There is one attraction in Athens that rises, quite literally, above all others. Accommodation near the Acropolis will have you living like a god or goddess. Even the name is imposing, and you’ll soon find out why: The biggest draw on this famous hill is the massive Parthenon, temple to Athena. The goddess of war and wisdom has another temple here as well—the Temple of Athena Nike. No, there isn’t a giant “swoosh” on the side of the structure. This is the first-ever example of the fancy Ionic column style!
There’s plenty of other old buildings around, if you’re into that. You may even be lucky enough to catch a concert or play at the Herod Atticus Odeon theatre, which is still used today. It opened in around 161 CE—now that’s longevity.
Once you come down from the heavens, the Arch of Hadrian, Temple of Olympian Zeus and historic Zappeion Hall are all within walking distance of each other. If all these ancient buildings have “ruin-ed” your appetite for relics, don’t give up and head back to your Athens accommodation—check out the National Gardens for a break from the tourist crowds. There’s an exotic feel to it, thanks to more than 500 imported plant species, plus a duck pond and some turtles.
Flights to Athens land at the international airport (ATH), 30km east of the city. Metro Line 3 runs every 30 minutes to Syntagma Station downtown, with stops along the way. Trains run from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., so if you’re getting in outside of those hours, the 24-hour Express Bus is your only public transportation option.
For door-to-door service to your accommodation in Athens, taxis are convenient and charge a flat rate to go into the city centre, depending on the time of day. Once you’re all checked in, the Metro can get you to most attractions, but if you’re having a late night of ouzo shots in Kerameikos, taxis are your new best friend.
There ain’t no party like an Athens party, because an Athens party takes place on ancient ruins. Hold on to your togas, kids: No matter when you visit the Grecian capital, there will probably be an event or festival taking place. The Athens & Epidaurus Festival has been celebrating art, music and theater for decades during summer months. Athens Concert Hall and the Technopolis are just two of the venues that bring dance and live music to the forefront during the festival. You’ll dance all the way home to one of our Athens hotels!
Come late summer, Athens celebrates the August Full Moon Festival. This isn’t the type of event where you’ll find people throwing their head back and howling, though. No, Greeks stay out late and watch the full moon appear in the sky, then take advantage of extended night hours at more than 100 museums and cultural sites. No werewolves in sight—just free entry to the Acropolis, which is cooler (and far less hairy).
In November, Athens plays host to the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. The 10-day event not only showcases up and coming Greek filmmakers, but also the work of international creators. A word to the wise: Places to stay in Athens are more popular during festivals than Poseidon during a drought—so book early!
When you touch down in the capital city, you will have one thing on your mind: Gyros. Mmmm, gyros. And baklava, and well, then there’s the pita bread. OK, you get the point. The best food in Athens will lure you into family-run cafes and fancy restaurants faster than Aphrodite rose from the sea on that giant scallop.
Once you’re done stuffing your face, be sure to enjoy the great outdoors while you’re in Greece! You need to burn off some of that tzatziki, and there is simply too much natural beauty here to ignore outside activities.
Visit the Diomidous Botanical Garden, just 8km from Omonoia Square, and spanning more than 1800 square metres. If the 2500 plant varieties don’t astound you, the peaceful walkways and giant trees will. If you travel 40km outside the city, Mount Parnitha National Park is the perfect place to hike, bike and become an expert shutterbug.
Of course, if you want to keep your exploration within city limits, there are tons of walking and Segway tours in Athens. You’ll get to know the cobblestone streets like the back of your hand, burn some calories and learn a thing or two!
If you have but one day in Athens, you can still cover a lot of ancient ground (or sea, for that matter). Take a Poros, Hydra & Aegina Day Cruise or sign up for a ruins tour, and your expert guide will make sure you get the most bang for your buck.
Want to explore the city on your own? Sure, it’s all Greek to you, but even if you get a little lost, you’ll make memories to last a lifetime. Begin your morning with a trip to the Ancient Agora, a trove of temples and fascinating archaeological sites. Back in Plato’s day, this place was all the rage.
After an obligatory stop at the Acropolis, make the trek to Plaka. This historic neighbourhood is something of a labyrinth, but well worth getting lost in. Sift through local shops, and you will find a few diamonds in the rough landscape of touristy shops. Handmade Greek jewellery is just the beginning.
Finish your Greek adventure with a fine meal in the Embassy District. What’s better than Mediterranean food with a twist? Adding a bottle of vino to the table, of course.
The only thing more impressive than the city’s centuries of history and architecture are the great deals you’ll find on Athens holidays when you book with Wotif. You won’t even have to sacrifice any oxen to Zeus!
Hotels in Athens start at AU$71 per night. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.