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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Diaz

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Athens, Greece

Athens, a city that beckons every traveler's wanderlust, has an allure unlike any other. With every step along its streets, you encounter a city that seamlessly weaves together the ancient and the modern, where you'll spot a contemporary shopping center just as easily as the remnants of ancient temple pillars. Athens is a city of contrasts, where each neighborhood boasts its own unique vibe.



As I wandered through this city, I couldn't help but be captivated by its character. Almost every building, aside from the well-known tourist spots like the Acropolis, is adorned with vibrant graffiti that tells a story of its own. Shopkeepers casually chat in the streets, their cigarettes casting lazy tendrils of smoke into the air, while street vendors set up shop in bustling squares, eager to entice you with their eclectic array of knick-knacks.


Athens has an abundance of exciting activities and attractions to offer, and I've taken it upon myself to curate the very best for you in this post. It's true that many of Athens' main attractions may be considered "touristy" – complete with multilingual historical information and bustling crowds. But trust me when I say they are absolutely worth visiting. After all, these timeless sites have withstood the test of millennia.


So, join me as we dive into my comprehensive list of things to do in Athens, Greece, and let's explore this extraordinary city together. Along the way, I'll share some delectable culinary recommendations, and I'll also address some of the commonly asked questions to ensure your journey through Athens is as personal and memorable as mine was.


Getting to Athens, Greece

The details of my journey may vary based on your location. However, in my case,I started my journey in Miami, departing from Miami International Airport (MIA). From there, I hopped on a domestic flight to Boston. Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) was my layover point, and I had some time to explore the airport and grab a bite to eat while waiting for my connecting flight. After the layover in Boston, I boarded an international flight to Athens. This leg of the journey was a bit longer, but I was excited about the destination. Finally, I arrived at Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos (ATH).


Things to Do in Athens, Greece


Acropolis

Visiting Athens, Greece, was a journey that immersed me in a captivating blend of ancient history and modern life. To truly experience Athens, one must begin with the crown jewel of the city, the Acropolis.


Quick Tip: I visited Athens in September, and it was still pretty hot. If you're planning a full day exploring the historical sites, remember to pack plenty of water, especially in the summertime. These sites are all out in the open, and you definitely don't want to get overheated! Also, When planning your visit to these amazing archaeological sites, think about getting a combined ticket when you buy your Acropolis entry. It's just 10 Euros more, and it lets you explore all these historical gems. Plus, it stays valid for five days after you use it. It's not only a smart choice but also saves you both time and money.



The Acropolis is a living testament to more than 25 centuries of history, having weathered wars, fires, invasions, and the elements. It has served diverse purposes throughout its existence, from religious worship to cultural gatherings. But above all, it is revered as a place of devotion to Athena, the city's patron goddess. When in Athens, a visit to the Acropolis is not an option; it's an absolute must.





Let me share some valuable tips to enhance your Acropolis experience:


1. Buy a Combo Ticket: I can't stress this enough. Purchase your tickets directly from the Ministry of Culture and Sports website. The "combined ticket" is just 10 Euros more than a single-entrance ticket to the Acropolis, yet it grants you access to a treasure trove of historical sites, including the Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Olympieion, Kerameikos, and Aristotle’s School. The ticket is valid for five days, starting from your first visit.


2. Book an Early Time Slot: My day began with an early morning arrival at the Acropolis, 15 minutes before its opening at 8 am. This early start blessed me with nearly two hours of solitude amidst this iconic site. While a few fellow early birds shared the experience, the tranquility was truly a gift before the throngs of tourists arrived.


3. Visit the Parthenon First: The Parthenon is the star attraction and naturally draws the largest crowds. Arriving early allowed me to head straight to the Parthenon and soak in its grandeur before exploring the other wonders of the Acropolis at my own pace.


What to See at the Acropolis:


Parthenon

The Parthenon, the pinnacle of any Acropolis visit, once served as the primary temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. Completed in 438 BCE, it is an impressive structure, measuring 70 by 30 meters. At its zenith, this magnificent temple housed a colossal 12-meter-tall gold and ivory statue of the goddess herself. Today, the Parthenon stands in partial ruin, yet its sheer presence evokes awe. While entry is restricted, I had the privilege of walking around its entire perimeter, capturing numerous photographs and absorbing the aura of its former splendor.



Beule Gate

The Beule Gate is an unmistakable entry point to the Acropolis, a reminder that history is not merely observed but experienced. Named after French archaeologist Ernest Beule, who discovered it in 1852, this gate is believed to date back to 27 BCE. Walking through it, I couldn't help but appreciate the profound connection to the past that this gate symbolizes.


