As we headed to Athens for our four-night stay, we had this preconceived idea of what to expect. Not only is it the capital of Greece, but it’s pretty much a city of ancient ruins, right? Well yes and no, because there is so much more to this city which is considered the origins of western civilisation.
Athens has been one of the top items on our bucket list for a number of years, due to our love of Greek mythology and because we dreamed of visiting the Acropolis. So, we booked our flights, and a pretty apartment in the heart of the city, and then planned the tourist attractions we wanted to see. Now all of this can take some time, so why not use us as your guides and let us tell you why Athens should be on your bucket list and the things you will want to do when you get there.
Where to stay in Athens
There are so many options for hotels and apartments within the city centre, you may have a hard time deciding. So, we’ll drill it down by the various neighbourhoods and you can see which you prefer. We stayed in an apartment called the Heart of Athens, which was a 15-minute walk from the Acropolis. From our experience if you stay within a 10-to-15-minute walk from the Acropolis, then you will pretty much have access to everything you need, including the top tourist attractions.
The main thing about Athens is that it is a great walking city, it’s flat and you can meander the tiny streets whilst feeling pretty safe. We were told that pick pockets were an issue, so that is something to be mindful of.
Some areas of Athens are prettier than others, so here’s a breakdown of the best neighbourhoods to consider when choosing where to stay. We will focus on remaining close to the Acropolis as we’re sure for many of you this is one of the main attractions you will he heading to.
Monastiraki – This area is the ideal location for tourists, due to its proximity to all the attractions in central Athens. Not only will you find Monastiraki Square, but there are an array of shops, restaurants and bars, with many offering roof top views of the Acropolis. The area is famous for its open market, ancient sites, and neoclassical houses, but it can be busy and noisy. So, if you’re after something a little more relaxed then this isn’t the place to look for accommodation.
Plaka – Is considered the picturesque section of central Athens and is more relaxed than Monastiraki. It has lots of little tavernas and gift shops, but the cobblestoned streets provide a village feel. Within Plaka you will find Anafiotika which is on the north-eastern side of Acropolis hill and has an almost Greek island look to it, due to the whitewashed buildings.
Acropolis – As you can imagine, this neighbourhood is under the great monument itself and extends through to Hadrian’s Arch and Thissio. If the main reason you’re travelling to Athens is for the Acropolis, then don’t assume that this is the best area to stay in. If you are able bodied then you will find that a lot of the areas such as Plaka, Monastiraki, Psiri and Syntagma are all perfect locations and the walk to the Acropolis isn’t too daunting.
Syntagma – Most famous for being the neighbourhood of the Old Royal Palace which now houses the Greek parliament. Syntagma actually means Constitution in modern Greek. Alike many of the other areas you will find plenty of little quaint streets and Neoclassical buildings. Plus, you are located close to the National Park and other attractions.
Thissio – Located right under the Acropolis, this neighbourhood is ideal for whiling away the time in a small cafeteria, just like a local. The area is close to Monastiraki and the Ancient Agora.
Psiri – This was the area we stayed in, and it is classed as the artsy neighbourhood due to all the graffiti designs found on the buildings. It’s great for those of you who like lots of food options and are looking for the night club scene. You will still see the classic building design as found in the rest of Athens and can access all of the main attractions within a 15-minute walk.
Kolonaki – A little further out of the way of the main tourist attractions, but still a reasonable distance for tourists who like to walk. It is quite an elegant neighbourhood with lots of shops and cafeterias, which is ideal if you are looking for a slower paced trip.
Koukaki – Another neighbourhood close to the Acropolis and a short walk away from the centre of the city. It’s a beautiful area to walk around and is ideal if you are after picturesque scenery as you wander the streets.
How to Choose your Athens Accommodation
The neighbourhood you choose is completely up to you, but we based our decision on food preferences. We tend to eat heavily plant-based meals, so looked for vegan restaurants which you will find in abundance. It may be that you don’t want to walk too far to the Acropolis, so you’ll look for closer neighbourhoods such as Plaka and Thissio. But if you’re happy to wander and want to be around the hustle and bustle of the Athens scene, then Monastiraki is probably a better option.
