Athens, Greece—An Easy Guide When Visiting for the First Time
Updated: Aug 14, 2022
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!
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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.
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 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!
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.