Erechtheion

Located on the north side of Acropolis Hill, the Erechtheion pays homage to Athena, albeit with a unique twist. While dedicated to Athena, this structure accommodated multiple religious cults under a single roof, embracing other gods and goddesses. The Erechtheion is renowned for its south porch, supported not by traditional columns but by sculpted caryatids, beautiful maidens frozen in time. Though the originals have been carefully preserved, replicas now grace the porch.



Temple of Athena Nike

On the southwestern edge of Acropolis Hill lies the Temple of Athena Nike, completed in 421 BCE. This temple is another testament to Athens' devotion to its patron goddess. The temple's reliefs depict Athens observing the god Nike in various pursuits, adding depth to its historical narrative.


Theater of Dionysus

The Theater of Dionysus, situated on the southern slope of Acropolis Hill, is a treasure trove of cultural history. This theater, dedicated to the god of fertility, harvest, winemaking, and theater, hosted festivals and some of the world's earliest theatrical performances. With a capacity of up to 17,000 spectators, it once provided an unparalleled experience of the performing arts.


As I explored these timeless wonders at the Acropolis, I was reminded that history isn't just studied; it's lived and felt. Athens beckoned me to embrace its past and present, offering a journey that was both deeply personal and profoundly enriching.



Aside from the iconic Acropolis, there's a treasure trove of historical wonders waiting to be explored, each offering a unique glimpse into the city's illustrious past.


Arch of Hadrian

I've always been fascinated by the Arch of Hadrian, which the Greeks often call Hadrian's Gate. It's this incredible gateway that kind of reminds me of a Roman triumphal arch. Back in the day, it stood tall over an old road in the heart of Athens, Greece. This road led to a bunch of amazing buildings on the east side of the city, and one of them was the magnificent Temple of Olympian Zeus.



Temple of Olympian Zeus (Olympieion)

Standing as a testament to ancient grandeur, the Temple of Olympian Zeus is an awe-inspiring sight. This colossal temple, dedicated to the king of the gods, Zeus, once boasted a stunning array of Corinthian columns. Despite the ravages of time, its remaining columns convey a sense of majesty that is hard to ignore.



Hadrian’s Library

The remnants of Hadrian's Library transport you back to a time when knowledge was revered. This vast complex, founded by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, served as a hub of learning and scholarship. As I walked through its archaeological remains, I could sense the intellectual vibrancy that once thrived within these walls.



Ancient Agora

The Ancient Agora is a historical and cultural epicenter that has witnessed the ebb and flow of Athenian life for centuries. Here, you can explore well-preserved structures like the Stoa of Attalos and the Temple of Hephaestus. The sense of timelessness is palpable as you wander through this captivating archaeological site.



Roman Agora

Adjacent to the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora offers a glimpse into Athens during its Roman period. The Tower of the Winds, an ancient timekeeping marvel, is a prominent feature here. As I stood before it, I marveled at the ingenuity of the ancients in measuring time and predicting weather.


Kerameikos Archaeological Site

The Kerameikos Archaeological Site is an evocative journey into Athens' history as a city of the living and the departed. This ancient cemetery holds poignant remnants of a bygone era, including burial monuments, tombstones, and the Sacred Gate. It's a site that resonates with the stories of countless Athenians who once called this city home.


Mount Lycabettus

Embarking on the hike up Mount Lycabettus was a personal highlight of my Athens adventure. Well, I use the term "hike" rather lightly; it's more of a brisk walk up a steep incline. Of course, if you're feeling adventurous, you can opt for an off-piste adventure, forging your path to the summit. However, most visitors, like myself, tend to stick to the paved path, which gets you to the top in a relatively easy 20 to 40 minutes.


Regardless of how quickly you conquer the ascent, the reward awaiting you at the summit is beyond compare. From this vantage point, the sprawling vistas stretch as far as the eye can see, extending all the way to the mesmerizing ocean. It's a perspective that grants you an impressive view of not only the Acropolis but also the scattered archaeological sites that pepper the cityscape.



As a personal tip, I'd recommend tackling Mount Lycabettus early in the day if possible. This way, you can relish the breathtaking view in solitude, without the company of other tourists. There's something truly magical about having that serene moment with Athens unfolding beneath you, a memory that's uniquely your own.


As you embark on your journey through these Athens historical sites, remember that the city's history stretches back thousands of years, with countless more sites to discover.


