By Alex Kallimanis: I’ve made eight trips to Greece since 1999. Beautiful scenery, hospitable people and great times continue to draw us back. I’ve enjoyed watching Athens transform over the years, and the city is as cool and edgy as ever. Last year a record 30 million visitors traveled to Greece. With gorgeous photos plastered around social media, tourism should continue to grow in 2018. Greece remains a great travel deal, but the busy season for Athens is now running through October. So here are 5 tips for visiting Athens in 2018!
1) Where to Stay in Athens in 2018?
Our recent family trip to Greece in October 2017 was my 89 year old father’s final planned trip to the place of his birth. As we were traveling around the country, we were in and out of Athens several times. We stayed in a combination of Airbnb apartments and hotels in Athens and the nearby port of Piraeus.
Our trip began at Ioannis’ lovely Airbnb apartment in Athens. At $125 US per night for a charming 3 bedroom apartment that comfortably slept our group of 5, this was a better deal compared to booking three hotel rooms. The apartment features an art deco interior but with modern amenities like a large stainless steel refrigerator and a top end stove. If you haven’t used Airbnb before, sign up here to receive $40 off your first stay over $75! If you visit Athens during low season (November through March), prices will be even cheaper.
When we returned from the beautiful Cyclades island of Naxos, we had not booked our Athens accommodation in advance and found weekend prices to be very high for October. There was much better value staying in nearby Piraeus, which is conveniently connected to Athens via metro. It’s also a handy place to stay if you are catching an early morning ferry to the islands. Poseidonio has some family rooms with kitchenettes and all their rooms have big balconies with a beautiful view of Saint Nicolas Church and Piraeus harbor. On a side note, the Piraeus marina is lovely for a stroll and there are good seafood restaurants there.
The Athenaeum Grand Hotel in Athens is a new hotel that offers great bang for your buck in the city. We stayed there the final night of our trip. The beds are extremely comfortable, breakfast is included (and delicious) and there are modern amenities like a cell phone with an online guide to Athens that you can take from your room to explore the city!
2) Dine over Live Greek Blues (Rembetika) in Psyri
Psyri is currently the coolest area to drink and dine in Athens in our opinion. While it may lack in terrace views of the Acropolis compared to restaurants in Plaka and Monasteraki, it makes up for in delicious food and live rembetika music in the tavernas.
We highly recommend dinner and drinks at To Souvlaki Stou Psyiri (which doesn’t have much of an online presence). They have live rembetika (Greek blues) most nights. They serve great food and on the night we visited, the rembetika musicians were the best we heard during our trip. If they aren’t featuring live music try next door at Oinopoleion or Taverna Tou Psyri. Just go where there’s live music and lots of Athenians. Check out my short YouTube video featuring live rembetika and Greek dancing in Psyri!
Nearby to Pysiri, Klimataria is a wonderful hidden gem of a taverna in business since 1927. We enjoyed a large family dinner at Klimataria and the food and atmosphere was authentic and excellent. If a Greek restaurant’s decor features wine barrels, like Klimataria does, that’s usually a good sign. Klimataria features live music on the weekends.
Read Greek travel blogger Matt Barrett’s Psiri Nightlife in Athens Guide. It’s a fantastic read on the history of the area and why its become the hippest hangout in Athens (though Gazi is now being called the next Psyri). Matt’s been writing on Greece for over 20 years and his website and Facebook group are a tremendous resource for planning your travels in Greece! And here is a list of 10 great bars with live music in Athens.
3) Tips for Getting Around Athens: Use Uber, Along with the Metro
Some of Athens taxi drivers can be unprofessional. We took a couple taxis in Athens when we were in locations that were difficult for Uber to pick us up. One of them drove completely insane, and we honestly never had that experience with Athenian Uber drivers.
Like many places, there’s a huge rivalry between taxis and Uber in Athens. So Uber will not pick up from Piraeus ferry terminal and the regional bus station. They will pick up at Athens International Airport though. Athenian Uber drivers are also wary of dropping off near taxi stands or large congregations of taxis. A couple Uber drivers asked if they could drop us off a block from where we needed to be as they were scared of the taxi drivers. We found the Uber cars to be nicer, cleaner and the drivers were friendlier in comparison to taxi drivers. If you haven’t used Uber before, sign up here to receive $5 off each of your first 4 rides!
Athens also has a great and inexpensive metro system that is one of our favorites in the world. Several Athenian metro stops like Acropoli and Syntagma (where the Greek Parliament building is) have beautiful Greek sculptures and are like museums. Do utilize the Athenian metro! New York City’s metro is scarier in comparison.
4) Archeology and History: Tips for Visiting Athens in 2018
Offseason Tip (November – March): On the first Sunday of each offseason month, all the main archeological sites and museums in Athens are free!
The Acropolis Museum is separate but next to the Acropolis and admission is just €5 ($6 US). The museum houses impressive artifacts found at the Acropolis like statues, pieces of the Parthenon and the original Karyatides. It also has amazing views of the Acropolis, especially from the cafe terrace on the second level. Definitely plan time for a drink there! And maybe even have lunch as they have a full menu of hot entrees.
The Temple of Hepheaustes (Theseum) dates back some 2,500 years. It is the best preserved ancient Greek temple in Athens, as it was not destroyed during wars like the Parthenon. Don’t miss seeing this temple up close. But if you’re very short on time, you can get a nice view of it at the gateway to the Acropolis (Propylaea).
Marisa Tejada, over at TravelGreeceTravelEurope has a great article breaking down which Athens museums are always free and which ones are free on certain days. Some Athens museums, like the Benaki Museum, are free every Thursday night.
5) Go for a Romantic Dinner with an Amazing View, on top of Mount Lycabettus just before sunset
We had dinner at Orizontes at the top of Mount Lycabettus. This is a beautiful restaurant with incredible views over Athens, including the Acropolis and Aegean Sea off in the distance. We’ll be honest in saying that the food wasn’t our favorite meal in Athens, but it was good enough, especially with the phenomenal view. Prices are reasonable too. Try to make a reservation just before sunset. Request a table next to the wall, with the best view overlooking Athens. Orizontes means “horizon” in English, which is a great name for the establishment. Check out my short YouTube video to see what dining at Orizontes looks like!
Visiting Greece in 2018?
Check out some of our other articles on Greece for more tips and insight on the country!
Thinking to visit Greece and have questions? Or have great tips to share? Please leave a comment!