by SantoriniDave – Updated January, 2014
- Best Luxury Hotels in Athens
- Best Boutique Hotels in Athens
- Best Hotels in the Plaka
- Best Airport Hotels
- Best Hotels near the Beach
- Best Hotels for Families in Athens
- Cheap (but good) Hotels in Athens
- Best Areas of Athens for Tourists
- Best Time to Visit Athens
- Best Website for Booking Hotels in Athens
- Booking Hotels in Advance
- Booking a Package Holiday to Athens
- Best Beaches near Athens
- Airlines that Fly to Athens
- Airport to Downtown Athens
- Ferries – Athens to the Greek Islands
- Ferries – Buying Tickets in Athens
- Ferries – Departure Times
- Is Athens Safe for Tourists?
- InterContinental Athenaeum – Rooms are huge and some have amazing views of the Acropolis. The swimming pool is great. The hotel is located a little outside the city center but a free shuttle bus runs guests to the main tourist spots every hour.
- Hilton Athens – Located away from the Plaka and Syntagma Square in a quieter section of the city (near Kolonaki). A nearby metro station connects you with everything. Good sized rooms, a beautiful pool, and exemplary service make it a great pick.
- Hotel Grande Bretagne – The most famous hotel in Athens. Situated on Syntagma Square in the center of the action and walking distance to nearly all major attractions. The spa and rooftop restaurant and bar are top notch – the latter worth a visit even if you’re not a guest.
- Electra Palace Hotel – Awesome location in the Plaka. Fantastic rooftop pool with great views of the Acropolis. There’s also an indoor pool if you’re visiting in winter or need a break from the sun. The free buffet breakfast is very good.
- New Hotel – Fantastically trendy and fun hotel in the heart of the Plaka. (p.s. They have a pillow menu.)
- Periscope Hotel – Located in the cafe-and-gallery neighborhood of Kolonaki and walking distance to the top attractions. A great pick for those who want to be close to everything but in a more authentic Athenian neighborhood.
Q. What are the best hotels near the Athens airport?
- Sofitel Athens Airport – Large rooms with a nice pool, sauna, spa, and free wi-fi. Directly across the road from the international arrivals terminal. (Hotel phone: (+30) 210 354 4000)
- The Westin Athens Astir Palace Beach Resort is on a private peninsula with a great beach, pool, restaurants, and every kind of outdoor activity you can name. It’s located 20 minutes from central Athens in Vouliagmeni and close to the shopping of Glyfada. A free shuttle bus takes you into town or the hotel will pay for a taxi if it’s delayed or full.
- Ava Hotel Athens – The service and amenities of a 5 star hotel with the friendliness of a family run B&B. A perfect location on a quiet street in the Plaka. Great breakfast and close to the Akropoli metro station. Some rooms have kitchenettes.
- Astor Hotel – Great location. A very good breakfast is included and served on the rooftop restaurant with amazing views of the Acropolis. Large triples and quads are available for families. Furnishings are bit dated but the hotel makes a good mid-range choice near Syntagma Square and its metro stop.
The best way to find good hotel deals in Athens is to use Hotelscombined.com/Athens. The best deals are not found at specific hotels but change depending on many factors (most notably whether a tour group is booked during your dates). That said, here are 5 hotels that offer good value for money.
Here are the neighborhoods that are of interest to tourists:
Plaka – My favorite neighborhood to stay. Yes, it’s very touristy but it also has a lively and friendly vibe. It’s a pedestrian-friendly warren of ancient streets nestled at the base of the Acropolis. Filled with restaurants, tourist shops, and hotels. Sights include Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Museum of Greek Popular Musical Instruments, and Museum of Greek Folk Art. Served by Monastiraki station on metro lines 1 and 3.
Monastiraki – North of Plaka and having a similar feel. The neighborhood gets a little less touristy and has more antique, arts and crafts, and clothing shops as you head north. Also home to the large Flea Market every Sunday morning. Thissio is to the west and is quieter and greener still. The area is served by the Monastiraki station (lines 1 and 3) and Thissio station (line 1).
Psirri – As you move north from Monastiraki you enter the trendy neighborhood of Psirri (a converted industrial area that now teems with boutiques, galleries, shops, night clubs, and converted warehouses to upscale restaurants.
Syntagma Square – The business center of Athens but still very touristy. Here you’ll find 5 star hotels, restaurants, bookstores, banks, airline offices, and the Greek Parliament buildings. Served by Syntagma station (lines 2 and 3). The National Historical Museum is located in the old Parliament building on Stadiou street and the National Gardens are cool and shady on a hot day.
