Take a ride into the past. Next stop... ancient Greece

Athens's new metro is like an underground museum: the line weaves through the old city, dodging archaeological finds along the way.

Think of modern Athens and you'll probably picture a sweltering, polluted and traffic-ridden metropolis, where renowned antiquities such as the Acropolis are best visited either out of season or very rapidly before heading for the islands. There's undoubtedly an element of truth in this and yet, as Athens begins its annual drama and music festival, getting round the city has got a little easier (and hopefully less polluted) thanks to some new metro lines.

Think of modern Athens and you'll probably picture a sweltering, polluted and traffic-ridden metropolis, where renowned antiquities such as the Acropolis are best visited either out of season or very rapidly before heading for the islands. There's undoubtedly an element of truth in this and yet, as Athens begins its annual drama and music festival, getting round the city has got a little easier (and hopefully less polluted) thanks to some new metro lines.

In other capitals delays to new public transport facilities are usually caused by political in-fighting or squabbles over finance. In Athens the construction of two additional metro lines, which was originally planned for 1998, was held up by one archaeological discovery after another. The results are stunning. With their sparkling clean carriages, billboard-free walls and orthopaedically designed seats, the two new lines are a stark contrast to the very unglamorous original green line, and the city is now graced with beautiful and innovative metro stations that combine history lessons and modern design - and also mean that travellers can flit between sights in air-conditioned comfort.

The centrally-located Syntagma (Constitution) Square station is an essential stop for anyone wanting to get a feel for the day-to-day bustle of Athenian life, watch the changing of the guard outside the Parliament Building or retreat from it all in the National Gardens or the elegant café of the Grande Bretagne Hotel. Over a thousand graves were discovered during excavation work beneath this bustling crossroads, and the station is now a showcase for several dozen artefacts.

Busy commuters can snatch a quick glance at their city's past while more leisurely travellers can stop and imagine what was once lit by 4th-century BC clay lamps or admire the details of a 4th-century mosaic. Instead of advertising, passengers emerging from train level are confronted with a large picture of the historic Messogiaki gate through which their predecessors once entered the city.

Further along the blue line, near the Evangelismos station, more artefacts were unearthed. Along with copper mirrors and religious and secular statues, a section of the city's Roman era aqueduct system was found and has been incorporated into the station. Hop out here and find out more about the area's past by visiting the lovely Byzantine Museum.

Old and new intersect at the busy Monastiraki stop: the narrow streets have always been at the heart of Athenian life, and the area retains some authenticity in spite of the tourists. The locals queue up outside the station to buy pistachio nuts on the way to work, and old men play backgammon at street-side cafés, oblivious to everything but the next move.

But don't stop your underground tour here. As it wormed its way under the city, the giant "Metromouse" unearthed baths at Amalias Avenue, workshops and an ancient road near the site of the current Evangelismos Hospital, and yet more graves near Kerameikos, many of their lamps, toys, religious statues and beautification pots still in astonishingly good condition.

The most precious findings the new line uncovered include the intact grave of a somewhat pampered hunting dog showered with burial gifts. To see these you have to carry on to the Museum of Cycladic Art (4 Neophytou Street, Evangelismos station). Here a new exhibition displays those artefacts considered just too important for everyday metro stations.

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?