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Athens vs Rome: Which City Offers More for Your Family’s Adventure?

Athens vs Rome: Which City Offers More for Your Family’s Adventure?

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Are you debating between a Rome or Athens vacation? Keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know about choosing a trip to Athens vs Rome.
This comparison of Athens vs Rome was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

It’s not surprising that many families love visiting Rome and Athens on a European city break.

Both Italy and Greece’s capital cities are easy to reach if you live in the US. If the flight prices are similar, you might be struggling to choose which to pick!

They both offer an abundance of ancient ruins to amaze your kids. Fresh and delicious Mediterranean cuisine isn’t hard to find, and a warm climate in either Rome or Athens is all but guaranteed.

So, when considering Rome vs Athens, which should families choose for an epic summer adventure?

This guide looks at the ins and outs and the pros and cons of both so you make the right choice for your family and have an unforgettable time!

Athens vs Rome: The Differences

While there is a long list of similarities between Athens and Rome (same currency, both built on seven hills, etc.), there are several key differences.

Ancient History

While the histories of Ancient Greece and Rome have many overlaps, the cities of Rome and Athens have unique origin stories. 

There’s way too much to go into here! But this is one example.

Find out the best things to do in Athens with kids recommended by top family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of Famous Parthenon temple on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
Acropolis in Athens.

Most of the top ancient buildings in Athens date to the 5th century BCE. This was a golden era for Athens as it became a democratic city and started paving the way for Western civilization!

Rome was led by autocracy/dictatorship until the fall of the Empire in the 5th century CE, centuries after Athens.

Architecture

Both cities have evaded modern skyscrapers and highrises but they have very different cityscapes. Rome’s streets are lined with almost 1,000 domed Catholic churches, 2,000 fountains, and large structures like the Victor Emmanuel II Monument and the ancient Colosseum.

Colosseum-Selfie-with-Mom-and-Son-960x720.jpeg
Colosseum in Rome.

The Hills of Athens are much more prominent. The city is also known for its 19th-century neoclassical buildings designed to look like classical structures and, of course, real ancient buildings like the Parthenon!

Cuisine

While both cities are in Mediterranean countries famous for their olives, olive oil, wines, salads, and seafood… The comparisons mostly end there!

Your kids will be familiar with the pizza, pasta, and gelato served at family-friendly Roman restaurants. But with Greece’s Middle Eastern influence, top dishes in Athens include moussaka, souvlaki, and gyros with a side of tzatziki and halloumi cheese. 

Language

The official language of Greece is Greek, so most people in Athens speak Greek. Likewise, the official language of Italy is Italian so most Romans speak Italian.

Another difference is the alphabet. While you might find it a little easier to pronounce Italian words since they use the Latin alphabet, Greek has its own alphabet. 

It’s much harder to decipher if you’re an anglophone! But don’t worry, most hospitality workers in both countries speak English.

How Many Days in Athens vs Rome?

You could spend months in either city and still not see every museum or historic ruin, but there is an ideal number of minimum days to explore the highlights. 

One city will demand more time than the other!

How Many Days in Athens?

If you’re not planning any day trips, spend at least two days in Athens. 

Image of Athens by drone

It’s a small city (much smaller than Rome – more on that later!) and two full days is the minimum you should spend here with kids.

How Many Days in Rome?

There are just too many things to see and do in Rome that would make visiting for less than three full days almost impossible!

Could you imagine visiting Rome with your kids for the first time and not leaving enough time to visit the Colosseum? Or St. Peter’s Basilica? Or the Trevi Fountain??

Nope! Plan four days in Rome if you want to take a day trip.

Athens vs Rome Public Transportation

The battle of the Rome vs Athens public transport network is almost equal. There’s only one type of public transport you should consider using to get around Rome or Athens; the metro!

Athens Metro

Athens’s metro network isn’t as extensive as London or Paris, but it’s efficient. Wear comfortable shoes and prepare to walk between stops in the historic center!

Single 90-minute tickets currently cost €1.40.

