Athens and Atticus Travel Guide

Athens and Atticus Travel Guide

Planning a trip to Athens can be overwhelming, especially if you’re visiting for the first time. As someone who has traveled to Athens and Atticus many, many times before, I understand how important it is to have a well-planned itinerary, especially for hot summer days. In this Athens and Atticus travel guide, I share my personal tips and experience of getting the most out of this one-of-a-kind city and the places you need to see in diverse Atticus.

Athens, the eye of Greece, mother of arts and eloquence.
– John Milton

Athens, the capital city of Greece, sprawls along the southern coastline of the mainland and the plain of Attica. It is the largest city in Greece and has a population of over 3 million people.

The city is located on a large peninsula that is protected by Mount Aigaleo to the west, Mount Parnitha to the north, Mount Pentelicus to the northeast, and Mount Hymettus to the east. Surrounding Athens is Atticus.


Athens has played a significant role in shaping the Western world – it has given us democracy, theater, and some would argue, the foundations of Western civilization.

Theater of Dionysus, Acropolis Hill, Athens, Greece
Theater of Dionysus, Acropolis Hill, Athens, Greece

It is one of the most ancient cities in the world, with a history spanning over 3,000 years. Athens is home to some of the most iconic landmarks and monuments that have somehow survived centuries of battering.

Map of Athens

Athens Map

Food, music, the arts, museums, nightlife, and UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Acropolis, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Agora of Athens are an irresistible combination that after years of visiting Athens regularly, I am still exploring.

Our Athens itinerary, comparison of Santorini and Athens, and hotel guide will give you a good idea of how to divide your time in Athens and where to stay:

The Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece
The Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece

These in-depth guides will help you decide which ancient sites to see in Athens and the best ways to do it without the crowds:

Athens International Airport is well-connected to major cities around the world and many Greek Islands. The airport is 20 km from the city center.

Once you’ve arrived in Athens, you can get around the city using the metro, buses, or taxis/uber. The metro is clean, not overly crowded, cheap, and efficient.

Ferries to the Greek Islands leave from Athens via Piraeus, Rafina, and Lavrion ports.

The suburb of Thissio in Athens, Greece
The suburb of Thissio in Athens, Greece

I recommend visiting the city between March and May or from September to November. During these months, the weather is comfortable, and you can enjoy plenty of sunshine.

The summer months are becoming increasingly hotter – even October is now hot in Athens!

The Acropolis is now capped at 20,000 visitors per day to diminish the long queues of people buying tickets in the midday sun.

On the upside, Athens is quiet and many Athenians are holidaying on the Greek Islands.

Athens is also a delight at Christmas – the Athenians are very cheerful throughout the festive season and there are local traditions that make it an interesting time of year.

Top Must-See Attractions in the Heart of Athens

In the heart of Athens is a remarkable collection of timeless landmarks.

Embedded within the labyrinth of narrow cobbled lanes, historic structures truly capture for me the excitement of visiting Greece. 

The core of these attractions is the glorious Acropolis, perched high above the city. It houses the iconic Parthenon, the Erechtheion with its beautiful Caryatid Porch, and the petite Temple of Athena Nike.

Just down the hill, you’ll find the world-renowned New Acropolis Museum showcasing artifacts uncovered from the Acropolis site. It’s a truly spectacular museum by any standards.

Other noteworthy spots within the city limits include the ancient Plaka neighborhood. It’s a lively region, redolent of old-world charm, paved streets, traditional tavernas, and shops.

Close by are the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, the Tower of Winds, the Greek Agora with the Stoa of Attalus, and the Temple of Hephaestus.

Still within Athens, make your way to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. This colossal temple, dedicated to Zeus, the king of Olympian gods in Greek mythology, provides stunning vistas and rich historical insights. 

Acropolis of Athens 

Nearby stands the iconic Acropolis of Athens. This citadel contains ancient buildings of great global architectural and historic significance, most notably the Parthenon, but also the Erechthion, the Temple of Nike, and the Propylaea.

I am not sure if you can see as many major UNESCO World Heritage sites in one morning anywhere else. Get there before it opens.

Theatre of Dionysus 

On the slopes of the Acropolis, inside the southern gate, is the Theatre of Dionysus. Believed to be the birthplace of Western theater, this open-air theater still resonates with the echoes of ancient performances. 

The slopes of the Acropolis are a good afternoon’s wander if you’ve already visited the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum.

National Archaeological Museum 

Lastly, don’t miss the National Archaeological Museum. Home to an extensive collection of Ancient Greek art, it provides a comprehensive view of Greek civilization from the beginnings of Prehistory to Late Antiquity.

It’s an astonishing museum in the depth and richness of it’s collection.

