The enchanting view of sunny Athens from the top of the Acropolis. The sparkling waters of the city’s extraordinary beaches. The luscious taste of traditional Greek flavors. The buoyant nightlife, and the overpowering sense of freedom its diversity gives you. All that and many more are the reasons why you can’t help but fall in love with Athens from the moment you step foot in it.
If exploring Athens seems like a daunting task, it’s because it is: there is much stuff to see, taste, do and experience, even the locals get overwhelmed from time to time. Lucky for you, we have accumulated the ultimate Athens travel guide in order for you to experience the historic city to the fullest; as born and bred Athenians in love with their home city, it is our responsibility to make you see Athens from rose-colored glasses!
1. When to visit Athens
An airplane approaching Athens - credits: ivan bastien/Shutterstockhutterstock.com
Greece is mostly advertised as a summer destination and the reasons why make a strong case: its delightfully warm climate, its sandy beaches and its hundreds of breathtaking islands are more than enough to deem Greece the ultimate summer haven people dream of visiting.
However, although no one can deny the beauty of Greece under the bright sunlight, it is common ground that during the high-season time period between late June and late August, Greece -and some of the Greek islands in particular- attract too much attention and get overwhelmingly crowded, which may affect your overall experience. If you’re an extroverted, social individual that draws energy from the crowds, don’t think twice when booking your summer holidays. If however, you prefer a more offbeat scene, then you’re probably better off opting for late spring or early autumn for your holidays.
Anywhere between late April and the beginning of June or the whole month of September will give you the chance to experience the blissful Greek summer unobstructed by the hustle and bustle of the tourist waves flooding the country; the best of both worlds!
On the other hand, it is a well-kept secret that Greece can also serve as an exquisite winter destination as, apart from the numerous islands, the mainland of the country hides regions of incomparable beauty. It is guaranteed that the diversity of the Greek land offers a unique landscape that can wow even the most experienced of travelers. Discover the best time to visit your favorite destination in Greece more thoroughly and book your precious vacations accordingly!
2. Where to stay in Athens
The Hotel Grande Bretagne in central Athens - credits: Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock.com
Spoiler alert: Athens is a big city. As a result, although it is easy to navigate it, as with any trip and any destination, accommodation is an important issue and a determining factor of whether you’ll experience your host city in the most advantageous way. Of course, choosing to reside in the heart of Athens is the smartest move you can make; you’ll be within walking distance to most important landmarks and probably right next to a means of public transport from where you’ll be able to explore the rest of the city. However, even the heart of the city is divided into districts and choosing the right one for you is key. Avoid sketchy or difficult to access areas, and pick your accommodation based on your trip’s objectives by having a look at where to stay in Athens and how to choose the right neighborhood, a comprehensive guide that will help you make an educated decision.
If you’re more of a practical person, here are our top hotel recommendations for downtown Athens depending on the district you choose to be based on and the amount of luxury you want:
For 5 star hotels
Koukaki: COCO-Mat Athens BC Hotel
For 4 star hotels
For 3 star hotels
3. Where to go
Now that is a loaded question. There is such a plethora of places that deserve your time and attention in Athens that no matter how many days you may have at your disposal, you’re guaranteed to fill them to the brim. Covering all possible fields, from history, nature, the most Instagram-friendly spots in Athens and the top walking routes in Athens, to the cultural, gastronomical, architectural, and entertainment treasures the Greek capital offers in abundance, everyone is bound to find what they’re looking for and then some! In an effort to avoid overwhelming you with my boundless rambling, we’ve broken down the places in Athens you should unquestionably visit in categories below. Organized much?
4. Top Sites of Athens
First and foremost, as you’ve probably already guessed, comes the rich heritage of Athens, evident in every corner of the city. Athens’ history begins in the Neolithic and Mycenaean times. The ancient city was built in the middle of the basin, around the hills of Pnyka hill, Areopagus (Mars Hill) and Philopappou Hill, also known as the three knights of the Acropolis.
The Parthenon, the imposing temple dedicated to goddess Athena that decorates the top of the Acropolis became the symbol of Athenian democracy and created a new model in architecture. On the hill of Pnyx, Apostle Paul proclaimed in 53 AD the new religion, Christianity, in front of the members of the Supreme Court. Then, the first small Christian community was created under the guidance of Bishop Dionysius Areopagite, the later patron saint of our city. Finally, Athens became the capital of Greece in 1834, replacing Nafplio.
As you can see, Athens through the years has undergone a lot of drastic changes that have led it to be what it is right now, offering its visitors an abundance of sites from different eras. You can read about the top 10 favorite sights in Athens if you need a more thorough guide around the impressive historic landmarks of the city. However, for your convenience, here is a shortlist of the most significant archaeological sites in Athens:
Acropolis from above - credits: Aerial motion/Shutterstock.com
The Acropolis, often also referred to as the ‘sacred rock’, is probably the most widespread archeological monument of Athens, with thousands of both travelers and locals climbing its steep hill every year in order to get a glimpse of Greece’s glorious past. Since its establishment in the 5th century BC in honor of goddess Athena, the patron of the city, it has remained the most emblematic element of the city.
Perched at its top, you will find the Parthenon and the Erechtheion, the place where the infamous battle between Poseidon and Athena allegedly took place, while on your way to the top you will come across some of Athens most noteworthy monuments, such as the Propylaia, the Theatre of Herodes Atticus, and the Theater of Dionysus, the oldest theater in the city.
Whether you’re visiting the Acropolis with kids, alone or as a couple, the practical guide to the Acropolis 2020 should be your best friend as in it you’ll find all the information you need to make your Acropolis experience smooth and enjoyable, from ticket prices to opening hours and everything in between!
Ancient Cemetery of Kerameikos
A breath of fresh air amidst the urban jungle, the Ancient Cemetery of Kerameikos is ideal for long walks, and therefore a sight you don’t want to miss during your visit to Athens. It served as Athens’ cemetery from the 12th century BC to the Roman Times. If you visit the Kerameikos Cemetery don’t forget to also pay a visit to the Kerameikos Museum, where the findings from the excavations of the archeological site are on display, including stelae, sculptures, vases, and figurine found on the site.
Philopappos Hill is located to the south-west of the Acropolis Hill offering a mesmerizing, undisturbed view out to the imposing Parthenon from one side and the whole city from the other. The hill took its current name after Philopappos, a Syrian benefactor of the city, who was a close friend to many philosophers such as Plutarch who described him in his writings as an ‘extremely generous person’. His death caused great sorrow to the citizens of Athens who built a mausoleum as a dedication to honor his memory that survives to this day perched on the top of the hill.
Philopappos hill is admittedly one of the best places in Athens for big leisurely walks, especially during spring and early summer. If you take one of the hill’s many pathways, you will enjoy a wide variety of flora and a rare serenity. Who knows, maybe you’ll even get to meet the famous Muses that according to legend, used to have the hill as their home!
The Ancient Agora of Athens was the heart of the ancient city: a large, open area that constituted the seat of justice, the political, economic, administrative, social, religious and cultural center of the city. Excavations have brought to light many important buildings such as the council chamber (Bouleuterion), public administration buildings (Royal Stoa and South Stoa), judges' offices, the mint and the city's official archives (Mitroon). Additionally, the Ancient Agora used to host the national library and the conservatory that covered the cultural requirement of the citizens.
The famous ‘Stoa of Attalos’ is also located within the Ancient Agora. Built by the king of Pergamon, Attalos, as a gift to the Athenians for allowing him to study there, the Stoa of Attalos became the main commercial building of the Agora; it was rebuilt between 1953 and 1956 and has been used as a museum ever since.
Another amazing monument of the Ancient Agora is the Temple of Hephaestus and Athena, which is also the best-preserved temple of Athens. It follows the Doric style of architecture and is located on the northwest side of the market, at the top of Agoraios Kolonos hill. It was built with the famous Pentelic marble by the architect of the Parthenon, Iktinos, during the second half of the 5th century BC, and has a large number of sculptures in its decoration. On the east facade are the Heracles tribes, and on the north and south sides are the tribes of Theseus. According to historical Pausanias, the temple housed bronze statues of Hephaestus and Athena.
Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian
The Temple of Olympians Zeus was the largest temple of Greece during the Hellenistic and Roman years, however, with its construction having begun in 515 BC and ending in 132 AD by Hadrian, the Roman emperor that became an Athenian citizen and benefactor. It is made of Pentelic marble and follows a Corinthian architectural style. Its length exceeds 100 meters and its width 40. As for its famous columns, they used to be 104. In total, they were 17 meters high and 2.6 meters in diameter, each weighing 364 tons!
