Home Travel Ultimate Athens Travel Guide 2024: Top Attractions, Tips & Hidden Gems

Ultimate Athens Travel Guide 2024: Top Attractions, Tips & Hidden Gems

by Ryan

Athens, the heart of ancient Greece, is a city where the past and present coexist in a striking tapestry of history and modernity. This vibrant metropolis is not only the cradle of Western civilization but also a bustling contemporary city with much to offer. Here we’ll explore the wonders of Athens, from its historic landmarks to its lively streets and cultural hotspots.

Things to do in Athens

Athens, a city steeped in history and culture, offers a plethora of activities and sights that cater to all types of travelers. Here are the top 10 things to do in Athens, Greece:

  1. Visit the Acropolis and Parthenon: No trip to Athens is complete without a visit to its most iconic site. The Acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers a window into ancient Greek history and stunning views of the city.

    The admission for the Acropolis is: 20€ for the adults from April 01 to October 31. 10€ for the adults from November 01 to March 31. Free for children up to 18 years old (with valid ID or passport) and students from EU countries (with valid student ID) all year-round.
  2. Explore the Acropolis Museum: Located near the base of the Acropolis, this museum houses many of the original statues and artifacts from the Acropolis and its surrounding temples.

    General admission 10€, exclusively from the e-ticketing service. Reduced admission 5€ and free admission exclusively from the Museum’s Ticket Desk.

  3. Stroll Through Plaka: Often referred to as the “Neighborhood of the Gods,” Plaka is the oldest district in Athens, known for its charming streets, colorful buildings, and array of cafes and shops.

  4. Visit the Ancient Agora: Once the center of political, commercial, and social activity in ancient Athens, the Agora is home to well-preserved ruins and the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best-preserved ancient Greek temples.

    Closed 1 January, 25 March, 1 May, Orthodox Easter Sunday, 25 & 26 December. Admission Fee: Summer (April to October) entrance fee: 10€. Winter (November to March) entrance fee: 5€. Reduced admission 5€.

  5. Discover the National Archaeological Museum: This museum boasts one of the world’s most extensive collections of ancient Greek artifacts, offering a deep dive into Greek history and culture.

    Opens between 1 and 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or 8 p.m.. Wednesday through Sunday, depending on the season. Entrance fees are 6 to 12 euros (around $6.50 to $13) per person depending on the season for visitors 18 and older; free admission is offered on select days.

  6. Watch the Changing of the Guard at Syntagma Square: This ceremonial event in front of the Hellenic Parliament building is a unique display of traditional uniforms and precise movements.

    Changing of the Guard schedule:

    Daily: Every hour on the hour in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Hellenic Parliament Building.

    Sundays: The formal ceremony begins at 11am, with an elaborate parade of Evzones led by a military band, that marches west down Vasilissis Sofias Avenue before turning left onto Vasilisis Amalias, passing Syntagma Square, and advancing up to the Hellenic Parliament building and the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. Arrive 15-20 minutes early to get a good view.

  7. Climb Mount Lycabettus: For those looking for a bit of exercise and panoramic views of Athens, a climb up Mount Lycabettus is a must. You can also take a funicular to the top.

    I recommend you get a taxi to Aristippou St in Kolonaki, a short ride from the centre and decide whether to walk or take the funicular. The path starts at the end of Aristippou Street and winds upwards. The funicular leaves from the corner of Ploutarhiou and Aristippou Streets every 30 minutes.

  8. Explore the Monastiraki Flea Market: Located in one of the city’s most lively neighborhoods, this market is the perfect place to find souvenirs, antiques, and a variety of local goods.

  9. Visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus: This colossal ruined temple was once one of the largest in ancient Greece and is a spectacular sight, providing insight into the religious practices of the ancient Greeks.

    Summer (April to October) entrance fee: 8€. Winter (November to March) entrance fee: 4€. Reduced admission 4€. For 30€, you can purchase a combo ticket for this and 6 additional sites: Acropolis, Ancient Agora of Athens, Hadrian’s Library, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Kerameikos and Aristotle’s Lyceum.

