THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN ATHENS: Athens travel guide

THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN ATHENS: Athens travel guide

Jun 23, 2023

Athens, the capital of Greece, is a city steeped in history and culture. It's a must-visit destination for anyone interested in ancient civilisations and their contributions to the world. The city is home to some of the worlds best archaeological sites. Such as the Acropolis Museum, the Parthenon, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the ancient Agora. which offers a glimpse into Athens' rich past.

If you are visiting Athens for the first time, our Athens travel guide will provide you with all the travel tips and tricks you will need for your trip to Athens.

Our Athens travel guide will give you an in-depth look at how to live, eat and act like a true Athenian. Whether it's finding the perfect view of the Acropolis or finding that special day trip from Athens, our guide will help you navigate through this wonderful city!

12 Tips while visiting Athens

To start our guide to Athens, it's best to provide you with some tips about the city and the people.

1. Languages spoken in Athens

Of course Greek is the official language, but most Greek people these days speak English very well. It can be difficult to find an English speaking Greek as you travel further in to the small villages of mainland Greece, but in Athens, English is everywhere.

Other languages that are widely spoken in Greece are Spanish, Italian, French and German.

2. Pedestrian crossings

Crossing the road in Athens can be a life-changing experience. Crossing the road in Athens has gotten better over the last decade, in that drivers at least acknowledge pedestrian crossings, but the car is still king on the roads! So be careful! Even if the traffic lights are red and the green signal is telling you you can walk, stop, look both ways, then cross.

Next, we have a Zebra crossing or crosswalk. Those white lines in the middle of the road mean nothing to Greek drivers. Always stop, wait for the car to stop, then double check the car has actually stopped, then proceed to walk across the street.

3. Tipping 

Tipping in Athens goes a long way for the people of Athens, especially in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Whether it's leaving 50 cents for a coffee or €1 after having a refreshing beer it all helps out the Greek people.

Tipping is not mandatory like in the USA, so it is really up to you whether you would like to leave a tip or not.

4. Archaeological sites in Athens 

When visiting the archaeological sites of Athens keep an eye out for the combo tickets. This type of ticket will get you into multiple sites throughout the city.

Usually, signs outside of the site will display the ticketing options. if you do not see this, just ask the ticketing booth for the ticketing options, and they will provide you with the correct ticket.

For more information on buying tickets, check out our post on how and where to buy your site seeing tickets.

5. Licensed tour guides

When looking for tours in Athens you may be approached by tour guides in the heart of the city - make sure that they are licensed local guides.

The licensed guides will always have a lanyard around their neck with their photo ID and their license number.

These are the official guides who have been awarded their license via the Greek government.

6. Athens footpaths / walkways

The streets of Athens can be a bit of a landmine when walking through the city. The streets are tiny to start with and the footpaths are very uneven, so be careful when walking around.

7. Cab / taxi drivers

Athens without cabs / taxis is like a world without gravity. They are the lifeblood of the city. Whether it's a day trip to Delphi or a ride to the airport, these men and women can be your best friend or your worst enemy!

Most of the time, with the birth of the new modern Athens, the taxi drivers are polite, and informative and will get you to where you want with no trouble at all.

One thing to note, do not get in to a taxi if the driver is smoking. It is against the law, now matter what he says!

If you are picking up a taxi from the side of the street, always ask the cost of the journey before you take off!

8. Athens is thriving

Athens, along with most of the country has bounced back with a vengeance from their collapse during the crisis years in Europe.

Athens and Greece are back! It's not the sick man of Europe anymore, if anything it's one of the few thriving places in the EU. The city that was once a stop over for the Greek Islands, is now a city that never sleeps.

Every month there a new restaurants, rooftop bars and retail shops opening throughout the city centre.

It is still a cheaper travel destination when compared to other European cities, but the days of a €30 taxi trip to the airport are long gone.

These trips are now starting from €40 depending on the time of day you take your trip.

If you are in need of a private transfer from the airport to the city centre, or a day trip to Delphi or Nafplio, here at Volta Tours we offer private transfers.

