- Region : Attica
- Population : 4 million
Athens, the city you must visit when you come to Europe and of course to Greece.
The history, the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the museums and famous sights all beckon - but so do the colourful and quaint Plaka, Monastiraki, Psiri areas. With new-found confidence & brio, some infrastructure improvements and many new good restaurants & shops since the Olympics in summer 2004.
Ancient and modern, with equal measures of grunge and grace, bustling Athens is a heady mix of history and edginess, a city marked by contrasts. Iconic monuments mingle with first-rate museums, lively cafes and al fresco dining – and it’s downright fun.
The historic centre, we highly recommend to stay in the centre, is an open-air museum, yet the city’s cultural and social life takes place amid these ancient landmarks, merging past and present. Athens and Attica are about modernity and antiquity, chaos and tranquillity, the hard life and the good life. There’s something for every personality, for every mood, for every age and of course for every budget. Simply embrace, this amazing citty, the contrasts and a lot of surprises are waiting for you. Enjoy the delight of the unknown, and you will feel like home.
Athens was built around the Acropolis, today the city’s most visited ancient attraction. On the Acropolis’ northeast slopes, pretty Plaka is Athens’ oldest residential quarter, extending down to grungy Monastiraki. From Monastiraki, Adrianou street leads west to Thissio and Kerameikos, while the pedestrian-only shopping street of Ermou runs east to Syntagma, home to the Greek Parliament. North of Monastiraki, Athinas street delineates the Psirri district and passes the Central Market to arrive at Omonia. South of the centre, ferries to the blissful Greek Islands depart from Piraeus port.
Kolonaki is a boutique-lined, poodle-walking Nice-in-Greece. Psiri is a gritty neighbourhood of meze bars and music clubs. Spend a day in the Acropolis and Archaeological Museum (a must), but consider an extra day or two for the lesser sites (Kerameikos, Pnyx hill), the smaller museums (Benaki, Cycladic Art) and the out-of-centre monasteries of Kaisariani and Dafni. Explore historic Plaka, with their outdoor tavernas, crumbling houses and churches, and no end of jewellery / clothing / carpet / souvenir shops.
If you want to combine Athens with a taste of island life, the Saronic islands – Hydra, Spetses, Aegina – are an hour or two by hydrofoil, yet retain the painterly beauty and the slow pace of the remotest archipelago (Hydra and Spetses are largely traffic-free). Four days here and three in Athens would make a wonderful week’s break from northern Europe, especially in spring or autumn.
Post-Olympics Athens, even in the face of current financial issues, is conspicuously more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than ever before. Stylish restaurants, shops and hip hotels, and artsy-industrial neighbourhoods and entertainment quarters such as Gazi, show Athens’ modern face.
The surrounding region of Attiki holds some spectacular antiquities as well – such as the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion – and lovely beaches, like those near historic Marathon.
Athens has good transportation. Most sights are within walking distance if you stay in the centre (which we highly recommended!).
If you are going further afield after your stay, rent a car at the end, so you don't have to worry about parking.
How to get there
The easiest way to get to Athens is to fly. Actually, this could be the only way unless you can catch a cruise ship making the transition journey to the Aegean Sea. There are many ways to fly to Greece and it is just a matter of finding the right flights and connections.
Athens has an international airport with domestic and scheduled flights year round. Flight tickets can be bought in advance for almost all flights via our partner website.
Of course if you are renting a car on arrival, you can drive to your chosen destination at will!
Taxis are available at the designated Taxi waiting area located at Exit 3 of Arrivals Level. A taxi from the airport to the city center (inner ring) costs a flat rate of €35 from 5:00 a.m. to midnight, and €50 from midnight to 5:00 a.m. Please note, the charge is determined by the time of arrival at the destination and includes all applicable surcharges and extras. Book your taxi transfer online easily and safely from the airport or port to any location via our website.