From 500 AD the temple gradually collapsed and the pillars began to fall. Until the beginning of the 19th century, only 16 were standing up, but one terrible storm in 1852 threw another one, which still stands today. Right across the street from the Temple of Zeus, the Arch of Hadrian was erected in 132 AD by the Athenians in honor of Emperor Hadrian for his various contributions, which served as a limit between the old and the new city. The monument, 18 meters high by 13 meters wide, featured two inscriptions on the arch, facing in opposite directions, naming both Theseus and Hadrian as founders of Athens.
The Panathenaic Stadium - credits: Heracles Kritikos/Shutterstock.com
The Panathenaic Stadium is the place where the modern revival of the Olympic Games took place there in 1896 and it remains the place where the Olympic Flame is being delivered to during all Olympic games around the world. It is located at the site of an ancient Greek Stadium and demonstrates the key features of one: a rectangular shape with an entrance from one narrow side and a place for spectators on the slopes of the other three sides.
Despite its glamor during the ancient times, with the predominance of the Christian religion and the banning of idolatrous events and barbarous spectacles of Roman times, it was abandoned. The excessive expense for the stadium’s refurbishment was mainly taken over by a national benefactor, George Averoff, for whom the city of Athens built a marble statue that today can be found to the right of the Stadium’s main entrance. Archaeological investigations since 1836 have revealed traces of the ancient stage, and the reconstruction of the Pentelic marble stadium is distinguished by its fidelity to a large extent to the ancient monument of Herodes.
Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion
Approximately 2 hours outside the city center, you can visit Sounio and the Temple of Poseidon, a true architectural masterpiece and one of the best places in Greece to enjoy a sunset from was built around 444-440 BC. For three centuries, the sanctuary was considered to be a sacred place, and a grandiose four-yearly festival was organized there with officials sailing the sea around it in a sacred ship. The standing columns of the ruined temple, the magical landscape and the relaxing atmosphere you can bask in at the southernmost tip of Athens offer a romantic setting of unmatched beauty, making Sounio the perfect spot to visit in the company of your significant other.
Roman Agora & Tower of the Winds
The Roman Agora is located close to the Ancient Agora, only a few hundred meters to the east. It is a rectangular courtyard, full of shops and storerooms that served as the marketplace of the city. Dedicated to goddess Athena, the Roman Agora consisted of a large, open-air courtyard surrounded by colonnades on all four sides. On the eastern side, there were a series of shops and on the southern side was a fountain. The main entrance was on the west called ‘Gate of Athena Archegetis’, and there was a second entrance on the east. Just a few meters away from the east enclosure of the Roman Agora you can find the Tower of the Winds, a 12-meter high octagonal building the name of which comes from the personifications of the eight winds that are sculptured on the friezes of the building’s eight sides. Inside the construction, there is a brilliantly designed water clock. On the outside, there is a sundial and a weather vane.
5. Museums of Athens
The ground floor of the Acropolis museum- credits: Paopano/Shutterstock.com
It comes as no surprise that due to its abounding heritage, Athens has some of the most captivating museums in the world. Realizing you probably don’t have time to visit each and every single one of them, here we have a shortlist of our top picks that we would strongly suggest everyone visit before leaving the city:
Yes, the obvious choice tops this list. Positioned just 280 meters away from the Parthenon, with almost 4,000 exhibits masterfully composing the permanent exhibition, the Acropolis Museum is a must-see attraction you should make time for; not to toot our own horn, but it is no coincidence that it was ranked 11th in TripAdvisor’s 25 best museums in the world and has been awarded many times for its architecture!
The brilliance of the modern museum is clear both from the outside and from the inside, as its building portrays the architectural and mathematical concepts of the classical era in Athens, consisting of four levels that accommodate the permanent and temporary exhibitions, a restaurant, a gift shop, a multimedia center, and open spaces where you can relax and enjoy the view of the glorious Acropolis.
The exhibits of the museum include findings from the slopes of the Acropolis hill, the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike, along with votive offerings to Gods, worship objects and everyday art. You can follow the guide to the Acropolis Museum to help you figure your way around the spellbinding museum and learn about the most significant of its exhibits!
National Archaeological Museum
Believed to be one of the greatest museums in the world due to its ample collection of artifacts from Greek antiquity, the National Archaeological Museum lies in the alternative neighborhood of Exarcheia, hosted in an imposing neoclassical building painted in vibrant yellow and red colors. Displaying pieces from the Neolithic era, Cycladic art, Mycenaean period, Egyptian art, post-Byzantine era and jewels from the Hellenistic period, the museum covers a wide spectrum of Greek history, leaving a lasting impression to its visitors.
In its premises, you can also find a 118-year-old library with 20,000 volumes, many of which are extremely rare works on art, science, and philosophy. Unwind from your educational experience in one of the museum’s cafés; one located outside on the edge of the square and one situated in the heart of the museum, before paying a visit to its gift shop for various memorabilia- what a treat!
The fascinating Museum of Cycladic Art is hosted in an exquisite neoclassical building and displays an impressive collection of Cycladic and Ancient Greek Art. Its stated mission is the study of Aegean civilization, research on prehistoric, classical and modern Greek art, as well as its dissemination and promotion. Its remarkable collections contain approximately 3.000 objects of Cycladic, Ancient Greek and Cypriot art. More than 500 are presented online, together with a brief introduction of the major periods of Aegean and Cypriot archeology, special topics and a list of available resources.
Granted, there are a number of other museums that often get neglected but are just as good. Learn about the lesser-known museums in Athens and -if you’re looking for experiences that are out of the ordinary- the 3+1 interesting museums in Athens, get insight into the museums that interest you the most, and adapt your itinerary to suit your needs without missing out on Athens’ highlights!
The Benaki Museum
Another museum you can't leave out of your itinerary during your trip to Athens is the famous Benaki Museum. Founded in 1930 by Antonis Benakis in memory of his father Emmanuel Benakis, the museum aims, as its website suggests, to 'preserve and make accessible as widely as possible its diverse collections; to support research onto history, archaeology and the study of material culture, architecture, photography, visual and performing arts and literature; to educate and engage its audiences; to play an active role in fostering social cohesion, safeguarding world heritage and inspiring intercultural dialogue; and to maintain a dynamic connection with ongoing cultural processes in Greece and beyond'.
Hosted in the mansion of Benaki family in the center of Athens, the museum exhibits Greek works of art from the prehistorical to the modern times, while it entertains periodic exhibitions and sustains an avant-garde restoration and conservation workshop. Over the years, the Benaki Museum has been awarded and enriched with a number of generous donors, and it now includes the seaside 'Kouloura Mansion' in the southern district of Palaio Faliro that hosts Athens' Toy Museum, the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art in the neighborhood of Kerameikos, the 'Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas Gallery' in downtown Athens, the 'Benaki Museum Pireos Street Annex' on -you guessed it- Pireos Street and the 'Penelope Delta House' in Kifissia, which houses the Historical Archive Collection.
6. Athens Transportation
Athens public transport - credits: loveforshutter/Shutterstock.com
Ιn order to enjoy Athens you first need to get to it. Thankfully, being the capital of Greece, Athens is pretty easy to reach regardless of where you come from and the means of transportation you opt for. Unless you’re driving to Greece -if you are, more power to you- there are only two possible ways to access Athens: either by airplane or by ferry. In both cases, figuring your way around shouldn’t be too hard since there are a ton of signs, information stations and willing locals to provide you with the instructions you need. If, however, you want to be prepared beforehand, you can follow our Athens airport survival guide or our Piraeus port comprehensive guide that will thoroughly educate you on how to get to your desired destination in the easiest and more suitable way for you.
Athens International Airport
You can reach Athens’ city center from the airport by boarding the X95 bus, which is a 24-hour express bus that terminated right next to the central Syntagma Square, -on Othonos street- which also doubles up as the point of departure. Still, taking the railway - both the underground (Metro) or the suburban line- is the most common and convenient way to access the city center, with the only difference between them being their terminal destination, with the suburban railway terminating outside of Athens.
Therefore, if you opt for the suburban rail, make sure to should get off the train at ‘Doukissis Plakentias’ station and hop on the metro for the rest of the journey to Syntagma. OF course, grabbing a cab from the airport to Athens’ center is the easiest, yet most expensive way to reach your destination. The ride will come up to around 38€ during the daytime (05:00 – 24:00) and 54€ during the late-night and early morning hours - keep in mind that the taxi fare is double from midnight to 05.00 am.
