Athens is the ancient capital of the Greeks, cradle of modern civilization, and mythology. Centered around the Acropolis, there are layers upon layers of history to be uncovered and even if you have limited amounts of time, there’s much that can be explored in this urban juxtaposition of grungy urban development and grand marble architecture. This is a detailed itinerary for how to spend 2 days in Athens. It’s a perfect way to start or end your trip to Greece.
Read more about Greece
- 14 day Greek islands hopping itinerary
- 3 day itinerary of Santorini
- Folegandros – the island you probably never heard of
- Greek island hopping guide
- Greece travel guide
Where to stay in Athens?
- Wanting to stay in a central location, we discovered an apartment rental on Booking.com named Athens Cozy Apartment that was conveniently located within walking distance to the Acropolis.
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How To Spend 2 Days in Athens
Athens is a captivating capital that every one coming to Greece is going to transit through and there will be a great pull to include it into your itinerary. There’s good reason too because after all, Greece is in many ways the world’s ancient capital where democracy was born and how other empires came and went, leaving so much behind.
Today, Athens is the centre of art, culture, ruins, and urban development. 2 days is totally not enough time to see it all but if your goal is to get to see and do the main sights that centre around the Parthenon that stands tall above Acropolis Hill, this will surely satisfy your vacation plans.
In our 14 day Greek island hopping trip, we ultimately decided to leave Athens to the very end although we easily could’ve done this at the beginning of our trip as well.
The goals of this itinerary is to supplement the high level breakdown of how we did our trip Greek island hopping across 14 days. Use the full itinerary as the larger guide for how we went about going from island to island. Also, don’t miss the comprehensive Greek Island travel guide which will have an incredible amount of detail on everything you won’t find in a guide book or “top things to do” type of blog post.
Let’s jump into how to do Milos in 3 day including what to do in Milos, where to stay, where to eat, and more.
Day 1 – Athens – Odeon of Herodes Atticus
You’ve had 12 incredible days on the Western Cyclades of the Greek Islands and alas its finally time to head back to the mainland.
With your bags packed, walk down to the port and if you’re hungry, grab something to eat at one of the restaurants across to the waiting area. Otherwise, you can find something to eat on the boat.
The ferry from Milos to Piraeus Port in Athens will take roughly 3 hours and 20 minutes with stops to Sifnos and Serifos if you’re taking the SeaJets Naxos Jet like we did. Of course, you could totally start your Greece itinerary with Athens and from there start island hopping with ferries afterwards.
Once you arrive in Athens, a wave of humanity will be disembarking. There aren’t any clear signs of where to go once you hit the ground and without knowing which dock you’re at, it’s hard to say which way to go but if you have access to data thanks to something like a Skyroam Solis, look for the Piraeus metro station.
Take the subway from Piraeus to your accommodations in Athens. If I were you, I’d try to pick something within walking distance to Acropolis and the historic core of the city. We ended up staying Syngrou Fix station which was convenient enough based on the price we paid.
Don’t let this happen to you!
This isn’t meant to scare anyone off but the honest truth is that you have to be on high alert when you arrive in Athens when it comes to pick-pocketing.
Here is my story. When we hopped on the train in Piraeus, we found a nice way for us to almost use our bodies sandwich against the subway partition walls near the doors. Next station, 2 men and 1 woman came in and grabbed nearby handles and stood awkwardly close to us. The train wasn’t exactly full but there were others standing so initially we didn’t think anything of it. My wife got a bit uncomfortable so she ducked beneath the arm of one guy and away from the woman who was also there with her hand paper fan opened. They got off the next station and when it dawned on me that they might be a team of pick-pocketers and felt my pocket for my phone, it was already too late – the phone was gone.
This 3-person team was extremely smooth and full of distractions where the woman was using the fan to block the view of other passengers and the one guy standing next to me was looking down at my pockets the whole time to see when he could make his move.
Lesson learned: Be highly vigilant in Athens especially on the subway and also around tourist areas. The best tip I can offer is to keep everything out of your pockets unless they are super tight and to keep your backpack in front of you in high traffic areas. I ended up being very thankful to have my Peak Design 5L Sling with me because I could keep that in my vision all the time.
