Classical sites and modern architecture mingle in the storied streets of this historical city celebrated in mythology and considered the heart of Ancient Greece. Although you can spend days exploring the fascinating ruins and extensive museums, be sure to slow down and enjoy the views of the Acropolis from a rooftop terrace or an iced coffee under a shady fig tree to experience the city like a true Athenian.
The Acropolis of Athens and the Parthenon
There is no more striking image of Athens than the illuminated ruins of the Acropolis towering over the city. The temples and monuments of this spectacular ancient citadel represent the golden era of Greek civilization, most notably the Doric-columned Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess of Athena. Although many of the original treasures can only be seen now in museums, there’s no parallel experience to climbing this rocky slope to reach the pinnacle as the Greek gods once did.
The Acropolis Museum
A marvel of a modern museum in the shadow of the Acropolis, the interior combines contemporary architecture and ancient artifacts. Don’t miss the ruins near the entrance of the glass façade, and the top-floor Parthenon Gallery, which recreates the temple’s interiors with marble friezes.
The gardens behind the Parliament Building (also known as the Old Royal Palace) are free to enter. A stroll through the 38-acre park is a a lovely way to relax and enjoy time away from city life. The Changing of the Guards in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Parliament Building takes place every hour on the hour, 24 hours a day. The soldiers are dressed in the traditional 19th century costume from southern Greece — a pleated uniform, and shoes tipped with black or red pom-poms called foonda — and is a photo op you won’t want to miss.
The commercial, civic, and social hub of classical Athens, this was the center of everyday life and you can imagine craftsmen and workers toiling here and selling their wares alongside religious events and processions. Highlights you can explore today include the colonnaded Stoa of Attalos, which was reconstructed in the 1950s, and the circular Tholos, the seat of the government.
Reenter modern life in the charming Plaka neighborhood where wandering the labyrinthine streets covered in bougainvillea delivers you to quaint cafés where you can try a frappé (shaken iced coffee, a national obsession). For lunch, pop into a local taverna to try authentic, local delicacies such as spanakopita (spinach pie), flaky baklava (a sweet, flaky dessert made with nuts, filo, and syrup), and shots of anise-flavored ouzo (a popular Greek aperitif). After lunch, browse in the gold shops and check out the second-century Arch of Hadrian, a famous archeological site.
Where to Stay in Athens
Wyndham Grand Athens: For a clean, roomy, polished experience, you can’t go wrong with this well-situated Wyndham. The 276-room property features a scenic rooftop pool, bar, and restaurant. Don't miss the amazing buffet breakfast (added fee) featuring Greek treats. Tip: Request to stay on one of the upper floors, where you can enjoy stunning Acropolis views from the comfort of your room. Rates from $103 per night, depending on the season.
The Periscope Hotel: Modern design fans will love this slick property, located in the heart of the stylish Kolonaki neighborhood. An underwater theme translates to a soothing palate of blues and grays in the all-day lounge, and the curated art installations bring the atmosphere of Athens into the public spaces and upscale guest rooms. Rates from $134 per night, depending on the season.
Hotel Grande Bretagne: Stay right on Syntagma Square at this five-star hotel, part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection. The location provides unparalleled views of the Acropolis from its rooftop restaurant and bar and also allows you to explore many of the city’s ancient treasures and neighborhoods by foot. The elegant entrance sets the stage for an extra-comfortable stay that includes both indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, fitness and business centers, and plush bedding in the spacious rooms and suites. Rates from $320 per night, depending on the season.
Getting from Athens to Mykonos
There are three ways to get from Athens to Mykonos. The first is the fastest — and also the most expensive: flying from Athens to Mykonos, which takes approximately 45 minutes. Next is the SeaJet ferry, which takes approximately two to three hours. Finally, the Blue Star Ferry is the least expensive option and also the longest (about five hours).
Getting from Athens to Santorini
The fastest way to get to Santorini is to take a 45-minute flight. There are also two different ferry options: there's the SeaJet, which takes about five hours, and Blue Star Ferry, which costs half the amount of the SeaJet ferry, and takes about eight hours.