Greece › Athens › Best Places to Stay
Updated: May 9, 2023
By Santorini Dave
Our Favorite Athens Hotels
• 5-star: Grande Bretagne
• 4-star: Electra Palace
• 3-star: Phaedra
• Boutique Hotel: AthensWas
• New Hotel: xenodocheio Milos
• For Families: Ava
• For Couples: Gatsby
• Hotel Pool: Four Seasons
• Acropolis View: Electra Palace
• Airport Hotel: Sofitel
• Ferry Port: Triton Hotel
• Beach Resort: Four Seasons
The Best Areas to Stay in Athens
• Best Hotels in Athens
• Best Family Hotels in Athens
• Athens Maps
Athens is a world-class city with a rich history that too many tourists skip through on their way to the islands, pausing maybe for a walk around the Parthenon. It’s a city that rewards the patient and curious traveler with a wealth of character, flavors, and surprises. First-timers to Athens should stay in one of the walkable, central neighborhoods with easy access to the Acropolis, Agoras, and museums. Monastiraki, Plaka, Syntagma, Psirri, Makriyanni, and the City Center are just about perfect. The Kolonaki, Koukaki, Akadimia, and Thiseio neighborhoods offer quieter stays and leafier streets, still within walking distance of the city highlights. The Athens Riviera is about 15 km from central Athens and is great for a dreamy beach vacation paired with city sightseeing excursions. All of these areas are well-connected to the airport and the ferry port by train, bus, or a short drive.
Each neighborhood is explored in depth below, but here is a short overview: Plaka is the oldest area, mostly pedestrianized, and densely packed with shops, restaurants, and quaint architecture. Monastiraki is a charming, historic district known for shopping at major retailers on Ermou Street and at the buzzy Monastiraki Flea Market. Syntagma borders the National Garden and is the political and economic hub, where you’ll find the Old Royal Palace (now Hellenic Parliament) and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the iconic evzones’ ritual changing of the guard. Psirri is a eclectic, working-class neighborhood currently undergoing a bit of a renaissance with artisan workshops and lively tavernas. Makriyanni is an upscale mini-neighborhood home to the Acropolis Museum with a wide walking street. The City Center offers trendy shops, lounges, and restaurants along casually-cool Kolokotroni Street, plus the Central Market and National Historical Museum. Akadimia is a quieter neighborhood known for its Neoclassical buildings and high-end shopping. Kolonaki is among the wealthiest neighborhoods in central Athens, with luxury boutiques and haute cuisine. Thiseio is popular with young locals and is beautifully green with plenty of lookout points offering scenic vistas. Koukaki offers a relaxed, locals-only vibe despite its proximity to the Acropolis and museums. The Athens Riviera is on the south side of the city proper, boasting tranquil beaches and island-like atmosphere with a cosmopolitan touch. Finally, Piraeus is home to the ferry port. In the middle of a revamp, there are a handful of decent hotels and restaurants popping up here, but it’s still better to stay just about anywhere else in Athens, even if you have an early morning ferry to catch.
Beloved since antiquity as the City of the Violet Crown, Athens has blossomed into a dynamic metropolis brimming with spectacular sights. This is Europe’s oldest capital city, continually inhabited for at least 9000 years; for context, its Acropolis is just 3300 years old. Named for the goddess of wisdom, Athena, the city is the historic center for science, art, and philosophy. The idea of democracy (from demos – the people – and kratos – the power) was first conceived on the rocky Pnyx Hill here, just 1 km from the Acropolis and steps from the rumored prison of Socrates. Though best known for its ancient ruins, the cityscape is comprised of Neoclassical, Modernist, and even Cycladic-style buldings (in the tiny Anafiotika area of the Plaka neighborhood) with some scattered traces of Byzantine and Ottoman design – as well as a fair amount of bland mid-century apartment blocks. Vibrant murals and rough graffiti thread through even the most exclusive neighborhoods.