After you’ve settled down, get dressed in your fancy clothes and head out to the Acropolis Museum which some have also dubbed it as the “New Acropolis Museum” because the original museum was actually on the grounds of the Acropolis until the number of artifacts exceeded it’s size. After much controversy and time, a new museum was built over an archaeological dig of an ancient neighbourhood that date all the way back to 3500 BC.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: Acropolis Museum, 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Athens 11742
- Summer (1 April – 31 October)
Monday 8AM – 4PM (last admission: 3:30PM)
Tuesday – Sunday (except Friday) 8AM – 8PM (last admission: 7:30PM)
Friday 8AM – 10PM (last admission: 9:30PM)
- Winter (1 November – 31 March)
Monday – Thursday 9AM – 5PM (last admission: 4:30PM)
Friday 9AM – 10PM (last admission: 9:30PM)
Saturday – Sunday 9AM – 8PM (last admission: 7:30PM)
- Summer (1 April – 31 October)
General admission: 10 EUR and reduced admission (students, 18 or younger from non-EU countries, seniors from EU 65+): 5 EUR
- Winter season (1 November – 31 March)
General admission: 5 EUR and reduced admission: 3 EUR
Do they accept credit card?: Accepted if you purchase at the museum’s ticket desk.
- Do you have to check backpacks in their cloakroom? Yes, they will make you leave your backpacks there but luckily this is a free service.
- Is photography allowed? Yes but with restrictions. You can use non-flash photography everywhere in the museum except for the Archaic Acropolis Gallery which is actually the main part of the exhibit so it was frustrating to figure out where that zone started and ended. Just keep that in mind and when in doubt, ask the security guards whether it’s okay to shoot.
- Is there wifi? Yes.
- The reason why the museum is slotted on this day is because it actually helps A LOT to learn about the Acropolis before heading up there. I’ve done the guided tour up there and I hated it because the guide’s English isn ever really that good and you can’t explore it freely. By getting to learn about the Parthenon, its pediments and friezes, and then also the Erechtheum and the Caryatid/Karyatid figures, you get a whole new appreciation of what you’re looking at when you get there.
- If you don’t want to visit the museum, you can go to the shop on the ground floor for free. What most don’t know is that the second floor shop and restaurant are also free but you need to get a “free admission ticket” from the front desk. There is an incredible view from the patio balcony of the restaurant on the second floor and this alone is well worth the visit.
- Come to the museum grounds to also take a look at the excavations that are happening underneath the museum which you can see without even entering the museum’s doors.
- Pay attention to the hours because it closes a lot earlier than you think especially during the winter season.
- If you’re looking for more of a combo day where you can do the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum, you should check this tour out which is fully guided.
You will most likely be at the museum until they kick you out because there’s that much to see. Once you’re back out on the main pedestrian street Dionysiou Aeropagitou that encircles the Acropolis, make your way over to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
Built in 161 AD, this theatre is the only of the two theatres in the Acropolis that has been restored to its original steep-sloped theatre minus the wooden roof that used to sit on top. Today, it’s the venue for the Athens Festival which is a mix of theatre, musical, and other cultural performances between the months of May and October.
If you’re in Athens and you can make it work, I highly recommend that you try to plan your time in Athens around a performance here because it is truly a treat to sit on the steps of history with everything lit up at night, echoing on the hill and the Parthenon looming behind.
We had the pleasure of watching the Italian opera, Norma, a lyrical tragedy involving the love triangle between the perjured High Priestess of the Druids, her young colleague and the Roman proconsul.
While certainly it was challenging to follow the opera through subtitles, the soprano arias was unforgettable, the orchestra’s melodies hauntingly beautiful, and the modern take of this piece with elements of recycled waste in an unsustainable world carried throughout. Not going to lie though, our butts were a bit sore after this epic 3 hour performance.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: Dionysiou Areopagitou, Athina 105 55, Greece
Hours: If I am not mistaken, all of their performances are late in the evening (9PM in our case) which is perfect because it gives you time to wind down your activities nearby and have dinner as well.
Price: Tickets range from €25, €45, €55, €60, €85, €100. Student prices are even cheaper at €15 for the upper bowl seats.
Do they accept credit card?: Yes, you have to pay through credit card if you buy your tickets in advance online.
