Athens can feel a bit overwhelming when you first arrive. It’s a big city, with lots going on and it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start. The first thing to do is figure out where you want to stay, and what sort of property would suit you best. Greece’s capital has everything Athens design apartments to cosy family-run guest houses, all within easy reach of the main attractions. Once you know where you’re going to be based, you can start preparing for the rest of your visit.
So, what do you need to know about visiting Athens, one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece? Read on to find out our top tips for making the most of your stay.
Avoid tourist restaurants
As with most capital cities and well-known tourist places, not all restaurants are created equal. Those that cater to the unwary visitor tend to have higher prices and often substandard food. You might see waiters lurking outside their respective eating establishments, trying to lure you in with menus and their standard sales patter. Avoid these if you want a more authentic Greek dining experience.
See where the locals go to eat in Athens and follow them – they’ll know all the best spots. Also remember that in Athens, as in much of Europe, people tend to eat later than us Brits. So don’t turn up looking for a table at 6 PM. Aim for 9 PM to be in with a chance of fitting in.
Research different accommodation areas
There are lots of different districts in Athens, so it can seem daunting knowing which area is best for you. Do you want to be in the heart of the action near the tourist attractions, or would you prefer to stay in a residential neighbourhood that promises to be a little more peaceful? You should also consider your hotel’s proximity to transport links if you’re not a fan of taxis.
To sleep in the ancient city centre, book a hotel in the Monastiraki district. Here, you’ll be close to key sights as well as markets and shopping – it makes a handy hub for first-time visitors. This is a charming area, with photogenic architecture to keep your camera busy. Meanwhile, in the Psiri neighbourhood, you’ll find upmarket properties like the Foundry Luxury Suites right in the heart of history. You’ll have buzzing restaurants and tavernas on your doorstep, as well as boutique stores and cafes. It’s a very walkable area and makes the perfect base for your Athens visit.
Dress respectfully at religious sites
While it may be super-hot in Athens, it’s important to dress modestly when visiting sites of religious significance. While you’ll be fine wearing shorts and strappy tops at many of the archaeological complexes, there are other places that require a bit more respect, like churches and monasteries.
Covering your shoulders and knees plus leaving the skimpy clothing back in your room should suffice. Ladies often like to take a pashmina or scarf in their bag to cater for such eventualities.
Don’t try to cram everything into a short space of time
On paper, it might seem easy enough to tick off all the main sights in Athens in a single weekend. But don’t be fooled. These attractions deserve more of your time, and it can be tiring rushing between them all on a hot sunny day.
For example, you should allow around 2 hours for visiting the Acropolis, 3 hours for the Ancient Agora and 2 hours for the Parthenon. That’s almost a couple of days in itself! It can be easier to visit these popular sites on a guided tour, so you don’t need to worry about transport, logistics, or navigation. You can just concentrate on enjoying the experience instead.
Avoid the peak season
Athens can be visited at any time of year, but if you’re not a fan of crowds and heat, you might want to consider the seasons when booking your trip. The weather is generally at its best between April and October.
Yet bear in mind that during the height of summer, prices soar, the streets are packed, and it’s also sweltering. You’ll need to book well in advance for hotels and some attractions, to avoid missing out. So, avoid July and August if you can.
Spring and autumn make the perfect times to visit Athens – the weather is pleasant, things are a bit cheaper and you won’t be jostling in long queues at all the attractions.
Have you visited Athens? What are your top tips for a smooth first-time stay in Greece’s enchanting capital city?