There are many ways of reaching the city center from the port of Piraeus and back, however, the user-friendly Athens Metro system is arguably one of the easiest! All you have to do is look for Metro line 1 -which is the green one-, and before you know it, you’ll be walking the streets of Athens’ heart.
During the summer months, an express tourist bus (X80) runs directly from the center of Athens to the cruise terminal at Piraeus port, so depending on preference, your location and the season in which you’ll be visiting you can take advantage of that as well. Please remember that you can buy your public transport tickets at the ticket booths and ticket machines found at every station.
Alternatively, download the TFA mTickets App to purchase and save tickets right to your phone.
Public Transport and Taxis
When it comes to navigating the city of Athens, you have a number of alternatives you can choose from, including buses, the Metro (Athens subway), the ISAP(railway) and the tram. As a quick rule of thumb, the Metro is the quickest, most modern and most efficient one, without its competence affecting its price, as the tickets for all public transport costs the same. However, if you want to waste no time figuring your way around Athens and your budget is not restricted, taking a taxi is often the way to go.
Taxi cars in Greece are yellow with a ‘TAXI’ sign on top; they can be found all around the city and you can stop them by raising your hand. When hiring a taxi, make sure the taxi meter is on, as taxi drivers are infamous for trying to overcharge their clients. To be in the know, keep in mind that the taxi meter starts at €1.29, the minimum rate is €3.44, the rate per kilometer within the city limits is €0.74 and the rate per kilometer outside the city limits is €1.29.
In order to ride safely and comfortably, we would highly suggest you download the Beat app. It works exactly like Uber, with the only difference being that the rides are being delivered by professional taxi drivers that practice their profession outside the app as well.
7. Eating in Athens
Traditional Greek food - credits: ORLIO/Shutterstock.com
If you’re familiar with Greeking.me’s blog, then you know that we are die-hard foodies that take Greek gastronomy and its mind-blowing creations very seriously. Greek cuisine is an integral part of Greek culture and an element of the country all visitors should look to try for the sake of getting acquainted with an authentic, well-rounded aspect of Greece. From delicious and nutritious breakfast to homemade local dishes, street food, and a cult-classic cup of traditional Greek coffee, here are the absolute must-try flavors you should make a point of tasting and the best places in the city to find them!
Breakfast & Brunch
For devoted lovers of brunch, you’ll be happy to know that during your time in Athens, there will be no need to ditch your favorite Sunday tradition. On the contrary, you’ll be presented with the favorable circumstance of trying Greek brunch dishes that put a local spin on beloved classics. A bright example of that is the yummy recipe of ‘Kayanas’, a staple you’ll stumble upon on most Athenian brunch menus. ‘Kayanas’ is essentially scrambled eggs cooked in olive oil with fresh tomatoes, red onions, and feta cheese, but can be found in many variations.
Yes, it is exactly as good as it sounds, even better actually, and if you try it, I guarantee all other types of scrambled eggs will taste bland to you. For delectable Kayanas and other Greek brunch delicacies, you can read about the top 10 places for Brunch in Athens; book a table, grab your sunglasses and enjoy unique brunch food on a local yard with the sun shining on you, warming your heart and body. What’s more, you can accompany your scrumptious food with a cup of traditional Greek Coffee, the proof that the wise saying ‘less is more’ applies to most things in life.
If you’re a fan of a half caramel, half vanilla latte, decaf espresso heated only to 100° with nonfat milk and caramel drizzle on top, then maybe Greek coffee is not right up your street. However, if you’re a lover of coffee, the delicious drink that is responsible for the functionality of the largest portion of earth’s population, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the aromatic brew that has been essential in the locals’ cupboards for hundreds of years, becoming part of the cultural heritage of Greece. If you want to sip on an invigorating cup of proper Greek coffee, opt for one of the 10 extraordinary coffee shops in Athens that will introduce you to the coffee culture of Athens and change the way you view and consume coffee for the rest of your life.
The general rule you should live by in Athens is simple: the more homemade local dishes you try, the merrier. The traditional cuisine of Greece can be savored across the wide selection of Athens’ taverns that serves long-established recipes that have been integrated into the local culture and celebrate the riches of the Greek land. Featuring recipes that have been passed down through the generations, the local dishes will delight your senses regardless of the dietary plan you follow.
Located in the hip neighborhood of Psirri, Enastron rembles the exact image that comes to everyone’s minds when hearing the phrase ‘traditional Greek tavern’. From lush homey main courses to delectable appetizers, all in generous helpings, Enastron promises to meet and exceed your culinary expectations regardless of how high they are -you’re in a Meditteranean country after all! Both its courtyard and its lounge area are dominated by an unmistakable Greek aesthetic that offers its guest and all-around original local experience.
In the same neighborhood, but this time tucked away in a small alley that gets overlooked by people who aren’t;t in the know, Koudounaki is a family-run tavern where two sisters put a spin on customary dishes and serve heavenly homemade offerings you’ve never tasted before. The place itself is tiny yet cozy, while the owners are always welcoming and eager to help and show you around. Among Koudounaki’s specialties, our winner is the slow-cooked veal that melts in the mouth. Accompany your course with a glass of local wine and you’ll reach nirvana in a matter of minutes!
Closer to the Acropolis, in the scenic and historic district of Thissio, To Steki Tou Ilia takes its guests on a journey back in a simpler and perhaps more beautiful time. While its menu is limited and resembles what a Greek mom would cook for her children, its simplicity is what wins people over. There are no pretentious ingredients to distract you from the authentic Greek flavors that are served. Whether seated inside or on the pedestrian street, right by the train tracks, in To Steki Tou Ilia you’ll get the most real taste of folksy Greek gastronomy!
For a modern spin on cult-classic Greek recipes, head over to Ella Cooking at the beginning of Mitropoleos Street a few meters away from Syntagma Square. Merging traditional flavors and fresh, local products with contemporary techniques and up-to-date combinations, Ella manages to hold a special place in the locals' hearts while offering unique homemade dishes one wouldn't experience anywhere else. Among our top recommendations are the 'assorted spreads with pita bread' that consists of feta cheese spread, hummus, tzatziki, and taramosalata, which is a beloved smoked white cod roe spread and is way more delicious than it sounds, the homemade stuffed vine leaves also known as 'dolmadakia', and the lamb fricassee.
If your apettite doesn't call for any of the above, don't worry; everything you order will be absolutely delicious and made of high-quality ingredients carefully selected from all over Greece.
Last but not least, Dia Tafta is another traditional Athenian tavern that combines toothsome offerings with a great atmosphere. Located in the wider region of Monastiraki bordering with Psirri, the name of the tavern translates to ‘the conclusion/ the gist of things’. For the owners of this local tavern, the gist of life is ‘good food, good drinks, and a good company’ and we couldn’t agree more! Here, you can find delicious, cult-favorite dishes from all over Greece cooked to perfection. From imaginative salad combinations to typical Greek foods and juicy grilled meats, you can taste everything to your heart’s desire!
Of course, we can’t forget that with Athens being the cultural center of Greece, you can also count on coming across dishes from all over the country, with the Cretan cuisine being a firm favorite. From ‘gemista’ to,’dakos’, local ‘meze’ and a delicious shot of local ‘rakomelo’, come upon some of the most delicious Athenian culinary offerings in our favorite Cretan restaurant in Athens! Cheers!
Although cozy traditional taverns are the trademark of Greece, Athens doesn’t lack in prestigious eateries that move Greek cuisine forward in leaps and bounds. As a matter of fact, it is rather difficult for us to pick our favorites given the extent of Athens’ selection in fine dining establishments but as always, we’ll do our best. Before we go ahead, however, it is important to note that fine dining options are bound to be a lot less affordable than taverns. However the steep prices match the quality and the experience these establishments offer, so although it might not be an everyday occurrence depending on your budget, it is worth celebrating a special occasion or indulging one time as a gift to yourself and loved ones.
Speaking of indulgent, Vezene, a Greek-inspired bistro located in the heart of Athens has managed to modernize and elevate local flavors to adapt to modern-day fine dining using high-quality, fresh local ingredients. Vezene serves regional dishes with a contemporary spin in their taste, decorated following a trendy and fashionable aesthetic that matches the profile of the restaurant. The chef, butcher, and owner of the restaurant, Ari Vezené, is passionate about running his restaurant sustainably and ethically and has adopted a whole animal butchery practice. Apart from the savory delights, nevertheless, Vezene features an extensive wine list of both Greek and global varieties and heavenly decadent dessert. The striking views to Lycabettus hill don’t hurt either!
