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September 1, 2022
If you’re visiting Greece, chances are you’ll go through Athens no matter which islands you plan to spend your time in. I’ve been to Athens a few times now and I remember the first time I went, countless people told me not to spend more than a day in the historically rich capital of Greece. Maybe you’re asking yourself the same thing right now: Is Athens worth visiting? I’m here to tell you it absolutely is! Whether you’re only able to do Athens in one day, or if you have 2 days in Athens, there are a few can’t miss stops. Here’s my 24 hours in Athens itinerary.
24 HOURS IN ATHENS ITINERARY
I am a lover of cities. The action, the endless restaurant options, the different little neighborhoods, I love it all! Athens offers all this and more. I’ve never been a huge history buff, but seeing a structure that was built thousands of years ago is incredible – it’s worth going to Athens for the Parthenon alone. But if you’re in town, you’re going to need to eat, drink, and explore. While this Athens itinerary barely scratches the surface of all the city has to offer, it’s a good start and will surely kick off your visit to Greece! Most people do Athens in one day, but even better if you have 2 days in Athens!
What to Know
Getting to Athens isn’t so quick and easy from the US. We flew direct from ATL to ATH and the flight was about 12 hours. I can’t sleep on planes so for me, it was rough. However, when you go from the US to Europe, you typically leave at night and land in the daytime, so my method to beat jetlag is always to power through the first day and not take a nap. That’s what we did and we were able to get a lot of exploring in! Even if you just use it as your adjustment period, spending 1-2 days in Athens breaks up the long trip. This reason alone answers the question is Athens worth visiting!
Communicating and Spending
Communicating and spending is pretty easy as an American in Greece. Most people do speak English as well as Greek, especially in any touristy areas. I can’t recall any problems communicating at all in Athens, and I don’t even know how to say Hello in Greek. What’s more, is that Greeks are happy to speak English. Unlike in some other countries (*cough* France), Greeks won’t look down on Americans for not speaking their language. They just want everyone to be happy and have a good time, no matter what!
The currency in Greece is the Euro since Greece is part of the European Union. The exchange rate is currently €1 = $1, which is the lowest/best I have ever seen in my life. Every other time I’ve visited Europe, it was closer to €1 = $1.5 or $2, making everything more expensive for me. For example, a glass of wine that’s €5 sounds great at first, but with the conversion could be closer to $10. Now, with the even exchange rate, everything is much more affordable.
In general, Athens is not a super expensive city. Both of our hotels were around $150/night and a meal will run you about $20 or so per person. A cup of coffee is $2-3.
Uber and Lyft are banned in Athens, so you’ll have to rely on taxis, hotel/airport transfer services, and walking. During our time in Athens, we walked everywhere and it was very easy and convenient. Both of our hotels offered transfer services for an additional charge, which we took advantage of. For one transfer, we also used Key Tours, which had the best prices. We had a great experience with no issues.
Like any city, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and watch out for things like pickpockets, car break-ins, etc. Overall, Athens is safe as long as you use common sense. I kept my belongings in a crossbody bag and Ryan put his items in his front pockets instead of his back. We didn’t run into any problems and felt safe during our 2 days in Athens!
Back when I first started traveling and was going to Greece for the first time, I read a lot about pickpockets in Athens. I reached out to a friend worriedly asking all kinds of questions like, “is Athens safe? Is Athens worth visiting?” She assured me that the historical sights were absolutely worth a visit and safety is not a problem. I’m so glad I listened. She was totally right!
What to Pack
The high season in Greece is summer, so it is hot. If you’re planning on exploring the city by foot and going up to the Acropolis, the most important thing you can bring is sunscreen! The sun is strong in Greece and you don’t want to get a sunburn on your first day. I also recommend bringing a hat for extra protection (though it is VERY windy up on the acropolis), and a jacket for nighttime if you get cold like me. Other than that, casual clothing like jean shorts, a t-shirt, and walking shoes are just fine!
Where to Stay
I wanted to give a couple of hotel options for two reasons. 1) we stayed in two different hotels in Athens, so I wanted to share both since we liked them both. And 2) depending on whether you fly or take a ferry to the islands, one hotel might be more convenient than the other. Since on the first leg of our trip, we flew in and of ATH, we stayed at a hotel in the city center within walking distance to the Parthenon. We knew we could explore this area of Athens in one day so it was perfect. I do not recommend staying by the airport as it is about 45 minutes away and without Uber, it’s a no go! After some island hopping, we came back to Athens via ferry, so we stayed by the port.
This was our hotel in the city and we loved it! It’s simple, but the decor is clean and modern. The service is excellent and the location is ideal. There’s a cute courtyard where you can order beer and wine or just hang out. It’s also where breakfast is served which is delicious. In the hallway out to the street is wine bar called By the Glass. We went here multiple times and had a great time!
