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Athens Travel Tips for the first time visitor

8 Nov 2022 | Destinations, Europe, Greece, homepage

If you’re interested in traveling to Athens or are at least considering it. Well, you’ve come to the right place! I recently visited Athens and absolutely loved it. In this guide, I have rounded up some of the most important Athens travel tips for your next getaway. 

Athens travel Tips - Acropolis Greece

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Athens Travel Tips You Must Know

Athens, the Greek capital city is bursting with energy, culture, and history. When it comes to sightseeing, there are so many options that it can be hard to know where to start. 

From hidden gardens and ancient ruins to delicious food and breathtaking views, these are the places that locals love. 

So ditch the tourist traps and come explore Athens like a local!

How to visit Athens?

The city of Athens is served by the Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos. This is your point of entry when flying into Greece. 

It is also the largest international airport in the country. 

Athens airport is voted in the top 10 for the best European airports. And the airport is super well organized, there are lots of restaurants inside and plenty of beautiful shops for clothing and souvenirs.

Getting to Athens from the airport is easy. You can book a taxi, private transfer, or hop on the metro. 

Taxis normally take 45 minutes without traffic (and traffic is pretty chaotic in Athens). 

There are private transfers connecting you from the airport to your hotel such as this one, and it also takes about 45 minutes. This is a good idea to book if you are traveling in a group, with little children, or have a lot of luggage. 

Other than that, public transportation or the metro is an efficient and affordable way to reach the city center. 

It will also take you only 25 minutes to get there, and considering the traffic in Athens, this is your best bet to arrive fast! 

Athens travel Tips - Acropolis Greece

Getting Around in Athens 

There are a few different ways to get around Athens. The most popular (and probably most convenient) method is via taxi. 

Taxis are easy to hail down and are relatively affordable. Just be sure to agree on a fare with the driver before getting in—otherwise, they may take advantage of you being a tourist and charge you an exorbitant amount!

Pro tip: If you need a taxi, download the ‘Free now’ Taxi app (like uber). If you do take a taxi without using the app, keep in mind that the driver will always charge you extra for luggage, service, etc. 

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider taking the metro. The metro system in Athens is reliable, clean, and efficient. Plus, it’s only 1.20€ per ride (valid for 90 minutes)! 

An even cheaper option is to walk and keep in mind that most of the major attractions in Athens can be explored on foot as long as you stay in a centrally located hotel. 

Athens travel Tips

When is the best time to travel to Athens Greece?

The best time to visit Greece, generally, is from mid-April to October. The same applies to Athens. 

The peak season in Athens is summer, and during this time the city is super crowded and packed. Plus the weather is super warm. 

During summer, the hotel prices could be very high, and expensive as compared to the off-season, such as late spring or fall. 

Fall is amazing as the crowds have thinned out, and it is possible to enjoy the city and historic sites at ease. Plus booking hotels and finding tours and excursions that interest you will be a breeze. 

Athens travel tips

Sights to See: Things to do in Athens

Athens is loaded with history and culture, so there’s no shortage of things to see and do. 

A few must-sees include the Acropolis—an ancient citadel located atop a hill in the city center—and the Parthenon—a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena that sits atop the Acropolis. 

Other popular tourist attractions include the Ancient Agora—a large marketplace from antiquity—the temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Library, and Kerameikos—ancient Athens’ cemetery. And those are just some of the historical sites! 

The city also has plenty of museums (e.g., the National Archaeological Museum), parks, and churches that are worth checking out.

So here is a quick list of tourist attractions.

Athens travel tips

1. People watching at Monastiraki Square 

Monastiraki Square is one of the busiest areas in Athens, especially on Sundays when the city’s famous flea market is held there. 

Grab a coffee or bite to eat at one of the square’s many cafes and people watch as locals and tourists alike stroll by. 

The neighborhood is home to iconic landmarks like the ruins of Hadrian’s Library, the Ancient Agora, and the rebuilt Stoa of Attalos, with a museum exhibiting Athenian artifacts. 

2. Shop at Kolonaki 

For some high-end shopping, head over to Kolonaki. This chic neighborhood is home to designer boutiques as well as department stores like Tsakiris Mallas. 

Whether you buy anything or not, it’s fun just to window shop!

3. Visit the Acropolis of Athens

Of course, you can’t go to Athens without seeing the Acropolis! 

The ancient citadel is located on a hill in the center of the city and is home to some of the most famous ruins in the world, including the Parthenon. 

Entrance to the site is 20 Euros for adults, 10 Euros for students, and free for children under 18. The price also includes the nearby ancient agora, theatre of Dionysus, Kerameikos, Roman Agora, Tower of the Winds, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Pro tip: For Acropolis, buy tickets for the latest entree, you will get the best light as of 5:00 pm, so you can take the most beautiful golden hour photos.

