Athens travel guide

Planning a trip to Athens

Why Athens?
  • Seeing the Parthenon on Acropolis Hill
  • Exploring the rich collections at the Archeological Museum
  • Witnessing the origins of democracy at the Agora
  • Having a classic Greek meal at a taverna in the Plaka
  • Checking out the Cycladic art at the Goulandris Museum

Athens built a mighty metropolis; organized one of the world's first successful democracies; and founded schools of art, architecture, literature, drama, and philosophy that continue to be the touchstones of today's western civilization—all this by the 5th century BC, when folks in the rest of the western world were still in their proverbial diapers.

Modern Athens preserves three magnificent sights: the Acropolis Hill, whose Parthenon to Athena is the ur-Greek temple; a massive Archeological Museum; and the Ancient Agora, the civic laboratory in which modern democratic ideas were first developed and tested.

The rest of the city, it must be said, leaves much to be desired; it's a tangled mess of over-development, traffic, and pollution. Athens carries one of Europe's most sacred cultural heritages, but honestly, I'd see those greatest hits quickly and then move on to the rest of Greece.

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How long should I spend in Athens?

You really only need a day and a half to two days here. See the major sights, and move on.

Athens is not the most relaxing of cities to hang around—that's what Greece has all those beaches and islands for.

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Athens tours


Recommended hotels in Athens

Hotel Gran Bretagne [€€€€€] - This Beaux Arts bastion of 19th-century luxury has an appropriately neoclassical lobby and 12-foot ceilings in the well-appointed rooms. Accommodations on Athens's busy central Syntagma Square have a view (some of the Acropolis), but those on the courtyard are quieter.

Elektra Palace [€€€–€€€€] - For the price, this is a great location, just southwest of Syntagma Square in the colorful Plaka. The clean, contemporarily furnished and rooms—with all the amenities—get smaller as you go up (though none are tiny by any stretch), but the balconies get proportionately larger. The biggest plus is the rooftop pool with its sweeping Acropolis view and bar and barbecue service in summer (about 20 rooms, many of them suites, get the view, too, but they can't guarantee it when booking).

Hotel Acropolis View [€€] - Snuggled into a quiet side street on the slopes of Philopappou Hill, the Acropolis View has small, uninspired, but modern renovated rooms with A/C and televisions. The big selling point: a few rooms even live up to the hotel's name. The roof terrace offers all guests outstanding Acropolis panoramas, especially at sunset.

Hotel Tony [€€] - This budget standard was once a hostel, but since it redecorated and up-graded, it has attracted a varied clientele of value-seekers. It's still utterly basic, but it's run by a very amicable couple, and there's a small communal kitchen for light cooking.

Attalos Hotel [€€] - The Attalos maintains its popularity among budgeteers by keeping squeaky clean, plain-but-nice rooms with A/C and friendly service. The roof terrace has a bar for snacks' ice cream and a lovely view across the city to the Acropolis (check it out at night), as do 37 of the upper floor rooms, many from balconies. Street-side rooms have soundproofed windows (pretty effective).

Hotel Acropolis House [€–€€] - You'll find many original moldings and other classic architectural details in this restored, 150-year-old villa. The newer wing is not as charming, but it has modern, tiled bathrooms. Continental breakfast is included in the price of the room. It's in the pedestrian heart of the Plaka, and there are fridges in the hall to store your picnic supplies.

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in December 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.