The giant Kouri statues, the monumental Bronze statue of Zeus, the golden Mask of Agamemon and other treasures of Mycenae, the frescoes of Akrotiri, and the Cycladic figures are just some of the treasures that draw me back on every visit to the capital.

Exploring the Suburbs of Athens: Hidden Gems and Local Favorites

From Athens’ heart, the suburbs fan out, revealing a vibrant blend of past and present. These neighborhoods are drenched with a rich and historic Greek flavor, intertwined seamlessly with a refreshing dash of urban life. 

The Athenian suburbs lie in a concentric layout around the city center. As if threads spinning a Greek tapestry, places like Kifissia and Glyfada carry their own unique stories and cultural nuances. 

Street Art 

Athens’ suburbs are a playground for urban artists. An exploration of Metaxourgeio or Psirri unveils stunning street art murals across walls and buildings, many carrying messages of political and economic dissent. 


Fashion boutiques, artisanal shops, and bustling markets abound in areas like Plaka and Monastiraki. Don’t miss Ermou Street, Athens’ prime shopping location bubbling with life and unique finds. 


Next on your adventure, make your way to the district of Psyri. Noted for its vibrant street life and cultural mix, Psyri is a fantastic locale to experience authentic local dining.

Folk music taverns rub shoulders with urban bars and quaint coffee shops in this dynamic neighborhood.

Don’t miss out on the local delicacies at Melina Cafe, a charming spot known for its Greek pies and yoghurt honey desserts. 


Just a stone’s throw from Psyri, you’ll find the historic neighborhood of Thiseio.

It’s an ideal place to take a leisurely stroll amongst masterfully preserved neoclassical homes, many of which have been transformed into stylish cafes and eateries. 

Keep your eyes peeled for Thiseio Open Air Cinema, which offers film buffs the unique opportunity to watch a feature beneath the stars, with the Acropolis glowing in the background. 


Heading slightly more south, the suburb of Koukaki is not to be skipped.

Recently touted as one of the world’s upcoming neighborhoods by various travel publications, Koukaki’s traditional-meets-contemporary charm is sure to captivate.

The streets here showcase a fascinating blend of old-world architecture and modern art. 


Furthermore, for those seeking a quiet retreat amidst the city’s hustle, consider a visit to the leafy locale of Kifisia.

Located in the northern suburbs, it’s a splendid blend of sophisticated charm and serene ambiance, with chic cafes, upmarket boutiques, and verdant gardens.

The beautifully curated Goulandris Natural History Museum is a highlight in Kifisia, offering an enlightening experience with its extensive collection of Mediterranean flora and fauna.

For a break between sightseeing, treat yourself to a spot of tea in Kifisia’s The Royal Gardens, a posh patisserie with a lovely view of the well-manicured park. 


No trip to Athens would be complete without immersing yourself in the vibrant energy of Monastiraki, a bustling neighborhood in the old town of Athens.

This culturally-rich area, teeming with history, colorful markets, and lively cafés, offers a taste of real Athenian life. 

Known for its flea market – an agglomeration of shops selling everything from antiquities to vinyl records – it is a treasure trove for eclectic finds.

A few steps away stands the majestic Hadrian’s Library, a testament to the city’s historic past and a must-see phenomenon.

The lively vibe of Monastiraki Square is palpable with street musicians, artists, and local vendors adding to its slightly chaotic charm. 

Don’t forget to visit the Tzistarakis Mosque, an 18th-century Ottoman mosque that now houses a ceramics museum.

Culinary enthusiasts will appreciate a detour to Athen’s central market, Varvakios Agora, offering foodstuffs, fresh produce, and locally sourced meats – a staple of Athens’ everyday life.

The rooftop bars overlooking the Acropolis offer a mesmerizing view, making the concluding day in Monastiraki unforgettable.

National Monuments 

Suburb-studded monuments, such as Kaisariani Monastery and Daphni Monastery, offer a peek into Athens’ Byzantine era.

The residential area of Kolonaki, on the skirts of Lykavittos hill, houses the National War Museum, preserving Greece’s martial history.


Progressing further within the cityscape, you’ll stumble upon Plaka – the ‘Neighbourhood of the Gods’. Irresistibly captivating, Plaka brims with renovated neoclassical buildings, ancient temples, and Byzantine churches.

It’s also full of souvenir shops, traditional Greek tavernas, and boutique shops.

Marvel at the Anafiotika quarter, an island-like oasis perched just below the Acropolis, where tiny white-washed houses are adorned with bougainvillea and jasmine.

Don’t miss out on visiting the Museum of Greek Folk Art and the Jewish Museum of Greece, discreetly nestled within Plaka’s labyrinthine lanes. 

Syntagma Square 

Next on your Athenian exploration is Syntagma Square, a bustling crossroad infused with cultural significance.

