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Athens Tourism And Travel Guide
12.6° C / 54.6° F
March to November
5 to 7 Days
Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport
Athens Railway Station
Athens, as they say, is the beginning of the world. The cradle of western civilisation, the land that saw the rise and fall of Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and Byzantines; Athens is now the capital of Greece. Tourism in Athens is on a high almost all year round, except in winter time. With its ancient monuments and ruins, old neighbourhoods and museums, quaint family-owned cafes and aged tavernas, the city is an all round experience in history, culture and entertainment. Here is a brief travel guide to take you through the beautiful city of Athens.
How to Reach
The easiest and quickest way to reach Athens is by taking a flight to the capital.
Athens being an important European city has intense traffic on its airport from almost all over the world. From India, you have daily direct flights from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata etc. The airline carriers mostly plying on these routes include Air India, Turkish Airlines, Egypt Air and Qatar. The Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport is one of the busiest in the area.
Athens has two main rail lines but the network as a whole is not well developed. Therefore trains are not a very preferred mode of transport to travel to Athens.
Since Athens is a port city, it is no surprise that many a ships, cruises, catamarans and ferries dock here. Most Mediterranean cruises make a pit stop at Athens, while regular ferries and vessels come to the Port of Piraeus from Turkish, Balkan, Italian and English ports. The Greek islands are also well connected to Athens’ Port of Piraeus.
To travel around in the city of Athens, you have many options; from buses to trams, metros to taxis. The yellow taxis can be hailed on the road, while you can also call for Uber through the app.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
Athens is good to visit almost all year round, except probably a few winter months.
Spring (March to May):
Spring season brings the city of Athens to full bloom, as frost is melting and temperature climbing to the happy range of 10-21°C. This is great time to visit as the city has long sunny days but not too much crowd.
Summer (June to August):
By June the sun streams hot over Athens and the heat is sultry, with highs touching 35°C. Summer is also the high tourist season so you will find every tourist place overcrowded. Most local business, shops and family-owned cafes shut down too as they pack up to escape heat. All in all, summer can be avoided.
Autumn (September to November):
Autumn in Athens is another amazing shoulder season for a visit. What with mild temperatures of 15-26°C and loads of open spaces with summer crowds gone. This is also a cheaper time to find accommodations.
Winter (December to February):
Winter is rainy, cold and sometimes icy too in Athens. The sun hardly shows itself and everything is under a thick cold air. So nothing much can be done in terms of tourism and sightseeing. This season must be avoided.
Things to Do
Visit the Acropolis:
When in Athens, Acropolis is a must. The hill in the centre of the city houses three beautiful temple ruins, namely the Erechtheum, the Temple of Athena Nike and the famous Parthenon. You can hike up the hill in the wee hours of the morning, do a round of tour and return to the foothills in time for breakfast/brunch.
Do an Athens Monuments Tour:
Athens is a fertile ground for ancient history and monuments that bear witness to that past. Visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Ancient Agora marketplace and Kerameikos Cemetery. Hadrian’s Library is also a good place for history buffs.
Explore Plaka & Anafiotika Neighbourhood:
The Plaka neighbourhood in the foothills of Acropolis is a very ancient village, and is one of the best areas to enjoy a stroll. You will find yourself embraced by cute homes in pastel shades, with bougainvillaea spilling over walls, terracotta and whitewashed rock steps as well as narrow alleyways. Anafiotika is another smaller neighbourhood fringing Plaka and has white houses.
Enjoy Athenian Nightlife:
Athens isn't all history and no fun. In fact, the nightlife of Psiri district, Exarchia and Plaka make for some covetable indulgence. You will find pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes all open late into the night with happy hours to placate tourists.
Change of Guard at Syntagma Square:
Change of Guard ceremonies are usually famous in countries of monarchial governments but Greece makes an exception. The Changing of Guard ceremony takes place outside the Hellenic Parliament in Syntagma Square, where the soldiers change duties everyday with a protocol parade at 11 am.
What to Eat
The Greeks do eat some of the freshest, lightest meals. From fresh salads to crisp virgin olive oil dressings, pastas to pastries, the cuisine here is delectable. Athenians too love their Greek village food. So expect to find some great dishes like freshly baked bread, split pea soups, paradosiakos, pork meat with pita bread and salad leaves, moussaka, spinach pies, Koulouri (bagel) and the beloved Horiatiki Salata or Greek salad (red onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese with light olive oil and vinegar dressing).
Deserts are heavily Turkish-inspired here and include the syrupy diamond shaped baklava, Karidopita or walnut cakes, semolina halva, and mildly flavoured yogurts. The locals mainly prefer thick Greek coffee to drink with desert, and special Greek wines to go with their meals.
Where to Shop
If a part of Athens caters to the hip and luxurious lot with brands like Bershka, Zara, Marks & Spencer, UCB etc, the other serves those who love bargains, trinkets, big street and handmade wares. You will find the luxury brands lined in chic boutiques down the Syntagma Street and Kolonaki, while local handmade leather sandals, porcelain ware and ceramics, Greek fashion etc in Monastiraki, Thiseio and Plaka neighbourhoods. Glyfada is a suburb for street shopping by the sea and is a wonderful experience. And while you are at it, do also try the flea markets that set shop every now and then, especially on Sundays in summers.