Athens, the capital city of Greece, is known for its rich history, culture, and mythology. It is a city that has stood the test of time, with traces of its ancient past still visible in every corner. It is a place where ancient ruins stand alongside modern architecture, where traditional tavernas mix with trendy bars and cafes – Athens is a destination that appeals to history enthusiasts, art lovers, and those seeking an adventure!
I’ve been to Athens a handful of times, but it always seemed like I was going to Athens just to head to one of the gorgeous Greek Islands. For many foreigners, Athens is simply a connection to their favorite Greek island – but in the last few years, this historical city has seen a boom in art and foreign investment. It’s become more than just a stepping stone to the Greek islands and attracting buzz for all the city’s potential!
If it’s your first time in Athens – similar to Rome, – there are a lot of ruins and sites to see. It can be daunting, but I say don’t try to do it all in one go! The Acropolis, the most iconic landmark of Athens, is a must-visit attraction. The Acropolis is a complex of ancient ruins that includes the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion, and the Propylaea. The Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena, is one of the most recognizable ancient structures in the world. It is a marvel of engineering and design, with its imposing columns, intricate carvings, and stunning views of the city.
When it comes to sight-seeing in Athens, I’d recommend getting the “Athens Pass” – it comes with skip-the-line tickets for the Acropolis and 6 other sites (Acropolis and Slopes, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Olympieion Kerameikos, and Aristotle’s School)- for $36 USD! Another essential destination in Athens is the National Archaeological Museum. The museum boasts an extensive collection of artifacts from ancient Greece and beyond, with highlights such as the Mask of Agamemnon and the Antikythera Mechanism. The museum is a treasure trove of history and culture, offering a glimpse into the world of ancient Greece!
For a taste of traditional Athens, head to the “old town” Plaka neighborhood. This charming area is Athens’ oldest neighborhood and is known for its narrow streets, neoclassical architecture, and traditional tavernas. As charming as this area is, it’s also a bit touristy due to its proximity to so many historic sites and ruins. It’s definitely worth walking through – but just beware! The Plaka is a great place to explore on foot, with its vibrant atmosphere and colorful houses. If you want to experience the modern side of Athens, head to the neighborhoods of Psiri, Gazi, and Kolonaki (my favorite!). These areas are home to some of Athens’ best bars, clubs, and music venues, offering a lively and vibrant nightlife scene. Here, you can enjoy a cocktail while listening to live music or dance the night away in one of Athens’ trendy nightclubs.
Athens is also known for its delicious food, with a range of local specialties that are sure to tantalize your taste buds. The Athens Central Market, also known as Varvakios Agora, is a bustling food market that offers fresh seafood, meat, fruits, vegetables, and spices. You can also try some of the local delicacies such as souvlaki, gyros, and baklava!
If it’s your first time in Athens, you have to visit the Acropolis and see a few ancient sites (like the …..) I’d recommend starting the day off with a quick hike up Lycabettus Hill for a quick and easy sweat and an incredible vantage point over the city! After the hike grab a quick coffee and breakfast at Queen Bee, Philos, or The Makers. Stroll through the “Old Town” on the way to The Acropolis and after seeing it, grab a refreshment at The Acropolis Museum Café. For lunch, enjoy incredible views of the acropolis at Cafe Avessinia or go to Me Kolonaki, Barbounaki Kolonaki, or Oikeio. And for dinner head to Pharoh, Brunello, Black Duck Garden, or Dopios. Afterward, grab a cocktail at The Clumsies, or have a night at Juan Rodriguez!
If you have a day or two to spare and need a break from the Athenian heat, head to the Seaside, the “Athenian Riviera”! Rent sunbeds at Dot Beach Club or Zen Beach Club during the day, then go for sunset drinks and dinner at Krabo, Akti or Ithaki! Do beware that in Athens, some restaurants are closed during the summer months (May-August) as the city is so hot and most residents are on vacation in the Greek Isles!
- *Cafe Avessinia With great rooftop views of the Acropolis, this spot is great for lunch! Fresh-cooked, home-style Greek dishes, Cretan raki & accordion music in a traditional restaurant combining old & new.
- *Barbounaki Kolonaki – Delicious seafood – Be sure to get the dakos salad, taramasalata, tiny shrimp and sardines!
- Materia Prima – Wine bar
- Ovio – Italian specialties & Neapolitan pizza dished up in a polished venue that has a warm atmosphere.
- *Queen Bee – A corner bakery and go-to spot for brunch and pastries! They’ve got incredible baked goods and one of the best club sandwiches I’ve ever had!
- *Brunello – In the heart of Athen’s Kolonaki neighborhood, this buzzy spot is serving up Italian fare with a twist! And be sure to get their lemon pie for a sweet treat at the end!
- *Me Kolonaki – Easygoing healthy coffee shop with smoothie bowls, coffee and adorned with plans! Great for lunch!
- *Pharaoh – With a menu that changes weekly, this new spot has funky vibes, wood fire cooking, a great selection of natural wines and a hip crowd!
