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Best Things To Do In Athens – (2020 GUIDE)

Athens is one of the oldest cities in Europe and it is so culturally rich and interesting that definitely worths a 2-3 night stay. There are so many things to do in Athens and so many attractions that you may end up coming back to explore more attractions and museums.

things to do in athens

Like any other European capital, Athens is no exception to an abundance of museums and culturally rich attractions for any type of traveller (solo, couples, honeymooners, seniors, families, kids etc)

I was actually born and grew up in Athens so below I am going to give you all the ins and outs of this fascinating city!

So, in a nutshell the best things to do in Athens are:

  • Visit Acropolis Temple (book a tour here)
  • Visit Acropolis Museum (tickets here)
  • Walk in Plaka and Monastiraki areas (Plaka on Google Maps)
  • Visit the National Archaeological Museum of Greece (I highly recommend this tour but you can totally go on your own)
  • Visit Benaki Museum (on Google Maps)
  • Visit the Museum of Cycladic Art (on Google Maps)
  • Visit the National Historical Museum (on Google Maps)
  • Watch a movie under the stars in an open air cinema (called “summer cinemas” in Greece)
  • Visit Cape Sounion Poseidon Temple (this tour is great)
  • Explore the nightlife of Athens in Gazi, Keramikos and Syntagma areas
  • Visit a greek bakery; they are everywhere!
  • Try the greek cold coffee called “freddo cappuccino”
  • Eat souvlaki (the most famous greek street food)

But there is even more so keep reading…!

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So, without further ado, these are the best things to do in Athens:

1. Visit Acropolis (Parthenon) Temple

parthenon athens acropolis
You have probably seen it everywhere but Parthenon is considered the beggining of Western Civilization as we know it tday) - Photo: Instagram @aria.na___

Acropolis and the Parthenon temple are basically the bes thing you can do in Athens and it’s the only thing you should do if you have very limited time in the capital of Greece.

Acropolis is the complex of all the buildings on the rock in te centre of Athens and Parthenon is basically the main temple in the building which is a temple dedicated to goddess Athena. 

There is a single ticket to enter all areas and buildings.

You can purchase your tickets for Acropolis/Parthenon online through the official webpage:

Book Your Acropolis Tickets from the official website >>>

In general the following 2 groups can enter for FREE:

  • Children and young people up to the age of 25, from EU member-states
  • Children up to the age of 5, from non-European Union countries

2. Visit Acropolis Museum

  • Best Area To Stay in Athens: Plaka is the best area to stay in Athens (see hotels in Plaka) but also Kolonaki, Petralona, Monastiraki and Koukaki are all great and safe areas to stay. Plaka is definitely the most touristic area but it is also the most picturesque of them all. Avoid areas such as Exarcheia, Gyzi, Plateia Vathis, Kypseli, Omonoia Square  as they are considered less safe.
  • Best Attraction in Athens: Acropolis (also called “The Parthenon”) – book tickets and tours here
  • What Should I Not Miss in Athens: Hotel Grande Bretagne
  • Best Budget Hotel in Athens: Plaka Hotel
  • Best City Villa in Athens: Athenee Residence by K&K
  • Safest place to stay in Athens: Plaka, Kolonaki, Koukaki, Monastiraki and all the areas around Acropolis (Thission, Petralona, Filopappou) are considered super safe. Syntagma Square is not so safe as it is usually the epicentre of demonstrations and riots. Also, Exarcheia, Kypseli, Gyzi and Omonoia are less safe. They are definitely worth your visit though!
  • How many days do you need in Athens: if you are in a rush, 2 nights in Athens should be ok, but if you want to explore the city more, then I suggest you spend 4-5 nights. But in general you will be better off visiting a greek island and spend more time on the beach!
  • How to Move Around in Athens: if you stay in Plaka, Monastiraki, Koukaki, Petralona, Thission or Kolonaki then everything will be in 30 mins walking distance but if you really want to move around then you should hop on the Athens Metro which is very safe, clean and reliable
  • Best Neighbourhood in Athens: Plaka, Monastiraki, Kolonaki, Petralona, Koukaki, Filopappou and Thission
  • What is the best area to stay in Athens on a budget: You can find excellent amazing budget hotels even Plaka or even around Acropolis temple. Athens is a very budget friendly city and you can find a great appartment / flat in the center of Athens with less than 50 euros per night! Kolonaki and Plaka areas in general are more expensive though.
  • What is the best area for nightlife in Athens: Gazi and Keramikos are the nightlife centres of Athens but you will find lots of cute bars and wine restaurants behind Syntagma Square (Kolonakiou Square)
  • Where to Stay in Athens with family: Plaka and Kolonaki are great options as they are both very safe and quiet residential areas
  • Is it safe to walk in Athens at night? Yes, in general it is as long as you avoid certain areas (Areas around Omonoia Square, Gyzi, Exarcheia, Syggrou Street etc). I have never felt threatened in Athens but common sense should be applied everywhere you travel…
Best Things To Do In Athens - (2020 GUIDE)
The good...and the not so good areas to stay in central Athens

I will be honest with you and admit that Athens is not the most beautiful city in the world. Yes, there are beautiful neighbourhoods (like Plaka, Monastiraki, Anafiotika, Psyri etc) but the city was developed wthout any proper planning and urban design back in the 50’s , 60’s and 70’s.

