AthensTravel Guide

Rippling out from the Plaka neighbourhood, the core of Athens’ historic centre, lies a living museum of temples, monuments and other sites of incredible archaeological significance. Rising above it all is the grand Acropolis, which helps you orient yourself, no matter where you are in the city. There is so much to discover here, and it’s not all out of the history books. Athens has earned its reputation as a creative, lively and welcoming city, with fabulous nightlife, great food and wine, and its very own Greek joie de vivre. If you’re planning a visit, explore our Athens travel guide and find out how to make the most of your time in the Greek capital. We’ve collected the best tips from our travel experts, and have top suggestions for things to do, the best time to travel, where to stay in Athens, getting around and more.

Athens quick facts


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Explore Athens

Where to stay in Athens?

Considering where to stay in Athens is all about immediate proximity to the city’s cultural sites and activities. This makes the districts within easy access of the Acropolis and city centre some of the most popular destinations for travellers.Luckily, these precincts also offer a wealth of choice, with some renowned for their neighbourly feel, others boasting upscale five-star hotels, and others still featuring budget-friendly short-stay apartments and a lively restaurant scene.Wherever you choose to stay within the vicinity of the Acropolis, you’ll have ready access to all the famous attractions of Athens including historical sites, museums, shopping, and dining.

With its quaint village atmosphere, vibrant cafes and proximity to the Acropolis, Plaka is one of the most unique places to stay in Athens. Accommodation here consists of mainly small, family-run hotels located directly on the street. However, what they may lack in luxury they make up for in charm, authenticity, and immediate access to all the essential sites.

Koukaki is acclaimed as one of the up-and-coming districts of Athens with a bevy of new restaurants and shops moving in. Its central location places you within easy reach of the Acropolis – this is a major benefit, along with the easy access to the Metro. Koukaki is quieter than other tourist precincts with accommodation including affordable small-scale hotels.

As a central hub with easy transport options, Syntagma boasts a large selection of the big-name accommodation options of Athens. Here you'll find international brands along with a host of other large-scale motels that all provide proximity to the Acropolis, and a central city location from which to explore restaurants, shops, museums and more.

Makrygianni is widely considered among the best areas to stay in Athens due to the fact it borders the Acropolis. This suburb places you in direct proximity to museums, shopping, archaeological wonders, and a whole lot more. Accommodation is also easy to come by, with a host of three, four and even five-star hotels dotted around the area.

Packed full of cafes, bars and pedestrian zones, Thission offers a lively ambience and access to historic areas like Plaka and the Acropolis. Accommodation here isn't as widely available as some other areas of Athens, but there are a number of well-priced hotels that allow you to reach all the must-see tourist sites of Athens within a 15-minute walk.

Adjoining the Acropolis, Monastiraki offers convenient access to Athens' prime historical sites in addition to being within walking distance of bustling neighbourhoods like Psiri and Gazi. Monastiraki is also located on the Metro line that arrives directly from the airport. The accommodation offerings here range from short-stay apartments to five-star hotels, with an option to suit almost every budget.

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  • Athens city in sunlight, people walking through street
    • Athens at sunset over looking the town and ocean in background
    • Couple at a table overlooking Athen building at sunset
  • Athens city in sunlight, people walking through street
    Athens city in sunlight, people walking through street
    Athens city in sunlight, people walking through street
  • Athens at sunset over looking the town and ocean in background
    Athens at sunset over looking the town and ocean in background
    Athens at sunset over looking the town and ocean in background
  • Couple at a table overlooking Athen building at sunset
    Couple at a table overlooking Athen building at sunset
    Couple at a table overlooking Athen building at sunset

Things to do in Athens

Widely regarded as one of the most culturally and historically significant cities in the world, there’s no shortage of things to do in Athens. The city is home to some of society's most important archaeological treasures. It houses collections of the world’s most significant art, yet seamlessly embraces modern holiday needs. Shopping, fine-dining, and adventure-packed pursuits – you’ll find them all in Athens.

Ranked among the world's most significant historical sites, the Acropolis looms over Athens in all its architectural glory. Dating back to between 400 and 500BC, the Acropolis is one of the most famous destinations in the world. It features significant ruins like the Parthenon, but it also symbolises the rich history and advanced culture of Ancient Greece, along with offering spectacular views of Athens and the Aegean Sea.

