Athens Acropolis
The Acropolis (Photo credit: Ionas Nicolae)

Athens Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • The largest city (and capital) of Greece, Athens is home to 3.1 million people
  • The city is named after Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom.
  • One of the oldest cities in the world, with origins dating back to 3000 BC
  • Host of the first modern summer Olympic Games in 1896 (and again in 2004!)
  • Nicknames: Cradle of Civilization, City of the Violet Crown

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Spoken languages: Greek is the primary language
  • Best time to visit: late April to mid-June, or in the autumn (Sept to Nov)
  • Arriving via airport: taxi will cost about 35 EUR (45 minute ride)

WHERE TO STAY

Good neighbourhoods to stay in (everything available within walking distance): The Plaka, Makrianni, Thission, Syntagma, and Monastriraki.

GETTING AROUND

  • Yellow trolleys and blue buses are a convenient for getting around. Tickets can be purchased at kiosks.
  • You can ride the Athens Coastal Tram between Syntagma Square and the beaches of Glyfada and Voula (tickets are 1 EUR and available at kiosks).
  • Taxis are also readily available, although they have a dodgy reputation.
  • Renting a car is not recommended – traffic in Athens is chaotic and rules are not obeyed.

ATHENS NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 18 (16 under supervision), although this is hardly ever enforced!
  • Last call is never (the party often goes on until the last customer wants to go).
  • Main scene: the majority of nightlife is located in central areas, such as Psiri
  • Hip/local scene: some of the coolest clubs are in the narrow streets around Platia Iroon.

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • The Academy of Athens is a beautiful neoclassic building established in 1926. It is the main scientific establishment in Greece, and is named in the tradition of the ancient Academy of Plato.
  • The Acropolis is one of the most familiar and unique landmarks in the world. If visiting during the summer months, go early in the day to avoid the intense heat.
  • Syntagma Square: with the Greek Parliament in view, this square has been at the center of political protests in Greece for over a century. 
  • The Plaka is the oldest district of Athens, and is home to many excellent restaurants and artisans’ workshops.
  • The National Archaeological Museum: you would be hard pressed to find a better collection of ancient Greek sculptures, pottery, and artifacts. Avoid visiting on a Sunday (only a few of the galleries are open).

INTERESTING WALKS

  • From Panathinaikon Stadium and Syndagma area all the way to the Gazi area.
  • Walk along the waterfront for beautiful views (especially at sunset).
  • Check out The Plaka in the early evening.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • One of the best times of year to visit is during Easter, which is a feast more important than Christmas in Greece. You will get the the chance to experience the cultures and witness Greek traditions. One unique tradition is Holy Saturday: people attend church at 11 PM, bringing their baptismal candles to be lit with the Holy Flame.
  • Greeks are generally very warm and hospitable. When meeting someone on friendly terms, they often embrace; sometimes they may also kiss each other on the cheek.
  • If you want to escape the searing heat, take a day trip to one of the neighbouring islands: Aegina, Poros or Hydra. Take the Flying Dolphin from the Port town of Piraeus.
  • Where to find good cheap eats: take this chance to enjoy some authentic Greek souvlaki. Cheap, delicious food is available almost on every corner.
  • Dangerous areas: Avoid going out in the evening near Omonoia Square. Stay alert in Athens, as it has become a haven for pickpockets.

RECOMMENDED ATHENS GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days


SEE ALSO:
Athens Travel Guide was last modified: September 28th, 2016 by Nick
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