Spending three full days is a great way to begin feeling part of the city. The following recommendations should provide tips on how to experience the best of Athens.
SPEND TIME EXPLORING THE HISTORIC CENTRE AND THE SITES ON AND AROUND THE ACROPOLIS. We recommend dedicating your first day to exploring – but in a bit more detail — the historic city centre (namely the Acropolis, Plaka, Monastiraki and Thisio) during the day and saving Psiri and Gazi for evening exploration.
For starters go to the Acropolis first. Take Dionissiou Areopagitou, the pedestrian-only street that begins opposite Hadrian’s Gate and the Ancient Temple of Olympian Zeus and peruse the sites that greet you on your way to the Propylaia, the main entrance to the Acropolis and its main attraction, The Parthenon.
Another “must” is to visit the new Acropolis Museum. Then explore the charming paved streets of Plaka and the Cycladic-inspired area known as Anafiotika. Browse the ancient Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman monuments and museums such as the Ancient Agora and Roman Agora.
If you have children, two of-interest destinations are The Hellenic Children’s Museum and The Museum of Greek Children’s Art.
Plaka is one of the livelier places to eat and enjoy traditional Greek culture year-round. Stop at one of the many little restaurants and tavernas. After lunch, head towards Monastiraki and Thisio for must-take-home souvenirs, unique shopping and additional sightseeing.
Your evening experience in Psiri and Gazi offers the choice off many cafes and restaurants. Popular destination dining streets in Gazi include Konstantinopoleos, Voutadon and Triptolemou Streets, while in Psiri, Sarri and Lepenidou Streets are popular.
SIGHTSEE AND SHOP NEAR SINTAGMA; DISCOVER VIBRANT DOWNTOWN ATHENS. One of the best ways to experience and learn about a city is, of course, to walk and “hang out” with the locals and natives. As you will discover, Athens’ rich past is very much a part of contemporary daily urban life – far beyond the ever present might of the commanding Parthenon above.
Start at Sintagma Square the heart of Athens. This area and the streets that extend from its main square offer a lot for the contemporary traveller. Take a few minutes to check out the Syntagma Square Metro Station, one of the many Attiko Metro “museums in motion” that feature both ancient and modern art. Surrounding the square are several of Athens historic buildings that house some of the well-known hotel properties: The Grande Bretagne and King George are here. Sintagma is also where several well-known Athenian streets and boulevards begin and intersect.
Take today to explore the shops, department stores and restaurants. Take a photo with Presidential Guards at the Parliament building at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and take a walk through green oasis, The National Gardens and enjoy a coffee inside the lush Zappeion Gardens. Magnificent museums, the Benaki Museum and the Museum of Cylcadic Art are nearby. Both feature wonderful cafes.
Continue to the chic neighborhood of Kolonaki, at the foot of Lycabettus Hill, and its shop-filled streets: Skoufa, Tsakalof, Haritos and Patriarchou Ioakim. Before stopping into one of the many cafes and restaurants, take a moment to view the beautiful iconography inside the church St. Dionysius Areopagite. Top off your evening with a view of the sunset atop Lycabettus Hill (a cable car is available to help with the trek up) and finish off with a gourmet or casual dinner at one of the many restaurants in the area. Also of interest and nearby are the neighborhoods Hilton, Pagrati and Mets all with a great list of dining venues.
P.S.! When in Athens …. Like many natives do, stop at one of the many outdoor vendors to buy a koulouri, a type of soft wreath-shaped sesame bread stick.
THIRD DAY IS THE CHARM: A DAY ON THE ATTICA COASTLINE. Once you have seen how close the coast is to the centre of Athens, you may regret not having come here first. Buses, tram and taxi will get you to the first stop in less than 30 minutes. If it’s warm, pack your swimming suit, hat and sunglasses as you might be tempted to take a dip in one of the many beaches that await your tour.
Dress casual so as to have the option to spend the evening here, on Athens’ breathtaking and vibrant south shore. First stop is the neighborhood of Paleo Faliro, home to two “must-visits” the Eugenides Planetarium and Flisvos Marina. The former is accessible by bus or taxi; while the latter also by tram. (If you want to visit both venues take the bus to the Planetarium and then to the marina. Then board the tram to continue your ride further along the coast.)
Destinations with cafes and restaurants that can be enjoyed all year include: Marina Alimos, Parko Flisvos, Edem, Kalamaki. After getting a feel for urban coastal living in Athens, hop back on the tram and head to very popular town of Glyfada. The “alter ego” of downtown’s Kolonaki, Glyfada offers a different Athens shopping experience.
Wide pedestrian sidewalks with rows and rows of stores and places to eat make for a pleasurable stroll. Stop in any time of day or night and you will be impressed by the number of good-looking people of all ages that live, work and play here.
This neighborhood is home to the 18-hole Glyfada Golf Course. If shopping is not your priority and you would prefer to do extend your coastal sightseeing journey, head back to Poseidon Avenue and catch the E22 Express Bus to coastal districts of Voula, Voulgiameni, Varkiza, Anavisso, Lagonissi, Saronida. Another cluster of delightful seaside food establishments can be found in each town. For the best coastal drive, plan ahead and arrange a day trip to Cape Sounion site of the Temple of Poseidon.