Another restaurant that celebrates Greek cuisine by adding a touch of sophistication to it is Vassilenas. Having opened its doors for the first time in 1920 in Piraeus as a small and simple tavern, there is no doubt that when it comes to food, the chef has it figured out to a tee. Now located in Athens city center, Vassilenas maintains its humble profile even though it has become one of the most acclaimed destinations for fine dining in the city. Cozy, beautiful and quintessentially Greek, if you visit Vassilenas, you should try its traditional pie appetizer and its traditional leak-and-celery pork stew -that is, only if you’re ready to have your mind blown!
Hytra is another delectable addition in Athens' fine-dining industry, having developed its gastronomic integrity based on the rich legacy of Greek gastronomy and enhancing it with a contemporary spin that involves modern upscale techniques and presentation. With two separate menus, the 'Hytra' and the 'Hytra Apla' Hytra addresses two different price points that share equal quality and taste. Opt for the 'Beef Hunkiar' with aubergine puree, graviera cheese, and tomato sauce, the 'Pork Fillet with chickpeas cream, pickled cabbage, green apple, and smoked pancetta, or the 'Free-range Rooster' with shimeji mushrooms, chicken liver parfait, and summer savory truffle sauce, and you can thank us later!
Offering upscale gourmet dishes to those who are looking to indulge in a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience, Spondi, located in the hip neighborhood of Pangrati, offers a whole other world of gourmet flavors- one you're allowed to enter only if you're willing to pay an extravagant price that however matches the extravagant offerings. Having received multiple awards and worldwide recognition, as it is a 2-Michelin-Star restaurant and a proud member of Grande Table du Monde, there is no doubt that in Spondi will be a treat for all of your senses. Try the 'Smoked Duck' with red Cabbage, chestnuts, blackcurrant, and Laurel, and the 'Venison' with hibiscus, parsnip, yellow Chanterelle mushrooms, and Malabar pepper and let yourself get mesmerized by the explosion of flavors that will take over your mouth.
Street Food & Bakeries
Greek souvlaki - credits: Dimitris Koskinas/Shutterstock.com
As a cheat meal or a hangover cure after a wild night out, in Greece, we like to think that street food feeds not only the body but the soul as well; something that has been presented in detail on our ultimate guide to Athens street food. In our experience, there are very few people who deny the appeal of street food, and especially Greek street food.
In the case of the beloved souvlaki however, even the most difficult of eaters and the most devoted fans of healthy eating have come around to celebrate the king of Greek street food. The reason is simple: souvlaki is one of the “cleanest” street foods one can have and it can be enjoyed guilt-free. It consists of small pieces of meat -or vegetables if there is a vegetarian option available- enclosed within pita bread, along with tomatoes, onion, french fries and tzatziki, which can sometimes be swapped for some type of sauce. The meat is usually pork or chicken, while beef and lamb may also be used.
Souvlaki is a fundamental component of Athens’s cuisine; it is delicious, it is nutritious and it is cheap, why wouldn’t be? Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the city is awash with souvlaki shops that offer their take on the beloved street food that is a part of the everyday life of locals and travelers alike. Get local insight into the best places to eat souvlaki in Athens to prepare yourself for the explosion of taste you will experience during your stay in the Greek capital. Plot twist: although most people associate street food with lunch or dinner, in Greece we like to get in our calories early! It’s common ground that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and although the excellence of Greek yogurt accompanied by luscious Greek honey is undeniable, and the combination of the most popular Greek products is incredibly nutritious, there are days when you want to ditch the healthy option for some comfort food.
For the locals, those indulgent days include a breakfast consisting of a traditional pastry -usually made with ‘phyllo’ dough- that can be purchased from the neighborhood’s bakery. Ariston, a family-run bakery that was established in 1910 famous for its 'shortcrust pastry cheese pies, Harry's Kitchen, a tiny shop that is a recent addition to the Athens' culinary scene and offers unique homemade pie combination meant to please even the pickiest of eater, and The Pie Shop, the small shop that wows its guests with the quality of its ingredients and its creativity, are some of the best bakeries you can find in downtown Athens that promise to change the way you look at breakfast forever! Whether it is ‘tyropita’ -cheese pie- ‘bougatsa’ -custard pie- or any other filling, such as chocolate, sausage or even minced meat, I can’t imagine trying any of Athens bakeries’ offerings and regretting your choice!
Given that Greece is known across the world for the quality of its locals produce, it is only expected that in its capital city one can find the fresh and delicious products the Greek land has been generously providing its locals with for thousands of years. That’s where Athens’ Central Market and the farmer’s market tradition in Greece, and especially Athens, come out to play. Athens’ Central Market -or Varvakios as the locals call it- is located right in the heart of the city right by the neighborhoods of Monastiraki and Psirri, serving as the beating heart of Athenian gastronomy since its establishment in 1884.
A medley of colors, aromas, and flavors, the impressive wide-ranging market has everything you’re searching for and probably much more. From high-quality meat to fresh fish, locally-grown vegetables and a limitless supply of spices, most of which you’ve never heard before, the central market of Athens can do no wrong. Similarly to Athens’ Central Market but on a much smaller scale, the locals source the raw materials they need for their everyday cooking in their neighborhoods’ farmer’s markets, -or ‘laiki agora’ in Greek- a dearly beloved institution that takes place weekly in all Athenian neighborhoods and has been established since the ancient times.
You can find the days and Athenian neighborhoods the farmers’ market takes place weekly here. If you’re lucky, you might even come across, among the many stalls, one selling meat skewers; don’t even think twice, buy a couple and thank us later.
Don’t fail to explore the food markets of Athens during your stay in the city; just make sure to have small euro notes and change with you and your eyes peeled for the greatest local products in town; your whole outlook on gastronomy is bound to change after getting up close and personal with the raw materials of Greece.
8. Athens’ Nightlife
People dancing at a night club - credits: bbernard-shutterstock.com
Vibrant, lively, exuberant, buoyant; whichever world you want to use to describe it, one thing is for sure; Athens’ nightlife is an integral part of the locals’ life and probably nothing you’ve ever experienced before; what can we say? Greeks like to have a good time! Thankfully, Greeks also like to have options, which translates to Athens’ nightlife scene as well, making it a mixed bag of all sorts of entertainment. As a result, there are 4 main categories in the nightlife destinations depending on your taste and age.
The beloved nightlife staple most cities have an abundance of, the bars of Athens are different from the ones around the world. Here, you can relax and mingle with the locals while tasting incredible alcoholic concoctions that put a modern Greek spin on classic cocktails. The city center is swamped by bars, so finding one that fits your needs won’t be hard; from jazz to rock and everything in between, the diverse side of Athens shows its face once again, providing both the locals and the travelers with endless options to choose from.
As bar enthusiasts ourselves, we have put together not one, not two, but three blog posts in regard to the bars of Athens. Between Athens Nightlife; 5 of Our Favorite Bars, 5&1 Bars in Athens with Hidden Yards, and the Best Wine Bars in Athens, there is absolutely no way you won’t find what you’re after. Drink up me hearties, yo ho!
I don’t know if you’ve heard this before, but Greeks like to dance. A lot. Admittedly, the club is one of the most popular destinations for people who like to unwind and one of the best places to dance in Athens, so it comes as no surprise that most central Athenian neighborhoods have at least one club that people frequent until the early morning hours.
Although there are a few exceptions, as a rule of thumb, the clubs of Athens open their doors at around 12 am with the tunes of R-n-B music blasting from the speakers and close at around 7 pm with Greek pop music helplessly trying to sober the clients up. It is a vibrant, colorful and intense scene that is not designed for the faint-hearted and the total antithesis of what a home-buddy would enjoy. If however socializing is your hobby and dancing feels like second nature, the club scene of Athens will electrify you!
One of our personal favorite nightlife destinations and one we would highly suggest to any visitor looking for genuine local entertainment, are ‘rebetadika’. ‘Rebetadika’ are traditional local taverns that along with delectable dishes of folk cuisine, offer live music of the famous Greek genre of ‘rebetiko’, -hence the name.
The genre of rebetika can be described as the popular urban songs of the Greek public, especially those coming from an economically challenged background, from the late 19th century to the 1950s. It’s important to note that In 2017, rebetiko was added in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists, therefore its cultural importance to modern Greek heritage has been officially verified. Being quintessentially Greek to their very core, ‘rebetadika’ are the perfect opportunity for you to combine traditional Greek flavors with traditional Greeks sounds in an affable environment, surrounded by locals who will delight in sharing their life stories along with useful tips for your stay with you.
