The Ultimate Guide To Athens

Athens is a very beautiful and vibrant city, full of magic, charm and history around every corner. On my second visit to the city, I explored a little more, I was able to find my way around a little better and with my Marco Polo guide which is incredibly helpful for any first or second timer to the city! Full to the brim of important information, I was ready to explore once again, this time finding new things that I had not had the chance of doing before. Here is my ultimate guide and 'survival guide' to Athens!


Plaka area

Plaka area

Transport

Getting to and from the airport is easy via public transport, but of course it is always nice to travel hassle free, with Athens Transfer Tour, a friendly punctual service that transfers you from the airport to your hotel or destination, with kind English speaking drivers, helpful with luggage, and at affordable prices, they are my go-to when travelling to Athens.

When you're in the city, getting around is incredibly easy! There is a very easy (busy but easy) metro system. Pick up a 24 hour ticket that takes you on all the lines, from the north to the south of the city and with three major lines (blue, red and green), it's easy to navigate and it is definitely convenient for getting around. Other transport includes the ferry to the nearby islands, I highly recommend Aegina, an hour ferry ride from Piraeus and you are in a very beautiful location with beaches, the gorgeous sea and lots of food to consume!

You can grab a taxi in and around the city, they are relatively cheap (some may add on a little extra) but they are plentiful and flagging them down is a standard way of getting their attention. Helpful for when your feet have had enough and you want a little relax!

Plaka

Academy of Athens

Hotels 

I have stayed in three hotels in Athens and I can honestly recommend all three, for cleanliness, location and value for money. My top three are:

Electra Palace Hotel 5***** (Plaka area)
Coco Mat Hotel 4**** (Kolonaki area)
Athens Tiare Hotel 4**** (Omonia Square)

Of course there are an abundance of hotels in Athens but I'd recommend a central location to make things easier for you. If you're OK with travel, then there are many hotels a little outside of the city, that also come a little cheaper, but are still beautiful. I'd recommend avoiding expensive times, October especially seems to be expensive for both hotels and flights as the temperature is warm but not excessively hot and the autumn days here are like perfect summer days in the UK.

Attractions To Make The Most Of

Acropolis - Of course no trip to Athens would be complete without a trip to the Acropolis. It's 20 euros per entry but if you are not bothered about heading to the top to see it, then the Aeropagus Hill nearby has some incredible views of both the Acropolis, Parthenon and the rest of the city.

Kifisia - Kifisia is a northern affluent suburb of Athens that you can reach on the metro in around half an hour. It is an upscale suburban area with many high end shops, little boutiques, pretty parks and lots of cafes. The Starbucks there is the best one I have ever been to. A perfect place to escape the city for a little while and enjoy the more relaxed suburbs. Good for a half day trip.

Kifisia 

Kifisia
Tunic from Miss Tunica 
Piraeus - Piraeus is the coastal area of Athens which serves as a place to connect to the islands. Plenty of cruises, boats and things to do in the area, and of course, take in some clean sea air. It also would be ideal for a half day trip if you speed walk, and there are always beautiful churches around to take photos of!


Aegina - find yourself in an oasis away from the crowds on this beautiful island in the Aegean Sea. Like a holiday island with beaches, gorgeous views and magical traditional streets with quaint houses and chapels. It's not too far from Athens but the ferry does take an hour from Piraeus. You can opt for a more expensive option and take the fast boat which takes around half an hour I believe. Hydra and Poros can all be taken in at the same time if you wish to make pit stops and many companies offer day tours to all three. Or you can stay on the one for the whole day and really explore. I found quite a few pebbles under the clear waters to take home as keepsakes. Many treasures to be found and a lovely island that is well worth a stop!

Aegina coastline

Streets of Aegina

Rock picking in the sea

Kolonaki - Kolonaki is an upscale area of Athens that is based just a few streets away from Syntagma. It has upscale restaurants and boutiques and is well worth a wonder as it is away from hustle and bustle and you will find more locals around there, even though it is very much near the city centre. Lots of coffee shops and a little less traffic and the streets a little more secluded. Although there are no true points of interest, it is a nice little neighbourhood to make a pit stop in.

