Updated: Jul 29
I love Greece, the people, the food, the history, the beaches. That being said, Athens is not my favorite place in Greece. I recommend that you plan for a few days in Athens and then head out to explore the Peloponnese Peninsula or the Islands. If you are staying in Athens for longer than three days, I recommend you plan a day trip or two.
Athens is considered the cradle of western civilization. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. As you wander through her streets, ancient ruins greet you on almost every corner. It is also a modern city that can be hot, congested, and decorated with bright graffiti murals. My advice is embrace it, explore it and use it as a jumping off point to see the rest of Greece!
Eat at Strofi
When CaptK says "Greece," I say "make a reservation at Strofi." We found this gem of a restaurant on a trip to Greece in 2008 and we always have one meal at Strofi anytime we visit Athens. This multiple story restaurant has a rooftop dining area and a stunning view of the Acropolis and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The food is delicious and the view is even better. I recently asked a hotel concierge which Athens Restaurant does she most frequently recommend, she said "Strofi."
Their menu has a good variety of traditional Greek dishes, with meat, fish and vegetarian choices. At our most recent visit we feasted on Traditional Greek Salad, Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Grilled Sea Bream, all while enjoying a stunning view of the Acropolis.
Take a Food Tour
I admit it, I love food tours. I love learning about the culinary history. I love trying new foods. I love hanging out with other foodies. When I get a chance, I book us a food tour. One of my favorites is the Athens Evening Food Tour. Listed below are some great options for Food Tours in Athens.
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Watch the Changing of the Guard
At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just below the Parliament Building in Syntagma Square, there is an hourly changing of the Honor Guard Ceremony. The Guards are dressed in the ceremonial uniforms of the Greek Army. With military precision and pomp, a new set of guards replace the current set. If you are lucky enough to be there on Sunday morning at 11:00am, you will have the opportunity to see the platoon replacement ceremony. Accompanied by a military band, the new platoon guards relieve the current platoon. This is quite a sight to see.
Wander Through the Plaka
From below to Acropolis on its northeastern slope nearly to Syntagma Square is the Plaka. A neighborhood of shops, cafes and restaurants, known as the Neighborhood of the Gods. This maze of cobblestone streets, neoclassic buildings and ancient Greek and Roman ruins is the oldest neighborhood in Athens. It is built on top of the residential areas of ancient Greece. The cobblestone pedestrian streets are home to tavernas, antiquity shops and street art. You can spend a whole day exploring this area. With the twisty streets and open air cafes, it is not hard to image how the Plaka looked in ancient times.
Have a World Class Cocktail
The World's 50 Best Bars is an annual list that celebrates excellence in Cocktails. It is the industry’s most prestigious award. In 2020 Athens had two establishments on the list. At #31, making its first appearance on the list is Baba au Rum. We have not yet tried Baba au Rum. We will definitely get there in 2022.
We did have the opportunity to sip a libation at Clumsies, #3 on the 2020 World's Best Bars List. From the beautiful patio to the menu that requires a blue light to read it, to the high quality ingredients in the cocktails, the attention to details at Clumsies is impeccable. All the photos in this section are from our afternoon cocktail time at Clumsies.
Places to Stay
The first time we visited Greece was in 1983. We stayed at a small extremely budget friendly hotel just off of Syntagma Square. Glittering brightly on the square was the luxurious Grande Bretagne Hotel, where we always said we would return to someday and stay. We have now stayed there 3 times. If you are looking for a luxury hotel experience, this hotel is centrally located, has a rooftop bar and Michelin star rooftop restaurant with an amazing view of the Acropolis, a rooftop pool and an opulent lobby bar. Looking for something more budget friendly, The NEW Hotel is on the other side of Syntagma Square and a great jumping off place to explore Athens.
Ready to book your hotel in Athens, check out the great prices on Booking.com.
Visit the Acropolis Museum
On a recent visit to Athens, we visited the new Acropolis Museum. This contemporary museum holds some of the antiquities from excavations of the Acropolis. It walks you through the construction, history, and insight into daily life around the Acropolis. A visit to the museum, leaves you with a broad perspective of what the Acropolis looked like in ancient Greek times. I would highly recommend visiting the museum before visiting the Acropolis. Advanced tickets can be purchased from the Acropolis museum website for 5 euro. We did a 4 hour Acropolis and Acropolis Museum Tour that I would highly recommend if your group has interests in ancient Greece and history.
Visit the Acropolis
Standing above Athens is the sanctuary of Ancient Greece, the Acropolis and its temple to the Goddess Athena. It is one of the most recognizable ancient sites in the world. It has stood as a symbol of western civilization since the 5th century BCE. The entrance fee is 20 euro. For 30 euro you can get a 5 day ticket that gives you entrance to all the ancient sites in Athens as well as the Acropolis Museum. For more information visit the Acropolis website.
Sip a Cocktail with a View
The Acropolis make a stunning backdrop for an evening cocktail or nightcap. It is brilliantly illuminated and sparkles spectacularly at night. Check out The Rooftop Guide to find a rooftop establishment near your hotel, in Athens.
Walk Through the National Gardens
South and slightly east on Syntagma Square, is the National Gardens. This is an oasis of serenity in a city that can be chaotic. The Gardens start near Syntagma Square and end at the old Athens Gates and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It is a beautiful park that is dotted with statues and ruins. It is well worth a visit.
Take a Day Trip or Two
I love Greece, however Athens sometimes feels hot, crowded and chaotic . If your plan has you staying in Athens for more than a few days, book a day trip outside the city. It will broaden your perspective on Greece, allow you to experience the best Greece has to offer and maybe even swim in the sea. Photos above are from the Three Island Cruise to Hydra, Poros, and Aegina.
If you prefer land based tours. There are three tours I would recommend:
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