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Athens might be considered the birth-place of the ancient Olympic Games, but the event wasn’t taking place in Athens in antiquity. It was Ancient Olympia in Peloponnese that originally played host to the Olympic Games.
We’re sure you’ll agree with us when we say that not organising your trip properly sucks. Doesn’t it? But, this WON’T happen with your holiday in Athens. How do we know? Because we have prepared for you a complete Athens travel guide. You can’t go wrong with it.
In this article, we’re going to tell you everything about Athens, from the best attractions to the best places to stay. If you want to know more, keep reading!
Athens, the capital of Greece, is a place where history, culture, natural beauty, and urban life meet to create a bucket list destination! Counting over 3,000 years of history, Athens is arguably considered the cultural capital of Europe. Besides, it’s home to one of the most important archaeological monuments of the world: The Parthenon!
But Athens is so much more than its past… If you want to find out everything about this fascinating city, scroll down!
Because Athens is one of a kind! It combines ancient with modern in a unique way, seducing visitors from all over the world. To start with, Athens is a worldwide famous cultural destination, thanks to the wide selection of ancient monuments scattered all around the city. The Parthenon, the Acropolis, the Roman Agora, the Kallimarmaro Stadium, the Hellenistic Parliament…this city breaths history!
Strolling around the lively city center of Athens, you’ll discover ancient monuments galore, cozy neighborhoods, colorful corners, traditional taverns, hip coffee shops, and many more surprises. Athens knows how to reward those who explore it!
The city’s epicenter of activity is arguably Athens city center: Ermou, Monastiraki, Kolonaki, Psiri, Koukaki, and Exarcheia are the most popular areas of the capital’s bustling center. There, you’ll find restaurants, bars, cafes, fashion boutiques, international retail stores, and more!
But the exploration doesn’t stop at Athens city center. The beautiful Athens suburbs are the hidden treasures that every traveler needs to discover. The cosmopolitan Marousi and Kifisia are perfect for wandering and shopping, while at the seaside Glyfada, Voula, Faliro and the whole Athens riviera, summer lasts all year long!
Athens, the capital and largest city of Greece, belongs to the Attica region and sits in the eastern part of the Greek mainland. Thanks to its central position, Athens is a commercial hub and home to two of the biggest ports in Greece, Piraeus, and Lavrio. That’s why Athens is a departure point for trips to the Greek islands of the Aegean sea. Athens is located 45 km away from Aegina, 52 km away from Poros, 70 km away from Hydra, 236 km away from Santorini, and 162 km away from Mykonos.
The truth is Athens is beautiful all year round! The ideal seasons to visit Athens, though, are spring and autumn. That is because the weather is mild during these seasons, creating the perfect conditions for sightseeing and wandering. Winter might not be always very cold, but summer is always pretty hot. While Athens is busy in summer and quiet in winter, it isn’t overcrowded in spring and autumn. More specifically, the periods from mid-April to mid-June and from September to mid-October are the best ones for visiting Athens.
Read also: The best time to visit Greece
Athens might be considered the birth-place of the ancient Olympic Games, but the event wasn’t taking place in Athens in antiquity. It was Ancient Olympia in Peloponnese that originally played host to the Olympic Games.
If you visit Athens without tasting the local delicacies, did you even visit Athens? In Athens, you’ll find a great selection of restaurants and taverns, where you’ll have the chance to introduce yourself to the Greek culinary scene. The traditional taverns in Monastiraki, Psiri, and Plaka are the best places to taste the local delicacies after a long day of sightseeing. There are also many great restaurants in the suburbs of Athens: For gourmet restaurants, go to Kifissia and Glyfada, while for the best fish taverns opt for Piraeus and Palaio Faliro.
Who said that you should visit a Greek island to enjoy beautiful beaches? In Athens, you’ll find many wonderful beaches along Athens Riviera. The best beaches in Athens lie in Vouliagmeni, Glyfada, Varkiza, Loutsa, and Lagonisi. You can reach these beaches by public transportation, but getting there by car is a better option, as they lie a bit far from Athens city center.
One of the best things to do in Athens is to go on a trip to Sounion, a cape located on the southern end of Attica. Sitting 70 km away from Athens, Sounion is the perfect destination for a quick getaway. In Sounion, you’ll find one of the most beautiful ancient temples in Greece, the Temple of Poseidon.
Sitting on a hill, the Temple of Poseidon was constructed between 444 and 440 BC on the ruins of an archaic temple. The Temple of Poseidon is the best spot to watch magical sunsets and marvel at the breathtaking view. In Sounion, you’ll also find some wonderful beaches, hotels, and facilities.
