//City guide: Athens

City guide: Athens

Whether it’s ancient history, contemporary culture or super cool restaurants, Athens has something for everyone. This is a city where antiquity sits right alongside modernity, where you will find radical bookshops a few streets away from parliamentary buildings. It’s a heady concoction that gives the Greek capital a feeling like no other. This is one of the oldest cities in the world, where you can spend a morning visiting Unesco sites followed by an afternoon shopping and an evening taking
in the buzzing nightlife.

No trip to Athens would be complete without a trip to the Acropolis, the remains of the ancient city. The Acropolis’s crowning jewel is the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to Athena, the city’s patron goddess. Athens is famed for being the birthplace of democracy and the Parthenon acts as a constant reminder – high up on a hill in the middle of the city, it can be seen from any rooftop and offers the perfect backdrop to sunset drinks. Admission is €20 and can be booked online. The relatively new Acropolis Museum (€12) is a five-minute walk from the Acropolis and is well worth a visit, housing many of the monuments that were found on the hillside of the Acropolis.

But not all of Athens is ancient history – the city is also home to a thriving contemporary arts scene, with numerous galleries, the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) and Neon, a non-profit organisation that organises exhibitions and events in surprise locations around the city. There is also the annual Athens & Epidaurus Festival, one of the longest-running performing arts festivals in Europe, which takes place at various venues around the city between May and September each year.

When it comes to eating and drinking Athens has got you covered. The city boasts four Michelin-starred restaurants and four more that have been awarded the Bib Gourmand. Many of their dishes are seafood or fish based, with the latter sourced directly from fishing boats plying the Aegean. In fact, there is so much fresh produce here. Order a mouth-watering choriatiki salad and expect organic tomato from Vravrona, cucumber from Kalyvia, oregano and capers from Mount Hymettus, black olives from Megara, virgin olive oil from Troezen, red wine vinegar from Spata, onion and garlic from Marathon and feta cheese from Lavrio. And you won’t be short of choice wherever you are in Athens – small tavernas can be found on most streets. Grab a table, order fresh fish, pita and olives and a bottle of cold beer, and enjoy a spot of people watching. 

Plaka is the area of Athens probably best known by tourists, in the shadow of the Acropolis and with a villagey feel, but nearby Psyri, with its nightlife and small artisan shops is worth a look, too. The Athens Riviera, the coastline to the south of the city, begins in Piraeus and ends at the tip of Cape Sounion. It’s just a short distance away from the centre and the beaches and bays are popular with locals and visitors alike.

Getting around is easy. Travel cards can be bought from any Metro station and a five-day ticket costs just €9 – and can be used on buses, too. With a flying time of about three hours and 40 minutes from the UK, Athens is the perfect city break and British tourist numbers indicate this, rising by almost ten per cent in 2018. 

The ABTA Magazine Guide to Greece

Produced in partnership with the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO), this publication features guides to Athens, Greece’s incredible food scene and its Unesco World Heritage sites. Created by Waterfront Publishing. Click on the cover to read the magazine in full or email info@ABTAmag.com to request a copy.