Athens has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Acropolis, where you’ll find the iconic Parthenon, as well as the 11th-century Daphni Monastery in the Chaidari suburb, just 11 km from downtown. Two of Greece’s best musuems are here, the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum, along with dozens of more niche collections of art and artifacts. Plenty of green space and hiking trails meander around Mt Lycabettus, Filopappou Hill, and the National Garden with an atmosphere of warm weather and sunny skies for most of the year. Dining, nightlife, and shopping are varied and plentiful in the neighborhoods making up Athens’ historic center. Many rooftops feature restaurants and bars offering sweeping views over the city toward the Acropolis, beautifully lit up at night. On the coastal south, you’ll find a string of sandy beaches and sapphire sea in the Athens Riviera, along with the thermal waters of Lake Vouliagmeni, prized as a natural mineral spa since the late 1800s.
Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Athens
- Best Luxury Hotels in Athens
Grande Bretagne • Four Seasons Astir Palace • King George
- Best Honeymoon Hotels in Athens
Gatsby • Andronis Athens • Shila
- Best Boutique Hotels in Athens
AthensWas • xenodocheio Milos • NEW Hotel
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels in Athens
Phaedra Hotel • A for Athens • Athens Center Square
- Best Hotels for Families
Ava Hotel & Suites • Four Seasons Astir Palace • Grecotel Pallas Athena
Best Places in Athens for…
- The Best Place in Athens for First-Timers: Plaka.
Plaka is the best spot to experience Athens for first-time visitors. Set at the base of the Acropolis in the historic and cultural heart of the city, Plaka is steps from Athens’ most important ancient sites, including the Parthenon, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Arch, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Roam just a little outside Plaka to find the Acropolis Museum, shop for souvenirs at Monastiraki Flea Market, and visit the Hellenic Parliament to watch the elaborate ritual that is the Changing of the Guard. Neoclassical mansions and eclectic buildings line the tree-shaded public squares and narrow streets (some paved in marble) of most of Plaka, while its Anafiotika enclave adds a surprising element of Cycladic architecture with whitewashed, cubic houses and flagstone pedestrian lanes. Spirited Plaka buzzes with activity in its boutiques, bars, and galleries. Its charming sidewalk cafes offer an ideal perch for people-watching day or night while sampling local dishes, Greek wines, and the ubiquitous ouzo. Or opt for the romantic atmosphere of one of the many garden courtyards tucked behind some of Athens’ best restaurants.
- The Best Places in Athens for Sightseeing: Plaka, Monastiraki, Syntagma, and Makriyanni
Most neighborhoods in Athens have at least a few attractions, whether museums or ruins. These neighborhoods have the most. Makriyanni is at the southern base of the Acropolis and is home to the Acropolis Museum. Plaka, the oldest neighborhood in Athens, is just a short walk from the Acropolis with charming cobblestone streets and sights that include Hadrian’s Arch. Monastiraki also has its share of ancient ruins, but it is most popular for shopping at the Monastiraki Flea Market and on trendy Ermou Street. Syntagma is home to the historic sights of post-revolution Greece, namely the Parliament building and the National Garden.
- Best Places in Athens for Shopping: Monastiraki and Kolonaki
Monastiraki is the better known and busier of the two, with its 1.5 kilometer-long shopping street Ermou, running all the way through the neighborhood, and with the Monastiraki Flea Market covering a few blocks along Ifestou Street. (On Sundays, the flea market brings vendors from miles around, with booths that radiate out from small Avisssinias Square.) Kolonaki is a more upmarket neighborhood with 2 main shopping streets, Voukourestiou and Stadiou, boasting luxury brand boutiques and the high-end department store Attica. Voukourestiou Street extends down into Akadimia, making it a minor shopping area, while stylish Kolokotroni Street is a more recent addition to the shopping scene. Farther south, the Athens Riviera offers plenty of high-end shopping options.
- Best Places in Athens for Families: Plaka, Monastiraki, and Syntagma
These areas are all very safe, offer easy transportation, and are walkable to Athens’ best dining and attractions. The farther north you go (away from Plaka and closer to Omonia) the uglier and sketchier the city gets. Stay south of Sofokleous Street to avoid the worst areas, though even scruffy parts are pretty safe.
