The best things to do in Athens, Greece this spring and summer

The best things to do in Athens, Greece this spring and summer

Destinations

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Surrounded by history and stories, here’s how to find the top attractions, unique things to see, and best places to go, as well as what to do at night and a few non-touristy options

Article published in association with Aegean Airlines.

Travel with Aegean Airlines to Athens, one of the oldest and most important cities in Europe, if not the world. This ancient marvel of a city is packed with things to do, so here’s our rough travel guide to Athens: when to go, how to get around, what to eat and drink, and how to make the most of your time.

Practical tips

When’s the best time to visit Athens?

June to September is the busiest time to visit Athens; July and August are the hottest months, when temperatures peak well into the mid-30(C)s/mid-90(F)s. This is when you’ll find the pace of life slower as people sit in the shade at midday. For more of an all-around trip, temperatures are consistently pleasant in May and October, with considerably less rainfall than in the winter months.

What’s the best way to get around Athens?

When you fly with Aegean Airlines, you’ll be arriving at Athens International Airport, a significant hub with flights arriving and departing from all over the world. From there, you can take an express bus or the metro line number 3 directly to the city center. The center itself is well-connected by an integrated transport system of buses, trams, trolleybuses and the metro. For more details on how to make use of this, see OASA’s official website.

Why is Athens worth visiting?

Monastiraki Square in Athens — ShutterstockIt’d be trivial to call Athens Western or Eastern — Shutterstock

When strolling through its streets, you see the variety of faces of Athens. With its tall buildings and contemporary shops, if you’re arriving from the east, you might well feel like you’re finally in Europe. However, from the opposite direction, its food, music, and bustling street life can seem undeniably Middle Eastern. It’d be wrong to call Athens merely a fragment of the Byzantine or the Ottoman Empire, as it would be to call it Western or Eastern. Athens is the epitome of Greek unique: it’s simply, demonstrably Athenian.

Temple of Zeus with the Acropolis in the background — ShutterstockThe Acropolis was built over 2,000 years ago, and much of it still stands proudly today — Shutterstock

Dionysiou Areopagitou is a long, pedestrianized street lined with trees and shrubs that provides easy access to Athens’ major historical sights. Take yourself on a tour around the Acropolis citadel and the Ancient Agora (just to name a couple), and you’ll be treading in the very footsteps of the likes of Pericles, Socrates and Plato.

Like other hilltop sites in Ancient Greece, the Acropolis — meaning “High City” — was built in the 5th century BCE and became both a place of worship, and of refuge when under attack. Crowned by the Parthenon temple, the Acropolis looks over present-day Athens as its historical, cultural and, well, literal highpoint. It’s a masterpiece to behold — it’s not in every city that you get to see structures of this magnitude that are over 2,000 years old.

View of the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora — ShutterstockView over the Ancient Agora — Shutterstock

At the foot of the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora — a kind of versatile public space — sprawls out from the Temple of Hephaestus. Athenians gathered here to exchange goods as well as news and gossip, making it the buzzing center of everyday life in Ancient Greece. Believe it or not, this grassy patch of ruins is precisely where the roots of Western philosophy, politics, culture and science emerged.

Free things to do in Athens

Flower-adorned street in Plaka — ShutterstockIf you suddenly woke up one morning in Plaka, you wouldn’t believe that you were in the heart of a metropolis — Shutterstock

Plaka exhibits a calmer, more intimate side to Athens, with cozy, colorful streets of swaying flora, cute restaurants and souvenir shops. You’ll notice that the relaxed pace of Plaka is mainly thanks to the lack of traffic in the area, and yet it’s still a stone’s throw away from the city center. Nestled beneath the walls of the Acropolis, Anafiotika is one of Plaka’s most tranquil neighborhoods, originally populated in the 19th century by workers from the island of Anafi — hence the name. This quaint collection of little white-stone houses makes the hustle and bustle of the city seem many miles away.

You’ll also be able to see the city’s history combined with some of its most modern places. The Athens Metro is almost a museum by itself, with stations containing everything from ancient artifacts and archaeological digs to modern sculpture and art.

Theater of Dionysus — Getty ImagesOn some days, all the archeological sites in Athens are free to visit — Getty Images

To attract more tourism in the off-season, the Greek government has made all archeological sites in Athens free to enter on the first Sunday of every month from 1 November until 31 March, as well as on the following days:

  • 6 March  (in memory of Melina Mercouri)
  • 18 April  (International Monuments Day)
  • 18 May  (International Museums Day)
  • The last weekend of September annually (European Heritage Days)
  • 28 October (Ohi Day)

What to do in Athens at night

 

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A post shared by #romantso (@romantsoathens)

As the sun goes down, head up to the Pnyx. In the earliest days of Athenian democracy, this was where citizens gathered, and the view through the trees to the Parthenon is nothing short of breathtaking.

For partying, try Romantso for DJ sets and live music. Or, check out the goings-on at Technopolis, a former gasworks that’s now a cultural hub offering weekend markets, art and workshops, as well as free festivals and gigs at weekends and in the evenings.

It also all depends on what you’re looking for. The Athenian Riviera is home to some of the more upmarket bars and restaurants the city has to offer, as well as clubs, beach bars and cocktail venues. Kerameikos is a good part of town for underground and alternative music, while if you’re simply looking for a relaxing wine bar, try Kolonaki and around.

Food, drink, and your good health!

The Panathenaic Stadium — ShutterstockThe Kallimarmaro opened the first modern Olympics — Shutterstock

Wellness is all the rage now, but the Athenians have been taking care of themselves for centuries with the concept of kalokagathos — the careful balance between a healthy mind and a healthy body — and you’d expect nothing less from the birthplace of the Olympic Games. The 2004 Olympic Stadium is now an open area to walk, run or cycle, and has added the wavy, Instagram-worthy Wall of Nations.

From the newer to the old yet again, you can trace sporting history back to the Kallimarmaro, or the Panathenaic Stadium, originally founded in 330 BCE and resuscitated for the first modern Olympics in 1896. You’ll be jogging (or gently strolling) in the footsteps of centuries of history.

Woman eating dolmades — ShutterstockDolmades, stuffed vine leaves, is a quintessentially Greek dish — Shutterstock

And of course, a visit to Athens would not be complete without sampling the colorful national dishes. Greek cuisine is famously tasty as well as healthy, the nation’s high life expectancy being a testament to this. The diet is underpinned by fresh, typically Mediterranean ingredients such as vegetables, olives, cheese and fish. Feast on mouth-watering souvlaki, moussaka or dolmades pretty much anywhere in the city, and don’t forget your side of fresh salad consisting of the juiciest local vegetables smothered in the richest olive oil. These delights alone will keep you coming back to Athens again and again.

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