Home to the first ever modern Olympics in 1896, the Panathenaic Stadium hosted sporting events for centuries before it became an Olympic icon. The stadium dates back to around 330BC, but has been reconstructed and rebuilt over time to accommodate around 50,000 spectators. To date, it's hosted the Olympics on three occasions, and it's located near the Acropolis.

Almost 70km southeast of Athens is the culturally significant Temple of Poseidon, which pays homage to Ancient Greece's God of the Sea. Overlooking the Aegean, the ruins of the temple stand on the southernmost tips of the Attica Peninsula and offer a spectacular vantage point for sunsets over the water. The region itself, known as Sounion, was also considered strategically important to Athens.

Considered one of the greatest museums in the world, the National Archaeological Museum Athens houses a vast collection of artefacts from locations all over Greece. Originally established to secure archaeological finds excavated in Athens in the 19th Century, it expanded to accommodate the most significant finds of the nation. It's now home to sculptures, pottery, and items dating back to the late prehistoric period.

The Museum of Islamic Art offers a fascinating insight into the Islamic influence within Greek culture. This museum incorporates two buildings and spans four floors, featuring artefacts, jewellery, scientific instruments, military regalia, and manuscripts. The works were donated as part of the Benakis family collection of items sourced from Egypt, Persia and Iran, and span the 7th to 19th centuries.

As one of the most important collections of Byzantine art in the world, the Byzantine and Christian Museum is home to rare collections of pictures, scriptures, pottery, fabrics and artefacts that date back to 3AD. Over 25,000 works are held within the museum's care, collected from all over the Greek world and encompassing the Christian, Byzantine, Medieval, Post-Byzantine, and later periods.

Once a colossal temple that was one of the largest in Greece, the Temple of Olympian Zeus is now marked by only 16 remaining columns. Over 600 years in the making, the temple also once housed one of the largest cult statues in the ancient world and is considered among Athens' most famous ruins. It is situated in the centre of Athens, southeast of the Acropolis.

Widely considered the origin point for all European theatre, the Theatre of Dionysus holds special significance for the culture of Greece. Throughout its lengthy history, the area was constantly rebuilt and improved, but it's thought the Theatre of Dionysus dates back to around the 6th century BC, when theatre was first being created. Today, the theatre is best viewed from the Acropolis.

Ancient Agora was the central point of old-world Athens, and home to political, commercial, judicial and society activity. This former city heart features a wealth of notable monuments and excavations that provide a unique insight into the ancient culture and lifestyle of Greece. The Agora, which roughly translates to “gathering place” is located to the northwest of the Acropolis.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus offers a unique and authentic insight into ancient Greek performance and culture. This outdoor concert arena dates back to the 2nd century and was the third odeon to be constructed in ancient Athens. Now it accommodates live music and theatre performances from its spectacular position on the south slope of the Acropolis.

Housed in a beautiful Neo-Classical building near the National Gardens, the Benaki Museum features a collection of art and exhibitions that span Greek history. The original works and building were donated to the Greek people by the Benakis family, and have been added to over time to incorporate over 100,000 pieces. There are also additional satellite museums accommodating toys, Islamic art, and archives.

The Museum of Cycladic Art features over 3,000 artefacts offering a window into the ancient civilisations of the Cycladic Islands. Originally the private collection of shipping magnate Nicholas Goulandris and his wife Dolly, it contains items dating back to 3200BC. Perhaps the most spectacular element of the museum is the semi-abstract Cycladic figurines that later inspired Cubist art and even the works of Picasso.

Looking for an immersive experience? Then a tour is the way to go.

Athens travel tips

Greece is considered a safe country for tourists; however, there are a few Athens travel tips to bear in mind. Like most of Europe, Greece is alert to terrorist threat and visitors should be aware of their surrounds and any suspicious activity. Petty theft, like bag snatching and pickpocketing, can also be an issue while sightseeing or travelling on public transport, so ensure you safely secure your valuables either in your hotel or discreetly on your person.To cover yourself for loss, injury or accident, it’s worth taking out comprehensive travel insurance prior to departure, and ensure any required vaccinations are up to date.

Specific visas are no longer required for many tourists travelling to Greece. Instead, Greece is among the European Union countries subject to the Schengen Convention. This allows Australians to travel throughout Schengen member nations without a visa providing they are planning to spend less than 90 days within the area during a 180-day period.

