Millions of visitors come to Athens every year to see the ancient sites like the Parthenon and other temples and ruins atop and around the Acropolis. But monument-hopping isn’t all you get in the bustling Greek capital. Definitely make a point of seeing the historic centre and all of its imposing archaeological wonders, but also make time to explore the city’s array of interesting neighbourhoods, all with their own personality and unique offerings. Athens is also home to some stellar museums, great food, a vibrant nightlife scene, and many festivals worth checking out depending on when you visit. If Athens is on your must-visit list, here’s a rundown of everything you need to know before you go and once you arrive.
Getting to and from ATH
The Metro makes for an easy way to get to and from the airport. If you’re heading into the city, you’ll want to take Metro Line 3 to Syntagma Station (Athens’ centre). The trip takes around 40 minutes and trains run every 30 minutes, 7 days a week from 6:30am to 11:30pm. A ticket will cost you EUR 10, or you can buy a return Metro ticket for two trips to the airport in under seven days (if you’re on a shorter visit) for EUR 18.
Another option is to take one of the 24-hour express buses, which leave from the Arrivals hall. Tickets can be purchased on the bus or at the info/ticket kiosk which is located outside the Arrivals hall between Exits 4 and 5. Tickets are EUR 6 and the X95 gets you to the city centre, which takes 70 minutes.
If you plan on taking a taxi, taxis are available at the designated taxi waiting area at Exit 3 of the Arrivals level. A taxi from the airport to the city centre will cost you a flat rate of EUR 35 from 5am to midnight, and EUR 50 from midnight to 5am.
Getting around Athens
Athens has an extensive public transportation system that includes the Metro, city buses, tram, electric trolley buses, and suburban railway. Most transport runs from 5am to midnight with the Metro running until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. A 90-minute ticket for use on all modes of transportation is EUR 1.40, a 24-ticket is EUR 4.50, and a 5-day ticket is EUR 9. Just note that the all-mode tickets can only be used on the urban section of the suburban railway (Piraeus – SKA and Magoula – Koropi).
If you like walking, much of what you’ll want to see is in Athens’ city centre, making getting around on foot an easy option for hitting major sites. In particular, a large section of the city’s historic centre has been converted into a three-kilometre pedestrian zone, which takes you to many of the must-see archaeological sites.
Things to do in Athens
Start with the historical centre of Athens because you can’t come to Athens without seeing its major archaeological sites. Well, you can, but that would be a shame. The Acropolis and surrounding sites are all easy to see on foot and you can actually walk an entire circuit of the Acropolis and ancient Agora via that pedestrian zone we mentioned. From there, on and around the Acropolis you’ll see the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the ancient Theatre of Dionysos, and, once you reach the summit of the Acropolis, the Temple of Athena Nike, the awe-inspiring Parthenon, as well as gorgeous views over the city. You’ll want to start this journey either very early (by 8am) or after 5pm to avoid the crowds.
Don’t miss a visit to the architecturally stunning Acropolis Museum. As you walk in, don’t forget to look down. Below your feet, you’ll see a plexiglass floor through which are the ruins of an ancient Athenian neighbourhood. Three floors are home to numerous ancient statutes and Greek antiquities.
If you need a few more museums to add to your itinerary, several worthwhile culture-hopping stops include the Museum of Cycladic Art, Byzantine and Christian Museum, and the Benaki Museum, all of which can be found in the upmarket Kolonaki neighbourhood.
Take a break from history and culture with a wander through the winding streets of Pláka, the oldest district in Athens. Here you’ll find tons of bars, cafés, and restaurants along with the chance to do some shopping.
Athens is also home to many festivals, many of which take place in the summer. One of the most popular is the Athens and Epidaurus Festival, which takes place the beginning of June through the end of August. The world-famous cultural event combines music, dance, opera, and theatre. Another great option for festival-goers is the Athens Open Air Film Festival, which takes place June to September. Films are screened all summer in historical sites across the city and best of all, entrance is free.
Athens Day Tours
Looking for more things to do? Urban Adventures offers day tours in Athens and beyond, all led by local experts that will give you a taste for local life:
Greece is the type of place where you can see ancient ruins while on the Metro – no biggie! Join this Athens tour to do this as well as sip ouzo, admire old and new architecture, and see a traditional Greek changing of the guard ceremony.
Markets, Ruins & Ancient Athens
Athens makes travelling easy; the streets are filled with cultural, historic, and culinary icons. The problem is knowing which streets. Join this Athens tour to enjoy the benefits of having a local guide who will show you fresh produce, retail hot spots, ruins, temples, markets, and mosques.
Taste of Athens
See the ‘big five’ of Greek cuisine in their natural habitat: ouzo, feta, olives, olive oil, and koulouri! If you don’t know what koulouri is you soon will as this Athens tour explains it all live as you eat it (but not before you Instagram it).
Bohemian Tales of the City
Take a detour down Athens’ back alleys and into neighbourhoods you won’t find in guidebook pages! This is alternative Athens, where bohemian shops, amazing street art, hidden courtyards, and indie cafés attract locals — and travellers who want to escape the tourist traps.
Twilight Athens Tour
Athens at night can transform even the most skeptical romantic. Come experience a completely different side to the city as you walk through its historical centre and bustling neighbourhoods after dark. Listen to urban stories and myths, sample the best local spirits, and try mouthwatering finger food, in an Athens only known by locals!
Athens on the big screen
Some movies you can seek out to get you in the mood for a visit to Athens include My Life in Ruins, Boy on a Dolphin, and Never on Sunday, the last of which stars Athens-born actress Melina Mercouri, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the 1960 film.
Athens on record
One of the most recognisable names in Greek music has to be Yanni. The Greek composer’s first live album, “Live at the Acropolis,” was recorded at the Herodes Atticus Theatre in 1993.
Athens in books
Pick up copies of Apartment in Athens by Glenway Wescott and 92 Acharnon Street: A Year in Athens by John Lucas for some pre-trip reading.
Get in touch with us
There are plenty of things to do in Athens, we all know that. But do you know what the locals do? Discover the Greek city of wonders with a local guide to gain some fresh perspective on an otherwise well-beaten path. Not merely catered for history buffs, these Athens tours also discover the very best in food and culture in this, one of the most ancient cities on Earth.