If you’re looking for an authentic Greek evening out and you are determined to keep your musical mind open, there is a wide variety of 'rebetadika' in downtown Athens, especially in the fashionable district of Psirri. Stoa Athanaton has been the obvious choice for the locals since its establishment around 30 years ago and continues to be considered one of the best 'rebetadika' in town. The folklore decoration combined with the traditional tunes and the mouthwatering 'meze' dishes that are served makes for a well-rounded, quintessentially Greek adventure that will remain unforgettable to anyone willing to experience it.
Additionally, from 1963 until now Palia Markiza' has been a constant value in the rebetiko and folk scene of Athens. The venue resembles a typical old-time Greek setting, while the live band performs every Friday, Saturday night and Sunday noon, lifting people's spirits with favorite folk and rebetika songs and a menu full of traditional goodies. Just remember that the tunes of rebetiko will probably sound foreign to you, to say the least. Don’t be put off by that; bask in the sheer Greekness of the night, and you’ll have a jolly good time!
Live music stages
Always up for a good party, Greeks love to spend their nights listening to live music at music stages around the city, where the most popular Greek singers and musicians show their artistry in front of an excited crowd. You can find anything from the popular ‘bouzoukia’, meaning music stages that feature Greek pop and modern folk music and typically have a raised stage where the guests dance along with the singers, to rock and alternative rock gigs frequented by die-hard fans. Exploring the live music scene of Athens and enjoying one of the most paramount elements of local culture is key to understanding the Greek way of life.
If we’ve piqued your interest, which we hope we did because it is worth it, no ifs ands or buts about it- you can read about the best places to listen to live music in Athens and plan your nights in Athens accordingly. If, however, nothing from the aforementioned floats your boat, have a read of the top five things to do in Athens at night and maybe you’ll find something that suits you better; you do you!
9. Athens’ Culture
A woman visiting an art gallery - credits: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com
Athens’ abundance in cultural stimuli is truly remarkable and can satisfy the tastes of even the most demanding of travelers from all around the world. From prestigious art galleries to cultural centers, the world of sophistication that unfolds before the visitor’s eyes leaves a lasting impression that can’t be shaken off. And why would anyone want to shake off any Athenian experience? Believe us when we say that one cannot help but fall in love with Athens, no matter what.
Prestigious, fascinating and original galleries are what Athens excels in. From contemporary paintings to unique jewelry and originally-crafted sculptures, art is plentiful in the capital city. In order to make things a whole lotta easier for you, you can read an all-embracing list of the best Art Galleries in Athens that will help you prioritize your stops during your Athens’ visit.
Of course, the most popular, and in our humble opinion most compelling, galleries are the National Glyptotheque and the National Gallery, in which you’ll need to spend a significantly longer time. Don’t worry though, following the guide for a day in the National Glyptotheque and the National Gallery in Athens will make sure you won’t miss a single of their exhibitions that are worth admiring.
If you want to take a long walk amidst luscious greenery while also getting the opportunity to get a hefty dose of Greek culture, then the guide to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) is perfect for you. One of the locals’ favorite destinations in the city, the SNFCC hosts the National Library and the Greek National Opera, as well as an ever-green rooftop park and ground-level sweeping esplanade, where you can enjoy a long leisurely stroll, sip on your favorite beverage, read a book, watch a play and have a ball!
Last but not least, if you’re a fan of cinema and Greek culture, combine the two with a visit to one of the open-air cinemas in Athens; a unique summer experience that will ruin any other cinema experience you’ve ever had or you’ll have in the future. Watching your favorite movie under the summer night sky with a Greek delicacy in hand is pretty hard to beat, don’t you think?
One of the most well-liked open-air cinema is located a little south of Athens’ city center, at the gorgeous, seaside neighborhood of Palaio Faliro, called Cine Flisvos, where you can watch the next blockbuster with the sounds of crashing waves as your background music. Call us biased, but if we can smell salt in the air, we’re happy campers and you will be too!
10. Athens Architecture
The Academy of Athens - credits: lornet/Shutterstock.com
Being as old as it is, Athens’ architecture is intriguing, to say the least, and covers a broad spectrum of styles that have dominated the city over different periods of time. From antiquity until today, Athens has been decorated with buildings that reflect the city’s aesthetic through the ages; it is worth mentioning that today, there are more than 10,500 buildings registered dating from 1830 to World War II, still standing, representing various typologies and aesthetics schools. It is what we would call the unofficial architectural heritage of the capital and it is so diverse, that there is no wonder why it captures the interest of most of its visitors.
From the awe-inspiring Athenian Trilogy: the National Library, the University of Athens and the Academy to the Benizelos Mansion, the oldest house in Athens, the Neoclassical Architecture in Athens is probably the most prominent style you will come across, and admittedly the prettiest one. Neoclassical is the type of architectural and artistic movement that bloomed around the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and elsewhere as an effort to revive the classical forms of Greek antiquity and the subsequent Roman Empire.
In Greece, this type of architecture was very popular in the 19th and early 20th century, with many examples still standing today, such as the numerous neoclassic mansions in Plaka, our Parliament building, which was previously the Royal Palace, the old Parliament House, which is now the National Historical Museum, and the Zappeion Mansion. Read about the top 15 landmark buildings in Athens and admire the designs of Athens’s trademark buildings; good looks are what we’re known for after all!
11. Athens Squares
Syntagma Square - credits: trabantos/Shutterstock.com
En par with the exceptionally good-looking neighborhoods of Athens, there are a number of squares that seem to stand out to the public, becoming popular meeting points and trendy hangout spots for Athens’ residents. Despite being up-to-the-minute, unsurprisingly, Athens’ squares are drenched in history, making it necessary for us to linger to two of the most central and characteristic ones located around the city’s heart.
If you’ve ever been to Athens, it is impossible to have missed the emblematic Syntagma Square, located right at its heart, housing the grandiose building of the Greek Parliament. While it is the second-largest square in Greece, following the Spianada Sq. on Corfu island, it is its compelling history that makes it unique.
After the War of Independence and the establishment of the new Greek State, the newly appointed King of Greece Otto declared Athens as the new capital of Greece. King Otto’s rule, however, was deemed unfair by the Greeks and eventually, the people of Athens questioned his authority and on September 3rd of 1843, they occupied the square, demanding the formation of an official constitution for the country. The civilians succeeded, and Otto gave in; hence the name of the square becoming Syntagma Square, which in English translates to ‘Constitution Square’.
At the center of the square lies a marble fountain in front of the monumental staircase leading to the monument of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a cenotaph that is being guarded constantly by the elite force of the Greek army, the Evzones. The most important buildings surrounding Syntagma Square are Grande Bretagne - the first international hotel of the city - and the former Ministry of Transport, famous for being the place where the liberation of Greece from the Nazi forces in 1944 was announced.
Of course, no guide of Athens can leave out the colorful and historic Monastiraki Square that has been pulsing with life for hundreds of years. Funnily enough, Monastiraki literally translates to ‘little monastery’, with the name being a token left behind from the times when the square was part of a -you guessed it- monastery.
Located at the end of Ermou str. and at the beginning of Pandrosou, Adrianou and Ifestou str., apart from the lively Monastiraki Square Flea Market, which offers the perfect opportunity for souvenir-shopping, Monastiraki Square is also known for its significant monuments. With Hadrian's Library, Pantanassa Church, and Tsisdarakis Mosque, which now hosts the Folk Art Museum, all located only a few meters from each other, it is apparent that one can witness the entire history of Athens when standing at its center.
Don’t skip the chance to taste the kebab souvlaki of Thanasis, on Mitropoleos str., or sip on a cup of traditional Greek coffee on the charming Avissinias Square, the small square in the middle of the flea market; Monastiraki Square is a historical fairy tale waiting to be told!
12. Shopping in Athens
No one is going to blame you, it’s a materialistic world out there and everyone knows it. Therefore, apart from the natural beauty that is lavishly available in Athens and the historic and cultural attractions, its rich retail market is bound to catch your attention, and for good reason: shopping in Athens is a unique experience, especially if you know where to look for the most original local boutiques.
Since we take shopping rather seriously, not as seriously as food but it comes a close second, we have composed a guide to shopping in Athens, and because just one wasn’t enough, a shopaholic’s guide to shopping in Athens for the hardcore, expert shoppers out there that are on a unflinching shopping mission!
