Athens had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Meandering through ancient ruins, surrounded by tales and mythologies of a city that shaped Western civilization, has always been a fantasy of mine. So, it was with the utmost excitement I stepped foot in Athens and unsurprisingly fell in love with it. There’s history, magic, and beauty in every corner and I can’t wait to share it all in this highly curated Athens travel guide.
I must start by saying that to my surprise, Athens is far from being just an ancient relic. It’s a highly cosmopolitan, vibrant, charming, and authentic town. A city that goes beyond its historical legacy and blends history and modernity like few others. If you’re looking for inspiration and tips on how to plan a trip to Athens, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, you’ll find the inspiration and tips you need to plan an epic trip. Use the index below and let’s dive into this magnificent city!
- Athens at a glance
- Best time to visit Athens
- How long to stay in Athens
- Practical travel tips
- What to do in Athens
- Where to stay in Athens
- How to get around Athens
- How to get to Athens
- How to get to Athens from the airport
- How to get to Athens from Piraeus Port
- What and where to eat in Athens
- How much does a trip to Athens cost
- How to pack for Athens
Athens at a glance
Athen, the capital of Greece, is one of the oldest and most remarkable cities in the world. It was named after Athena, the mythological goddess of wisdom, justice, and war. And initially established around the Acropolis area, in the south of mainland Greece.
In ancient times, Athenas was recognized as an independent city-state, just like Sparta and Corinth. Renowned far and wide, it was regarded as the world’s capital of culture, philosophy, science, and politics.
The city was home to Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum, as well as other important economic and political forums. These establishments lived on to influence the Roman Empire and shape society as we know it today. It’s just amazing to think how much Athens has shaped the course of history!
Athens was also the first city to host the modern-day Olympics in 1896 and remains the economical and political center of Greece up to date. Most travelers visit it on a quick pit-stop before heading to the marvelous Greek Islands, but that’s not something I’d recommend. This city is a classic and requires at least 2 full days to be well explored, so make sure to plan accordingly. I can guarantee you won’t regret it!
Find all travel guides about Greece here. And get the inspiration you need to book your dream trip!
Best time to visit Athens
The best time to visit Athens is the end of spring (May to June) or late summer to mid-fall (September to October). The crowds are fewer and the rates lower compared to peak summer. Plus, temperatures are much more enjoyable than the 40°C+ during July and August. Some of these months par perfectly with a visit to the Greek Islands and we can say they cater for a complete Greek package.
As the warmest capital in Europe, Athens is a year-round destination. During summers, Athens gets really hot and busy. As these are top months for island-hoppers visitors. Although cooler, winters can be rainy, chilly, and even snowy some years. Here’s a month-by-month analysis to help you assess the best time to travel according to your interests.
How long to stay in Athens
Wondering how many days do you need in Athens? I’d say 3 days are ideal, 2 days are enough and 1 day is way too short. That’s considering you are interested in going beyond the most obvious tourist sites, and exploring the various facets of Athens.
However, if your main focus is to spend time on the Greek Islands and want to use Athens only as a jumping point to your island-hopping adventure, you should be able to cover the city’s “must-dos” in a day if you plan wisely.
Practical travel tips
Is Athens safe? The tourist center of Athens is quite safe and crime rates are very low. However, as for most capitals in the world, you should always be aware of pickpockets in crowded areas and subways and never leave your belongings unattended.
What currency can I use in Athens? Greece is part of the European Union and has Euros as its official currency. Credit cards are widely accepted not only in Athens but also in the Greek Islands.
Do I need travel insurance to visit Athens? Not all travelers are required to have a travel insurance policy to enter the European Union. However, it’s always worth traveling protected against unforeseen complications, especially in pandemic times. You may get your travel insurance here!
What to do in Athens
There’s a lot to do in Athens, from visiting ancient ruins to chilling in trendy cafes. If you’re willing to go beyond the traditional touristic sites, you’ll meet the diverse, vibrant, and modern facet of the city. Which is as delightful as the mainstream one, or even more!
Here you’ll find the most comprehensive guide of the best things to do in Athens. Including 2 and 3 days itinerary suggestions. Check the article before scrolling any further!
Where to stay in Athens
Greece stands out as one of Europe’s most value-for-money travel destinations. Here, luxury doesn’t necessarily come with an exorbitant price tag. Especially in Athens, where indulging in upscale accommodations won’t break the bank. The city offers a delightful array of charming and reasonably priced lodging options.
There is no shortage of amazing accommodation in Athens and I’ve prepared a list of the best options. It’s based on the best areas to stay in Athens and in different budget categories. But before we explore the list, I’d like to tell you about the best areas to stay in Athens.
What are the best area to stay in Athens?
- Plaka, Monastiraki, and Makrygianni are the best areas to stay in Athens due to the proximity to touristic sites and overall charm levels. These are the most tourist-friendly neighborhoods in the city and boast pedestrian-only streets. As well as a plethora of restaurants, cafes, and bars, and cool stores.
