Athens Travel Guide 2023
Updated: Nov 27
Most visitors stop in Athens for a day or two, look at the Acropolis, and then fly off to Santorini. When people rush through Athens just to get to the islands, they miss out on a beautiful city full of history, incredible food, and amazing sights.
I studied in Athens for a semester and I loved being a part of the daily life and culture. From chatting with the friendly people who worked at my local coffee shop to using the Acropolis as a directional guide, Athens quickly felt like home. I miss Athens constantly and just really loved the time I spent there.
There’s truly something for everyone. If you are a Greek mythology or philosophy nerd, this is the motherland. If you love food, get ready to gorge yourself on delicious souvlaki and feta cheese. Or, if you just appreciate beautiful sights and fun nightlife, there’s something for you too. Based on my time in Athens, here are my recommendations for what to do, where to eat, day trips, and nightlife. If you’re just visiting, opt to do more than the average tourist and really get to know the city of Athens. It’s more than a layover.
As well as an interactive map
What to Do in Athens:
My first morning/night in Athens I couldn’t sleep because of the jet lag, so I went for a run around the city. Watching the sun rise over the Acropolis was so magical and it’s a memory that I will always treasure.
It’s an obvious place to go, but also incredibly necessary. Nothing can prepare you for how breathtaking the Parthenon is in person. It’s full of incredible history and has truly stood the test of time.
If you are visiting the Parthenon, the lines can get pretty long over the summer. Opt to go earlier in the day if possible or look into buy your tickets beforehand on the Acropolis website. You can also book ahead with a tour.
If you love Greek food, definitely check out this cooking class! You will learn how to make traditional Greek dishes such as tzatziki, spanakopita, and dolmades.
Cooking classes are a fun way to get to know Greek cuisine, and you can take your new skills home with you to impress your friends or reminisce about your trip. It also includes wine!
The Acropolis Museum is known as one of the greatest museums in the world. The museum is home to every artifact found in the site, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece.
If you’re visiting in the summer, not only is the museum incredible but it also a great way to take a break from the heat.
The Panathenaic Stadium is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. It was originally built in 330 BC! It was refurbished throughout history and hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896.
The whole of Pagrati is very quaint, sweet, and authentic. You’ll be able to find more reasonably priced (and yummier!) tavernas or cafe-bars. If you’re here late at night, Poco Poco is open 24/7 and has the best crepes.
The Panathenaic Stadium will always hold a special place in my heart because my classes were right next door. We used to have class outside and sit in the seats of the stadium or I would go for runs around the track. If you go, be sure to get a coffee at Kekkos Cafe because they are the absolute sweetest.
Monastiraki square is a lovely area to walk around during the day. There are landmarks such as the Ancient Agora, the Stoa of Attalos, and the ruins of Hadrian’s Library.
Monastiraki Square also has a flea market where they sell everything from handmade sandals to T-shirts to soaps. This area tends to attract tourists, so keep an eye out for scams in this area. Don’t accept any roses, balloons, or bracelets.
There are also traditional tavernas or places to grab drinks and coffee, many of which have views of the Acropolis. They’ll be more expensive than your average taverna, but you’re really paying for the view.
If you go down Kolokotroni at night you can just stumble into a bunch of different fun bars. They’ll likely be a bit more expensive but also more popular.
Syntagma Square is in the very center of Athens. It’s also the center for public transportation. In Syntagma you can watch the changing of the guards, grab a drink at rooftop cafe-bar (check out Public Cafe), and shop!!
Personally, I mostly went to Syntagma when I was looking for some retail therapy. The shopping in Greece is SO reasonably priced and unique. It’s very fun. Top stores I recommend are Bershka, Stradivarius, and Zara. If you are going to the islands after Athens, Athens is a great place to find those long sundresses or handmade sandals for that island vibe.
Plaka feels more like a village than it does a city. The area is full of little shops, family-owned tavernas and cafe-bars, and lots of great gelato. It’s an adorable spot to walk around, explore, and take in the views.
It is also next to the Anafiotika neighborhood. This area is full of the whitewashed homes that people imagine when they think of Greece.
Kolonaki is a posh area of Athens, so it is a bit more expensive than other neighborhoods. There are strips of cute bars and loads of outdoor seating to get drinks or people watch. My friends and I did a bar crawl in this area and it was so fun!
Piraeus is the port of Athens. If you are planning on taking a ferry to any of the islands, you will be leaving from this area. It’s a short train ride outside of the city, and you can look at the boats or even rent one.
Over the summer, Piraeus also opens bars and clubs on the water. But, even in the off-season it’s a nice area to just walk around and explore.
Fun fact: Piraeus is where Plato’s Republic begins.
Lycabettus Hill is the highest point in central Athens with a beautiful view of the Acropolis and the ocean! It can get crowded or hot in the summer, so opt to go earlier in the day or later in the evening rather than during peak heat.
Bring wine and watch the sunset!