Getting to/from the Athens International Airport and the city center, located about 20 km (12 miles) east can be achieved via:
Take Metro Line 3 (Aghia Marina – Douk. Plakentias - Athens International Airport), which connects the Athens airport with the city center. Trains run every 30 minutes, 7 days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The trip from/to the Airport to Syntagma station (Athens center) lasts 40 minutes. See the Metro timetable to the airport here . For tickets and cards check here.
24-hour express buses:
- EXPRESS Bus routes connect directly the Athens (city center & greater area) and Piraeus (port) with the Athens International Airport (AIA) “Eleftherios Venizelos”. Service is provided on a non-stop basis seven days a week including holidays (24/7 operation). All buses disembark passengers at the Departures Level (inbound trips to airport) and depart from the Arrivals Level (outbound trips from airport). BUS tickets are sold at the info/ticket-kiosk (located outside the Arrivals between Exits 4 and 5), or onboard (ask operator) at no extra cost. There are four routes:
- Χ93 : Kifissos KTEL (long-distance buses) Station – Airport Direct Connection to the intercity bus (KTEL) terminals KIFISOS and LIOSION. Link to suburban rail station at: KIFISIAS
- X95 : Syntagma – Airport Direct Connection to Syntagma Square at Athens city center. Link to metro line 2 station at: SYNTAGMA Link to metro line 3 stations at: NOMISMATOKOPEIO, ETHNIKI AMYNA, SYNTAGMA Link to tramway routes at: SYNTAGMA
- Χ96 : Piraeus – Airport Direct Connection to Piraeus central passenger port terminals. Link to metro line 1 stations at: N.FALIRO (ISAP N.FALIRO), PEIRAIAS. Link to suburban rail station at: PEIRAIAS Link to tramway routes at: PLATEIA GLYFADAS, EDEM, FLISVOS
- Χ97 : Eliniko Metro Station – Airport Direct Connection to ELLINIKO metro station. Link to metro line 2 stations at: AG.DIMITRIOS, DAFNI
One-way travel time estimates: X93 (65’ min), X95 (60’ min), X96 (90’ min), X97 (45’ min). Allow sufficient time to travel as traffic conditions may cause delays.
NOTE: Estimates are given for reference only. Journey time depends always on prevailing traffic conditions. Passengers are advised to allow sufficient time for their transfer from/to the airport.
Check here for ticket info and cards.
The Suburban railway (Proastiakos) connects the Athens airport with the Athens Central Railway Station (Larissis Station) and Acharnai Railway Center, and through them to the National Railway network. Current timetables: Airport – Kiato and Kiato – Airport Kiato – Patras bus connections Piraeus – Athens – Halkida line.
Tip: The Suburban railway departs every 15-25 minutes from the Athens Airport railway station to Plakentias station, where you can change trains and continue to the city center (Metro Line 3 to Egaleo), using the same ticket.
To find your itinerary or book your tickets, please check here.
Where to stay
Where in Athens should you book your hotel? The obvious choice is Plaka, the historical and touristic centre of town. The neighbourhood (and adjacent areas) has a wide choice of hotels, varying from small and modest budget hotels and rather bland middle of the range hotels, to design boutique hotels and sumptuous luxurious hotels. The southern suburbs by the sea offer a wide range of large, resort-style hotels, but should you pick one of these, check the location carefully: some are located right on the busy main road by the coast, and we do not recommend them if you are sensitive to noise. If you prefer to stay somewhere quiet, Kifisia, one of Athens’ most upscale suburbs, with an easy railway connection to the centre of Athens.
What to see and do
Visit Acropolis, which is the most important ancient site in the Western world. Crowned by the Parthenon, it stands sentinel over Athens, visible from almost everywhere within the city. Its monuments and sanctuaries of Pentelic marble gleam white in the midday sun and gradually take on a honey hue as the sun sinks, while at night they stand brilliantly illuminated above the city. Major restoration programs are continuing and many of the original sculptures have been moved to the Acropolis Museum and replaced with casts. The Acropolis became a World Heritage–listed site in 1987. Free admission first Sunday of the month from November to March.
