top of page

top five guide: athens, greece

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Parthenon at Acropolis in Athens Greece

My initial perception of Athens was completely and totally misguided. Outdated but well-intentioned advice led me to believe that one should spend just enough time in this city to "check the box" on the historical sites before quickly escaping the dirty chaos and hightailing it to the islands.

While the islands indeed deserve a lot of hype, I feel that Athens is undeniably underhyped and is a worthy destination on its own. I was surprised by how veritably cool and, in some cases, even modern this ancient city felt. My greatest regret from our first Greece trip was only including two nights in Athens in our itinerary. Take it from me: don't sleep on Athens!

here are my top five tips for a trip to ATHENS:

Moxy Athens City Center Hotel Lobby Greece

1: where to stay

With a population over three million people, Athens is bigger than you may think. That means there are many neighborhoods to stay in and explore. For first-time visitors, staying within walking distance of the central district Monastiraki is your best bet. We stayed at the Moxy Athens City (pictured), which was a great and affordable option for those looking to put their Marriott Bonvoy points to use. For a slightly more central and undoubtedly more luxurious stay, I would set my sights on the hotels surrounding Syntagma Square, like King George and Hotel Grande Bretagne.

Woman Posing in Front of Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens Greece

2: acropolis

It would be sacrilege to visit Athens without taking a trip to its most iconic sight: the Acropolis. These fifth century B.C. structures are truly magnificent to experience in person, and are best viewed just before sunset when you can enjoy cooler weather, smaller crowds, and panoramic views over the city. Buy a ticket online in advance to avoid waiting in line at the entrance, and be sure to bring your headphones and download the free audio walking tour from the Rick Steves Audio Europe App to add proper context to the structures (I swear I am not sponsored by him...but I should be).

Greek Food Dinner Ta Karamanlidika Tou Fani Athens Greece

3: greek eats

Athens is filled with sidewalk cafes, small souvlaki shops, trendy restaurants, and family-run tavernas. In the mornings, be sure to get an iced freddo from Myller Coffee Shop before grabbing brunch at Harvest Coffee and Wine or The Makers. Nothing beats a simple souvlaki lunch, and you'll find a great version of the handheld classic at Tylixto. For dinner, enjoy a more traditional Greek taverna experience inside a deli at Ta Karamanlidika Tou Fani (pictured; no reservations required, though you will likely have to wait in line).

Bar Scene at Baba Au Rum Athens Greece Nightlife

4: nightlife

Perhaps the biggest surprise of Athens was the absolutely insane concentration of some of the coolest, vibiest (is that a word?), and best-designed cocktail bars I have ever seen. To back me up on this, three bars from Athens actually made the list of 50 best bars in the WORLD. Don’t miss a cocktail or two from Baba Au Rum (ranked number 20, pictured), The Clumsies (ranked number 19), Dude Bar, and Barro Negro.

Picturesque Street in Plaka Neighborhood Athens Greece Flowers Dining Tables

5: athens beyond the acropolis

There's a fascinating mix of old and new in modern-day Athens. If you wish to pay homage to this city's storied history, be sure to check out the changing of the guard ceremony, the grandest of which takes place outside the Parliament building on Sundays at 11 a.m. Then, take a stroll down busy shopping street Ermou before stepping into the small Greek Orthodox Church Panagia Kapnikarea. To experience the newer side of Athens, relax at the National Garden and explore the picturesque Plaka neighborhood (pictured).

You can't always do it all, so one thing we didn't do that I WISH we had:

Explore more Athens neighborhoods. Given our limited time, we focused much of our visit on the Monastiraki, Plaka, and Psyri neighborhoods. In the future, I would love to see more areas like Kermamikos, Gazi, Thissio, Koukaki, Kolonaki, Pangrati, and Petralona.

Have a great trip! Feel free to leave a comment with your own favorites. You can also find these recommendations (and more!) in map format by following me on the Out of Office app.


bottom of page