- Is there a dress code? Not per say but luckily we dressed somewhat more respectably because many of the local Greeks were dressed up as you would if you went to an orchestral symphony back home. You don’t necessarily need to come in with suit and tie or dress but something a little nicer would help. That said, those that are up in the free-for-all seats at the top definitely seemed less dressed.
- Can you buy tickets at the door? Yes, while the theatre does get very packed in the lower bowl, the upper bowl often does have tickets available on the day of so it’s worth showing up to grab a seat even if you didn’t do any early planning.
- Do the seats have any padding? The theatre features original Greek-style theatre stone seating but luckily they do put on a padded cushion at each seat so it’s bearable. That said, they don’t have thick padding or any back support so you might get a little uncomfortable by the end of it. We noticed that locals bring their own seats with fold-open back support.
- When does the show finish? For us, the show finished at 12:20AM.
- Are there intermissions? Yes, there is one intermission in the middle that lasts roughly 15-20 minutes.
- How does seating work? Fixed seating is available for all of the lower bowl which means that you purchase specific seats as you would on TicketMaster. The upper bowl is the cheapest because it’s free-for-all. If you buy these seats, make sure to come early because a line up will form and once the gates open, you rush up and grab the best possible spots you can.
- Are there subtitles? Most operas performed here are Italian so unless you know the language, you won’t understand what they’re saying. That’s why to the left and right of the theatre, there is a screen that flashes Greek and English subtitles.
- Is there a concession stand? Right out the theatre is a concession stand which sells food and drink. I was expecting the prices to be outrageous but was surprised that the sandwiches were only 5.20 EUR.
- Do you have to go through security to go in? There isn’t a specific check-point but there are guards there and they may check you if you have a large bag. Also, there’s no food or drink allowed inside. Water I suppose is ok!
- What if it rains? This is an outdoor venue so unless the weather is severe, the show will likely go on. We had a small spurt of rain where people pulled out umbrellas but luckily this was all before the show started.
- Try to make sure you eat dinner before the show because it ends late. Worst case, grab something to eat at the concession stand.
- If you want to get early dibs on fixed seats, make sure to reach out to the opera company via their contact form and ask them when tickets will go on sale. That way, you can try to buy them as soon as they’re available on the market.
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Day 2 – Athens – A History Lesson
For the final day in Athens and in Greece, you’re going to blitz through (at a comfortable pace) all of the best that Athens has to offer. The focus is of course on the archeological wonders that centre around the Acropolis. There is much to discover so there’s no time to waste!
Grab something quick to go at one of the spots you pass by along the way and make your way on foot to Hadrian’s Gate. What’s nice about this one is that there’s no entrance ticket and you can easily walk around it or through it.
Just like in its Roman days when the gate was built by Emperor Hadrian to separate the old and new cities of Athens, today it very much feels the same where you look through the gate and there’s the Acropolis and many of the most famous ruins and on the other side the city starts to spread out and and offers more green space.
Right next to the gate is the Temple of Olympian Zeus. This site isn’t massive but is impressive when you start walking around and reading the various plaques that tell the story of its origins, how it was left unfinished until Emperor Hadrian finished the project and also in its latter life when Northern invaders and the stone from the site was taken to hurriedly build a wall.
From 21 remaining columns to now 15, what struck me was just how many centuries these ruins have been seen in this form.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: Athens 105 57, Greece
Hours: Daily throughout the year
- Summer hours – April 1 – September 31
- Winter hours – October 1 – March 31
Price: 6 EUR or 3 EUR for reduced tickets (students and seniors). From November 1 – March 31, price is 3 EUR for everyone.
Do they accept credit card?: Yes.
- Instead of buying individual tickets to attractions, Temple of Olympian Zeus and a collection of other notable attractions such as Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library and others are part of a ticket bundle that is good for 5 days. The price of this is 30 EUR and can be purchased at the ticket counter of any one of these attractions.
- There are benches around the outer edge of the site and some have some tree cover but everywhere else is fully out in the open so make sure you’ve sunscreened up.
- There are skip-the-line tickets available that include a self-guided audio tour via an app so if you’re not interested in the bundle, this can help you save some time especially if you arrive right when a big tour bus unloads.
