My top tips for things to see and do when visiting Athens

A friend recently asked me for any tips on things to do and see when visiting Athens so I thought it may be handy to share them here too

Athens

  1. You can easily dedicate a whole day to the Acropolis and the surrounding area and the best thing is you can do it leisurely by foot. You can start with the monuments of Stili Olimpiou Dios and Hadrian’s arch. Those monuments are next to each other and they are located on the edge of the national garden. After there, cross the busy Vasilissis Amalias street and get to Dionisiou Aeropagitou promenade. This is a stone-covered promenade for walkers so there are no cars or noise. Follow the slowly ascending promenade with the Acropolis to your right side and several classical Athenian houses to your left. Those houses have not changed for hundreds of years so you get an idea of how Athens used to look before the blocks of flats were built everywhere. Continue walking and at some point you will see the statue of Maria Callas to your left. After Maria Callas you will see two paths ahead of you, the right path takes you to the entrance of the Acropolis and the left one to Filopapou and Pnika hill (there are next to each other). I suggest you go first to Filopapou/Pnika hill which is a nice walk covered with pine trees. From there, there are several viewpoints of the city and the Acropolis. In fact, the best view of the Acropolis is from Pnika hill because it is high up and at a similar height as the acropolis so you don’t get the obstruction of the wall that surrounds the Acropolis. After that go down the way you came and take the right road to the Acropolis. There you can buy a ticket for entering. Check the types of tickets according to what you want to do. The most expensive one lets you in to the museum but to be honest we only buy the simple one which still lets you see all the monuments that are included in the acropolis walls. (During the low season, you can get in for free in any archaeological site in Greece including the Acropolis on the first Sunday of each month. )After you finish with the Acropolis, exit and take the path to the right which will lead you to the narrow streets of Plaka. This is an area that hasn’t changed through the years and you see traditional little houses, tavernas and souvenir shops. It is a nice place to have a coffee or lunch and see the world go by. If you have any energy left you can walk to the neighbouring Monastiraki which is full of flea markets and Thiseio which is also nice for food and drink. Next to Thiseio is the Ancient Agora of Athens and the very well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus (you should be able to get in with a combination ticket that includes the Acropolis).

  2. Kallimarmaro stadium. Also known as Panathenaic stadium, this is where the modern Olympics started in 1896. It is an impressive stadium made of stone and marble and remains in good condition today. You can buy a ticket and walk on the walls. It is near the national gardens.

  3. Lykavitos hill. There are several hills in Athens and this is the tallest. It is a hill covered in pine trees in the middle of Athens where you can get the best views of the city. There is a road leading to the top but I suggest you walk up so that you enjoy the views gradually until you reach the top. From there you can see the whole city up to the sea and the mountains. There is a little church at the top as well as a bar and restaurant. There is also an open-air theatre for summer shows.

  4. Kolonaki. Just south of the Lykavitous hill is this neighbourhood which used to be the wealthiest in Athens. This was when Athens was much smaller and Kolonaki was a suburb. As the city grew Kolonaki found itself in the inner city area and lost its exclusivity. However, even today it is considered a rich neighbourhood with plenty of restaurants, bars and boutiques. It is worth having a look at but don’t eat here because everything is REALLY expensive!

  5. Exarchia. This could not be more different than Kolonaki and yet you can easily walk from one to the other. Exarchia was always an area that attracted university students due to its central position and low rents. The students often clashed with the police during the 1970s when Greece was under a military coup. At some point, the students barricaded themselves in the grounds of the University and they were using the university radio station to give a message of defiance against the military. The military went in by force and several students were killed. The result of this incident lead to a huge reaction from the public, the fall of the military government and the abolition of the monarchy (the monarchy supported the military for years). So this area has played a big role in modern Greek history. Today, you will see a lot of graffiti-covered walls in Exarchia and there are still some clashes with the police when there is a political demonstration but you will also find plenty of art galleries, coffee shops, cool bars and restaurants. It is now considered cool to live here. We absolutely LOVE it here and always visit when we are in Athens!

  6. Psyri. This is where the Athenians eat and it is kept a secret from the tourists so don’t tell them that I’ve told you :-). The food here is authentic and the prices very reasonable. In fact, we always think that eating out in Athens is relatively cheap.

  7. Petralona. This is another nice neighbourhood with plenty of traditional stone-covered houses (Petra=stone) and nice places to eat. It is next to Filopapou hill which I mentioned in the first paragraph.

  8. Swimming/beaches. The nearest beach is Alimos but to be honest, I would not recommend it. It is next to a super busy road and the water quality is not that good. Drive a bit further along the coast to Voula or Vouliagmeni for cleaner water and generally a much nicer environment.

  9. Bakeries (Fournoi). Almost every street has a bakery and you have to try their products for an authentic Greek experience. Try the various pies (feta, spinach, aubergine etc), koulouri (savoury round bread covered in sesame seeds), baklava, or anything with chocolate.

Daytrip suggestions ·

If you have spare time you may want to drive to Nafplio. It is a pretty town in Peloponnese and it is less than a 3-hour drive from Athens. On the way, you can also stop at the archaeological sites of Mycenae and Epidaurus. · Or you can take the boat to Hydra. It is a beautiful little island and you can get there in a few hours sailing from Athens.

Blog Posts

Here are a few of my blog posts that I wrote on specific areas when we were last in Athens that may be of interest - Have a great time in Athens, you will love it!

https://airbnbtravellers.com/the-acropols-lycabettus-hill/

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This is brilliant @Colin and thanks for sharing. It’s also relevant as we’ve just discovered that nearby Lyon airport flies Easyjet inexpensively to a lot of Euro cities… and after Corsica (where we fly in a couple of weeks), Athens is next. I’ve spent a lot of time in Greece, but never been to Athens! Have you spent time in Zagoria? That’s my absolute favourite area and have hiked there up in the mountains with wolves and bears on several occasions.

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@Vanessa-ForumCMgr - We have never been there but I just googled and it looks amazing!!

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@Colin It’s like going back in time. We stayed in tiny villages where the only place to eat is with the locals … many (or did) open up their gardens for evening meals and chat. It is a sublime area … add it to your list!

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Thank you so much Colin!
I’ve never been to Athens but it’s been on my bucket list for some time so must get there….looking like 2024/5/6 though!

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Have bookmarked this as this has a lot of great information. I have only been to Greece once for 5 days and stayed in Santorini is a very small village by the sea. The hotel was more like a villa, fresh open and delightful with breezes from the sea. It was family run and the owner would do two round trips daily into Thira in his van. The pool was water brought in from the sea. Incredible experience for very little expense and definitely for me was a “seize the moment” opportunity I added impulsively along the way.

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@Colin thank you! I have a sit early next month close to Athens for a month so am doing some research at the moment. Saved your list. :sunglasses:

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