What to do in Athens – visit all the beautiful highlights
Before we talk about what to do in Athens, let’s briefly talk about Paris. If you think of Paris, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the Eiffel Tower. Then, you might also expect to see that iconic landmark from any location or hotel window in Paris. However, it’s not actually big enough to tower above everything. With the Acropolis in Athens, it’s a different story. It’s located conveniently on a hill and you can enjoy its sight from many locations in the city. Acropolis means high city and it is the citadel that was built on the highest point of elevation close to every important city. Especially in the evening, when it’s lit up, it looks nice. Yet, Athens has a lot more to offer apart from ancient ruins.
Take an early morning walk at Pasalimani Harbor
I witnessed a beautiful sunrise in the area of the yacht port. Don’t miss this opportunity if you arrive with an early morning ferry at Piraeus. In case your hotel is located in this area, come here for a jog, as the locals do. Afterward, you can have breakfast in the restaurant of the Sklavenitis Hypermarket on the top floor. From there, you also have a great view of the harbor and the sea. Plus, you can find any food you crave at a cheap price, and a cup of Greek coffee for only 70 cents.
Indulge yourself in sweet desserts
Soon you will notice the many patisserie shops that look like magical wonderlands. You see cakes in any variations. Athens is the perfect city to have a personal cake made with all that talent around.
Don’t hesitate to try them! I was in love with the chocolate cakes (which is always difficult as a Swiss person, since abroad the chocolate often is of a different quality than at home. But in Athens, I was very positively surprised).
Try Candy Cat Patisserie in front of Kerameikos station.
For great Instagram photos, visit an area in the city center called “Little Kook”. A whole street is decorated like in a Mary Poppins wonderland. You can stroll through the area without consuming anything or you can sit down in one of the cafés or have ice cream. However, in such a cool place, expect the items to be a little pricier.
Watch the sunset from Areopagus Hill
It’s a popular place to go with a few beers and enjoy the sunset. You have the Acropolis behind you and some trees and the city below you.
Don’t be put off by the location on a hill. First, you walk up a street with restaurants and tourist shops on each side, and only for the last 50 m you find your way across grassy and rocky terrain.
Explore the Acropolis
To visit the whole Acropolis area, we needed about 1.5 hours and took it quite slowly. You can enter from next to the sunset rock (Areopagus). It’s marked on maps.me as Akropolis Ticket Shop. The closest metro station is Monastiraki. Perhaps, without corona, you can also enter from the back or front side at the bottom of the hill. I saw ticket huts, but the doors were locked. It would be a lot more convenient to enter at the back near the Theater of Dionysus. Then, you don’t have to climb the hill twice. However, the whole area is beautiful and interesting and it’s definitely worth climbing the hill.
If you want to have a special evening, check if there will be a concert at the Herodes Theater and you could enjoy an open-air event in an ancient theater.
To see the Acropolis from up close and also gain entry to the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Archaeological Site of Lykeion, Kerameikos, and the Olympieion you can buy a 5-day ticket for 30 EUR. From 1. April to 31. October the Acropolis alone would be 20 EUR and the other sites each 8 EUR if you go individually. The sites apart from the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora (where you can look at a nice exhibition of coins and pottery) didn’t impress me much and I surely wouldn’t have paid 8 Euros to visit them. Yet, as a package it was ok.
Be aware that the package doesn’t include the Acropolis Museum or any other art or history museum in Athens. The Acropolis Museum hosts a big exhibition of statues and artifacts that were found on the Acropolis in Athens. It costs 10 EUR in summer and 5 EUR in winter.
If you are under 25 and bring your ID, you get 50% off the single entry. The combined ticket doesn’t have a discount.
From November to March, you can enter for free on the first Sunday of each month. Normally, the individual ticket prices are 50% off during these months for everyone. Then, it’s not worth it to buy the 30 EUR package.
More days with free entry (to all the archeological sites and museums) are: 6. March (Melina Mercouri Remembrance Day), 18. April (International Monuments Day), 18. May (International Museums Day), the last weekend of September (European Heritage Days), and 28. October (Oxi Day).
Buy Greek olives
Head to the Central Municipal Market for fruit, veggies, meat, fish, and, most importantly, fresh olives. The vendors will let you sample fruit and olives. Don’t worry about how to return the olives safely to your country as most of the vendors can vacuum pack the olives. It was free if you bought at least 500g or otherwise it cost 50 cents per package. Greek olives are delicious, and I kept eating them as a snack during the day. However, I ended up buying 1.5 kilos for 6 Euros to bring home to friends and family. In the tourist shops 200g alone cost 2.50 to 3.50 EUR.
Explore the city on foot
In Athens, it’s very important to discover the beautiful alleys on foot. You will stumble upon cute shops and cafés and then again, a lush garden or pillars of an ancient temple. For example, start at Thiseio metro station, walk to Little Kook and then continue toward Syntagma Square. There, you enter the national garden and continue to the temple of Olympian Zeus (of which you see about as much from outside the gates as you see from inside).
Get a haircut or cheap manicure
Greek women are so pretty that they surely must know how to do a good haircut. I got a haircut on Grigoriou Lampraki street near the Benizelou bus stop. There are many hair salons where you pay 5-8 EUR for a haircut. During my second trip to Greece, I then got blond highlights in a small salon in Agios Nikolaos on Crete and was very happy with them (Marina Salon, 33 Dimokratias Str.)
Take a walk along the water
A beautiful area to take a walk is when you start at Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. The building alone is worth a visit and you can stroll along the coast or the channel.
Go out at night
Whether you would like to listen to Greek live music, attend a house party, or dance Salsa, something is going on every night. Athens has a great Latin scene. You can dance every night of the week (for example at Addictiva Athens Bar or Omikron 2) and the salsa and bachata level is high.
Where to stay in Athens
If you like to go out in the evening, you should find an accommodation around Kerameikos metro station. There are lots of bars with live concerts and dance events in that area as well as the city center. Since the metro stops operating around midnight, you might want to stay close to where the parties are happening.
In the center, I stayed at Coco-Mat Hotel Athens BC. All I can say is: Wow, look no further if you want to stay at the hotel with the best view of the Acropolis. All that from an infinity pool. Plus, the bed, pillow, and sheets were incredibly soft and comfortable. You will need a good sleep for all the exploration you will do in the awesome city of Athens. The hotel is also conveniently located about 100 m from Akropoli Metro station.
Check out my Greece travel guide
If you would like to find out more tips for Athens and Greece, check out my “I love Greece” travel guide on Amazon. You can buy it in English or in German.