Travel Planner: Athens, Greece

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As the cradle of western democracy and culture, Athens’ legacy makes it one of the most important cities in the world. And fortunately for visitors, much of the physical evidence of this legacy remains intact, and is being preserved for future generations. This is where government, law, architecture, philosophy, science, medicine, religion and the arts were formed, along with the more basic concept of civic life. Walk the streets of modern Athens, and you will quickly discover that this is where the building blocks of western society were laid.

Need To Know 

Location: Greece.

Language: Greek.

Money: Euro. ATM’s are becoming more plentiful in Athens but it’s not a good idea to rely on them as they can run out of money. 

Time Difference: GMT + 3hours.

Getting Around: The quickest, and cheapest, way to get around the city is to ride the Metro, which is easy to use and inexpensive. You can catch taxis if you need to, but cab drivers generally do not have a good reputation, and you’ll be battling Athens’ heavy traffic for most of the day, taking up precious sightseeing time. 

When To Go: The best months are April and May, followed by September and October. June, July and August are the hottest months, with temperatures often pushing the 38C (100F) mark, and although the months from November to March are less busy, temperatures can drop to as low as 10-12C.

Tipping: This isn’t essential in Athens. Most restaurants will include a service charge on your bill, but a tip of around 10 per cent added on will be appreciated. Taxi drivers also don’t expect to be tipped but most people round up their fare to the nearest euro. 

Where to Stay 

The beauty of Athens is that it has every type of accommodation, from hostels and budget pensions to grand five star hotels, and some newer boutique properties in between. Generally prices are cheaper than the rest of Europe too, although one thing that the older hotels have in common is their size; you can expect compact rooms rather than expansive ones. Ones to check out include the Hotel Grande Bretagne and the King George, both on Syntagma Square, which is in the centre of the action and walking distance to many attractions. Others to put on your list in the Plaka include the AthensWas Hotel, a new property in the area, also the Royal Olympic Hotel, the New Hotel, and the Electra Palace Hotel.   

Sightseeing Essentials

* The Parthenon 

This magnificent structure sits atop the Acropolis as perhaps the symbol of the ancient world. The heart and soul of Greece, it is still undergoing a major renovation which began in 1983, but despite the scaffolding its splendour remains. As the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “Earth proudly wears the Parthenon as the best gem upon her zone.”

* The Acropolis

This is the rocky outcrop that dominates Athens and it also contains at least half a dozen ancient masterpieces including the Erechtheion, a temple built in honour of both Athena and Poseidon, who according to mythology, battled for patronage of Athens on that spot, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaia or entrance to the Acropolis, the 17,000-seat Theatre of Dionysus and the Herodes Atticus Theatre.

* The Agora Market

Open from Tuesday to Sunday, this was once the centrepiece of ancient Athens' city life, and today it’s a mix of ruins and museums.

* The National Archeological Museum

This is an Athens institution and is known for its premier collection of art from eras such as Minoan, Cycladic and Mycenaean, among others. 

Best Happy Snap

Without a doubt, the best photo op is from the Acropolis with the Parthenon as the centrepiece. You can also take some great shots of Athens from up here.

Eating And Drinking

Athens is one of the most popular destinations on cruise ship itineraries as well as visitors to the Greek Islands, not just for its superb ancient monuments and museums, but also for its bustling outdoor cafe and restaurant scene. It thrives on a refreshing attitude that life is for living, and work is just a means to an end. The Plaka is an historic area which has been gentrified over the past two decades with restored 19th century neoclassical homes, pedestrian streets, cafes, restaurants and tavernas which serve typical Greek specialties including moussaka, shish kebabs and souvlaki. A few eateries to put on your list to try include Klimataria, for traditional Greek food, music and dance, Varoulko for a Michelin-starred romantic dinner by the ocean coupled with views of Mikrolimano Harbour, or Orizontes perched on Lycabettus Hill, one of the highest points in Athens. 

Hot Tip 

You can actually visit the some of the nearby Greek Islands on a day trip from the port of Piraeus and Aegina, with ferries running throughout the day to Hydra, Poros and Angistri. 

Got an Emergency?

Local Police: 100 is the emergency number and 171 is the tourist police.

Australian Embassy: 210 870 4000.

Ben Hall


  • 5
    Not My Cup Of Tea

    Posted by Megan Johnsson on 8th Oct 2019

    I have to admit I really disliked Athens.....loved the historical sites of course, but the noise, pollution, hawkers and the scammers made it a tough city to navigate. The islands are much nicer, especially those off the beaten track, so sorry not Santorini, also some of the historical sites out in the islands are lovely and less busy.

  • 4
    Great For A Few Days

    Posted by Gerry McLeish on 23rd Sep 2019

    Stopped over here for a few days before heding to the islands. It's a full on city, lots of fun but only for a few days. Once you've seen the main sights go to one of the quieter islands which are lovely, sunbathe and eat lots of Greek food.

  • 5
    Fell In Love There

    Posted by Jules Cheedy on 23rd Sep 2019

    Loved Athens! Went there years ago with my then boyfriend on our first big holiday together and I think that's when I really and truly fell in love with him. He's now my hubby :) The city is magical with wonderful food and experiences. We're planning to return for our 20th anniversary.