Acropolis Museum

Delving into history at the Acropolis Museum was a true gem of my Athens journey. Though not a massive institution, this museum holds a collection of utmost quality. What truly sets it apart are the precious artifacts collected from the Acropolis and its nearby structures, treasures that needed shelter from the elements.



Yet, what captivated me the most was a feature unique to this museum – the archaeological site nestled right beneath its foundations. As I strolled through the museum, I couldn't help but notice that most of the floor was made of glass. This ingenious design allowed me to peer down into the ancient ruins beneath my feet.


Walking atop a centuries-old site had an eerie yet enchanting quality to it. It was as if I had stepped back in time, and it gave me a profound sense of the sheer scale and grandeur of ancient Athens. This experience, of treading upon history while gazing at it from above, was something truly extraordinary and deeply personal.



Explore Plaka

Wandering through the charming Plaka neighborhood was a delightful experience during my time in Athens. Plaka carries an air of elegance, a bit more upscale than Monastiraki, and yes, things can be a tad pricier here. However, the sheer beauty of Plaka makes every step worthwhile.


The neighborhood is a picturesque labyrinth of narrow, winding streets adorned with colorful houses that seem to have been plucked from a storybook. As I meandered through these charming alleys, I discovered quaint shops brimming with unique treasures, cozy cafes where time seemed to slow down, and traditional Greek tavernas that beckoned with mouthwatering aromas.


Plaka also proved to be the perfect spot to pause for lunch, savoring delectable Greek cuisine, or to indulge in a refreshing afternoon gelato after a visit to the Acropolis. The allure of Plaka lies not only in its aesthetics but also in the sense of warmth and authenticity that permeates every corner. It's a place where history and culture come alive, inviting you to explore its hidden gems at your own pace.



Explore Anafiotika

Exploring the charming enclave of Anafiotika was an unexpected delight during my Athens adventure. While technically part of the Plaka neighborhood, I believe it deserves a special mention as it's a hidden gem that can easily go unnoticed if you're not in the know.


Anafiotika paints a picture of a tranquil residential area, where white-washed buildings with brightly colored doors create a captivating tapestry against the Athenian backdrop. As I ventured along its winding pathways, I found myself ascending higher and higher up the slopes of Acropolis Hill, all the while with the Parthenon majestically presiding over this picturesque neighborhood.

There isn't a checklist of things "to do" in Anafiotika; instead, it's a place to simply be and savor the beauty that surrounds you.


The ambiance here feels like a serene escape to an island oasis right in the heart of the bustling city. However, it's important to remember that Anafiotika is not just a tourist attraction; it's home to Athenian residents. So, while it's a perfect spot for photographs, it's equally vital to be respectful and considerate when capturing its charm through your lens.


Church of the Panagia Kapnikarea

Right in the heart of the bustling Ermou Street, a delightful surprise awaits: the Church of the Panagia Kapnikarea. This ancient church, dating back to the 11th century, stands as a historical gem amidst the urban hustle. Interestingly, it was constructed upon the remnants of an ancient Greek temple, adding layers of history to its foundations. A closer look reveals that this charming church is actually made up of three interconnected buildings. While it may not be a headline tourist attraction, stumbling upon this hidden gem is one of those delightful surprises Athens has to offer. It's a perfect addition to your day of window shopping, adding a touch of history and culture to your urban exploration.



Enjoy Window Shopping in Athens' City Center

Athens offers a plethora of shopping opportunities, catering to various tastes, from the touristy to the upscale. If you're looking for a change of pace from archaeological sites (we all have our limits, right?), then it's time to explore the city's shopping scene.



Here are some top shopping streets and areas in Athens to explore:

  1. Ermou Street: Situated at the heart of the city, Ermou Street is a bustling hub with a range of chain stores, making it perfect for mainstream shopping.

  2. Monastiraki Square: While a bit more tourist-oriented, Monastiraki Square is a treasure trove of souvenirs and handmade goods. Just a word of caution: stay vigilant as pickpockets are known to frequent this area.

  3. Voukourestiou Street: For a more upscale shopping experience, head to Voukourestiou Street in the Kolonaki neighborhood, known for its high-end boutiques and designer stores.

  4. Plaka Neighborhood: As mentioned earlier in this post, Plaka is a charming district that's practically bursting with boutique shops. It's an area where you can easily lose yourself in the world of unique finds and quaint storefronts.



So, whether you're in the mood for retail therapy or simply want to explore the city's shopping scenes, Athens has something to offer for every type of shopper.