Next up is the Panathenaic Stadium, the site of the modern Olympics in 1896 and is also the only fully-marble stadium in the world. While you can go inside to tour the facilities, I think you might be happy by just standing outside the barriers and take a quick peek from the outside. That said, admission is cheap and also comes with an audio guide. The key is to manage your time because there’s a lot more to see.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: Leof. Vasileos Konstantinou, Athina 116 35, Greece
Hours: Daily throughout the year
- March to October 8PM – 7PM
- November to February: 8PM – 5PM
Price: Adults 3 EUR, Students and senior 1.50 EUR
Do they accept credit card?: Yes.
- While you can’t get up-close, you get full view of the stadium from the outside.
- Audio tour is included with admission which can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes
Walk through the National Garden and into the historic neighbourhood of Plaka. There’s a pin on the trip planning map but honestly once you cross into the vicinity, you’ll know you’re in the right spot. In the shadow of the Acropolis, this is a pedestrian neighbourhood that is filled with souvenir shops, restaurants, boutiques, bars, and cafes. Whether you’re looking for some goodies to take home, grab a meal, or even a gelato, this is a great place to stroll through and just feel the buzz.
Officially, most consider the center of Plaka to be the intersection of Kydathineon and Adrianou. From there, if you follow the bend of Adrianou, you’ll all of a sudden find yourself in Monastiraki Square. Day and night, this is the urban heartbeat of the city with the main metro station underground, famous churches, restaurants, hotels, department stores, and the famous Flea Market.
At this point, the timing should be right for a little break, food, and drink so make your way over to the A for Athens Hotel. What’s amazing about this spot is that only those in-the-know will even venture to this street and even when you’re in the hotel, you’ll be a bit confused why I sent you here. Ask the reception for the elevators up to the bar and you’ll head up to the top floor and arrive at the A for Athens Cocktail Bar & Restaurant.
They have an excellent range of food and drink here so this is your chance to munch on a sandwich, and drink fresh OJ or cold brew. You’ll have a delicious meal here but what you’re really here for is the rooftop views that they offer. Mid-day the sun is quite strong so we opted to sit indoors with the air condition but even their level below the roof is just as good because the view is fully unobstructed.
Make your way through the Monastiraki Flea Market which gets its name from how stalls will set up tables and carpets to sell all sorts of antiques on Sunday. The rest of the week, it’s a mishmash of stores that sell art, generic souvenirs, jewelry and vintage goods.
From here, you’re in perfect position to explore the two sites of Hadrian’s Library and the Ancient Agora. Both are included in the bundle tickets if you purchased it earlier.
Hadrian’s Library is mostly in ruins but this is the largest structure erected by Emperor Hadrian in 2nd century AD. Not only was it a library but it was also a place for music and learning. Only traces are left of the library and churches but the west wall has been partially restored.
Ancient Agora is not far and a massive ground for what was the hub of Athens of politics, commerce, administrative, and social activity. Make sure you account for at least 2 hours here because it is a giant park that will reveal the countless building, destruction, and rebuilding cycles of the ancient city.
Most impressive is the Stoa of Atallos which holds The Agora Museum, and the Temple of Hephaestus. You won’t see everything but if you start from the stoa on one end of the grounds and then head up the hill to the temple, you’ll pass through many interesting areas that all have informational plaques.
End your trip to Greece on top. You’ve been staring at it from afar from many angles but as your final activity, make your way around the base of the hill and enter the Acropolis from the west. Show your combo ticket at the front gate or use one of the skip-the-line tickets.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: Athens 105 58, Greece
Hours: Daily throughout the year
- Throughout the summer months the hours are 8AM – 8PM with last entrance at 7:30PM (Update: As of February 20, 2021, these hours are now adjusted to 8AM – 5PM with last entrance at 4:30PM)
- The official hours are posted on the government website which also shows which days are closed due to holidays.
- The winter months hours are 8AM to 5PM
- Note that if temperatures exceed 40°C on the hill, they will close Acropolis Hill
Price: General admission is 20 EUR and reduced (EU based seniors, and students outside of the EU with valid card) is 10 EUR if you buy tickets at the door. From November to March, admission is free on the first Sunday of the month. It is also free on special days: March 6, April 18, May 18, October 28, and the last weekend of September.
Purchasing tickets online: This part is confusing because the government websites are so bad. The only way to buy tickets online is through third party platforms like GetYourGuide. There are many listed but here are the 3 that are worth looking at:
- Skip the line ticket – This is the basic ticket that gets you access to the Acropolis. The only catch is that you have to go to the supplier’s office to pick it up first. Once you’re at the entrance, you don’t have to go to the ticket booth, you can just go straight to the entrance line.