A large part of the town’s historic centre has been converted into a 3-kilometre pedestrian zone (the largest in Europe), leading to the major archaeological sites (“archaeological park”), reconstructing – to a large degree – the ancient landscape.
Enjoy a great tour around Acropolis. The tour starts at the temple of Olympian Zeus (6th c. B.C.), one of the largest in antiquity and close by Hadrian’s Arch (131 A.D.), which forms the symbolic entrance to the city. From there, walking along Dionysou Areopaghitou Street (on the south side of the Acropolis) you pass the ancient Theatre of Dionysos (5th c. B.C.) where most of the works by Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylos and Aristophanes were performed. Continuing, you will reach the ruins of the Asklepieion (5th c. B.C.) and the Stoa of Eumenes (2th c. B.C.) and from there the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, which was built in 161 A.D. and is nowadays the venue of the performances of the Athens Festival. From there you climb up to the sacred rock of the Acropolis, the site of some of the most important masterpieces of worldwide architecture and art, the most renowned of which is the Parthenon temple. Apart from this, also impressive are the Propylaea, the temple of the Athene Nike and the Erechtheion, while you must not skip a visit to the Museum, located close to the Parthenon. Moreover, from the rock you have an impressive view of the city. Only 300m away from the sacred rock of Acropolis stands the impressive Acropolis Museum, one of the most important contemporary works of architecture in Athens. It is made of steel, glass and concrete and it houses 4,000 priceless finds from the Acropolis monuments that represent its history and function as the most important religious centre of ancient Athens. Coming down from the Acropolis you arrive at the Areios Pagos, the most ancient law court of the world. Opposite it is Philopappou Hill, with its beautiful cobbled little roads and the Roman monument by the same name on its top, while close by is the Pnyx, where the citizens of ancient Athens used to assemble and exert their democratic rights. Walking farther along the pedestrian road you arrive at the Ancient Agora, which was the commercial, political and religious centre of ancient Athens. A visit to the archaeological site will give you the opportunity to become acquainted with the workings of Classical Athenian democracy. From there, via Ermou Street, you arrive at the Kerameikos, the largest cemetery of the ancient city, with impressive tomb sculptures and stelae. The Iridanos River, sacred in antiquity, runs through the archaeological site. However, our tour of enchanting Athens does not restrict itself only to these unique archaeological sites.
Explore the neighborhoods of the historical centre : The “core” of the historic centre is the Plaka neighborhood (at the eastern side of the Acropolis), which has been inhabited without interruption since antiquity. When you walk through the narrow labyrinthine streets lined with houses and mansions from the time of the Turkish occupation and the Neoclassical period (19th c.), you will have the impression of travelling with a “time machine”. You will encounter ancient monuments, such as the Lysikrates Monument, erected by a wealthy donor of theatrical performances, the Roman Agora with the famed “Tower of the Winds” (1st c. B.C.) and Hadrian’s Library (132 A.D.), scores of bigger and smaller churches, true masterpieces of Byzantine art and architecture, as well as remnants of the Ottoman period (Fetihie Mosque, Tzistaraki Mosque, the Turkish Bath near the Tower of the Winds, the Muslim Seminary, et al.). There are also some interesting museums (Folk Art, Greek Children’s Art, Popular Musical Instruments, Frysira Art Gallery, etc.), lots of picturesque tavernas, cafés, bars, as well as shops selling souvenirs and traditional Greek products. Continuing from Plaka you arrive at Monastiraki, a characteristic area of “old” Athens, with narrow streets and small buildings where the city’s traditional bazaar (Yousouroum) is held. Close to it is the Psyrri area, a traditional neighborhood which during the past few years has evolved into one of the most important “centres” of the town’s nightlife, with scores of bars, tavernas, ouzeris, clubs, etc. However, the “heart” of the historical centre is the traditional commercial neighborhood, with more than 2,500 shops of all kinds, which spreads out over the streets surrounding Ermou Street (the city’s best-known commercial street). The western “border” of the area is Athinas Street, where the foodstuff commerce is concentrated, reminding one strongly of the Middle East. Here are situated, among others, the neoclassical mansions of the Town Hall, the Municipal Market (where meat, fish and vegetables are sold) and spacious Kotzias Square. Within the boundary of Athens’ historical centre also are the picturesque neighborhoods of Makriyianni (close to the Acropolis, where the Acropolis Museum stands), Ano Petralona, Theseion (where you will find small interesting museums and scores of cafés, bars and restaurants), Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio, as well as the Gazi area, with the former Gas works, which now have been turned into a cultural centre of the Athens municipality (“Technopolis”).