As with most cities, there is an abundance of hotel and accommodation choices in Athens. You can use sites such as Booking.com and Hotels.com, or head for our personal favourite Airbnb. We’re pretty big fans of booking apartments because we like having kitchen amenities and you tend to get more space in the room. But many people prefer hotels for the holiday vibe, and you will find that the building has more amenities in it and staff available 24/7.
The main thing is that if you choose one of the above neighbourhoods, then you should be fine location wise. We found everything we wanted to see within a short distance from each other. The only one which took longer and was more difficult to get to because you had to walk up a steep hill, was the Lycabettus Hill cable car.
Remember that for most of you it will be a long day of walking and sightseeing, so you will be tired by the end of it. We mention this because you don’t want to have a long commute back to your hotel, so look for somewhere that is easily accessible.
Price is always a consideration as well, but we found Athens to be incredibly cheap for the two hotels we stayed in. One was forty-five pounds a night (we stayed in this before our Greek Island Cruise with NCL which was our first NCL Vegan Cruise), the huge apartment in the city centre was fifty pounds a night (at the time of booking which was October 2021). There aren’t many city centres which can offer you clean and spacious accommodation for that kind of price.
You’ll also be pleased to know that there is no city tax, unlike other major tourist spots such as Amsterdam and Rome. Of course, this may change in the future, but in general we found everything to be really reasonable in price.
When to go to Athens
Our visit to Athens was in the month of November, around the second week and so we expected it to be cold. We were pleasantly surprised that the temperature in general was nice enough to wear a t-shirt, but if it did drop a thin jacket would suffice.
Most visitors to Athens will choose to go at the peak months which are June, July and August. Not only will it be incredibly busy, but you will also have to deal with blisteringly hot sunshine.
Spring and Autumn are ideal for those of you wanting cooler temperatures and quieter attractions. So, we’d suggest April and May, or September and October as the sweet spots to visit.
Another consideration is how long you get at the attractions, especially if you are trying to cram a lot in. Within the Summer season you will get longer days and as such the attractions are opened for longer. Whereas when we went on November, it was winter season and some of the main tourist attractions would close between 3 and 5pm. This could make it difficult to fit everything in as you get less time to look around in the day. This is why spring, and autumn is the perfect balance of the two, because you still have day light up to 8 or 9 o’clock, the temperatures are bearable, and the attractions are open later.
What to Pack for Athens?
As you can imagine this is completely weather dependent, so in the warmer season it’s thinner layers and as you head towards winter months, you’ll need thicker items. Bear in mind that if you are planning on visiting any Greek Orthodox churches, then they may request for skirts to be below the knees for ladies and shoulders covered.
We always recommend taking layers when you travel, then you can add on when you need to and remove if you get too warm. So, we tend to work on the basis of a t-shirt or thin top, then a fleece or thin jacket and finally a thicker coat on top. This should cover you for all seasons and will help as the temperature changes throughout the day. We found that it got a lot colder at night-time and as such we needed a heavy jacket.
The first thing you should do before choosing what to pack, is check out the weather and temperature. It maybe that you need to consider taking an umbrella, which we did, but thankfully we didn’t need it in the end.
Of course, comfy shoes are a must, because you’ll have plenty of walking and sightseeing to do and the climb to the Acropolis can be pretty taxing for some. But also, because you will find yourself walking on the roads in Athens most of the time, and diving onto the tiny pavements when a bike or car appears. Most pavements are covered in tables and chairs from the little tavernas, or they are incredibly small and as such it is easier to walk on the road.
Once you’ve established what clothes to take, the rest is just the normal bits and bobs such as plug adaptors and any extras you need like medications. There are plenty of shops and supermarkets about, so if you have forgotten any of the basics such as your toothbrush, then don’t worry you can grab one there.
