Cycling in Athens: the Survival Guide
Sunday afternoon, and you decide to hit the streets for a walk down the center of Athens. But then, this is when you have a better idea: grab your bike and head down the almost empty, silent streets of the Greek capital. However, what happens during the rest of the week? Does even the notion of cycling come in your mind, when Athens is nothing more than busy streets?
Perhaps Athens may not be considered a bike-friendly city and the lack of bike lanes in the city’s most vital parts supports this statement. However, there are many of you who enjoy cycling around as a means to explore a new city, thus we have prepared for you the survival guide to cycling in Athens: what to be prepared for and what to keep in mind so you can enjoy your ride in Athens to the fullest.
1. Locating the Ideal “Cycling Spots”
You might be familiar with the idea of cycling in your own hometown. Things, however, change when on vacation and you are not used to the yet to be explored places of your destination. Therefore, prior to coming to Athens, you’ll have to do some research on where you can find the ideal “cycling spots” available all over the city, both at the center and the outskirts. Dr. Transport Engineer Konstantinos Athanasopoulos has constructed THE map for those willing to spend some time on two wheels and presents you the bike lanes that you can find throughout the city of Athens, but throughout Greece as well.
As you might have already noticed by studying the map, Athens’s city center doesn’t offer the choice to easily move around on your bicycle, however there are lots of tracks mostly away from the city center that could be ideal for your ride. We would suggest you to follow the Athens-Faliro cycle track which starts from Thissio station, crosses Panagi Tsaldari and Ilissou street, and ends up in Faliro through the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC). Take a break at SNFCC and stroll around its beautiful park or along its artificial stream, and finish your ride right on time for an amazing sunset by the sea.
2. What to Consider and Pay Attention to
You might not be a local, but now that you have located the ideal “cycling spots”, it’s time to keep some things in mind, when it comes to braving the city streets on two wheels.
- Convenience: the bicycle is a worthwhile investment, when you must deal with traffic on the streets, hordes of people and, especially during summer, the unbearable heat in the public means of transport. To avoid that, grab a bicycle and get on the streets to your destination or around the city with no strings attached.
- Autonomy: set your own pace, spend less time to wonder which times and metro or train lines will be the most convenient for doing some sightseeing, and take advantage of programming your day the way you want to.
- Getting healthier: well, I’m sure that there are many among you who would like to exercise even on holidays. This is where a bicycle comes in handy. Riding these two wheels helps you to get some steam off and combine relaxation with cycling and breathing fresh air.
- Discovering the city: the greatest reason for riding that bike is to spend quality time in discovering the city you’re visiting. Cycling around the city you get to explore its wonders, what you wouldn’t be witnessing when traveling by car, bus, or metro. Take the time to wander the streets of Athens’s center and old neighborhoods, find out unique places hidden all over the city and enjoy visiting places that even the locals wouldn’t know of. Take a breath of fresh air and the opportunity to admire the National Garden of Athens on your bike or cycle around on Dionysiou Areopagitou pedestrian street, right beneath one of the most ancient wonders of the world, the Parthenon.
3. Exploring your Options and Alternatives
Once you’ve decided that the bicycle is your thing, you might want to check your options to make the most of your trip around the city. Perhaps you could try contacting bike-friendly associations of Athens, such as Podilates (eng. Cyclists) or Friends of Bicycle (Member of the European Cyclists’ Federation), so that you can ask for information and help during your holiday in Athens. If you have doubts on how to properly cycle around with safety and not miss the major attractions, register for the quite alternative cycling tour that we offer with wooden bicycles (more information you can find here).
So, if you weren’t already convinced by the convenience, efficiency, practicality and other benefits the bicycle has to offer, let me just close by adding that it is also exhilarating. Be confident and cycle down those bike lanes and roadways. Be, however, cautious, but don’t let that hold you back from riding these two wheels. And a reminder: this is your opportunity to explore the urban environment, to locate the hidden shops and places, where the locals usually hang out, and to familiarize yourself with the city’s unique ability to successfully combine the rush rhythms of the big city with the slow-changing life of its rustic neighborhoods.
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Do you choose cycling as a way to explore a foreign city? Have you ever cycled around Athens? What are your route suggestions?
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Words: Spyros Balesias