Downtown : Downtown Syntagma and Omonia are the main central squares of the town; they are linked by Stadiou Street and Panepistimiou Avenue, along which some of the town’s most beautiful Neoclassical buildings have been erected. Dominating Syntagma Squareis the Greek Parliament building and in front of it the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, guarded by the Evzones in traditional costume. From this square starts the beautiful National Garden (40 acres), south of which stands the impressive Zappeion Mansion (1874-1888). From there you can continue towards the Presidential Mansion (1897) and thence to the Panathenaikon (Kallimarmaro) Stadium, where the first Olympic Games in modern history were held (1896). From there, crossing the Mets neighborhood, the road leads you to the First Cemetery, the oldest one in Athens, basically an outdoor sculpture display with a wealth of wonderful monumental tombstones by some of the most important sculptors of the 19th and 20th centuries.From Omonia Square starts Patission street, a busy street with interesting buildings, amongst which are the Neoclassical mansions of the Polytechnic School and the National Archaeological Museum, which ranks among the leading museums in the world and hosts rare art treasures from the Neolithic era up to the Roman period. Close to the museum is the Exarheia area, a charming and very lively neighborhood, traditional a meeting point and home to many students and artists. From Exarcheia, crossing the Neapoli neighborhood, you can climb the verdant Lycavittos Hill. From its top you have a view of the entire city, all the way to the sea. On the other side of the hill is the Kolonaki neighborhood, whose boundary is Vassilissis Sophias Avenue, one of the most grandiose streets of Athens with beautiful buildings, many museums (Cycladic Art, Benaki, Byzantine and Christian Museum, War Museum, National Gallery) and green areas. In Kolonaki, which is considered to be the most “aristocratic” area of the centre of Athens, you will find many shops selling expensive brands and high couture, modern restaurants, bars and cafés, while it is worthwhile to take a stroll through the central streets with their art déco, art nouveau and interbellum buildings.
Make sure you don’t spend all your time in the centre of town. The wider Attica region is worth checking out as well. A few places that are not to be missed are: Mikrolimano (little port) in Piraeus, a wonderful spot to have some fresh fish in a traditional Greek setting by the sea. The lake of Vougliameni, the ‘sunken lake’ find by mineral-rich (and warm!) spring water. It is in one of Athens seaside suburbs, great for swimming any time of the year. Cape Sounio and the Temple of Poseidon. A scenic drive by the coast takes you to the southernmost tip of Attica where this white-marble temple dating from the 5th century BC proudly looks out over the Aegean Sea. A sunset must! The archaeological site and museum of Vravrona, a small temple you can explore without busloads of tourists (actually, when I went with visiting family from the Netherlands were the only ones). Take your beachwear so you can go for a swim afterwards – it is very close to the sea.
