City Guide To The Best of Athens
When you think of Greece, I imagine you picture the whitewashed houses, the lush beaches and the clear blue sea. However, this isn’t all Greece has to offer. Athens is Greece’s capital city and can make an unforgettable city break away. From the offset, Athens may not look like the prettiest of cities in Europe, but the deeper you explore, you’ll soon understand why the beautiful city of Athens in Greece is vastly underrated.
The city of Athens is beaming with art, culture, history, and vibrant neighbourhoods. There’s so much to do, and I want to show you all the ways you can immerse yourself into the Greek culture and make the most out of your experience. So what are you waiting for? Pop Athen’s onto your bucket list, and get looking at those flights!
FUN FACT: Greece is located between three continents. Europe, Asia and Africa
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Who to fly with?
Get into the Mediterranean spirit and fly with the classic Greek airline Aegean. You will be well looked after and offered traditional Greek hospitality from the minute you take off! They fly from several major cities, directly into the main international airport in Athens, Greece. The airport is located in the region of Spata, 30km from the centre of Athens. You can get to the city centre of Athens in four different ways; Taxi, The Suburban Railway, 24-hour express bus and Metro Line 3.
When is the best time to visit Athens
Although the Summer will be the hottest months in Athens, that doesn’t necessarily make it the best time to visit Greece. The majority of people agree that the best time to visit Athens is in the Spring or Autumn. This means you are still getting the sunshine but without the busy crowds! Hotel and airfares can also be cheaper during these months, so be sure to compare prices to ensure you are getting the best deals.
If you are visiting Greece in the Summer months, then be careful with when you are planning your site seeing trips in Athens. Being outdoors between 1-3 pm during the Summer can sometimes be very hot, so try and head to the main attractions early or later in the day.
Where to stay?
If you are looking to be close to Athen’s main tourist attractions in Greece, then Syntagma Square is the place to stay. You’ll be in the heart of Athens with beautiful views of the Greek city. If you want to experience the real authenticity of Greece, then Koukaki is where Athenians live and hang out. This neighbourhood is south of the Acropolis and would be the perfect opportunity to see how the locals live.
Psyri is flooding with nightlife and is also close to many of the main attractions. If you are looking to be in the centre of the night time action then Psyri is the perfect place to stay. Not only this, you’ll be impressed by its quirky bars and Artisan shops!
How to get around Athens
Once you are in the centre of the Capital city of Greece, you can reach the majority of Athen’s sites by foot. However, for those wanting to travel by other means, Athens has many different public transportations on offer, which is affordable and reliable. You have the choice of either the Metro, which has three different lines in operation. Running from 5 am until midnight, then 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays. At peak hours the Metro will run as often as 5-6 minutes.
The Suburban Railway runs from 4.30 am until 11 pm every day. The buses and trolleys, run daily from 5 am to midnight. However, make sure you check their timetable for times to avoid any disappointment. And last but not least, you can get the tram which connects central Athens with two coastal suburbs, which if you are looking for a day trip it will take approximately an hour to get. The tram will run from 5.30 am to 1 am daily, with extended weekend hours.
You can use all means of public transport by using the same ticket, a single ticket costs €1.40 and is valid for 90 minutes. You can also purchase a day pass for €4.50, which is valid for unlimited travel for 24 hours. Or a 5-day pass ticket, valid for unlimited travel, for €9. For ticket prices, times and more information check out Athens Transport
Day trips to explore the surroundings of Athens
It’s really easy to explore the beautiful surroundings of Athens. There’s much to see and do!
You can spend several days driving around and for example make a road trip along the Athens coastline, the coast of Apollo. Approximately 100km long, but really fun to drive!
Or you can visit the romantic city of Nafplio, which you can reach in a few hours.
Exploring the surroundings of Athens is easy with public transport as mentioned before. But when you’re in for a road trip it’s also easy to rent a car and drive yourself along the beautiful Greek roads!
FUN FACT: Greece is surrounded by four different sea’s. The Aegean lies to the east, and the Ionian is to the west, the Cretan and the Mediterranean are to the south.
History of Athens
Being one of the oldest cities in Europe means Athens is booming with ancient ruins. With temples and historic buildings on every corner, it’s time to take a step outside of the 21st century and embrace the history surrounding you in Greece. Must see historical buildings in Athens include; The Temple of Hephaestus, Parthenon, Temple of Athena Nike, The Erechtheion, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Panathenaic Stadium and the Temple of Zeus.
Neighbourhoods to Visit
For a little high-end boutique shopping, head to Athen’s leading shopping area Kolonaki. Here you will find Greek and international designer boutique shops alongside museums and art galleries. Head to Monastiraki for its cute flea market and try some of the Mediterranean spices the stalls have to offer.
Other stalls include; souvenir T-shirts and artisanal soaps! Be warned; Monastiraki is a major tourist attraction so be prepared for busy crowds! Next up, Gazi. An up-and-coming trendy town in Athens. Here you will find contemporary art spaces, a concert venue which hosts indie, jazz, and world music as well as many cafes, restaurants, bars, and clubs. There are also many quirky little art shops selling the work of Greek artists!
Last but not least, head to Plaka, the oldest section of Athens. Most of the streets have been closed to the automobile, which allows for a peaceful stroll throughout this Greek neighbourhood. Plaka is home to cute boutique shops, cafes, restaurants (more on the tourist side!). Here, you’ll find a Greek tourist shop with some stunning Athens inspired postcards to send home to your friends and family!
