Athens, Greece

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Updated: October 14, 2020

Travel guide to the sights of Athens, Greece.

Hadrian’s Library and Acropolis in the old town of Athens, Greece.

Athens, Greece’s capital city, is often used as a pit stop on a trip to the Greek Islands, but it is well-worth a visit on its own. Vibrant and modern, Athens is also an ancient city; the birthplace of western civilization and home to some of the world’s most important archaeological sites.

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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 Cyclades Islands. The population of Athens is around 664,000.

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, 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 ancient acropolis in Athens, Greece, as viewed from the city below.

Athens is most famous for its archaeological ruins, especially the towering Acropolis complex.

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. Flight 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 showing nonstop 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.

Graphic of the best months to visit Athens, Greece.

People view artifacts in the Athens Acropolis Museum

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 (the Acropolis, Acropolis Museum, and Syntagma Square) can be seen in one long day, if planned wisely; for travelers using Athens mostly as the jumping off point of a trip to the Greek Islands, that can suffice. For travelers who are interested in experiencing more than just the “must-do’s”, 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 Athens’ history, culture, and food scene in a short amount of time.

A tour guide shows spices at a farmers market to a group of tourists

Taking a tour is a great way to maximize your time in Athens, no matter how long you choose to stay.

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 always 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.

a crowded street in Athens at night

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

Where 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.

Map of the 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.

Map of Piraeus port location, showing distances to Central Athens, the Athens Airport, and Rafina Port, Greece

Travelers tow suitcases on their way to board a ferry

Piraeus Port serves multiple daily ferry routes to the Greek Islands, like this Blue Star overnight ferry headed to Crete.

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.

Diners eat at outdoor tables at a Greek taverna

Most of the best restaurants in Athens, like Geros Tou Moria in Plaka, accept credit cards.

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