Kolonaki – A residential neighborhood northwest of Syntagma Square that’s filled with upscale shops, restaurants, boutique hotels, and cafes. Sights include the Benaki Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, and National War Museum.
Omonia – North of all of the above neighborhoods is the seedy district of Omonia which is best avoided at night. Though you may find yourself here through the day if you’re out to find the excellent National Archeological Museum in Exarheia.
Piraeus – The port of Athens where the ferries arrive and depart for the islands. Not particularly appealing to tourists though if you need to catch an early ferry you might want to go directly to a hotel here. It’s about 30 minutes by metro from downtown Athens to the port.
For the Greek islands high season is from late June until the end of August. For Athens it stretches significantly longer as it attracts more visitors that are their for the sights as much as the sun. So look for big crowds starting in May and lasting until October.
The best time to visit Athens (to do sightseeing) is from April to June and September and October. The best times to visit the Greek islands are June and September (as the weather is great but the big crowds of summer aren’t present).
Hotelscombined.com/Athens is the best for finding great deals and last minute discounts.
If you’re visiting Athens between May and October you should book your hotel as soon as your plane tickets are booked but ideally 2 to 3 months in advance. That said, many rooms are still available with little more than a weeks notice so there’s no need to panic if you’ve left it until the end. If you arrive without reservations and want to hunt for a place on your own then head for the Plaka (which has the highest concentration of hotels) and walk the streets popping into any place you see.
If you need to book a vacation package to Greece the best website is Sunshine.Co.uk. They’re especially strong if you’re looking for last minute discounts or something really cheap.
To the south and east of Athens lies a string of beaches and beach towns that grow progressively nicer as you get away from the city. The Athens Tram runs all the way along the coast to Voula. If you’re going farther than that you’ll need to hop on a bus. Also, if you’re tight on time buses do the trip out the coast faster (sometimes in combination with the metro, other times direct from Syntagma) – but you’ll need to ask to figure out the best route.
Most beaches require a fee to enter. In return you get nicely groomed sand, a snack or restaurant, sun chairs and umbrellas, and sometimes access to restrooms, showers, changing rooms, beach gear, and water slides. There are small beach coves that dot the coastline as well. They offer smaller crowds but with few or no amenities. If you’ve rent a car you can drive along the coast and stop where ever you see a patch of sand. It will usually involved scampering down from the road above on a footpath wondering where the heck you’re going.
- Kalamaki – The closest beach to Athens. Though not the nicest it’s decent. It’s about 45 minutes by tram from Syntagma.
- Glyfada – Asteras Glyfada is very family friendly with a children’s playground and watersports (cost: €7.50). Take the tram to Glyfada and walk along the coast to Asteras.
- Voula – Voula A beach is very family friendly with snack bar and water slide. Take the tram to the last stop and the beach is right there. (cost: €7).
- Vouliagmeni – Astir Beach is very hip and very nice (cost: €15). Take the tram to Glyfada and then take bus 114 to Astir.
- Varkiza – One of the best beaches in the area complete with great sand, a water park, volleyball, and tennis (cost: €12.) Take the tram to Glyfada and then bus 116 to Varkiza.
For flights from North America you’re best to search on Kayak.com but for flights within Europe you’re better to book through a discount airline like the ones listed below. These discount, or charter, airlines generally won’t appear in a Kayak search. And they don’t offer flights outside of Europe so are not of interest to travelers from the US or Canada – unless they’re planning to stop in Western Europe on their trip to Greece.
- Olympic Air – Flights from many European cities to Athens. Connecting flights to Greek islands available.
- Aegean Airlines – Flights from many European cities to Athens. Connecting flights to Greek islands available.
- EasyJet – The airline with the most flights to Athens from cities like Rome, Milan, Paris, London, and Manchester, as well as many more.
- Air Berlin – Flights from Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, many more German cities, Paris, and Copenhagen to Athens.
- FlyThomasCook – Flights from Manchester, London Gatwick, and Birmingham to Athens.
- Thomson Flights – Flights from Manchester, Birmingham, and London Gatwick, and more UK cities to Athens.
- Lauda Air – Flights from Vienna to Athens.
- NIKI – Flights from London, Paris, Copenhagen, Munich, Berlin, Milan, Rome, Vienna, and more European cities to Athens.
- Germanwings – Flights many European cities to Athens.
- TUI Fly – Flights from many German cities and Vienna to Athens.
- Transavia – Flights from Paris, Amsterdam, and many more European cities to Athens. to Santorini.
- Norwegian – Flights from Stockholm, Oslo, and Copenhagen to Athens. Connecting flights to New York City.
- Meridiana – Flights from Rome, Milan, Verona, and Bologna to Athens.