If you don’t have time to visit the Islands of Greece, but you are desperate for a feel of that laid-back island lifestyle… Anafiotika, is a scenic Greek neighbourhood located in upper Athens, and part of the historical neighbourhood Plaka. Known for its unique coffee shops, whitewashed houses with blue roofs and winding paths. No need to step on that ferry or airplane, Greece has bought the island feel to Athens!
Grab your hiking shoes and take the short climb up Mount Lycabettus, the highest point in central Athens. You won’t regret seeing that panoramic view of Greece’s Capital City from a height of 277 meters once you reach the top! Even better, there is a cafe and restaurant at the top to replenish before making your way back down. You can also visit the Church of Agios Georgios.
If you’re feeling a little slow moving after your day of jam-packed activities exploring Athens, there is also a cable car that operates every day from 9:00 am to 1.:30 am. The ticket price is 7 euros and you will also get a discount at the restaurant at the top of the hill with your ticket!
FUN FACT: On average, the Cable Car of Lycabettus transports 300,000 passengers annually.
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Eating in Athens
If you are looking for the best authentic food in Greece then Mana Kouzina-Kouzina will not disappoint with its authentic and affordable menu. They serve slow-cooked dishes which change with the seasons. Greek Meze, is another favourite for those looking for a tapas style meal. Be sure to ask the waiter for all their Greek dips to try! If you are looking to enjoy the evening weather with some outdoor seating then head down to Mavro Provato in Pagrati.
Mavro is a popular local spot that sells all traditional Greek food. Must try dishes include the halloumi and aubergine salad! At Marathonitis taverna you will find live music during the week and a delicious authentic Greek menu.
You won’t escape the street food in Athens, and why should you? Some of Greece’s best foods can be found on the streets of Athens! Satisfy your tastebuds with a classic Oven Sesame, found in Monastiraki. The Oven Sesame is packed with several fillings of your choice, from feta cheese with thyme and extra virgin olive oil, to chicken, eggplant or beef.
Take your pick! The Pitta Co in Central Athens is also another Greek favourite. The food is baked daily, and this is where you will find the locals eating. For something a little less Greek traditional head to Food Str, in Central Athens and you’ll find burgers and hot dogs but with a healthy twist.
If there is one thing Greece has, it’s an abundance of coffee shops. Therefore you definitely won’t be stuck for choices when visiting Athens. If you’re looking to sip your coffee with a view, then head to Couleu Locale, located down a little lane near Monastiraki Square.
However, if you are looking to sip on something a little more authentic, then you must try the coffee at Mokka Specialty Coffee, one of the oldest coffee shops in Athens. The shop has won awards for its traditional Greek coffee – brewed the old fashioned way, in the sand! To get that true Greek experience while visiting Athens, order a spoon sweet with your coffee.
If you have that unavoidable sweet tooth, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered! Greece has some delicious desserts on offer around Athens. Sweet bougatsa, is handmade with phyllo sheets buttered and folded over before the creamy custard filling is added. Often served with cinnamon or powdered sugar!
Loukoumades, Diples, Halva, and Baklava are all popular Greek desserts to satisfy those cravings. If you are visiting Athens during the Christmas holidays then don’t miss Melomakarona cookies which are absolutely phenomenal!
Where do the locals go?
There’s no better way to learn the culture in Greece than to visit where the locals go while in Athens. Many Athenians would start their day with a gentle stroll around Plaka and Monastiraki, before heading to Thissio. Here you can continue down the footpath towards Kerameikos or turn left to the Acropolis area.
Apostolou Pavlou Street is also extremely popular in Athens, which is where many stalls are set up selling handmade jewellery and other crafty pieces. Head to Vrahakia where Athenians love to hang out! Here you can also get some great pictures of the Parthenon. It is just a short climb to the top of Vrahakia where you will find a panoramic view of the city.
Take a stroll around the beautiful National gardens of Athens or Philopappou. Two beautiful Greek parks, with unmissable history. Locals swear by pita Gyro’s and Souvlaki’s and believe every tourist must try one!
It is the greek hot-dog equivalent, and you will easily find them on the street in Monastiraki. For Saturday night plans Kolonaki Square is beaming with cafe-bars. A great spot for bar hopping. Be sure to check out the Rock ‘n’ Roll for dancing and Faust which is super fun with lots of live music!
Getting the most out of your greek experience
When visiting a new city, there’s no better way to embrace the culture than to plan your trip around any cultural festivities. Greece has so much culture to offer. You’ll be spoilt for choice!
When most people think of Greece, they think of the tradition ‘throwing plates’ at weddings and restaurants. While this is still the tradition in some areas of Greece and within families, many of the places where tourists went to throw plates have been shut down due to health and safety and replaced with throwing flowers!
Instead, check out these awesome festivals to get the full Greek experience…
- Athens Festival at the open-air One of the most important festivals in Europe! Hosting national and worldwide artists.
- In May, a folkloric festival at Elesis near Athens.
- Mid-late February is Greece’s Carnival Season called Described as being similar to New Orleans Mardi Gras! Head to The Plaka of Athens to enjoy this festivity!
FUN FACT: The Evil Eye. Some Greeks, believe that someone can catch the evil eye from someone else’s jealous compliment or envy. Affecting their mental and physical health. To avoid catching the evil eye many who believe, will wear a charm, a little blue bead with an eye painted on it. Blue is believed to be the colour that wards off evil.
From food to history to culture, there are endless reasons why Athens should be on your bucket list of top Cities to visit in Europe. I could write forever about how amazing Greece is and all the fun things you can get up to when visiting Athens, but why not find out for yourself and book that trip you’ve always wanted to go on! I’d love to hear about YOUR favourite places in Greece and Athens, leave a comment below and let’s connect!