Transport and Travel Options in Athens
In all honesty we found Athens so easy to get around, we didn’t use any public transport within the city itself. Everything we wanted to see was walkable, but if you want to, there is a metro system which covers all of the city centre and the areas which surround it, including the cruise port of Piraeus.
There are a variety of ticket options, some specifically for tourists who are only staying for a few days. But we would recommend you begin your trip by taking a walk around first and seeing whether you even need to use the metro system.
Local Buses and Trams
Athens also has city buses, electric trolleybuses and trams throughout the city which again may be something you want to use, but we didn’t even consider it.
Trains in Athens
The only public transport we did use was the suburban railway, which we took from the airport to the city centre. That cost 9 euros each and in all honesty was incredibly easy. The only difficulty was making our way from the station which was at Monastiraki Square to our hotel. As we mentioned above, the pavements can be small and so you will find yourself wheeling your cases on the roads for most of the walk.
Uber and Taxis
Heading back to the airport we opted for an Uber, but don’t be shocked to see the usual yellow taxis turn up. The day we were flying home there was a shut down of all public transport due to the anniversary of the ‘Polytechnic Uprising’, which has been known to cause demonstrations in the past and considerable damage to government buildings. So, it made sense to use this option instead, but this will cost considerably more, with ours coming to forty euros.
Athens Hop on Hop off Bus
As with any major city there were ‘Hop on Hop off’ buses from the City Sightseeing company and Gray Line. We used Gray Line because it was part of the attraction pass we purchased, but after sitting on it for a full circle we never used it again. There wasn’t that much to see on the route which you couldn’t get to simply by walking. You may want to use the bus to reach attractions which are further away, but again we wouldn’t waste the money. The price per person is about twenty odd euros (without the pass), but that does include a route which will take you past the port of Piraeus and the Beach-Riviera.
If you have never used a hop on hop off bus, then you simply purchase a day ticket and you can either sit on the bus for the full circle or get on and off whenever you choose. Headphones are provided and history is given in a multitude of languages about the different buildings and areas in Athens city centre.
As you will probably have gathered, there are plenty of options for you either way. It will all depend on your mobility and whether you want to walk the quaint streets or get to the specific attraction quickly.
Athens Attraction Pass
To help you plan out your trip, we will bring you the top attractions within the centre of Athens. If you are there for a few days and are planning on seeing as much as possible, then an attraction pass is probably worthwhile. If you’re only there for a day or so and you are simply focused on seeing the Acropolis, then this probably isn’t worth the cost.
We have used city attraction passes for a number of years in places such as Rome, Barcelona, Boston and New York. They have all provided value for money and we ended up visiting more places than we would have without the pass. In Athens it is the ‘Turbopass’ and you can pick between 1 and 6 days in which you can use the pass to gain access to their list of attractions.
Should You Buy an Athens Pass?
The way to work out if this route is the best option for you, is to head over to the site and check out their list of attractions. Work out which ones you would do and how much they cost. A standard ticket for the Acropolis between April and October is 20 Euros alone, whereas a one-day ticket on the pass is 55 Euros. It all depends on how much you feel you can get done in one day. Our first day using the pass we managed to get through most of it, including the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Acropolis Museum and Hadrian’s Library. Some travellers enjoy spending hours in one attraction alone, whereas for others, they prefer to take it in and move on, getting as much done as possible.
If you decide to buy the pass, then it’s time to work out how many days you want it for. As mentioned, Turbopass is available for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 days. We only buy passes for full days we are there, so for example if you are in Athens for 4 nights, then we do the full 3 days we are there and not any travel days. You should be aware that the passes are for full days only, so if you start a 1 day pass at 2pm on the Monday it will finish on the Monday night and not at 2pm on the Tuesday.
How to use Athens Turbopass
Once you have purchased the pass, you will receive a confirmation via email. This will provide you with two types of tickets which are the general Athens Turbopass and a special pass for the archaeological sites of Athens. There is also a guidebook for the attractions available on the pass showing free entry and a number of discounted offers for museums, shops and restaurants such as the Hard Rock Café.
