Things to do in Athens
Language: The official language is Greek. In Athens and other tourist areas people are bilingual, understand and speak fluently English.
Currency: EURO is the official currency. The official symbol for Euro (EUR) is: €
Population: The population of Athens is 3,090,508.
Time Zone: The time zone in Athens is Eastern European Time (EET), which is UTC +2 hours. A few examples: New York City local time is 7 hours behind Athens, Los Angeles local time is 10 hours behind Athens, and Athens local time is 2 hours ahead of London.
Weather: Summer officially begins in June in Athens and the weather reflects this. The average temperature this month is 24°C (75°F), while the average low is just 20°C (68°F), and the average high is a warm 28°C (82°F). The weather this month stays relatively the same throughout.
Local Taxis: Taxis operate a 24-hour service and are quite cheap. They can be hailed down on the street or otherwise picked up at taxi stands around major tourist squares such as Monastiraki and Syntagma. You can also book one calling the radio taxi line. Most taxi drivers speak English; however, you will come across some who don’t. TaxiBeat is an application that you can use to call a taxi from anywhere around Athens. There is no extra charge, it’s just like getting a taxi from the street, but much safer. As soon as you book a ride on the app, it informs you who the driver is, the license plate of the taxi and the approximate fare that the ride is going to cost you.
Shop Hours: Chain stores, malls and super markets are typically open 9:00AM - 9:00PM and are open six days a week. Local stores are open Monday, Wednesday and Saturday 09:00AM – 3:00PM, and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 09:00AM – 09:00PM.
Credit Cards: MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted credit cards in Greece, followed by American Express. Most hotels and restaurants accept all of these, especially in tourist destination areas. Discover and Diners Club are far less commonly accepted.
Tipping: There are no rules when it comes to tipping in Greece. It is customary to tip in most cases, but it certainly isn’t compulsory. Here is some guidance: Waitstaff: Although most restaurants will note at the bottom of the menu that taxes and service charge have already been added to the bill, it is still common to tip the service staff up to 10%, depending on the quality of the service. Taxi Drivers: Usually passengers just round the fare up to the nearest note and allow the driver to keep the change.
Transportation from/to the airport: The fastest and most comfortable way to get to the city center from the airport is by metro. The ticket costs 8€, and it allows you to transfer lines or take another means of transportation for 90 minutes. There are, also, four express bus lines that connect Athens Airport with the city center and Piraeus port.
- X95: The final stop is Syntagma Square, in the city center. Most travelers use this line to get to Athens.
- X93: This line runs to the northeast of the city, to Kifissos Bus Terminal
- X97: The X97 terminates at Elliniko metro station
- X96: Bus X96 connects the airport with Piraeus.
The journey in taxi from Athens International Airport to the heart of Athens costs 38€ during the day. Between midnight and 5am, the rate is 53€. The fares are fixed and are per vehicle.
Getting around the city
The Athens Metro is not very extensive, but it is contemporary and runs smoothly. The subway’s three lines are run by two companies, although they share tariffs, travel cards and tickets. Athens Metro runs approximately from 5:30am till 12:30am (midnight). On Fridays and Saturdays, the last train departs at 2am. During peak hours, the metro runs every 3 minutes, and during the slowest hours, they run every 5 to 10 minutes.
Traveling by bus or trolleybus is a great alternative to taking the Athens Metro. The long-distance buses are especially interesting, since they connect Athens with most towns, like Cape Sounion. Athens has over 60 bus and trolleybus lines that run through the city center and surroundings. Most buses run between 5am and midnight. The frequency depends on the line and time of day.
Modern, clean and eco-friendly, trams in Athens are a very comfortable means of transportation and the most popular lines run along the city's coastline: the Saronic Gulf. The network has three lines with 48 stops. Generally, trams run between 5:30am and 1am. On weekends the last trams depart from Syntagma Square at 2:15am.
The following tickets are valid for the city’s public buses, trolleybuses, metro, tram and commuter trains during a given time: 90-minute ticket: 1.40€ 24-hour ticket: 4.5€
Electrical in Greece: If you look at an outlet in Greece, the most important thing to notice is the two round holes. In Greece the power plugs and sockets are of type C and F. The standard voltage is 220/240V AC, and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
SIGHTSEEING IN ATHENS
The Great Acropolis Area
When you think of Athens, you think of these ancient monuments. You’d struggle to name a more iconic sight in any part of the world, perched on top of a rocky outcrop for 2,500 years. The Parthenon temple, dedicated to the goddess Athena, is perfectly proportioned and considered the world’s finest Doric masterpiece.
On your way down, visit the ancient Herod Atticus theatre, known as the “Herodeon”. It was originally a steep-sloped theater with a three-story stone front wall and a wooden roof made of expensive cedar of Lebanon timber. It was used as a venue for music concerts with a capacity of 5,000. If you have the chance, get a seat for an evening concert to experience the Odeon as the Athenians would have done 2,000 years ago.
The new Acropolis Museum shows ten times as many artifacts, displaying more than 4,000 objects found on the hill. Only one thing is missing...The Marbles, a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures (mostly by Phidias and his assistants), inscriptions and architectural members that originally were part of the Parthenon, were removed from the Acropolis in Athens by the 7th Earl of Elgin.
Elgin obtained a controversial permit from the Ottoman authorities to remove pieces from the Parthenon while serving as the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803.
The Marbles are currently in the British Museum and this great new building reinforces the case for the largest cultural campaign in Greece and worldwide, aiming for the reunification of the Parthenon Monument. Join the cause and help us Bring Them Back by signing the petition here.