- Skip the line ticket and guided tour in English – If you’re looking to get a guided experience up on the Acropolis, this is your best choice. This is a 2 hour long tour that starts outside of Acropolis but then leads the group up the hill to the site of the Parthenon. From there, your guide will walk through the area for 50 minutes.
- Skip the line ticket with smartphone audio guide – If you’d rather explore the site on your own, this is a great option. You get a skip-the-line ticket and also access to an audio guide on your phone to guide you through the Acropolis.
Do they accept credit card?: Yes.
- Tripods are allowed.
- You will not be able to watch the full sunset from the Acropolis as the closing of the site is just before so if you’re hoping to shoot the sunset, have a plan afterwards.
- It is ridiculously busy here in the middle of the day because that is when all the tour buses visit. To have the best experience, come here early in the morning or right near the end of the day.
- Visiting at the end of the day is perhaps the best way to do it because the temperatures start to drop, the lighting on the hill is great for photos, and the crowds dissipate significantly.
A universal symbol of civilization, the Parthenon is the sentinel that stands atop the craggy rock that is Acropolis Hill. On this hill, ancient Greek myths, religious festivals, cults, and many of the city’s decisive historical events all started here. You have the Parthenon that stands as the pinnacle of 5th century BC’s splendour. The north side of the hill features the Erechtheion, the Ionic temple of Athena and Poseidon-Erechtheus with its famous porch of the Karyatides statues.
There’s so much to learn and see here so take your time as you make your way up from the entrance gate of Propylaea with views of the Temple of Athena Nike before you get your first glimpse of the Parthenon. Taking all the knowledge you gained from the New Acropolis museum, do a full 360 degree walk around of the still-being-restored temple.
At the eastern end, there’s a museum and also an incredible look out point with a giant flag of Greece flapping in the wind.
Near the entrance, also don’t miss the Erechtheion where you’ll see copies of the Karyatides standing in their original place.
Stay as long as you wish until the security guards start ushering everyone out. It’s a magical place to be whether you’re looking out into the city down below or watching the sun swoop down into the golden glow of the Parthenon.
If you still have energy, you can climb up the adjacent hill of Filopappou for the sunset.
Otherwise, make your way back down into the city and head to dinner. Sfika is a restaurant we picked to be able to try their mixed meat dish and also their cozy and relaxed vibes after a long day of walking. The food is really good and prices quite reasonable.
Day 3 – Athens – Time To Head Home
It’s time to head home and while this isn’t a true full day on the itinerary, I wanted to put this in to make sure you have some information on how to get back to the airport.
Wanting to find an easy method to Athens International Airport while saving money at the same time. Bus X95 from Syntagma Square is the most convenient way to the airport because it’s one direct bus.
How about the metro?
Line 3 is definitely a possibility especially your accommodation is near a Line 3 station. If you’re not, you’ll have to transfer most likely at Syntagma Square and change to Line 3. A few things to keep in mind:
- This train only runs every 30 minutes
- Trains operate from 6:30AM to 11:30PM
- One-way ticket to the airport is 8 EUR
- Not susceptible to traffic
Take the X95 bus if:
- You need to go to the airport early in the morning or after-hours.
- Looking to save money
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUS X95
Address: Syntagma Square on the south end (exact location pinned on the travel map)
Hours: Departs every 15-20 minutes, 24 hours a day. The duration is 40 minutes. For the full schedule, go here.
Price: One-way costs 6 EUR. Children under 6 years can travel free. Reduced ticket prices are not available as of May 16, 2019.
Do they accept credit card?: I can’t recall but I am pretty sure they do.
- Purchase tickets from the booth and not on the bus.
- There is only one bus stop at the airport so everyone will get off together.
- This is not a special bus with luggage holders so you will have to keep your luggage close to you.
Where to Stay in Athens
There are plenty of places to stay in Athens but depending on your budget, you’ll have to find a real balance between location and type of accommodations. One thing you’ll notice with Athens is that there are a ton of B&B/homestay properties in the city and that is really the sweet spot when it comes to affordable accommodations. Luckily, Booking.com has a really awesome portfolio of places to stay. Let me show you where I stayed and a few others that I strongly considered.