- Best Places in Athens for Restaurants and Nightlife: Psirri, City Center, Koukaki, and Makriyanni
There is no shortage of excellent restaurants all over Athens, but for more authentic and budget-friendly dining, head to Koukaki and Makriyanni, two adjacent neighborhoods southeast of the Acropolis. Restaurants here tend to cater to local tastes, unlike those in the tourist strongholds of Plaka and Monastiraki – though the views aren’t nearly as impressive. For a fun night out within an short walk of most hotels and major sights, head to Psirri or the City Center. Psirri is the more atmospheric of the two, with sidewalk cafés lit by candy-colored string lights tangled in the trees above and a long history as a rebel musician hub. The City Center caters to more contemporary tastes, with a plethora of craft cocktail bars, themed bars, and speakeasies.
- Best Places in Athens for a Local Vibe: Thiseio, Koukaki, and Kolonaki
All laid-back, residential areas within easy walking or transit from the major attractions of the city, though with few big tourist draws within their borders. Kolonaki is the most posh of the three, while Koukaki offers the easiest access to and views of the Acropolis, and Thiseio boasts more greenery and a youthful atmosphere.
- Best Places for Short Trips: Monastiraki and Syntagma are ideal for short trips of a day or two. Both areas are well-connected by public transportation. Monastiraki Station offers a direct train to Piraeus ferry port and the international airport. Syntagma Station has direct train links to the airport and the major sights of the city.
Staying in Plaka
Plaka is the oldest area of Athens. Having grown up around the Ancient Agora and continually inhabited ever since, Plaka is built directly over the residential streets of ancient Athens. It is loosely bordered by the base of the Acropolis to the southeast and the Monastiraki and Syntagma neighborhoods to the west and east, respectively. Though Plaka is one of Athens’ most touristy areas, the neighborhood still bursts with charm with its cobblestone pedestrian streets, sidewalk cafés, and small shops. Toward the southeast end of Plaka, you’ll find Anafiotikia, a quaint tangle of lanes leading up to the Acropolis and featuring delightfully out-of-place Cycladic architecture – cubic, whitewashed buildings, and bougainvillea.
Most of Plaka is designated for pedestrian use only. Some of the best restaurants and bars in the city are located here, including Psarras Tavern (fresh seafood, outdoor seating on the staircase or rooftop terrace) and Brettos (a 100+-year-old distillery and bar), though in general, it’s better to leave Plaka for more authentic dining with better prices. Sights include the Roman Agora, Tower of the Winds, Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, Hadrian’s Arch, and the Jewish Museum of Greece. Plaka is served by Monastiraki station on metro lines 1 and 3, which go directly to the Piraeus ferry port and the Athens International Airport, respectively.
The Best Hotels in Plaka
Staying in Monastiraki
Monastiraki is less touristy than Plaka but has a similar vibe with a mix of ancient ruins, Byzantine churches, and neoclassical architecture. This buzzing neighborhood sits at the base of the Acropolis, bordered by Plaka to the east and Psirri to the north. It’s a great area for shopping, dining, and nightlife, centered around the sprawling Monastiraki Flea Market and with the shopping street Ermou stretching fully across it. “Flea Market” is a bit of a misnomer, as it is comprised mostly of brick-and-mortar shops and restaurants; Sundays are the only days of the week that the street vendors set up. Ermou Street is the main shopping street in Athens, with a mix of local boutiques and international brand stores. Major sights here include the Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Stoa of Attalos, and Hadrian’s Library. The Church of the Pantanassa, the “little monastery” that gave this district its name, sits in Monastiraki square, though Tzisdarakis Mosque just steps away is perhaps the most recognizable landmark in the area.
While the area is busy all through the day, Monastiraki really comes alive at night, when its sidewalk cafés and rooftop bars open up, many offering stunning views of the illuminated Parthenon. Food is outstanding here, with a great mix of casual tavernas and upscale restaurants serving traditional Greek and Mediterranean dishes. The area is served by the Monastiraki metro station (lines 1 and 3). Line 1 is a direct route to Piraeus Port and line 3 goes directly to the Athens International Airport, making Monastiraki a good choice if you have an early ferry or flight to catch.