Greek food is based on the Mediterranean diet featuring a mix of seafood, meat and chicken, plus readily available produce like olives, tomato, eggplant and zucchini. Greek cuisine also boasts a vast selection of cheeses including Feta, haloumi and kefalotyri. Like anywhere, check the general condition and hygiene of your dining venue before eating to ensure it's up to par.

Most electrical plugs and voltage in Greece are the European standard, comprising two round pins and between 220 and 240V. This means you will need an adapter if you're intending on taking Australian electrical items. Adapters can be readily acquired at luggage stores and post offices prior to departure or at the airport.

Located 20km outside the city, Athens International Airport is the main entry point for visitors flying into Greece. Opened in 2001, the airport features two terminals including the main terminal for international and inter-European flights, and a satellite terminal to accommodate additional services at peak times. It's accessible by rail, road, taxi, and bus.

The euro is the currency of Greece and can be readily obtained prior to your departure or at money changers on arrival. Greece has strict rules on the declaration of cash, so if you're intending to take over €10,000 in or out of Greece to a non-EU country, you must declare it on arrival or departure. This includes cash, travellers' cheques, and money orders.

Tipping is a common practice in Athens and generally involves rounding up the bill rather than a standard 10-15 per cent. While it's expected visitors will tip taxi drivers and hotel porters, tipping becomes a little trickier in hospitality scenarios. In these instances, keep an eye out for service charges on the bill or automatic rounding up. If these are already incorporated, you do not need to tip.

Spoken by 99 per cent of residents, Greek is the official language of Athens, but you will encounter many people who also speak fluent English, particularly in the major tourist areas. English is among the languages taught within the Greek education system, meaning most people will at least understand simple English and even menus are often translated at the popular cafes of Athens.

Flights to Athens

Athens food and drink

Greek food is acclaimed the world over due to its exciting flavours and fresh ingredients, which makes working out where to eat in Athens a tough choice. Eating here is as much about the tradition as the ingredients too, so each meal of your holiday should be treated as a social occasion.From leisurely coffees to quick street eats, the Athens food scene is a mix of cafes, tavernas, markets, and highly acclaimed restaurants. If you’re in the CBD, stroll through Psiri, Monastiraki and Plaka – you’ll find a great place to dine in no time. Alternatively, follow your taste buds west to the thriving foodie scene of Gazi.

Boasting a love of cuisine and a deep enjoyment of the social occasion that goes with it, Greek restaurants, tavernas and cafes are around almost every corner of this ancient city. If you're looking for some top restaurant precincts to sample the local fare, check out Plaka for tourist-friendly options, Psiri for authentic cafes and restaurants, Monastiraki for quick bites, and Gazi for trendy eateries.

Athens boasts a vibrant cafe scene where hours slip by while you enjoy the passing parade and some seriously good coffee. It used to be that coffee in Athens was restricted to a bracing brew of bitter strength, but now espresso machines abound. If you're up for some tradition, try a kafeneio where the specialties are pure coffee and strong spirits.

Many areas of Athens transform come sunset, offering live music, a summery ambience, and a commitment to revelry. Among the big-name areas are Psiri for ouzeries, eateries and restaurants, and Gazi for a bustling night-time atmosphere accompanied with upmarket cocktails. For a more laid-back evening outing, Plaka offers the opportunity to drink in amazing views of the Acropolis long after the sun goes down.

Greece has long been renowned for locally sourced, quality food and Athens food markets are certainly no exception. The city has a wealth of street markets to explore where the ambience is lively and the flavours are always fresh. Try the bustling Central Market for authentic delights and edible gifts, or explore the farmers' markets for delectable local produce – head to Bishop Park on a Saturday!

Get a real taste for the local cuisine by booking a tour.

Athens through your eyes

Where to shop in Athens?

From flea markets to luxury boutiques, Athens shopping is vibrant, exciting, and often friendlier to the hip pocket than other European destinations. In fact, many pack light when travelling to Athens in anticipation of the bargains on offer.For the quintessential Athens market experience where bargains are aplenty, head to the flea market district of Monastiraki. For the other end of the retail realm, peruse the luxury labels of Kolonaki. If you’re considering what to buy in Athens, the region is famous for its authentic Greek sandals, which are handmade using techniques passed from craftsman to craftsman over centuries.