- *Cherchez La Femme – Casual, cozy option with a local menu featuring seafood, finger foods & sweets, plus coffee & wine. Get the tarama, crete salad!
- *Dopios – Great for dinner! Laid-back Greek kitchen with a vast terrace offering traditional souvlaki, steaks & seafood plates.
- *Nolan – If you’re not feeling like Greek cuisine, this compact, stylish, light-filled restaurant is serving an eclectic menu of elevated Asian fusion cuisine.
- *Black Duck Garden – Laid-back café with garden seating serving brunch staples & local dishes, plus coffee & cocktails.
- Kuzina – Creative Greek cuisine, a 2nd-floor art gallery & rooftop bar for cocktails with Acropolis views.
- Bel Ray – get the pork and kimchi quesadilla and detox juices
- To Omorfo – This family-ownded taverna is offering a variety of authentic & delicious Greek dishes!
- Karamanlidika – Casual dine-in butcher’s deli serving up traditional Greek cuisine and comfort food.
- Taverna Oikonomou – This off-the-beaten-path taverna remains one of the few places in Athens that serves real cooked Greek comfort food.
- Vassilenas – Elevated Greek cuisine with impeccable service!
- Kostas – Serving up some of the best souvlaki in town!
- *Philos – Chic coffee shop serving yogurt bowls, avocado toast, and delicious sandwiches – a great option for brunch!
- Acropolis Museum Café – Great spot for coffee before the Acropolis or cooling down for lunch after!
- Nice N Easy – Organic and healthy Mediterranean bistro (also in Mykonos!)
- Feyrouz – Informal Lebanese restaurant serving classic street foods, desserts & truffles, plus tea & coffee.
- Cookoovaya – Upscale, airy choice offering diverse seafood & meat dishes, plus small plates & wine.
- Eleas Gi (40 minutes north) – This traditional Greek restaurant is serving delicious upscale authentic dishes from their large tasting menu. With incredible views overlooking Athens!
- Ratka – Chic and lively French restaurant!
- Art Lounge at NEW Hotel – On the roof of NEW Hotel, the Art Lounge serves exceptional food and cocktails, topped off with panoramic views of Athens!
- Kalamaki Kolonaki – This casual souvlaki spot is one of our favorites for an easy and casual dinner (or a quick snack!). They’ve got a great Greek Salad and tasty skewers!
- Oikeio – This charming restaurant has a warm interior and is serving traditional family-style Greek!
- Heteroclito – An adorable wine bar in the historic center of the city!
- *Alexander’s Lounge – Located at the Hotel Grande Bretagne, this cocktail and cigar bar is a sophisticated space located in the hotel’s inner garden and offers an ideal setting for enjoying fine cigars, wine and cocktails!
- Alexandrinó – Set along the bustling Em Benaki strip, this cozy cafe transforms itself into a happening bar by sunset!
- *The Clumsies – This cocktail bar is generally at the top of most cocktail lists for Athens! Cocktails & classic pub fare are served at this quirky, multi-room bar with a warm atmosphere.
- Orizontes Lycabettus – Perched at the top of Lycabettus Hill, this restaurant offers a terrace with incredible panoramic views! The restaurant is seafood but would recommend coming for sunset cocktails. You can get here by car or a cable car!
- Bab au Rhum – Acclaimed outpost whipping up inventive cocktails in a playful atmosphere, plus outdoor seating.
- Blue Bird – A cozy bar close to Syntagma, on a pedestrian street/square called Ipitou. It was the first bar that opened in an area that is now full of them
- Kinonó – Industrial bi-level cafe & bar filled with plants serving coffee, cocktails & light bites.
- *Juan Rodriguez – Lively Mexican cocktail bar featuring vintage-style decor, plus breakfasts, pizzas & burgers.
- *Drachmi – Cocktails & coffee are served at this cozy, convivial hangout with outdoor tables.
- Shamone – Gay nightclub with cocktails, dancing, and drag performances!
- Tchin Tchin – Tucked in a narrow pedestrian alleyway, this bar is a cozy and local hangout!
- *Retiré Bar on Ergon Rooftop – Located above the chic eatery, this rooftop lounge is a great place to watch the sunset with views of the Acropolis!
- Poco a Poco – A lively cocktail bar in the heart of Kolonaki
- Zurbaran – This buzzy & contemporary restaurant and bar is serving all-day Mediterranean fare and fabulous cocktails at night!
- *Cinderella – Fun disco dance club — closed during summer months!
- *Electra Palace Roof Garden – Polished restaurant on the roof of a hotel, offering Mediterranean fusion dishes & sweeping views of the city!
Coffee shops & Bakeries:
- Cafe Veneti – Freshly baked Greek breads and pastries. There are a few throughout the city — there is also one located at the Athen’s Airport, right when you walk outside and it’s a must! I always get their spanakopita and a freddo espresso right when I land!
- Little Tree Books and Coffee – cozy bookshop cafe
- *Carpo – Nuts, chocolates, dried fruits, honey, coffee, and beverages! Also, they have shops in London as well!
- Kokkion – Serving up some of the best ice cream in Athens!
- Redd Coffee – Elevated third-wave espresso bar!
