In this article I would like to share with you the best things to do in Athens – the capital of Greece. Although I wasn’t born in Athens, this city is still a place that is close to my heart. I was actually born and raised in a place called Argos – a city in the Peloponnese, in southern Greece.
Argos used to be one of the most important centres of the Mycenaean civilization and is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city of Europe. After I finished school, I moved to Athens to study acting. Ten years ago I started working in photography and theatre at the same time.
I inherited a love for travel from my parents. Although, they couldn’t travel often because of work commitments. My relationship with photography was sparked when Instagram began to take off. Before that, it wasn’t a passion of mine. You can follow my photography on Instagram: @fanellas.
Living in Victoria Square, Athens
I live in one of the most historic neighborhoods of Athens: Victoria Square. Before World War II, the first apartment buildings of the time were built here, among neoclassical buildings. All the great architects of the time had influence at the square. We have some stunning buildings!
In recent years, the main feature of the neighborhood is multiculturalism. It’s located at a key point in the city. The National Archaeological Museum is within walking distance and the other main archeological sites – like the Acropolis – are one metro stop away. Exarcheia and Kypseli are a couple of other great neighboring areas with many restaurants, cafes and bars.
All in all, I love living in Athens because of its energy and light. It’s a city that offers you everything – history, multi-culture, gastronomy, coffee and nightlife. You can even find some nice mountains and beaches nearby. In fact, my favorite areas for photography are the coastal parts of Athens – the Athens Riviera – because I love visiting the sea all year round.
Top 10 Things To Do in Athens
Athens has something for everyone – starting from the Acropolis and the incredible views it affords from almost every corner of the city and then heading down to the Athens Riviera which offers surprisingly stunning beaches. Below I will outline my top 10 things to do in Athens for your visit.
1. Escape the Summer Heat to the Athens Riviera
Not many visitors to Athens realize that in the greater Athens area lies 70km of beautiful coastline stretching along the Saronic Gulf. But of course, locals grow up fleeing to these beaches to escape the sweltering mid-summer temperatures. Visitors here will discover palm tree esplanades and pristine beaches – all encapsulated by a laid-back Greek atmosphere.
2. Shop for Antiques at the Monastiraki Flea Market
From Monday to Saturday the Monastiraki Flea Market is more of a collection of shops rather than a flea market. The market is best visited on Sunday when vendors bring tables and carpets as a base to sell their antiques. Everyone from Greeks, immigrants from Eastern Europe and gypsies set up shop and sell everything from old books to antique pistols!
3. Visit Metaxourgeio & Kerameikos Neighborhoods
Both the Metaxourgeio and Kerameikos neighborhoods are characterized by interesting archaeological sites, creative street art, great museums and trendy restaurants, bars and nightclubs. They were both gentrified in the 1990’s and now combine to make one of the coolest areas in the capital.
4. Eat & Drink your Way through the Streets of Psirri
Psirri is a little gem of Athens full of bohemian cafes and stunning gallery spaces. There is not much you can’t do within a few blocks but the ultimate activity is to eat and drink your way through the streets. Restaurants and cafes in this Athenian microcosm have been run by the same families for generations and it shows in the spirit of the food. Be sure to visit hungry!
5. Check out the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens
The Museum of Cycladic Art is the go-to place in Athens to get inspired by Cycladic art. If you plan on exploring the beautiful Cycladic islands after your trip to Athens then this place will give you the inspiration you need. Over 3,000 stunning works of art are on display across four majestic stories.
6. Stroll around Koukaki after visiting the Acropolis
Koukai is a wonderful place to explore after visiting the Acropolis. You can find many cafes and bars such as the Bel Ray and Kinono. Stroll around the sidewalks lined with orange trees and marvel at the Acropolis which shadows the area. Koukaki is a charming spot and so it’s no surprise that it has become one of the most popular Airbnb destinations in the city.
7. Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center is the city’s top performance center and is home to the Greek National Opera and National Library. Be sure to check out their website (www.snfcc.org) prior to visiting Athens for any free live events such as outdoor concerts or movies.
8. Walk or Bike around the Tatoi Royal Palace
Discover the remains of the Tatoi Royal Palace – the summer palace and 42 km² estate of the former Greek Royal Family. A fantastic place to explore for the afternoon on a walking or biking adventure. Also, not a bad spot to take some unique photos as it’s set in the wooded foothills of Mount Parnitha.
9. Have Drinks in the Underrated Pagrati District
The Pagrati district of Athens is tucked away behind the old Panathenaic stadium and is rarely visited by tourists. But this is a good thing as you will discover authentic Athens away from the crowds. Come at night to explore the range of cocktail bars and speakeasies such as Frater & Soror, Pink Freud and Arbaroriza, among others. Have drinks with locals in Pagrati!
10. Breakfast at a Garden in the Numismatic Museum
Take a tour of the Numismatic Museum and enjoy a breakfast in a secret garden (call in advance to book)! The museum is housed in the former mansion of Heinrich Schliemann, a world famous archaeologist, and possesses a coin collection with over 500,000 items. It’s considered to be one of the most important numismatic museums in the world.
Food & Drink Scene of Athens
Athens is a foodie heaven. You can find anything you like – from trendy mezze bistros right up to Michelin-starred restaurants, from grilled meat on a stick or wrapped in pita bread right up to sushi. For seafood lovers, there are some fantastic choices from Piraeus all the way up to the Athens Riviera. Below I will outline my favorite cafes, restaurants and bars.
Best Cafes in Athens:
- A Tot Coffee & Organic Goods
- Anana Coffee & Food
- Ble Papagalos
- Frater & Soror
- Kora Bakery
- Lotte Cafe-Bistrot
Best Restaurants in Athens:
- Seychelles Restaurant
- Fita Restaurant
- Nolan Restaurant
Best Bars in Athens:
- The Noel Bar
- Barrett Bar
- The Foundry Suites
- Tiki Bar
Need to Know Before you Go
When it comes to accommodation, as mentioned above, there are many great Airbnbs to choose from in the Koukaki area. Specific hotels I can recommend are The Foundry Suites, City Circus Hostel and Perianth Hotel.
The metro is the best and cheapest way to get around the city. You can use mobile apps like Beat or Uber but they will be slightly more expensive. When you are walking around the city in the middle of summer, always try to avoid direct sunlight by walking in the shade under balconies or trees. Trust me, it gets hot! Last but not least, enjoy your time in this ancient city!