Kolonaki holds the number one position as the best place for luxury items when shopping in Greece. Located in the chicest part of town, it's also the heart of the Athens' fashion scene where Greek fashionistas flock to attain all the latest designer and up-and-coming brands. From jewellery to swimwear, shoes and artisan designs, Kolonaki is a must for any retail enthusiast.

Nestled in the shadow of the Acropolis, Plaka features the feel of an old-style village within the metropolis of Athens. This scenic precinct is one of the city's oldest regions and is now closed off to cars in many areas. Plaka is home to speciality shops like jewellery stores, art galleries, sandal makers, souvenir retailers, and cafes.

Packed with trendy shops, leather makers and furniture stores, Psiri is considered an almost hidden shopping gem of Athens. Once a rundown area with an anti-establishment reputation, Psiri is shaping up as one of the best places to escape the crowd, peruse the wares and enjoy the authentic neighborhood feel amid locals, cafes, and fabulous food.

Kolonaki holds the number one position as the best place for luxury items when shopping in Greece. Located in the chicest part of town, it's also the heart of the Athens' fashion scene where Greek fashionistas flock to attain all the latest designer and up-and-coming brands. From jewellery to swimwear, shoes and artisan designs, Kolonaki is a must for any retail enthusiast.

A former gasworks, Gazi is emerging as the place for all things up-and-coming in Athens, including a variety of boutique stores. Shops are set among intricate walls of graffiti art, and there's a host of galleries to further indulge your artistic hankerings. Meanwhile, shoe shops, jewellery boutiques and speciality pieces are also accommodated within the industrial atmosphere of the old factories.

Looking for a safe and simple way to bring your money when you travel? Our Travel Money Card has you covered!

When is the best time to travel to Athens?

The weather in Athens features distinct seasons that range from hot, dry summers to cold wet winters. In fact, the city has a huge variation in temperatures across the year. Summer days can be oppressive with heatwaves seeing the Athens temperature climb to 40°C. Meanwhile, winter sees the mercury drop to just 10°C with minimal sunlight in December. This means spring, early summer and autumn are generally considered the best times to travel to Athens, with the added bonus of avoiding the summer crowds and inflated peak season rates.

Summer sees tourists flock to Athens as Europe embraces its major annual holidays, but the heat may not be for the faint-hearted. Daily temperatures can climb as high as 40°C, with July averages of 33°C and August averages of 34°C. Appropriate clothing: Singlets and shorts Don't forget: A water bottle and hat – the summer heat can be intense

With frequent rainy days and temperatures in the low teens, winter is a quieter time in and around Athens. In fact, December is the wettest month of the year, with an Athens rainfall of almost 100ml. If you're willing to brave the wet and cold, the rates are cheap and the sites can be seen without the crowds. Appropriate clothing: Jumpers, jeans, and a jacket Don't forget: An umbrella

Come September the frenetic tourism pace of Athens dies down and the temperature eases off to allow perfect conditions to explore this ancient city. Autumn also allows tourists to enjoy a dip in the warm and inviting sea. Appropriate clothing: Shorts and t-shirts for daytime, with a light jumper for evenings when the weather cools off Don't forget: Walking shoes

Spring offers the opportunity for Athens to shine in its full, reinvigorated glory. This time of year sees an abundance of wild flowers, while the crowds are still manageable and the rates are budget-friendly. Appropriate clothing: Shorts, t-shirts, and warmer options should the weather get cool Don't forget: A jumper for the evenings

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How to get around Athens

Whether it’s on foot, by bike or via underground rail, Athens transport has a host of options to see you easily navigate this ancient city. The Metro system is often the preferred transport for visitors as it provides access to all the major city sites without negotiating the city’s notorious traffic. Meanwhile, many streets in tourism areas have now been closed to cars, offering the perfect opportunity to explore much of Athens and its endless delights on foot. Best of all, the city’s transport is budget friendly, and day passes are readily available.

There are an estimated 15,000 taxis in Athens, and using them is generally affordable. Ensure you check the meter when you get in as overcharging of unwitting foreigners can occur. Taxis operate on daytime rates until midnight (ensure the meter is set to ‘1' during these times) and night-time rates after midnight (the meter should be set to ‘2').