The Best Hotels in Monastiraki
- 360 Degrees
- Muse Urban Suites
- A for Athens (technically in Psirri, but right across from the Monastiriki metro station)
- All Hotels in Monastiraki
Staying in Syntagma
Syntagma is the name for the neighborhood surrounding Athens’ political and commercial hub, Syntagma Square (Constitution Square). The neighborhood is bordered by Plaka to the west and the National Garden and Kolonaki neighborhood to the east. The most important square in Greece, Syntagma was built shortly after Athens became the capital of the newly independent nation in the 1830s and was named for the constitution that King Otto was forced to draw up a decade later.
Syntagma Square is anchored by the Old Royal Palace, which now houses the Greek Parliament. Between the main square and the Parliament building is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in front of which the changing of the guard ceremony is performed every hour by the last unit of evzones in the Hellenic Army, who serve as the Presidential Guard. The National Garden sits adjacent to the tomb and offers plenty of shade along with a botanical garden, ancient ruins, and a children’s library. The National Historical Museum is just steps away. Athens’ best 5-star hotels, Grande Bretagne and King George, are located right on the square.
Syntagma is a major transportation hub with a huge, renovated metro station served by train lines 2 and 3. Line 3 goes directly to Athens International Airport, but it takes a second train to reach Piraeus Ferry Port (line 3 to Monastiraki Station, then line 1 to Piraeus). The X80 bus to Piraeus Ferry Port and the X95 bus to the Athens International Airport also stop here, as does the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus, making this an ideal spot for visitors on short trips or those catching early flights and ferries.
The Best Hotels in Syntagma
Staying in Kolonaki
Kolonaki is a wealthy neighborhood bordering Syntagma and located on the southern slope of Mt. Lycabettus, the tallest of Athens’ 7 hills. A funicular connects Kolonaki to the hilltop peak. Kolonaki is known for luxury shopping, museums, galleries, and chic dining and drinks. Many of its streets are pedestrian-only and brimming with Greek and international designer boutiques, haute-couture shoe stores, and trendy sidewalk cafés, especially along its main shopping streets, Voukourestiou and Stadiou. Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, which makes up Kolonaki’s southern border, is lined with neoclassical mansions that have been converted into museums, including the excellent Benaki Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Athens War Museum, and the Byzantine and Christian Museum. Several smaller museums and galleries dot the neighborhood.
Kolonaki is very near Syntagma and about a 15-minute walk from Plaka. Due to its hillside location, there can be a lot of steps depending on how far north you’re going. The neighborhood is served by Syntagma station on metro line 2 & 3 and Evangelismos on metro line 3.
The Best Hotels in Kolonaki
Staying in Psirri
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Athens, Psirri sits northwest of Monastiraki and Plaka, and south of Kotzia and Omonia Squares. Psirri has a long, sketchy history – a favorite hideout of revolutionaries and thugs in the 19th century and the home of rebetiko and mangas into the early 20th century – though it has undergone a complete revival and is now known for its lively nightlife and authentic dining. This neighborhood is still solidly working class, with many artisan workshops filling all the lanes extending out from its main square, Plateia Iroon (Heroes Square). Neoclassical houses that were once abandoned have been renovated and converted into hotels, galleries, tavernas, cafés, clubs, and bars, many with live music. Street art and elaborate murals cover many of the buildings here, and several small shops sell vintage clothes, local spices, vinyl records, original artwork, and much more.
Psirri is visited less by tourists and more by locals, despite being a 5-minute walk to Monastiraki Flea Market, 10-minutes from the Ancient Agora, and a 20-minute walk to the Acropolis. Psirri is served by the Monastiraki metro station, with lines 1 and 3 offering direct service to the port and airport respectively.