You can either keep the information on your phone and scan the QR code from there or print it off. We personally print off any attraction passes and the guides, as we find it easier when we’re planning and actually at the attraction.
When you arrive at the attraction you simply need to scan the code you have been given for the ‘free entry’ options. There are no additional costs added and in many cases, you can access faster entry lines. We’re big fans of attraction passes and always recommend them to family and friends. Some of our favourite travel memories are when we have visited an attraction we wouldn’t have even considered had we not had the pass, and we absolutely loved it.
Our List of Attractions and Things to do in Athens
We consider this to be the most important part of any guide, because in reality it is why you’ve visited the city in the first place. There were a few attractions or sights that we didn’t visit on the pass, purely due to time. But we will focus on the ones we did see, because they are the famous sights and museums within Athens.
The Acropolis and Parthenon
We’ve mentioned the Acropolis a few times already in this guide and that’s basically because it is the main reason people go to Athens. This ancient monument is positioned atop a rocky mound above the city and as such it can be seen as you wander around the majority of the centre of Athens.
Within the Acropolis there are several buildings which include the famous Parthenon, the temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion and the immense gates known as the Propylaea. Construction of the buildings began in the fifth century BC, which is why a visit to the Acropolis transports you to the beginning of civilisation.
All areas of the Acropolis site are included in the tourist pass and there is access for visitors with mobility issues via a lift. If you’re walking up to the top then it can be quite steep, but we didn’t find it as bad as expected.
The Parthenon was a tribute to the Greek goddess Athena Parthenos, who Athens was named after. Seeing the Parthenon is breath-taking and was something we have dreamt about for a long time. But sadly, our views were masked a little by scaffolding and equipment in the middle of the monument. Major works are being done on the Parthenon and as such it is to be expected that you may have builders and equipment around it. It may ruin your Instagram picture, but we still felt that the sight of this huge temple was remarkable, even with the scaffolding.
The main entrance of the Acropolis is on the western side and there is a ticket office, small shop, café and even toilets. You will find another smaller entrance on the south-eastern corner, which is close to the Acropolis Museum. In peak season this may be the better option because it is lesser known and is considerably quieter.
We chose to go when the site opened at 8am and found that it was relatively quiet and you could get those perfect pictures to treasure and take it all in. There are benches available for those of you who need a seat after the climb up to the top.
Make sure you look for the Moira tree which can be found in front of the Erechtheion temple. It is rumoured to be the original olive tree and was given to Athens by the goddess Athena.
If you choose not to buy the attraction pass then you have two ticket options for the Acropolis. Firstly you can buy a ticket for the Acropolis only and the price of that will vary depending on the time of year, so we recommending checking out their website. The other option is a combination ticket which includes a number of the mouments as well as the Acropolis. The main ones are the Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Kerameikos and Lyceum which is Aristotle’s School. Which you choose will be dependent on how long you’re in Athens and what you want to see.
The Acropolis Museum
Found on the southeastern side of the slope to the Acropolis, this is an archeoligical museum of artifacts which have been discovered on the top and slopes of the Acropolis. There is an impressive gathering of findings which cover everything from Greek Bronze Age and Roman, to Byzantine Greece. There are four floors to the museum, with the second level having a restaurant and shop.
We would recommend going to the Acropolis first before you visit the museum. By seeing the Parthenon in all its glory, you then have the opportunity to look at the various artifacts and statues in the museum. The fact that you have seen where they originated from, makes them even more impressive.
Again the museum is on the Turbopass, but you can buy tickets if you just turn up. There is a wonderful view of the Acropolis on the top level of the museum and if you’re anything like us, you never tire of looking at it.
Syntagma Square and the Changing of the Guard
We have to admit we hadn’t heard of Syntagma Square before we booked our trip to Athens, but we had seen the iconic images of the guards in their traditional uniform. During our planning of the trip we realised that we would be in Athens on the Sunday, which is when there is a more traditional changing of the guard; but we’ll explain what that means a bit further on in this section.
