Athens is visited by millions of people every year to see its ancient sites, such as the Parthenon and other temples and ruins. However, there’s more than sightseeing in Athens. The city’s imposing archaeological wonders are definitely worth seeing, but you should also take some time to explore the array of interesting neighborhoods, all with their own appeal and unique offerings. In Athens are located some great museums, as well as exquisite restaurants and taverns, an exciting nightlife scene and many popular festivals. If Athens is on your must-visit list, here’s a rundown of everything you need to know before your trip.
Getting to and from Athens Airport
The Metro railway is an easy way to get to and from the airport. If you’re heading into the city, you need to take Metro Line 3 to Syntagma Station, in Athens’ center. The trip lasts about 40 minutes, and the Metro from the airport runs every half hour, seven days a week from 6:30am to 11:30pm. A ticket will cost you 10€ or you can buy a ticket for two trips to the airport in seven days or less, for 18€, if you’re on a shorter visit.
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 a ticket kiosk between Exits 4 and 5. Tickets cost 6€ and the bus “X95” gets you to the city center, a trip that will take you approximately 70 minutes.
If you plan on getting a taxi, there is a designated taxi waiting area at Exit 3 of the Arrivals’ level. The cost from the airport to the city center is 38€ from 5am to midnight, and 54€ from midnight to 5 in the morning.
Getting around Athens
Athens’s extensive public transportation system includes the Metro, city buses, tram, electric trolley buses, and the suburban railway. The majority of them, run from 5am to midnight whilst the Metro is running until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. A 90-minute ticket for use on all modes of transportation costs 1.40€, a 24-ticket costs 4.50€, and a 5-day ticket costs 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). In 2018, the Athens transport ticket system has transitioned from paper to modern electronic tickets, with the use of plastic smartcards (similar to London’s Oyster cards).
If you like walking, the most enjoyable places to visit, are in the city center. Athens is a great place for history fans, as most of the city’s historic center has been converted into a pedestrian zone, allowing you to get to many must-see archaeological sites by foot.
Things to do in Athens
The historical center of Athens should be your first stop because seeing its major archaeological sites is a must. The Acropolis and its surrounding sites are all easy to reach on foot, as you can actually walk an entire circuit of the Acropolis and ancient Agora via the pedestrian zone mentioned above. From there, around the Acropolis you’ll see the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the ancient Theatre of Dionysus, and, once you reach the summit of the Acropolis, the Temple of Athena Nike, the awe-inspiring Parthenon, as well as a gorgeous view of the city. We recommend starting this journey either early in the morning (by 8am) or after 5pm in order to avoid the crowd.
Don’t miss a chance to visit 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 neighborhood. The Acropolis’ Museum presents its’ exhibits in three floors, home to numerous ancient statutes and Greek antiquities.
In Kolonaki you’ll find several worthwhile culture-hopping stops including the Museum of Cycladic Art, Byzantine and Christian Museum, and the Benaki Museum. Take a break from history and culture and wander through the winding streets of Pláka, one of the oldest districts in Athens. You can find tons of bars, cafés, and restaurants along with some shops. Athens is home to many festivals, many of which take place during the summer. One of the most popular is the Athens and Epidaurus Festival, which takes place from June till August. This world-famous cultural event combines music, dance, opera, and theatre. Another great option for festivalgoers is the Athens Open Air Film Festival, which takes place from June to September. Films are screened all summer long in historical sites across the city and best of all, entrance is free.