You can book a ticket with an audio guide here.

Athens travel Tips - Acropolis Greece
Athens travel Tips - Acropolis Greece

4. See the changing of the Guards at Parliament 

Greek guards or “Evzones” have become synonymous with the city of Athens and were originally founded in 1868 as a regiment of the Greek army. 

Every hour, you can watch the changing of the guards outside the Parliament. The whole process is free to watch. 

5. Wander around Plaka 

Plaka is the oldest and most picturesque neighborhood in Athens. Walking through its narrow streets feels like taking a step back in time. 

Be sure to visit Anafiotika, a small enclave within Plaka that was built by workers from nearby islands who missed their homes.

Athens travel Tips
Athens travel Tips

6. Enjoy a night out in Psiri

If you’re looking for a vibrant nightlife scene, look no further than Psiri—Athens’ bohemian neighborhood. It is full of tavernas and cozy restaurants serving up traditional Greek food. 

Plus you can enjoy Greece’s signature anise-flavored liqueur with friends.

7. Visit the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum

This museum is a little off the beaten path, but it’s well worth seeking out. It is the only jewelry museum in the country and only the third one of its kind in the world!

The Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum showcases an amazing collection of modern and traditional Greek jewelry. 

Visit on Wednesday afternoon for free admission.

8. Tour the Acropolis Museum

Located at the foot of the Acropolis is the brand-new Acropolis Museum, which opened in 2009. 

The museum houses artifacts from the archaeological site and tells the story of the Acropolis throughout history. It is the 11th-best museum in the world!

Admission is 5 to 10 Euros for adults (summer and winter prices). 

You may like this tour.

Athens travel Tips - Acropolis Greece
Athens travel Tips - Acropolis Greece

9. Visit the National Gardens

Located just behind the Greek Parliament building, the National Gardens are a welcome oasis of green in the bustling city center. 

With towering trees, fragrant flowers, and a playground for kids, this is the perfect place to come to relax and escape the heat. 

10. The Temple of Olympian Zeus

One of Athens’ most iconic landmarks, the Temple of Olympian Zeus is definitely worth a visit. Dating back to the 6th century BC, this temple was once one of the largest in the ancient world. 

Nowadays, only 15 of the original 104 columns remain standing, but it’s still an impressive sight. 

Athens travel tips

11. Spend an afternoon at Zappeion Hall 

Zappeion Hall is a beautiful neoclassical building located in the heart of the city. 

It was originally built for hosting international exhibitions during Athens’ first Olympic Games in 1896 … these days it’s used as a conference center but anyone can admire its beauty from outside or take a stroll through its manicured gardens.

12. Visit Lake Vouliagmeni

The best way to escape the crowds in Athens is by visiting Lake Vouliagmeni. It is only a 25-minute drive from the city.

Athens travel Tips - Lake Vouliagmeni Greece

The lake has quite unique environmental conditions: it is supplied with warm seawater via an underground channel spreading through a network of flooded caves, so its temperature never drops below 18 degrees °C and usually ranges around 21-24 degrees °C

The lake has functioned as a spa since the end of the 19th century. It is a true oasis of tranquility and calms perfectly for a day (or an afternoon) of relaxation!

And BONUS: You can have a wonderful fish pedicure for free!

Athens travel Tips - Lake Vouliagmeni Greece
Athens travel Tips - Lake Vouliagmeni Greece

13. Go on a street art walking tour

Street art is not new to Athens, you will see the most beautiful graphics all over the city and but you will be surprised to know how it has evolved over the decade or so. 

Join a guided tour and soak this creative side of Athens, as an alternative way to experiencing the city, and take a look at what’s happening at its core (especially during the economic crisis, struggles, and beyond).

Learn more about this guided tour here.

 

14. Take a day tour to see the Meteora

Embark on a full-day tour from Athens (via train) to see the beauty of Meteora.

This trip also guides you to six historic monasteries in the area. Most importantly you will get to discover over 700 years of history of Meteora Monasteries and admire the fantastic architecture. 

Add this experience to your overall Athens visit

These are just a few of my favorite places in Athens that you must explore when in the city. 

If you’re looking to escape the crowds and really experience this city like a local, then be sure to check out the hidden gems as well!

15. Watch the sun go down from Lycabettus Hill 

For breathtaking views of Athens, head to Mount Lycabettus. This hilltop park offers panoramic views of the city below which you can enjoy throughout the year. 

To get to the top, simply take the funicular railway from Kolonaki Square (10 euros), or hike up Lycabettus Hill, which is also the highest point in Athens. Hiking will take about an hour and a half (one way). 

Once you reach the top, relax on one of the hill’s many benches and watch as dusk turns into nightfall. On the hill, you can even enjoy a cocktail or dinner in the restaurant.