The Alex Hotel
The Alex Hotel is located in Pireaus near the port in Athens, which is why we stayed here at the tail end of our trip. We came back from the islands by boat, so it was convenient. Plus, we wanted to experience a different part of the city. Pireaus definitely has a different vibe than the city center. It feels newer, slightly more upscale and trendy, and definitely less touristy. The rooftop terrace is awesome both for dinner or drinks and breakfast. The included breakfast is phenomenal and the view is gorgeous! This will be our #1 spot by the port from now on!
Where to Eat & Drink
Everything about Greece is absolutely incredible, but the food (and drinks!) is one of the top reasons Ryan and I loved our visit. Greek salad, or horiatiki, was our addiction on this trip. We had it multiple times a day, along with an Aperol spritz or glass of white wine. Divine! As a vegetarian, I had tons of options everywhere we went.
By the Glass
This is the wine bar that was located at the bottom of our first hotel, in[n]Athens. In addition to the little hallway, they also have outdoor seating in a courtyard across the street, where we spent our first evening in Athens. We ended up drinking wine and chatting with locals until after midnight. It was the perfect start to the trip!
Thea Terrace is an absolute must for any Athens itinerary. It’s located on the rooftop of the Central Hotel, which was just walking distance from our hotel. The main reason to go here is the view. Catch sunset and stay until it gets dark for the most incredibly breathtaking views of the Parthenon. This is where I surprised Ryan for his birthday dinner and he loved it. The decor is so great and the food is good too. However, the view is really what makes this place worth a stop!
If you’re looking for a spot to grab coffee and a snack (or maybe a glass of wine) before or after visiting the Acropolis Museum, look no further. Vova is just a short walk away and has a super cute outdoor seating area. The atmosphere is great and the drinks are tasty. The food, however, was not great. They start serving pizza at 2, but since we were there at around noon, our options were limited. I ended up getting a premade sandwich that was not very good at all. My coffee and Ryan’s Negroni on the other hand were wonderful!
Flavour Italian Corner
One shameless thing I do in every country is order pizza and of course, Greece was no exception. In fact, I may have ordered pizza in the island too. But when it comes to pizza in Athens, and more specifically Pireaus, I recommend Flavour Italian Corner. It’s a super cute spot with lots of delicious options. We went with a pizza and some tiramisu and were not disappointed!
What to Do
Obviously the top item on any Athens itinerary is the Parthenon, and rightfully so, though there is a lot more to see in the city. Even just walking around will have you stumbling upon ancient buildings and sites. It’s truly an incredible city so it really surprises me how often I hear people asking “is Athens worth visiting?”. It is for the Parthenon alone in my opinion!
The famous Acropolis is a can’t-miss in Athens. The Acropolis is an ancient citadel located on a raised hill above the city of Athens. There are many acropolises all over Greece. In fact, the word “acropolis” comes from the Greek words for “highest point” and “city”. The Acropolis of Athens is certainly the most popular acropolis due to the condition of the buildings, including the famous Parthenon, which is a magnificent sight to see. In additon to the Parthenon, visitors can view the Temple of Athena, the Propylaea, and an ancient stone theatre.
These structures were built just after 500 BC making them around 2500 years old. The fact that the buildings and sculptures have been so well maintained over such a tremendous amount of time is mind-blowing. Walking the same path that ancient Greeks walked thousands of years ago is something truly special that we can’t experience here in the US.
When you’re buying your ticket for the Acropolis, there are several options. If you have 2 days in Athens or more, then I recommend getting the 7 sites ticket. This gains entry to many historical sites all over the city. However, since we were doing Athens in one day, we got tickets only for the Acropolis. I saw many people confused about which ticket to get because the 7 sites option is a great deal – if you actually have 2+ days in Athens. Since we only had one day to explore, we got the solo ticket.
I’m not always a big museum person, but the Acropolis Museum is one of my favorites. You get to be up close and personal with art that is truly ancient. I recommend going to the acropolis first and then going to the museum, because there are some replicas of the stone sculptures that are on the facade of the Parthenon and other buildings. The entrance fee is just about $10 and the museum is a good size, so you can expect to spend 1-3 hours there. Add this one to your Athens itinerary!
The port town of Piraeus is where we stayed on our last night in Athens before flying back home and we really loved it. After a more traditional Greek experience on the islands, it was nice to get back to new, modern hotels and restaurants. Piraeus is a more modern area of Athens with lots of trendy restaurants, rooftop bars, and more. The view of the port is really pretty at night. We only spent one night here and I think now that we’ve visited the acropolis, we will stay here versus the city center. If I had 2 days in Athens, I think I’d choose Piraeus over the city center!
So what do you think: is Athens worth visiting? What else would you add to this Athens itinerary?
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Photos by Ryan Carpenter.