A private transfer can be booked here

9. August 15th

If you are planning your summer getaway to Greece, Athens will be virtually empty in August especially the week of the 15th of August.

The 15th of August is a major holiday for the Greeks, It's a huge celebration (religious in nature), but wherever you are the main villages around the country will hold a Panagia (a huge festival), which involves food, drink music, and a lot of Greek dancing.

One of my favourite islands to visit during this period is Ikaria. The people are welcoming and the traditional dancing from this island is one of my favourite things to experience.

10. Cash v Card

Over the past 5 years, Athens has seen a shift away from cash transactions to cards.

In saying this, cash is still accepted in all places in Athens so it's best to always carry €50 or €100 of cash with you.

Most cards are accepted in Athens, but American Express outside of the luxury and boutique hotels and stores, will be hard to use.

11. Smoking indoors

Smoking indoors has been outlawed in the entire country. In saying that you will find a few places late at night where those rules go out the window.

Generally in tourist spots, smoking around food or indoors is forbidden.

12. Apps to use in Athens

The digital world is alive and well in Athens. Here are some apps that may be useful, while you venture through this great city:

Uber -  Widely used (although a cab / taxi will appear instead of a local car)

eFood: Fancy a late-night snack or a Freddo espresso delivered to your door, eFood is the food delivery app for you.

TheList - If you are wanting to book a restaurant, bar, or a sun-bed at the beach, this is the app for you

Summerize: An app similar to TheList, allowing you to book a sunbed at a beach or a table at a restaurant.

All apps are available on the App and Google Play store.

Best time to visit

Depending on what you are after, Athens can be a great summer vacation or that perfect winter getaway to mainland Greece.

Here at Volta Tours, the best time to visit Athens is April - May just before the heat settles in.

Also, October-November is a nice time to visit as the country starts to cool down from summer.

But if a hot summer is what you are after, then late June - early September is the best time for eating, swimming, and drinking your days away. Athens has some great beaches that are well worth the visit!

Public transport & car hire

Getting around central Athens can be a joy or it can be hell. It all depends on the time of day and where you are travelling to, and of course the mode of transport.

If you are staying in the centre of the city most of the ancient sites, bars, cafes, and restaurants are all within walking distance. So you will most probably be lucky enough to avoid the public transport of Athens.

If you do need to travel to the outer suburbs, the metro is a great way to get around. It goes to most suburbs in central Athens. It is a clean and fast way to get where you are going.

A pro tip when catching the train is to get the 24hr ticket which costs €4.10c.

Avoid taking a taxi during peak hours as you will not move. This also goes for the trolley buses.

If you do decide to take a taxi, you will soon notice they are everywhere. Hailing one from the side of the street will be no problem and there are plenty of taxi ranks around the main city centre of Syntagma.

You can also order an Uber. As mentioned above,  ordering an Uber in Greece you will be sent a yellow taxi, not a local Opel or Skoda car.

If you muster up the courage and want to hire a car, there are a few things you will need to be aware of when doing so.

Here is our blog post on Renting a car in Greece which guides you through the process of car hire in Athens.

Athens Airport & Ferry Ports

Getting to and from the ports and airport can be a daunting task, especially in a foreign country. Below are 2 guides to help you with this.

The first is for blog is to help you with the workings of Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos.

The second blog is a guide for the numerous Athens ports that will get you to the Greek islands.

Transport guides

What to do in Athens

So you have chosen to visit Athens, one of the oldest cities in the world. Every corner of the city feels like it had been built centuries ago. The city is steeped in history, and its early days the city was under constant attack from the Persians.

The Persians burnt down the first incarnation of the Acropolis along with many Athenians who decided to defend their city. The Acropolis was rebuilt once again, this time in homage to the goddess Athena. This is what we see today.

Up until the Ottoman occupation of Greece, the Parthenon was the best-preserved ancient structure in the world. But in 1687 during this occupation, the Ottomans stored their ammunition in the Parthenon and came under attack from the Venetians. The Venetians bombed the hill and hit the Acropolis causing a massive explosion. This caused a massive crater in the centre of the building which can be seen today.