- Syntagma, Koukaki, Kolonaki, and Psirri are also great places to stay in Athens. These are calmer and more authentic areas in the city. Where you’ll find good deals in accommodations, such as our Airbnb, and interesting restaurants!
Best hotels in Athens
Best hotels in Athens listed in different budget categories
If you prefer to look for other options besides the ones above, you can check with Booking.com. When book through our links, we may earn a small commission. You don’t pay extra for this, so it’s a win-win! 🙂
You can also find many charming and cozy apartments and villas on Airbnb and Vrbo, so I would advise you to check these platforms as well.
How to get around Athens
The main tourist sites in Athens are concentrated in the city center, more specifically around the Acropolis area. This region can be easily explored on foot, but public transportation can come in handy in some circumstances. Cars, on the other hand, are not advisable for your stay in Athens!
Subways are usually the fastest and most reliable way to get around Athens, but there’re also buses and trams. Single tickets cost 1,20€ for 90 minutes and include all types of transportation. You can opt to buy a daily pass for 4,10€, a 5-day pass for 8,20€, or a 3-day tourist pass including round-trip tickets to the airport + unlimited rides in the city for 20€. Considering the subway to and from the airport costs 9€ each way, the 3-days pass is definitely a good deal. It also includes the ride on the bus X80 bus that takes you to Piraeus Port. Check update prices here!
During our stay in Athens, we rode in taxis a few times, booking through the Uber app. Fares were reasonable and compensated when we were too tired to walk back to our Airbnb. Within the touristic perimeter, rides will cost between 4 to 8 € if you use the app and probably a bit more if you use the taximeter.
A super practical alternative is to buy a hop-on-hop-off ticket that includes not only Athens main attraction, but also seaside excursions
How to get to Athens
In most cases, the fastest, most practical, and cheapest way to travel to Athens is by plane. The modern airport Eleftherios Venizelos serves flights to and from Greece operated by several airlines and with various destinations. And it is located less than 30km from the city center.
There are many flights routes to Athens, including some non-stop journeys.
- From Europe, a flight from most of the western capitals to Athens will take between 2 to 4 hours
- From North America, a direct flight will take between 8 to 10 hours and depart from New York, Boston, Chicago, Montreal, Philadelphia, and Toronto.
- If you’re traveling from the Middle East, it’s possible to get to Athens in less than 6 hours departing from Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
- From Asia, it’s possible to reach Athens with an 11 to 12 hours direct flight departing from Singapore or Beijing.
It’s also possible to arrive in Athens by sea, with a trans-Atlantic or Mediterranean cruise. Or even by car, coming from the neighboring countries such as Italy, Albania, North Macedonia, etc. Buses and trains are not popular ways to get to Athens, as connections and services are scarce.
Once you arrive in Athens, you can choose to explore the city for a few days or head directly to the Greek Islands. Depending on the island of your choice, you can either rent a car, drive and then take a ferry from one of mainland ports, fly to the island directly, or take a ferry from the Piraeus Port, the closest to Athens.
How to get to Athens from the airport
To reach the heart of Athens from the airport, you have a plethora of options: taxis, buses, private transfers, or the subway. We chose to ride with the subway due to the practicality and cost-benefit of this option and can definitely recommend it. Below you’ll find the information on each option available:
Subway: The subway to and from the airport leaves every 30 minutes, costs 9€ each way, and takes about 40 minutes to reach Syntagma Square station. From this station you can, you can switch to the right metro line to get to your accommodation.
Bus: The Bus X95 departs every 15-20 minutes and drops passengers off at Syntagma Square in around 40 minutes. The Bus X96 departs every 30-40 minutes and reaches Piraeus Port in around 60 minutes. Both rides cost 6€ and depart from the station situated between exits 4 and 5 at the airport. You can purchase tickets at the blue booth close to the bus stop.
Transfer: You can book a private or shared transfer with Get Your Guide and ride with trustworthy service providers directly to your hotel.
Taxi: A taxi from the airport to the city center costs 40€ during the day and 55€ between 12 am and 5 am. The fare is flat, but make sure to confirm with the driver before starting the ride.
How to get to Athens from Piraeus Port
Piraeus is the closest port to Athens and the easiest to reacho by public transportation. From the airport, you can get to the port by bus, taxi or metro, according to the information below:
Bus: The Bus X96 departs every 30-40 minutes and reaches Piraeus Port in about 60 minutes. It costs 6€ and leaves from the station between exits 4 and 5 at the airport. You can purchase tickets at the blue booth close to the bus stop.
Subway: The subway from the airport leaves every 30 minutes, costs 9€ each way, and takes about 40 minutes to reach Monastiraki station. From this station, you can switch to the green metro line which will take you to the port. The ride will take 1 hour and 20 minutes in total.
Transfer or taxi: If comfort is a priority, you may take a taxi or transfer from the airport directly to the Piraeus Port. They’ll cost 50€ during the day and 70€ between 12 am and 5 am.
