Travel Guide to Athens

Travel Guide at a Glance
Destination best for: historical/archaeological sites and museums, folklore, family vacation, party, night life
Visitors rating:
Athens photo with the Acropolis, Plaka, Faliron, and the Saronic gulf
Athens
Photo of the historic center with the Acropolis rock and the Parthenon above the roof tops of historic Plaka district. The city spreads all the way to Faliro and the Saronic gulf beyond.

Introduction

The capital of Greece is a large modern city which houses about 40% of the Greek population. 4.5 million inhabitants out of Greece's total of 11 million call Athens their first residence.

As such it is a busy city with lively streets, a full cultural calendar, and a healthy nightlife. If you travel to Greece chances are that you will find yourself in Athens for a period of time, and most likely Athens will provide your first experience of Greece. For visitors to Greece Athens would be either a short stop on their way to a Greek island, or a final destination in itself. Either way, it can be a rich experience, and an especially unique one if you are interested in ancient history and culture.

What to See in Athens

Don't miss these destinations:

The four venues chosen here as the best of Athens made the list because they offer a unique experience, the likes of which you can never match in any other city on this earth. The Acropolis, the Agora and the two major museums offer a glimpse into a civilization that flourished in ancient times and which changed the world with it's cultural output.

The Acropolis of Athens

ParthenonThe Acropolis of Athens is a rugged rock in the middle of the city and in ancient times it housed some of the most beautiful buildings and sculptures on its plateau. It also functioned as the spiritual and financial center of a city that became the foundation of western civilization. Read more...

Best way to get to the Acropolis is by Metro. Get off at the Acropolis station and walk the short distance to the entrance. See it on the map...

The Agora of Athens

Agora of AthensJust below the Acropolis rock one can wander around the streets of the ancient Agora of Athens. The Agora, or marketplace, was the heart of the thriving city of Athens and it functioned as a lively market and as an intellectual playground where concepts such as Democracy were born. Within the archaeological site you can visit the Agora museum and the temple of Hephaistos. Read more...

Within walking distance lay the ruins of the Roman Agora and Hadrian's Library. They both can be found on the fringes of Monastiraki where you can stay, eat at the outdoor restaurants and shop in the outdoor bazaar at the feet of the Acropolis rock.

To visit the Agora of Athens, use the HSAP train (connects with the Metro) and get off at Thesion. See it on the map...

The Acropolis Museum

Acropolis museumThe evolution of ancient Greek art, and it's role as a beacon for the subsequent artists of all ages is clearly outlined in the Acropolis museum. There, one can observe the morphing of the enigmatic smiles to the austere gaze of the Kore statues, and the transformation of stiff geometric forms to fluid anatomical features on the human bodies. Read more...

To get to the Acropolis museum, use the Metro and get off at the Acropolis station. See it on the map...

Athens National Archaeological Museum

Athens, National Archaeological Museum collection | Pictures of Ancient Greek ArtWhile in Athens, a trip to the National Archaeological Museum should be on the agenda. The museum houses some of the most spectacular artifacts from many ancient Greek sites, and its collection of Mycenaean, Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic art is superb. The museum also houses art from Epidaurus and Dodona. The National Museum of Athens also houses some of the best known artifacts from the Cycladic civilization, and its collection is equaled only by the Museum of Cycladic Art, also located in Athens. It would take the better part of a day for a thorough stroll through its collection, and multiple visits are a must for more serious study of ancient Greek art. Read more...

To visit the National Museum of Athens, use the HSAP train (Metro) and get off at Victoria station. Then walk about five minutes to the museum. See it on the map...

Other Places of Interest in Athens

If you exhaust the above Athens highlights and still have time to explore, the following venues are well worth a visit.

Archaeological sites and museums:

  • Museum of Cycladic Art
  • Museum Benaki
  • Keramikos Archaeological site and museum
  • Hadrian's Library
  • Roman Agora
  • Panathenaiko Stadium
  • The Olympeion
  • Pireas Archaeological Museum
  • Sounio

All of the above, with the exception of Pireas Museum and Sounio, are located around the historic center of Athens, and within reasonable walking distance from each other. You can easily visit them all in a couple of days.

Where to Eat:

You will be bumping into eateries in every block around the popular areas listed above, but the most enchanting restaurants with views of the Acropolis in Monastiraki and Plaka. The entire section of Adrianou street that starts behind Monastiraki and ends at Thesion metro station, is lined with cafeterias and restaurants sandwiched between ancient Athenian ruins and with good views of the Acropolis.

For fresh fish restaurants, take a taxi to the little port called Microlimano near Pireas where you will find many (pricey) fish tavernas right overlooking the quaint fishing port.

Areas of interest:

Nice places to walk around, have a drink, coffee, or a meal include the Thesion area, Monastiraki, Plaka, Psiri, and Syntagma square. All are within walking distance from Monastiraki Metro station. You would need a longer walk, or a taxi ride to visit Lykavitos hill for panoramic views of Athens.

Walking tours of Athens

These are some ideas for self-guided tours in Athens for independent travelers. They are designed to take you through the most important places of Athens.

Places best to avoid

Omonia square: It was the heart of Athens up to the mid 90's, and many tourist guides still feature it as an attraction and a destination. But it has taken a turn for the worst in the last fifteen years with high crime rates and grimy streets unsuitable for leisurely walks even in the middle of the day. The good news is that there is absolutely no reason to visit Omonia, so you won't be missing much by not including it in your itinerary.

Day Trips from Athens

While Athens itself can provide a full itinerary of exciting venues and things to do, there are several trips worth taking around the capital. There are plenty of archaeological sites around Attica to keep you busy, and a host of little towns and seaside resorts. For more details on places to see, visit the following pages

 

Next steps

If you are ready to go follow these links to be on your way to your dream holiday:

 

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