As the birthplace of the Olympics, classical art, democracy, and Western civilization at large, Athens is justly regarded as one of the most important cultural centers in the world. Boasting archaeological sites and ancient ruins, world-class museums and stunning beaches, and thriving dining and nightlife scenes that only get bigger and better as the weather cools, this beautiful city offers something for everyone. Skip the high season crowds, costly airfare and high temperature weather and opt for visiting Athens during one of the months with fewer tourists and an average temperature in the upper 50s.
When To Visit Athens And How Long To Stay
Athens is an ideal destination to visit during the winter months, especially for nightlife. While most of continental Europe is shivering in the snow, the temperature in Athens during the off season hovers at a comfortable 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, thanks to the city’s proximity to the Mediterranean. You’ll also be able to mingle with the locals, who have returned from their warm-weather vacations during the summer months; Athenians love to indulge in cozy cafes and late-night bars, and winter is the best time of year to see them in their natural habitat.
You’ll need at least three days to see the highlights of the city, but we recommend a longer stay of at least five to seven days if you want to take it in fully. Nightlife really picks up in winter, so definitely plan enough time to experience the hippest spots.
Transportation To And Within Athens
The Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport is 27 kilometers from the city center of Athens. Line 3 of the metro goes from the airport to downtown Syntagma in 40 minutes and costs 10 euros (or 14 euros on a round trip). Alternatively, express buses (X93, X95, X96, and X97), which cost 6 euros a ticket, run between the airport and various stops in the city and take approximately an hour.
Within Athens, the metro, trains, trolleys, and buses are all efficient ways to travel around. A ticket on any of these forms of transportation costs 1.40 euros and is valid for 90 minutes, while a day ticket costs 4.50 euros. The best value is a five-day ticket, which costs just 9 euros.
This gem of a restaurant is also the oldest tavern in Plaka, and naturally, it’s a local favorite. Picturesque and giving off a type of ‘old Athens’ vibe, the menu primarily sticks to traditional Greek cuisine. During the summer, the hordes of tourists relax on the cool terrace but come winter, it’s all about warming up by the indoor fire.
A longtime favorite, Café Avissinia serves up Macedonian, Cypriot, and internationally influenced dishes. The menu changes seasonally to reflect the freshest ingredients, so you can always expect something new and refreshing to excite your palate—like octopus in wine or stuffed sour cabbage with pork.
Providing further proof that you can’t judge a restaurant by how it looks, Aspro Alogo offers a friendly atmosphere and Greek home-cooking. Dishes are reasonably priced and even affordable, especially for the area. Located in Plaka, this is a great choice for a mid-day break from sightseeing.
For traditional Greek fare plus several European dishes, grab a table at the modern Orosopo. The location is convenient for many travelers, and is near to several major hotels and museums. Break up your day of sightseeing with a light lunch or opt for an early dinner out and enjoy the scenic stroll back to your hotel.
The Margi Inhouse
This hotel touts one of Athens more upscale restaurants, with a menu specializing in farm-to-table contemporary Greek fare. Award-winning chef, Panagiotis Giakalis comes up with the culinary concepts that are set to impress even the most selective of palates. For balcony sea views, head to the hotel’s day-to-night restaurant, Malabar.
Treat yourselves to dinner with a view at Eleas Gi. The restaurant is as elegant as it’s northern Athens address, with views of the surroundings hills, and the city lights below. The menu isn’t too extensive, partly because it changes daily depending on what ingredients are freshest. A well-deserved splurge on your last night in Athens.
READ MORE: 5 Intellectual Things To Do In Athens
Enzzo De Cuba
Whether you’re in the mood for live music or a chill evening out, Enzzo de Cuba has you covered. During the day you’ll spy people sipping their espressos; at night, it becomes a dance party and live entertainment venue. As its name suggests, Enzzo de Cuba is inspired by Old Havana, the heart of Cuba’s capital.
The Gin Joint
If gin is your liquor of choice, look no further than the Gin Joint. As Athens’ only specialized gin bar, you’ll find an extensive and highly curated list of available gins. Too many options? Leave it to the staff; they’re well-versed in all things gin and make personalized recommendations. Come here for pre-dinner drinks and more than likely, the best Gin and Tonic you’ve ever tasted.
Touting itself as an all-day bar and restaurant, Zurbaran is like a fresh air in the historic area of Kolonaki. It’s part urban, part contemporary, and just the right amount of trendy. Boasting an inventive food and cocktail menu, Zurbana has become a go-to spot for after dinner drinks, and even boozy brunches.
For a lounge experience, look no further than Balthazar. As modern and opulent as the space appears, there’s history attached to it; The house also has one of the few remaining gardens in Athens’ city center. Come for dinner—the famed Christoforos Peskias is in charge—and stay for a round of drinks…or three!
Prepared to party hard? Then Dybbuk is calling your name. A hotspot on the Athens nightlife scene for close to a decade, Dybbuk attracts a. trend-setting crowd ready to dance the night away to the world’s top DJs. Expects nothing short of a theatrical performance, from chest-pumping tunes, suspended chairs, and all sorts of light tricks.
