Athens, Greece—An Easy Guide When Visiting for the First Time

Updated: Aug 14

Athens, Greece is an amazing city! It is home to a number of archeological sites, museums, and quaint streets and shops. In addition, the food is delicious!


However, if you've never been before, it can be quite overwhelming to plan your stay. International travel does require forethought. Have no fear! I have created a simple guide to help you plan your first visit to Athens, Greece!


If you want a simple guide to help you plan your first visit to Thessaloniki, Greece, click here!


You won't regret visiting Athens, Greece—there is much to do and plenty to see
You won't regret visiting Athens, Greece—there is much to do and plenty to see!

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Which Airline Should I Fly?


You have a number of options if you are departing from the United States. Of course, the following factors come into play: What is your home airport? When is your desired date of departure? Do you have airline status or have you accumulated miles/ points that you intend to use?


On my recent trip to Athens, Greece, I elected to use United Airlines. I used United MileagePlus®—the frequent-flyer program of United Airlines—to book my Award Flight. In fact, for ~$100, I was able to fly—and stay—in Athens, Greece! This included my flight tickets and my Airbnb stay in Plaka! This is one of the benefits of Award Travel—you can travel for substantially less!


Where Should I Stay?


Plaka! Plaka is an old historical neighborhood in Athens rich in history. It is strategically located and close to a lot of the main attractions in Athens—including the Acropolis! Transportation options are great and you are within walking distance to a number of archeological sites and restaurants.


We stayed in an Airbnb on Leoforos Vasilisis Amalias—right across the street from Hadrian's Arch. From our back window, we could see the Acropolis. I prefer to stay at an Airbnb over a hotel. You typically get more space and it presents a less "touristy" feel.


Although you should always be cognizant of crime, we felt relatively safe staying in Plaka. We didn't have any incidents—a good thing when you are on vacation.


What Type of Transportation Should I Use?


Athens is a city you probably do not want to rent a car in! Traffic is heavy and it can be difficult to find available parking spots.


Athens has excellent public transportation options available. This includes via metro, bus, tram, or taxi.


Private Transfer


When you arrive at Athens International Airport, you will need to arrange a transfer from the airport to where you will be staying. Having a private transfer will cost ~40 euros. This is more expensive than using other forms of public transportation—but it provides peace of mind and is one less thing to worry about while on vacation.


We used Athens Taxi Routes (Atenas Taxi Rutas) and couldn't have had a better experience! Athens Taxi Routes not only offers transportation services in Athens, but they provide transportation in the following additional areas: Cape Sounion; Corinthian; Nafplio & Epidaurus; Arajoba & Delphi; Meteor; and Ancient Olympia.


Monica Chrysovergis of Athens Taxi Routes provided exceptional transfer service while in Athens, Greece
Monica Chrysovergis of Athens Taxi Routes provided exceptional transfer service while in Athens, Greece.

Monica Chrysovergis was our driver and she exceeded our expectations! She was prompt, professional, kind, and helpful. She was waiting on us when we arrived at the airport and when we left our Airbnb to return to the airport. I will definitely use Athens Taxi Routes the next time I am in Athens!


Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour


While in Plaka, we used the Athens City Sightseeing: Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour. This made it very easy to see the main attractions in Athens. This included: the Acropolis; the Temple of Olympian Zeus; the National Archaeological Museum; the Ancient Agora; the National Garden; and the Panathenaic Stadium.


We purchased 48-hour tickets; we were able to use the bus an unlimited amount of times during this duration. We would simply "hop-on" to catch the bus and "hop-off" when we wished to explore an area. The bus would frequent each stop every 30 minutes which made it convenient to use. Be sure to find out the bus schedule—you wouldn't want to depend on the bus only to find out that it already made its last stop for the day!


Taxi Beat


The taxi was the only other form of public transportation that we used. The platform we used was Taxi Beat. You can download an app to your Android or Apple phone. It was very easy and convenient to use. You will know the cost of the taxi cab ride—before it arrives. This helps prevent tourists from being ripped off. Just keep in mind that your smartphone will need to be connected via Wi-Fi or have a cellular data plan turned on.


You may have a "unique" experience if you elect to take a taxi. On one of our rides, our taxi driver deliberately ran into the back of another taxi cab—just to make a point!


Where Should I Eat?


Athens has a plethora of options when it comes to food! Greek cuisine is legendary and you will not be disappointed! To keep this simple, I will mention my 3 favorite places that you have to try while in Athens!


No. 1: Orizontes Lycabettus Restaurant


My absolute favorite place to eat was at Orizontes Lycabettus Restaurant! The views of Athens while on top of Mount Lycabettus are amazing! It is the highest point in central Athens. It is an expensive restaurant; you will need to make reservations. You can climb to the top of the hill or you can take the funicular. We elected to take the funicular—the cost is 10 euros roundtrip—and tickets can be purchased on site.