The Best Hotels in Psirri
Staying in the City Center
Athens’ City Center is a buzzing area brimming with creative restaurants, authentic street food, trendy boutiques, and some of the city’s best cocktail bars, including Baba Au Rum, six d.o.g.s., Noel, and world-renowned The Clumsies. The City Center is also home to such sights as the Athens Central Market (a fish, meat, and produce market since 1886 with a handful of simple restaurants serving locally-sourced dishes that spotlight ingredients sold in the market stalls), the Old Parliament (now housing the National Historical Museum – a collection of artifacts from the early Ottoman era through the Second World War), and Kolokotroni Street (among “the coolest streets in the world” according to Time Out magazine). Hotels here are primarily boutique properties and run the gamut from contemporary luxury to effortlessly cool – yet moderately priced – stays.
Located a short walk from the city’s best-known attractions and offering shopping and dining that caters both to local and international tastes, the City Center serves as an ideal springboard for exploring the city. The neighborhood sits just north of Monastiraki and Syntagma, east of Psirri, and west of Akadimia. The Monastiraki and Syntagama Metro stations are the nearest spots to catch the train to the airport, while the Monastiraki and Omonia Metro stations serve Piraeus ferry port.
The Best Hotels in the City Center
Staying in Koukaki
Increasingly popular, the low-key area of Koukaki is emerging as one of Athens’ trendiest neighborhoods. Koukaki sits at the southern base of the Acropolis and Filopappou Hill, where you’ll find Socrates’ prison cell along with stunning Acropolis views. Still largely left alone by tourists (aside from daytime visitors to the museums), this area offers plenty of tavernas and cafés on its squares and sidewalks, where you may be the only traveler. A farmer’s market sets up at the southwestern end of the neighborhood every Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Koukaki’s main attractions are the recently renovated National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) in the old Fix brewery. Koukaki is about a 5-minute walk to the Plaka neighborhood, 10 minutes to the Acropolis, and a 20-minute walk to Syntagma Square. The Koukaki area is served by the Akropoli and Sygrou-Fix stations on metro line 2.
The Best Hotels in Koukaki
Staying in Thiseio
This hilly, leafy area filled with neoclassical architecture and café-lined pedestrian streets lies northwest of the Acropolis. A favorite spot among young Athenians for weekend brunches or evenings out, Thiseio is home to an open-air cinema and cafés along Apostolou Pavlou Street and numerous shops and bars along Irakleidon Street, where the tram tracks used to run. Thiseio is centrally-located near the Ancient Agora, formerly the working-class heart of the city filled with blacksmiths and metalworkers, as evidenced by its proximity to the Temple of Hephaestus, God of fire and blacksmiths. Thiseio borders Filopappou Hill, a lush park filled with ruins and historic sights, many of which are free to visit: Pnyx Hill (birthplace of democracy, where ancient Athens’ democratic assembly met beginning in the 5th century B.C., and – in theory if not practice – all citizens had an equal right to vote, speak, and propose actions), Filopappou Monument (tomb of a 2nd-century, exiled Roman prince), and the National Observatory of Athens (offering day tours, stargazing, and demonstrations of historic telescopes), among other attractions. Climb nearby Aeropagus Hill (AKA Mars Hill) for spectacular views of both the Acropolis and Mt. Lycabettus, plus panoramic views to the west toward Piraeus, the sea, and the sunset.
Thiseio sits west of the Monastiraki neighborhood and the Ancient Agora and north of Filopappou Hill, and less than 2km walk to the Acropolis and Roman Agora. Its Metro station offers easy access to local neighborhoods, the airport, and the ferry port of Piraeus.
The Best Hotels in Thiseio
Staying in Akadimia
Akadimia is a walkable, centrally-located neighborhood outside of the main tourist hubs yet just a few steps to Athens’ best-loved sights. Some of the city’s best examples of neoclassical architecture are found here, including Academy of Athens (above), University of Athens, and the Vallianeio Megaron (part of the National Library), a trio all on the same street. The high-end shopping street Voukourestiou cuts through the neighborhood into Kolonaki, featuring Greek designer shops like Lalounis mixed in with international luxury brands, including Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Dior. Soho-Soho and Attica, both Greek-owned shops featuring EU and US brands, also have a presence here. The Numismatic Museum and the Museum of Ancient Greek Technology sit on the south end of the neighborhood.
