Are you planning a trip to Athens, Greece for the first time and don’t know what to expect? Keep scrolling to check out my top Athens travel tips for tourists!
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Dreaming of traveling to Athens on a Greek vacation this summer?
If you love ancient history, Mediterranean cuisine, vibrant neighborhoods, and extroverted, friendly locals then Athens is a great choice!
We visited Athens when our oldest was a toddler and it was an incredible experience!
Some travelers might wonder, why visit Athens when you could book a beach break on a Grecian island like Santorini or Crete? But there are lots of reasons to visit Athens.
For starters, Greece’s capital city has beaches too! Yes, if you’re surprised then you might need some Athens travel tips for first-timers to learn more about this bustling city before you visit.
This Athens travel guide includes absolutely everything that new visitors need to know before visiting Athens, Greece. It includes all the best things to do, where to stay, what to eat and drink, and plenty more besides.
Now, pack your toga and leather sandals and discover all the top tips to make your trip to Athens, Greece one to remember!
Awesome Athens Travel Tips for First-Timers
Planning Your Athens Visit
Athens is over 3,000 years old and has preserved many of the city’s most important structures from the Classical Antiquity period around the 5th century BC. Let’s start there!
The Acropolis is the most famous of Athens’s seven hills. The others are Areopagus, Philopappou, Hill of the Nymphs, Pnyx, Lycabettus, and Tourkovounia. These should all be on your Athens itinerary!
This is where you’ll find the Parthenon, the Acropolis Museum, and lots of other temples and Ancient Greek theaters. These are great things to do in Greece with kids!
Many of the most fragile and precious artifacts aren’t out in the open but are housed in the National Archaeological Museum. There are lots of other Ancient Greek ruins like the Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library, and the Roman Agora in the Plaka neighborhood too.
Aside from the ancient sites, explore the lively Athens Central Market. Packing comfortable sneakers or your hiking boots as there are lots of hills you can climb for beautiful views like Lycabettus Hill (or take the funicular!).
How Many Days in Athens?
You’ll need at least 3 days in Athens to fully explore the most important ancient sites and stroll around the Plaka neighborhood at a leisurely pace.
If you’re taking a side trip to Athens before or after visiting one of the islands, you could take a whistlestop tour of the highlights in 2 days.
You don’t need to worry about getting bored if you book up to one week in Athens. You could enjoy a beach day at Piraeus or Alimos or head further into the Athenian Riviera at Lagonisi or Saronida.
Delphi and Metéora are perfect day trips from Athens.
How to Get Around Athens With Public Transportation
Athens has four different types of public transport options: underground metro, bus, tram, and rail. Single-journey tickets are valid for 90 minutes and cover all public transport options. Super easy!
Currently, single-journey tickets cost €1.20. 24-hour passes are €4.10 and five-day passes are only €8.20. Public transport is also included in some tourist passes.
Without a doubt, the best choice when determining how to travel in Athens is the metro. It’s the easiest to figure out and the fastest way of getting from A to B. You can even take the metro to the airport.
However, unless you have accessibility issues, you will be walking through Athens’s labyrinthine streets most of the time. Many of the iconic landmarks are within walking distance, for sure.
Taxis and Car Rentals in Athens
Finding information about whether ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft exist in Athens is confusing because the apps are available in the city. However, the app will simply redirect you to the city’s regular taxi service.
Athens’s free taxi app is called ‘Beat’ and it works similarly to Uber. You don’t pay through the app, but it will give you an estimation of how much you should expect to pay.
Try not to take taxis too much as drivers in Athens are notorious for ripping people off, both tourists and locals. One of the best Athens tips for travelers is to make sure the meter starts at zero and has a ‘1’ in front and not a ‘2’ which should only be used for fares after midnight.
You won’t need to rent a car to get around Athens. Day trips and beach trips are a different story!
Car rentals are pretty cheap (prices start from €20 per day) but you need to be 21 and you will need an international driving license. Check the latest car rental rates.
Money in Athens
Like the rest of Greece, Athens uses the Euro currency. You will need to carry some cash with you as well as a couple of travel-friendly credit cards.
While you’ll find no problems using your card to pay in hotels and popular tourist attractions, cash is still preferred in markets and smaller shops.
If you use American Express, make sure you have a Visa or Mastercard as a backup. It’s less widely accepted here than it is in other European countries.
Athens is generally considered to be less expensive than other European capital cities so your budget should stretch further here!
Dining in Athens Tips
One of the first Athens travel tips you should know about is the mealtimes in Athens. If you think the Spanish eat food late, they’ve got nothing on the Greeks!
Lunch is usually the biggest meal of the day, served between 2 and 3 pm. Athenians might enjoy a coffee and snack around 6 pm and will eat a light dinner after 9:30 pm. This is why many restaurants in Athens stay open until midnight!
Don’t worry, you’ll always be able to find restaurants open at more reasonable, kid-friendly hours closer to the tourist hotspots.