The area of Syntagma Square is located in the centre of Athens and in Greek it means ‘Constitution Square. This is quite apt because it is in front of the Greek Parliament building, which was once the Old Royal Palace. Within the square you will also find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which commemorates unknown Greek soliders who died during war.
It is in front of this tomb where the changing of the guard will happen and obviously because this is a tourist spot it can get busy. Also although Athens is an incredibly safe city, you should be aware that pick pocketing does occur, especially within gathered crowds such as those watching the changing of the guards.
The ceremonial change occurs every hour on the hour, with the Evzones (Greek soldiers) dressed in a traditional national uniform. They are there to protect the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and they remain stationary and silent for the full hour.
Every Sunday at 11am there is a specific ceremony held, where the Evzones wear the traditional uniforms of the 1821 Greek freedom fighters. This is the one which can get busy, so we recommend getting there early. But if you miss the Sunday ceremony then you can always watch the modern uniform option.
We didn’t spend a lot of time around Syntagma Square, but we did watch the Sunday ceremony and found it a beautiful spectacle; we highly recommend it.
If you’ve been to watch the Changing of the Guards, then it would make sense to head to the National Gardens next. This public park is located behind the Greek Parliament building and is the ideal spot for those of you who like to take it a bit easier.
Within the grounds of the park there is a duck pond, a Botanical Museum and a playground. But what makes this garden stand out from the rest is the fact that within the 38 acre area, you will see ancient ruins, statues and mosaics; well it is Athens after all, so we should expect ruins.
We took a general stroll around the whole park, mainly because we had the time to fit it in. Is it a must tick off item on your Athens bucket list? Probably not. But if you love gardens, flowers and a relaxing atmosphere then this is perfect for you.
Arch of Hadrian
Close to Syntagma Square and the National Gardens is the Arch of Hadrian, which lies close to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. In Greek it is known as Hadrian’s Gate and is said to have been built to honor the Roman emperor Hadrian. This monumnetal gateway resembles similar Roman arches and is a sight to behold, especially because it is in incredible condition. Probably like us you will find it strange that something so ancient stands next to a busy road. We felt it was a true symbol of how a city grows around its history.
We’ve mentioned this area as a place to base yourself, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Monastiraki Square is a top tourist attraction. It’s the perfect location because it is a great starter point for any attraction you are after, and it was the first place we spotted the incredible Acropolis. The square itself is a hodgepodge of shops, restaurants, and cultural buildings.
If you are planning on taking the train from the airport, then Monastiraki Square is probably the station you will come out off to visit Athens City Centre. So, consider that when booking your accommodation, because the streets aren’t easy to manoeuvre at the best of times; never mind adding suitcases. We ended up taking a taxi back to the airport, because we struggled with the walk to our hotel.
On the square itself there are a few shops and carts with fruit and vegetables. But either side of the square is the famous flea market which is open from 8am to 8pm every day of the week. It’s not exactly the type of flea market you would expect, because there is a good mixture of shops, with the usual touristy items. Again, alike Syntagma Square, this is a busy area and there may be pick pockets about, so be careful with wallets and purses within the crowds.
Around the edge of the square you will find quaint tavernas and this is where you will experience the Greek feeling you’re after. There’s nothing better than relaxing with a drink and whiling away the hours, and we found that prices weren’t too extortionate.
One big tip if you are looking for that special moment, is head to a roof top bar around the square. We went to 360 Cocktail Bar and watched the sun set over the Acropolis, with the most delicious cocktails. It’s the ideal place for the night time pictures of the Acropolis as it’s lit up, but of course it can get cool depending on the time of year, so take a jacket.
The Library of Hadrian
Found near Monastiraki Square, the Library of Hadrian is an ancient ruin which once housed the largest library of Athens. It was sadly destroyed in 267 CE during the invasion of the Herulians, but you can imagine how impressive it had been by the surviving western façade. Not only did the building provide storage for papyrus books, but the adjoining rooms were used as reading rooms and even lecture halls.