Alternatively, if you’re a conscious buyer and ethical shopping is your thing, or you just enjoy scavenging for treasures, you can explore the flea markets and thrift shops in Athens, where a whole world of previously loved pieces are waiting for their new owners.
13. Top Beaches Near Athens
Vouliagmeni beach in Athens - Credits: Jekatarinka/Shutterstock.com
It’s safe to say that on Athens’ pros list, its many golden beaches are high up in the ranking. Although the Greek islands are the ones that get the most praise for their idyllic beaches and crystal-clear waters, and visitors often forget that Athens is indeed a beautiful seaside city, in only a few kilometers away from the city center, one can enjoy some quality beach time and indulge in the swimming and sunbathing they’ve dreamed of. Here you can find the best beaches near Athens and how to get there, so you can have a guideline for the locals’ preferences when it comes to swimming. Once you have your exotic cocktail in hand a beautiful tan on your body, you’ll never doubt the versatility of Athens every again!
14. Athens for Families
Visiting Athens may either be the ultimate romantic getaway, or it could just as well be the perfect family trip to share with your loved ones. With plenty of opportunities for your children to get engaged in local activities that will keep them entertained and happy throughout the trip, visiting Athens with kids shouldn’t intimidate you. The vast history of the region alone offers the greatest stimuli to your kids’ imagination, occupying them for hours on end. Combine that with the rich and intricate tales of Greek Mythology you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself into, and you’ll have a winning combination no child will be able to resist.
Greek Mythology is one of the integral elements you’ll also come across during your visit to the archaeological site of Athens, saving the day when your kids get bored and fussy. Visiting the Acropolis with kids in particular, despite the hike up the hill and the flood of information you’ll have to overcome, can prove to be one of the most joyful family moments on your holidays. You can also combine your visit to the emblematic archeological site with a vibrant narration of Percy Jackson’s accomplishments, as the Parthenon is one of the 7 places in Greece to live a Percy Jackson adventure!
Now you can retrace the steps of the beloved fictional character that kids from all around the world worship, and keep your little ones occupied and happy! In any case, when visiting the sacred rock, make sure to have a couple of things in mind: due to the extremely hot weather, especially during the summer months, don’t forget to bring your hats, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen, while also dressing comfortably and lightly. What’s more, albeit you should pack light, we highly suggest you carry water and snacks with you, as hungry and thirsty kids tend to be not the greatest of sports.
If you’re traveling with a toddler or a baby, please make sure to bring a baby sling, as the sacred hill isn’t stroller-friendly. Last but not least, don’t forget your camera! You’ll want to capture those family moments that you will treasure when your kids are too cool to join the family exploits!
15. Athens’ Neighborhoods
An overview of central Athens from Monastiraki Square - credits: anshar/Depositphotos.com
Walking around the city and exploring its different neighborhoods is the most efficient way of getting to know the region and the greatest way to get an insight into the locals’ everyday life. Although we’ve talked before about the top 3 local Athenian neighborhoods you must visit and have even gone as far as to give you a guide to Athens’ Riviera, the southern Athenian paradise, we can’t omit to mention our most favorite neighborhoods in the city from this all-inclusive guide, so here you go:
The oldest neighborhood in Athens stretches across the northern slopes of the Acropolis and is known for its old-time charm, and distinctive aesthetic. Plaka is indeed a sight to be seen, with its quaint streets and many traditional cafes and taverns giving the visitors the opportunity to travel back in a time of glamor and finesse.
The area where Plaka lies now used to be the core part of the ancient city of Athens, and although through the years the region has undergone numerous invasions, wars, and destructions, its allure has survived to this day. Within the premises of Plaka, one can find the striking district of Anafiotika, which sports a one-of-a-kind architectural querk: it is built in the exact same style of a Cycladic island, with whitewashed houses decorated by deep blue doors and windows dominating the scene.
The district owes its unconventional architecture to a small group of builders from the Cycladic island of Anafi, who arrived in Athens during the 19th century to help with the reconstruction of the city. Fueled by nostalgia, the builders set up their homes to resemble the ones they’d left behind, and chose the slopes of the Acropolis to do so; they even restored the area's two churches, the Church of Saint Simeon and the Church of Saint George of the Rocks, which, as its name implies, it is made entirely out of rocks from the hill of the Acropolis!
If you want to find out more about this enticing spot of Athens, make sure to read Anafiotika; a Hidden Island in the Heart of Athens and plan a visit as soon as you can!
You can try really hard, but there is a fat chance you’ll be able to resist the trendsetting neighborhood of Psirri and its incomparably cheerful vibe. Psirri represents an alternative side of Athens, one that is reserved only for the knowledgable visitors and the locals of the city. Here, the artistry of the locals prevails, resulting in breathtaking examples of original streets art, carefully-designed cafes, cozy taverns, and eccentric bars that address a crowd that prefers an offbeat scene that will uncover local treasures.
From jazz to rebetiko music, from savory ‘meze’ to luscious desserts, and from cocktails to traditional 'ouzo', Psirri is brilliant in its diversity, catering to all tastes and preferences. During your stay in Athens, design your itinerary to allow for some time for you to wander around Psirri’s fashionable streets; it’s worth your time and it will award you with the freedom to observe the authentic way of Athenian living. Even better, take advantage of one of Athens’ many sunny days to go on a walk around both Plaka and Psirri, and compare the contrasting faces of Athens!
Bordering with the historic old town of Athens, right next to the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum and the scenic Makrigianni street, Koukaki is in recent years one of the trendiest hotspots of the town where locals meet for either delicious brunch or drinks -or both- on a daily basis.
The appeal of the Koukaki lies in the urban backdrop of the neighborhood that holds an ‘80s vibe, and therefore unique sentimental value to the local Athenians. Lying between the 'Acropolis' and 'Syngrou Fix' metro station, Koukaki, although not situated at the very center of Athens, is incredibly easy to access, so you have no excuse to overlook and let the reputation of other neighborhoods overshadow it.
A local’s guide to Koukaki in Athens will provide you with all the information you need to make the most out of your visit to this beloved part of the city, including the best places to eat, drink and party at night; Koukaki is exceptional during all times of the day!
Definitely the less-talked-about neighborhood of the bunch, Petralona’s crowd tends to consist more of locals rather than visitors, which is exactly the reason why you should include it in your agenda! Petralona’s funny name is an indication of the regions’ past when the area used to consist of fields -’alonia’- filled with rocks -‘petres’- that were created when the rough terrain was normalized.
When browsing the streets of Petralona you will soon realize that it is full of excellent culinary havens, where you can enjoy a wide spectrum of flavors ranging from Greek recipes rooted deeply into the regional culture, and cups of traditional Greek coffee alongside luscious local deserts, to high-quality sushi and other perfectly-executed international dishes. Petralona is also a favored district in Athens nightlife scene, where people gather to sip on delicious wine and uncommon cocktails.
Apart from being a place of socializing, Petralona is an excellent choice for accommodation, as despite being in very close proximity to the city center, it manages to be a lot less crowded and overwhelming. If you like the sound of it, then a local’s guide to Petralona will give you a closer inspection of this bohemian neighborhood and will inform you of the must-visit spots that will brighten up your days in the city!
Posh, expensive, but nonetheless luxurious and stylish, Kolonaki, the neighborhood of the Athenian aristocracy, is one of the most momentous neighborhoods of Athens, stretching across a huge area, from Syntagma Square and Vasilissis Sofias Avenue to the edges of Lycabettus Hill.
In Greek, Kolonaki translates to 'little column', referencing the little ancient column that can be still found right in the middle of its central square. In modern days, at the hand of its strategic location close to the building of the Greek parliament, Kolonaki is known for hosting leading Greek figures who either reside in it or choose it for a cup of coffee or a drink after work. Being one of the most luxurious Athenian neighborhoods, Kolonaki also offers an impressive shopping market, full of high-end name brands both international and local; most of the Greek fashion designers choose Kolonaki for their showroom because of its reputation.
Beyond its shopping scene, in Kolonaki, you can also find many cafés, bistros, bars, and restaurants that promise to offer top-quality culinary experiences. We know what you’re thinking, ‘with wealth comes pretense’, however, that is not always the case with Kolonaki. Yes, you can find places that sell a finger-sized portion of meat for €25, however, you can also find gastronomic treasures that offer value for money; depending on your budget and preference, we highly suggest you make your research before visiting Kolonaki!