There aren’t any set rules about tipping in Athens so you can leave whatever you’re comfortable with. As a guideline, around 10% of your bill is fine but you can leave more if your food and service were phenomenal. Bring cash to tip!
Grecian cuisine is utterly divine. Feta cheese, olives, greek yogurt, gyros, souvlaki… Throw in lots of healthy veggies too! Eat as much Greek food as possibly can or else you’ll regret it.
What to Wear in Athens
Despite the fact that Athens is a huge capital city, many of the landmarks are concentrated in one area which means you’ll be walking between them. Pack sneakers or comfortable sandals that you can walk for hours and hours in.
If you’re planning to visit Athens in the summer months, wear loose, sweat-wicking fabrics that feel comfortable. Lighter colors that reflect heat will also help you feel cooler. The archaeological sites that you’ll be visiting don’t have dress codes but wear respectful clothing.
Save Money Visiting Archeological Sites
Admission to some of the Ancient Greek sites in Athens can be pretty pricey. Tickets to the sites on the Acropolis cost around €20! But there’s a very easy hack.
Opt for the Athens Combo Ticket which only costs €30. It lasts for five days and you can visit a range of archaeological ruins including Hadrian’s Library, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and so many others.
This ticket soon pays for itself!
If you’re traveling on a budget, you can visit many of these sites for free on certain days and at certain times. From November 1st to March 31st on the first Sunday of every month, all the popular sites are free!
Get a Travel Adapter
Greece uses two types of electrical sockets: types C and F. Type C is the plug with two rounded prongs and it is commonly known as the ‘Euro’ plug as it’s the one that most European countries use.
Type F is very similar as it also has two rounded plugs but has two earth clips on the side. You can use the same travel adapter for all the electrical sockets in Greece, so it’s not something you need to worry about.
Since the voltage is likely to be different in Greece than it is in your home country (especially if you’re traveling from the US), invest in a travel adapter with a built-in voltage converter.
Safety and Awareness in Athens
As mentioned, Athens is not as dangerous for tourists as you might think. Use your common sense as you would in any city (don’t walk alone at night, keep an eye on your belongings, etc.).
However, pickpocketing and travel scams are rife in popular tourist areas like the Acropolis, for example.
Keep your money and valuables hidden inside a zip pocket in your bag and don’t carry around anything that isn’t necessary. Keep a particularly close eye on it when riding the metro.
One of the most common travel scams in Greece is where criminals distract tourists by asking for the time or diverting their attention in another way. Don’t talk to anyone who seems suspicious and try to back away immediately.
Driving is complete chaos in Athens. Always be extra vigilant when crossing the roads because pedestrians are supposed to have right of way but Athens drivers would disagree. This is another reason to avoid getting taxis too.
Travel Tips in Athens FAQs
Is Athens worth visiting?
In a word, yes! Athens is definitely worth visiting. Athens offers something for all types of travelers with lively nightlife, bustling markets, world-famous landmarks, classical art, and incredible food.
It’s the birthplace of western philosophy and democracy and one of the oldest cities in the world! Athens deserves a visit at least once in your life.
Is Athens safe for tourists?
News stories of corruption, violent protests, and financial crises in Greece (not to mention its proximity to Eastern Europe) might give the impression that Athens is not safe for tourists.
Compared to other major European cities like London, Athen’s crime rate is either on par or lower.
The risk of being a victim of a dangerous or violent crime is low but travel scams and pickpockets are very common. Especially in popular Athens Greece tourist spots like the Acropolis or on public transport.
What is the best neighborhood to stay in Athens?
Since you’re researching Athens travel tips for first-timers, you should stay in a central neighborhood with easy access to the city’s main landmarks.
Plaka (known as the ‘Neighborhood of the Gods’) and Syntagma are two of the best neighborhoods to stay in during your trip to Athens. They’re both near the Acropolis and the metro network.
When is the best time to visit Athens?
If you’re wondering when to visit Athens, it follows the same rules as most major European cities. Fall and spring are the shoulder seasons in Athens which is around March to May and September to November.
Athens has a textbook Mediterranean climate with hot, sunny summers and mild and damp winters. Temperatures during the shoulder seasons will be warm but not stifling.
Plus, flight and accommodation costs during these times are often cheaper than during the school holidays. There will be fewer crowds too.
But following these tips for traveling to Greece during the shoulder seasons is easier said than done if you have older children!
If you’re from the US, travel as early as possible in summer break. Temperatures won’t be unbearable and European kids will still be in class.
Athens Travel Tips for First-Timers Wrap Up
This travel guide to Athens includes all the insider information you need to have a super fun Athens, Greece vacation. There is some Athens travel advice in this guide that you couldn’t possibly know if you’ve never visited before!
Now you’ll be able to enjoy an even better trip to Athens, without all the common mistakes, so you can enjoy a wonderful Grecian vacation with your loved ones.