Philopappos is my favorite place in Athens to watch the sunset. It is a bit of a workout to get all the way up, but it has an incredible view of the city.
My friends and I spent our last night together at Philopappos drinking wine and enjoying the view of Athens during golden hour. It is gorgeous.
The National Garden is kind of like the Central Park of Athens. It’s a huge park and it’s easy to get lost in it in the best possible way.
There are monuments scattered throughout the garden, ponds with turtles, and plenty of beautiful walkways. If you go, bring a picnic blanket or a book and just wander around.
Pictured above is the final project from my photography class, taken in the National Garden.
Where to Eat in Athens:
You can’t go wrong with a classic Greek taverna. Most of them are great and inexpensive, but beware of super touristy restaurants. The food will be less authentic and way more expensive. AVOID when someone is standing outside the restaurant trying to convince you to come in or look at the menu.
If there are locals in the restaurant or the menu is in Greek that’s a good sign. Souvlaki (what we generally call gyros) are delicious and can be as cheap as 2 or 3 euro. Full meals should be quite inexpensive as well.
That being said, I’ll share some of my personal favorite tavernas for your reference.
2 Mazi was one of the best meals I had in Athens! It’s a Michelin Greek restaurant. It’s perfect for photos because it’s trendy, beautiful, and the dishes are gorgeous. More importantly, the food is insanely delicious and very reasonably priced.
If you are going to Athens, this is one restaurant that I deem an absolute must go to! Book a reservation in advance.
Athena’s Cook is in Syntagma and it has everything you need. Classic Greek taverna, great location, delicious food. Highly recommend it.
Food tip: The Greeks love to use only lemon to season their meals. They use lemon on everything from cooked meat to french fries. Honestly, it’s amazing though.
All That Jatz
All That Jatz is another classic Greek taverna in Monastiraki. Delicious, authentic food for super reasonable prices. Try classic dishes such as souvlaki, moussaka, and an incredible Greek salad.
Black Sheep was my personal favorite because it was in my little neighborhood of Pangrati. Amazing food and wine.
Another thing I love about Greek tavernas is how friendly the people are. Take the time to chat with your waiter to hear about their favorite places and what they recommend on the menu. It was also pretty common for me to get free dishes or wine pairings from the more local tavernas.
Elvis is also in Pangrati. The entire store is Elvis themed and really made for locals. It is open late at night and serves souvlaki with potatoes, bread, and lemon for insanely reasonable prices.
While I was in Athens, I would go to Elvis often because it was only 2 or 3 euro for an entire dinner.
As delicious as Greek food is, it can get old after a while. Worry not! There are plenty of delicious, non-Greek food options in Athens. Here are my favorites.
Baba Ghanoush was the best Mediterranean food I had my entire time in Greece. Baba Ghanoush has falafel, hummus, couscous, and (of course) baba ghanoush.
All of their food is vegetarian and delicious. Greek food typically does not include hummus, couscous, or falafel. You are more likely to find those meals in Israel or other parts of the Mediterranean. If you were craving those dishes on your Greece trip, check out Baba Ghanoush!
Mystic Pizza has three locations around Athens, including the one in Pangrati by the Panathenaic Stadium. The pizzas and pastas are made with olive oil from Crete, and they have great cocktails with Greek spirits.
Many of their pizzas are unique with out of the ordinary, fresh ingredients. I recommend going with friends and splitting different dishes family style.
Every year in May, Athens hosts the street food festival. They convert an empty warehouse into a festival with a ton of vendors. It’s similar to a food hall and you can try many, delicious dishes at once.
You will find less traditional Greek food at the festival, but there are plenty of other restaurants such as El Gringo, Falafel Al Sharq, and Noa Poke. It is full of locals and a great way to try new foods from the city.
Best Day Trips from Athens
This is my TOP recommendation as a day trip from Athens. Time your trip so you can be at the Temple of Poseidon for sunset for a majestic view of the ocean.
If you are looking to visit the Temple of Poseidon, you can book a tour trip or rent a car and do it yourself. My friends chose the latter. It ends up costing around the same, especially if you can drive a stick. I loved renting a car personally, and it was definitely worth the extra trouble of picking up and dropping off the car.
When I visited the Temple of Poseidon it was one of the most magical days of my life. I’m a huge mythology girl and something about the beach has always made me feel calm and present. Renting a car allowed us to stop along the beach wherever, whenever, and for however long we wanted, and seeing the sunset over the ocean with this beautiful structure was unforgettable.
However, if renting a car doesn't make sense for your trip, it is still absolutely worth the trip. Book your day trip to Temple of Poseidon.
Meteora is full of beautiful monasteries that are perched on the cliffs and surrounded by incredible scenery. It is one of the most popular sites in Greece.
To visit, you can take a train or a guided tour. If you have the time, you can even stay the night and pair your visit with a trip to Delphi.
Delphi is charming and full of magic and mythology. It is home to the famous Oracle of Delphi, who advised ancient heroes and predicted the Trojan War. The temple is spectacular with a beautiful view of the mountains. The museum is full of incredible relics and artifacts.
