Between its iconic Parthenon, sun-drenched beaches and culture of hospitality, Athens is the kind of place most people dream of visiting at least once. The city is sure to please any kind of traveller.
Whether you’re looking to take in Athens’ history and culture in its many museums, enjoy its music and nightlife, or explore the ancient sites. The Greek capital makes an ideal escape for Londoners on a summer holiday or a short getaway in the autumn or spring.
While most people dream of walking among the marble columns of the Parthenon, Athens has dozens of historical sites that bring visitors into contact with antiquity. Indeed, the entire city centre is quite literally an open-air museum, with several not-to-be-missed attractions situated side-by-side, including the Roman Agora and Ancient Agora town squares and the still functional amphitheatres of Herodes Atticus and Dionysos. Once you’ve spent a few days in the city, you’ll begin to appreciate what it is like for locals to live their daily lives around these wonders.
Athens is truly a city of wonders, both ancient and modern: lovers of antiquity will find some of the world’s greatest sites and a truly staggering array of museums, while culture buffs will have no shortage of art and music to appreciate. If you’re looking to relax and have a good time, the city can accommodate that too, with a sunny climate and a vibrant nightlife.
Visit the city of wonders and book a flight from London to Athens now.
What is the best time to visit Athens?
Athens during the summer is at its peak, tourism-wise, and quite hot – however, transportation is plentiful, making it very easy to plan flexibly. If you can reschedule your trip to the spring or autumn months – between March and May or September to November – you will still be able to catch plenty of sun while avoiding the crowds and possibly snagging a good deal on accommodations. Savings will be even steeper during the winter, from December to February, but the weather tends to be rainy and quite cool, with temperatures of 10-15°C.
How do I get around the city?
The best option to get around the city is the metro, since its three lines are very easy to navigate even for travellers who do not speak Greek; tram and bus service is also available. If you will be getting around by public transit, a good idea is to pick up an Ath.ena card right at the airport: various options are available, including a tourist card pre-loaded with transfers to and from the airport, along with a 3-day public transit pass. Remember that the airport is over 30 km away from the city centre, meaning that you should budget at least 40 minutes to get back to the airport in time!
What is the best way to see the Acropolis?
One thing that you can be sure of in Athens is that all of your fellow travellers will, at some point, vie with you to see the Acropolis. The queues to get in can be incredibly long, up to two hours in the summer months. The first thing to know is that opening hours have been known to change from one year to the next, so be sure to verify ahead of time – showing up right at the opening time is likely to get you in much more quickly. Secondly, although you can book tickets online, these do not allow you to skip the queues. Participating in a guided tour or purchasing a skip-the-line ticket will get you in without the wait, however.
Athens’ attractions: Step out into history
It is impossible to do justice to the smorgasbord of sights that await travellers to Athens. Millennia of history have given the city a wealth of art and culture that it would take lifetimes to experience. Meanwhile, the bustling city is filled with spectacles and activities that will entertain every kind of visitor.
- Odeon of Herodes Atticus
- National Archaeological Museum
- National Gardens
Perhaps the most important ancient site in the entire Western world, it almost goes without saying that a trip to the Acropolis is on every visitor’s list. Since Athens was burned to the ground in 480 BC and the city of temples was built on the hill, the Parthenon has been a fixture of the city and an enduring symbol of Greek civilization.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Part of the Acropolis compound, this Roman amphitheatre is still very much functional: it seats nearly 5,000 people and has hosted some of the world’s most famous musical and theatrical acts, especially during the annual Athens Festival.
National Archaeological Museum
Athens is blessed with an abundance of world-class museums, but the Archaeological Museum is undoubtedly the highlight. Its collections encompass the ancient gold statues of the Mycenaeans as well as classical sculptures of Aphrodite and Athena.
Take a break from the city’s antiquities in this verdant paradise just outside the Parliament. A playground for children and shaded paths makes this an ideal escape from the busy city.
Festivals in Athens
If you are lucky (or plan ahead), you may find yourself in town for one of Athens’ many festivals. Some of these see all the city’s attractions throw open their gates at no cost, as they do on Ohi Day, Monuments’ Day and a handful of other occasions. The Athens-Epidaurus Festival, also called the Hellenic Festival, is a series of musical, cultural and artistic events taking place from May to October throughout Athens and Epidaurus. Check their programme before visiting to see what events you will be able to see, as not every venue is active at once. For a slightly lower-key event that still never fails to impress, Art Athina is one of Europe’s oldest contemporary art shows, highlighting new work from Greek and international artists.
For more tips and tricks for your trip to this city, read our guide about Athens.
Eating in Athens: Souvlaki, ouzo and much more
Athens has a vibrant culinary scene – a mix of traditional fare with new elements from international cuisine and accents from other regions of Greece. Try out some of the city’s mezedhopoleia eateries, similar to tapas restaurants, for a sampling of the fruits of this culinary experimentation. Its ouzeries are also not to be missed for a nip of ouzo and some light food. And of course, there’s plenty of souvlaki when you’re looking for a quick bite.
Legendary delights in Athens
One of the best-known Greek foods is not the most typical, the Greek Salad. Consisting of tomatoes, cucumbers, shallots, Greek olives, Greek olive oil and a piece of feta cheese, seasoned with salt, pepper and oregano. It is missing the meat that is usually the main staple of Greek food. The classic street food is Gyros Pita, grilled meats with salad and tsatsiki in bread wrap. Stifado is a Stew made with small onions, tomatoes and either rabbit, lamb or octopus. Another classic are grape-leaves stuffed with rice, onions and ground beef called Dolmades. The adventurous gourmet may want to try Chtapódi Ksidáto, a salad made of pickled octopus. Don’t forget to achieve the blessings of the Greek god Dionysus, God of Wine. The Greek have a very long tradition of growing wine, in Athens you will find a sample of every area of the country.
Shopping in Athens: Finding the perfect souvenir
There is no shortage of shopping options in the central Syntagma neighbourhood. Try the Attica department store for brand-name designs or the Monastiraki Flea Market for souvenirs or antiques. For take-home delicacies, you can pick up olive oil and local spirits at To Pantopoleion, saffron at Bahar and locally made chocolates at Aristokratikon. Cross this destination off your bucket list today: book your flight from London to Athens today.
Get the most out of your trip to Athens with our insider look at eat and drink in Athens.
London - ZurichFlight duration: 01:35 hrs total, Frequency: 7 x daily
Bombardier CS100Height: 11.50 mLength: 34.90 mSeats: 125
Crew:Pilots: 2Cabin crew: 3
Transit Zurich (ZRH)Arrival: 10:30Transit time: 0h 40m
Zurich - AthensFlight duration: 02:35 hrs total, Frequency: 7 x daily
Arrival AthensDistance to city centre: 33 km