Acropolis is not only the most important monument in Athens, but also the trademark of Greece. The Acropolis is a hill on the top of which stands the Parthenon, one of the most imposing temples of the ancient world. The Parthenon (which means the “house of the virgin” in Greek) was dedicated to the patron of Athens, the ancient Greek goddess Athena. Apart from the Parthenon, on the Acropolis hill also stand the Erechtheion temple, the temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaea, and the statue of Athena Promachos, among others. Don’t leave Athens without visiting the Acropolis!
Built under Acropolis hill, on Dionysiou Areopagitou street, the Theater of Herodes Atticus is one of the most significant ancient theaters in Greece. It was constructed around 161 AD. by the Roman philosopher Herodes Atticus, hence its name. The Theater of Herodes Atticus has a capacity of 6,000 people and hosts many concerts and theatrical performances every summer.
The Ancient Agora was the center of commercial and political activity in antiquity. It was where the city council and the presidents of the council used to convene and where the law courts used to take place. The remains of the Ancient Agora lie in a large verdant area between Thissio and Monastiraki neighborhoods. Among the monuments you’ll find in Ancient Agora are the Temple of Hephaestus and the Stoa of Attalos.
The Acropolis museum is, hands down, the most impressive museum in Athens. Located on Dionysiou Areopagitou street, the Acropolis Museum hosts findings of the excavations carried out at the Acropolis hill. It comprises four floors, three of which host the exhibits and one that has a cafeteria and a restaurant. The Acropolis Museum has a unique design based on glass. From its large window walls, you can savor the breathtaking view of the Acropolis hill and the Parthenon.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center is a cultural and educational complex in Palaio Faliro. Boasting stunning architecture and innovative design, SNFCC is one of the world’s most sustainable buildings. There, you’ll find the National Opera, the National Library of Greece, and a 21-hectares park. Many high quality free athletic and cultural events are organized all year round in SNFCC, so make sure you won’t miss the chance to attend one of them!
The department stores in Athens are usually open from 9 am or 10 am to 9 pm from Monday to Friday. On Saturday, the majority of the stores are open from 10 am to 6 or 8 pm, they remain closed on Sunday.
Athens is famous for its history and mythology! Inhabited since the Neolithic period, 5,000 years ago, Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world. It took its name from Athena, the Ancient Greek goddess of wisdom and patroness of the city. Built around the Acropolis hill, Athens had a strategic position that has helped it defend itself among the centuries. Some of the highlights of the city’s history are the development of the Athenian democracy in the 6th century BC., the peak of Greek philosophy (which included legendary philosophers like Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato) in the 4th century BC., and the Persian Wars in the 5th century BC.
There are several alternatives regarding how to get to Athens. The most popular and fastest way to reach the Greek capital is by air, but you can also opt for the train, cruise ships, or car.
Flights to Athens are the best and fastest way to get to the Greek capital. The main airport in Athens is Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos, which is located at Spata and receives international flights daily. There are many direct flights from the USA to Athens and from Canada to Athens. There are also several flights that make stops in other European countries before arriving in Athens. As for Europe, there are many direct flights to Athens from countries such as Italy, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, and France.
To get to Athens city center from Athens International airport, you can get a taxi, the metro or then bus. The bus is the cheapest option, as it will get you to the city center in about 40 minutes. At the airport, you’ll also find car rental companies where you can rent a car to get around Athens at your own pace.
Taking a train to Athens is the best alternative for those who want to enjoy a ride through nature and suburban landscapes. There are trains to Athens from many European countries, such as the UK, France, Italy, Austria, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, Portugal and many more. You can also make Athens a part of a rail tour in Europe, as many companies offer rail tours around European countries, including Greece.
If you prefer traveling by ship, many cruise ships stop in Athens during their itinerary. These ships usually stop at Piraeus port of Athens, which lies 20 minutes away from Athens city center, offering the passengers the perfect opportunity to explore the city and do sightseeing in Athens.
Besides taking the train, you can also get to Athens by car through most of the European countries, such as Italy, Romania, Turkey, the UK and many more. The best option is to go on a road trip to the Balkans and South Europe. This way, you’ll explore many different countries and cultures on your way to Athens in Greece.
Plaka is one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in Athens. It may lie in Athens city center, but it feels worlds away from it. That’s because the architecture and atmosphere of this little neighborhood are very similar to these of a Cycladic island. Narrow cobblestone alleys, whitewashed houses, little corners embellished with colorful flowers, and a breathtaking view of the Acropolis make Plaka in Athens irresistible!