Renowned as a focal point for both celebrations and protests, the square showcases the harmonious blend of historic charm and contemporary pulse that Athens delivers.

The Hellenic Parliament, an imposing neoclassical edifice, graces one side of this square, with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guarded honorably by the Evzones in their traditional attire. 

Main National Institutions: the Athens Trilogy 

The National Library, the Academy of Athens, and the University of Athens form the ‘Athens Trilogy’, reflecting the Greece of scholars and philosophers.

The National Library houses an impressive collection of Greek manuscripts while the Academy showcases splendid Ionian and Corinthian columns.

The University, the oldest higher education institution in Greece, contains some wonderful frescoes that narrate Greek history. 

The Benaki Museum 

Located in the stately Benaki mansion, The Benaki Museum is a cultural treasure trove.

Adopting a holistic approach, the museum carefully exhibits artifacts from Greek history dating back to the prehistoric era.

Its diverse collection ranges from Islamic art pieces to remarkable Byzantine icons. 

Byzantine and Christian Museum 

Discover the profound impact of Christianity on Greek history at the Byzantine and Christian Museum.

With over 25,000 exhibits, the museum presents religious art and artifacts from the Byzantine Empire and later periods.

A visit here offers a deep appreciation of the intertwining of religion and culture in Greek history. 

Museum of Cycladic Art 

Far from being a niche institution, the Museum of Cycladic Art is a cultural highlight of Athens and one of my favorite museums in Greece.

The museum shares an insight into Cycladic culture, focusing on ancient Greek and Cypriot art.

The distinctive marble figurines in abstract shapes are particularly fascinating, showcasing an ancient civilization’s artistry and vision. 

National Museum of Contemporary Art 

For a cutting-edge perspective on Greek culture, head to the National Museum of Contemporary Art.

This modern museum promotes Greek and international contemporary art through its diverse exhibitions and installations.

It spans different mediums, from painting and photography to multimedia and performance art, and it’s a great introduction to the vibrancy of the contemporary Greek art scene.

Getting Around Athens: A Guide to Public Transportation 

As a bustling metropolis, Athens is well-connected by a vast network of public transportation. Let’s dive into your options so you can navigate the city like a local. 

Read a detailed guide to public transport here.


The Athens Metro, with its three lines—Line 1 (green), Line 2 (red), and Line 3 (blue)—stands as a fast and efficient way to travel around Athens.

It can whisk you from Syntagma Square to the Acropolis in just a couple of minutes, and it’s also your best bet for making the trip to or from Athens International Airport.

Tickets are affordable, with options ranging from single-trip tickets to multi-day passes. 

Buses and Trolleys 

For destinations not served by the metro, there’s a comprehensive network of buses and trolleys. These lines crisscross the city and also extend out to the suburbs and coastal areas like Glyfada and Piraeus.

Buses marked with an Є (E) or an Χ (X) are express lines, making fewer stops and generally moving faster.

Bus 400, the “cultural line”, makes several stops at key tourist destinations. 


For slower, but more scenic journeys, the tram network offers two lines that run along the southern coast of the city between Syntagma Square and S.E.F. in Faliro. 

Remember, when using public transportation in Athens, to validate your ticket before boarding. This can save you from hefty fines should you be caught without a validated ticket.

Also, keep an eye on your belongings and beware of pickpockets, as is wise in any major city.

Taxis and Rideshares 

Taxis and ridesharing services like Beat (the Greek answer to Uber, and also Uber) are widely available in Athens.

While more expensive than public transport, they can sometimes be the most convenient option – especially when traveling with a lot of luggage or in a group. 

Biking and Walking 

A growing number of bike lanes and pedestrian-only streets make biking and walking attractive options in Athens, especially in the city center around the Acropolis. 


In between the wonders of Delphi in central Greece, and Ancient Corinth at the entrance to the Peloponnese, is the Plain of Atticus, an essential part of the political and religious life of Greeks for millennia. It also has some very nice beaches!

Map of Atticus

Map of Atticus, Greece

Best Places to Visit in Atticus


Moving on to the southeastern tip of the Attica peninsula, Sounion is a revelation. As the site of the breathtaking Temple of Poseidon, it’s a must-visit.

However, Sounion’s appeal extends beyond the ancient monument. The region offers sun-drenched beaches and exceptional sunset views, endearing it to everyone who thought the Greek Islands were the only beautiful coastlines of Greece

Temple of Poseidon

The Temple of Poseidon is an enchanting landmark at Cape Sounion, the southernmost tip of the Atticus region. This ancient monument, well-known globally, stands like a guardian over the Aegean Sea. 

Built in the 5th century BC, the Temple of Poseidon is a reflection of the elaborate artistic skills of ancient Greece. A huge statue of Poseidon, the god of the sea, was once housed here, underlining his power over land and sea. The temple, with its columns still standing, brings a touch of the past to your visit. 