- Condor Air – Flights from Dussledorf, Hamburg, Bonn/Cologne, Frankfurt, and Munich to Athens.
- Jetairfly – Flights from Brussels to Athens.
- Edelweiss Air – Flights from Zurich and Geneva to Athens.
- Air Baltic – Flights to Athens from Riga and other European capitals (though as of spring 2013 not showing many flights).
Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport is 27km east of Athens and well connected to Athens by public transportation. This airport handles all international flights and domestic flights for Athens.
- Metro – Metro Line 3 runs from the airport to the city center stations of Syntagma and Monastiraki. The trip takes 45 minutes and costs €8, €7 if in a group of 2 or more, and €14 return (good for up to 48 hours). In the airport the metro is a 5 minute walk from baggage claim and elevators are available. There are both machines and ticket windows staffed with people. The metro trains and suburban trains run from the same platform and have different ticket windows – be sure to get metro tickets and get on the metro train if you’re going downtown or to the port (as most tourists will be). The train runs from 5:30am to 11:30pm (but times can change slightly with season). To get from the airport to the ferry port (Piraeus) by metro requires a line change at Monastiraki which makes the bus a better option. The airport ticket is good for all transit in the city for up to 90 minutes. Validate when first getting on the train, and then again if you switch to a different train or bus in the city. (There are big fines if you fail to validate so find the little box that stamps your ticket and insert into the opening. See picture of validating machine here.)
- Bus – If you’re arriving or departing at night then the bus is a good alternative to the metro as it runs 24/7. It has several advantages over the metro. The bus is the cheapest way between the airport and downtown. It has much more space than the metro for baggage. It’s also a great way to get to Piraeus from the airport as it goes direct and does not require a train change like the metro. The one drawback is that during the day it has to deal with Athens traffic which can slow to a standstill. The bus can get from the airport to downtown in 40 minutes in light traffic but can take up to 1.5 hours in heavy traffic. All airport bus numbers start with an “X”. Like the metro you need to validate your ticket on board.
X95 – To Syntagma Square in 40 to 80 minutes. Every 20 to 30 minutes.
X96 – To Pireaus/Ferry Terminal in 90 minutes. Every 20 to 30 minutes.
X93 – To Kifissos Bus Terminal A (for buses to Peloponnese, Thessaloniki, Corfu) in 60 minutes. Every 30 minutes.
- Taxi – Taxi from the airport to central Athens costs €35 through the day and €50 at night. This includes all tolls and airport fees). If you’re asked to pay anything else tell them you’ll call the tourist police and they can help sort it out. Just dial 171 to contact the tourist police operator who should be fluent in multiple languages. (This number will work anywhere in Greece.)
- Air – The quickest way to get to far flung islands like Rhodes, Crete, Santorini, Samos, or Corfu. But for closer islands like Naxos, Paros, or Mykonos it can be quicker (when you consider getting to the airport, getting through security, and waiting for your plane) to take a ferry. Pretty much all islands are within one hour of Athens by air.
Olympic Air has multiple flights every day to all the popular islands. Check the Olympic Air schedule.
Aegean Air has a similar schedule with flights from Athens to all the Greek islands and also more flights from Thessaloniki. Check the Aegean Air schedule (pdf).
- Ferry – The most popular and authentic way of getting to the islands. Buying and planning ferry trips before arrival is tricky (see below) but doing it after arriving in Athens is easy. Ferries rarely sell out so you can purchase tickets a day or two before (or even the morning of), take the metro to the ferry terminal and hop on board. However, if you want a cabin or need to take your car you should book well in advance.
- Bus – This is really bus and ferry – but if you buy a combo ticket the bus goes straight on board the ferry and you don’t have to deal with arranging the ferry portion of your ticket. Buses are primarily used for getting to the Ionian islands of Corfu, Kefallonia, Zakynthos, and Lefkada – as well as other cities on the mainland and Peloponnese. Travel times to the Ionian islands range from 6 to 10 hours. You can’t book bus tickets in advance so you need to go to the bus station and buy tickets. Buses are air conditioned but do not have toilets on board. There are stops about every 2 or 3 hours to have a snack and use the restroom. This is an old schedule of buses leaving from Athens. You’ll need to phone to find out the current schedule (Terminal A phone: 210 512 4910). In summer, show up at least 90 minutes in advance to ensure a ticket.
Q. Where do I buy ferry tickets in Athens?
If you’re arriving by plane into Athens and want to continue to Santorini by ferry you’re best to purchase ferry tickets at the airport. By booking right away it will give you the largest window of time before your ferry. If you’re planning to spend 2 nights or more in Athens then this should be plenty of time to ensure a seat on pretty much any ferry (high speed or catamaran) – as long as you don’t need a cabin or are taking a vehicle. The Amphitrion travel agency has a 24 hour desk on the arrivals floor at the airport that sells ferry tickets.
