On my first trip to Athens in August 2008, we only had a couple days on the way to Santorini. Additionally, it was very hot and dusty so we climbed up to see the Parthenon but other than that we were trying to keep cool. However, on the way to Georgia and from Armenia in April, I decided to travel to Athens again, or rather through it. The flight timings were strange, in the middle of the night, so I had two full days there but I was very tired both times. Of course, one of the most iconic sites to visit is the Acropolis. In addition to the beautiful Parthenon, there are other ancient structures to see, as well as a 360-degree view around the city. One of my favourites is the Temple of Nike Athena with its caryatids.
This time, since I arrived early in the morning, I made it for the daily open running time at the Olympic Stadium I was one of only three people to show up to run laps. After running, I went through the tunnels and climbed into the stands. It was peaceful and amazing, and I felt like I was living history.
Locals will tell you that some areas are a bit dangerous, and I tend to listen to them especially at night. You’ll need to beware of pickpockets in crowded areas. However, don’t miss the interesting markets like Monastiraki and Plaka. And, you’ll find some excellent local food, wine and beer.
- Acropolis, Parthenon and all of the surrounding temples
- Areopagus Hill – a fun and short climb with a great view of the Acropolis
- Acropolis Museum
- Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Odeon of Herodes Atticus
- Panathenaic Stadium– go running there!
- Holy Church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary – Panagia Kapnikarea
- Archaeological Site of Kerameikos
- Benaki Museum– contemporary architecture
- Monastiraki Square and Flea Market
- Adrianoy cafes below Roman ruins
- Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Museum
- Hike up to Areopagus Hill
- Acropolis Museum
- Plaka Market
- National Garden
- Kolonaki for shopping
- Lycabettus Hill a nice hike with beautiful views
- Saint Isidore Church Lycabettus Hill
- Ancient Agora of Athens
- Roman Forum of Athens (Roman Agora)
- Holy Metropolitan Church of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary
- Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Gorgoepikoos and Saint Eleutherius
- National Gallery
Before you go
- Athens is the capital of Greece
- If you plan to visit the Acropolis, then buy a ticket in advance online to save time. Also for other attractions. Summer season tickets are twice as expensive as winter tickets
- At the Panathenaic stadium, you can run around the track and even stand on a podium
- There is baggage storage by Care4Bag at the airport
- Beware of pickpockets especially in crowded areas
- The main religion is Christian Orthodox. Easter is therefore following the Orthodox tradition
- Although the native language is Greek, most people in the capital speak English
- Weather is very hot in the summer, and I would describe the air as dusty. Best times to visit are probably spring and autumn. Winter isn’t too cold but can be rainy
- Allow plenty of time to go through customs. I was visiting on stopovers and it took over an hour each time
- Massages were very reasonable and I had a great one at Salon De Massage Deluxe
- Tipping is optional but has come to be expected by tourists, so 10-15% is average
- Many shops in the non-tourist areas are closed on Sundays
- The Athens International airport has arrivals from many different cities including London
- Metro Line 3 connects the airport to Athens city centre (Syntagma Square). The journey time is approximately 40 minutes
- The Port of Piraeus is where a lot of ferries to the islands depart from
- Athens is quite large so you can walk a lot and also take the metro
Snacks and Cafes
There are so many amazing cafes, fast food, gelato and snack places throughout Athens. There are a few favourites and recommendations from local friends.
JUST MADE 33 Unique Sandwiches & Coffee is a cute local cafe. It serves coffee and juice, and generally has healthy food. Their sandwiches and salads were delicious and fresh. And sitting outside was relaxing and fun.
O Thanasis is a popular and bustling kebab shop in Monastiraki. It is very reasonable and worth it! You order and pay first then give your ticket to the chefs. In addition to the kebabs, the oregano fries are yummy.
For a sweet snack, there are many gelato places to choose from. I had some from DaVinci Gelato and would recommend it. There are a few branches around the city.
Falafellas serves falafel as the name suggests. It is a small place that does takeaway if you want a quick snack.
While I was walking on Easter Saturday, a lot of places were closed so I was happy to find SOLO 48 was open. It is a very small, friendly cafe tucked away on a side street in the Dexameni area.
Juice Bar by APIVITA Kolonaki is a small juice bar with a good selection of healthy juices. It’s a bit hidden inside Apivita so go upstairs.
Since it was Easter, I enjoyed a delicious roast lamn lunch at Athinaikon Restaurant. At that time, it seemed most restaurants that were open were serving lamb. The service was very friendly and the ambience is classy and relaxing.
My Greek friend recommended Tzitzikas kai Mermigas, but unfortunately it was closed when I visited. The menu looks great and I will definitely try it next time.
Mitropolitikon has a wonderful selection of traditional baklava. I also tried their pistachio marzipan which was amazing, the perfect combination of sweet and nutty.
Visit Ζαχαροπλαστείο (MAKARON) Lonis for the Greek version of macarons.
CHOUREAL has beautiful and delicious choux and profiterole pastries. Not Greek but still tasty!
six d.o.g.s is a cool brewery which has a big garden. I had a yummy Cognac and pear cocktail while enjoying the cool and buzzy atmosphere outside.
There are many other bars around but it’s the only once I can remember…
Q: Do I need a tour guide?
A: No, the main places of interest are easy to find
Q: Do people speak English?
A: Most people speak English. However, the alphabet is Greek so you may want to have GoogleTranslate available to read signs.
Q: Is it a walkable city?
A: Yes if you are okay walking quite a lot, including up and down hills and stairs.
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