Koukaki is a historic neighborhood located under the Acropolis hill, a breath away from Syntagma square. It is one of the locals’ favorite districts, as it is hip, has a great selection of sophisticated cafes, and lies very close to some of the best landmarks in Athens, including the Parthenon and the Acropolis museum. What’s more, Koukaki is one of the most strollable neighborhoods in Athens, as it has many pedestrian areas. The most famous pedestrian areas in Koukaki are Drakou street and Olympiou street, where you can find many tavernas and cafes.
Psyrri neighborhood is a great place to stay in the heart of Athens city center. Located very close to Monastiraki square and Thissio, Psyrri makes a good base for exploration. What’s more, in Psyrri you’ll find a plethora of bars, pubs, restaurants, and taverns. The narrow streets of this neighborhood get packed with people when the sun goes down, especially at the weekends, so it is the perfect place to introduce yourself to the Athenian nightlife!
Kolonaki is the chicest neighborhood in Athens city center. Located under the beautiful Lycabettus hill, Kolonaki boasts a picturesque setting. In Kolonaki, you’ll find luxurious hotels, high-class restaurants, sophisticated bars, galleries as well as some of the best Athens museums, such as the Benaki Museum and the Museum of Cycladic Art. Kolonaki is also a go-to destination for shopping, as it has many designer boutiques and fashion stores.
Are you wondering how to get around Athens? There are many options, depending on where you stay and where you want to go! Generally, the best ways to get around Athens are by car, by metro, by bus, by tram, and by taxi. Let’s explore your options!
Getting around Athens by metro is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most convenient ways to move around the city. It is perfect for those who want to move around the city center and explore the archaeological monuments and neighborhoods.
There are three metro lines in Athens: The green one (Piraeus-Kifissia), the blue one (Airport-Agia Marina), and the red one (Anthoupoli-Elliniko). The green metro line is the oldest of the three and also the slowest, while the blue and the green ones are newer and faster. The Athens Metro is relatively fast and has frequent schedules. Useful Info: The trip from Athens airport to Syntagma (Athens city center) lasts for about 40 minutes.
Getting around Athens by bus is the best option for those who want to explore the city center and the urban neighborhoods of Athens on a budget.
Apart from being a very good means for exploring the city center, the bus is also a great way to get to Athens city center from Athens International Airport. There is X93 bus, which connects the airport with Kifissos KTEL (station for long-distance bus itineraries to Greek mainland cities and some Greek islands), X95 bus, which connects Athens airport with Athens city center (Syntagma square), X96 bus, which connects Athens airport with Piraeus port, and X97 bus which connects Athens International Airport with Elliniko metro station. Except for buses, there are also trolleys, which are buses run on electricity. They serve itineraries around Athens city center and the neighborhoods of Athens.
Getting around Athens by tram is a good option for those who want to explore Athens Riviera and go for a plunge at the beaches of Athens. All tram itineraries start from Syntagma square and move towards the seaside suburbs of Athens. There are three tram lines in Athens: Line 1 (Syntagma-SEF), line 2 (Syntagma-Voula), and line 3 (Voula-SEF). Getting the tram is one of the cheapest ways to get around Athens, along with the metro and bus.
The taxi is a fast -yet rather pricey- way to move around Athens. It’s also a way to get to Athens city center from Athens International Airport and also to move around Athens during the night hours (after 00.00 am on the weekdays and 02.00 am at the weekends) when the public means of transportation stop operating.
If you’re traveling with heavy luggage, a taxi is probably the best way to get to your hotel from Athens airport (there is a designated taxi area at Exit 3 of the airport). The trip from Athens International Airport to Athens city center by taxi lasts for about 25 minutes, depending on the traffic. Taxis are available 24/7 everywhere in Athens, and it is pretty easy to find one.
Athens is a relatively cheap city compared to other European capitals. Generally speaking, you’re going to spend around 80 € (95 $) every day. More specifically, you’re going to spend about 30 € (36 $) on food, about 10 € (12 $) for public transportation, and about 40 € (47 $) per person for a double room per night.
Moussaka is arguably one of the most iconic traditional dishes of the Greek gastronomy. It consists of layers of potatoes, eggplants, tomato sauce, and minced meat covered by creamy bechamel and cheese. It’s a scrumptious dish -not an ideal choice for those on a diet, though!
Well, this is probably the most popular food in Greece. Souvlaki, also known as kalamaki, is a meat (chicken or pork) skewer. It is served either in pita bread with tzatziki, fried potatoes, and tomato, or with a side of fried potatoes and a salad. The first version is a very popular type of street food in Athens!
This is a staple of the local cuisine. The Greek Salad, also known as Horiatiki Salad, is served both as an appetizer and as a main dish. It’s made with fresh tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onion, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of local herbs.