Where to eat & drink
Skoufias : This gem of a winter-only taverna near the railway line is a little off the beaten track but is worth seeking out. The menu has Cretan influences and an eclectic selection of regional Greek cuisine, including dishes you won’t find in any tourist joint, from superb rooster with ouzo to lamb tsigariasto (braised) with horta (wild greens), and potato salad with orange. Dine outside at tables opposite a church. Open daily from 09.00 till late. Prices starting from 20 € / person ( Vasiliou tou Megalou. Tel. 2103412252)
Diporto Agoras : This quirky old taverna is one of the dining gems of Athens. There’s no signage, only two doors leading to a rustic cellar where there’s no menu, just a few dishes that haven’t changed in years. The house speciality is revythia (chickpeas), usually followed by grilled fish and washed down with wine from one of the giant barrels lining the wall. The often erratic service is part of the appeal. Open 7am-7pm Mon-Sat, closed 1-20 Aug. Prices starting from 6 € / person. (Theatrou & Sokratous. Tel. 2103211463 )
Hama : This is where you will be able to experience the true meaning of fusion cuisine. The restaurant’s chefs Take and Cugota are thriving in the kitchen. This is a lovely restaurant emitting scents of the East in abundance. Open daily between 19.00 till late. Prices starting from 40€ / person (34 Grigoriou Lambraki street, tel. 210 9600595)
Il Tramonto: This is a new Italian resto in the area of Asteras in Vouliagmeni worthy of your preference. The best time of the day for your dinner is around the time of sunset as its name implies (Il tramonto in Italian means sunset). The new chef Stefano Rossi will win your best comments through his authentic Italian creations. Open daily between 19.00 – 00.00. (40 Apollonos street, Vouliagmeni area, tel. 210 8902000)
Kalterimi : Find your way behind the Church of Agii Theodori to this hidden, open-air taverna offering Greek food at its most authentic. Everything is fresh-cooked and delicious: you can't go wrong. Hand-painted tables spill onto the footpath along a pedestrian street and give a feeling of peace in one of the busiest parts of the city.Open noon - 23.00 except Sunday. Prices starting from 15-20 Euros/person (Plateia Agios Theodoron, Corner Skouleniou, Tel. 2103310049)
Mutfak : For exquisite tastes streaming fror the East and especially if you are fond of the tastes of Constantinopolis (Istanbul). Mutfac means “cuisine” in Turkish and this is where you will experience dishes that you haven’t even imagined before. Cozy surroundings, high quality, rich menu and fair prices among its pluses. Open daily between 13.00 – 00.00. Prices starting from 25€ / person (38 Laodikis street, Glyfada area, tel. 210 8949060)
Bronxx : This restaurant is decorated along the lines of the industrial concept and is situated in the heart of Glyfada area in Kiprou street. Its New Yorker style and the all day open resto concept it conveys has already gained many fans. Point of reference the antique black and white car covering a massive wall. Open daily between 08.00 till late. Prices starting from 20€ / person (74 Kiprou street, Glyfada area, tel. 210 8949044)
Vincenzo : Italian taverna in the heart of Glyfada area. Make it your choice if you want to experience authentic Italian pizza, nutritious salads, mouthwatering starters and the dessert of the day which will be the surprise finish to your dinner. Open daily between 12.00 – 01.30. Prices starting from 20€ / person (1 Gianitsopoulou street, Glyfada area, tel. 210 8941310)
Ithaki: One of the oldest and most famous restaurants in the area of Vouliagneni for the past 20 years. The best choice for those loving high quality gastronomy. Prefer it for fresh fish, gourmet side and main dishes and a spectacular view to the sea. Open daily between 12.30 – 01.00. Prices starting from 50€ / person (28 Apollonos street, Vouliagmeni area, tel. 210 8963747, 210 8963739)
Lambros: Known and loved for fresh fish and the best lobster pasta. The building dates back to 1889 and it is the oldest restaurant in the area. Its truly authentic tastes will win your heart and make you a stable fan who will keep coming back for more. Open daily between 12.00 – 12.00. Prices starting from 35€ / person (20 Poseidonos street, tel. 210 8956014)
The Greek capital remains lively all through the year. For sightseeing, warm, sunny days make autumn or spring the best times to visit Athens; soaring temperatures from mid-June to late-August can be tiring. Between November and February the weather is unpredictable, ranging from crisp, bright days to rain and even occasional snow – the compensation being a relative scarcity of tourists. In fact, it can make a lovely winter city break.