson / Getty Images

Pros of using the Athens Metro

The great thing about the Athens Metro is that every station has a lift for users with limited mobility. Depending on what station you’re at, you might even find two elevators: one to get to a ticket vendor and another to travel directly onto the platform.

Currently, the Athens Metro has three lines with about 60 stations. The metro is open between 5.30am and 12.30am every day, and trains usually arrive every six minutes.

Be sure to research where the accessible entrance is to each of the metro stops you’ll be using before visiting the city. If you can’t find comprehensive information on Google Maps, then don’t hesitate to ask your hotel for advice.

Every metro station in Athens has a lift, providing easy access for users with limited mobility | © Argyris Theos / Getty Images

How to hail an Athenian taxi

While the Athens Metro stops near many fantastic attractions, most tourists will have to use a taxi at least once during their trip. Here’s some good news: Athenian taxis are pretty cheap by European standards.

Although you could hail these yellow taxis from anywhere in the city, you’ll find many taxis lined up by popular squares like Syntagma and Monastiraki. As of today, the minimum fee for taking a taxi is set at €1.29 (£1.09) with a fare of €0.74 (£0.62) per kilometre within Athens’s city limits. Wheelchair users can make use of G&K Services ‘Special Taxis’, a local wheelchair-accessible taxi service endorsed by the National Confederation of Disabled People in Greece.

Visitors can hail yellow taxis from anywhere in Athens | © MarioGuti / Getty Images

Accessibility at key attractions

Climbing the Acropolis

Did you really visit Athens if you didn’t take a photo by the world-famous Acropolis? Luckily for tourists who use wheelchairs, there is a state-of-the-art lift system that will transport you to Athens’s star attraction. Just be sure to take a taxi to the green gate at the Acropolis archaeological complex’s main entrance to avoid the initial steep climb.

Unfortunately, the ground on top of the Acropolis is quite uneven and rocky – this is an ancient hilltop, after all. Overall, visitors with limited mobility are able to see all the major Acropolis sites adequately, but if it’s particularly windy or raining, then the Acropolis lift may temporarily shut down.

The Acropolis features a state-of-the-art lift system to aid visitors with limited mobility | © Christian Draghici / Alamy Stock Photo

Touring the Acropolis Museum

Most of the important finds from the Acropolis archaeological site are now on display in the ultra-modern Acropolis Museum, which is just a short distance from the Acropolis proper. As you’d expect from a world-class museum, it has excellent accessibility. If you’re using a wheelchair, you can easily take a ramp to the main entrance on Dionysiou Areopagitou and use the museum’s elevators to see all the exhibits.

The Acropolis Museum has ramps and lifts to make visits easier for those with mobility issues | © Monika Tymanowska / Alamy Stock Photo

Visiting the Ancient Agora of Athens

The Ancient Agora refers to a public square that was once the centre of Athenian life. Situated near Monastiraki Square, this historically rich area features plentiful wheelchair ramps.

Start your journey on Adrianou Street where you’ll find a wheelchair-accessible ramp into the agora’s main street. From there, you can easily enter the Stoa of Attalos – one of the area’s most important museums – on an accessible ramp. Keep in mind that the Stoa of Attalos also has a wheelchair-accessible restroom.

Although those who use wheelchairs can’t access every part of the Ancient Agora, you will enjoy fantastic views of the Acropolis throughout the complex. Plus, since the Ancient Agora is usually less crowded than the Acropolis, it’s often a more enjoyable travel experience.

The Ancient Agora was once the centre of Athenian life | © FatManPhotoUK / Getty Images

Exploring the National Archaeological Museum

Located near the Victoria station, Athens’s National Archaeological Museum has one of the world’s best collections of ancient artefacts. If you’re visiting this famed museum on your Athenian trip, take the ramp to the north side entrance along Vasileos Irakleiou. Once inside, you’ll find the museum has an elevator as well as an accessible bathroom on the lower level.

The National Archaeological Museum in Athens is fully accessible | © Silwen Randebrock / Alamy Stock Photo

Choosing the right hotel

Since Athens is such a historic city, many hotels in the capital are small and not completely accessible.

When looking for an accessible hotel to suit your needs, the best advice is to focus on areas close to major metro stations and the attractions you’re most interested in visiting. An ideal place to look into is near the central Syntagma Square, which has great connections to the rest of the city.

Accessible hotels in the city include The Stanley (just steps from the Metaxourgeio metro station) and Hera Hotel (which is close to the Acropolis).

The Stanley hotel is close to the Metaxourgeio metro station | © Martin Leitch / Getty Images

Hiring wheelchairs in Athens

If you need to rent a wheelchair on your trip to Athens, you should first contact your hotel to see if they offer assistance. Your concierge should be able to point you in the direction of a reputable wheelchair rental company in your area.

Alternatively, Wheelchair in Athens offers a variety of rentable wheelchairs, in addition to medical oxygen and walkers.

Useful mobility apps

A number of handy apps are available to make your Athenian adventure even easier. Of course, Google Maps and Google Translate are perennial favourites, but there are also a few Athens-focussed apps to consider.

Two of the most highly reviewed apps among Athens tourists include the ATH Airport app and the Beat app. The ATH Airport app provides users with up-to-date information on flights into the city’s main airport as well as other helpful info like weather forecasts. The Beat app, on the other hand, helps users book taxis via their phone, similar to Uber or Lyft.

Visitors to Athens can download a range of apps to make navigating the city easier | © Maryviolet / Getty Images

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