You can also buy tickets in the city. Travel agents that book ferry tickets are easy to find. But by waiting until you get into the city you’re losing a little bit of time. Maybe you go to your hotel, have a swim, grab a bite to eat, and then head out to buy your ferry tickets. By that time it’s evening and everything is closed. Now it’s the next morning before you’re buying them. Do it at the airport, get it done and out of the way – then no worries.
Lastly, you can buy tickets at the Athens port (Piraeus) just before you get on the ferry. Allow at least 2 hours to get to Piraeus, buy the tickets, and find your boat. It’s busy and a little chaotic around the port – especially in the morning when a majority of the ferries leave.
If you bought tickets in advance (on the internet) then you’ll likely have to pick them up in Piraeus. This is another reason why buying in advance is a pain. It’s essentially the same as buying in person but now you have to find the specific company as opposed to just buying from the first travel agency you see as you get to Piraeus. (Of course, you do have reserved seats or a cabin so that can be important – but as far as the hassle factor it’s probably worse having booked in advance.)
Pireaus is the main port for Athens. Below is a list of routes that leave from the port for the Greek islands in the Aegean. Ferries for Corfu and the Ionian islands leave from Patra and Igmoumenitsa. Ferries for the Sporades (Skiathos, Skopelos, and Skyros) leave from Rafina.
High Speed Ferry Services from Pireaus to Select Islands
Chania (Crete): 7.5hr/€36/daily
Folegandros: 3.5hr/€57/1-3 daily
Heraklion (Crete): 6.5hr/€40/daily
Hydra: 1.5hr/€26/8 daily
Ios: 3.5hr/€55/3 daily
Milos:: 2.5hr/€55/3 daily
Mykonos: 3 hr/€55/3 daily
Naxos: 4hr/€52/3 daily
Paros: 3hr/€50/6 daily
Poros: 1hr/€32/6 daily
Santorini: 5.5hr/€62/3 daily
Serifos: 2hr/€43/2 daily
Sifnos: 3hr/€50/3 daily
Spetses: 2hr/€35/6 daily
Syros: 2.5hr/€45/3 daily
Regular Ferry Services from Pireaus to Select Islands
Aegina: 1hr 10min/€10/hourly
Chania (Crete): 8.5hr/€27/daily
Folegandros: 7.5hr/€30/4 weekly
Heraklion (Crete): 8hr/€30/2 daily
Ios: 7hr/€33/5 daily
Milos: 7.5hr/€34/2 daily
Mykonos: 5.5hr/€32/2 daily
Naxos: 5.5hr/€31/5 daily
Paros: 4.5hr/€30/4 daily
Poros: 2.5hr/€13/3 daily
Santorini: 9 hr/€35/5 daily
Serifos: 5hr/€23/2 daily
Sifnos: 5.5hr/€31/5 daily
Syros: 4hr/€27/4 daly
The port is large and it can take a while to get from the metro station to where you’re ferry is boarding. Take a look at this map of the Pireaus port to get an idea. You’ll see the metro stop labeled Electric Railway Line 1 on the upper right side between E5 and E6. Ferries locations can change but as a general rule: E1 – Rhodes and the Dodecanese. E2 – Crete, Chios, Lesvos, Ikaria, Samos. E3 – Crete vehicle entrance. E6 and E7 – Cyclades and Rethymno. E8 – Saronic islands (Aegina, Hydra, Poros, Spetses, Salamis, and Angistri). E9 and E10 – Cyclades and Samos. E11 – Cruise terminal A. E12 – Cruise terminal B.
Athens is a big city and as such the usual advice for traveling abroad applies (be aware of what’s going on around you, put your money in a smart place, don’t fall for women who ask you into a bar to buy them a drink).
As for the riots and protests that periodically arise in the city – these are political rallies that are focused on the government. Tourists are almost never the target. The protests usually occur in the city center around Syntagma Square. They’re easily avoided. If you see a large crowd of chanting Greeks approaching, quietly move in another direction, and you should be fine.
Often when people ask, “Is it OK to travel to Athens?”, what they mean is, “Could my plans be compromised by a strike, protest, or riot?” And the answer to that is yes, it’s possible, but still not very likely.
The most likely threat to your travel plans would be a ferry strike that delays your trip to or from the islands. For this, the best remedy is to have a few days of extra travel time on either end of your trip. Ferries are more likely to be canceled due to windy weather than a strike or riot, but in either case, having an extra day or two (especially at the end of your trip) to rearrange your trip and ferry ride, should correct the problem.