Athens offers a lot of activities to its visitors from exploring the rich history, artifacts to visiting some of the most amazing museums and trying a delicious variety of foods. There are a lot of things to learn in this superb historical city of Greece.
Why should anyone visit the city?
Greek history comes on the top of the list of art and architecture. You can visit many sites which dates back to thousands of years. There are a number of fascinating museums and wonderful places to explore, enjoy and relax. You can visit many popular historical sites, click photos or get inspired.
How does one get to the destination (airport, ferry or others)?
There are different ways to get to Athens whereas the main thing to keep in mind while booking online or by travel agent is to avoid booking the hotel. There are many cheap and attractive deals offered whereas either they do not match with timing or they are located in a very bad place.
You will easily get a flight from anywhere in the world to reach Athens. Budget airlines of Europe also offer trips to Athens. Athens international airport Eleftherios Venizelos (ATH) welcomes domestic flights and airlines from all around the world. You can easily get transportation to reach the city center.
You can get cruise from Istanbul, Venice and different parts of Europe to reach Greece. Ferries from Albania, Italy and Croatia are also operated to reach the city. These services originate from different destinations and you can book online according to your requirement.
Greece train network connects Athens with different parts of the country and Europe. Some train lines also spread to Western Balkan and Bulgaria.
The road trip from Turkey, Bulgaria and other parts of Greece to Athens is incredibly interesting. You can rent a car very easily whereas an international license is mandatory for tourists to drive in Greece.
Is the city safe? What areas are not safe?
Athens is a huge city so there are some areas which should be avoided by the tourists. The main areas with a high crime rate like robbery, drug dealing, snatching and other violent crimes are Omonia, Monastiraki, Exarcheia, Larissa, Vathi, Peloponissos, railway station and Kolokotroni square. Tourists should not roam around in these areas during late night. These areas even have children who are thieves and sometimes they scam visitors. The nightclubs of Glyfada square should also be avoided because they are popular for organized crimes.
Political protests also happen in some areas especially the Syntagma square that is the political hub. These protests sometimes become very serious and tourists should not get involved in them. Overcrowded areas, public transports and tourist spots have pickpockets and thieves. You should take care of your belongings. Do not listen to the people offering you cocktail deals outside bars and pubs because they are scammers.
What’s the weather like?
- March to May is the spring season that maintains a very pleasant temperature. Flights and accommodations are reasonable. Tourism is also less because most of the crowds’ start coming in summers. Bring a jacket because sometimes winds from the Greece coast become very chill.
- June to August is the summer season. Most of the locals, small business owners, shop keepers and restauranteurs move to small villages or areas near to the beach to spend the season. This is the peak tourism time whereas a lot of small places are closed. The best part is that most of the festivals happened during this season.
- September to November is a very pleasant time to visit Athens. The small places, restaurants, nightclubs and shops are open because locals return to their businesses and offer good discounts on products. You should keep a light jacket because sometimes evenings become a little colder.
- December to February is the highest precipitation time of winter season. Never forget getting an umbrella and shoes according to the weather. Temperature is mostly chilly and there is no continuous sunshine. Accommodation prices are very economical during this time.
What languages are spoken in the area? Is English spoken?
Almost 99% population of Greece speak Greek and it is the official language of the country. Some people also speak French, English and Italian. English is taught to them in the school so a huge population understands English language. Majority of the people related to the tourism industry speak English fluently.
What’s the local currency?
Is US Dollar widely accepted?
Official currency that is used in the entire Greece is Euro. You cannot use any other currency then the Euro in Athens. It is better to exchange your currency or you can use cards for payments.
What are the best areas or districts to stay in the city?
Plaka is the best neighborhood to explore the history of the city because it is the oldest area of Athens. It is a big area with cobblestone streets therefore cars are rarely seen. You might see people using scooters or delivery trucks coming to different stores and restaurants. It is a very beautiful area to stay and find something authentic to eat.
Monastiraki and Psiri are next to each other in the heart of Athens. It has stunning views of the Acropilis, Ancient Agora and the Hadrian’s library ruins. The streets have souvenir shops, restaurants and small cafes. The area is the best option to stay for the party lovers because it is well known for its nightlife.