Also, bear in mind that apart from the areas that are directly linked to archaeological sites and/or museums the centre of Athens hasn’t seen much love and it is surprisingly the less developed area of the city and it would feel degraded and abandoned if it wasn’t for the tourists…

To understand that you need to ask any young greek living in Athens why nobody actually would choose to live in downtown Athens but everyone prefers the suburbs. Most big businesses are also outside of Athens.

plaka anafiotika athens
In the Plaka neighbourhood you will feel like being on a greek island...while being in the centre of Athens!

The best area to stay in Athens is Plaka neighbourhood.

Plaka is situated very close to the famous Acropolis temple, the Acropolis Museum, Syntagma Square, Ermou shopping district, the bars and clubs of Gazi and Syntagma Square and of course the greek Parliament.

Plaka area on Google Maps >>>

If you have ever seen a picture from Athens, then chances are it was from Plaka…

The thing with Plaka is that you won’t find large chain hotels and resorts but rather smaller (and cuter) boutique hotels and apartments. 

While staying in Plaka, you will be in 20 mins walking distance from all major attractions in Athens, so location wise it is perfect.

Other safe and cute areas in Athens that you can definitely stay and explore: 

  • Kolonaki: the oldest residential posh area in Athens with lots of boutique shops and bars
  • Monastiraki: a buzzing square close to Plaka with lots of greek restaurants and small shops 
  • Koukaki: a quiet residential area very close to Acropolis but less touristic (lots of modern b&b’s in Athens are here)
  • Syntagma Square: the main Athens square opposite the greek parliament that traditionally has some of the most luxury hotels of the city (I do not recomment staying there as most of the riots and demonstrations take place there)
  • Psiri: it used to be full of brothels and of-laws but it’s now a very casual place full of theatres and boutique restaurants (people call it the “Soho of Athens”)
  • Gazi / Keramikos: once the Gas Production factory of the city it’s now a hippy area where lots of artists prefer to live; it is also the neighbourhood with the liveliest clubs and bars of Athens

2. Best Areas to Stay for Sightseeing in Athens

monastiraki athens
Monastiraki Square has a famous open market and lots of small cute shops with souvenirs and traditional greek restaurants

The great thing about Athens is that all major attractions are within 30 mins walking distance between each others. So…that’s great!

If you stay in Plaka, Koukaki, Syntagma, Kolonaki, Psiri and around the Acropolis Temple in areas such as Thission, Filopappou or Petralona then you are within 20-30mins walking distance from any major attraction in Athens.

The main attractions in Athens are (in no particular order):

3. Where To Stay with Family in Athens

anafiotika plaka athens
Anafiotika is a small area in Plaka that looks like a greek island and in genera is very safe (though very touristic nowadays...)

Plaka neighbourhood is also the best area to stay in Athens with your family. It is super safe, very quiet and you will have everything at your doorstep.

Apart from Plaka, other great areas to stay with your family in Athens are: Kolonaki and Petralona. They are both safe and quiet residential neighbourhoods.

See Kolonaki on Gogle Maps.

kolonaki athens
Kolonaki is a posh residential area in the centre of Athens that is ideal for families and kids. It's also full of fashion boutiques and small bar-restaurants.

4. Best Area For Young Couples in Athens

athens food
A dinner under the stars with a view of Acropolis temple is one of the most romantic things to do in Athens

Plaka is considered the most romantic and cute neighbourhood but it may feel very touristic sometimes. 

The perfect area to stay in Athens for a young couple is Plaka and the Filopappou area. This is becasue they are both very cute, quiet nad in close proximity to all attractions and romantic walks.

BUT if you are not the romantic type and you just want a chilled area that won’t break the bank then stay at Koukaki area (see it on Google Maps).

Koukaki doesn’t have the cute alleys that Plaka has but it has lots of perfect flats with even 30-40 euros per night and it is very close to all main attractions and museums. It is also a safe residential area with lots of good restaurants around.

koukaki athens
Koukaki is not as cute as Plaka, but it's an area with lots of flats and appartments to book and it's a safe and quiet area close to all major attractions in Athens.

Apart form the romanic dinners under the stars with Acropolis views one of the most romantic things you can actually do (only in the summer months though between June – September) is to watch a movie under the stars at an Open Air Cinema. This is one of the most famous ones in Athens

athens open air cinema
Watching a movie under the stars is one of the best things you can do in Athens (especially if you are a couple)

5. Best Area To Stay in Athens on a Budget

koukaki athens
Koukaki area in Athens is far from perfect but it has its cute corners, it's very close to all main attractions and has an abundance of fltas and apartments to rent.

The best area to stay in Athens on a budget is Koukaki. The area is not that touristic as Plaka is and it has hundreds of available flats you can book on booking.com.

Koukaki is a safe and quiet residential area in the centre of Athens. It has lots of cute traditional greek restaurants to eat from (though not the cutest or with the best views) but most importantly it will give you the opportunity to walk everywhere.

You can literally walk to the best bars of Athens and you can go back home without calling an UBER!

How cool is that for a European capital?

The prices there are considerably lower than in Plaka and Kolonaki and you can easily find a 1-bed flat for about 40 euros per night even during the high season (May-October).

CONCLUSION

Athens is an amazing city with a million things to do and amazing cultural sites with thousands of years of history.

The best area to stay in Athens is Plaka neighbourhood which is also the most touristic but also the cutest of them all.

You can also stay in areas such as Koukaki, Kolonaki, Monastiraki, Petralona or Filpappou.

If you want to stay at one of the most unique hotels in Athens then stay at Coco-Mat Athens BC.

If you only have limited time in Greece then don’t spend more than 2 nights in Athens and that only if it’s your frst time in Greece.

Yes, I love Athens as it’s my birth city but I truly believe that you will be better off if you spend your precious days on a greek island.

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