Loukoumades is the scrumptious Greek version of doughnuts. This popular Greek treat consists of deep-fried balls of dough served with toppings, like honey and cinnamon, cream, melted chocolate, and ice cream. You can find them at several spots all around the city and cafeterias.
The Greek Health Care System is public and provides free treatment to citizens and expats. You can visit a public practitioner for free or a private practitioner with a charge. In both cases, you have to pay for prescribed medicines. You can purchase medicines from the numerous pharmacies in Athens, which you’ll find at almost every corner of the city. In case of emergency, you can call a public EKAV ambulance (166) or the European emergency number (112).
Athens is a safe city for all types of tourists, including solo female travelers. However, you should use common sense and take precautions. You should keep a mind on your belongings, especially when you are in crowded places like public means of transportation. What’s more, we advise you to check the taximeter at the end of your taxi ride to make sure it shows the exact amount of money you’re going to pay.
This is hands down one of the chicest beaches in Athens. Located on the coast of Vouliagmeni, 20 km away from Athens city center, Astir Beach is the place to go if you want a luxurious beach experience. On this beach, you’ll find a wide selection of high-end facilities, like luxurious hotels, sophisticated restaurants, and designer boutiques. Astir is a private beach, so there is an entrance fee, which is usually 25 euros on weekdays and 40 at the weekends. Our tip is to pre-book a sun lounger to secure a spot under the sun, as this beach is often overcrowded.
Nestled on the coast of Varkiza, 35 km away from Athens city center, Yabanaki is an ideal option for a wonderful beach day. Yabanaki is very popular with the Athenian youth and families alike. It is an organized beach with many facilities, like water sports facilities, a kids’ play area, beach bars, and restaurants. The entrance fee for Yabanaki beach is 5-6 euros. This fee will get you an umbrella and a sun lounger, but you have to pay extra for a beverage. Yabanaki can get crowded, especially at the weekends, so we advise you to go early.
Eden beach is one of the most iconic beaches of the Athenian Riviera. Nestled in a secluded cove in Anavissos, Eden (or EverEden) stands out for its crystal clear waters, thanks to which it has been having a Blue Flag status for 22 years. This cosmopolitan beach is fully organized with a beach bar, a restaurant, sun loungers, umbrellas, water sports facilities, and many more. If you fall in love with this beach and aren’t ready to leave, book a room at the Ever Eden Beach Resort Hotel, which lies right behind the beach!
This is a super-long and popular beach in Athens. It might be located just 20 km away from the city center, but it feels worlds away from it! Thanks to its length and wide range of modern amenities, Akti Vouliagmenis is an ideal option for families. On the beach, you’ll find a children’s playground, sports facilities (including a tennis court and a volleyball court), as well as a traditional Greek taverna. The admission fee to Akti Vouliagmenis is usually 5 euros during the summer.
Balux Seaside Project is a seaside beach/bar restaurant located in Glyfada, 15 km away from Athens city center. This beach is loved by locals, and especially youngsters, as it is considered one of the trendiest beaches in Athens. Except for a bar/restaurant, at Balux Seaside Project, you’ll find a pool, where you can hang out along stylish crowds. The admission fee to Balux Seaside Project is about 4 euros, so it’s one of the most budget-friendly beach options in Athens.
Read also: 30 Best Beaches in Greece
The weather can get very hot in Athens during the summer, so breathable fabrics, like linen and cotton, are the key. Bring all the shorts, dresses, sandals, and t-shirts you got and don’t forget your hat and sunglasses. Also, don’t leave your hotel without putting on sunscreen!
Athens is usually humid and rainy in fall, but the weather isn’t cold and sunny days are frequent. So, you should cover all bases when it comes to packing. Take with you some pairs of jeans, t-shirts, dresses, comfortable sneakers, and a raincoat. Don’t forget to also bring an umbrella -just in case!
It may be chilly and rainy in Athens during the winter, but the weather is good for the majority of the time. Some must garments to bring with you are a warm coat, knitted sweaters, rain boots, and scarves. Oh, and don’t forget your umbrella!
Spring is one of the best seasons to visit Athens in terms of weather conditions. Since the weather in spring is mild, you’ll need a lightweight jacket, a pair of jeans, comfortable sneakers (there’s going to be a fair amount of walking), and long-sleeve shirts. However, keep in mind that temperature drops at night, so make sure that you bring some warm layers.
So, are you getting itchy feet? We totally get it! We tried to cover everything you need to know about planning a holiday to Athens, from the best areas to stay and the top attractions to visit and from how to get around Athens to the best local dishes.
But, we’d also love to know about your experience and tips about Athens! Leave a comment below with your recommendations or this one thing you wish you knew before visiting Athens.
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