Kolonaki is an expensive neighborhood with the high end shopping options. You will see a lot of people having luxury branded products like Rolex watch or Louis Vuitton bag. This area also has a collection of museums with many amazing collections and exhibitions to explore. Accommodation is a bit expensive in this area as compared to the others.
Koukaki is the typical Greek neighborhood where you will enjoy the local experience. Most of the cafes and restaurants serve traditional Greek foods and drinks. It is a very welcoming urban village with relaxing environment. Eateries and other places are less crowded. Do not forget to visit the Trii Ark Hub to see the works of local artists.
What’re your top 3 hotels (budget, moderate, luxury) and why?
- Best Western Hotel Museum is the clean, comfortable three-star hotel offering affordable accommodation. It is located near the Epigraphical museum and National Archaeological museum.
- Electra Hotel Athens is a newly renovated comfortable place to stay. They offer a pillow menu and extra-large beds for extra comfort. It has a wonderful roof top where you can enjoy a delicious breakfast, brunch and dinner with amazing panoramic views of the Acropolis and Parliament Syntagma Square.
- Electra Metropolis is another name of elegance and luxury in Athens. It is a 5-star hotel with a stunning rooftop. Hotel has an amazing restaurant, bar and swimming pool. Rooms are very modern and well decorated and some of them have their private balconies. Hotel lobby has a gorgeous skylight atrium.
How does one get around the city? Taxi, Uber, similar apps, ATVs?
Athens is one of the major tourist destinations of the world so it is very convenient to get around the city. There are various ways of transportation.
Metro is the most convenient and quickest way to explore Athens. They have signs in Greek so it becomes a great challenge to recognize them. It has three lines
Green line connects the port of Piraeus to suburbs of Kifissia.
Red line goes from Anthoupoli to the nearby areas of Elliniko (Sardonic gulf)
Blue line goes from Western areas of Agia Marina to the Halandri then reaches the airport to the center of Athens (Syntagma square).
Suburban railway (Proastiakos) starts from Athens Airport to the central city and connects all the way to the National Railway network. You can easily reach many archaeological sites by suburban railway. Sometimes they are closed due to strikes and their fares also changes time to time.
It is not a very nice way to explore the city because sometimes the network and maps become confusing and inconvenient. Some bus stops are hidden in the streets so it is not easy to recognize them. Buses also go on strike during protests for long time.
Tram runs on many main areas, city center, beach and along the coast. It is an affordable option to explore the city. Most of the tram route is very beautiful and scenic.
You can recognize taxi by the yellow color. It is affordable and a nice way to travel. Uber is not available in Greece whereas you can book taxi from the app or directly on the road.
Can you highlight the Top 5 MUST see sightseeing?
- The Acropolis is the historical memory of the glory of Athens. It was the ancient city center at the hilltop that was used as the citadel. The Parthenon temple is the most popular part of this area. Other things to explore are the ruins of the Temple of Athena Nike, Erechtheion, ancient sanctuaries, reliefs depicting the birth of the goddess Athena and many statues of the maidens in the Doric columns.
- Acropolis museum is also a worth visiting part with huge ancient Greek collections that is considered as the most precious one in the world. There are artifacts from Acropolis and different parts of Greece. Some of them are documented to be belonging to 6th millennium BC (early Neolithic period). A variety of collections are from 13th and 14th century and after them.
- National Archaeology Museum is the largest archeological museum of the country. It is considered as one of the greatest museums of the world. This building is an impressive neoclassic architecture place that was opened in the 19th This 8000 square meter space has more than 11000 exhibits in its five permanent collections. You can explore Greece from the prehistoric times to the modern time.
- Ancient Agora was the administration and commerce place of the ancient Greek. Currently these are the ruins with different worth exploring parts. It was used as the public speaking area, theatre, athletic events, performances and other cultural activities apart from being only the commerce place. Stoa of Attalos is the trail scene of Socrates from 399 BC. It was ruined whereas reconstructed in 1950 by the king Attalos ll. You can explore temple of Hephaistos, Agora hill, Doric temple from fifth century BC, many other Greek temples which are very well preserved.
- Museum of Cycladic Art is located at the Kolonaki Quarter. It dates back to the nineteenth century by Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris foundation. It is a modern architecture with marble and glass. The collections exhibit ancient Greek art and the art belongings to different areas like the islands of Aegean sea (Delos and Mykonos) and the Cypriot art (Cyprus) from 4th century BC to 6th century AD.