Experience the beauty and ambience of Athens with the comfort and convenience of two wheels, courtesy of the readily available Athens bike hire. The city features an ever-increasing array of bike paths and parks to explore as it embraces the cycling culture. There are a host of hire companies and hotels with bike hire available, with many also offering guided cycling tours of the city.

Athens features an extensive and inexpensive public transport system that encompasses trains, trams, trolleys, underground rail, and buses. For most visitors the underground rail system, or Metro, offers the greatest convenience, easily servicing major sites of the city. However, if you're after a casual ride and coastal views, check out the trams that run from Syntagma.

As most of the Athens sightseeing occurs around the city centre, walking Athens is a great way to discover ancient wonders, shopping and fabulous eateries in one fell swoop. Much of the city has also been made pedestrian-friendly. If you're planning on exploring Athens by foot, be sure to take a water bottle and a hat.

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What are the best parks in Athens?

Athens parks and squares don’t just beautify the city – they’re often sites of historical and societal importance. From the ancient significance of Areopagus Hill to the modern community function of Stavros Niarchos Park, the parks and public spaces of Athens mark the major turning points of an ancient culture.Importantly, Athens’ parks offer a welcoming refuge and striking contrast from an otherwise sparsely vegetated city that is prone to extreme heat. They provide the air that breathes life into a city that has endured immense upheaval and significant attack in the pursuit of modern democracy.

Open to the public from sunrise to sunset, the National Gardens of Athens feature 15ha of tropical gardens right in the heart of the city. In addition to open green spaces and trees and flowers that have been collected from all over the world, the gardens also boast ancient monuments and even a zoo.

As the epicentre of modern Athens, Syntagma Square is a place of special social and historical significance to Greek residents. Situated in front of the Old Royal Palace, this is the site where soldiers gathered in 1843 to demand former King Otto of Greece grant the first constitution. Now Syntagma, or “constitution” square, also features a fountain and shady trees.

Areopagus Hill is a site of immense cultural significance situated adjacent to the Acropolis. Prior to 5BC, Areopagus Hill functioned like a senate for the city's elders to pass legislation. In classical times, it served a judicial purpose for the trying of homicide. It's also believed to be the place that Apostle Paul delivered his famous speech about the identity of an “unknown God”.

Stavros Niarchos Park is a 210,000m2 purpose-built green space designed to breathe life into the city of Athens, while also providing a venue for arts and culture. The park features lush green landscaping and open spaces, plants, fountains, and playgrounds. Completed in 2016, the precinct also accommodates the National Library of Greece and the National Opera.

The small rocky outcrop surrounded by parkland that comprises the Hill of Pnyx is the site where all the great struggles of Athens and the Golden Age were fought. Here Athenians have gathered for centuries to host popular assemblies and play out the workings of democracy. In proximity to the Parthenon and looking down on Ancient Agora, this is a symbolic green refuge against the white backdrop of Athens.

Getting from park to park is so much better with your own wheels. Hitch your ride now!

Athens Frequently asked questions

When packing for a trip to Athens, don't forget the essentials like your visa, passport, chargers, camera, some euro and the correct power adaptor. Clothing wise, check out the seasonality guides and pack to suit the conditions - aka layers for winter and lighter options for summer. Other necessities include a walking shoes, hat, sunglasses and a good pair of jeans. No, seriously, jeans are the ultimate European travel accessory, effortlessly taking you from strolls along cobblestoned streets to nights out bar hopping between Tavernas. 

Athens boasts affordable public transport and can easily be explored on foot by those hoping to stay in the city centre. Accommodation wise, most travellers will opt to stay in Syntagma Square, Koukaki, Kolonaki and Psyri.

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Athens’ tourism is at its peak during the summer months of July and August, when warm temperatures welcome visitors from across the globe. If you’re keen to avoid the crowds while still enjoying nice weather, consider visiting in late spring around May, and during the autumn months of September and October.

If there are two things that Athens is good at, it is dishing out tasty treats and providing incredible historical experiences. Throughout your stay, be sure to visit hotspots like the Acropolis and Temple of Olympian Zeus, take a hike up Mount Lycabettus for breath-taking city views, and finish each day with a cool drink and meal in one of the city’s many Greek Tavernas.

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