Athens is often portrayed as a messy and polluted city by tourists who would rather spend their holiday at a beach on one of the Greek Islands. We hope this guide will change this view and show what a fantastic, historic and fun city Athens really is.
The central market
One of the craziest places in Athens on a Saturday is the central market where all the locals buy meat, fish and fruits. If you are in the city over a weekend you should consider visiting the market just to experience its atmosphere. If you want to buy food products you should consider going later in the day when the prices are more likely to decline as vendors are keen to sell their stuff before it closes. Read more about the market on our blog HERE.
Acropolis and its museum
The hill: The must see of Athens. You can not miss this historical site while visiting the city. Acropolis means upper city, which is really what it is. Go to view sights such as the Parthenon, Erecthion, and the theater of Herod Atticus (you can actually go to concerts and shows here still). The best time to go is when it is not to hot outside as it is a little bit of a climb without much shade.
The museum: The new Acropolis museum is amazing and well worth a visit. A fun part of the museum is that you are walking on a glass floor and able to watch the old city ruins beneath you. Also, it is half price for the sights on the hill and the museum during the winter season and free for EU students all year around.
Flea market in Monastiraki
Walk around the streets of Monastiraki’s big flea market on the weekend and enjoy the variety of the market holding everything from priceless antiques to stuff people dug out from the back of their closet the same morning. The market is nice to just stroll around with an ice coffee in your hand. Go early as the streets get very crowded later in the day.
The temple of Poseidon
A short bus ride outside of Athens is Sounion. Here you can find nice beaches and tavernas serving the best fish in the area, but it is most famous for the temple belonging to the god of the sea, Poseidon. Come later in the day to have some food and watch the sunset by the temple. The orange buses run once every hour from Fix station in Athens.
You can easily spend a whole afternoon walking around the Philopappou Hill. Follow the narrow trail on the hill and enjoy the cozy and green scenery along its way. You can stop for little breaks at sights such as the prison of Socrates on the walk around the hill. Walk to its top to get a lovely view over the city and the Acropolis or down to Pnyx hill to view the birthplace of democracy. Also, if you are lucky you can spot both cats and turtles in the bushes of the hill, which makes for some entertainment in itself.
This phenomenon is huge in Athens as a result of a thriving film culture and a forgiving climate. In spring and summer you can find popular movies in both English, French, Spanish and Greek shown at the many outdoor cinemas around the city. You can often buy both snacks and food such as pizza at the cinemas. Some of the popular ones are Cine Thision close to Philopappou Hill, Cine Paris in Plaka and Cine Aegli in Zappeion.
Take a ferry to one of the Islands
It is both exciting and easy to get a ferry from Piraeus port to one of the many Greek islands. You can either book online or wing it and buy a ticket at the port for whatever is available to a good price. One of the most popular islands for locals are Hydra which is completely free of cars and a good option for a short trip.
The poet sandal maker
Visit the shop of the poet sandal maker. Only in Greece can you find a small little shop like Melissinos, specialized at poetry sandal making. Just go there, it is the only way to understand the amazingness of this combination.
Greece has a food culture that is famous world wide and some of its must eats include Moussaka, Souvlaki, Lagana bread, stuffed peppers, Dakos salad and Tzatziki. Important ingredients are olives, cheese, lamb and olive oil. There are many places to get food in the city and you find everything from traditional greek tavernas to fantastic restaurants serving international food and fusions. Two of our favorite central areas to go out for cheap but good food in is Monastiraki and upper Plaka.
The typical Greek drink Ouzo is often served with food, although it is maybe not for everyone as it has a very distinct taste. You can also try the Raki drink if you wish to take it one step further. Some of the best places to go out for a glass of wine or a beer are often the smaller ones that are practically just a hole in the wall. You can find some nice little bars below the Acropolis museum. Otherwise you have a good selection of bars and pubs in Psiri, Monastiraki and in the area of Syntagma square.
Accommodation in Athens are generally cheap. Ideal areas to stay in the centre are Plaka, Monastiraki and Syntagma, all close to attractions, restaurants and most of the popular things to do. However, these tend to be the most expensive ones and you can find some nice cheaper hotels and hostels in the outskirt of Exarcheia.Go into Booking.com and get an overview on their map of the different accommodations available in the city.
The traffic is a bit hectic in Athens and it is good to be aware that strikes happen often, especially for the Metro. Thankfully, the nicest and most practical way to see and get around the city is by walking. If you wish to go by public transport the city has a well functioning metro system, trams and buses. They are all cheap to use. The taxis are also fairly cheap but make sure that the taximeter is on as the drivers sometimes trick tourists by not turning it on and to overcharge at the end of the journey instead.
Useful to know: Rome2Rio.com allows you to sometimes search for transportation within and to nearby areas of Athens, which can be really helpful if you are not used to the system.
Go down to the port of Piraeus to enjoy a bit of sea food at one of the tavernas or grab a ferry out to one of the islands. There is also a few smaller museums located in the area, including the archeological museum of Piraeus. If you are looking for something completely different and are big into mysteries you can try the Mindtrap Piraeus game, the biggest escape room in Europe.
One of the busiest areas in Athens on a weekend. Go to see the sight of the Agora, have a nice drink in one of the trendy bars or to stroll around the flea market. The ruins of Hadrian’s library is also in the area. This is the best place to kill a Sunday or to go for a cheap meal in the middle of the week. Don’t forget to try the best Souvlaki place “Kostas”.
The cozy and narrow streets of Plaka is often filled with tourists, but for a good reason. The area is similar to what you experience out on the Greek islands and has that old town feeling. You can find everything from shops, restaurants and bars here. Try to walk up to upper Plaka which is the most idyllic part of the area.
Without a doubt the most interesting and graffiti filled area in Athens. Home to young people and anarchists, the area breathes politics and cultural expression. Some may say it is dangerous due to the fact that the locals here have turned rioting into an art form. However, during daytime you can safely visit one of the many cool cafes, rock bars or music stores.