16. Parks and Hills of Athens
The National Garden - credits: Anastasios71/Shutterstock.com
Although the presence of concrete is unmistakable, as expected from a capital city, right in the heart of Athens lie some nature retreats, where you can escape the hustle and bustle and recharge your batteries. Whether you want to enjoy a luscious picnic, get introduced to the Greek flora and fauna or you just want to take a leisurely walk in search of some peace of mind, Athens will not disappoint you!
Find out about the top 3 green corners for a picnic in Athens and the 3 parks in Athens you should visit and escape the concrete jungle where dreams are made of in a matter of minutes! Of course, if you thought we’d leave that here and not tell you about the places where we like to go when we need a break from the hectic city life, you thought wrong! Here are our top picks regarding the luscious greenery of Athens:
The National Garden
Visiting the lush National Garden, a true oasis in the heart of cement city, with its tree-lined alleys, its 6 ponds, and its pets and birds, is grants a great escape from the hectic city pace and the perfect opportunity for relaxation and recreation. The Athens National Garden, known for many years as the 'Royal Garden', open every day from sunrise to sunset, was and remains one of the favorite walks of the Athenians.
However, many visitors are unaware of the garden's value both in the field of botany and archeology. It has been designated by the International Commission on Historic Gardens and Landscapes as a rare example of 19th-century landscape architecture and Europe's cultural monument.
The history of the garden goes back to ancient Greece when it was a private garden - a gift of Dimitrios Falireas to his teacher philosopher and herbalist Theophrastus. The National Garden, stretching across 154,000m², began to take its present form during the reign of Otto, being the work of Queen Amalia, known for her love for the land and her effort to create beautiful green spaces in the Athens. From 1839 plants began to be imported mainly from abroad since Greeceas queen Amalia wanted the garden to have an "exotic" vibe.
The National Garden was initially only open to the public only a few days a year when the royal couple was not in Greece. After Otto's eviction, George I took care of the Garden and established a small zoo within its premises. In 1927 its wooden fence was replaced by the iron railings and marble pillars that exist to this day. The 'Royal Garden' was renamed to 'National Garden' in 1974.
The garden has a total of seven entrances with the main one on Amalias Avenue. Walking through the intricate alleyways, which are 7 km long and 3-5 meters wide, the visitor gets lost in the vegetation that consists of 500 species of plants. In addition to the famous ponds, the National Garden has pergolas with benches, a playground, a small collection of birds (ducks, geese, ducks, hens, hens goats), as well as many decorative elements such as statues of leading Greeks figures that have been crafted by famous Greek artists.
Within the National Garden, one can also come across Athens Children's Library, founded in 1984, the Botanical Museum, and a greenhouse, among others. Plan a leisurely walk across the luscious Athenian gardens and you won't regret it; whether it is relaxation, reading, physical exercise or even sunbathing you're after, the National Garden will become your favorite spot of the city!
A treat to the romantics among us, Lycabettus Hill is one of the most dreamy places in Athens that no one -yes, even you cynics out there- should miss. With a height that reaches 277 meters (745 ft), Lycabettus is the tallest hill in the capital, offering a panoramic view of roughly the entire city that stretches for miles in a wide mesa surrounded by high mountains and the sea.
In antiquity, regardless of the fact that Lycabettus Hill was larger and higher, its lack of natural springs sealed its fate as inferior to the neighboring hill of the Acropolis resulting in remaining unoccupied. However, Lycabettus’ mystifying entice created a world of myths around its creation. According to the most popular one, the hill of Lycabettus was formed after the goddess Athena dropped a rock she was carrying.
During medieval times, a small church was built on the top of the hill on the grounds of an ancient shrine, which the visitors of the hill can still admire. Today, perched on the top of the hill, you can also find a luxurious bar/restaurant in which you can enjoy both local delicacies and a striking view that will leave you speechless. Accessing the Lycabettus Hill rather easy: you can either drive up to a point and continue on foot or you can opt for a cable car that is available at the end of Plutarch Street, which is probably the best favorite way, as the ascend is both fun and quick. If you are a lover of nature and spine-tingling views, Lycabettus Hill will tick all of your boxes!
Now, we know that this is considered cheating since we’re including three hills in one mention, however, we can’t pick between my favorites and anyway, all hills are so close to one another that you can plan a trip to all of them in the same day without a problem!
The winning trifecta of hills in question? Pnyka hill, Areopagus (Mars Hill) and Philopappou hill, the three hills that served as protection to the ancient citable of Athens due to their strategic location. Each of the hills has been linked to tales of Greek Mythology since ancient times, gaining a place in the Athenians’ hearts who never tire hearing about stories of an intriguing past. Pnyx was the meeting place of all Athenians gathering to hold their assemblies, vote and speak their mind and has become one of the most important symbols of democracy.
Areopagus (Mars Hill), was named after the god of war, Ares and is believed to have hosted the trial of Ares, conducted by the rest of the Olympian gods, for the murder of Alirrothios. Last in order but not of importance, Philopappos hill took its current name after Philopappos, a Syrian consul who lived in Athens and was beloved by the locals who built a mausoleum on the top of the hill to honor his memory. Enjoy a scenic walk around the lusciously vegetated hills of the Acropolis and learn all about their history and the legends they have inspired; the experience will be transcendental, to say the least!
17. Beyond Athens
Cape Sounio - Credits: Aerial motion/Shutterstock.com
Within a 1,5 of hours’ drive along the delightful coastline of Athens’ Riviera, lies another impressive archaeological site of Athens, that apart from its historic interest, also possesses an unrivaled beauty resulting from the triumphant combination of the ancient columns against the deep-blue waters of the Aegean Sea.
The Doric Temple of Poseidon stands perched on top of a cliff overlooking the crystal-clear waters and giving Sounio’s visitors a sight to behold. Giving off an island life ambiance despite being 70 km from Athens’ city center, everyone should take their sunglasses, camera, and high spirits, and visit the southernmost point of Athens that is easily accessible while being utterly breathtaking. Apart from enjoying the archaeological ruins, Sounio’s many inviting beaches are perfect for a quick swim.
Plan your trip to Sounio in the afternoon to catch its magnificent, and much talked about, sunset, and enjoy an atmospheric dinner in one of its seaside taverns; whatever you choose to do, a wonderful time is guaranteed.
A little more than an hour away from Athens -or 40 minutes if you opt for the speed boat- you will find the island of Aegina, an island that compensates its small size with its vast history and good looks. The city of Aegina is dominated by buildings that follow the 19th-century architecture, giving the island a vintage vibe everyone loves.
Embrace the heritage of the island by paying a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Kolonna, or taking a trip to the historic Temple of Aphaea. Enjoy the stunning beaches of the island by swimming in Agia Marina, the blue flag awarded beach on the island. Take a scenic stroll throughout the length of the picturesque port and gobble down fresh fish and seafood on the welcoming seaside tavernas. We promise it will be a day you’ll never forget!
10 minutes away from the island of Aegina and around 1,5 hours away from the port of Piraeus, Agistri is another gem of the Saronic Gulf, wonderfully picturesque and significantly smaller than its neighboring islands. Its lush landscape that is dominated by dense pine forests and crystal clear waters have placed the small island very near and dear to the Athenians’ hearts, who visit the island at every opportunity. During antiquity, the island was known as Cecryphaleia, with many of its ancient settlements now lying underwater, mostly at the western part of the island.
A must-see attraction of the island is the Folk Art Museum at Megalochori, a small museum that will transport you back in time and introduce you to the past every-day life of Agistri islanders. Don’t hesitate to plan a quick trip to Agistri to experience for yourself the laid-back life of a Greek island without having to spend too many hours on a boat!
Last but definitely not least, the islands of Spetses is without a doubt the most picturesque of the bunch, and probably of most Greek islands, looking like it has come straight out of a fairytale. Spetses is a combination of revolution and tradition sprinkled with great cuisine and spirited nightlife. It is classy, it is sassy and it makes you fall in love with it right from the get-go. One of its additional perks? Cars are not allowed on the island, meaning that it is always quiet and peaceful, following a slowed-down pace most of us beg for.
If you explore the Greek islands that are one hour away from Athens, or even a bot longer, and you’ll soon realize that their proximity to the city doesn’t take away from their beauty; on the contrary, its adds to it the element of convenience and ease, exactly what people look for during their holidays!
18. Day Trips From Athens
The Archaeological Site of Delphi - credits: peterlazzarino/Shutterstock.com
If you want to broaden your horizons without getting too far away from Athens, there are a number of options for a day trip from the city you should consider.