Akadimia is bordered by Syntagma and the National Garden to the south, Kolonaki to the east, the City Center to the West, and Omonia and Exarchaea to the north. The main Metro station here is Panepistimio on Line 2, which connects to the Acropoilis. For Line 3 to the airport, the nearest subway station is at Syntagma; for Piraeus Port, take Line 1 from Omonia.
The Best Hotels in Akadimia
Staying in Makriyanni
An upscale nook on the south side of the Acropolis, Makriyanni’s major attraction is the Acropolis Museum, a collection of all artifacts found on the Acropolis hill and its surrounding slopes, built above the excavations of an ancient Athenian neighborhood. The main drag is the pedestrianized Dionysiou Areopagitou (pictured above), with greenery on its north side and with sidewalk cafés, neoclassical buildings, and artisan workshops on its south side. Ilias Lalounis Jewelry Museum is on Kallisperi Street, with an expansive collection of the renowned jeweler’s work, along with jewelry, decor, clothing from the 18th century live workshops and a Jewelry Artist in Residence Program. Rooftop restaurants abound, pairing local flavors with views of the Acropolis illuminated at night.
A short walk east from Makriyanni leads to the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch, while Filopappou Hill rises to the west. The Koukaki neighborhood borders Makriyanni to the south. The Acropolis Metro station is on Line 1 with stops in Syntagma (transfer to Line 3 here to reach the airport) and Omonia (transfer to Line 2 for Piraeus Port).
The Best Hotels in Makriyanni
Staying on the Athens Riviera
The Apollo Coast, better known as the Athens Riviera, spans 48 km of sandy beaches and glamorous marinas in the suburbs of Athens, from Piraeus south to Cape Sounio. Sitting just 16 km from downtown Athens, the Riviera is the best option for a beach vacation with convenient access to the Acropolis. Of course, the Riviera has attractions of its own, including the 5th-century Temple of Poseidon and the therapeutic waters of Lake Vouliagmeni. However, the Athens Riviera is best known for its heavenly beaches, many Blue Flag-rated with sunbeds and umbrellas for rent and served by restaurants and bars. Dotted with luxury shopping, posh dining, and stylish nightclubs, this sunny hotspot has long been a favorite getaway for celebrities and socialites.
Hotels and resorts tend to be more expensive in the central coast area, especially near Glyfada and Vouliagmeni, with more affordable hotels at the north end near Piraeus or south near Anavyssos. The south end of the Athens Riviera is best explored by car, but guests can visit comfortably without one if staying in Glyfada or a bit north.
The Best Hotels on the Athens Riviera
- Four Seasons Astir Palace
- Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso
- Galini Palace
- All Hotels in the Athens Riviera
Staying in Piraeus (Ferry Port)
Piraeus is the main port of Athens, where most of the ferries to and from the islands arrive and depart. There is not a whole lot to do here for travelers, but it’s not entirely empty. There are 2 marinas, a small archaeological museum (though there are way better museums in Athens), a maritime museum, and a waterfront walkway that offers nice sunset views. Piraeus is safe with lots of tourists at the port at all hours during high season, but it’s not particularly pretty or interesting.
People with early morning ferries to the Greek island may consider staying in Piraeus, but it’s only a 30-minute metro ride from downtown Athens (on line 1) to the ferry port, so I recommended to still stay in Athens. The Triton Hotel Piraeus is not the best hotel in Piraeus but it is the best “good” hotel close to the ferry port (an easy 5-minute walk to most ferries and the X96 airport bus).
Some ferries to the Greek islands depart from the Rafina ferry port. The Avra Hotel is the best hotel close to the Rafina port.
The Best Hotels in Piraeus
- Athens Travel Guide
- Best Hotels in Athens
- Best Tours & Things To Do in Athens
- Best Museums in Athens
- Best Archaeological Sites in Athens
- Best Shopping in Athens
- Best Restaurants in Athens
- Best Bars and Clubs in Athens
- Best Time to Visit Athens
- Maps of Athens
- Santorini Travel Guide
- Mykonos Travel Guide
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