Introducing Athens, Greece
Athens is world-famous for its rich cultural heritage, incredible history and stunning beauty. Capital of Greece and one of the world’s oldest cities, Athens is a vibrant, bustling city with so much to explore.
Boasting a temperate Mediterranean climate, it offers visitors the perfect balance of culture and beauty, making it the perfect holiday destination.
Upon arriving in Athens, we were immediately struck by the city’s vibrant energy. We stayed in the heart of Plaka, the city’s old town. The hotel, The Residence Aiolou Suites & SPA, housed in a 100-year-old building, offered a delightful blend of history and modern comfort. Our room came with a balcony that offered a partial view of the Acropolis, making for a delightful breakfast spot.
Where to go
Acropolis: Ensure you explore the Acropolis of Athens. A monument rooted in ancient history, the Acropolis stands proud at the city’s highest point, containing ancient buildings, the Parthenon and breathtaking views of the city.
National Gardens: Visit the beautiful National Gardens, an oasis of green in the middle of the bustling city. The gardens blossom with vibrant flowers, plants, statues, and fragrant jasmine.
Plaka: Stepping out of our hotel, we found ourselves amidst the cobblestone streets of Plaka. The multi-coloured buildings and quaint shops gave the area a village-like feel, a surprising contrast to the bustling metropolis that is Athens.
Plaka is the picturesque heart of the city. This area features narrow winding streets filled with small cafes and quaint shops, a hub of traditional culture and atmosphere.
Lycabettus Hill: Get away from the city’s buzz and hike up the hill of Lycabettus. Relax in the tranquil atmosphere of this peaceful getaway, and enjoy the views of the city from the top.
Filopappos: Explore the ancient ruins at Filopappos and glimpse the past. A hill south of the Acropolis offers stunning views of the city, its ancient monuments, and a rare open-air theatre.
What to do
1. Marvel at the Acropolis
The Acropolis, the symbol of Athens, is a must-visit. This ancient citadel, perched high above the city, houses several historic buildings, including the iconic Parthenon.
The views from the top are breathtaking, offering a panoramic view of the city below.
Insider Tip: Visit early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the heat. Don’t forget to explore the Acropolis Museum, where you can see fascinating artefacts from the site.
2. Stroll Through Plaka
Plaka, the old historical neighbourhood of Athens, is a maze of narrow streets and charming houses. It’s the perfect place to soak up the city’s atmosphere.
Insider Tip: Take your time to explore the area’s many shops and cafes. Look out for local artisans selling handmade jewellery and ceramics.
3. Visit the National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum houses an impressive collection of Greek antiquities. It’s a must-visit for history buffs.
Insider Tip: Don’t miss the Antikythera Mechanism, often described as the world’s first computer. It’s a remarkable piece of ancient technology.
4. Explore the Central Market
The Central Market, or Varvakios Agora, is a sensory feast. From fresh produce to local delicacies, it’s a great place to experience Greek food culture.
Insider Tip: Try the local cheese and olives. They’re delicious and make for great souvenirs.
5. Take a Stroll in the National Garden
The National Garden, located in the city’s heart, is a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Athens.
Insider Tip: Look out for the ancient ruins scattered throughout the garden. They add a touch of history to this green oasis.
6. Visit the Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium, the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble, is a testament to Athens’ sporting heritage. It was the venue for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
Insider Tip: Take a guided tour to learn more about the stadium’s history. The view from the top is worth the climb.
7. Explore the Monastiraki Flea Market
The Monastiraki Flea Market is a treasure trove of antiques, vintage items, and local handicrafts. It’s a great place to find unique souvenirs.
Insider Tip: Don’t be afraid to haggle. It’s part of the market experience and can help you get a better deal.
8. Visit the Byzantine and Christian Museum
This museum, located in a beautiful mansion, houses a vast collection of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art.
Insider Tip: Spend some time in the museum’s peaceful courtyard. It’s a lovely spot to relax after exploring the exhibits.
9. Enjoy a Performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus
This ancient theatre, located on the slopes of the Acropolis, is a stunning venue for concerts and performances.