I STAYED HERE
This is a budget apartment we booked in a very convenient area that’s walking distance to all the main attractions (1.3km away from the Acropolis Museum). The room is comfortable and clean but the only draw back was the shared bathroom and kitchen as this is only one room within an apartment.
Along the lines of Athens having so many great apartments available, this is one that’s only 400m from the Acropolis Museum. Featuring free wifi, city views, balcony, AC, and fully equipped kitchen, for the price you really can’t beat it. This stay is for the whole unit.
If you’re okay with being a little bit further away but a short metro ride from the historical core, this gives you the comfort of a beautiful property with a pool, comfortable and spacious rooms, and excellent service. This is close to the Panormou metro station.
If you want top end luxury, quality, and insanely good location, this has to be it. This hotel puts you steps away from Hadrian’s Arch, and the Acropolis Museum. Beyond that view, the rooms are hyper modern, comfortable, and luxurious. Breakfast is included as well!
Top 3 Athens Airbnb Rentals
Now if hotels aren’t your thing or you prefer to book through Airbnb, definitely consider these 3 top properties that I’d recommend that are walking distance to all of the main attractions in Athens.
- Athina ART Apartment IV (earth) – While a little bit more expensive, this apartment is like something out of a magazine as a newly-built, luxurious loft in the heart of Athens.
- Studio in Athens heart – Another superhost property but this one as low as $32 USD a night in this fully renovated studio, only 250 meters from Omonoia square and the subway.
- Apartment with balcony view of the Acropolis – If you’re looking for the perfect view of the Acropolis in the heart of Plaka, you can’t go wrong with this place. Averages at $66 USD a night.
Tours To Consider
The Athens Travel Guide
The below is a mini travel-guide for the island as a companion to this Athens 2 day itinerary. It may not have all the details about travel through the Greek Islands so to make sure you don’t miss anything, read the comprehensive travel guide.
Money – In Athens and Greece in general, I always recommend carrying Euros in your pocket. Being the capital, most shops, restaurants and attractions do take credit card but we definitely found it advantageous to always have cash. This is particularly handy for tipping. It’s always awkward to only have big bills that require breaking so we were constantly breaking change in anticipation. For almost every single restaurant with the exception of a few, credit card machines don’t have a tipping option so you still have to leave coins on the table when you leave.
Tipping – The general rule of thumb for tipping in Greece is 10%. In the case of taxis, don’t feel the need to tip extra because they’re handling your luggage, this is usually already added to your rate. For hotels, 1 to 2 EUR per day is the norm.
Ferry – Whether you’re coming from or another island in the Western Cyclades, all routes will end up in Athens via Piraeus or Rafina. If you end up following my 14 day Greek islands itinerary, your best bet would be with SeaJets and the NaxosJet which covers a majority of the islands you’d want to go to. The easiest way to find out what’s possible is to use FerryHopper to do a search and you’ll see exactly what works for your dates.
When it comes to making ferry reservations, I always recommend doing it as soon as possible even if you’re going during low-season. This is one of those things you’d rather not let go to chance.
Car rental: While renting a car in Santorini can be a good idea, Athens is one of those cities where it doesn’t make sense to rent a car because of the immense amount of traffic and problems you’ll have with parking.
Pickpocketing: I write about my story of how I lost my phone above. Sadly, pickpocketing and theft is a problem in Athens. Best practice is to make sure you don’t keep anything in your back pocket. If something is in your front pocket, make sure they are tight. For important documents, I’d recommend using a money belt. If you have a backpack wear it on your front side in crowded places and especially on the subway. Be particularly vigilant on the subway.
Taxi: Uber doesn’t exist in Greece. Hail a cab the traditional way. The starting rate is 1.29 EUR with a minimum charge of 3.72 EUR. A tariff of 0.74 EUR/km is applied during the day time and other charges apply if you’re hailing one from a port or airport and if you’re taking it at night. Based on my experience, a taxi really isn’t necessary if you’re staying in downtown Athens.
Bus: There’s an extensive bus system in Athens but for most travellers will find it complicated and unnecessary. The only exception would be the bus to and from the airport. As I detailed out, the bus you will be looking for is X95 that goes to and from the airport. Another useful one is X96 which goes to and from Piraeus.
