ATHENS TRAVEL GUIDE: WHAT TO SEE, EAT, AND DRINK
Athens is one of the oldest and most culturally significant cities in the world. Many myths, traditions, and historical sources suggest that the founding of Athens is one of the earliest in Europe. The philosopher Plato reported that the priests of ancient Egypt knew of a city named Athens as far back as 9600 BC! While this report may or may not be true, historical texts documenting its existence date back as far as 3200 BC.
Without a doubt, the occupation of Athens, from the Neolithic to the present day, has left the city with a fabulous, and lengthy, history. The markings of past empires have been left throughout every corner of the city – adding to the city countless stories that every visitor should hear.
This was one of the stops on our honeymoon that we looked forward to the most and is one of the reasons why we wrote this Athens travel guide. The great thing for us was how affordable Athens is. We ended up spending much less than we had anticipated. After two weeks in Athens, Greece we can say that the city has more to offer than most people give it credit for. After two weeks we left feeling like we had barely scratched the surface. However, we did learn enough about the city to put together this Guide To Athens, Greece in the hopes that it will help others who are planning trips to this magical city.
Explore Athens Archeological Walk
Archeological Walk is one of the most beautiful in the world as it allows us to see the present meeting with the past. It isn’t often that you can find ancient history preserved in such a modern city. The archaeological walk of Athens includes many of its most important monuments. Monuments that represent the perfection of human activity, abolishing the boundaries between the archaeological sites and the modern city, thus transforming the wider area into a unique public space.
The walk begins at the Temple of Olympian Zeus and passes the Acropolis, Philopappou Hill, the Ancient Agora, and ends at Kerameikos the Ceramic Cemetery.
Taking a stroll through Athens’ ancient history is a really thought-provoking experience. It is fascinating the think that these massive monuments, which are each an architectural wonder, were built in an era that predates any modern technology. Although the ruins are exactly that, ruins, they still have the ability to inspire and capture the imagination of first-time visitors to Athens.
The City That Never Sleeps
Life and traffic in Athens never stop. In the evening, the city changes once the sun goes down. When the lights come on, Athens becomes a spark of liveliness. Athens is beautiful at night and full of things to see and do. The fun in Athens always continues until the morning with bustling squares, mysterious arcades, hidden alleys, and terraces with unique views. Adventurous travelers will be rewarded with unique experiences hidden throughout the city.
Athens is a charming city at both day and night. Exploring at various times of day will allow you to see the city’s transformation and reward you with new experiences!
How Do You Get Around Athens
Transportation options in Athens include the Metro Lines, Bus Lines, Taxi, and Tram.
Most tourists will find the Metro to be the most convenient option. The Athens Metro is laid out nicely with 3 lines covering most of the city. These metro lines are labeled by color Red, Green, and Blue, which makes it easy to know where you are going.
Busses are another option, although first-time visitors might find taking the bus in Athens confusing. The best solution is to use Google Maps to check your transport options in Athens. The navigation will let you know which busses can take you to your destination, and how many stops you will need to visit.
Taxis are always an option, but we avoided them during our stay in Athens. Prices will be significantly higher than public transport and with the convenience of the bus and subway, I’d consider taxis in Athens only as a last resort.
Best Budget Accommodation In Athens
Athens might be more expensive than other countries in the Balkans, but that doesn’t mean that you need to shell out top dollar for accommodation in Athens. Take a look at these hotels that strike a balance between price and comfort.
Cool Style Private Apartments – For a real budget trip I’d recommend checking out some of the great apartments listed around the city center. Athens has a number of great apartment options, but Cool Style Apartments is one of the best values. For $50 per night, you can stay in a quiet, clean, and exquisitely decorated apartment. The only downside is that the apartments are roughly 2km from the city center. However, getting to the center of Athens is simple and convenient via the nearby metro station.
The Athenian Callirhoe Exclusive Hotel – Okay, so this one isn’t exactly budget friendly with its standard price of nearly $200. The reason it’s on the list is due to frequent promotions with their Booking.com listing. At the time of the article, it is available at a 50% discount off of standard prices. If you can snap up a room at the Athenian for a discounted rate I’d suggest going for it. The rooms are big and the location is absolutely fabulous – within walking distance to all the top sights. If going to farther parts of the city the nearby metro station makes things easy.
Alter Athens – Alter Athens is a budget-friendly hotel located in Athens, Greece. The rooms are nicely decorated and well furnished with breakfast available for an additional fee. Rooms can be found for as low as $50 depending on the season. The hotel is a bit out of the center of Athens so expect to take a bus to the city center – unless you are game for a 20-minute walk to the tourist sights.
