Athens

Athens

Welcome to Athens

Welcome to the guide through the city where the beauty of ancient art and the value of historical monuments are best preserved. Athens is a symbol of ancient civilization, a place where the gods left their most beautiful mark. Because, as soon as possible, visit this cultural, historical city and become richer for an unforgettable experience. To make it easier to organize your trip, we have selected all the most crucial information about the city, entering it, tours that show attractions, places for tasting Greek specialties, and a great night out. Explore all the beauties of Athens and give yourself an unforgettable tourist trip to the center of the ancient past.

The most important information about Athens

This ancient city, known as The City of the Violet Crown, keeps a rich heritage. This city is the hub of democracy and mythology that shaped many others. Here you will find the basic information regarding Athens, its history, and demographics. 
  • History of Athens - Athens is known as the birthplace of democracy, philosophy, science, and many other significant achievements that have become part of civilization's legacy. It is one of the world's oldest cities, dating back more than 3.400 years. Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and war, was the inspiration for the name of this ancient city. This could explain the spirit of Athens, which was home to some of the ancient world's most famous personalities of the ancient world, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Athens was formerly home to great deities about whom we still hear stories today. Remember that Mount Olympus was home to Zeus, Hercules, Poseidon, and Hera. Many monuments today testify to a glorious era of titans and gods, philosophers, and politicians.
  • Geography and time zone - Athens is the capital and also the largest city in Greece. The city lies on the central plain of Attica. The city, as well as the whole country, is under Eastern European Time (UTC+2 and UTC+3 during daylight saving time).
  • Climate -  The climate of Athens is the typical Mediterranean, with mild winters with rare snow and hot and sunny summers. Keep in mind that the temperature can get around 40°C since there are not many green areas but densely constructed buildings.
  • Demography - In Athens live more than 3.1 million people. The prominent minority in the city, as in the whole country, is the Muslim one. Even though a big part of the Jews of Greece was killed during WW2, there is still a strong Jewish community in Athens. Among them, other nationalities in the city are Armenians, Romani, Pomaks, and Turks.
  • Tradition and culture - What is Athens unique for? - Athens is considered the cradle of Western civilization, as well as the birthplace of democracy. Many influential and important ancient personalities lived here. Also, Athens, like the whole country, is known for its mythology. This city is home to many ancient temples that honor and celebrate Greek deities. The most noted city site of this manner is the Acropolis. Besides that, Athens is famous for outstanding cuisine, traditional music, and the drink Ouzo. Lovely and generous people live here, which know how to celebrate life. 

Athens Travel Tips

Some of the most important information before visiting Athens are listed here. Follow them before and during your stay in the city.
  • Official Language and other languages spoken - The official language of the whole of Greece, and also Athens, is Greek. Nevertheless, English is also widely spoken, especially in tourist areas. Even though you can get around the city knowing only English, learning some Greek words may come in handy. 
  • Entering the city: Procedures and requirements - Because Greece is a member of the Schengen Area, a visa is not required for stays of less than 90 days. Citizens of the United States, on the other hand, are required to obtain ETIAS authorization before visiting a Schengen country. The application can be completed online, and the authorization is valid for three years.
Important Numbers
  • For Greece, the dialing code prefix is +30, and for Athens is -21. This means that for making a call in Athens, you should dial together +30-21.
  • 112 is one of the primary emergency numbers in Greece. Besides Greek, calls can be answered in English and French.
  • 100 - Police
  • 199 - Fire brigade
  • 166 - Emergency medical service
  • 108 - Coast guard
  • 197 - Emergency social assistance
  • 108 - Coast Guard 
  • 171 - Tourist Police 
Money Tips
  • The official currency in the whole Greece is Euro.
  • If you are a regular tourist that wants to enjoy every convenience one city can offer, you will spend around €100 per day. That includes a lunch in a restaurant, going out for a drink and, transportation, and other expenses. If you are traveling in a budget style, around €40 should be enough for one day in Athens. As you can see, the city is not much expensive, depending on your wishes and demands. To spend less money during your stay in the city, you may follow some of the money-saving tips we have for you. 
  • Tippin in Greece is a common thing, but there are no rules about that. Usually, you can just round up your bill and leave the change as a tip. 
  • For visiting museums and other sites in the city, you can purchase a Tourist card, reducing the money spent on tickets. Knowing that a regular ticket price for Acropolis may be up to €20, this card will come in handy.
  • Try out street food. It’s cheaper than eating in a restaurant, but it’s still quite delicious. Athens is famous for its excellent street food culture, so become a part of it. 
  • Purchase travel cards for transportation. 
  • Bargain at the markets.
Useful apps, free travel map
  • ATH Airport - Just arrived by plane in Athens for the first time? No problem, this app is helpful in getting to the city and getting around at the airport. This app will provide you with information on timetables, parking, and ways to get to the city center from the airport.
  • Beat App - This app will help you find and order a taxi ride in no time. The great thing is that you can choose if you would like to pay by cash or card.
  • OASA Telematics - Something like the Moovit app, this one will show you all the bus stations you need as well as timetables and bus locations at any time.
  • Greek Gods Free - By downloading this app you will get a chance to explore and learn more about Greek Mythology. Greek Gods Free contains stories and history of many mythological creatures as well as the most famous Greek myths. Don’t miss a chance to learn more about this wonderful culture. 
  • Airbnb - This method of finding accommodation has become very famous in Greece. By finding a place to stay during your vacation, you will have a chance to find new friends. If your hosts are friendly, not only they will provide you with a room, but also with great company. 
  • E-Food - This is a big delivery meal app, and a great option if you would like to order something to eat in the apartment. You can choose a restaurant you like the most, compare food prices and find different cuisines, all in one place.