Subway: Athens has an extensive metro network (3 lines) that can take you to almost anywhere you need to go. You’ll need it to get to the port of Piraeus and back and also up to places like the National Archeological Museum if you end up fitting that in. To ride the metro, it costs 1.40 EUR each way for adults. They do offer a 3 day pass for 22 EUR but personally I don’t think it’s worth it unless you’re able to take advantage of airport transfers coming in and out of the city which it includes.
When is the best time? – Similar to the Greek Islands, the best months to come to Athens are May – June and September – October during shoulder season. Unlike the islands though, the city doesn’t exactly shut down in the cold months so you can explore Athens throughout the year. Winter would certainly be a different look and be much more calm and quiet.
Getting here – Athens International Airport uses code ATH and will be the primary hub to get into Greece. If you’re curious about how to get from Athens to Santorini, there’s more detail here.
Where should I stay? – We did almost all of our hotel reservations through Booking.com and it’s because they have such a good inventory of properties that range from hotels, hostels, guesthouses, and resorts. I love that cancellation is easy for most properties and the booking management is seamless. Plus, if you get up to Genius Level 2, you can save up to 15% off on top. As an alternative, there’s also Agoda, VRBO, and Airbnb.
Do I need travel insurance? – As always, travel insurance is highly recommended. My philosophy is that you want to make sure you’re covered in case the unknown happens. With the amount of travel that I do, I always get basic travel insurance that’s good for multiple trips and lasts the full year. World Nomads is the best balance of coverage and price for anyone looking for travel insurance. Make sure to read my full review of why and a breakdown of how they work. For a more broader look at travel insurance, make sure to read this.
Top 5 Tips For Athens
#1 Plan around the opera
The main reason I planned Athens at the end of this Greek Island hopping adventure was all because of the opera. That’s how special this experience is. Therefore, this has to be my top tip. If you’re coming in the summer months, make sure you plan around when the dates of the opera are running at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and buy tickets in advance if you want fixed seating.
#2 Watch the pickpockets
Call us unlucky but even a seasoned traveller like myself was fooled. There aren’t many cities in the world where I have to throw up this warning but unfortunately Athens is on that list. Make sure you watch your stuff and keep your bags in front of you. It’s no joke here.
#3 Stay near the Acropolis
While there is a pretty good subway system, the best decision you can make is to look for a hotel close to the Acropolis. Athens is a very walkable city at its core and so as long as you’re within that radius (our hotel being as far as you want to go in the radius), you’ll have more flexibility in terms of seeing the sights while saving money as well.
#4 Rooftop bars
Athens has a number of rooftop bars that came highly recommended but ultimately A for Athens was where we ended up right by Monastiraki Square. Their food and drinks were fabulous (and affordable), and that view was simply perfect.
#5 Acropolis Museum is worth it
The New Acropolis Museum is mandatory if you really want to understand what you’re looking at when you get up there. On my first trip to Athens, we got one of those “tour guides” standing outside of the Acropolis and he was terrible. This time around, we learned so much more from walking through the extremely engaging and organized exhibits of the museum to get a perfect primer on the Acropolis. For that, I say that you definitely need to visit this museum before you go up the hill.
How I Feel About Athens
To say my pickpocketing experience in Athens didn’t affect me would be a lie. There wasn’t much I could do after it happened and was thankful that iCloud would save my butt but I was mostly upset at myself for not seeing the signs when the crew cornered us on the subway. What it did do was create a sense of hyper-awareness of my surroundings where everyone started looking a little sketchy and I wore my Peak Design 5L Sling on my front side and hands in my pockets as much as possible.
That being all said, being surrounded by the scale and grandness of all the ruins that center on Acropolis and spans for kilometers in all directions was truly impressive. This was my second time coming to Athens and there’s certainly no dulling of how impressive the Parthenon is.
For a second straight trip to Athens, one of the highlights was the opera that we were able to watch at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The seats were mighty uncomfortable but nothing beats watching a performance in an open-air ancient Greek theatre as people did thousands of years ago.
Our were 2 days (more like 1.5 days) was quite condensed but this itinerary was able to fit in all the main things we wanted to see.
I would love to hear from you. Are you having trouble planning your Greek Island itinerary like I was? Drop a line here if you have any specific questions or just want to share your favourite spots in Athens.
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