Insider Tip: Check the schedule in advance. Watching a performance here, under the stars, is a magical experience.
10. Dine in Psiri
Psiri, a vibrant neighbourhood in Athens, is known for its excellent restaurants and lively nightlife. It’s the perfect place to end your day in Athens.
Insider Tip: Try the local dish ‘Moussaka’. It’s a hearty eggplant and meat casserole topped with creamy béchamel sauce. Pair it with a glass of local wine for a truly Greek dining experience.
To end a day, we recommend heading to Monastiraki Square, known for its rooftop bars offering unobstructed views of the Acropolis. While the drinks might be a bit pricey, the stunning sunset views over the Acropolis are worth every penny.
Local Foods to Try
Athens is a paradise for food lovers. We stumbled upon a street food street where we indulged in the traditional Greek gyros, a delicious wrap filled with thinly sliced meat and fresh vegetables.
For dessert, we tried loukoumades, Greek donuts covered in honey and cinnamon. They’re crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and absolutely divine.
Gyros: A classic Greek dish, you must try gyros while in Athens. A combination of pita, tomato, onion, and some meat, it is a popular Greek fast food.
Moussaka: Moussaka is a layered dish of eggplant and ground beef, smothered in béchamel sauce and baked in the oven.
Octopus: A popular dish throughout Greek cuisine, boiled in wine and seasoned with various spices.
Dolmades: Dolmades are grapevine leaves stuffed with a mix of seasoned rice, olive oil and herbs. Considered the ultimate comfort food in Greece, these delicious morsels are a must-try.
Souvlakia: Souvlakia are Greek-style kebabs, usually made of pork or chicken, served with various salads, with French fries as an additional side.
Souvenirs to Buy
Ceramics: Pick up some traditional Greek ceramics—the craftsmanship in these ceramics is absolutely outstanding.
Wine: Take home a bottle of wine or two, and experience the beautiful tastes of Greek wine.
Embroideries: Look for and purchase some beautiful handmade Greek embroidery, a great reminder of your trip.
Olive Oil: Another Greek speciality you must pick up is some extra-virgin olive oil from one of the many local markets in Athens.
Jewellery: Lastly, shop for some eye-catching jewellery for yourself or as a gift.
Is Athens expensive?
Athens is generally considered not very expensive for a European capital. Accommodation in Airbnb apartments and hostels is reasonably affordable, and you can eat for a fraction of the cost at local restaurants and cafes compared to prices in more Western cities. If you plan a day trip, however, you may find the prices more expensive.
Athens enjoys a temperate Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers and mild winters. Summer temperatures can reach over 30°C, while winters remain warm but can be damp. Rainfall is heavy during autumn and winter, so it’s best to avoid that season if you want to enjoy the pleasant sunshine.
Where to Stay
- Athenaeum InterContinental, an IHG Hotel: This family-friendly 5-star hotel is located in the business district, within 1 mile of the Acropolis Museum. It features 3 restaurants, free WiFi, and a 24-hour fitness centre. Guests have rated it 8.8 out of 10. The average cost per night is approximately £189. Book here
- Grand Hyatt Athens: This 5-star hotel is located in Neos Kosmos, within 2 miles of the Acropolis. It features an indoor pool, a restaurant, and a fitness centre. Guests have rated it 8.4 out of 10. The average cost per night is approximately £130. Book here
- Hotel Ilissos: This 4-star hotel is located in Koukaki, within 1 mile of the Acropolis. It features a restaurant, a rooftop terrace, and free WiFi. Guests have rated it 8.0 out of 10. The average cost per night is approximately £52. Book here
Transport: Do your research and find the most convenient transportation for travelling around the city.
Attire: Depending on the season, pack appropriate clothing, as the weather can be surprisingly hot in summer or remarkably cold in winter.
Tourist Card: If you plan sightseeing, consider buying a tourist card to save you money on admission fees for some attractions.
Currency: Ensure you have Euros handy for any transactions throughout your stay, and take both cash and card to cover all bases.
Communication: Practise a few vital Greek phrases to get around, or you can always rely on basic English as most locals speak it well.