Explore Kolonaki

Kolonaki, in my experience, is undoubtedly the most luxurious neighborhood I've had the pleasure of exploring in Athens. The allure of Kolonaki Square is undeniable; it's the perfect place to start your day with a leisurely cup of coffee, even though the cafes and restaurants here tend to be on the pricier side by Athens' standards.


This neighborhood is a treasure trove of high-end shops, cafes, and restaurants, predominantly catering to international visitors seeking a taste of sophistication. What struck me the most is that Kolonaki is not just about luxury; it also hosts some of Athens' most celebrated landmarks and museums. From the breathtaking views at Mount Lycabettus to the artistic treasures of the Benaki Museum, the National Gallery, and the Byzantine Museum, Kolonaki seamlessly blends opulence with culture, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a refined Athenian experience.


Where to Eat in Athens, Greece


Diogenes

Nestled in the charming Lysikratous square, beneath the watchful At Diogenes, beneath the majestic Acropolis in the heart of Plaka, I embarked on a culinary journey that remains etched in my memory. The setting was as enchanting as the dishes themselves, offering a unique taste of Greek traditional cuisine.


To start, I relished in the simple yet utterly delightful pleasure of bread, breadsticks, olives, and tomato dip (1.70€). It was a humble beginning that set the stage for what was to come.

Next came the creamy and refreshing Tzatziki with pickled cucumber (7.00€), a classic Greek appetizer that never disappoints. Its cool flavors were the perfect introduction to the vibrant Greek palate.

Fava Beans Hummus with leek (7.50€) followed, a unique twist on a beloved Mediterranean favorite. The addition of leek added a delightful depth of flavor to this creamy delight.



Stuffed Vine Leaves with Rice (9.00€) were a revelation. Bursting with aromatic herbs and bathed in lemoned fennel sauce, they showcased the artistry of Greek cuisine in every bite. The Chicken Salad (13.00€) was a symphony of flavors and textures—a medley of mixed salad with iceberg, crispy chicken, parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, cashews, and truffle dressing. It was a dish that danced on the palate, blending freshness and indulgence seamlessly.


As for the Beef Patties (17.00€), they were a true standout. Stuffed with goat feta cheese and tomato, accompanied by crispy fried potatoes, eggplant purée, and yogurt-mint dip, this dish was a masterpiece of savory delight. The blend of flavors and textures was nothing short of exceptional.



Diogenes wasn't just a restaurant; it was a portal to the heart of Greek cuisine. Each dish was a testament to the passion and dedication that goes into creating traditional Greek flavors. Dining here was not just a meal; it was an experience—a celebration of Greece's rich culinary heritage that left me longing for more.


Leonidas

I ventured into Leonidas, a haven for those with a sweet tooth like mine. Here, the allure of Greek chocolates and confections was simply irresistible. As I explored the city's historic streets and marveled at its ancient wonders, I couldn't resist indulging in a Leonidas praline. And to complete my delightful experience, I paired it with a comforting Coffee Latte (4.76€) and a Chocolate Covered Croissant (4.29€). It was the perfect way to savor the flavors of Athens.



Gregory's

Every morning in Athens, I had a cherished ritual—starting my day at Gregory's. Here, the rich aroma of hearty Greek coffee mingled with the scent of delectable pastries. It was a symphony for the senses that set the perfect tone for my Athenian adventures. Beyond being a mere breakfast spot, Gregory's was where I immersed myself in the lively atmosphere and marveled at the beautiful tapestry of people in this vibrant city. As I sipped on a Cappuccino (2.30€) and savored a Sugar Donut (1.30€), it was a delightful moment of indulgence that made my mornings truly special.



Mailo's - The Pasta Project

When I stepped into Mailo's, it was like entering a pasta paradise with a unique twist - the freedom to craft my own culinary masterpiece. It wasn't just about the meal; it was about the experience of building something delicious. Among the tantalizing choices, my heart led me to the Truffle Mushrooms (7.60€), a selection that promised to be a flavor sensation. For my pasta, I chose Campanelle, envisioning its charming curves cradling the impending deliciousness. And because I can never resist adding crispy bacon. This personalized pasta adventure was more than just a meal; it was a delightful journey of flavors and choices that made my visit to Mailo's truly special in the heart of Athens.



