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Bucket list destination:

Athens

  • Athens, Central Greece, Greece

Last updated: 18 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: John Malathronas

Beyond the obvious attractions – yes, the Parthenon does live up to the hype – Athens has a multitude of unpredictable charms. There are Byzantine churches beside fashionable bars, outdoor cinemas squeezed between apartment blocks and rock concerts in ancient amphitheatres.

The loud, laidback birthplace of democracy has emerged from a tough decade of economic austerity with a renewed creative energy. And the irrepressible locals still know how to party. Some things here will never change – like 300 days of sunshine a year and a 50-kilometre coastline – and they don’t cost a thing.

Orientation

Athens’ crowning glory is, of course, the Acropolis. Antiquities abound in the surrounding archaeological park, also home to the impressive new Acropolis Museum.

Hugging the eastern and northern slopes of the Acropolis is the neighbourhood of ‘Plaka’, the city’s old town heart. This maze of jasmine-scented alleys and colourful neoclassical houses has been continuously populated since antiquity. Beyond Plaka, the urban sprawl stretches as far as the sea.

The coastal suburbs offer swanky seaside restaurants and well-equipped beaches; Vouliagmeni and Glyfada are two of the most popular, but they are at least thirty minutes’ drive from central Athens, depending on traffic.

Tours, tickets & transfers

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

Athens Highlights: a Mythological Tour

  • Athens

History & Myth meet in Athens! Discover the greatest landmarks of Athens & their surrounding myths! Enjoy a unique mythological tour, suitable for all ages, that will help you understand how Athens became the mythical city we know today.

Price €54

Min age 0

Rating 4.81 / 5 [1718 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
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Athens Electric/Regular Bike Tour+Optional Acropolis Guided Visit

  • Athens

See the sights of Athens in this fun and easy 9km journey by regular or electric bike. During this 2.5 hour relaxed pace tour on quiet streets and narrow paths, we make stops at many of the must-see sights of Athens, including the Ancient Agora, Roman Forum and the Athens Cathedral.    Gain local insight to the city and enjoy a modern view of Athens without missing the amazing ancient part. Should you wish to combine the cycling tour with a guided visit to Acropolis then the Bike tour + Acropolis option is the right option for you! This way, not only you will have a complete overview of the city from a local’s perspective, but you will have also expanded your knowledge around the rich history of the monumental Acropolis.

Price €32

Min age 12

Rating 4.96 / 5 [1664 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Website >

Athens Full Day Private Tour

  • Athens

If you are a fan of Greek History and Mythology this is your tour! See all the highlights of Athens and learn everything about the iconic sites, visiting the Acropolis (Parthenon), the Ancient Agora, the Temple of Zeus and the New Acropolis museum, in a private day tour that will be flexible and customized to your needs!

Price €210

Min age 0

Rating 4.90 / 5 [1363 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Website >

Athens Airport Private Arrival Transfer

  • Athens

Travel from Athens International Airport to your Athens city or coastal hotel/Airbnb/apartment with a private transfer. Transfer services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Price €29

Min age 0

Rating 4.39 / 5 [993 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >

Essential Athens Highlights PLUS Cape Sounion with Sunset Option

  • Athens

Private flexible tour combining the Highlights of Athens with a coastal road trip to the Sounion peninsula & amazing clifftop Temple of Poseidon as you relax along the way in one of our new full extra Mercedes models with free WiFi & bottled water in the company of a highly experienced, knowledgeable & considerate Tour driver. Visit the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus, Hadrian's Arch, Olympic Stadium, Parliament & changing of the guards, and after lunch set off along the deep blue colours of the Aegean sea to explore the Temple of Poseidon. Exclusive to your group alone with door to door return transfer to your hotel or cruise ship, this comprehensive and 'go at your own pace' tour aims to provide you with one of the most outstanding experiences of your visit. Choose our hassle-free Lunch option to include a delicious 3-course traditional meal by the sea in Sounion, and if you wish to add an expert licensed guide for one or more of the sites just contact us for details.

Price €296

Min age 0

Rating 4.85 / 5 [625 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >

Travel advice

When to go

Winters are moderate in Athens, but the city is at its best during spring and early autumn, when its cultural and social life moves outdoors for al fresco eating and drinking.

High summer (July and August) can be sweltering and smoggy; suburban beaches are crowded on weekends, but often blissfully empty midweek. August should be avoided when Athens virtually shuts down as residents migrate to the islands en masse.

Getting there and away

The efficient Athens Metro connects Eleftherios Venizelos airport to the city centre every half an hour between 6.30am and 11.30pm. The suburban rail also links directly the airport to the central train station (Larissis) and Piraeus port, the main point of departure for the Greek islands; the metro to Piraeus is cheaper but it involves a change at Monastiraki station. There’s a cheap 24-hour bus service from the airport to Syntagma Square and Piraeus.

Taxis are plentiful: on an airport transfer, make sure the driver charges the flat fare from the airport (more expensive between midnight and 5am), rather than using the meter.

Getting around

The city centre is compact enough to explore on foot. Otherwise, the Athens Metro is the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to get around.

Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive and nowadays are obliged to give you a receipt. Use the Taxi Beat or Taxiplon app to hail or pre-book a cab.

With gridlock traffic, scarce parking, and minimal road signage, driving isn’t recommended. Cycling in Athens is only for the brave.

Most ferries to the islands leave from the gritty port of Piraeus.

Where to stay

The top five-star hotels are clustered around Syntagma Square – it’s bustling and noisy, but smack in the heart of the action, with good transport links. Kolonaki, a chic shopping district walking distance from central Syntagma Square, is a quieter option with more of a local vibe.

Pretty Plaka, a scenic stroll from all the major sites, offers surprisingly few quality hotel options. The seedy streets around Omonia Square are awash with budget hotels, best avoided as the area is unsafe after dark.

Families may prefer the seaside resorts in the southern suburbs of Vouliagmeni or Glyfada, but it’s a long trek to the city centre.

Where to eat or drink

Small, hip bars are dotted around the warren of streets between Syntagma Square and Thisseion stations, as well as the nightlife hubs of Gazi and Psyrri. Pangrati and Koukaki are buzzy downtown neighbourhoods for day-to-night café culture and bar-hopping.

During the summer, nightlife migrates to rooftop bars and the ritzy clubs along the coast. To eat among locals, head to the lively, low-key mezze joints in the residential neighbourhoods of Ano Petralona or Halandri.

Where to shop

International brands and expensive Greek jewellers line pedestrian Voukourestiou Street. Further up the hill is Kolonaki, where designer boutiques are concentrated. Plaka and the Monastiraki flea market teem with souvenir shops, with some fine antiques and handicrafts among the tourist tat. For local colour and flavour, check out the central food market on Athinas Street.