Plaka, Monastiraki & Psirri neighbourhood
An antidote to both the silent ancient temples and traffic-heavy modern city, Plaka lies on top of ancient Athens’s residential quarters in the shadow of the Acropolis. It’s a district of tight, twisting alleys with 19th-century facades garlanded with flowering bougainvillea in summer. Plaka is jam-packed with family-run shops, and whether you want to pick up a gyro or sit down to a meze Plaka is a go-to for dining and nightlife.
Monastiraki is one of the oldest and busiest areas of the capital, packed with rooftop bars, ancient sights and huge markets. Go shopping at the Monastiraki flea market, squeeze your way through thronging pedestrian alleys, and peruse shops filled with antiques, handmade jewellery and Greek handicrafts.
While Plaka is mostly for sightseeing and shopping, Psiri has taken up the mantle of best nightlife quarter in Athens, with streets full of revelers until daybreak on weekends. The last 20 years has rounded off Psiri’s edges, and there’s an endless choice of music tavernas, bars, restaurants, cafes and nightclubs for all tastes.
Under the facade of Old Royal Palace on Syntagma Square is a cenotaph for all Greek soldiers to have fallen during war. The monument was sculpted in the early 1930s, blending French Empire design and Athens’ own ancient architecture, but also contemporary Art Deco which is particularly visible in the relief. The tomb is watched by the Evzones (elite infantry) of the Presidential Guard and there’s a small changing of the guard ceremony on the hour every hour that you will definitely enjoy.
Next to it, the National Garden is a welcome green buffer between ancient Athens and the modern sea of concrete. The National Garden was formerly the Royal Garden, opening up to the south of the Old Royal Palace and ordered by Amalia of Oldenburg at the end of the 1830s. Come for a few minutes of repose, idling below the pergolas and avenue of lofty palm trees and bringing children to the two ponds to meet the turtles and ducks. The park also has a small zoo with peacocks, birds of prey, wolves and monkeys, as well as a botanical museum.
After you can go to the major shopping areas in downtown Athens, Ermou Street opposite Syntagma square and Kolonaki a 10-minute walk from Syntagma. In Ermou street one can find a great variety of shops selling from women’s clothing to accessorize and homeware. Kolonaki, on the other hand, is considered a posh neighborhood with designer boutiques, famous brands and expensive jewelry shops.
Behind the National Garden you will find the Panathenaic stadium. Erected for the 1896 Olympics, the Panathenaic Stadium is a modern reconstruction of an ancient stadium built for the Panathenaic Games in 330 BC. With a U-shape layout. The Panathenaic Stadium is an almost exact replica of the construction from the 2nd century BC, and like its ancient ancestor is composed completely from marble. The stadium can hold 45,000 spectators and from its highest tiers you can see the Acropolis and the National Garden.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC)
An oasis of Mediterranean greenery. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is a fascinating cultural center that holds exhibitions and festivals throughout the year. The complex features the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera among other galleries and theatres that celebrate Greek culture. For 170,000 square metres of parkland, the development is an architectural work of art and is a great space for both indoor and outdoor events. With an ice-skating rink in winter and summer sailing when the weather’s bright, there are loads of fun-filled activities for both adults and kids alike.
B&E Goulandri Museum
The new museum was designed from the onset to house the collection of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation. The collection focuses on modern and contemporary art by Greek and foreign artists, including rare works by masters of the European avant-garde such as Cézanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Degas, Rodin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard, Picasso, Braque, Léger, Miró, Giacometti, Balthus, as well as works by distinguished modern Greek painters including Parthenis, Bouzianis, Vasileiou, Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Tsarouchis, Moralis, Tetsis and others.
The building is a total surface area of 7,250 sq.m. and consists of 11 floors, five of which are below ground.The building also houses a museum shop where visitors are able to purchase publications by the Foundation and other publishing houses as well as gifts. The museum’s café-restaurant is located on the mezzanine floor. The floors below ground host a library with around 6,000 books, children’s workshop which hosts educational programmes and art classes for children, as well as a state-of-the-art 187- seat amphitheatre which hosts events including lectures, conferences, screenings, performances, concerts and other artistic and scientific activities.
Sounio - Temple of Poseidon
Sounio is located just 1 hour away from the city of Athens. Apart from the lovely beaches in the area where you can have a swim in the summer, it is famous for its archaeological site. He may be the god of oceans, but Poseidon's palace stands 60 meters above sea level on Cape Sounio. This marble temple was first built by ancient Athenians to honor Poseidon and guide sailors safely home. All that remains now is a series of towering columns which don’t half look beautiful against a glorious Greek sunset. Sounio is a very popular day trip from Athens.
Kastella, Mikrolimano & Peiraiki
You can take the train from Monastiraki or Omonia station and head to Piraeus. An oasis amid the roaring hustle of Piraeus port, Kastella Hill is a patchwork of modern apartments and pastel-hued townhouses. At the hill's summit, the church of Profitis Ilias and open-air Veakio amphitheater (a lovely venue for summer concerts) have dazzling sea views, the Saronic islands twinkling on the horizon. Stroll down to Mikrolimano, the ‘little harbor’ lined with fishing boats, ritzy yachts and fancy seafood restaurants—perfect for a lazy lunch or starlit dinner.
If you love discovering a city by walking, and if you also love walking next to the sea, Peiraiki is the place to be! The ideal time to visit is before sunset, in order to enjoy the orange sky and its reflection on the sea. You can also gaze at the big ships that are waiting to enter the port of Piraeus. Peiraiki is also famous for its “ouzeri”, the places where you can enjoy a glass of ouzo while tasting octopus, squid and a big salad with feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, oregano and olive oil.