From Athens to Delphi
The site of Delphi was the most famous and notable oracle during antiquity. Praised on a worldwide level, visitors from across the globe used to come seeking for the prophecies of God Apollo. Traditionally, the only person allowed to enter the sacred chamber of Apollo’s temple was his high priestess, Pythia.
Sitting on a golden tripod covered with the skin of Python, Pythia inhaled the fumes coming out from the chasm and chewed laurel leaves while giving out prophecies that were believed to come straight from the god’s mouth.
Take the approximately 2-hour drive to marvel at the archaeological site of Delphi and immerse yourself into the ancient Greek spiritualism. Since your trip to this transcendental destination will not only be entertaining but educational as well, check out the things you’ll learn on a day-trip to Delphi. The captivating stories you will hear along with the striking landscapes you’ll get to enjoy will make your day-trip an utter success!
From Athens to Nafplio
At the shores of the Argolic Gulf in the located in the striking peninsula of the Peloponnese and only a couple of hours away from Athens, you can find one of the most whimsical and romantic cities of Athens, Nafplio. The city of Nafplio, much like every corner of Greece, has a far-reaching past that is evident in its architecture.
Fun fact: Nafplio was the first capital of the modern Greek state and the place where the murder of Ioannis Kapodistrias, a Greek statesman who served as the Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire and was one of the most distinguished politicians and diplomats of Europe, took place Its charm, however, doesn’t derive only from its heritage. The city of Nafplio harmoniously combines its history, with a flawless urban aesthetic, incredible beaches, and an intense cultural agenda that keeps its visitors on their toes. Here’s a short traveler’s guide to Nafplio to make your day-trip a smooth sail!
From Athens to Ancient Corinth
With an impressive history that dates back to almost 8000 years, it stands to reason that the region of Corinth has played an integral part in the history and development of not only Greece but the whole entire world as well. From hosting one of the most significant sports festivals during antiquity to becoming a founding city of Christianity, Corinth has changed the world as we know it. 80 km. southwest of Athens, Corinth is the only county bordering with the region of Attica and is therefore perfect for short excursions from Athens.
Due to the magnificent waters of its sea and its small, scenic villages, such as Vrachati, Kiato, Derveni, among others, it also offers an ideal setting for your summer vacations and a great alternative to the Greek island. Of course, when talking about Corinth one cannot leave out the archaeological site of Ancient Corinth, where the famous Temple of Apollo, the mythical Fountain of Glaucus, the street of Lechaio, the Asklepieion, the ruins of the theater and the conservatory, as well as the remains of a series of fountains adorning the city, are waiting to be explored. Just 3km from Ancient Corinth, Acrocorinth, the oldest castle in the Peloponnese, is built 575 meters above the ground, providing its visitors with a mind-blowing view of the prefecture.
Don’t wait any longer: plan your trip to Corinth and stop to snap Instagram-worthy pictures of the impressive Corinth Canal on your way to the city. A comprehensive guide to Corinth will ensure your life will be made a lot easier during your short time there; enjoy!
From Athens to Meteora
Often described as ‘the place between heaven and earth’, Meteora is one of the most awe-inspiring regions of Greece despite being far away from the sea. Located in the region of Thessaly, Meteora is a place that calls for isolation, seclusion, and spiritual wondering. The region is famous for its steep rock formations that hold no resemblance to any landscape around the world, on the tops of which some of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world are still perched.
The geological miracle of Meteora is located in the northern part of the region of Trikala, nearby the modern city of Kalambaka and it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; a visit to the otherworldy land will help you realize the reason why in a matter of minutes! Here is how to spend one day in Meteora without leaving anything out of your radar; this magical place is bound to steal your heart.
From Athens to Mycenae
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mycenae occupies the hillsides of Peloponnese close to the modern town of Argos. It is the city that named a whole civilization after itself, something which is indicative not only of its great importance to the then known Greek world during the ancient times but also of its old age; it is known that the excavations that have taken place on the region of Mycenae have unveiled monuments so old that even ancient Greeks considered them ruins of antiquity.
Erected on a naturally guarded and reinforced location, upon your arrival to the historic region you can’t help but notice the Acropolis of Mycenae standing tall. Immerse yourself into the history and natural beauty of the region and get to know the birthplace of Agamemnon; it is no coincidence that Mycenae served as one of the biggest sources of inspiration for Homer!
From Athens to Epidaurus
Νοt to toot our own trumpet, but Greece is full of places that have earned a spot in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list and the Theater of Epidaurus is one of them. Located in the beloved region of the Peloponnese within a couple of hours distance from Athens, the short drive to Epidaurus will reward you with a luscious natural landscape and an archaeological site that exceeds the expectations of even the most demanding of travelers.
The open theater of Epidaurus is said to be the best-preserved in all of Greece, maintaining its glamor up to this day and making the whole region a must-visit destination for Athens’ visitors, who can even enjoy a modern play on its ground if the plan their visit to coincide with the annual Athens and Epidaurus Festival that takes place during the summertime. The theater is popular for its unmatched acoustics that is attributed to the architecture and the materials used for its construction.
As a result, you can hear a pin drop at the exact same volume no matter where you sit, elevating your theater experience to another level. There is no doubt about it: Epidaurus is a modern miracle and all lovers of theater and culture should hurry to it!
From Athens to Nemea
Known for its superb wine production that has its locals engaged with the -almost sacred- process of winemaking in Greece since the days of yore, Nemea lies on the border with the prefecture of Argolis and is surrounded by countless vineyards.
Apart from the many indigenous wine varieties, you must make a point to try, there are archaeological monuments that are also worth your time, such as the Temple of Jupiter, the baths and the Nemea Stadium. Most people, however, are familiar with Nemea -even if it’s just its name they’re familiar with- from the famous tale of Greek Mythology regarding the labors of Hercules, and in particular, the killing of the Nemean lion. If you’re an admirer of history, wine and all things nice, we highly suggest you pay a visit to this brilliant part of Greece that is conveniently close to Athens. Check out the top things to do in Nemea and make the most out of your day-trip!
19. Athens’ Itineraries
If you want a complete and specific day-by-day guide on how to spend your days in Athens, we’ have everything under control as I have designed the ultimate guidebooks for your stay in the historic capital:
- How to spend 1 day in Athens
- How to spend 2 days in Athens
- How to spend 3 days in Athens
- A day in the life of a local Athenian
- Athens on a rainy day
20. Local Tips and Tricks
A couple walking on the streets of Athens - credits: Milan Gonda/Shutterstock.com
Even though this guide is already as long as your arm, we still have some tricks up our sleeve in the form of local tips and tricks that will help you enhance your overall Athens experience; after all, a local’s perspective to Athens is always valuable! Learn about the things you should avoid and the things you should seek during your stay by reading the top 5 tips for your city break to Athens and get around the top 5 top-secret locations in Athens that get overlooked by the common traveler but are a treasure to the locals.
If you want ideas on how to spend your days in the city, you can check out the 50 things to do in Athens. Alternatively, if you’re searching for offbeat, unique experiences in the city, you can educate yourself on the cool things to do in Athens, as well as the best non-touristy things to do in Athens. As you probably already know, visiting Athens in the summer is the place to be!
Therefore, whether you are visiting Athens as a couple and you want to plan the ultimate escapade or you’re visiting Athens on a cruise and need more information that will help you make educated decisions on your time in our country, look no further!
21. More Reasons to Visit Athens
If you’re that much of a doubting Thomas and need even more reasons to visit Athens, we’re happy to report that we still have multiple fail-safe get out of jail free cards for you. Reading why Athens deserves more of your time or why Athens is the ideal city break destination, will give you an even better overview of the wide selection of opportunities for entertainment, education, and relaxation you while staying in the exhilarating and intoxicating city of Athens.
Moreover, If you’re a bride or a groom-to-be, you can get inspired by some of the best ideas for your bachelor and bachelorette getaway in Athens that will help you live up the last days of your life as a single! Just as importantly, if you’re considering visiting Athens on a business trip and you’re looking for the best team building activities in Athens, you’re in it to win with suggestions that will impress your colleagues!
And voila, there you have it: the ultimate guide to Athens that will make you feel cooler than the other side of the pillow and will help you get around the city with ease, competence, and confidence. Athens is truly one of the greatest destinations around the world, and although the Greek islands get most of the hype, the capital city is just as gorgeous and fascinating, while also being diverse, vibrant and fabulously welcoming!
We hope you’ll get to find out the beauties of Athens for yourself as soon as possible!
Planning your trip to Greece? Get in touch with our travel specialists and design your tailor-made vacation plan!