The views from Orizontes Lycabettus Restaurant are impeccable
The views from Orizontes Lycabettus Restaurant are impeccable!

My wife ordered lobster—and she was not disappointed. Being from Rhode Island, she has a special relationship with seafood—with lobster being her favorite dish. She told me that the lobster she had was one of the best she ever had! Although I didn't order the lobster, she let me try her dish—and I had to agree with her sentiments!


My wife and I ordered the baklava for dessert. We both agree that it was the best baklava we have ever had! It was Ioannina-style baklava with kaimaki ice cream. The taste was out of this world!


The address is: Aristippou 1, Athina 106 76


No. 2: Kayak Pure Magic Ice Cream


Perhaps the strangest—and one of the best food experiences—occurred at Kayak Pure Magic Ice Cream in Plaka. We were looking for our first restaurant to eat in Plaka. We came across Daphne's—but it was closed—as Greeks like to eat late—and it wasn't open yet for dinner. An employee of Kayak saw our dilemma and invited us to eat at Kayak.


My absolute favorite greek dish is moussaka. And, moussaka happened to be on the menu—in an ice cream shop! So, I decided to order it—and it was the BEST moussaka I have ever had! In fact, while in Greece, I ordered moussaka at least 2 other times at other restaurants, and could not find one that tasted as good! If you like moussaka as much as I do—be sure to visit Kayak Pure Magic Ice Cream!


The address is: Vironos 1, Plaka 105 58


No. 3: Little Kook


The funnest place we ate at is Little Kook! It is a cafe that transforms itself into a Disney-type theme. When we went, it had an Alice in Wonderland theme. It is located in the Psiri district of Monastiraki. You can't miss it when you come across it!


Little Kook is hard to miss
Little Kook is hard to miss!

Be warned! If you are diabetic you may want to pass this place! The menu is full of mouth-watering desserts!


The address is: Karaiskaki 17, Athina 105 54


What Should I Do?


Athens is full of places to visit and things to do! It would take too long to list everything! I am going to keep it simple and list 3 of my favorite activities while in Athens.


No. 1: The Acropolis


The Acropolis is a must-see while in Athens. It refers to the hill and not the architectural structures that are found on and around the hill. The most famous building is the Parthenon. It also contains the Erechtheion, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaea, Theatre of Dionysos, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Monuments of Thrasyllos, Stoa of Eumenes, and Sanctuary of Asclepius.


Not only did we enjoy visiting these ancient structures, but we took advantage of a horse & carriage ride for 30 euros.


The horse and carriage ride can't be booked online—it is worth the experience if it is available
The horse and carriage ride can't be booked online—it is worth the experience if it is available!

PRO TIP: Purchase the combination ticket for 30 euros (during peak season) at a location other than the Acropolis. Not only will you save money when visiting other included sites, but you also won't wait in line as long as you would wait in line at the Acropolis. I purchased our combination tickets at the Temple of Olympian Zeus and only had one person in line ahead of me. Also, visit the Acropolis early in the morning—before the crowds and heat make it uncomfortable!


No. 2: Ancient Agora


The Ancient Agora was a meeting place for citizens of ancient Athens to meet and discuss issues that were of importance to them. Socrates is a well-known individual in history who would meet with other Athenians in the Agora. But, my favorite part of the Ancient Agora was the Bible-based tour!


Valia Reizi of Athens Bible Tours was our tour guide and it was an awesome experience! Her enthusiasm was only matched by her knowledge of the Ancient Agora. It was fascinating to learn about the correlation between ancient artifacts and Scriptural accounts found in the Bible!


Valia Reizi of Athens Bible Tours provided an outstanding tour of the Ancient Agora
Valia Reizi of Athens Bible Tours provided an outstanding tour of the Ancient Agora!

No. 3: National Garden


The National Garden is located in the center of Athens, across from the Panathenaic Stadium. It is 38 acres of beautiful trees, bushes, lakes, and other plants. It is a peaceful, tranquil experience to walk along the paths and to sit and listen to the sound of the singing birds.


The National Garden is a hidden gem within the city of Athens
The National Garden is a hidden gem within the city of Athens

When we were in Athens, the temperature reached over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and it was hot! The National Garden provided a nice shade from the heat. It was noticeably cooler and a refreshing break from the heat.


Final Thoughts


Athens, Greece is a place that I definitely plan on visiting again! Award Travel has made it possible for me and my wife to travel to places we didn't think possible. You can too!


"Athens is a must-see city if you plan on visiting Greece."

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