Rome Metro

Similar to Athens, Rome’s metro system is a great way to travel to Vatican City and between neighborhoods but expect to walk a lot too. But it’s also efficient and single 100-minute tickets currently cost €1.50.

Athens vs Rome Tourist Attractions

When looking at things to do in Athens vs Rome, few cities can beat Rome for world-famous attractions. However, some kids might find Athens’s abundance of ancient ruins and temples more interesting!

Kid-Friendly Athens Attractions

  • Acropolis and Parthenon – Visit this incredible hilltop temple early in the morning to avoid the midday sun and enjoy the incredible views
  • Panathenaic Stadium – The site of the first modern Olympic games in 1896
  • Athens National Garden – This 38-acre park is full of exotic plants, archaeological sites, and shady pergolas
  • Changing of the Guard – Visit Syntagma Square at 11:00AM on Sundays to see this traditional ceremony 
  • Allou! Fun Park – Take a break from exploring ruins at this thrilling theme park

Kid-Friendly Rome Attractions

  • Colosseum – Book a kid-friendly tour guide to visit this iconic Roman amphitheater and a Seventh Wonder of the World
  • Pantheon – The only time you’ll wish for bad weather is so you can see the rainfall through the ceiling of this 2nd-century ACE temple
  • Trevi Fountain – Kids and adults alike love tossing coins in this fountain!
  • Gladiator School – This two-hour workshop is perfect for young, energetic kids
  • Vatican City – Skip-the-line tickets and a family-friendly guide are a must so you can visit the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Villa Borghese – One of the top things to do in Rome on a hot day is to hire a boat and sail in this beautiful park

Best Athens Museums for Kids

  • Acropolis Museum – Houses all of the treasures found on Acropolis Hill in this state-of-the-art museum complete with Lego models
  • Museum of Illusions – This super fun, family-friendly museum is perfect for families with kids of all ages
  • Hellenic Children’s Museum – Ideal for your little kids to make art and play with the exhibits in this interactive museum

Best Rome Museums for Kids

  • Explora Children’s Museum – Hands-on, playful museum designed for littler kids
  • Museo Mostra di Leonardo – An entire museum devoted to Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions with replicas you can operate
  • Centrale Montemartini – Do you have kids who are obsessed with trains? Then yes, you need to check out this old train museum!

Is Athens or Rome Better for Food?

It’s hard to beat Italian cuisine, especially not in the capital! But Athens’s quirky cafés, fresh gyros options, and family restaurants provide worthy competition.

Where to Eat in Athens with Kids

  • Picky Brunch & Coffee – Serving pancakes, granola, and Greek-influenced breakfasts with excellent coffee for parents
  • Street Souvlaki – One of the best places for gyros in Athens!
  • Little Kook – Quirky café with ever-changing fairytale themes with coffee and crêpes on their menu
  • EATERY Bairaktaris Aiolou 29 – Centrally-located, casual Greek restaurant with a kids’ menu
  • Ama Lachei – Serves small plates and mezze platters in their beautiful courtyard and is a firm favorite with local families

Where to Eat in Rome with Kids

  • Cafè Cafè – Colourful breakfast/light lunch spot near the Colosseum
  • Gelateria del Teatro – There are so many great gelaterias in Rome, this is just one of the good ones
  • La Polpetta – Fun restaurant that serves everything in the shape of a ball and has several locations around the city
  • Tonnarello – Well-known pizzeria popular with families in the Trastevere neighborhood
  • Felice a Testaccio – One of the best family-friendly traditional Roman restaurants. Booking is essential but you can do so online!

Day Trips From Athens vs Rome

There are lots of great day trips from both Athens and Rome. Both offer easy options for small group tours but one is the clear winner if you prefer independent day trips via public transport!

Best Athens Day Trips with Kids

Delphi is around 100 miles/162 km north of Athens and is a super popular day trip. The ancient Greeks thought that Delphi was at the center of the world. There are many great ruins, like the Temple of Apollo, that date back to the 4th century BCE.