Greece U Around Athens Thissio Suites – Another great apartment listing, the Thissio Suites, come with a 9.8 rating on Booking.com. At $90 per night, the apartment is a bit pricier than others on the list. It is, however, within walking distance of many of the major attractions in Athens which could cut down on transport costs during the trip. The large, clean apartment has a comfortable bed and excellent views from the rooftop.
Best High-End Hotels In Athens City Center
It should come as no surprise that a city as large and cosmopolitan should have its fair share of luxury hotels. For those traveling on a higher budget, Athens is sure to deliver! These hotels are best for visitors who want top-quality service and quality combined with the convenience of staying in the center of Athens. And, if we’re being honest, where else would you want to stay?
Electra Metropolis – This is the place to stay if you value uncompromising views of the city. Guests can spend the day at the rooftop pool enjoying spectacular views of the Acropolis. The hotel is located near the metro station for convenient transport around the city. However, as the Electra Metropolis is located in the city center you may find yourself opting to walk to many of the nearby sights. The location is a major benefit here!
Divani Palace Acropolis – The Divani Palace is another luxury hotel set in the heart of Athens. Look for rooms facing the Acropolis for a 24/7 view of the top sight in Athens. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with that! Another major draw is the rooftop terrace where you can grab a bite, have a chat, and enjoy the panorama of the city. After dinner, take a walk around the historic neighborhood surrounding the hotel.
King George – The King George Hotel is exactly as you might expect, royal, both inside and out. The neoclassical design of the property takes heavy influence from those designed for royalty. From the start, it is much like a palace. The interior decoration also lives up to expectations with opulent decoration and art on display. The rooms, which come with vaulted ceilings, each have a view of the Acropolis. Should you want to visit the Acropolis it is within walking distance – add a big star for convenience!
Sightseeing And Museums
Acropolis – The sacred rock of the Acropolis is a historic symbol of Athens. It towers above the center of the modern city and is a recognizable part of Athens. It’s so impressive and recognizable that you will be hard-pressed to find a tourist who has not gone home without a postcard of the Acropolis!
Acropolis Admission Cost: €20 (peak season), €10 (winter), €0 (children)
Acropolis Hours: 8am – 8pm
The Acropolis Museum – The Acropolis Museum, one of the world’s most significant, includes many unique masterpieces. Especially notable are the original works of ancient and classical Greek art which are directly linked to the sacred rock of the Acropolis. I found the museum’s website to be helpful when planning my trip.
Acropolis Admission Cost: €10 (peak season), €5 (winter)
Acropolis Hours: 8am – 5pm (M-Th), Weekend hours are extended.
National Archaeological Museum – The largest museum of Greece and one of the most important of the world in the field of ancient art. Their collection of ancient art is particularly extensive with over 10,000 exhibits! The museum is also notable as the first to open after Greece broke free from the Ottomans! Check the official website for more info on tickets and special exhibits.
National Archaeological Museum Cost: €10 (peak season), €5 (winter)
National Archaeological Museum Hours: 8am – 8pm (normal hours), 12:30pm – 8pm (Tuesday).
Note: The National Archaeological Museum opens 30-minutes later than normal in the winter.
Ancient Agora of Athens – The Ancient Agora, northwest of the Acropolis, was the center of the city during the Classical Era of Athens. The Agora was used as a gathering place for Ancient Greeks and the venue was used for all manner of public assemblies.
Agora of Athens Cost: €8 (Adult), €4 (Student)
Agora of Athens Hours: 8am – 3pm (normal hours)
National Art Gallery: Alexandros Soutzos Museum – The largest gallery of Greece was founded in 1900 and bears the name of its largest donor. The museum has grown remarkably over the years, starting with a mere 100 paintings. Today, the exhibits span the centuries and showcase the evolution of Greek artwork. The National Art Gallery is located in the center of Athens and is easily accessible by foot or from the Evangelismos Metro Station.
National Art Gallery Cost: €6.5 (Adult), €3.5 (Student)
National Art Gallery Hours: 9am – 8pm (M-F), 9am – 4pm (Sat/Sun)
Note: The National Art Gallery remains closed on Tuesdays.
Benaki Museum – The museum was founded in 1931 by a wealthy Greek family. This makes the Benaki Museum the oldest private museum in Greece. The museum’s exhibits cover a variety of topics that will be of interest to many visitors.
Benaki Museum Cost: €9 (Adult), €7 (Student)
Benaki Museum Hours: 10am – 6pm (M/W/FSat), 10am – 12am (Th), 10am – 4pm (Sun)
Note: The Benaki Museum remains closed on Tuesdays.
The Streets of Plaka – Plaka, sometimes called the neighborhood of the gods, is one of the best parts of Athens. We spent a lot of time wandering the streets both before and after visiting the Acropolis. It is one of the most interesting and lively areas in the city and is filled with visual treats. The streets are lined with food, art, and souvenirs. And, if you’re not careful, you could easily spend the entire day here. This is coming from experience, we spent more than one day here during our two weeks in Athens!