What’s the best place to take a photo?
Athens has amazing history with a wide variety of artifacts, ruins and historical areas. Photography becomes a major part of the trip of any tourist. The most amazing place to click photos is the Byzantine museum. You can click some of the most fascinating photos of the byzantine period in the Greek history. Several exhibits belong to the third century to the 15th century.
What about the top 3 restaurants?
- Klimataria is the best place for the traditional Greek food. It is run by a family since 1927 as a tavern and restaurant. You can try their delicious meals with wonderful music and dance.
- Lukumades is the place that serves the tastiest Greek loukoumades. These are fluffy fried dough balls served with honey and cinnamon. They are like doughnuts. Some places also serve them with ice cream and syrups.
- Hytra is the Michelin starred restaurant that serves the most distinctive flavors of Greek food. Wild herbs, fresh meat, seafood and fresh vegetables are used to prepare the food. This is a high end place with elegant ambiance.
What about the top 3 breakfast places?
- Mama Roux is a very popular and trendy breakfast place in Athens. Portions are large and one serving is enough of two people mostly. You can also order half portion.
- Rakkan is the best place to have a Japanese brunch in Athens. The surroundings of the breakfast place are very classy because it is located in Kifissia.
- New York Sandwiches has the friendly staff who serves the New York City styled breakfast. You can have American pancakes, bagels, French toasts, burgers, salads and a variety of sandwiches.
What’s the one thing you MUST eat in the city?
Greece has a huge variety of food which become more abundant with the change of season. Food travelers can spend their entire day trying different cuisines. One of the most famous dish is Souvlaki that is very famous and typical Greek food. You will find it all over Greece from the street stalls to the high end restaurants. It is made with the meat cooked in the large pits. Then their chunks are transferred to the skewers and served. Vegetarians can also get their version of souvlaki prepared with peppers, mushrooms and egg plants.
What about food markets?
There are many food places in Athens. You will find restaurants and cafes on almost every street. Many street food sellers sell their traditional cuisines on stalls. Major food markets to explore are:
- Athens Central Market also known as Varvakeios. This is the largest food market with a huge variety.
- Eleonas Flea Market has a huge variety of colorful stalls and shops apart from just being a food market. Do not forget trying the grilled meat there.
- Laiki Agora is the weekly farmer’s market. You will find a lot of Laiki in different neighborhoods because this is the term for weekly farmer’s markets.
Where should one go at night? Any bar/nightlife areas or districts you recommend?
Exarchia is the glamourous Athenian neighborhood with the youthful vibe. You will find some of the best nightlife places in this area.
Gazi is not Gyzi that is the residential area. It is the destination for the people seeking well known Greek performances to enjoy the evening.
Any rooftop bars or restaurants that you recommend?
Almost all the rooftop places have amazing panoramic views of the city. Some of the best ones are:
- Safestay Athens Rooftop Bar
- Sky Lounge Rooftop Dining Bar at Melia
- Novus City Hotel Rooftop
Can you recommend the best shopping areas? Best shopping mall?
Just like foods, Athens offer a huge variety of shopping places. Some small areas have beautiful handicraft stores and some places sell original art works of the local artists. You can buy them as souvenirs or for yourself. A couple of shopping areas are:
Ermou Street Clothes Shopping – perfect for clothes, shoes, accessories and a lot more. You will find some of the high end international luxury brand stores at this place.
Aeolou and Agios Markos Streets are two shopping areas where you can find amazing bargains on clothes, yarns, fabric, shoes and accessories.
Do you recommend any tours outside the city? Islands? Boat Tours?
- Mycenae: Heracles Kritikos – archeological site and sanctuary
- Cape Sounion – majestic temples, historical site near sea
- Delphi – UNESCO world heritage site, archeological place
- Corinth – ancient site near the sea, Swimming activities
- Vouliagmeni, Apollo Coast – mountains, coast and sightseeing
- Hydra Island
Are Casinos allowed? Blackjack tables? If so, what’s the best Casino in town?
There are no casinos in the city. Other cities of Greece have some amazing casinos whereas Athens do not have any.
Any last advice for people visiting the city?
- Beware of pickpockets and tourist traps.
- Tips are not mandatory to be given. It is your choice.
- Stay away from the protests and crowds of locals.
- Nightlife does not start right after the dinner. It starts late at night.