Athens, Greece

Greece › Athens Travel Guide
by Santorini Dave • Updated: October 28, 2022

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Plaka neighborhood in Athens, Greece.

Hadrian’s Library in the historic Plaka neighborhood of central Athens, with the Acropolis perched above.

Athens, Greece’s capital city, is often used as a pit stop as travelers make their way to the marvelous Greek Islands and the country’s best beaches, but the sprawling city is packed with fantastic historical sites, marvelous tours, luxury hotels, and great restaurants. When it’s time to move on, the city’s main ferry port is well connected by the Greek ferry system to Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Crete, and all of the islands of the Aegean Sea.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Athens

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Where is Athens?

Athens is located in Mainland Greece, about 500km south of Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki. Its southern location makes Athens a great jumping off point for trips to the Crete and the Cycladic Islands. The population of Athens proper is around 660,000. Greater Athens is a sprawling urban area with a population close to 3.2 million.

Map showing the location of Athens within Greece.

What is Athens famous for?

Athens is the center of Ancient Greek civilization and the birthplace of democracy. To travelers, Athens is most famous for its archaeological ruins, especially the Acropolis complex (which includes the Parthenon), the Ancient and Roman Agoras, Hadrian’s Library, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Panathenaic Olympic Stadium. Athens is also known for its excellent museums, restaurants, nightlife, and cultural events, but one of the best things to do in Athens is to just wander the streets and squares, enjoying the vibrant scene.

The Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

Buying tickets in advance for the Acropolis is highly recommended.

What are the best things to do in Athens?

What cities have direct flights to Athens?

There are direct flights to Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venizelos, airport code ATH) from most major cities in Western Europe, with flights taking between 2 and 4 hours. From North America, direct flights take 9-10 hours and depart from Boston, Chicago, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto. Flights to Athens from the Middle East take 5 hours and depart from Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Direct flights to Athens from Singapore take 11 hours.

Map of direct flights to Athens, Greece

What is the best month to go to Athens?

Athens is generally a good year-round destination though the weather can be cool and wet from November to March. The best time to visit Athens is late March through early June or late September through early November, when the weather is warm but not blazing hot and the peak tourist crowds of July and August have decreased. The popular beaches of Athens are at their best from June through October.

Acropolis Museum in Athens.

Spring and fall are the best times to visit Athens, but most attractions (like the world-class Acropolis Museum) can be enjoyed year-round.

How long should I spend in Athens?

The main highlights of Athens (Acropolis, Acropolis Museum, and the historical sights dotted around the Plaka) can be seen in one long day, if planned wisely. For tourists using Athens mostly as the jumping off point of a trip to the Greek Islands, that can suffice. For travelers who are interested in more than just the “must-see” attractions, however, we recommend spending at least two full days in central Athens and up to four. No matter how long you spend, taking a tour can be a great way to experience much of the city’s history, culture, and food scene in a short amount of time.

Tour in Athens.

Taking a tour is a great way to maximize your time in Athens. The Athens Gourmet Food Tour is an excellent introduction to the city.

Is Athens safe?

Athens is a little rough around the edges in spots, but it is a safe destination with a very low crime rate. Much of Athens is pedestrianized and well-lit, and there are usually plenty of people about. The biggest worry for travelers to Athens is pickpocketers in crowded subway cars, the same as in most major cities. Travelers to Athens, including solo female travelers, will feel safe as long as normal precautions are taken.

Athens at night.

Athens is generally safe and well-lit at night. The safest areas for travelers to stay are Monastiraki and Plaka.

What is the best area to stay in Athens?

The two best neighborhoods to stay in Athens are Plaka and Monastiraki. Both are largely pedestrianized areas that lie at the foot of the Acropolis, chock-full of great restaurants and shops, and within walking distance of most major sites. In addition to Plaka and Monastiraki, the areas of Syntagma, Koukaki, Kolonaki, and Psirri also offer a great mix of walkability, sightseeing, great restaurants, and easy transportation.

Map showing the top areas and attractions in Athens, Greece

What are the best Greek Islands near Athens?

Visiting the Greek Islands is easy from Athens. There are direct flights and ferries from Athens to most Greek Islands, with greater frequency in the popular summer travel months. The best islands to visit from Athens are Crete, Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, and Paros.

Best Greek islands near Athens.

Which Athens Port should I use?

There are two commercial and ferry ports located near Athens: Piraeus and Rafina. For most purposes, Piraeus Port is the best choice, as it is much closer to Athens city center, easy to get to by metro, and offers more daily ferries to the Greek Islands. Rafina Port is closer to the airport, so taking a ferry from Rafina makes sense only if you don’t plan to spend any time in Athens. There are daily direct ferries from Athens to Santorini, Athens to Mykonos, Athens to Crete, Athens to Naxos, Athens to Paros, and Athens to Milos. For other ferry routes check Ferryhopper.com.

Piraeus ferry port in Athens.

The Piraeus ferry port serves multiple daily ferry routes to most of the Greek Islands, like this catamaran heading to Hydra.

Map of the Athens, Greece region, with locations of and distances between Piraeus port, Rafina port, and the Athens airport indicated

What currency is used in Athens?

Greece is part of the European Union, so the currency used in Athens is the Euro (€). Most shops, restaurants, museums, and archaeological sites in Athens accept credit cards, but it is a good idea to also have some cash on hand for small purchases like bottled water, snacks, and taxi fare. ATMs are easy to find throughout central Athens.

Good restaurant in central Athens.

Most of the best restaurants in Athens, like Pame Tsipouro Pame Kafeneio in Monastiraki, accept credit cards.

What are the best beaches near Athens?

The Athens Riviera is a stretch of beach resorts and suburban towns (Vouliagmeni, Glyfada) 15 kms south of Athens. Good restaurants, shopping, and nightlife are easy to find. The Four Seasons Astir Palace and Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso are two fantastic resorts on the riviera’s seafront.

Pool at Athens beach resort.

The Four Seasons Astir Palace on the Athens Riviera – about 30 minutes from the sights of central Athens.

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