When I was asking around to see which part of Greece we should visit, a lot of people mentioned to skip Athens and just go to the islands because Athens was boring. Unfortunately, but actually fortunately for us, Athens was the cheapest airport to fly in and out of so that is where we started and ended our trip.
Despite multiple people telling me to skip that city, I actually enjoyed it there. Though you don’t need to spend days there, I would recommend 1 or 2 days to check it out. If you’re still skeptical, keep reading to see how you can spend just one day in Athens, Greece.
Why you should go
- The history – granted, there’s history everywhere, but come here to check out the Acropolis built in 5th century BCE.
- So many restaurants and shops – you can find Greek food everywhere.
Where to stay
- When visiting Athens, you’ll most likely be visiting the Acropolis as that’s one of the main attractions. The best areas to stay are Plaka, Makrianni, Koukaki, Thission, Syntagma and Monastiraki, which all surround the Acropolis. There are also plenty of shops and restaurants in those areas as well.
- We stayed in the Athens City Centre neighborhood at Athens Studio (hostel) with a short walk to the Acropolis, but about an hour metro ride from the airport. The area was convenient to a metro stop, near all the major attractions and pretty central in the city. If you’re saving money, the hostel was alright. Don’t expect super comfortable beds, but they’re decent. It can get a little noisy outside since it’s right next to the street and the walls are thin, but it’s fine if you’re a heavy sleeper. The only thing I didn’t like was the shower – it was an open shower with half a wall and no curtains so water got all over the bathroom floor even if you showered with the shower head pointing to the corner. There was free breakfast though – tomato, cucumber, bread, cheese, ham and egg.
- If I had to choose where to stay again, I would probably stay in Syntagma only because it’s the last stop on the metro from the airport before you have to transfer (for the hostel above, we had to transfer one metro to go one more stop). There’s also plenty of shopping, restaurants and nightlife there.
Things to do in Athens
The Panathenaic Stadium was the first stadium where the olympics was held in 1896. Come here to check out the granite stadium, run on the track, and sit where the king and queen sat.
There are a few tours that you can buy, but do yourself a favor, save your Euros and just do a self guided audio tour for a fraction of the price instead. You pay to enter the stadium and then you can pay a little extra to get a walkie talkie like set with headphones with an explanation of the different parts of the stadium. There are signs around the stadium that correlates to a number that you press on your walkie talkie. Follow the number signs for the tour.
Acropolis of Athens, Ancient Agora and the Agora Museum Tour
If you want to learn about the history of Athens, an Acropolis tour is a great way to to learn more. We booked a half day Acropolis of Athens, Ancient Agora and the Agora Museum Tour and felt that we were at an on-site history class. I found it really interesting and the ruins and views are amazing.
What the tour covers:
- Acropolis (includes skipping the line)
- Dionysus sanctuary and theater
- Amazing view of the city below
- Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaea, the Nike Temple, the Agrippa Monument, and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, as well as the Philopappos, Mars Hill, and Pnyx Hill
- Time for exploring and pictures
- [For an extra cost] Ancient Agora and the Hephaestus Temple; Church of the 12 Apostles, the Temple of Apollo Patroos, the Stoa of Zeus, and the Altar of Zeus. Also, the Attalos Museum and view artifacts.
There are a lot of great places for eating and shopping. Here are some of the ones we went to:
- Plaka – good for souvenir shopping and greek restaurants.
- Athens Central Market – good for meat, fish, spices, etc.
- Monastiraki (Flea) Market – good for random flea market items – clothes, shoes, furniture, etc.
- Syntagma square – good for modern day clothes shopping, bars and nightlife.
Where and what to eat
Below are some of the restaurants we went to, what we ate and my recommendation.
I came here for lunch and this place was great for a cheap Greek meal. The gyro was pretty filling and the meat was decent. It wasn’t the most tender, but it had good flavor.
I didn’t know, but we actually came back for dinner. I thought we went to a different restaurant, but this one pretty much took up the whole street. We got the salad which was delicious and the soulvaki and kabap where both the meats were tender and had great flavor. You also have to get a saganaki which pretty much tasted like giant fried cheese-it. Everything came with so much pita!
Coffee is a big part of Greek culture. One of my favorites (and one of the thing they’re known for) was the frappé which is made from instant coffee, sugar (if you want), water and ice. Simple, but it gets your day going.
This place was a hit or miss. Some items were amazing and some were just okay. My favorite was probably the feta with honey and sesame. The pastry had a perfect crisp and the feta with honey and sesame had a perfect sweet and salty contrast. My other favorite was the mussel with ouzo (Greek spirit). The mussel was so fresh and tender and the sauce had so much great flavors.
We came here for drinks and it did not disappoint. There is an indoor part and then there is an outdoor part with lots of wooden seating and trees as if you were hanging out in a garden. They have a huge bar list include a lot of unique cocktails. I would recommend coming here to hang out and for the cute atmosphere and cool drinks.
There’s always room for dessert, right? We tried these Greek donuts and they were hot out of the fryer and delicious! Don’t forget toppings (I recommend honey and nuts) and a scoop of ice cream.
Overall, Athens is a cool place to come for a little Greece culture and history.