Temple of Olympian Zeus – The Temple of Zeus, nestled between the Acropolis and the Ilissos River, is one of the largest temples ever built by the ancients. It took roughly 700 years to build the towering temple and the remaining columns are still magnificent.
Temple of Olympian Zeus Cost: €12 (Adult), €6 (Student)
Temple of Olympian Zeus Hours: 8am – 3pm
Pnyx Hill – The hill of Pnyx is located between Philopappou Hill and the Hill of the Nymphs. It is located near the Acropolis so it is easily visited either before or after seeing Athens’ most famous landmark. Pnyx is famous as being the “birthplace of democracy”. Citizens gathered on this hill, long before the idea of democracy took hold, and voted on local issues. It is a good place for a hike if the weather permits.
Pnyx Hill Cost: Free
National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) – The museum opened in 2000 but recently moved into the previous manufacturing facility of the Fix brand of beer. After major renovations, the factory was converted into The National Museum of Modern Art. The museum is a great example of industrial architecture in Athens. Currently, it is one of the largest and most interesting art museums in Athens.
National Museum of Contemporary Art Cost: €5 (Adult), €3 (Student)
National Museum of Contemporary Art Hours: 9am – 5pm (Tuesday-Sunday)
Athens has many culinary options to choose from. In fact, Athens is so packed with award-winning restaurants that visitors will struggle to decide on which establishments to visit first! Dining in Athens offers the opportunity to sample new European dining trends and fresh fusions created by the country’s finest chefs.
The following award-winning eateries will give you the finest sample of food in Athens.
Funky Gourmet is a world-renowned restaurant that brings avant-garde creations to the dinner table. Their creativity and flavor have won the restaurant two Michelin Stars. In addition, they are also credited with popularizing private catering in Greece. As one of the finest establishments in Greece, you should expect to pay a hefty price for the chance to dine here. Menu prices can reach €200 with a wine pairing. Note: Funky Gourmet is moving to a new location in the Hilton Hotel. The restaurant will be closed for 2019 and plans to open in the Hilton at some point in 2019.
Funky Gourmet Price: €100+
Funky Gourmet Hours: Re-opening in 2020
Botrini’s restaurant hopes to bring diners closer to Athens by preparing dishes with locally sourced ingredients. This helps maintain the authentic nature and standard for quality of the dishes served here. The Swordfish Carpaccio is excellent and a must-order! Botrini’s does offer an a la carte menu with cheaper pricing for visitors on a budget.
Botrini’s Price: €70+
Botrini’s Hours: 8pm-12am (Closed Sunday and Monday)
The restaurant Matsuhisa Athens will likely be recognized by lovers of Japanese food. With 40 locations, Matsuhisa certainly has a global presence. The restaurant is located in the Astir Palace Hotel in Vouliagmeni. An alternative to dinner would be to come for a drink at the stunning sea-view bar.
Matsuhisa Price: €65+
Matsuhisa Hours: 7:30pm-1:30am
At Varulko the location is as exotic as the food! It is the ideal destination for lovers of fine dining. The seaside location is an excellent choice as the menu shows a heavy connection and love for the sea. This Michelin Star restaurant carries very reasonable menu offerings with main courses starting at €20!
Varoulko Price: €40+
Varoulko Hours: 12:30pm-12am
In recent years, the love for good wine in Athens has reached new heights for popularity. This has helped shape a fascinating new wine culture in Athens. As a result, many wine bars have opened up in the city center and suburbs alike. Many of these wine bars offer excellent wine lists that show the Greek’s newly refined palette. In Athens, wine labels typically include a good selection from local Greek vineyards. This offers a good chance to experience the subtle differences between Greek wine and imported brands.
Classic Nouveau is a special type of atmospheric wine bar that can be found in Athens. One thing that makes the bar special is that they open at 8am for early morning coffee. Getting that coffee fix is always important. Stop by later in the day for a great wine selection, and snacks like salads, tarts, and brochettes.
Classic Nouveau Hours: 8am-2:30am
Monk Grapes and Spirits
At Monk Grapes and Spirits, you have the chance to sample from the finest wine labels in Greece. There is a good range of wines exclusively selected from Greek wineries as well as imports. Alternatively, go for the Greek spirits and beers. They pair well with the selection of cheeses and meats available.
Monk Grapes and Spirits Hours: 9am-13am
Wine Up, with its many years of wine experience, represents small producers from all over Greece and has created a place where you can buy and enjoy fine dishes. Wine Up is a great choice if you’re looking for a cozy wine bar.