A complete history of Athens can be found here , and if you would like some further reading on the Acropolis our blog post; The history of the Parthenon delves into the history of the building that signifies Athenian life.

Not too far from the Acropolis of Athens is the Ancient Roman Agora, this is the old Roman market and next to that is the Ancient Roman library.

If sport and the olympics are your thing, then a visit to the The Panathenaic Stadium is a must. This is the birth place of the modern Olympics. Under the stadium is a museum with some great sporting artefacts.

To see all of these fascinating structures an Athens walking city tour could be your best option. Most of the sites are in walking distance. To book a walking tour view our selection of walking tours.

Museums in Athens

When visiting Athens there are a plethora of museums to visit that display ancient Greek culture. The Benaki museum, The National Archaeological museum and The Acropolis Museum are a must on your list of museums to see. The museums hold ancient treasures of a time gone by including the worlds oldest computer which is on display in the National Archaeological Museum.

If the Cycladic islands are your favourite islands in Greece, then the museum of Cycladic Art is a must. The museum showcases this thriving regions pottery, arts and clothing among other artefacts.

Tours are available for the museum so please take a look at our tour page

Day Trips

After visiting all of the ancient sites in central Athens a day trip out of the centre can provide a different view of Ancient Greece. Some day trips that are not too far from central Athens are: Cape Sounion where the Temple of Poseidon , Nafplio which was once the capital of Greece during the 1800's.

Of the most fascinating and eerily feeling archaeological sites in Greece is Delphi. As soon as you arrive to Delphi, a strange yet calming feeling will come over you. The actual site of Delphi is fantastic and the museum holds some of the most impressive statues through the whole of Greece.

A food tour through Athens is also a great way to sample the local cuisine. Walking through the Athens central market, or as its known the agora. The street food scene in Athens is alive and well and is a major part of every day Greeks lunch time.

As food is a major part of Greek lifestyle there also cooking classes available. They usually run for 4-5 hours and take you through the steps of cooking some classic Greek food.

You can always take a tour to the highest point of Athens is lycabettus hill. There is a great view from up on top of the hill. Also situated on top of the hill is a restaurant which is great for dinner and the view is spectacular.

Visiting islands close to Athens

Fancy visiting a island, well there are several islands that are close to Athens and can be a nice break away from the hustle and bustle city life. The Saronic Islands consists of Aegina, Agistri, Hydra and Poros.

We have put together a guide on the best islands to visit: Our Best Greek islands close to Athens blog post.

Travelling to these islands is very easy - you can book your ferry ticket via The ferries / hydrofoils leave from Piraeus and within a couple of hours you are on an island getaway.

Free things to do in Athens

Every day on the hour is the changing of the guard, or Evzones. The guards are stationed outside Parliament and stand guard in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier. They are dressed in their traditional Greek dress and perform a ritual dance in honour of fallen soldiers. It has become a popular event with tourists so it may be worth arriving 10 minutes early to grab you spot for that perfect photos.

Be warned, just like the Kings guard in England, do not touch or get in the way of the guards as they will not stop for anyone!

For more information on the Evzones have a read of our blog post that explains the history and tradition of The Ezvones: The Presidential Guard.

For a spectacular view of the city, visiting Mount Lycabettus is a must. The highest point in Athens you get a birds eye view of the city.

On top of the hill is a church along with a restaurant, where the view is one of the best views in Athens.

A walk through the National Gardens is also a nice way to explore the greener part of the city. These gardens were part of the large grounds of the King of Greece. When he was forced out of the country the gardens were opened to the public.

The Agora of Athens, which today consists of Fresh seafood and meat. Located a short stroll from Monastiraki sqaure, here you will see the local market where Athenians buy their produce from. Inside the agora are some great restaurants where you can sample the delicious seafood and meats. If you are a foodie, this is definitely a place to visit. 

Greek Suburbs to Visit


Probably the most popular area to visit in Athens. It is the oldest and most important spot in the city. The area sits below the Acropolis and today contains some of the best ruins and artefacts such as the Ancient Agora of Athens, Tower of the Winds and the Romain Library.

