I went on vacation in Athens in September and it was the best vacation of my life! I know that the prospect of visiting a new city or country can be very exciting, but it can also be quite stressful. That’s why I wanted to write this article to help you enjoy planning your trip and only feel the pleasure of anticipation, not the stress that often comes with it. This is an article with all the useful recommendations I think you need and some extra tips. It’s the article I wish I had found before going on my trip. But I have never found this article, so I decided to write it myself – for you. Make sure to read it all or save it for later.
When to go
Athens can be very hot in the summer. Temperatures can often reach 30-35°C in the summer and, if you are not used to the heat, this can be quite uncomfortable. I would recommend going to Athens in September. It is usually still hot and sunny, but much more bearable. The city will also be less crowded since most people go there in July or August.
We went there in the second week of September and the weather was lovely! It was sunny every day. It was a bit too hot for me at noon (about 30°C), but the rest of the day was more enjoyable. If you do not want to go there during the summer, the weather is quite good throughout the year. In the winter, it seldom snows and Athens is sunny almost all year round. However, keep in mind that in December and January, it is colder and it usually rains more.
How to get there
Depending on where you live, you can get there by bus, train, car or airplane.
We live in Romania and we drove there. It took us 2 days to get there (with one stop in Bulgaria to rest) and it was a bit tiring, but it was also a nice experience. We got to see how the landscape changes gradually and we also added an extra day to explore Sofia on our way there.
I just want to encourage you to choose an environmentally-friendly way of travelling, if possible. If you are close to Greece, I would recommend travelling by train, bus or car. If you live far away and you need to fly, choose an economy seat (not first-class). Try to make your travel planet-friendly so that we can protect this amazing planet we live on!
Where to stay
There are many great hotels in Athens. But I think you need to be careful about the area you choose. As a rule, do not stay in or very close to the Omonia Square or the Exarcheia neighborhood.
Why should you avoid these areas? These areas are known to be quite dangerous. The hotel staff also warned us not to go there. Apparently there are many thieves and drug dealers in the Omonia (Omonoia) Square area. Even walking there at night is dangerous since you could be robbed.
The Exarcheia neighborhood is home to the anarchists of Athens, but it also attracts many drug addicts, drug dealers and dangerous people. Protests often happen in that neighborhood and we were told that not even the police go to Exarcheia anymore.
To be honest, I am not sure if these areas are as bad as it sounds, but I would steer clear of those areas. Accommodation will be cheaper there, but is it worth the stress and potential problems?
You can search for a hotel online on Booking like we did. We stayed at Hotel Zappion and it was great. Our hotel room was small, but it was well-equipped and quite nice. It had a balcony, a mini-fridge, a TV and air-conditioning (no extra charge) and a WI-FI connection. The staff was always friendly and they kept our room clean. The only two weird things about our stay here were these: we had to always leave our key at the front desk when leaving the room (for security reasons) and we were not allowed to eat in the room (I found this very strange). Everything else was great. The staff are very friendly and they speak English very well.
However, the best thing about Hotel Zappion is its location. It is very close to The Panathenaic Stadium. And if you stay here, every attraction is within walking distance. We never had to take the bus or subway and we loved walking around. There are also some shops and restaurants in the area.
Plus, the area is also very safe since it is close to several embassies. We made the reservations through Booking and you can use the search box below to look for a date and make your reservation (affiliate link)*.
Where to eat
Radu and I are vegan and we were worried that we would not have many great options. Luckily, we were wrong. We enjoyed some great meals in Athens and I want to make a few recommendations.
1. Peas Restaurant
We found this restaurant online and it was one of the best surprises of this trip. We were blown away by the delicious food and the amazing staff. Even though Peas was only opened about a year ago, eating there was a great experience for us!
They only serve vegan food and everything we had was great. I was very surprised to eat vegan mayo, vegan fetta, tempeh and seitan for the first time! Some of the things we tried (and loved) were the cheeseburger with mushrooms, the soy sauce mushrooms burger, a delicious platter with seitan, tempeh and tofu, the Greek salad, the raw lemon tart and the latte. One of the great things about eating at Peas is that you can enjoy vegan food (thus cruelty-free) that is also delicious.