Similar to Dybbok, Lohan is where the ‘party hard’ type heads after dark. The club is huge yet often packed to the brim. If you’re lucky enough to score a spot at their VIP area, you’ll have a pretty epic view of the crowds below. If the name ‘Lohan’ rings a bell, it should. Celebrity Lindsay Lohan had a hand in opening the club.
Athens’ Must-See Sights
Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis is the finest sanctuary of ancient Athens; today, it remains the city’s most famous landmark. The Parthenon, formerly a temple to the goddess Athena, is the most recognizable of the many monuments, but be sure to leave time to check out the other ruins, including the Propylaia, a colossal gateway, and the Erechtheion, a temple featuring the famous “Porch of the Karyatides.”
Constructed in 1843, the Syntagma Square is young compared to the ancient buildings of Athens, but its stature is no less compelling. It’s the most important square in the city, having witnessed multiple political events, and is the site of the Parliament building. Stay to watch the changing of the guard, which occurs once an hour.
Temple Of Olympian Zeus
Once the largest temple in all of Greece, the Temple of Olympian Zeus has been reduced to sixteen of its original 104 columns, though its grandeur still remains.
If you’d like to glimpse an agora, the public gathering space central to ancient Greek life, none beats the majestic one that sits at the heart of Athens. Two of its most prominent buildings are the remarkably well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus and the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos, an expansive covered portico.
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Can’t Miss Experiences
Stroll Down Pittaki Street, Athens' Magical Lantern-Lit Alley
Before transforming into the creative hub it is today, Pittaki Street was a dark alley mostly comprised of warehouses big and small. The revamp started in 2012 with a on-profit called Imagine the City who partnered with creatives to ‘light’ up this forgotten street. Today, you’ll find all sorts of lanterns—from chandeliers and Chinese paper lanterns.
Visit Anafiotika, The Hidden Neighborhood Under The Acropolis
Located on the northeastern side of the Acropolis hill, Anafiotika is one of Athens’ smallest and most picturesque neighborhoods. Houses date back to the reign of King Otto and are constructed according to Cycladic architecture, similar to what you’ll see on Greek Islands like Mykonos, Crete and Santorini, but in the heart of the city. Be sure to take a day trip to Acropolis - you are sure to find less crowds than peak season.
See Ancient Artifacts At The Byzantine And Christian Museum
As one of Greece’s national museums, the Byzantine and Christian Museums covers quite a lot of ground. Housing over 25,000 artifacts that date between the 3rd and 20th centuries AD, one could easily spend an entire week here and still just scratch the surface. There’s a heavy focus on religious artifacts, hence the name, and is a treasure trove of knowledge. If you have more time to museum hop, stop by Acropolis Museum for even more Athen's artifacts.
Get Pampered At The #1 Day Spa In Athens
Fish Spa Massage and Hammam the top day spa in Athens. Make an appointment for a specific treatment or splurge on one of their pre-set packages—there’s one geared specifically toward couples that includes an herbal steam sauna, full body scrub, side-by-side signature massages, and their famous fish pedicure.
Athens For Art, Fashion And Design
As the busiest season comes to an end, the smaller crowds make for a perfect time to venture around the city for art, fashion and unique designs. If you are able to visit during one of the coldest months, December, take in the lights and unique vendors at one of the many Athen's Christmas markets open through the new year.
Vamiali's gallery is located in a four story new renovated building in central Athens and was the first contemporary art gallery in Metaxourgio district. The space includes solo and group exhibitions of emerging and established contemporary international artists as well as curatorial projects and events by curators, art-aficionados, and guests.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
For those on a time crunch, explore the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center; it features the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera, and a huge landscaped park. You’ll also find some of the city’s most fantastic architecture and design here. For example, the building combining the opera and library is a structure that’s entirely glass-walled and boasts a visually stunning canopy roof.
The Breeder Gallery
What was once an ice cream factory now houses award winning architectural project, “The Breeder” Gallery. The space was abandoned for many years before its renovation was undertaken by famous Greek architect Aris Zambikos. The featured work rotates very regularly so check the website before going.
The Knitting Club
The high quality and the great variety of natural fiber yarns, such as wool, silk, bamboo, cashmere, possum, llama, alpaca, cotton, soybean etc., will charm you and satisfy even the most demanding knitter, whilst other haberdashery, embroidery, and crafting items, will boost your creativity.
A handknitting shop since 1935 selling natural fibers in the center of Athens. Three generations and an excellent variety of qualities. More than 5000 colors.
Centre Of Hellenic Tradition
Tucked away in Monastiraki, the Centre of Hellenic Tradition is the ultimate spot to shop for Greek handicrafts. You’ll find a little bit of everything, including embroidery, ceramics, weavings, wood carvings, prints, and old paintings. Before you leave, stop by the upstairs art gallery and be sure to check out the view of the Parthenon.
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