When to Visit Athens

The best period to visit Athens is from March to May and between September and November. Summers in the city may be scorching, and during that season, places are mostly crowded. Nevertheless, if you are staying at the coast during your summer vacation, you should not miss the chance to go to Athens.

How to get to Athens?

This European seaside city is easily reachable with different kinds of transport. Of course, the fastest would be by air, but if you want to make a nice trip through the country, take your car and start your adventure.
  • Plane - There is one airport in Athens, that serves both international and domestic flights. It’s called  Elefthérios Venizélos Airport and it’s located around 30 km from Athens city center. For low-cost flights, Ryanair company may offer you a great deal for a flight to Athens.
  • Train - If you are traveling inside of the country, International Railway Services will take you to Thessaloniki. After that, you can use Suburban Railway to get to Athens. You can also reach Athens from the capitals of different countries, such as Belgrade, Sofia, Bucharest, and Skopje.
  • Bus - Many buses operate within the country. They are called KTEL. There are two main KTEL stations, Kifissos Station and Liosia Station, and you can easily reach them by public transport. Also, many busses come from different neighbor countries daily. Inform yourself of bus and travel companies that offer this kind of transportation.
  • Car - Driving through Greece has become much easier in the past 20 years and roads are decent when it comes to driving. Make sure always to use Google Maps or any other app that will provide you with correct information on directions and traffic.