Athens travel Tips
Athens travel Tips

Day trips from Athens Greece

You can add day trips from Athens to the Greek Islands too. Typically, the travel duration is about 45 minutes to an hour’s flight from Athens. 

Without a flight, you can hop on a 1.50 ferry ride to islands such as Hydra, Spetses, Aegina, Poros, and Agistri for a day trip. 

Top pick: Aegina and Agistri day tour from Athens

Where to stay in Athens: Top places to stay in Athens Greece

The birthplace of Western civilization, Athens has a variety of accommodation options for every type of traveler. 

Stay in a luxury hotel with breathtaking views of the Acropolis, or save some money by opting for a more modest property in the heart of the city. 

No matter what your budget is, there are plenty of great places to stay in Athens. 

Here are 6 great hotels in Athens that will make your visit even more special.

 

The Hotel Grande Bretagne

If you’re looking for a luxurious and unforgettable experience, look no further than the Hotel Grande Bretagne. 

Located in the center of Athens, this 5-star hotel offers its guests world-class service and stunning views of the Acropolis. 

When you’re not out exploring all that Athens has to offer, relax in their rooftop restaurant or take a dip in the pool.

Check availability and current rates here.

Hotel Grande Bretagne

Arion Athens Hotel 

Arion Athens Hotel is a mid-range accommodation option that is centrally located in the bustling neighborhood of Psiri. It offers views of Acropolis and is near a metro station in Athens.

They offer a boutique experience with free wifi and breakfast!

Check availability and current rates here.

Arion Athens Hotel

The Residence Aiolou Suites & SPA 

Stay at the lovely pedestrian street Aiolou, where you will find Residence suites that are spacious. Plus the property is close to a variety of restaurants and bars and has its own SPA where you can fully relax after a day of sightseeing.

Check availability and current rates here.

The Residence Aiolou Suites & SPA

Coco-Mat Athens

Located in a posh locality, and close to major tourist attractions, the Coco-Mat Athens is popular with repeat travelers to the city. 

There is free wifi and free use of bicycles to venture outside. Plus you will find a plethora of bars and restaurants nearby!

Check availability and current rates here.

Coc-Mat Hotel Athens

The Atheneum Eridanus Luxury Hotel 

For travelers who want to be close to all the action but don’t want to spend a fortune on lodging, the Atheneum Eridanus Hotel is a great option. 

Just steps away from iconic attractions, this 3-star hotel offers comfortable rooms at an affordable price. 

Start your day with a delicious continental breakfast before heading out to explore Athens’s many sights and attractions.

Check availability and current rates here.

Athenaeum Eridanus Luxury Hotel

Airotel Parthenon Hotel 

Located in the Plaka neighborhood near the Acropolis, the Parthenon Hotel is perfect for budget-minded travelers. 

This hotel offers clean and comfortable dormitory-style accommodations at an unbeatable price. 

Hang out in the common area and meet other travelers from all over the world, or explore Athens on your own—with so many sights and attractions within walking distance, you’ll never be bored!

Check availability and current rates here.

Pro tip: Be sure to book early—demand for hotels in Athens always exceeds supply during peak tourist season!

Airotel Parthenon

What to eat and drink in Athens: Food & Drinks

Greek food is DELICIOUS! 

While in Athens, be sure to try some traditional Greek dishes like spanakopita (spinach pie), dolma (stuffed grape leaves), gyro (meat + veggies wrapped in pita bread), Moussaka (eggplant casserole), Baklava (sweet pastry). 

Trust me, your taste buds will thank you! 

And no meal is complete without a glass (or two) of wine or ouzo (anise-flavored alcoholic beverage). Cheers! 

When visiting Athens for the first time, you must add a food tour to your itinerary. This way you can enjoy delicious local cuisine, visit cafes, and markets and learn from experts. 

Here are some of the top-rated food tours in Athens:

Athens travel tips
Athens travel tips

If you wish to add some of my favorites from Athens, here they are.

For brunch

  • The Brunchers: Located a short walk from the Hadrian Library, this place is spot on for breakfast and brunches!
  • Ergon House Athens: Part of a boutique hotel, the Ergon House Athens is a delightful place to stay and also wake up to a nice meal and coffee in the heart of ancient Greece

For dinner

  • Nolan: Get fusion food (if you are tired of Greek cuisine) at the NOLAN, just a few steps from the busy Syntagma Square.
  • Seychelles: Perfect for Greek or Mediterranean dishes in a hip neighborhood!

For cocktails

Juan Rodriguez is perfect for coffee, breakfast, and more. But I love it for its cocktails!

So that’s a wrap! I hope these tips have been helpful and have inspired you to visit Athens soon! 

If you have any questions or need more recommendations, feel free to reach out. 

In the meantime, happy planning!

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