Greece travel and landmarks. Saronics island Aegina (Egina) . impressive orthodox Agios Nektarios monastery and church

Somewhere a little closer to Athens to visit is the island of Aegina. Yes, you can take a day trip to one of the Greek Islands from Athens! Booking a group tour means transportation to the port and ferry tickets are organized for you.

Buses are the main form of transportation in Greece and the best places to visit outside of Athens are at least two hours drive. That’s why tours are best!

Best Rome Day Trips with Kids

Rome to Naples is a super easy 90-minute train journey. You can taste pizza in the place it was invented!

Street in Pompeii, Italy. Pompeii is an ancient Roman city died from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the 1st century.
Street in Pompeii, Italy.

You could also add a detour to the UNESCO site of Pompeii nearby on your train trip to Naples. Or, opt for a small group tour and visit both without needing to plan it yourself.

Or, take a one-hour direct train ride to the nearby town of Tivoli. Walk through the beautiful gardens of Villa d’Este and visit the Emporer Hadrian’s Villa. This is a perfect place for a half-day trip!

Can You Visit Both Athens and Rome in the Same Trip?

Yes, you can definitely visit both Athens and Rome on the same trip! 

Working out how to get from Rome to Athens (or vice versa) by plane is easy. Approximately six flights travel between the cities every day via European airlines like Ryanair and Lufthansa.

The flight time is only two hours and you can find return flight deals for less than $100 per person. You’ll need at least one week to see the highlights of both cities without rushing.

If you want to travel by alternative transport options, it’s a little trickier. Taking a Rome to Athens train would take at least 20 uncomfortable hours through six countries.

Taking a Rome to Athens ferry (or from Athens to Rome) would be an easier journey. 

Take the train to the city of Bari (approximately five and a half hours) and sail overnight (approximately 18 hours) to the Greek port town of Patras. Then, you can take a bus (approximately four hours) to Athens.

To be honest, it doesn’t sound like the most comfortable journey to take with kids! If you’re set on sailing, it might be worth looking into cruise options.

Athens vs Rome FAQs

Are Athens and Rome in the same time zone?

Athens is in the Eastern European Time (EET) from the last Sunday in October to the last Sunday in March. The city uses Eastern European Summer Time for the rest of the year.

Rome is in the Central European Time (CET) from October to March and Central European Summer Time (CEST) for the rest of the year.

This means that Athens is one hour ahead of Rome. When it’s 3:00PM in Athens, it’s 2:00PM in Rome!

When is the best time to visit Athens or Rome?

Whether you are visiting Athens or Rome with kids, the best time of year to visit is the same.

Spring break will give you the best of Athens and Rome’s weather without peak summer crowds and prices for flights and accommodation. 

If you have to visit in summer due to your kids’ school breaks, visit early in the season.  Athens, in particular, is seeing temperatures regularly climb over 104°F/40°C in the summer months now!

Is Rome or Athens bigger?

Rome measures 496 square miles and Athens measures 165 square miles. So, Rome is definitely bigger than Athens!

As of 2021, the population of Athens is around 3,153,000 and, as of 2024, Rome’s population is 4,332,000. Rome is much less densely populated than Athens.

Is Athens or Rome more expensive?

Rome is not an expensive city by the standards of most Western European capitals, but Athens is cheaper. 

You’ll find it much easier to find affordable accommodation, restaurants, and attractions in Athens than in Rome!

Athens vs Rome Wrap-Up

This rundown of all the Athens vs Rome differences and similarities should help you choose between these two awesome cities! No doubt your kids will love visiting either place and you’ll have an amazing vacation in Europe regardless.

Looking for more Greece and Italy content? Check out 17 Exceptional Things to Do in Athens with Kids, 7 Best Athens Hotels for Families Worth Booking, How to Spend 3 Days in Rome with Kids in the Summer, 9 Best Rome Hotels for Families Visiting Italy, and 25 Rewarding Things To Do in Rome With Kids!

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