  10. Enjoy Greek Cuisine in a Traditional Taverna: Experience Greek culture through its food by dining in a traditional taverna. Try classic dishes like moussaka, souvlaki, and fresh seafood, accompanied by local wine or ouzo.

Each of these activities offers a unique glimpse into the rich tapestry of history, culture, and modern life in Athens. Whether you’re a history buff, a food enthusiast, or just looking to soak in the local vibe, Athens has something special for everyone.

Top Places to Eat

When visiting Athens, Greece, you’re in for a culinary treat. The city’s dining scene is as rich and diverse as its history. Here are the top 5 rated places to eat in Athens, offering a mix of traditional Greek flavors and modern culinary innovation:

  1. Varoulko Seaside: Located in the picturesque area of Piraeus, Varoulko Seaside is known for its exceptional seafood. Chef Lefteris Lazarou, a pioneer in Greek gourmet cuisine, offers creative dishes that showcase the freshest ingredients from the sea. With its Michelin star, Varoulko Seaside promises a dining experience that combines traditional Greek seafood dishes with contemporary culinary techniques.

  2. Hytra: Hytra, a restaurant that has earned a Michelin star, is a true gem in Athens’ culinary scene. Located on the top floor of the Onassis Cultural Centre, it offers breathtaking views of the Acropolis and the Athens skyline. The restaurant is celebrated for its creative approach to Greek cuisine, blending traditional recipes with modern culinary techniques. Chef Tasos Mantis presents a menu that is both innovative and deeply rooted in Greek culinary traditions. The restaurant offers two distinct experiences: a gourmet menu in the refined dining area and a more casual bistro menu on the terrace. Both options provide an exceptional dining experience, highlighting the best of contemporary Greek gastronomy.

  3. CTC Urban Gastronomy: This restaurant is a must-visit for those who appreciate fine dining in a relaxed and contemporary setting. Chef Alex Tsiotinis brings a modern twist to traditional Greek ingredients, creating a menu that is both inventive and deeply rooted in the local culinary heritage. The tasting menus here are a journey through different textures and flavors, highlighting the best of Greek gastronomy.

  4. Ta Karamanlidika Tou Fani: Located near the historic center, this eatery offers a more traditional dining experience with a focus on Greek and Mediterranean delicacies. It’s known for its exceptional cured meats and cheeses, all sourced from various regions of Greece. The atmosphere is cozy and welcoming, with a menu that includes classic Greek dishes, mezes, and a selection of fine wines.

  5. Mani Mani: Situated close to the Acropolis, Mani Mani is known for its fusion of traditional Maniot and modern Greek cuisine. The restaurant offers a warm and inviting atmosphere, with a menu that highlights the flavors of the Peloponnese region. The dishes are prepared with locally sourced ingredients, offering a true taste of Greek culinary traditions with a contemporary twist.

These restaurants not only serve excellent food but also provide a glimpse into the rich culinary culture of Athens. From avant-garde gastronomy to traditional Greek flavors, each of these establishments offers a unique dining experience that will leave a lasting impression on your visit to Athens.

Best Places to Stay

Athens offers a wide range of accommodation options, from luxurious hotels to charming boutique establishments. Here are the top 5 places to stay in Athens, Greece, known for their exceptional service, prime locations, and unique features:

  1. Hotel Grande Bretagne: This historic luxury hotel is located in the heart of Athens, right on Syntagma Square. It offers a rooftop terrace with a stunning view of the Acropolis and a classic and opulent Greek ambiance. Known for its world-class service and elegant rooms, Hotel Grande Bretagne also boasts a luxurious spa and two gourmet restaurants.

    Find the best price for your stay @ Expedia

  2. King George, a Luxury Collection Hotel: Situated next to the Hotel Grande Bretagne, King George combines a boutique hotel experience with luxury. With beautifully appointed rooms and suites, many offering views of the Acropolis, this hotel is known for its personalized service and fine dining options. Its rooftop restaurant, Tudor Hall, is renowned for both its cuisine and its panoramic views of Athens.