The ladies that work at the restaurant were also incredibly polite and friendly. They talked to us, spoiled us with great food and talked to us about their work. The manager was incredibly nice and friendly. She told us that she has been vegan for many years and that she always cared about being responsible and protecting the planet. And it shows that she takes this seriously because everything in the restaurant proved their commitment to this. For example, they give customers filtered tap water (to avoid using water bottles), use glass straws and they use biodegradable packaging if you want to take your food to go.
Anyway, I really loved everything about this restaurant and if you are in Athens, go and eat at Peas. You will not regret it!
2. Vegan Nation
This is another small, vegan restaurant we found online. Here we went for the tasty vegan souvlaki. The staff was also very polite and friendly and we enjoyed eating here as well!
3. Have dinner in Plaka
Plaka is a historical neighborhood in Athens. It a very beautiful area that shows the Athens you often see in travel guides and in movies. It has many narrow allies, terraces and gift shops. In the summer, the restaurants have many tables outside and eating here at night is a great experience. There are many options to choose from.
We could not find a vegan restaurant in Plaka (with tables outside), so we went to a regular one. We chose some traditional dishes and asked them to leave out the animal products in them. Some dishes we tried were stuffed tomatoes and oven baked aubergines.
The reasons why I recommend having there here once are the warm and fresh air, the beautiful allies, the musicians that perform on the street and the atmosphere. As we read in a travel guide, you should make time to have dinner under the Acropolis.
What to do
1. Visit historical landmarks
If you are going to visit Athens, you must see some of its most famous monuments and buildings. There are many attractions you can see, depending on how much time you have and what type of interests you have.
The most famous landmark is obviously The Acropolis. The structures on the Acropolis were built in the century BC and they are quite impressive.
Some other attractions you may want to add to your list are:
- The Acropolis Museum
- The Temple of Olympian Zeus
- The Temple of Hephaestus
- The Stoa of Attalos
- The Museum of the Ancient Agora
You can read about these attractions and a few others in this article I wrote about the historical landmarks in Athens.
Tip: If you want to visit several attractions, there is a combo ticket you can buy. It costs 30 Euros and it gives you access to 7 landmarks. Read more about this ticket in my article here.
2. Go on a bus tour
You may know that many big cities have bus tours for tourists. They are usually double-decker buses that take you on a special route that includes some of the most popular attractions. They are hop-on hop-off buses and you can use them to get from one attraction to another or go a full tour to see all these places from the bus.
There are several companies that offer this service and they have many bus stops close to tourist attractions. You can usually buy your ticket from the driver. As the bus takes you around the city, you can also listen to recordings with facts about the attractions you see during the ride.
We got our tickets from Sight of Athens since they had a bus stop really close to our hotel. The tickets are valid for 2 days and they cost about 16 Euros. You can read more about Sights of Athens here.
I love going on bus tours around new cities. I think it is a great way to see a big part of the city in a short time. It helps you get from one attraction to another since you do not have to worry about finding the place. They often leave you right in front of the tourist attractions included in the tour. I think this is a very stress-free and enjoyable experience that is worth trying.
3. Go hiking
If you have about 2 hours to spare, I recommend going on a hike. There are a few hills you can climb in Athens and when you get to the top, you get to see the entire city from above. Almost every city looks different and amazing from above and Athens is not exception so going on a hike is definitely worth it!
There are a few places where you can go to admire a panoramic view: the Acropolis, The Hill of the Muses and Lycabettus. Let me share a few things about them.
If you visit the Acropolis (and you should), you will see the city from here too. Getting to the top is not that hard and it will only take a few minutes. And it is worth it to see the landmarks and the entire city!
The Hill of the Muses
It is also called the Philopappos Hill and it is close to the Acropolis. It is relatively easy to climb and you will enjoy a great view. Since it is close to the Acropolis, you can see it very well from here. This place was also less crowded than other attractions, so you can enjoy a nice, quiet break and take as many photos of the city as you want!
Mount Lycabettus or Lykavittos
This mountain is the highest point in the center of Athens. It is also not very far from the major attractions in the city. Even though it is not difficult to climb, it is a bit harder than the other two and it may take a bit longer. If you want to avoid the climb, you can also take a funicular that functions almost all day, until about 3 AM. However, the climb is also enjoyable and quite easy. The view from here is also impressive both at day and at night.