Wine Up Hours: 7:30pm-2am
Music Bars And Clubs
Athens has a unique brand of nightlife which is especially noticeable in the summer when entertainment kicks into high gear. There is a real energy located in the southern suburbs, near the beach. Numerous types of nightlife in Athens exist that cater to the interests of diverse groups of locals and tourists. If your mood is more relaxed you can visit one of the many music bars with live bands, or opt for the upbeat atmosphere found in Athens’ rock clubs.
41 Street Cafe
41 Street Cafe is a cozy place where you can sit down and enjoy a warm cup of coffee. Coffee is good and reasonably priced so 41 street is popular for that reason alone. When you factor in the soft music it creates an atmosphere that is unbeatable in Athens.
41 Street Cafe Hours: 7:30am-2am
Akanthus Summer Club
Akanthus, is set in a beautiful location in the Glyfada District of Athens. The club makes for great summertime entertainment. The club caters to a young audience so expect a young, hip crowd.
Akanthus Summer Club: Seasonal Hours (Open in Summer)
Ale Blues is a great Cocktail Bar in Athens with a pleasant atmosphere. It is accented by pleasing music that sets a relaxing tone so you can enjoy your coffee or drink. Come here in the evening for cocktails and live music. If you’re interested in spirits, Ale Blues has a good selection of whiskey available.
Varoulko Hours: 10am-3am
Where To See Live Greek Music
Listening to live Greek Music in Athens is a special and authentic experience that can be as fun for visitors as it is for locals. There are a lot of small Greek taverns that keep the tradition of the classical rebetika songs alive.
If classical folk songs aren’t for you, there are other venues offering mainstream songs for young Greek patrons. In these cases, the atmosphere is passionate and intense. The young clubgoers are full of energy and keep the party going until the morning. The vibe of the crowd is something to note with people often dancing on tables or throwing flowers to the performers.
Cabaret @ Romeo Club
The Cabaret at Romeo Night Club has performances from well-known Greek artists. It’s a great place to enjoy your nights and create unforgettable memories in Athens.
Romeo Price: Bottles start at €160
Romeo Hours: 12:30pm-12am
Frangelico Club is located on Poseidonos Avenue in Kalamaki. A quick look at the hours, closing time is 7am, will give you an idea of the wild party you can expect to find. This is the place to go if you want to party all night in Athens.
Frangelico Price: Bottles Start at €150
Frangelico Hours: 11:30pm-7am (Th, F, Sat)
Fantasia Live is a great venue for those looking for fun and excitement in Athens. If you enjoy Greek, with lots of dancing, and singing, Fantasia is the place for you. Expect the party to last until the early hours of the morning.
Fantasia Live Price: Entry and Drink €15 / Bottles start at €130
Fantasia Hours: 11pm-7am (F, Sat, Sun)
Athens’ Best Pubs And Bars
Athens loves beer and it’s a big part of the local culture! That’s why there are so many great pubs in Athens. A typical beer list includes beers from all over the world as well as the standard local options. If you have the chance, don’t pass on craft beers from small Greek brewers!
Savvas is a great place to go for kebabs and Greek beer. The building offers plenty of drink and dining options with a stunning view of the Acropolis of the top floor. Outdoor seating is also an option!
Savvas Hours: 9am-4am
James Joyce Irish Pub in Athens
James Joyce is an Irish pub with a western menu. The drink menu mainly focuses on their selection of beers although other drinks are available. There is also a good selection of food and snacks available if you’re in the mood for a bite to eat.
James Joyce Pub Price: Drinks from €4 / Starters from €8
James Joyce Pub Hours: 12pm-2am
Arch Beer House
Located in Peristeri, Arch Beer House stands out for its excellent selection of bottled craft beers. Additionally, they offer a good selection of draught beers, which you can enjoy while listening to rock music that plays through the night. The beerhouse recently celebrated its 25th anniversary as a staple of nightlife in Athens.
Arch Beer House Price: Drinks at €5+
Arch Beer House Hours: 7pm-4am
Beer Garden Ritterburg
Beer Garden Ritterburg has been operating in Athens since 1974. It is considered to be the first authentic German beer-bar restaurant to open its doors in Greece. It is often named as one of the best places to find reasonably priced food in Athens and is worth checking out. As the name might suggest there is outdoor seating available. An outdoor table is highly recommended in the summer when you can enjoy dinner under the trees and sky.
Beer Garden Ritterburg Price: €40+ For a meal and drinks
Beer Garden Ritterburg Hours: 7pm-12am
The Brauhaus in Athens is housed in a historic house from the 1920s and offers you an excellent selection of beers both bottled and on tap. There is also house-brewed beer available. For hungry guests, chicken wings are highly recommended when ordering starters.
Brauhaus Athens Price: €40+ For a meal and drinks
Brauhaus Athens Hours: 1pm-3am