Driving or taking a public bus are the two main ways of reaching the temple from Athens. To get there by car, take the Attiki Odos highway and Poseidonos Avenue to Sounion for about an hour. 

There’s a free parking lot conveniently located near the temple, that gets busy during the peak tourism season. 

Guided bus tours are available from Athens that arrive in time for the sunset. These tours are very popular.

Public Transport: Those who prefer public transport can catch the KTEL bus from Athens that heads to Sounion regularly. The journey along the coastal road, passing quaint villages and blue bays, and the spectacular views of the Aegean Sea, will no doubt become a cherished memory from your trip. 

I prefer to hop on the tram from central Athens to Glyfada and then continue on a regional bus towards Sounion.

The temple is open daily from 9:30 am until sunset, with extended hours during the summer. And the most captivating experience? The phenomenal sunset view from the temple.

Just a stone’s throw from Sounion, the Athenian Riviera is a dazzling coastal area that serpentines from Piraeus to the southernmost point of Atticus. If you’re after a beach day from Athens, this area is an obvious choice.

Ancient Eleusis

As for Eleusis, it’s roughly a 20 minute drive northwest from Athens on National Road 8. There’s parking right in front of the main gate.

A taxi/Uber is about 50 Euros in each direction.

It’s easy to reach Eleusis by pubic transport, taking a train and bus combo. Take the Athens metro to the Agioi Anargyroi station. From there, hop on bus B12 which will take you directly to Eleusis. Don’t forget to prepare your camera for capturing the striking archeological wonders that will greet you. 

Exploring Ancient Eleusis

The archaeological site of Ancient Eleusis is a mystic revelation of human fascination with the divine. Once the spiritual hub of ancient Athens, this place witnessed the top secret Eleusinian Mysteries, pivotal ceremonies of the ancient religion.

Here, amid its monumental ruins, you’ll find the remnants of the Telesterion, a vast hall for initiates, and the sacred Plutonium cave, reflecting the myth of Persephone’s abduction by Hades.

The Sacred Way 

This ancient Sanctuary to the goddess Demeter includes Demeter’s Well and The Sacred Way, or ‘Iera Odos’, The Sacred Way was the religious route taken by the ancient Athenians during the Eleusinian Mysteries.

It stretches all the way from the Acropolis in Athens to the Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone in Eleusis. 

The Archeological Museum of Eleusis 

A must-see is the Archeological Museum of Eleusis that showcases a fascinating collection of artifacts recovered from the local site. 

The displays walk you through each day of the Eleussinian mysteries culminating in the ritual underground in the Telesterion. 

Now that you have insights into the secrets of the Eleusinian Mysteries, shift your focus a bit further, to the expansive landscapes of Atticus and Sterea.

Here, there’s an array of historical sites that pass under the radar of the average tourist. Let’s unveil these underrated treasures that will elevate your Greek experience. 

The Ancient City of Marathon 

Considered the site of the famous Battle of Marathon, the ancient city is a testament to significant moments in history.

In this sprawling expanse, you will find archaeological sites, including the Marathon Tomb and the Archaeological Museum of Marathon, which houses artifacts discovered during exploratory digs in the area.

The surrounding scenery is also particularly captivating, with numerous trails for hiking and exploring. 

Marathon is situated approximately 42 kilometres northeast from Athens city centre. To reach Marathon from Athens, you can use public transportation.

Take the KTEL buses leaving from Pedion Areos Park Station. The journey usually takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes each way.  

Alternatively, you can drive along the Attiki Odos highway (A6), which is the fastest but also a toll route. 

Marathon makes a great day trip from Athens. If you visit early in the day you can see the historical site, the museum, and have enough time to relax at the nearby Schinias beach.

However, if you’re an ancient history enthusiast, spending a couple of days exploring the greater region around Marathon, including the archaeological site at Rhamnous, is highly recommended.

The Fortress of Eleutherai 

Next on the “around Athens” itinerary is the medieval Fortress of Eleutherai in West Atticus. With its towering stone walls and commanding views of the surrounding countryside.

Guarding the main route into Attica, it provided crucial defense during invasions, playing pivotal roles in many historical narratives. 

Travel Tips for Athens

When preparing for your Athens adventure, always have a solid pair of walking shoes as the city is best explored on foot. But, be mindful of the uneven cobbled streets and steps.

Athens can get really hot during summer, so lightweight clothing, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen are essentials.

Be sure to learn basic Greek words like efharisto (thank you) and parakalo (please), it goes a long way!

Lastly, beware that pickpockets are common in busy areas, so keep your valuables secure. Hold your bag securely when visiting the Plaka area.