Athens in 1 to 6 days
It's probably stating the obvious, but the best way to spend the first day of your visit to Greece is with a visit to the Acropolis, considered to be one of the world's greatest cultural monuments. So wake up early, dress comfortably and get ready to discover the sensations of Athens. Metro line 2 will take you to the Acropolis. If you take the Metro, make sure that you check out the archaeological findings on display at the Acropolis station. When you arrive, you can take a walk up Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, a cobbled, pedestrian road along which, you can admire examples of the different eras, all present at once in a city that has been inhabited for centuries. You can see modern apartment blocks, neoclassical buildings of the late 19th and 20th centuries and, of course, the city's landmark, the rock of the Acropolis with the Parthenon at the top and the Herodeon Attikou amphitheatre at its base. The proper entrance to the site is located at the Propylaia. The Propylaia direct you to the Parthenon, the ruins of which still dominate the centre of the Acropolis.
For a late lunch, you can go to Plaka, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Athens. There you can find numerous good restaurants and tavernas where traditional Greek cuisine and ouzo can be enjoyed. Make sure that you visit Anafiotika, an area within Plaka where the houses are influenced by the Cycladic architecture and it feels as if you are on an Aegean island. If you are still not tired, you should walk toward Thission, following Dionisiou Areopagitou around the Acropolis, which will lead you to the pedestrianized Apostolou Pavlou Street. At Thission you will find plenty of cafés, bars, restaurants and a lot of young people that make the area quite lively.
A landmark of this Greek city, Lycabettus offers wonderful trails for walking and finding a peaceful spot in nature. There is a funicular railway that can take you all the way up the hill to St George's church or you can choose to hike the distance through shrubbery and trees, enjoying a little exercise and a magnificent view (look out for the swimming pools on the rooftops!).
Minutes later on the way down, you will find your way to the elegant, well-kept streets of Kolonaki, the classy and glamorous part of town offering an array of expensive, trendy restaurants serving various cuisines, as well as some of the best Greek tavernas and coffee shops, not to mention a variety of stores for some of the most exciting shopping! If you are a strict follower of design fashion, Diane von Furstenberg, Armani, Lanvin, Marc Jacobs or other brands of avant garde art and fashion can be found in beautifully designed shops and art galleries exhibiting the hottest new trends in art and architecture.
Museum of Cycladic Art
Making your way even further down, you can enjoy a drink in the Dexameni area, the best spot for people-watching, before heading toward the Museum of Cycladic Art. This is one of the most modern and important museums of prehistoric and ancient Greek art where you can get a glimpse into the depths of Greek history. The museum is housed in a beautiful building on Neophytou Douka Street.
The National Gallery, across from the Evangelismos Metro Station and near the Hilton Hotel on the corner of Michalakopoulou and Vasileos Konstantinou avenues, offers a cultural journey into the realms of 19th and 20th century Greek art, as well as international visiting exhibitions introducing the Greek public to artists and art movements of worldwide renown.
When night falls, stay in the area and walk back to Skoufa Street where a new bar springs up every few weeks, making the area a must for bar flies and young people enjoying a night out. Alternatively, make your way to Exarchia to discover an alternative "indie" crowd and their hot-spots.
On the third day in Athens you should start with a visit to the Panathenaic Stadium. Located at Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue, it is one of the most impressive monuments in Athens. In ancient times, it hosted the Panathenaic Games in honour of the goddess Athena. The Stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and in more recent years it was the venue for the archery competition and the finish of the Marathon in the 2004 summer Olympics. The brilliance and magnificence of the stadium is highlighted by the luminous white marble, in contrast with the rich greenery of the hillside of Agra and Ardettus which surround it.
If you walk down Vassilissis Olgas Avenue as far as its junction with Amalias
Avenue, you will find Hadrian's Gate, the entrance to the temple of Zeus, the father of all Greek gods. He was honoured in this 6th century BC temple that was so big it once comprised 104 columns that took 700 years to complete, but today, 2,600 years later, just 15 remain.
Opposite Hadrian's Gate you can take a walk in the National Garden, a peaceful, green refuge in the centre of Athens. This public park was once the palace garden of the royal family. It contains gardens, a zoo and small lakes and ponds, complete with ducks, swans and a few peacocks. You can also find several cafés hidden away - ideal places for a snack!
You can exit at Vassilissis Amalias Avenue and walk towards Syntagma Square. At Syntagma, just in front of the neoclassical Parliament Building, it is worth watching the Evzones in the changing of the guard. These are soldiers dressed in the traditional attire that the soldiers wore when rebels won the War of Independence in 1821.
The commercial Ermou Street, down the road from Syntagma, is an enjoyable way of spending your afternoon. You can find shops for all tastes and there are plenty of trendy and hip bars and restaurants at which to enjoy your evening at the nearby Kolokotroni Street and Karytsi Square.