Activities for tourists in Athens

Athens is a city rich in history and culture. Taking one of the tours will help you explore the city and get to know its most famous landmarks. On your way home, you will surely want to take a souvenir from Greece. And what to take? The selection is pretty wide, from ceramics and figurines of Greek gods to handcrafts from olive wood and Ouzo. We will help you to find places where to buy that and more.
Best tours
  • Hop-on hop-off bus tour - Many cities have this option for visiting exploring the most famous landmarks. But, if you never had a chance to take one, you should try it out in Athens. You can hop on and off your bus any time you like and you can use it the whole day with just one ticket. Tours always include an audio guide in many different languages. Keep in mind that different companies give different bus tours. By researching all the options, you can find a tour that suits you perfectly.
  • Private Tour with a Local - No one knows Athens as well as a Greek. So take a chance to explore the city with a local who can show you all the things a tour guide didn’t. If you want to take a look at the local restaurants and bars instead of going to the tourist ones, this will be a great chance to do that. You can choose your tour to be from two to four hours and arrange with your guide what kind of places you would like to visit. 
  • Athens Mythology Highlights Tour - If you, like many of us, grew up listening and reading about Greek Mythology, this will be a perfect tour for you. And if not, it’s never too late to get in touch with mythical creatures such as Cyclopes, Harpies, and Centaurs. You will have a chance to see how goddesses looked like in the eyes of the Greeks and what buildings were made in their honor. The city is full of monumental landmarks and temples that still stand almost untouched for almost 2.500 years.
  • Wine Tasting Tour - Greece is known for excellent olive oil as well as wine. So why not take a tour which reveals this drink worthy of the gods. Take the steps of god Dionysus and try the best wines of the five wine regions across the country. Of course, greek snacks will be provided alongside wine, so you will get a full Greek wine and olives experience. 
Best Shopping
  • If you are searching for local Greek souvenirs, you will find anything you need in the streets of Adrianou and Plaka. There you can buy colorful fridge magnets, ceramics inspired by ancient Greece, and, among other things, the famous Mati - Evil Eye. 
  • If you want to treat yourself to some elegant clothes, you should for sure go to street Ermou. Here you’ll find the most elegant pieces of clothes and shoes, and after shopping, you can take a break in one of the many cafes and restaurants in this street. 
  • If you get to be in Athens on Sunday, you shouldn’t forget to visit the famous Piraeus Flea Market. This market opens every Sunday from morning till evening and offers so many things to buy. Ceramics, bedclothes, leather footwear, and much other stuff a flea market can usually have. Keep in mind that here you are welcome to bargain. Also, make sure to keep your money and personal belongings safe. 
  • Take home the best spices and food of Grece. Central Market is the most famous market for buying fresh meat, seafood, fruits, and dairy products. This is a great place to visit if you would like to cook yourself or just get to know local markets. In any case, we recommend you to buy some of the Greek spices, such as ones for Moussaka, Souvlaki, or simply the most beautiful oregano you can find. 
Events and festivals
  • Athens - Epidaurus Festival - From July to mid-August you can enjoy this picturesque festival with various events. Every Friday and Saturday many visual, musical, and theatric spectacles are organized. You should not miss seeing the playwrights of Sophocles and Aristophanes, or the world-known Greek singer Nana Mouskouri. The festival is held every year at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus.
  • Art Athina - Fall is the perfect season for visiting galleries. If so, why not visit Art Athina, the most famous international contemporary art fair and festival in Athens. This event gathers in one place galleries to showcase their artists and gallery owners to interact and network. Don’t miss your chance to see some great pieces of contemporary art. 
  • Athens Open-Air Film Festival - The name says everything. At this four-day event, you can enjoy many movies under the night sky. Many places all over the city will give you the chance to see many great movies, free of charge!
  • August Full Moon Festival - In August, Athens, as the whole of Greece, celebrates the full moon period. This is the period when the moon is the brightest and most prominent. During this period many events and concerts are held at various landmarks and museums of Athens. 
  • Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival - The end of May and the beginning of June is the period when you can attend this jazz music event. It gathers together local Greek as well as international musicians that play many variants of this genre, from classic and modern jazz to funk and Afropop, 
  • Ejekt Festival - This rock music festival takes place every year right next to the sea, at Plateia Nerou (Water Square) in Kallithea, not far from Athens city center. It hosts international and local bands and singers such as Muse, The Killers, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and many others. Don’t miss the chance to attend if you are visiting Athens in June or July. Check the dates since they change every year.

Tourist Attractions in Athens

Except for the main tourist attractions within Athens, you can organize a day trip to some places near the city, such as Mycenae, Epidaurus, Corinth, or Meteora.
  • The Acropolis - It’s difficult to describe in words the significance and majesty of this site. This is an antic citadel, the hub of ancient philosophy and democracy, and the most famous and visited place of the whole of Greece. It’s located on a hill and can be seen from many places in the city. Inside the Acropolis, you can see the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Parthenon, and the Erechtheion. The ticket price is €20, for EU students entrance is free, and for non-EU students is €10.
  • Acropolis Museum - This museum is a real must-see. Why? Because here are gathered one of the most valuable art collections of Ancient Greece. More than 3.000 famous artifacts from the Acropolis, to be more precise. And if you are a fan of sculpture and ancient Greece history and culture, this will be a perfect place for you to spend hours and hours. The ticket price is €10 during the summer months, and €5 in the winter depending on the season.
  • Parthenon - Within the Acropolis stands this Doric-order temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. This monumental construction is around 2.500 years old and represents one of the main symbols of Athens. Greeks are very proud of it, and it is worth visiting. 
  • Theatre of Dionysus - On this place, many ancient plays were performed. The Theatre of Dionysus is considered the first known theatre in the world. It could place around 17.000 people, which is pretty impressive. 
  • Panathenaic Stadium - This stadium was built in 144 AD and hosted the first contemporary Olympics in 1896. It is dedicated to the goddess Athena and it was used for religious festivities, social and sports events. The regular ticket price is €3.
  • Ancient Agora - Agora was a meeting point for everyone in the city. Many social and political events were held here, and it would be undoubtedly amazing to walk at the same place where some of the most famous personalities in history once stood and discussed politics. For €8 you can purchase a regular entrance ticket.
  • Hadrian's Library - You’ve probably heard about this legendary place. This library was built in 132 AD and today represents one of the main symbols of Greek history. The building was destroyed when the Heruli invaded Athens, but the remains still show this structure’s grandiose.
  • National Archaeological Museum - This is the most significant archaeological museum in Greece and keeps many important pieces that are a big part of Greek but also the world’s history. During the summer, the ticket price is €10, but out of season is €5.
  • Temple of Olympian Zeus - Also known as Olympieion, this temple was built in honor of the god Zeus, between the sixth century BC and second century AD. The palace once had 104 15-meter Corinthian columns, but today only 15 of them can be seen. Despite that, the remains still represent the power of Ancient Greece.
  • Syntagma Square - You won’t miss it, since it’s located in the city center. This square is home to the building of the Parliament and it’s near many other important landmarks of Athens. The famous changing of the guard of Greek soldiers is taking place just in front of this building, and it is one of Athens' most popular attractions. Members of the special presidential guard are changing and guarding motionlessly, with only eye movements permitted. Tourists are welcome to photograph them and stand next to them; the only thing they are not allowed to do is touch them.