The winding streets are now lined with cafes, restaurants and stores, and the architecture of the area is a look back to how Athens once was.

Sitting just below the Parthenon is the neighbourhood of Anafiotika. Anafiotika has the look and feel of being on a Greek island.

The reason for this is that the people who created this area were from the island of Anafi. They were workers who came to Athens, but felt homesick. So to cure this homesickness they created Anafiotika which resembled their houses and villages on Anafi.

Bordering Plaka is the Athens flea market. Located in downtown Athens, the flea market is full of shops, cafes and restaurants. Taking a stroll through the market, you are bound to find a a trinket to take home with you, or at least have a drink on the many rooftop bars in the area.


Pertalona is a gem of a place to visit in Athens. The suburb is below the acropolis and sits next to Filopappou hill. The suburb is great for a Sunday lunch as some of the best restaurants and cafes are situated in Ano Pertralona. If you want to be in the centre of Athens and close to Athens attractions, this suburb is it. If sipping on a wine over some meze late into the night is your thing, then Ano Pertralono will feel like home to you.

A must visit for a place to to eat is Volta restaurant. No connection to Volta Tours, but it serves some great traditional greek dishes based on seasonal ingredients.

Where to stay in Athens

Staying in the city centre is your best option when visiting Athens Greece. Some nice areas are Syntagma, Plaka, Psyrri, Koukai, Kolonaki, Hilton / Ilisia and Pagrati.

Whether its a hotel or an Airbnb, these suburbs are centrally located and have their own feel to them, with bars, cafes and restaurants. They are all walking distance to the centre, but if its too hot to walk they are connected with a metro line.

Cafes and restaurants

If eating and drinking is your thing, then you are in the right city. Athens food and drink scene is one of the best in the world.

For a guide on where and what to eat, take a look at our Athens food guide . This guide outlines a few known places and few places only a true local knows of.

If coffee is the only thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, then take a look at our Greek coffee guide . The Greeks take the coffee serious, so you wont be disappointed!

If you are after some delicious vegan or vegetarian food, we have created a guide of the 17 best vegan and vegetarian Greek dishes, that will help you decide which dish to order!

If you are a meat eater, our best Greek meat dishes post will have you covered!

We also have a great article on Greek Seafood, which highlights the best seafood dishes Greece has to offer.

Athens nightlife

Athens nightlife starts later than most cities around the world. Things dont really get started until 1:30-2am, and can go on till late in the morning.

Athens nightlif can be split in to 3 categories. rooftop bars, street level bars and bouzoukia 

Rooftop bars: Mostly located in Syntagma, Plaka and Monastiraki these bars offer a great view of the Acropolis, with one of the best views coming from the Electra Metropolis Hotel rooftop bar. City Zen is another popular rooftop bar, which is located in Monastiraki.

Street level bars: Every couple of months there seems to be a new bar opening. Not only in the city centre but in the surrounding suburbs. As of writing this blog post 2 new hot spots that have opened are Feelin Good in Koukaki and Pharaoh in the suburb of Exarchia.

Bouzoukia: If a traditional live music venue is what you are after then the bouzouki is for you. The nights start at around 11pm and go on till 7-8 in the morning.

If you want to see how a Greek spends their money on a weekend, this is it. Live music, lost of alcohol and flowers thrown on stage as a homage to the singer.

As Athens has now become a 24/7 city, it is best to book a table for most places when venturing out. If you are on a bar hopping night, you will be fine searching for bars especially in the city centre. It will be hard not to fine somewhere to drink in this city!

Best beaches in Athens

When people think of Athens they don’t really think of beaches. But the Athenian Riviera boasts some of the nicest coastlines in mainland Greece.

Take a look at our list of best Athens beaches on the Riviera

There are many ways to get to the beaches. Public transportation by tram will get you to the sand and sea as will a taxi. 

Buying a Sim Card in Greece

Need a sim card while travelling through Greece. Check out our guide on how to buy a sim card in Greece

Contact us

Need help organising your trip through the Greek islands? Do not hesitate to contact us at to discuss your possible itinerary options.