Few cities in the world have the history of Athens. The cradle of democracy, the home of the first theatres or the city where philosophy and many of today’s sciences were born; it is a destination to be explored in depth.
Any visit to the most classical Athens has to include stops at places like the Agora or the Acropolis, two spaces full of history. But it’s not just the past that should be looked at, the more modern Athens has a lot to say. Going to the open-air market in the Monastiraki district or discovering the luxury of the modern Kolonaki district are more than advisable plans, as well as exploring the modern and alternative streets of Metaxourgeio.
In this last district it is possible to find very modern bars and restaurants such as Epi Kerameikos or the old Tavernerio To Metaxourgeio which has been open since 1933 and offers traditional dishes accompanied by local wines.
When night falls in Athens, the city is transformed and comes to life in a fascinating way. One of the best places to enjoy this is the Glyfada district near the beach.
- Top 5 reasons to visit Athens
- What to do in Athens
- When to visit Athens
- How to get to Athens
- Where to stay in Athens
- How to get around Athens
- Cost of living in Athens
- Where to eat in Athens
Top 5 reasons to visit Athens
The birthplace of democracy
It was the 6th century BC when a group of Athenian citizens decided to shape a system of government that would change everything for millennia. It was democracy, because Athens was where this political system was born. To discover this heritage, there is nothing better than visiting Pnyx, the place where they gave their political speeches like Pericles or Alcibiades.
An unrivalled archaeological heritage
Archaeological remains showing the splendid past of Athens are scattered all over the city. To cite just one of the most attractive, the Athens Agora is an open-air space that was surrounded by public buildings and was the center of life for the local citizens.
Athenians love leisure, so it’s a good idea to share this trait with them. You can go to the BIOS terrace to watch the sunset or go and enjoy music in a nightclub like Barouge to discover that Athens is a very lively city.
The wonderful Greek food
Musaca, tzatziki, kleftiko and many other dishes are essential to know the Greek cuisine. Athens is one of the country’s gastronomic destinations, so it is not out of place to go to places like the modern Funky Gourmet or the more traditional 5F to try the above specialities.
An undiscovered cultural scene
Artists, students and intellectuals from many corners of the country live together in Athens. This can be seen in spaces such as the Municipal Gallery located in Metaxourgeio. You can also enjoy live music in spaces such as the Stoa Athanaton.
What to do in Athens
Touring the Acropolis
The ancient temples of classical Athens look down on the city from the heights. The beauty of constructions such as the Parthenon or the Erecteion is more than enough reason for you to approach this space. Furthermore, when you descend the path that leads to the city you will find the neighbourhoods of Plaka and Anafiotika, two other places that deserve to be explored in depth.
Discover modern Athens in Syntagma Square
From the ancient agora to the modern one. Syntagma Square houses the current Greek parliament and is designed in such a way as to recover the democratic tradition of classical Athens. The changing of the guard or the nearby National Garden are good reasons to visit the current heart of the city.
See Athens from Mount Lycabettus
Just above the Kolonaki neighborhood is a hill with the best view of the city. Mount Lycabettus, which can be climbed on foot or by funicular, has a 19th-century chapel dedicated to St Michael and an open-air amphitheatre at its summit, so climbing its 300 metres is certainly rewarding.
Walking along Ermou Street
This is one of the most popular routes for the inhabitants of Athens. It runs from Syntagma Square to Monastiraki Square. A stop at the church of Panagia Kapnikarea is a great idea for a very attractive tour.
Although it is not a neighborhood of the city as such, the reality is that Piraeus is the traditional port of Athens. The trip takes only a few minutes and gives you the opportunity to enjoy the same port as the city and neighborhoods such as Kastella, one of the most picturesque places in the area.
When to visit Athens
Summer is usually the time when Athens receives the most visitors. This can be an inconvenience because of the crowds that will fill the tourist places and because of the heat that is usually in the city between the months of June and September.
With this in mind, April and October may be the best months to get to know the Greek capital. Milder temperatures and cheaper accommodation options are reasons to try and make the trip during these months.
How to get to Athens
The city’s main airport is the Eleftherios Venizelos (ATH) located about 40 km from the center. The trip can be made comfortably by choosing the direct metro which costs 10 EUR. Buses X93, X95 and X96 run 24 hours a day, seven days a week and cost 6 EUR per trip.
The city’s main station is located in the Kolonos district and connects to national and international cities such as Sofia, Zagreb and Belgrade.
If you rent a car at the same airport you can get to Athens via highway 62 and change at Gerakas to highway 54 which leads to the city center. There are many car rental companies in Athens, such as Hertz or Sixt, so it is easy to access this transport option.
The city’s main station is located in Kifissos and connects to Sintagma Square via the city’s urban bus number 51. The Greek bus network is modern and efficient, making it possible to take this option very seriously when visiting the towns near Athens.
Where to stay in Athens
Athens is a very large city with a number of accommodation options. Among the most popular are those that offer views of the Acropolis such as the AVA Hotel and Suites or the King George Hotel. In the peripheral areas of the city there are more economical options such as the A For Athens or the Myrto Hotel.
Most interesting neighborhoods in Athens
Plaka: is located on the northern slope of the Acropolis and is one of the most popular and traditional neighbourhoods in the city. Staying here is ideal to be within walking distance of places like the Agora or the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art.
Kolonaki: this is a modern and sophisticated neighbourhood with a good range of leisure activities. Staying here allows you to enjoy places like the Filippou restaurant or the exclusive jazz bar Minnie the Moocher.
Metaxourgeio: a neighbourhood focused on cultural life that offers a great atmosphere at any time of day and artistic attractions such as the Municipal Gallery of Athens. The Breeder is another of the most important art galleries in the area.
How to get around Athens
Here is our detailed post about Athens Transportation.
The Athens metro is the best option in this respect, connecting the city’s tourist areas and others such as the airport or the port of Piraeus. The single metro ticket costs 1.20 EUR and can be used on both the underground and city buses. You can get a daily ticket for 4 EUR and a weekly ticket for 10 EUR.
The yellow taxis of Athens are a good option for efficiency and price. The cost of this service is 1 EUR for the descent of the flag and between 0.50 EUR and 0.80 EUR per kilometer driven, depending on the time of day.
Both at the airport and in the city centre you can find offices for car rental from companies such as Sixt, Avis or Europcar. The cost can be as low as 7 EUR a day, an economical price that will allow you to travel to nearby destinations such as Mycenae or Corinth on your own.
Cost of living in Athens
In Athens you can go shopping and bet on the popular prices of the Monastiraki market or choose the luxury of the shops in Kolonaki or Ermou. The options are as different as their prices. When it comes to buying basic items such as food, Athens is a cheap city if you choose its supermarkets or the Varvakios Agora. Prices are usually around 0.70 EUR for a kilo of fruit.
Where to eat in Athens
Eating in Athens is not at all expensive, as you can find restaurants that keep prices around 20 EUR per person or street stalls that offer dishes like gyros for 5 EUR or less. On the other hand, to try the typical dishes of the city you can go to Trapezaria, a place specialized in meat.
Local fish and seafood can be tasted in establishments such as Arsenis Taverna Iseris or Sardelaki.