So you’re a hipster traveller. You like going to small cities and not so crowded towns. You want to go where only a few people before you have gone, so Athens is nowhere near your travel list. You may think it’s overrated, or famous for a few things but doesn’t offer much, or too crowded even, but I will help you have an unforgettable trip; I will show you when to go to avoid the crowds, what to do and what to see when visiting this Greek city. So buckle up, and read carefully.
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Weather in Athens
As expected, Athens has Mediterranean weather, with hot, dry summers and cold rainy winters, so many people choose to avoid the cold and spend their summers in it, which is why the city is crowded during July and August. So avoid these two months if you hate the masses, and opt for a trip during the spring or fall when the weather is still warm, the prices have dropped, and the nightlife is still around.
Where to stay
- Hotel Grande Bretagne
Grande Bretagne is within walking distance from all the main attractions in town. It offers luxurious rooms with mesmerising views, high-end services like a local spa retreat, and a restaurant where you can try the finest of Mediterranean cuisine.
- King George Hotel
With its neoclassical facade, this luxurious hotel sits near Syntagma Square. It offers deluxe rooms with a view of the Acropolis or the inner courtyard.
- Electra Palace Hotel
Located at the centre of Plaka and facing the Acropolis, this gem offers a breakfast buffet and rooftop pool, amongst many other services. It is only 5 minutes away from Syntagma Square. It has a terrace overlooking the Acropolis, where you can taste the finest Mediterranean cuisine.
- Athens Center Square Hotel
What could beat a trendy cheap hotel, with large rooms, a rooftop view of the Acropolis, a free breakfast, and a few steps away from the major sites? This 3-star hotel offers all of these services and more at a low price. However, don’t be discouraged by the area it is located; it is safe and hectic.
- Hotel Phaedra
Set at the heart of the Plaka, this budget hotel is also close to the majority of the sites in Athens. And if you wanna grab a bite, there is several local restaurants and bars close by, just ask the staff, and they’ll gladly recommend their favourites.
- Myrto Hotel
Located in a quiet and safe area of the old town, this 2-star hotel isn’t only close to Syntagma Square and Acropolis and the central bus station and airport bus. And, of course, restaurants serving authentic Mediterranean cuisine are only a few meters away.
The metro system in Athens is straightforward to understand. With self-explanatory maps, also available in English, your chances of getting lost are minimal. The trains operate from 5am to midnight, every 4 minutes during peak season, but every 10 minutes during off-peak season. And on Fridays and Saturdays, the train operates until 2am. (lines 2 and 3).
Buses and Trolleybuses
They operate regularly, every 15 minutes, from 5am till midnight. You can get the maps from tourist offices or online from here.
They offer a scenic ride, as they go through neighbourhoods most tourists don’t think about visiting. They start from Syntagma and stop in Voula while running along the coast, offering fantastic views. Unfortunately, they run for 26 kilometres, and the tickets cost a euro only. In addition, a ticket can only be used for 90 minutes.
The Athens oldest neighbourhood, this gem is mainly a pedestrian area, filled with shops, restaurants, and archeological sites. Take a stroll around the neighbourhood and enjoy its friendly residents while devouring some of the most delicious and cheapest local food. You can get to Plaka from Monastiraki station lines 1 and 3.
Very similar to Plaka but less touristy, this neighbourhood is also a nice place to stay or visit. With its shops and restaurants, you’re sure to find something exciting and add even more to its charm. There is a flea market every Sunday morning. You’ll definitely be making some special purchases there. This area is also served by Monastiraki station, lines 1 and 3.
Sitting at the base of the Acropolis and overlooking the Parthenon, this quiet neighbourhood isn’t as tourist-friendly as the previous two, but it sure is worth a visit. It remains close to the Plaka and Syntagma. If you’re interested in talking to the locals, then this is the neighbourhood for it. The area is served by the Akropoli and Sygrou-Fix stations, line 2.
A more modern neighbourhood, Syntagma is also filled with archeological sites like the Greek Parliament and the National Historical Museum. In addition, 5-star hotels, banks, shopping centres and airline offices all serve the area, and you can get to it through Syntagma metro station, lines 2 and 3.
Located northwest of Syntagma, this small but lovely neighbourhood is filled with small boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants, and stairways, as it is set on the side of a hill, so wear your most comfortable shoes, if you plan on visiting this place, which you can get to from Syntagma station lines 2 and 3, or Evangelismos station line 3.
What to visit
Acropolis & Parthenon
Composed of the greek words Akron and Polis, it literally translates to “The Highest City”. It is made of the ruins of old archeological buildings, including the Parthenon. Although it isn’t the only Acropolis in Greece, it is the most famous one. Just avoid going during the day if you’re visiting the summer, as it tends to get pretty hot and challenging to climb up the hill.
The Parthenon is a temple built by the people of Athens for Athena, the goddess of war. It is arguably one of the most famous buildings globally, and its architecture has inspired architects from the western world, as many universities and parliaments were built in a similar style. It is the number one historical site in Athens, so make sure you check it out.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
Located at the centre of Athens, this was another temple built for a Greek god, specifically Zeus, the king of Olympian gods. Tough its construction would begin sometime in the 6th century BC, it wouldn’t be completed until the 2nd century AD under the Roman ruling. Sadly, it wouldn’t stand for long, as it would be demolished due to a brutal invasion. Today, despite there being only a few columns left standing, it remains one of Greece’s most popular tourist destinations, if not the world.
This is where it all started: philosophy, art, democracy. This is where the brightest minds of ancient Greek would gather and set the founding stones of today’s politics. This place holds immense importance in human history, and no trip to Athens is complete without it.
The National Archeological Museum
This is the perfect place to appreciate how advanced the ancient Greeks were. Filled with ancient greek sculptures and pottery, and not to forget the Antikythera Device, arguably the first computer ever, 2000 years old. It may not be the only museum in Athens, but no museum can beat this one.
The Temple of Poseidon
At a hill in the Attiki Peninsula sits the temple built for Poseidon, the god of the sea, filled with carved graffiti and a breathtaking sunset view. So make sure you set an afternoon aside, take a dip in the sea, and climb afterwards to the temple.
If you’re tired of the archaeological sites and want to get in touch with the hippie within you, a climb up this mount is worth a try. You can sit at one of the coffee shops at the top and enjoy a drink while admiring the view.
Athens is undeniably an incredible place to visit, with various sites to see, so grab your camera and document this once-in-a-lifetime experience.