Accommodation in Athens

Accommodation in Athens is considered affordable and offers different variants of rooms and apartments. The best areas to stay in the city are Plaka, Monastiraki, or Syntagma Square and their surroundings since they are close to all the main landmarks.
  • Hotels - For the most luxurious experience, we recommend some of the 5-star hotels in the center of Athens, such as Wyndham Grand, Electra Palace, or Electra Metropolis. You can book a room for €130 per night. 
  • Rooms and Apartments - For the best experience, you can use an app such as Airbnb to get the best offer and find the best possible accommodation as well as pleasant hosts. You can find great private rooms and apartments for around €40 per night.
  • Hostels and budget accommodation - Of course, this is the cheapest accommodation option, but it has many more benefits. Staying in a hotel may be a fun experience, especially if you meet other travelers. The average price for staying in a hostel is around €15 per person. 

Best restaurants and bars in Athens

Athens is well known for its street food culture, and all that is for a reason. There you can find many different kinds of food that will satisfy your appetite. Also, you should not miss tasting some of the great Greek wines and traditional drink Ouzo.
  • Where to eat - We encourage you to try dishes such as Mousakka, Souvlaki, Gyros, Tzatziki, Choriatiki salad, olives, and creamy desserts such as Bougatsa or Baklava. And the places where you can have these delicious meals are traditional Greek restaurants that you can find at the most popular areas such as Plaka and Monastiraki. Restaurants and taverns like Maiandros, Aleria, or Klimataria may be a great option. For one meal in a restaurant, you may spend up to €12, which is not much expensive. Also, many of these great dishes can be found at the street food shops, so go ahead, and try them out there as well. It will be an unforgettable Greek experience. This is also a cheaper option, so you will spend around €3 for a meal, which is great.
  • Where to go out - There are numerous places in Athens where you can go out, especially in areas such as Gazi, Metaxourgeio, Exarchia, and Kolonaki. For a fancy night out, we recommend places like Baba au Rum, Agias Irinis Square, or Six D.o.g.s. There are also many rooftops bars and clubs which are home to the most beautiful views of the city. Those are City Zen, Couleur Locale, and many others.

Public transport in Athens

Public transport in Athens runs smoothly, rarely with late or out of schedule. Nevertheless, don’t forget to download an app to help you catch all the timetables and public transport departures and stations. You can choose which kind of ticket you want to purchase of any type of public transportation in Athens (buses, trolleybuses, metro, and tram)  - 90-minute ticket: € 1.40 ( US$ 1.60) 24-hour access: € 4.50 ( US$ 5.20) 5-day ticket: € 9 ( US$ 10.30).
  • Metro - Athens Metro has three lines. Even though they are not that extensive, they are the best way to get around the city. Here you can find the map of the all metro lines. Line 1 is the Green. This one will lead you to some of the prominent landmarks of Athens. Line 2 is the Red, which connects Athens railway station with Acropolis. And the last one, Line 3 or Blue, links Athens International Airport with the city center. Purchasing the MetroCard will make your ride cheaper.
  • Buses - Buses are a good way to reach different parts of the city and locations near Athens. Most buses run from 5 am till midnight. You can purchase a ticket at the ticket office or automatic machines for cash. 
  • Tram and local trains - Same as the metro, the tram has three lines that operate between 5.30 am and 1 am. Here you can find the map of all tram lines.
  • Taxi - All taxies in Athens are painted in bright yellow, so it won’t be challenging to spot them. Even though you can hail them, using Beat App will help you find and book a taxi ride more efficiently. It’s a bit more expensive than other public transport, but not significantly. The average taxi ride costs between €4 and €6.

Frequently asked questions about Athens

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The most important information before going to Athens?