    Find the best price for your stay @ Expedia

  3. Electra Metropolis Athens: This modern hotel, located in the heart of the city, is just a short walk from the Acropolis and other major attractions. It features contemporary design, a rooftop pool, and a terrace with spectacular views of the city. The hotel’s restaurant serves a range of Mediterranean cuisine, and the rooms are elegantly furnished with modern amenities.

    Find the best price for your stay @ Expedia

  4. NEW Hotel: Situated near Syntagma Square, this design hotel offers a unique stay with rooms and public spaces that are a work of art in themselves. The New Hotel is known for its eco-friendly approach and modern, artistic interior design. It also houses a Mediterranean restaurant and a well-equipped fitness center.

    Find the best price for your stay @ Expedia

  5. St. George Lycabettus Hotel: Located in the upscale Kolonaki district, this boutique hotel offers panoramic views of the Acropolis and the city of Athens. The hotel features a rooftop restaurant, a spa, and an outdoor swimming pool. Its location is ideal for those looking to explore Athens’ chic boutiques and cafes, as well as its historical sites.

    Find the best price for your stay @ Expedia

Each of these hotels provides a distinct experience that can enhance your stay in Athens, whether you’re looking for luxurious opulence, cutting-edge design, or a perfect blend of modern amenities and classic Greek charm.

If you prefer to stay in an Airbnb the options will vary greatly, especially considering personal preference and price. When looking for an Airbnb in Athens, I would consider the following:

  1. Plaka District Apartments: Plaka is one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in Athens, known for its charming streets and close proximity to the Acropolis. Look for traditional apartments or renovated homes that offer a cozy, authentic Athenian experience.

  2. Penthouse with Acropolis View: Many visitors seek accommodations with a view of the Acropolis. Penthouses or apartments in central Athens, especially in areas like Koukaki or Thissio, often boast beautiful terraces or balconies with stunning views of the city’s iconic landmark.

  3. Designer Lofts in Psiri: Psiri is a vibrant and artsy neighborhood, known for its lively streets, cafes, and nightlife. Modern, designer lofts or studio apartments in this area are popular for those looking to be in the heart of Athens’ contemporary urban culture.

  4. Luxury Apartments in Kolonaki: Kolonaki is a posh area known for its high-end boutiques, galleries, and cafes. If you’re looking for a more luxurious stay, this area offers upscale apartments and residences, many with elegant interiors and amenities.

  5. Historic Homes in Monastiraki: For a stay that combines history with convenience, look for homes in the Monastiraki area. This neighborhood is rich in history and close to many of Athens’ major attractions, including the Ancient Agora and the flea market.

When searching for an Airbnb, always read recent reviews to get a sense of the quality of the accommodation and the host’s responsiveness. Also, consider the proximity to public transportation and major sights, as Athens is a city best explored on foot or by using its efficient public transit system.

Top 5 Day Trips

Athens is a fantastic base for exploring the wider region of Greece, with many remarkable destinations within easy reach for day trips. Here are the top day trips from Athens:

  1. Delphi: Known as the center of the world in ancient Greek mythology, Delphi is about a 2.5-hour drive from Athens. It’s famous for its archaeological site, including the Temple of Apollo, the ancient theater, and the Delphi Archaeological Museum. The stunning mountainous landscape and the spiritual significance of the site make it a must-visit.

  2. Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon: Located about 70 kilometers southeast of Athens, Cape Sounion is famous for the ancient Temple of Poseidon, perched on a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. It’s an ideal spot for watching the sunset. The drive along the coastal road offers breathtaking views of the Saronic Gulf.

  3. Aegina Island: A short ferry ride from the Port of Piraeus, Aegina is known for its charming port town, ancient Temple of Aphaia, and pistachio groves. It’s perfect for those looking to experience Greek island life without venturing too far from the mainland.

