Greece is a country steeped in history, with its capital Athens being the main focal point for much of that incredible past. For many of the millions of visitors the city receives each year, they struggle to find time to fit everything there is to see in, which leaves most asking, how many days in Athens is enough?
The year-round warmth, the ancient architecture, the founding city of modern democracy, Greek food!
There are hundreds of reasons to visit this unique European destination, and whether you’ve only got a weekend, or you’re including the city in a more grandiose European road trip, it shouldn’t be a stop you miss off just because of time restraints.
For those who are wondering what exactly they can fit into their trip to Athens, we’re going to outline some itineraries to give you an idea of what you should be able to see, for as long as you’re planning to visit.
If you are in Athens for a weekend getaway from work, as many people are, it will suit you down to the ground.
The stunning architecture is enough to take up most people’s attention for the entirety of the trip, and that’s not including ancient sites like the Acropolis.
Quaint and quiet side streets paired with the bustling and metropolitan main squares are the perfect starting point. Take in the sights and sounds of the city and then pull up a chair at a local café for coffee and baklava, the sticky-sweet pastry dessert.
Once sufficiently refreshed, head up to the famous monumental mount of Acropolis of Athens, where several famous and historically important 5th structures will greet you. Absorb the awe when staring into the past and wander the old ruins imagining what it must have been like all of those centuries ago, also pay particular attention (as if you have a choice) to the magnificent Parthenon.
Take the guided tour of the area for around €15p/p for the full experience and if you’re not completely Acropolis-ed out, head to the Acropolis Museum to study artifacts from different eras.
To kick off your evening head out to a taverna, the Greek version of a restaurant-cum-bar, with a particular highlight being Telis. Simple and sustained, the restaurant has been a staple destination for foodies in the area for almost forty years, serving only one set menu: Grilled pork chops and chips (fries) with a side of veggies. A side Greek salad is optional, as are beverages.
For something a little out of the norm on your short stay, why not visit Figoures & Koukles for a puppet show unlike any other? In the summer months shows are more frequent than in the winter months, but always check their website for details regarding show times.
With a little more time on your hands you can take more time over the Acropolis and Athens’ other famous ancient sites and buildings, such as the Temple of Zeus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
Other important sites in the city include the Agora, a hub for commercial, social, political and administrative activity in Ancient Greece. Socrates offered his philosophical teachings here spawning countless moral arguments that guide many of the world and its leaders to this day, such as the rights of all to true freedom of speech.
For further education in traditional Greek culture take a wander around the exquisite Benaki Museum , built by Antonis Benaki, the son of a politician. Widely considered one of the finest museums in the entire country, the Benaki hosts works and treasures from the second World War, all the way back to the Bronze Age.
If you’re in need of a bit of contemporary inspiration to balance all of the fine, ancient sights you have been seeing, the Benaki’s Pireos Annexe will delight your tastes to no end. The annexe of the main museum is a national hub for contemporary and modern works, created by current and former artistic geniuses. The venue also hosts musical and dramatic performances from time-to-time within its garden grounds.
For further ventures into the modern world, Athens has a truly up-and-coming coffee scene; the modern sign for a cosmopolitan city. Cafes such as Tailor Made, which hosts a micro roastery and which also transforms into a lively bar at night, are making a splash, offering tantalising blends and experimental tastes for even the most critical of connoisseurs.
Movie buffs are utterly spoiled in Athens, thanks to the rather special venue, Cine Paris, a 1920s built outdoor cinema, the first of its kind in the city. With occasional views of the Acropolis from the rafters and numerous international films on offer, it’s a memorable spot and the perfect way to see out an evening in this often, and quite rightly, romanticised city.
When your film has ended and the night is still relatively young, venture to Half Note Jazz Club, a venue which takes the classic genre very seriously indeed. Local and international artists form the line-up, with horn sections and perfectly mixed cocktails ensuring your night is as smooth as the music.
For a place to stay with swimming pool-based vistas over the city, the Divani Caravel Hotel is the destination for you. The five star accommodation boasts, as mentioned, a rooftop swimming pool to stave off the hot weather in Athenian summers, as well as countless other top-of-the-range amenities with delightful staff and a central location.
Athens then is a perfect cocktail of contemporary and classic where you can enjoy both, a weekend getaway, or a full fortnight’s holiday. With some of the most historically important sites of any major city on Earth, alongside the best up and coming and well-established contemporary culture, there are few cities that can match.
If you have recent experience of Athens and have comments to add, feel free to drop a comment and let fellow readers hear of the wonderful things you have gotten up to on your trip.