- *Behold Theman – Hip coffee shop serving breakfast bowls and snacks.
- *The Makers – The best place in the center of Athens for breakfast, brunch, coffee, and shopping!
- *Da Capo – Iconic cafe that’s been serving the Kolonaki scene for over 30 years
- *Yiasemi – A snug traditional cafe in the heart of Athen’s Old Town. It’s a great place to grab a freddo espresso before or after visiting the Acropolis.
- *Overoll Croissanterie – Chic and upscale bakery featuring round croissants and specializing in a spinach & feta inspired offering!
- Prasini Tenta – Halfway up Lycabettus Hill, this cafe is the perfect stop for a coffee or a bite to eat!
- Choureal – Elevated Greek pastries and sweet treats!
- Dry Caffe & Spuntino – Art Cafe
The “Athenian Riviera” or Seaside:
Athens’ seaside is a captivating stretch of coastline that offers a refreshing escape from the bustling city. With its proximity to the Aegean Sea, Athen’s seaside boasts numerous beautiful beaches and seaside neighborhoods as well as luxury resorts like The Four Seasons & Margi Hotel! Whether it’s soaking up the sun on the sandy shores, indulging in water sports, or enjoying fresh seafood at seaside tavernas, Athens’ seaside provides a perfect balance of relaxation and recreational activities, allowing visitors and locals alike to embrace the beauty of the Greek coastline right at the doorstep of the capital city! The seaside is about 35-minute drive southwest of the city center!
- *Krabo – Chic, airy beachfront club with a terrace serving local dishes & desserts, plus wine & cocktails. The beach isn’t the best here, but the dancing and vibes transport you to the Greek Isles!
- *Zen Beach Club – Chill beach club fixing up local bites & snacks, plus coffee & juices.
- Island Club & Restaurant – Seaside restaurant and music venue. Great for a sunset drink!
- *Akti – Chic beach restaurant serving elevated Greek cuisine. They don’t have a beach club with sun beds, but it’s right up against the water!
- Ithanki – Sophisticated venue with a terrace & sea views specializing in Mediterranean & Asian fusion cuisine!
- Tylixto Vouliagmeni – Great souvlaki spot to grab skewers and souvlaki before heading to the beach!
- Sardelaki me Thea – cute seafood restaurant with taverna-style seating along the seaside
- Malabar at the Margi Hotel – Day-to-night poolside restaurant & bar at the base of the Margi Hotel!
- *Dot Beach Vibes – Beach club and restaurant, perfect for a chill day and sunset!
- Matsuhisa – From the same owners as Nobu, it’s one of the best sushi spots in town!
- Astir Beach – Surrounded by pines, Astir Beach is a 400 meters long sandy beach, featuring 800 sunbeds, striped umbrellas, and a members’ only lounge!
- Visit the Acropolis
- See the Acropolis Museum
- See Athens’ Ancient ruins:
- Stroll the National Gardens
- Watch the Changing of the Guards at Syntamaga
- Visit the National Archaeological Museum
- Cook up a storm Traditional Greek cooking class includes a market visit and a full meal.
- Hike up Lycabettus Hill – This hike up the hill is an easy hike (similar to Runyon in LA!) that’s mostly paved. It might take you 20/30minutes to summit. It offers great viewpoints of Athens! A favorite to do in the morning!
- Visit the Athens Central Market (Varvakios Agora)
- Visit the Allouche Βenias Gallery for rotating contemporary art
- Watch the sunset on Mars Hill
- National Museum of Contemporary Art
- Pick up provisions at Pantopwlion and head into the pine forests of Philopappou Hill for a sunset picnic!
- Visit the Academy of Athens
- Explore the Panathenaic Stadium – this stadium is where the first modern Olympics took place in 1896!
- Go to Cape Sounion and visit the Temple of Poseidon (an hour’s drive from the city center)
- Underflow – gallery & record shop
- True Story Athens
- Athena Design Workshop
- The Makers – Cafe with home goods & apparel!
- Alicia – Men and women’s apparel.
- Stavros Melissinos sandal shop – for a pair of classic Greek leather sandals
- Soho Soho – Designer boutique with offerings for men & women!
- Mavriki & Co. – Outlet home goods.
- Kaloterakis – Home goods and furniture.
- Interni – Great selections of chic home goods from the iconic Mykonos restaurant!
- King George
- Hotel Grande Bretagne
- AthensWas – This is one of my favorite boutique hotels in the city!
- Gatsby Athens – A great stay! The location is fantastic
- Electra Palace Athens
- Davini Palace Acropolis
- The Margi Hotel (Seaside)
- Four Seasons Astir Palace (Seaside)
- Xenodocheio Milos
- NEW Hotel
- Ergon House
- Monsieur Didot
Athens is a city that has something for everyone. It is a city of history, culture, and mythology, with ancient ruins, museums, traditional neighborhoods, modern districts, and a lively nightlife scene. Whether you are visiting for a few days or a few weeks, Athens will leave a lasting impression on you. Have you been to Athens yet? Let me know your thoughts and what you’ve loved about this Ancient city!