  4. Corinth and the Corinth Canal: The ancient city of Corinth is about an hour’s drive from Athens. Visitors can explore the archaeological site, including the Temple of Apollo and the ancient agora, and see the impressive Corinth Canal, a man-made canal that separates the Peloponnese from mainland Greece.

  5. Nafplio: Often regarded as one of Greece’s most beautiful towns, Nafplio is located in the Peloponnese, about a 2-hour drive from Athens. This picturesque town offers Venetian architecture, the impressive Palamidi Fortress, and lovely waterfront cafes. Nearby are the ancient sites of Mycenae and Epidaurus.

Each of these destinations provides a unique glimpse into Greece’s rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture. They are easily accessible for a day trip but offer enough to see and do that they could each warrant an extended visit.

Tips for Travelers

  • Getting Around: Athens has an efficient public transport system, including buses, trams, and the metro, making it easy to navigate the city.
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring (April to June) and fall (September to November) offer pleasant weather and smaller crowds.
  • Language: Greek is the official language, but English is widely spoken in tourist areas.
  • Currency: The Euro (€) is the official currency.

Sample 3-Day Itinerary for Athens

Day 1: Acropolis, Parthenon, and Acropolis Museum

Morning:

  • Start your day early to beat the crowds at the Acropolis. Spend the morning exploring this ancient citadel, including the iconic Parthenon, Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike.
  • Enjoy a leisurely breakfast or early lunch at a café near the Acropolis.

Afternoon:

  • Visit the Acropolis Museum. This state-of-the-art museum houses thousands of artifacts found on the Acropolis and its slopes. It’s best to allocate at least 2-3 hours here.
  • Have lunch in the museum’s restaurant, which offers a beautiful view of the Acropolis.

Evening:

  • Take a stroll through the Plaka district. This historic neighborhood is full of charming streets, boutiques, and traditional tavernas. Have dinner here and enjoy some authentic Greek cuisine.
Day 2: National Archaeological Museum, Ancient Agora, and Monastiraki

Morning:

  • Head to the National Archaeological Museum. Spend a few hours marveling at the extensive collection of Greek artifacts.
  • Grab a quick lunch in the area or a traditional Greek coffee.

Afternoon:

  • Visit the Ancient Agora, which was once the heartbeat of ancient Athens. Explore the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best-preserved ancient Greek temples.
  • Walk towards the Monastiraki Flea Market. Spend the rest of the afternoon here browsing through antiques, crafts, and other unique finds.

Evening:

  • Have dinner at one of the local tavernas in Monastiraki, enjoying the vibrant atmosphere of this lively area.
Day 3: Temple of Olympian Zeus, Changing of the Guard, and Mount Lycabettus

Morning:

  • Visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus and spend the morning exploring this magnificent site.
  • Enjoy a brunch or early lunch at a nearby café.

Early Afternoon:

  • Head to Syntagma Square to witness the Changing of the Guard at the Hellenic Parliament building. This event occurs every hour, so plan your visit accordingly.
  • After the ceremony, you can spend some time exploring the surrounding area, including the National Garden.

Late Afternoon to Evening:

  • In the late afternoon, begin your ascent of Mount Lycabettus. You can hike up the hill or take the funicular. The view from the top, especially at sunset, is spectacular and offers a panoramic view of Athens.
  • Have dinner at the restaurant on Mount Lycabettus or choose a spot in the Kolonaki district, which is known for its upscale dining options.

Remember, this itinerary is quite packed, so start your days early and wear comfortable walking shoes. Also, consider the opening times of each attraction and adjust your schedule accordingly. Enjoy your trip to Athens!

Athens is a city where every corner has a story to tell, a perfect blend of ancient history and contemporary life. It’s a city that awakens the imagination and stirs the soul with its timeless beauty and vibrant spirit. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just looking for a unique travel experience, Athens promises an unforgettable journey. So pack your bags and get ready to explore the enduring charm of this ancient yet ever-evolving city. Welcome to Athens, where history meets modernity!

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