The grounds themselves can be difficult to get around if you have mobility issues, but the area isn’t that big to walk around unlike some of the other ruins. Unless you’re eager to inspect every section of the library, we can’t imagine you will be in there for long.
Hadrian’s Library is on the Athens tourist pass and the combination pass, so if you have either of them it is definitely worth a visit.
Roman Agora of Athens and the Tower of the Winds
Close to the Ancient Agora and Syntagma Square, you will find the Roman Agora which was an open market. From archaeological research it seems the agora was built with money from Julius Ceasar and Augustus.
Alike Hadrian’s Library the agora is pretty much ruins with the exception of the Tower of the Winds. But it is Athens and you should expect to see a lot of ruins on your trip. When it was built it consisted of an open air courtyard with colonnades on all four sides. This was the main area that the market would have been held in.
The Tower of the Winds stands at the end of the museum area and is a thing of beauty. It is an octagonal building and was used to both tell the time and predict the weather. You will see on the structure sundials, a water clock and wind vane.
When we visited you could look inside the Tower of the Winds but not actually go inside it.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus – Olympieion
Not far from the Arch of Hadrian is the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, which is also known as Olympieion. This colossal temple was dedicated to Zeus who was the head of the Olympian gods. Sadly the temple was left to decay into ruins, but there is major renovation work currently happening. Sadly for us this meant that similar to the Parthenon all we saw was scaffolding, which took away the joy of seeing the temple in its full glory.
If you have the pass then it is worth going in just to take a look. But if you are paying per attraction, then you can see the Temple of the Olympian Zeus from the Arch of Hadrian, so it may not be worth paying to enter the temple grounds.
Museum of Illusions
The Museum of Illusions is the perfect break away when you’re a little tired of seeing ruin after ruin. They provide exhibits which will trick your senses and leave you mystified. You are also encouaged to take pictures during the illusions so you can fascinate friends and family at home.
There’s an infinity room, a reverse room which defys the law of gravity, a shrink to minature size room, holograms and so much more. We didn’t spend too much time in the Museum of Illusions because it was quite busy, but we did throughly enjoy our time in there. It is a welcomed break from all of the history you will have absorbed during your Athens trip and it is free on the Turbopass.
Ancient Agora and Stoa of Attalos
In Greece an agora is a public gathering space which can be used for a variety of reasons. The Ancient Agora is an excellent example of what a classical Greek agora would have looked like, which is why it is one of the more popular tourist attractions after the Acropolis.
Positioned on a site known as Market Hill, the agora is made up of a number of buildings. These include the Tholos, Metroon, Agoraios Kolonos, Strategeion and South Stoa. Notable buildings and monuments were added to the agora such as the Middle Stoa, Temple of Ares and the Stoa of Attalos. We have only mentioned a few because the list is pretty large.
The museum of the agora is housed in the Stoa of Attalos and includes a collection of exhibits. You may also find it interesting that the trial of Socrates was held within the ancient agora and there is a statue of both Socrates and Confucius within the grounds.
The actual grounds of the agora are vast, and they will take some time, so if you have mobility issues then you will probably struggle. You will want to plan a bit of time out for this attraction as it is one of the better sites to visit.
Other than being a temple dedicated to the Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle, the Lyceum was also a Peripatetic school of philosophy. It is famous for being a centre of education and although sadly what is left of the building is pretty much ruins, it is still impressive to walk around.
Lycabettus Funicular Hill – Cable Car
We really enjoyed both Lycabettus Hill and the funicular, so we definitely recommend that you use the cable car at least once. In all honesty we used it both ways, but most visitors will grab a ride up the hill and walk back down.
This is the second funicular ride we have taken and ironically the first was also this year in the town of Hastings in the UK. Unlike the first which is outside and open to the scenery, the cable car on Lycabettus Hill is inside a tunnel the entire way. But they have a little light show to keep you entertained as you go up and we honestly enjoyed it.
The best part though is the views at the top; who’d have thought Athens was so big! The city seems to go on forever and ever, and of course you get to see the beautiful Acropolis from another perspective.
