For the casual traveler, a full day in Athens is enough to catch the highlights. If you are a lover of Greek history or frequent museums, you may need to allot more time to get the full experience
Start at NEW Hotel
NEW Hotel is an artsy-glam hotel that is located right in the most popular (and walkable) part of Athens. I chose to stay here for the location, gorgeous spaces, and amenities. Breakfast is a buffet (the classy kind, swear) with tons of options for all kinds of dietary restrictions and preferences. They kept my filtered coffee full while I planned my trip over a great breakfast. Note on the coffee: Greek coffee is unfiltered, and not for everyone. Ask for filter coffee, espresso, or an espresso drink if Greek coffee doesn’t sound appealing.
NEW Hotel is conveniently located to just about everything most travelers want to see in Athens, making it easy to go about your day after breakfast. They have a 24 hour fitness area too, making it easy to get a workout in early!
Acropolis or surrounding hill
Stroll out to Syntagma Square, the central square for Athens. You’ll see street vendors, tourists, and plenty of locals too. From there, wander towards Acropolis or Mars Hill (Aeropagus) . While most people are familiar with Acropolis, Mars Hill also delivers a nice hike and great views of Athens. When I visited, I found a winding path up through whitewashed homes and plenty of street art.
In a sea of cheese pies and souvlaki (meat on a stick, essentially), Avocado was the dose of healthy vegetarian fare I needed. While I appreciate the traditional Greek cuisine that is offered in the heart of Athens, my jet lagged body was craving a green juice. They offer a huge menu of tasty vegetarian and vegan food, smoothies, and juices. The staff is very friendly but the place is always busy, so consider bringing a book if you’re traveling alone.
There’s no shortage of information covering all the major sights and museums in Athens, but my travel style is often a bit more relaxed. I like to hit the highlights and some quirky things, but my favorite thing to do while traveling is just explore different areas and take them in as if I were a local. I hike my butt around Chicago all day long, so exploring Athens on foot was a breeze.
Here are some areas you might want to see:
- Plaka: The old historical neighborhood and one of the most touristy. You will find lots of shopping, pedestrian-only streets (watch out for motorcycles anyway), and restaurants that cater to visitors but aren’t the highest quality.
- Psiri: The nightlife area of Athens, known for great restaurants, live music, and taverns.
- Monastiraki: An area full of flea markets, budget shopping, and plenty of restaurants.
- Athens Street: This street hosts the Central Market, where you can find vegetables and fruit from all over Greece, sample cheeses from distant islands, or buy cheap items like sunglasses from street vendors. It links Omonia and Monastiraki squares.
- Kolonaki: An elegant neighborhood with lots of chic boutiques and trendy restaurants. Visit here for any high end shopping and fancy dinners!
- Exarcheia: If you like graffiti and anarchist vibes, this is your place. The area is dilapidated and has few tourist visitors, but it’s certainly interesting. Not for the cautious tourist, or one lacking street smarts.
If you are staying in Greece longer, stock up on healthy organic snacks at Gr-eatings. The owners are a pair of brothers who have had the shop for 10 years – no small feat in a country experiencing an economic crisis. They genuinely care about advancing the health of their community. Also, those aforementioned men who followed me into a shop and lurked around waiting for me to leave? They followed me here, and a female employee quickly picked up on the situation and offered me help. I waited them out by shopping for an array of organic Greek snacks and familiar superfoods – like the best matcha I’ve ever had.
*Note for females traveling alone:
As in many places, solo females tend to attract attention in Athens. After several men followed me into shops or made remarks that made me uneasy, I realized that the winding, narrow streets of Athens could be nerve-wracking for females traveling alone. Use your best judgment to stay safe. As always, the best strategy to avoid catcallers and generally persistent men is to ignore them completely and walk confidently.
Rooftop Art Lounge (+ Booze)
Location is my #1 priority when considering where to stay. I love to go back to my hotel after a long day exploring to freshen up and change for dinner. The art lounge at NEW Hotel is the perfect place to take in views of the city with a glass of wine in hand. Get a seat at one of the little tables on the balcony, and enjoy a glass and views all to yourself.
While Athens has nightlife areas, it might not be your cup of tea if you’re just stopping over on your way elsewhere. If you’d like a low-key night in the city, check out Cine Paris. On the night I visited, there was dramatic lightning over Acropolis while a Woody Allen movie played with Greek subtitles. You can grab a beer, wine, or snacks at the concessions stand downstairs and then head up to the balcony area for a great view. They also sell old movie posters below, which make for a unique souvenir.
Have you visited Athens? Which part was your favorite?
*NEW Hotel graciously invited me to stay on my visit to Athens. Their hotel and staff are impeccable, and my time there was a highlight of my trip. As always, all opinions are my own. Feel free to ask me any questions about NEW Hotel, Athens, or traveling solo in Greece!