Hydra is a small island that is super close to Athens. There are no cars allowed on Hydra, so people travel via water taxi or donkey! However, it’s incredibly small so it is very walkable. There is a port, a cathedral, and tons of places to get food and drinks.
If you are planning to visit Hydra, you will go to Piraeus to take the ferry out. Your ferry ride will be less than 2 hours. I honestly loved my ferry rides because they were such a beautiful view of the ocean.
If you are not planning to visit any islands, definitely spend the day in Hydra to get the Greek island vibe.
Rooftop Bars in Athens
Rooftop bars in Athens have an incredible view of the Acropolis and the city. Many of them are in Syntagma or Monastiraki, but when you move outside of this area you can see more of the city.
Couleur Locale is a great spot during the day. It has some of the best views of the Acropolis to enjoy some food and drinks.
Omikron 2 (a.k.a O2)
Omikron 2 is one of the only bars in Gazi that didn’t have a cover charge, so naturally it was one of my favorites. It is insanely fun with views of the city, DJs, and two dance floors.
I went here an embarrassing amount of times while I was studying in Athens. It is the best place to start the night because it is close to the best bars and clubs and is always fun and full of young people.
The Hilton rooftop bar is one of the best places to enjoy the sunset. It is set up so that every seat has a view of the city, but you must still make a reservation in advance. You do not have to stay at the hotel to use the bar. They have delicious aperol spritzes and appetizers.
The Athens Cypria Hotel has an Acropolis View Bar with panoramic views and a rooftop bar. It’s a great place to see Athens and the Acropolis.
A for Athens is probably the most popular rooftop bar in Athens. It is right in the middle of Syntagma, so it’s super easy to find and get to and it’s right by the Acropolis. Great place to get photos and I would consider it more of a daytime spot.
Public Cafe is in Syntagma on top of a bookstore. It’s like a big garden with food, drinks, and a view of Syntagma. Great ambience and more casual than the other bars listed.
Nightlife in Athens
Athens has a great nightlife scene, and even more clubs open in the summer! My favorite area for going out is Gazi. Typically there is a 10-15 euro cover, but that comes with one drink. If you plan on going to the clubs, just know that they normally do not get busy until 2am or so. We used to go to any of the bars by O2 before heading to the clubs.
Lohan Club was founded by the one and only Lindsay Lohan. It is open all year long, so it is one of the largest and most popular clubs in the city. It is walking distance from the bars in Gazi
I saw Lindsay at the club a few times, sitting in the VIP section. My friends even made it on her Instagram story!
As I mentioned earlier, O2 was our go-to spot in Gazi. It’s a rooftop bar that is insanely fun with views of the city, DJs, and two dance floors. That street is the best place to start the night in Gazi because there are a ton of bars and they’re all very fun.
O2 does not have a cover charge!
I only got to go to Bananas once while I was studying in Athens because it opens up in the summertime, but I had an absolute blast. It’s a jungle/banana themed bar (lol) and it’s half-outdoors which is always fun. Definitely recommend.
Why Sleep is right down the street from O2. They host Latin dancing nights during the week and it’s a great place to dance and meet people.
Blast is another club in Athens and it has the typical 10 euro fee. My friend got a black eye when we went, but it was still a pretty fun club. In the spring, it was full of young locals.
The Toy Room
The Toy Room is strangely children’s toy-themed, but other than that it is a typical club. Most people go with promoters and have a table.
I believe that Toy Room is a chain. I went to the one in London as well.
Tips for Visiting Athens
The locals just absolutely love it when you try to speak to them in Greek. Trust me, I know Greek is impossible to learn, but a few please and thank yous will just make their day. It’s always respectful to learn a few words from the country you’re visiting.
Athens is covered in graffiti because it is legal on all public property. It’s quite beautiful to watch the graffiti change around the city, because it’s always different and new.
In my opinion, if a Greek salad has olives in it it was made for Americans. When I went to more authentic places, Greek salad was just cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, and blocks of feta, with lemon juice and olive oil. Do with this information what you will, but to me it means that the restaurant is touristy.
Taxis are super cheap and they even cap prices to the airport. Download the BEAT app, which is similar to uber. If you use uber it calls a taxi because of some government deal.
Most restaurants, bars, and clubs in Athens use Facebook pages rather than creating a website. If you can’t find something online, it may be easier to search on social media.
Like most places in the Mediterranean, Athens is full of stray cats and dogs. Locals like to leave out food for them. Some are friendly, but pet at your own risk.
For some reason restaurants and cafes in Greece can only play covers of songs. I believe it is because of copyright laws. If you listen during your meal, you'll hear strange versions of popular songs.
The students in my study abroad program in Athens created this interactive map to pin our favorite cafes, tavernas, cafe-bars, non-Greek restaurants, and sites around the city. It's full of wonderful recommendations, including the ones I mentioned before. Keep it in your back pocket while traveling to Athens.