At the top there’s a little café/bar so you can sit and relax with a drink and nibble before you make the journey back down. There is even a little Greek whitewashed church of Agios Georgios (St George). You are welcomed to enter, but just remember that it is Greek Orthodox and as such that normally means that shoulders should be covered, and skirts must be below the knee.
The only negative for us was the walk to the hill which is pretty steep, so if you have injuries or mobility issues then this may be difficult. But the walk up was quite pretty too, because you’re walking through quaint residential areas and the streets are lined with trees, but not just any old trees, orange trees! We had to stop a few times to admire them and obviously the locals thought we were mad. It was just so wonderful seeing a street lined with trees which were blooming with oranges.
There were some free entry options on the pass we didn’t get to see, and there are some additional tourist attractions you may be interested in, but you will have an entrance fee. Take a look yourself and decide if you want to add them to your Athens list.
- Kotsanas Museum
- The Museum of Greek Culture – Benaki Museum
- Panathenaic Stadium
- Hellenic Motor Museum
- Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum
Little Extra Tips for Your Athens Trip
Yep, we know, that’s an awful lot of information and we’re sure your brain is a little boggled at the moment. But we hope that you’ll have enough to begin your itinerary and you can decide what you want to do. The first step is deciding whether or not you want the Athens attraction pass, the combination pass or simply purchase tickets as you go.
We aim to give you as much information as possible, so here are a few of our own tips which may come in handy.
- There is a tourist office on Syntagma Square where you can ask any questions you may have, but more importantly you can grab a free map of the area. The map provides all the locations of the top tourist attractions.
- As we researched ‘things to do in Athens’ we came across a guide on the unusual things to tick off your bucket list. One of those was visiting Pittaki Street to see the magical lantern lit alley. We were told that there was a chance it may be closed, and the lanterns removed. But we decided to take a wander anyway and boy were we pleased we did. Instead of hanging lights, we saw a winter wonderland of Christmas heaven. If you visit Athens around November or December, then stopping at Pittaki Street is a must. With lights hung everywhere and people sized festive ornaments, you’ll instantly feel the Christmas spirit. Little Kook is a café where you can enjoy the usual drinks and nibbles associated with the season such as mulled wine and hot chocolate. It’s a wonderful addition to your trip and the street is close to many of the other attractions on the pass, especially the Museum of Illusions.
- Most of the ancient ruins can be seen from the road, especially the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, Hadrians Library and the Roman Agora. Depending on how close you want to get to the actual temple or ruin, you could just view them from a distance and save yourself some money.
- If you like to wander around a new city, then make sure you add Plaka to your ‘to do’ list. Plaka not only provides wonderful views of the Acropolis, but it also gives off a quaint Greek village feel. The cobblestoned streets are strewn with shops selling everything you can imagine, and there are plenty of tavernas to provide a respite from all of the shopping. For those of you who don’t mind a climb, then there is the neigbourhood of Anafiotika which is next to Plaka. The white washed homes give you a Greek island vibe, very similar to Santorini or Mykonos.
- We have mentioned it above but we highly recommend at least one night finding a rooftop bar and taking in the scenery. It is even more impressive if you are there as the sun is setting, then you can see the Acropolis in varying lights. In all honesty we didn’t tire of seeing the Acropolis, so we imagine most of you will be the same.
Hopefully this covers everything you need to plan your perfect trip to the great capital of Athens. There is plenty to do, but we would say that 4 nights is more than enough time to cover everything you will want to see.
You could always attach a few extra days and head to the beach-Riviera, which is easily accessible by train and taxi. Or why not check out a cruise from the port of Piraeus. We spent a week on the Norwegian Jade which we have detailed in a separate guide.
There is plenty to do either way and we found that unlike other city trips, we had the time to stroll and take it all in, which was quite refreshing. You can easily fall into the Greek way of life and spend most of your trip people watching with a coffee in a small taverna; but why not, it is a holiday after all.
If you do end up going to Athens, then please tag us on Instagram because we would love to see your pictures.