For anyone planning a trip to Athens in the near future, I’ve written a little travel guide to help you plan before you go.
Below you can find my guide on what to see, what to eat, where to stay, how to get around, and where the best spots are for photos.
WHAT TO SEE
There is a Multi-site pass that costs 30 Euros and allows you entrance to the Acropolis plus a few other sites. It includes:
- The Acropolis
- Ancient Agora
- Hadrian’s Library/Roman Agora
- Hadrian’s Arch
- Temple to Olympic Zeus
- Kerimikos Cemetery/Potter Sites
We purchased this ticket because we found that it was worth it for some of the sites that we wanted to see. But read the list carefully to make sure it is worth it for you.
The Acropolis is the one historical site you must see. You can take a tour or wander up there yourself but during the summer, whatever you do, go early or late in the day. It can get very hot up there and gasping for breath can take way from your ability to really appreciate one of the greatest archaeological sites.
If you purchase the multi-site pass, you can get to the entrance and skip the long line up of people who need to purchase their ticket. For me, the pass was worth it just for skipping the long line!
A flea market, shops, restaurants and coffee shops all surround the Monastiraki Square. This square is the ideal meeting spot for groups and a great starting off point for your day of exploring.
It was the home base for all of the city state’s administrative, legal and political functions. Some of the most important buildings of ancient history and classical Athens were located in the Agora. This is also where you can purchase the multi-site pass.
The Architecture on Panepistimou Street is stunning. It is one of the main roads in the centre of Athens stretching across the two principal squares of the city, Syntagma, and Omonia square. Panepistimiou street covers a great part of the city’s life including all the major banks, universities, travel agencies and fashionable boutiques.
Standing 277 meters above sea level, Lycabettus Hill is the highest point of Athens. Although it is a beautiful walk up, it’s a test of endurance and a challenge in the summer.
We walked up the entire thing but if you don’t want to hike, a funicular can take you to the top of the hill. Apparently, it’s a closed tunnel, so unfortunately there is no view during the way up.
At the top of the hill you will find a Greek church, the restaurant Orizontes with spectacular views across Athens, and a cafe which opens for breakfast and lunch.
If you decide to take a taxi, it can only take you so far up the hill. You will need to walk up a significant number of stairs for the remainder of the way.
The area of Plaka is one of the oldest, yet attractive districts of Athens. If you decide to walk around the area, make sure you have a map because Plaka is like a labyrinth.
In Plaka you can check out the Roman Agora, a number of museums, shopping and of course all of the restaurants.
This is also where we wanted our hotel to be because it meant we would be in the centre of everything.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
This temple is dedicated to Zeus, the chief of the Olympian Gods. It stands within a walking distance from the Athens centre and about 500 meters south east of the Acropolis.
To be honest, if you don’t have the time I wouldn’t say it’s something you absolutely need to see as the temple has so little left to view.
An audio explanation would have been nice but it is not included in the general admissions ticket. You would need to already have a tour guide who stops at the temple of Zeus to explain more.
The Panathenaic Stadium is a classical cultural and touristic monument of Greece. Its history is directly connected to the Modern Olympic Games in 2004. It is also the place from which the Olympic Flame is delivered to all the Olympic Games, Winter, Summer and Youth.
This too is something you don’t necessarily need to see if you’re pressed for time. We walked by and saw the stadium from the outside so we opted out of paying to walk in and see essentially the same thing.
WHERE TO EAT
It’s hard to run into a place in Athens and not enjoy their food. In general, Greek food is fantastic and you won’t need to search far and wide for good eats. But, there were a couple restaurants that stood out.
The food here was incredible! Not sure if we were lucky or if everyone who goes has the same experience. The tzatziki had so much flavour along with the rest of our meal. The Gyros filled with chicken, veggies, fries and a bunch of tzatziki was the winning item. Definitely check this place out, you won’t be sorry!
360 Cocktail Bar
The meal we had here was great as well. What really stuck out was the view that went along with our food. Incredible view, food and service. Don’t forget to check this place out as well (make a reso if you can).
WHERE TO STAY
The most desired neighbourhood to stay in Athens is probably Plaka. Plaka is situated in the centre of Athens and is in great walking distance to all of the important sites.
While in Athens we stayed at “Central Athens Hotel” which is located in the old city of Plaka with the Acropolis only 200 meters away. The view of the Acropolis and of Athens from the hotel rooftop is beautiful! The rooftop has a restaurant/bar called “Thea” Terrace Bar. You can have drinks and dinner while watching the sunset, even if you’re not a guest staying at the hotel. When we arrived, they had left a special liqueur from the Island of Chios for us to try with a Congratulations on Your Honeymoon card. The breakfast buffet had a wide variety of food and it did not disappoint.
The customer service there was good but the only thing that we didn’t enjoy was their shower situation. It was tiny and the shower curtain always clung to me while I was in there. Besides that, we had a great stay.
HOW TO GET AROUND
We were happy to have stayed right in the middle of Athens, which for the most part meant we could walk everywhere. We were always about a 10-15 minute walk to our destination. We did walk to Mt. Lycabettus from our hotel and we should have taken an UberTAXI to get there as there are a bunch of stairs you have to climb up just to get to the entrance of Mt. Lycabettus.
You can use the Uber app which in Athens is called UberTAXI. The taxi will charge you after the ride just like a regular taxi would but we took the Uber a couple of times because it was easier to show on the Uber map where we were in the city. Most drivers spoke a bit of English but using UberTAXI just saved us from any miscommunication.
BEST SPOTS FOR PHOTOS
Athens isn’t as photogenic as the Greek Islands, but that’s why I was pleasantly surprised with a few very charming spots.
Of course, as listed above, you can take incredible photos at the Acropolis by the Parthenon, or by any of the incredible temples in the city. But if you’d like to get some bougainvillea in your shots, I would recommend the neighbourhoods of Plaka and Anafiotika.
Also, head to almost any rooftop bar or restaurant in the city because you see the Acropolis and a view of the city from most. Wait for sunset and Instagram away!
GET A TOUR GUIDE?
If you’re going to Athens and really want to learn more about its history, I would definitely recommend a tour guide who’s going to explain everything in detail.
We didn’t get one because we felt like we were ok not going along with a tour guide in a group. Everything we wanted to see we had a good idea of its history. For everything else that didn’t interest us as much, we read signs with information and felt like that was enough. Everyone is different and there might be a tour that’s right for you.
There are plenty of people who end up visiting Athens for the sole reason that they land there before heading to the islands. We had never been to Athens which made us want to visit the city for at least two days. We had heard that you could pretty much see what you needed to in two days so that’s what we did. It was more than enough for us. If you want to learn more about the history and the archaeology of Athens, add in an extra day but I wouldn’t recommend needing more than 3 days.
MY THOUGHTS ON ATHENS
Before going, people told me how grungy and dirty Athens was so I went in with low expectations. Sure enough, I did see quite a bit of it around certain areas but it isn’t everywhere. And the areas I mentioned above that are good for photos, were beautiful and more importantly clean. I’m sure everyone can agree that every city has its worse areas. So go in with an open mind and you’ll find gems anywhere you go.
I hope this Guide was somewhat helpful and that you were able to think a bit more on how you’d plan your trip. If you’ve been to Athens, was there something on my list that I’ve forgotten that you feel is important to see when you go? Let me know down below!