Monastiraki Flea Market
Day 4 would not be complete without a visit to the city's flea market in Monastiraki. The train or the Metro (Monastiraki Station, Lines 1 and 3) is the best way to arrive quickly and efficiently in the heart of the city and explore its narrow paved cobblestone streets, leading to numerous traditional stores offering Greek souvenirs and paraphernalia as well as leather goods, antiques, jewellery, clothes, music and many more treasures.
Continue your long walk towards the ancient Agora, the place where democracy and rhetoric were born. Beautiful ruins give a historic feel to the city that no other European capital can boast of. While discovering the birth of all ancient Greek virtue, you may reward yourself by eating a souvlaki and sipping a glass of ice-cold ouzo in one of the plentiful little tavernas hidden away in different parts of the area. Remember, you are below the rock of the Acropolis so the higher up you walk, the better view you will get, and the the greater the appetite you will have to enjoy the Greek delicacies offered nearby!
Benaki Museum of Islamic art
With a full stomach, take some time to explore the magnificent Benaki Museum of Islamic Art, situated at 22 Asomaton St and 12 Diplou St. The new Museum opened in June 2004 and is the only Museum of Islamic Art in the Balkans.
At night you may bar hop in Psyrri, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Athens which is full of restaurants, bars, clubs, art galleries and theatres and has become a mainstream entertainment area for many young Athenians! One thing not to be missed is trying the Cretan rakomelo and you are guaranteed to spend the rest of your night on fire! If you are lucky, you may find open some of the city's hottest galleries, which Psyrri seems to be swarming with, and maybe pick up a few pieces to bring back home.
National Archaeological Museum
Your visit to Athens would not be complete without a visit to the National Archaeological Museum. The Museum is located at 44 Patission Ave, just a five minute walk from Victoria Station or a 10-minute walk from Omonia Station (Line 2). The National Archaeological Museum is the largest museum in Greece and one of the world's great museums. Although its original purpose was to secure all the finds from the 19th century excavations in and around Athens, it gradually became the central
National Archaeological Museum and was enriched with finds from all over Greece. Its abundant collections, with more than 20,000 exhibits, offer a panorama of Greek civilization from the beginnings of prehistory to Late Antiquity.
Areos Park and Kypseli lie beyond the museum. Kypseli is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Athens and, despite the fact that it is one of the most heavily populated areas in the world, it is a beautiful place to be. The historic Fokionos Negri, a pedestrian road with numerous cafés, restaurants and a park along its length, runs through the middle of the district and is the perfect place to relax, eat something or have a frappe and watch the world go by.
New Benaki Museum
If you want to go on with your exploration of Athens, your next stop should be the recently refurbished new Benaki Museum at 138 Pireos. Metro Line 3 (Keramikos Station) will take you there. Enjoy the modern architecture, the light-filled space and the exhibits of modern Greek and international art. Make sure that you visit the exquisite café-restaurant on the ground floor that offers interesting gastronomic selections.
At night you really must pay a visit to the latest hip place in Athens: Gazi. A district full of trendy restaurants, chic cafés, cool bars, music, and art, close to the old city gas-works which has been turned into a museum-cultural centre that may be the only one of its kind in Europe. Take Metro Line 3, get off at Keramikos Station and make sure that you have fun!
Cape Sounion - Temple of Poseidon
On your last day (which we hope it won't be) you should head off the beaten track and visit the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. Cape Sounion is one of the most famous and picturesque locations in Attica. It is the southern-most point in Attica and offers a breathtaking view of the Aegean and the islands. In ancient times, the temple was the last sign of civilization the Athenians saw as they sailed away from home and the first as they returned. If you have time, one suggestion is to stay and admire the sunset there, one of the most amazing sunsets one can witness. Close to the temple you can find a couple of tavernas to sample some fresh fish dishes and have a glass of cold ouzo.
On your way back to Athens (or on your way to Sounion if you prefer) you should stop and go for a dip at Lake Vouliagmeni mineral spa, which is reported to have many healing effects for dermatological diseases, neuralgia, headaches, disfiguring arthritis, chronic gynaecological diseases and other problems. The lake contains minerals such as lithium, potassium, calcium and iodine. These minerals are known to alleviate bone and muscle problems, as well as those mentioned above. If you'd rather go to the sea, don't worry. Just across the street you can find Vouliagmeni beach, one of the most popular beaches in Athens with plenty of cafés, bars, tavernas and restaurants nearby.
Another place you should visit if you go to the south of Athens is Glyfada. Glyfada stretches from the bottom of the Hymettus Mountain and extends to the Saronic Gulf. It is the residence for many Greek millionaires, politicians and celebrities. It is a fashion-conscious suburb of Athens and is well known for its chic cafés, famous restaurants, stylish boutiques and cosmopolitan open-air summer clubs located next to the sea. Make sure that you visit one! Glyfada has been called "Knightsbridge on Sea" or the "Hellenic Hamptons".