However, the experience here was quite disappointing for me. The area on the top is surrounded by a little stone wall (not sure how to call it). When we were there, people were sitting down everywhere, so seeing the view is a bit challenging – especially if you are short, like I am. They were sitting there with their backs to the city, smoking, talking or mindlessly scrolling on their phones. I found that very rude since other people could barely see the city or take great pictures because of them. The only chance to really enjoy the view is to wait for some of these people to go away so that you can take their place. Otherwise, you’ll see the panoramic image of Athens between the heads of the people sitting down…The view is great, but the people here can take a bit from your experience, so be prepared!
4. Go to the beach
If you enjoy swimming in the sea or bathing in the sun, you should definitely go to the beach in Greece. There are some amazing places you can visit a few kms away from Athens. We went to a beach in Vouliagmeni which is about 17kms away.
Tip: If you buy tickets for a bus tour, they often have a separate line that takes you to see the beaches close to Athens.
5. Go on an island
If you want to explore the Greek islands, you can do that very easily. There are many ferries that can take you from the Piraeus Port in Athens to several islands that are a few hours away. You can leave Athens in the morning, spend the day on an island and come back in the evening. We did this one day and it was an amazing experience!
However, this takes a bit of planning. Spend some time online looking at the islands around and checking the schedule for the ferries that go there. Also, keep in mind that you need about one hour to get from Athens to the Piraeus Port with the subway. So take this into account when planning your day.
Tip: You can buy tickets for the ferries online or from the port. We bought them at the port a few minutes before the trip. But the process was a bit chaotic since there is no central office that sells tickets for this. There are several companies that offer rides on different routes. So you need to know where you want to go and check the schedule to make sure you have enough time to actually spend on the island. I recommend buying a two-way ticket on the spot.
If you don’t like planning, you can also go to the port and buy a ticket for whatever destination you choose on the spot. However, keep in mind that you may have to wait for some time and you will have less time to spend on the island.
A few surprising things about Athens
1. It is not a dangerous city
Before going to Athens, I read about it online and many websites said that it is a dangerous city. According to these websites, there are many thieves and scammers and you should be very careful. I knew that in many capitals or large cities, you can sometimes run into these types of people unfortunately. But when we were in Athens, I always felt safe and I never saw anyone trying to rob us or to steal from someone else on the street. It is true that we avoided dangerous zones, but Athens made me feel surprisingly safe. So remember to be cautions, but don’t be too scared!
2. You get tap water at every restaurant
Every time you sit down at a café or restaurant, a waiter will immediately bring you a bottle of tap water and glasses – free of charge. And I absolutely love this! This is not common practice everywhere, but I wish it were. This way, we pollute less (no bottles to throw away) and we can also save some money!
3. When you go to the bathroom, you can’t throw the toilet paper in the toilet
If you go the bathroom, you have to throw the toilet paper in a small bin, and not in the toilet. I think the plumbing system in Athens may not be very good. There are signs in every bathroom telling you not to throw the toilet paper in the toilet. It seemed strange since I haven’t seen this in other countries in Europe.
4. There are many souvenirs that are quite…pornographic
I honestly found this quite upsetting, but almost every gift shop had some souvenirs that were pornographic. They either depicted sex scenes or were shaped like a penis. I still don’t know why these exist. I wondered if sex scenes were depicted on ancient objects found in Greece or if this was just the influence of modern pornography. Either way, I found this distasteful, but what can you do?
5. There are many graffiti
I did not expect to see graffiti in the Ancient city of Athens, but you will see many. You can find them even within walking distance of the popular attractions like the Acropolis.
6. There are many cats in Athens
You will see many stray cats everywhere you go. I like cats so I enjoyed seeing them and taking pictures of them! Surprisingly, I haven’t seen any stray dogs.
I know that this article is quite long, but I wanted to share as much as I could with you. Planning a trip can sometimes be stressful, so I wanted to tell you about everything: where to stay, where to eat and what to do in Athens. I hope this article helps you plan a wonderful trip in the Greek capital. And if you aren’t going there in the near future, save this article for later or share it with your friends. Who knows? Maybe you will visit Athens sooner than you think…
All I can say is that I enjoyed visiting Athens very much and I would love to go back one day. If you are looking for a destination, put Athens in your list!
If you want to make a hotel reservation through Booking.com, just use the search box below to find the best place for your vacation!
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