Athina Souvlaki

Sometimes, the simplest pleasures are the ones that leave the most profound impact. That's exactly what I discovered at Athina Souvlaki—a place where quick and delicious souvlaki is an art form. For me, this experience was doubly special because it marked my very first time trying a souvlaki. Yes, shocking as it may be, I had never tasted one before! And what an introduction it was—a Pork Souvlaki Gyro that not only satisfied my hunger but also opened my taste buds to the authentic flavors of Athens, creating a memorable moment in my culinary journey.



Le Greche

As the sun dipped below the Athenian horizon, I sought refuge in the warm embrace of Le Greche. It was the perfect way to conclude my day, with a sweet finale to my culinary exploration of this vibrant city. Their artisanal gelato and sorbet, each crafted with inspiration from Greek ingredients and traditions, were a testament to the rich culinary heritage of Greece. With each scoop, I embarked on a journey through a symphony of flavors that celebrated the essence of Greek cuisine.



My choices were Stracciatella, a delicate dance of chocolate and cream; Baklava & Cream, a nod to a beloved Greek dessert; and Pistachio, a taste of the Mediterranean in every bite. Each flavor was a delightful revelation, a sensory delight that left me with a lasting impression of the sweet side of Athens.


Where to Stay in Athens, Greece

When it comes to choosing accommodations in Athens, I opted for an Airbnb experience that added an extra layer of authenticity to my stay. The location was a traveler's dream—it nestled me in the heart of the city, just a 2 blocks away from the Acropolis itself. Waking up to the view of this ancient wonder was a surreal experience, one that I'll cherish forever.


However, I understand that every traveler has different preferences, so here's a curated list of other fantastic places to stay in Athens, each with its unique charm and appeal:


  1. Electra Metropolis Athens: For those seeking a touch of luxury and sophistication, the Electra Metropolis Athens is a standout choice. Its rooftop terrace offers breathtaking views of the Acropolis, making it an ideal place for a romantic getaway.

  2. Plaka Hotel: If you're looking to immerse yourself in the charming Plaka neighborhood, the Plaka Hotel is an excellent option. With its cozy rooms and proximity to historic sites, it's perfect for history enthusiasts.

  3. A for Athens: With a prime location in Monastiraki Square, A for Athens provides a front-row seat to the city's vibrant street life. The rooftop bar offers a panoramic view of the Acropolis, a great spot for evening relaxation.

  4. Coco-Mat Hotel Athens: For those who value eco-friendliness and a good night's sleep, the Coco-Mat Hotel Athens is an intriguing choice. Their natural bedding and commitment to sustainability make for a unique stay.

  5. The Zillers Boutique Hotel: Housed in a beautifully restored neoclassical building, The Zillers Boutique Hotel combines old-world charm with modern comfort. The rooftop bar boasts magnificent Acropolis views, making it a memorable place to unwind.

  6. AthensWas Hotel: Art and design aficionados will appreciate the AthensWas Hotel. Its contemporary aesthetic and proximity to the Acropolis Museum make it a stylish and cultural stay.


Ultimately, where you choose to stay in Athens depends on your preferences and the kind of experience you desire. Whether it's a cozy Airbnb or one of the charming hotels listed above, Athens has an array of options to suit every traveler's needs.



Best Time to Visit Athens, Greece

For a more relaxed visit with fewer crowds, think about coming during the shoulder season, which spans from March to May and then again from September to October. During these times, you can still enjoy sunny and warm weather without the hustle and bustle of peak tourist numbers.However, I visited in September and had a great time despite the larger crowds at popular historical sites.


FAQs About Visiting Athens

How Many Days Should I Spend in Athens?

You'll want to plan for at least four days, but ideally, more if your schedule allows. Four days will give you a chance to see the main attractions in Athens, but for a more comprehensive experience, especially if it's your first visit, consider spending five or six days.

Do I Need to Rent a Car to Visit Athens?

What's the Best Way to Get Around Athens?

Is Athens Safe for Tourists?



While there are undoubtedly more activities to discover in Athens that I haven't covered in this list, I've focused on sharing my personal favorites. Most importantly, I urge you to savor your time and fully immerse yourself in exploring this vast city. It's tempting to stick to the tourist-centric neighborhoods like Plaka, but I encourage you to venture out and experience where the locals live and shop as well.


If you enjoyed this post or have any additional questions about exploring Athens, please don't hesitate to leave a comment below! Your feedback and inquiries are always welcome.


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Hi, Thanks for stopping by!

I'm Samantha! A photographer and I believe that every picture has a story. As a blogger, I share my travel stories with everyone. I think it's important to document my travels and share my experiences with others. I've been to some amazing places and I've seen some incredible things. I want to share my stories and photos with the world.

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