What and where to eat in Athens
It’s no secret that Greek food is delicious, fresh, and healthy. Perfectly adapted to the Mediterranean weather and the summer days. And mostly based on the “Mediterranean triad” of wheat, wine, and olive oil.
In Athens it’s possible to enjoy the best of what Greek culinary culture has to offer. Indulge in delicious meals served in tavernas, paired with fantastic (and cheap) local wine. If possible seating in outdoor tables with a great view and atmosphere around!
The prices for food and drinks in Greece are reasonable enough to allow for diverse and heart-filling meals every day! Moussaka, different Souvlakis, Saganakis, Gyros, and Yemistas are some of the dishes you must try. That’s not to mention the salads and the local cheeses!
We ate very well in Athens and have some fantastic recommendations for you. The list below is comprised of the absolute places to eat in the city!
Best restaurants in Athens
- Traditional restaurants in Athens: Thes “Greek Creative Cuisine”, To Kyklamino, Maiandros, Bandiera, Efcharis, Pantheon, Kafeneio and O Thanasis, and Lithos
- Restaurants with a view in Athens: A for Athens, 360° Cocktail Bar, o Strofi, Athens Gate Hotel, and the restaurant at the Acropolis Museum
- Sophisticate restaurants: Aleria, CTC, Dinner in the Sky, Vassilenas e o Dionysos
- Bars with great food in Athens: Cinque Wine & Deli Bar, Caravin Wine & Wanderlust, and Scala Vinoteca
- Best ice creams and yogurt in Athens: Coco’s, Yiaourtaki, and Le Greche
Athens is a lively city and most restaurant are open until late in the nights. Most of them don’t require reservations, which really allows for spontaneous and chill meals!
How much does a trip to Athens cost
While Athens caters well to different budgets, prices can vary significantly depending on the month and the level of comfort of your trip. In general, you should budget for:
- 30€ per person and per night at a simple, but comfortable accommodation like City Circus Athens or Athens Hawks
- 100€ per night at a charming accommodation like the Plaka Hotel
- 250€ per night at a luxury/boutique hotel like the Electra Palace Athens
Not only in Athens, but in the whole of Greece, food is very reasonably priced. It’s the perfect place to indulge in abundant meals paired with local wine if you’re not on a tight budget. But even if you are, you’ll still be able to enjoy succulent and filling Greek meals for less than 10€!
To get the most of your meals in Athens, I recommend visiting local tavernas, ordering various small dishes to share pairing with house local wine. You can budget considering the following:
- Starters at a local taverna vary between 3€ to 12€
- Main meals at a local taverna vary between 8€ to 20€
- Local house wine won’t cost you more than 5€ per 500 ml
Most of our meals were comprised of a few starters, two mains, wine, and beers, and the bills varied between 50€ to 70€. Which is a very good deal considering European standards!
But, if that sounds a bit steep to you, fear not, my friend. I’m here to tell you that’s totally possible to eat well in Greece for less than 20€ a day. As long as you make conscious choices and indulge in Greek street food!
- Vising the city of Athens and not its historical sites and museums is like a travel heresy. So, I advise you budget at least 40€ to get the combo ticket to the Acropolis and the ticket to the Acropolis Museum. With these two tickets you’ll be able to visit the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and more.
- It’s a good idea to buy the three-day tourist pass for 20€. With it you’ll have unlimited transportation rides within the city and to/from the airport.
How to pack for Athens
You’ll probably be visiting Athens during spring or summer in Europe. And so, you should be prepared for very sunny and warm days, especially in July and August. Mmy suggestion is that you pack light and fresh clothes, beachwear, and casual shoes. Aim for summer attire and bring a light jacket just in case – chances are that you are not going to need it!
For women: pack summer and fresh dresses in various styles, from flouncy to long ones. Skirts, linen pants, fresh tops, and shorts are also great items to bring to Athens. Flat and comfortable shoes should be your way to go. And you absolutely won’t need high heels or heavy makeup, so don’t overpack.
For men: pack linen and fresh fabric shirts, as well as t-shirts, shorts, and fresh pants. Shoes should be casual and comfortable, with no need for fancy items or accessories.
You will also need:
- Sun screen with maximum UV protection
- Sun hats
- Collapsible water bottle
- A bag
- A camera to register fantastic moments
What should you not wear in Athens?
Jeans are absolutely a great option to wear in Athens for the most part of the year. Except in June, July, and August, when temperatures are too warm for such heavy fabric. High heels and luxury items are also not a good match for Athen’s cobbled and busy streets. So, make sure to pack comfortable shoes and discrete items to explore Athens comfortably.
A common question for both men and women is “can I wear shorts in Athens”? The answer is definitely yes. During the summer months, these clothing pieces will actually be your best friends. Aim for stylish, light, and comfortable shorts and you’ll hit the nail.
I hope this practical Athens travel guide was able to inspire and help you plan your trip.
- To find out the best things to do in Athens, check this highly curated post here
- If you’re headed to the Greek Islands, you’ll want to check our exclusive travel guides here