Rooftop Bars - no trip to Athens is complete without a rooftop bar. It is undoubtedly the highlight of the trip to really soak in the views of the city and Acropolis whilst you're there. For some ideas of where to go, here are some hotspots, but to avoid missing out if you want to dine, then book in advance or get there early. Some favourite picks are:

1. 360 Cocktail Bar - a three storey bar with two indoor floors (great views) and a rooftop bar. Popular with the locals and also popular with tourists. It serves food and is quite young and trendy but do not let this deter you. It is in the heart of Monastiraki and the area in general does get incredibly busy. 

2. A is for Athens - again in the heart of Monastiraki, this hotel serves as an incredible rooftop bar. It is higher up than 360 and has a large balcony. The views of the Acropolis are particularly special at night.

3. Royal Olympic Hotel - this five star hotel boasts views of both the Acropolis and the Temple Of Zeus. Down the road from Syntagma, it's a prime location for many incredible views and the restaurant at the top is the perfect place to have a romantic meal! I would recommend it at night for the lights and magical views although it's a great spot for lunch also. 

4. Coco Mat Hotel - I recently visited Coco Mat Hotel and have a lot of good things to say about it. You can read my review here but tucked away in the trendy area of Kolonaki, this hotel has a roof garden and the views are insanely amazing. It has panoramic views and mostly likely you will find only residents there. I would say it is one of Athens best kept secrets. Well worth the ten minute walk out of the main area of the city. It's artsy and private and above the rooftops, and feels exclusive but homely. A great choice for a calmer more chilled environment.

Greek People & Etiquette 

The Greek people are generally very hospitable. I have Greek friends and they are exceptionally welcoming, warm and very friendly. There are not many rules for visiting Athens, as it is a very multicultural and people are generally aware of others cultures and beliefs. It's always nice to speak a little Greek, it will warm people up exceptionally even if it is just "kalimera" (good day). People may not at first glance seem to be overly friendly. They do not often exchange smiles, unless you are in a shop but most often if you interact with them, they will be chatty and helpful. People are slower paced than the UK. They are polite and mild mannered, pushing, shoving or loud behaviour could possibly be frowned upon. There are pickpockets around, many people wear their backpacks at the front to be secure. You will encounter people trying to sell you things, table cloths, jewellery, tickets, but politely saying no and moving on is the best way to deal with it.

You may encounter young children selling things or walking around asking for money. It does tug on the heart strings and I often throw in a few loose coins. These children are asking for money for a reason and it is easy to see on the outskirts that there is poverty and a lack of money due to the economic crisis. I also found a list of helpful numbers and addresses in my Marco Polo book for reference!

University of Athens
Plaka


Ancient ruins in Plaka
National Gardens
Food

Street food is very prevalent in Athens, although they don't always sell Greek food. There are plenty of bistros, taverns and cafes around every corner, it is hard to go hungry. Don't stick to cafes that look touristy, the ones that don't look as inviting are probably where the best local food is served and if you see many locals dining there then it's probably renowned for its good cuisine. Here are some of my picks which include a little bit for everyone.

1. Mayor - this stylish modern and elegant restaurant in the heart of Athens, an affluent area and restaurant, and a popular hotspot with celebrities and VIPs. Offering tasty food (not just Greek food) but there is a broad range available. Cosy and chic it is a lovely place to spend an evening.

2. Royal Olympic Hotel - this hotel is situated near The Temple of Zeus and their rooftop restaurant boasts incredible views of the city. Enjoy it during the day or at night, and indulge in some incredible cuisine, in a lovely relaxed environment away from the busy streets.

3. Aleria Restaurant - if you're looking to jazz your evening up a little and add a touch of class to the day, then Aleria restaurant has had a lot of press surrounding it, with its gorgeous interiors and food.

Of course there are plenty of taverns and restaurants around every corner, exploring new ones is key!

So that is the guide completed! Feel feee to ask any questions below if you are heading to Athens. It is a very vibrant and safe city with plenty to do and a great location for many day trips around Greece. Be sure to read up on my trip to Delphi, in mainland Greece with Key Tours here

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